The Plant Rx

Your resource for a plant-based diet

Vanessa

Vanessa, Hubby & "World's Most Adorable Dog"

Vanessa, Hubby & "World's Most Adorable Dog"

I’m originally an East coast girl– born and raised in Connecticut and attended college at Tufts University in Massachusetts.  I’ve lived in LA for the past 9 years and I’m currently a dental student at UCLA School of Dentistry, set to graduate this June!  Also, I have the best husband and the most adorable dog in the world.

I decided to participate in this mini experiment for a number of reasons – but I think my main reason is curiosity.  I like to think that I currently keep a fairly healthy diet, but like most people, I know there is always room for improvement.  I don’t eat very much meat right now, but I’ve never cut out dairy.  I’ve suspected for a while now that dairy was a problem for me, but I’ve never been able to eliminate it from my diet entirely (I love yogurt and ice cream!).  I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be really happy once I make this change.  I’m looking at this as sort of an immersion program into the plant-based diet world.   Already I’ve absolutely loved scouring the vegan blogs and getting to learn more about the amazing community out there.  Since I love to cook, this will be a great opportunity for me to try out some really cool new plant-based recipes so stay tuned for that!

Prep Work – January 17th

Leading up to the launch of this experiment, I started doing a lot of research about the plant based diet.  I wanted the transition to go smoothly, but I also wanted to get some ideas for some delicious recipes.  A good friend of mine who is a vegan recommended a bunch of blogs that she loves to read.   I added them all to my Google Reader account and have been reading them daily.   There’s a whole community of people following plant-based diets out there and they have great advice for a newbie like me!

http://peasandthankyou.com/ – highly entertaining and adorable pics of her kids
http://hungryhungryhippie.com/ – nurse who lives in LA, her stuff is SIMPLE to make
http://edibleperspective.com/ – mostly vegan, some vegetarian stuff, gorgeous photography
http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/ – lots of easy recipes, great easy healthy desserts that are often low in sugar

www.choosingraw.com – great recipes and great info on why a plant-based diet is so beneficial.
www.ohsheglows.com

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Reminder:  Not everything plant-based is good for you!

I did some grocery shopping today and picked up some “new” items to incorporate into the plant-based diet.

Earth Balance, Almond milk, Tahini, Lara Bars, Braggs Liquid Aminos, etc

And then I started finding other items that fit into the plant-based diet:  Carob chips, Coconut Bliss ice cream, Vegan cookies!  Yum and double yum!

So I needed to remind myself – I usually don’t like to keep chocolate chips, ice cream, and cookies in the house in general.  So, just because something is vegan and CAN be incorporated into a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean you should.  I’m glad I know that stuff is out there and I’m SURE I’ll be enjoying some of those goodies in the near future, but for now, I’m gonna hold off.

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Cooking Adventures – Part 1

I love, love, love to cook.  So, although the experiment has just begun, I have some really delicious recipes that I’ve tried out so far.

Chana Masalaamazing!!  I could eat this every day!   I forgot to take pictures this time, but the next time I make it, which will probably be in the next few days, I’ll post some pictures.  I doubled the recipe so I could have left overs.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced

***  I added an entire head of cauliflower to the recipe and I thought it made it extra yummy  🙂
1 tablespoon curry
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I used ketchup, how embarrassing)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained, reserving 3 tablespoons liquid
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

** 3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste, optional
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
Directions:
1. Heat oil on medium high heat. Fry onions until slightly browned. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, curry, and paste. Stir and simmer about 2 minutes.
2. Add chickpeas, CAULIFLOWER, reserved liquid, lemon juice, coconut milk, salt, and black pepper. Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add red pepper, to taste. Add margarine, stirring through to melt it. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes more or until chickpeas are softened and dish is hot. Serve over rice.

Makes: 2 to 4 servings, Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes

Massive Veggie Stir Fry – Nothing too complicated, but tasted great and lasted for many, many meals.

Sauteed red onion, tons of freshly chopped garlic, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, mini portobella mushrooms, and broccoli in a LARGE pan with olive oil.  I had so many veggies, I couldn’t even close the lid on the pan!

Squirted some Braggs liquid aminos over the top of it and served over brown rice.

Massive Salad To-go

I bring my lunch with me to school every day and have been eating this lunch for years.  It just so happens to fit in perfectly with a plant-based diet

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Spinach, kale, mixed greens, red peppers, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, roasted beets, and almonds or sunflower seeds.

Homemade dressing – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper.

Hummus and Veggie Sandwich

Whole wheat bread, Sabra hummus, red pepper, kale, spinach, cucumber.  

Breakfast Smoothie

Two handfuls of spinach, 1 cup frozen strawberries, handful of frozen blueberries, 1 banana, 2 heaping tbsp ground flax seed, 1 cup almond milk, handful of icecubes.  Blend and drink!  (or eat with a spoon 🙂

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January 19th

So far, so good!  Things are going pretty smoothly, but planning ahead is definitely a must.  I went out to dinner with friends on Sunday night and made sure to checkout the menu online before I went out so I knew in advance exactly what I could order.  I ended up getting a tomato-based veggie soup and a salad, hold the cheese.  Everything was delicious and I was happy that I didn’t have to berate the waiter with too many substitutions or alterations.  That part feels really awkward to me and is probably my least favorite part of keeping a plant-based diet.

I also found a neat website www.happycow.net – this website is a “compassionate eating guide” that allows you to search for vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over the world!  Pretty great!

Also, did you know that a lot of breads contain whey as an ingredient?  I didn’t.  But I was in Trader Joes picking up some groceries and couldn’t find a single loaf of bread that did not contain whey!  What a bummer.  There are plenty of breads that are dairy free, but apparently not all.

Lastly, I tried a new recipe and it was GREAT!  I forgot to take pictures again though 😦  Sorry, I’m new at this.  But here’s the recipe.

Lemony Chickpea-StirFry

2 tbsp olive oil, sea salt, 1 onion, 1 can chickpeas, 8 oz tofu, 1 cup chopped kale, 2 small zucchinis, zest and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and saute salt, onion, and chickpeas.  I added a few cloves of garlic ’cause I’m crazy like that.

Saute until chickpeas are deeply golden and crusty – this takes a LONG time.  About 10-15 minutes.

I chose not to use tofu, but if you do, add it now and cook until heated through for just a minute or so.

Stir in kale and cook for one more minute.  Remove everything from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the remaining tbsp of olive oil, zucchini, and sautee for 2-3 minutes.  I also added slice baby portobellos.  Add the chickpea mixture back in and remove from heat.  Stir in lemon juice and zest.  Enjoy for many meals!

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Carob Chips

As promised, I did a little vegan baking today.  I’m about to head out to a dinner party and wanted to bring some sweets for me (and everyone else) to enjoy.   I had several cans of canned pumpkin in my house and wanted to use them.   I found this recipe online and went for it!  It was my first time using Egg Replacer which was sort of fun.  Carob chips are AWESOME!  I might even like them better than real chocolate chips.  The end result…. is interesting.  Definitely tasty, but not exactly what I expected.  The consistency is just not quite right.  Nonetheless, they will be eaten and enjoyed!

Preheat oven to 350°F

Ingredients (all  organic, yes?):

  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin (cut in half, scoop out seeds, place cut side down on baking sheet and bake at 350 until soft. Peel and mash or blend the pumpkin.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter, or even olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup unrefined sugar (or maple syrup or honey)
  • Egg replacer equivalent for 2 eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 bag of carob chips

Mix all of the ingredients together, adjust spices to your taste, and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 20 minutes.

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January 22, 2011

Today I actually felt pretty great.  I think that allowing myself to indulge a little bit has done wonders for me.  It was a little slice of normalcy that made me feel very satisfied.  I’ve been eating some really delicious, very flavorful, and filling meals.  It’s pretty awesome that most of these foods are fantastic for me.  I don’t actually miss eating meat or dairy – the hardest part is just not having a huge database of all the plant-based foods I like to eat.  Each meal takes a some thought to put together.  I can only assume this becomes more natural over time.  I’ve also been sharing my Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Carob Chips from above with friends and getting some great reviews.   Pretty neat!  Also, I made a GREAT stirfry sauce/salad dressing tonight that I got from Gena at www.chosingraw.com

Balsamic Tahini Dressing (yields 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 1/2 clove finely minced garlic)
1 tbsp tamari or nama shoyu

I used a little less water and balsamic to make the tahini stronger.  I also did not use tamari or nama shoyu because I have NO idea what those are 🙂  I LOVE this sauce.  It was so easy, so flavorful, and can be used as a dressing, dipping sauce, or marinade.

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January 26, 2011 – The China Study blows my mind!

I started reading The China Study by T.  Colin Campbell.   What an incredible book!  To my fellow experimentees, if you haven’t read it, I highly, highly recommend you do.  I feel like the information in the book gives the plant-based diet a whole new meaning and purpose.   Why isn’t the information from these studies commonly known knowledge?  I have family with a history of cancer  and a close relative currently being treated for breast cancer.   The only treatment options presented to her were pills and surgery.   I’m not sure if I would completely rule out these more conventional approaches to cancer treatment, but at the very least, a dietary change is certainly worth a try.

That brings me to my next question.  How do you talk to people about your choice to follow a plant-based diet without sounding preachy or judgmental?    So far, I’ve mainly relied on the “experiment” as my reasoning, but that feels like an easy way out.

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January 28, 2011 – I’ve hit a slump 😦

So, I’ve officially been eating a plant based diet for almost 3 weeks now (I started the Sunday before the official kick-off just to give myself a chance to ease in).  I wish I could say that I feel amazing and energized and that I’m losing weight.  But that’s not the case.  I actually feel pretty much exactly the same.  In fact, I’ve actually been feeling a little bit bloated.  I’m trying to figure out why.  The only thing I can think of is that I’m definitely eating more fruit and nuts.   My meals have been pretty awesome so far, but I’m having trouble with snacks.   Even when I have pretty sizable meals, I still get hungry.  Plus, I’m usually at school for pretty long stretches (7am-9pm some days), so I need to pack everything with me for the day.  I usually bring a piece of fruit, a meal sized salad for lunch, a Lara bar, a grapefruit, and dinner (usually some kind of brown rice and veggies).   Seems pretty reasonable to me!  But I still feel hungry and I don’t know if I can eat more veggies.  I need more easy, healthy snack ideas.  The Lara bars are perfect since they are so portable, but I already feel like eating 1 a day is too much.

Any snack suggestions?

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Black Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Kale Cakes – thanks to http://www.yumuniverse.com

Ingredients:
2 cups organic black quinoa, soaked for at least 4 hours
1 1/2 cups pure water
2 cups organic sweet potato
6-7 large organic kale leaves, de-stemmed
2 tbsp fresh, organic lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt – I used plain old salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Piece of kombu (optional: great for quality salt, trace minerals, electrolytes, etc.)
About 1 cup garbanzo flour (garbanzo/fava bean flour works well too) – I just used regular flour…
Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil for skillet/pan – I decided to bake at 350 for 20 minutes instead


Wash and roast your sweet potatoes in an oven at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until very tender. I chose NOT to peel the sweet potatoes.

Once you put the potatoes in the oven, bring water and soaked quinoa to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Wash and chop your de-stemmed kale.  Place sweet potatoes, kale and quinoa in a large glass bowl and mix well. Add lemon juice, salt, cumin, coriander, garlic and cinnamon. Mix well.

Place some flour on a plate.  Take some of your mix and coat both sides, then shape into a nice cake.  Instead of frying the cakes in a pan, I just put the cakes onto cookie sheets and baked for about 20-30 minutes.

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A Day in the life of Vanessa’s stomach:

6am – a pretty big bowl of oatmeal (about 3/4 cup dry), ground flax seed, and sliced banana.   A mug of pomegranate raspberry green tea. 

12pm – A large salad of spinach, mixed greens, kale, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, beets,  almonds (maybe 10-15)  or sunflower seeds (~1tbsp) and a dressing – this varies – right now it’s Trader Joe’s Thai Peanut dressing.   An apple.

4pm – A lara bar (sometimes this gets eaten at lunch if I’m really hungry)

6pm – Right now I’ve been having two of those Quinoa, sweet potato kale cakes from above.  Or I’ll have brown rice with veggie stir fry or black beans.  Tonight this is exactly what I had:  carrots and hummus, 1 quinoa, sweet potato, kale cake, cauliflower puree w/ wasabi, and a spinach/zucchini/cucumber salad with tahini and balsamic dressing.

8pm –  A grapefruit.  If I’m starving, I might have a bowl of cereal with almond milk.

*** The meals I’ve been eating for breakfast and lunch  are the same meals that I was eating before the plant-based experiment.

Thoughts?

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Superbowl Sunday – A Prequel:

Tomorrow my husband and I are having a superbowl party – a GREAT excuse to try out some more new plant-based recipes.  So, this year, in addition to pig-in-a-blanket, sour cream apple crumble, and roast beef sandwiches… we’re having some OTHER options:    (*** Disclaimer – everything below has no eggs, butter, milk and will rock your world)

BBQ Kale Chips

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Flatbread pizza with roasted mix veggies (red and green pepper, red onion, eggplant, zucchini, baby bella mushrooms)

Peanut butter cookie dough balls

Prep work was completed tonight so I will post pics and recipes tomorrow once everything is out of the oven and ready to serve.

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Superbowl Treats:

BBQ Kale Chips – not my favorite.  Yes, it was super healthy but personally, I like my kale in lettuce form.  This just tasted like dried up grass trying to disguise itself as something else

  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1/4 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. dry mustard
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • 1 head organic kale

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.Wash and tear kale into chip sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.Spray kale with cooking spray and then sprinkle with spice blend.Bake kale chips for 20-30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes.  Chips should be light and crisp, but watch them so they don’t burn.

Spinach Artichoke Dip – pretty good.  Really healthy – can’t really argue with any of these ingredients.   Definitely a nice alternative.  I got sick of it pretty quickly which tends to happen with me and cooked spinach.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized onion, diced (~2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 piece bread + 1 tbsp earth balance (processed into crumbs) OR 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 (15oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, stems removed, and chopped
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (or cheese if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8th tsp dried basil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Add 1 tbsp olive oil into a very large skillet and add in the 2 cups of chopped onion. Cook about 7 minutes on medium heat until onion is translucent.

2a. Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the bread into crumbs with 1 tsp earth balance. Remove and set aside. Omit this step if you use pre-made bread crumbs.

2b. Now process the drained and rinsed navy beans, 1/4 cup water, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp kosher salt, basil, and red pepper flakes.

*If you don’t have a food processor you could probably mash the mixture by hand?

3. Add in minced garlic to skillet and cook for another few minutes on low. Add in your 4 cups of packed spinach and chopped artichoke hearts to the skillet and heat until spinach is wilted over low-medium heat.

4. Add navy bean processed mixture to the skillet and stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir in 3/4 of the bread crumbs. Pour into an oven safe dish (I used a 4 cup Pyrex dish). Sprinkle on the remaining bread crumbs (and cheese if desired) and cover with foil.

5. Cook, covered, in the oven at 400F for 20 mins. Now remove the foil cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes watching closely so as not to burn. Makes 2.5-3 cups. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and then serve immediately with sturdy chips and crackers.

Peanut butter cookie dough balls – AH-MAZE- ING!!  The best thing I’ve made so far.  Totally not good for you, but definitely worth it.  You could not tell that these had no dairy in them at all.

  • 1/2 c. non-dairy margarine (i.e. Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 c. natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. organic brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. organic powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c. unbleached organic flour
  • 1/2 c. natural peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy chocolate chips

Using a stand mixer, beat margarine, peanut butter, sugars and vanilla until fully incorporated

In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, salt and flours.

Add dry ingredients slowly to wet ingredients.  Add your chips.  Combine and chill dough for 30 minutes

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Flatbread pizza – pretty good.  I think in the future I’d use more garlic and try to get the dough to get crispier.  No real recipe to post – I bought whole wheat dough from Trader Joes.  Broiled a whole assortment of veggies – red and green pepper, eggplant, red onion, zucchini, baby bella mushrooms, garlic…  I can’t remember what else.  I also sprinkled nutritional yeast over it…. just for the fun of it.

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February 12th:

Things continue to go pretty well.  Same old.  I think I may have finally gotten over my sugar cravings that I was having for the first few weeks.  Or maybe I’ve just been smarter about my meals.  I think that I was eating such a veggie based diet in the very beginning that I was forgetting to include beans, legumes, lentils, sweet potatoes, etc into my diet as well.   So even though I was having these amazing meals, I was still really hungry and unsatisfied a few hours later.   I’m still having stomach issues which is sort of upsetting.   I was really, really hoping that dairy was the cause of my problems which is apparently not the case.  Oh well.   I’ll get to the bottom of it one day.  In the meantime, I made a GREAT recipe tonight that was super easy and is packed with simple, healthy ingredients.

Thanks to Gena at www.choosingraw.com

Sweet Potato Hummus

2 small or 1 very large sweet potato, cooked, skin removed, and cut into chunks  (I had a whole batch pre-broiled at 400 for 1hour)
1 can chickpeas, drained, but with the liquid reserved
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil – (I might only use 1tsp in the future because the sesame was pretty strong)
5 tbsp tahini
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Water
Paprika

1) Place sweet potatoes in the processor.

2) Warm up your beans in the microwave or on the stove . Drain them after, but reserve the liquid.

3) Add chickpeas into the processor along with the sesame oil, tahini, curry, salt and pepper. Run the processor.

4)  Take 1/2 cup of the canning liquid from the beans  and drizzle it into the processor.  The starch from the liquid improves the texture of the hummus

5) Sprinkle hummus with paprika, and EAT.

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February 25, 2011

I haven’t gotten the chance to blog this week, but I did want to fill you all in on last weekend.  Over the long weekend, I went away with a big group of friends to Joshua Tree National Park for an annual trip we take to the desert.  It’s a weekend filled with hiking, bbq-ing, drinking, and campfires.  Overall, an amazing trip.  This year I was a little bit nervous about the whole plant-based diet situation.   Thankfully, since my husband and I organize the whole trip, including the meals, I could make sure there was plenty of good food around for me to eat.  Here is a side by side comparison of what was offered vs what I ate.

Breakfast:

1)  Oatmeal with banana and coffee  vs  Bagels, Eggs and Bacon, Cereal, Sour cream coffee cake – I made this from scratch and honestly was a little bummed that I never even got a taste.

2)  Gluten and dairy free waffles vs pancake breakfast

Lunch:  Sandwich of hummus, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers  vs   Cold cuts and cheese sandwiches

Snacks:  Chopped broccoli, peppers, carrots, snap peas in Toffuti sour cream and onion soup mix  vs  doritos, fun sized chocolates

Dinners:

1)  Grilled portobella burgers  vs hamburgers and hot dogs

2)  Pepper, cherry tomato, butternut squash, and garlic Shish kabobs   vs chicken and veggie shish kabobs

3)  Gluten and dairy free pizza crust with crushed tomatos, roasted garlic, roasted peppers, mushrooms  vs sausage, veggies, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, etc

I actually didn’t mind keeping the plant based diet since I was pretty happy with my food options.  The only night I really felt left out was pizza night when those cheesy pizzas looked AMAZING.  All I wanted was a bite of one, but I resisted.  I also was bummed about not being able to have s’mores.  I snacked on plain old gram crackers instead which is just not the same when you’re sitting around a camp fire.  Bottom line though – It can be done!

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March 7, 2011

I suppose I haven’t been blogging as much as I was in the beginning – but I think that’s actually a good thing.  I’m pretty sure it means that keeping a plant-based diet is becoming more routine to me and I have less to report.  Days and meals go by without much thought anymore.   I’ve continued to do a ton of cooking – I’ve made some GREAT lentil dishes, some AMAZING sweet potato recipes, and some FANTASTIC chickpea meals.    I’ve managed to keep the diet with no problem at parties, out to dinner, when I’m in a rush.  I’ve found meals that I’d gladly make on a regular basis and I’ve found some yummy treats to share with friends and then impress them with the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of this cookie.   I’m certain that I could keep this up pretty easily.  I think one modification I would make after the study is over is to be slightly less strict.   It’s a little tiring reading every single ingredient on everything.  If whey is the 10th ingredient listed, I’m probably not gonna worry about it.  Since the basis of all of my meals are whole grain and vegetable based, I’m not gonna sweat the small stuff.  I think that will make things a little easier to maintain.

 

March 29, 2010: Final Post

The plant-based diet study has been over now for a few weeks.  I wish I could say that I have been keeping a strict plant-based diet since then, but that is not the case.  However, I am still keeping a diet which is predominantly plant-based.   I would say that over the course of two days, I might have one meal that includes some form of dairy.  Meat is a different story – I’ve never been a big meat eater, so I don’t have as strong of a desire to include it back into my diet.

However, today may have been a game changer.  I just received the results from my final blood work and I am SHOCKED at the results.  I was pretty happy at the midpoint blood work when my LDL went down so significantly.  However, I had blood work done back in September that produced similar results.  I was happy that my cholesterol improved, but I honestly thought that things would probably plateau around these levels.   Totally wrong.   My LDL levels continued to plummet during the last 30 days.   My LDL levels went from 130 at the beginning of the study to 58!   So now I feel like I need to rethink things…  I had originally decided that I didn’t want to completely eliminate all traces of dairy from my diet – a minimal amount would certainly make keeping this lifestyle a little easier without having a large impact on my physical health.  I think I still believe this, but I will definitely give pause before I opt to eat foods outside of a plant-based diet.

If you were to have to give advice to someone who is looking to transition to a plant-based diet what 5 tips would you give them to help them in their transition?

1)  Start slow – don’t go out there and start eating all these foreign foods just because they are plant-based.  No need to start eating tempeh or making nut butter from scratch or buying soy chicken.  I think this just makes the transition even stranger.   There’s plenty of time for branching out and experimenting.

2)  Stick with meals you already love that might happen to be plant -based.  Do you like potatoes?  Yams?  Beans?  PB&J?  Soups?  Veggie chili?  I found that the first half of the study was harder because I was trying out too many new recipes.  The second half was easier because I stopped thinking about it as much and just ate what I knew.

3)  Drink a LOT of water.

4) Bring snacks.  I always carried apples, oranges, nuts, Lara bars, etc with me.

5)  Don’t forget to eat beans, lentils, and nuts.  Veggies are awesome, but I found that when I had a meal that was solely veggie based, I would get hungry within a few hours.  When I included beans, lentils, and nuts, I was satisfied for much longer.

What was the most difficult aspect of switching for you?

I struggle with the social aspect of the plant-based diet.  I would get anxious about going out to dinner or going to a friend’s house for a meal.  I don’t want to be a burden or be different from everyone else.   I don’t want special treatment. I still find it difficult to explain myself.  I know it shouldn’t matter, but it definitely makes keeping the diet a little less enticing.

Now that you have had experience with your previous diet and now a plant-based one — which one do you feel better on (on a day to day basis) What is the difference (if there is one)?

To be perfectly honest, I think I was the only person in this study that really didn’t notice much of a difference on the plant-based diet.  I still had stomach aches, I felt bloated.  I definitely think that it can be a little easier on the plant-based diet to force yourself to make healthier decisions since ice cream, baked goods, pizza, etc are completely off the table unless you go out of your way to find vegan versions.  I also think that it is easier to overeat on non-plant based foods.

 



49 Responses to “Vanessa”

  1. Christie said

    Thanks for the recipes, Vanessa! I’m flirting with veganism but I’ve gone vegie in the last 5 weeks. I’m following your study closely. I wanted to tell you also, that I have made a sauce for stir-fry that’s super easy, if you need a change of pace! Just add about 2 Tbs. arrowroot powder to roughly the same amount of water, a few drops of Bragg’s and some dried (or fresh) ginger. It’s all approximate and just to taste, but it makes a nice glaze on the vegies. I cook the vegies and put it on last with the heat off, stir and eat!

    • Vanessa said

      Thanks Christie! That sauce sounds fantastic and new flavors are always exciting. I love ginger too! I’ve never used arrowroot before, so that should be exciting. Hopefully I’ll make the sauce sometime this week and post pictures. I’m glad to hear you’re following the study!

  2. nikkiportnoff said

    Thanks for all the visuals and recipes, Vanessa! I also LOVE to cook! I am having such fun creating all these meals that I have never tried before. Usually my family eats them with me and gives me a thumbs up or down if they will eat it again. I will have to post the vegan lasagna recipe that I made the other night – it was so yummy! I guess I will have to go and buy some of Bragg’s aminos. I have been putting aloe in my juice in the morning – supposed to be really good for cleansing out the system and good for your hair, nails and skin. Have a good week!

    • Vanessa said

      Hey Nikki! You should definitely post any good recipes that you try. I’d love to try them out. Have a good day! Eat lots of veggies!

  3. nikkiportnoff said

    Hi Vanessa, I just found that out today about whey also. Have you tried the Ezekiel breads? They usually have them at either Mother’s or Henry’s Markets and probably Whole Foods too. I also found a new bread that I love to have for breakfast toasted with almond butter on top. It is called Women’s bread and there isn’t any whey in it. It has dried cranberries and it is so yummy that I even eat the crust and I hate crust! 🙂

    • Vanessa said

      Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll look out for those breads. Also, your breakfast sounds delicious!

  4. Jenn said

    Wow, Vanesssa. Everything looks so yummy. Thanks for the pictures… you are actually inspiring me to cook and that is REALLY hard to do! 😉

    • Vanessa said

      Hahaha! I love it! None of the recipes I’ve posted so far are hard to make at all. They’re pretty basic and don’t use too many dishes which is also a plus. I’m going to a dinner party tomorrow night and I promised my friend I’d bring dessert! So stay tuned for some yummy plant-based desserts too.

      • Jenn said

        I want a really good vegan cupcake!!!

      • Vanessa said

        I have very limited time today, so unfortunately, I don’t think I’m gonna have time to make cupcakes. BUT I have several cans of pumpkin in my kitchen, so I was thinking of making vegan pumpkin spice cookies. Pictures, recipe, and reviews to come!

  5. nikkiportnoff said

    I have been really wanting to try Sprinkles Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes – is anyone can make a good cupcake it is them!

  6. nikkiportnoff said

    Have either of you tried BabyCakes? They are a vegan bakery and there is one in Los Angeles.

    • Anastasia "The Veganbetic" Brown said

      Nikki, I was at BabyCakes last fall and it was almost too good to be true! The cupcakes were absolutely delicious. Have you been there yet?

      • nikkiportnoff said

        Anastasia, I am going to Los Angeles tomorrow so maybe I will have to stop by Baby Cakes and try them for myself! Thanks for the tip!

      • Anastasia "The Veganbetic" Brown said

        You are so welcome—wish I was going with ya! Let me know how it goes! 😀

  7. Anastasia "The Veganbetic" Brown said

    Hi, Vanessa! Looks like you’ve gotten off to a wonderful start…love the pics and recipes!

    I am from Brooklyn, NY…but I went native in Western Massachusetts for over a decade, and I miss it. I’m now in Los Angeles.

    Best of luck on the new eating plan! 😀

    • Vanessa said

      Hello and welcome! Thanks for the support! If you have any advice, I’m all ears 🙂

      • Anastasia "The Veganbetic" Brown said

        You’re most welcome! Here’s a couple of things which may interest you and others:

        1.) A wonderful and delicious substitute for rice that has a low impact on blood glucose levels is organic hulled barley—not pearled barley as we generally see in supermarkets, but organic hulled barley. It has a low glycemic load and is high in fiber. I buy mine via mail-order through a company called Shop Organic (through which you can find other great organic vegan stuff); here is a link directly to their hulled barley page: http://www.shoporganic.com/product/4205/grains

        2.) If you’re not familiar with Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her incredible vegan cookbooks (some of them are co-authored with the fabulous Terry Romero), do go to Amazon and look ’em up. The most recent is a lowfat vegan cookbook called “Appetite for Reduction”, and I feel that it’d be perfect for all y’all’s regimen. Here is the link; I also reviewed this cookbook on Amazon because I was so pleased with it. I hope you will be, too! http://www.amazon.com/Appetite-Reduction-Filling-Low-Fat-Recipes/dp/1600940498/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

        Have fun! 😀

      • Vanessa said

        Thanks for the advice! I will definitely try those suggestions. So far I’m feeling pretty good and today I actually felt fantastic. Good stuff!

  8. Christie said

    Vanessa – have you tried the “Peas and Thank you” blog? She has lots of yummy treat recipes (and she also HILARIOUS).

    • Vanessa said

      Yes! I have her site listed above as one of the blogs I’m following. Her kids are very cute and she definitely does have great recipes. So far I feel like I’m actually getting so many recipe ideas that my fridge is overflowing with ingredients for future meals. I need to slow down and finish up my leftovers first!

  9. Christie said

    I haven’t tried Tamari – I think it’s kind of a sour-y sauce? Anastasia probably knows. Nama shoyu is a fermented soy sauce which is better for you than say, Kikkoman’s, but I always use Bragg’s because they taste the same and I figure I can always use more amino acids in my diet? I don’t miss the meat or dairy, with the exception of cheese. My problem is that I think there are hidden animal fats I’m not aware of in things, like butter or other oils in stuff? I don’t know, I’m not very good at creating dinners yet, and my family is not eating this way, so I can’t make too much or it gets wasted since I can’t eat it all myself and attempt to lose weight. It takes a lot of time and research to experiment with foods!

    • Anastasia "The Veganbetic" Brown said

      Hi, Christie and Vanessa!

      Tamari is a kind of soy sauce that is more full-bodied than regular soy sauce (shoyu). It is made of the liquid that is left over after miso-making (miso is another fermented soybean product with which you’re all probably familiar from miso soup in Japanese restaurants…however, please note that another component of most miso soups in most Japanese restaurants is dashi, a stock made from dried bonito, which is a kind of fish…some people don’t know that most restaurant miso soup is, therefore, not vegan). One can buy wheat-free tamari, too, if one has gluten intolerance/celiac disease.

      I love nama shoyu, too, because it is raw. Yummy!

      • Nikki said

        I personally LOVE the shoyu soy sauce. It is so much better for you than the other stuff you get from a japanese restaurant. 🙂

      • Vanessa said

        Thank you guys for the info! That’s very interesting about miso soup. Animal products seem to sneak their way into a LOT of foods.

  10. […] Vanessa […]

  11. Christie said

    My mother passed away from cancer 3 years ago this last Oct. and I will always wonder if I could have helped her, given what I know now about diet. I would have at least tried! So much so, that someone I barely know, who is battling cancer right now, I suggested read The China Study; ALTHOUGH THEY MAKE THEIR LIVING SELLING GRASS FED BEEF, CHICKEN, AND EGGS! I’m also a home-schooler – try talking to conventional schoolers about why you do that without stepping on toes! I think people will see the results in you and be intrigued. If people ask about homeschooling, I just say something like “I believe it is the best fit for our family”. If they really press you and want information, then you can maybe talk about the health benefits as you’ve researched them?

    • Vanessa said

      Thank you for sharing your story with us Christie. I’m sure I would wonder the same thing. I have been recommending that people read The China Study – Dr. Campbell does such a great job presenting his research with study after study. He is so adement about ensuring that the reader fully understands the evolution of the study and how he came to his conclusions.

  12. Jenn said

    Vanessa, Posted your food dilemma on TKD. I am hoping they will have some good advice for you! Jenn

    • Jenn said

      Reply from Lauren at TKD:

      Hi Vanessa,
      I am a college student so I know how you feel when you say you have to pack a whole days worth of food! Some snack foods that I love to eat are sliced apples with almond butter, celery with almond butter, edamame, veggies with hummus (carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, celery, etc.), and any type of nut mixture (especially the ones with vegan choc.chips in them.). Some other snacks that might not be perfectly healthy but are super good are pita chips and hummus, veggie chips, and crispy snap peas.
      If you like chickpeas you can roast them in the oven until they are golden brown and crunchy; another cruncy snack that seems to be popular are kale chips (just drizzle with olive oil, any seasoning you like, and stick in the oven until crispy.
      I know you have to pack your food most of the time but another perfect snack is soup. If you go to whole foods there are so many delicious soups that come in a box. I think the brand is “Imagine.” It’s low cal, low in sodium, and fills you up!
      Something easy to pack is stuffing pita bread with anything in the fridge such as; avocado, greens, any type of grain, any veggie, and drizzle with a small amount of dressing you like.
      I think I could go on and on but I’ll stop at that…. Hope this helps!! 🙂 Lauren

  13. Christie said

    I was also going to suggest maybe a nut butter of some sort also – it might stay with you a little longer?

  14. Hi Vanessa,

    Vegan snacks can always be tough to come up with. To make sure you’re staying full, try to make sure you’re eating lots of protein like veggies with peanut butter, edamame, nuts, granola, hummus and crackers . . .I think when you go vegan, your body is going through a detox-process, so sometimes you experience a slump before you come out on the other side feeling great. And about the bloat–you’re eating a lot more veggies which are gassier. Limit salt, drink lots of water and try Good Belly probiotic drink–it’s vegan and works great! Good luck and hang in there!

    • Vanessa said

      Thanks for your suggestions. I’m trying to make little adjustments to my daily diet. I guess this is a learning process and I’ll figure out what works for me eventually. I’ll keep you posted!

  15. Christie said

    I feel your pain Vanessa – I have only been vegan for one week, but vegetarian for 5 and working out 6 days a week. Despite all that, I have not lost ONE pound, and before you tell me I am probably losing inches, I’m not; my clothes fit exactly the same. I don’t know what else to try since my diet is already pretty minimal. I’m just hoping something is going to kick in soon. I did find out that a medication I was taking for RA has been shown to cause weight gain and trouble losing weight. Great! I’m off of it now, but who knows how long it will take to get out of my system. That better be the answer cause I cannot accept being 25 pounds overweight!

    • Vanessa said

      Hang in there Christie! It sounds like you are making all the right choices and doing all the right thing. I’m sure you will see results. Hopefully switching up your medication will help. Keep up the good work!

  16. nikkiportnoff said

    Hi Vanessa,

    How are you feeling? Mama Pea on the Peas and Thank you blog has put up a vegan plan and I am trying to follow it. She has a lot of great ideas for snacks including veggies and hummus, Lara bar, fruit, piece of high fiber bread with nut butter. You should go on her blog and print out her snack ideas, that is what I did. 🙂 I hope everything is going well with you!

    Nikki

    • Vanessa said

      Hey Nikki! I’ve been following her blog. I think I need to sit down and figure out which snacks sound good. It sounds like you’ve been doing really well! I can’t wait to see you guys in a few weeks!

  17. Jenn said

    Samantha S.
    One recipe that I find extremely satisfying is a faux “tuna” salad. Mash up chickpeas and walnuts (sorry I don’t really measure anymore but probalby 2/3 chickpeas to 1/3 walnuts) then cut up pretty much every crunchy vegetable I have in the fridge or freezer (zucchini, carrot, peppers, peas, corn, a bit of white onion, celery, etc) (the veggies should be 2/3-3/4 of the mix) then mix with a bit of veganaize and dijon mustard then eat with rice crackers. The chickpeas and walnuts give it such a full and satifsying richness! It’s super easy to carry around and eat quickly between classes and you won’t be hungry after!

    • Vanessa said

      That sounds amazing! I’ll definitely have to give that a try! Thanks!

  18. Jenn said

    Lauren Shapiro
    I’m so sorry to hear you are having a hard time! I think part of the reason could be that you may be eating too much fruit. I feel very bloated and gross whenever I eat a lot of fruit. Usually I have oatmeal with slivered almonds and chopped walnuts in it for breakfast. Then, for lunch, I bring leftovers from my dinner from the night before. Today, its whole wheat pasta, sauteed eggplant, zuchini and mushrooms, and a little daiya cheese on top (and I sprinkled on some Red Star Nutritional Yeast as well). If I need a snack during the day I usually want somehting salty so I go for pita chips or something along those lines. Then for dinner, stick to whole grains, beans, and veggies.

    I think a big part of why my transition to being vegan was easy for me is because I cook dinner almost every night, and bring leftovers to work for lunch the next day, so I know I have a hearty lunch to keep me satisfied.

    I hope this helps!

    Hazel
    I agree that there may be too much fruit. I’m curious as to what breakfast is? I know the first two-three weeks of going vegan, I was famished, but then it leveled off as my body adjusted. Does the lunch salad have only vegetables? If so, you may want to add a small bit of grain and legume, 1/4 cup each maybe? Try any bean – black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, and different grains, maybe try quinoa. Then sprinkle with sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds

    If part of your goal is to lose weight, you want to watch the calories, so while some delcious snacks have been suggested, you shouldn’t go overboard with things like nuts and nut butters. (I lost most of my weight the first three months being vegan – and for me, it did just fall away, so I have been there!). When I was first transitioning, I limited myself to one piece of fruit a day, and snacks were generall veggie-based. I might have a tiny bit of rice with kale, or even just a small amount of beans or lentils for a snack.

    I know you say you don’t know if you can eat more veggies, but honestly, that’s really what you should try to do for maximum health and weight loss. Go ahead and pack some hummus, but make it a small amount, and take celery, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, etc, to dip. If you want to add a healthy carb, I would go with a half to a whole small Ezekiel tortilla, then you can spread the hummus and add the veggies, I would use that over a pita. Think outside the salad! For another snack take a small container of mixed veggies – corn, peas, edamame, cauliflower, tomato, broccoli, sprouts, mushrooms – whatever – but don’t add lettuce. Then use balsmaic vinegar or apple cider vinegar or on occasion some Annie’s Goddess dressing. Hopre this helps some!

    • Vanessa said

      Awesome suggestions! I’ll post above what I’ve been eating on a daily basis. I think I need to increase my bean and lentil intake in order to make my meals (especially my lunch) more substantial. Thanks for all the advice! I really appreciate it.

  19. Christie said

    Hmmm..so it’s not the rice and grains I need to watch, it’s the fruit. Good to know!

  20. Jenn said

    How were the cookie dough balls and kale chips?

    • Vanessa said

      I just posted about them. The peanut butter cookie dough balls were awesome. Definitely a keeper. Kale chips – I’m not a fan. I like my greens in salad form, not chip form I guess.

  21. Christie said

    I wish I would’ve checked this site 10 minutes ago! I just made a batch of traditional hummus, but I want to try your recipe really bad! Next batch for sure!!!!!!!!

  22. […] Vanessa […]

  23. […] Vanessa […]

  24. […] conducting a very important 60-day plant-based diet study, in which participants (Stephanie, Nikki, Vanessa, Megan, John and Jax and Amber) will be changing their diets from either a Standard American Diet […]

  25. […] Vanessa […]

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