No, Butter is Not Back

butter

Saturated fat – found primarily in animal products – promotes chronic disease. Still.

This is solidly established in the scientific literature. Although recent industry funded meta analyses, designed specifically to confuse and obfuscate the health issues, appear to absolve saturated fat, this does not change the results of metabolic ward, animal model, and careful population studies of the past. Rather, they sift, sort and screen the voluminous data and use title, abstract, and conclusion wording to confuse.

Doubt is their product.

Hence the refurbished old news that hit headlines once again last week…based on this article, published in BMJ.

In this fantastic rebuttal by Dr. David L. Katz, called “Heart Disease is Not Hypothetical,” he states, “I confess I don’t understand why hypothesizing by several cardiologists who have expressed this opinion before, involving no new research, citing review articles from two and three years ago on the causes of coronary artery disease should be worthy of publication in the peer-reviewed literature.”

Yet it was. And, as usual, it captured media attention.

Nothing has changed. The preponderance of data demonstrate that eating diets high in saturated fat increases disease risk.

The American Heart Association maintains their recommendation to aim for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat.

A whole food, plant-based diet averages approximately 6% to 7% of calories from saturated fat. Adding in one serving of animal products or tropical oils (yes, including coconut oil) easily brings that number to above recommended limits.

And it is not just cardiovascular disease that saturated fat promotes. This article by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine shows 12 more reasons besides cardiovascular disease to reduce saturated fat.

Ignore the headlines. Focus, instead, on the overwhelming evidence in support of plant-based diets for optimal health.

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Six Serious Reasons to Just Ditch Dairy

Haven’t ditched dairy yet?

Here are 6 serious reasons to just do it:

 
ditch dairy1. As per Dr. Michael Klaper, the purpose of cow’s milk is to help a baby calf grow, grow, grow as fast as possible. Dairy is hormonally active…intentionally. But once we are full-sized adults, growth is not a positive thing…it inspires cancer growth and contributes to other health problems.
 
 
2. Upwards of 70% (or more) of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant. The fact that more people than not react with painful gastrointestinal symptoms upon consumption of dairy demonstrates the fact that the human body is not intended to consume it. Doctors and dietitians are now pushing the use of lactase enzymes and other symptom-relieving medications in order to ensure “adequate” intake of dairy products. Yet, if we have to force our bodies to accept something it doesn’t want, shouldn’t that be a sign that something is wrong?
 
3. You do not need dairy for healthy bones. There are excellent plant-sources of calcium that are alkalizing and support bone health. Broccoli, kale, bok choy, other leafy green veggies, sesame seeds, tahini, calcium-set tofu, almonds, aditch dairynd fortified plant milks/juices all have adequate amounts of calcium to meet daily requirements. In fact, calcium in kale is absorbed 30% better than from dairy!  
 
4. People are always concerned about the phytoestrogens in soy foods. Yet, dairy has estradiol, natural animal/human-based estrogen, which is 10,000 times more potent than environmental or phytoestrogens.
 
5. Dairy, particularly cheese, is the number one source of artery-clogging saturated fats in the diet. Remember, according to the American Heart Association, a heart-healthy diet contains no more than 5-6% of total calories from saturated fat, the amount found in a typical vegan diet.
 
ditch dairy6. There is a currently a wall o’ milks that are plant-based and delicious at your neighborhood grocer. Choose between almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk, flax milk, rice milk, chocolate almond milk, horchata rice milk, vanilla soy milk, almond-coconut milk, and the hundreds of other varieties now available. Exciting, decadent, creative, and much healthier….dairy milk is indeed jealous! So jealous that Big Dairy recently approached the FDA to intervene and make it illegal for plant milks to be called “milk.” However, consumers are not buying plant-based milk because they’ve been tricked into believing they actually came from a cow. They’re buying plant milk because it’s healthier, cruelty-free, and easier on our planet.
 
Eat plants. Drink plants. For your health.

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Six Simple Tips to Stay Healthy Through the Holiday Season

Don’t Just Survive the Holidays. Thrive Through Them…

Still battling a post-Thanksgiving Tofurky trance? A mashed potato murk?  A pumpkin pie high? Instead of waiting for January to climb back up on the healthy wagon and out of the food fog, why not start now? Mitigate the mayhem of the season and bump up the body love fest with these 6 simple tips:

  1. Persist with fitness. It is all too easy to let your routine slip to the sidelines with traveling, festivities, and busier schedules that are typical this time of year. But that is why it is even more important to stay the course and squeeze it in. However you can, make it happen. Turn social gatherings into bonding fit fests by going for a walk or taking an exercise class together, or doing yoga in the living room before a meal or first thing in the morning. Social support is superb in stick-to-it-ness. Try literally entering your workout onto your calendar weeks (or at least days) ahead of time to ensure it happens.
  2. Start with fruits or veggies at every meal. Since fruits and veggies both offer the fewest calories per gram than any other foods and are high in satiating fiber, these are the ideal items to preferentiate at every meal. Studies have found that starting your meal with a piece of fruit, salad, or soup decreases overall caloric intake at a meal.
  3. Prioritize the 6 daily 3’s:
      • 3 servings of leafy green vegetables (1 serving equals 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked and include options such as asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, dandelion greens, green beans, kale, any type of lettuce, sea vegetables, etc.)
      • 3 servings of legumes (1 serving equals 1/2 cup of any bean, lentil, pea, or soy foods)
      • 3 servings of fruits (1 serving equals 1 medium piece or 1 cup)
      • 3 servings nuts and seeds (1 servings equals 1/2 ounce or 30 grams)
      • 3 servings other colored vegetables (1 serving equals 1/2 cup)
      • 3 servings exercise (1 serving equals 20 minutes of activity)

     

  4. Predict, plan, and prepare. Know where your next meal will be and make arrangements to have healthy options wherever that may be. Traveling? Here are some Healthy Travel Tips. Dining out? Here are my Top 5 Tips for Dining Out. Visiting friends or family? Ask to bring a wholesome dish or two for yourself and to share.
  5. Opt out instead of pushing portion control. Sometimes just saying “no” is so much easier. Otherwise, that first bite of hyperpalatable food stimulates the hormonal cascade that kicks in and seduces you into “just one more bite”…and “one last one”…and on and on down that rabbit hole.
  6. Discover and experiment with healthier indulgences. Swap date paste or pure maple syrup for sugar in recipes, try aquafaba instead of egg whites in meringue-like dishes or other egg substitutes in any type of recipe, and use fruit and vegetable purées instead of oil.

Most importantly, embrace this special time of year and savor the love that comes from taking care of yourself psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually as well as physically…

Wishing you a very healthy, happy holiday season!

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Say Cheese for these 20 Delicious DIY Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes

You can have your cheese and eat it, too!

cheese

There are a plethora of paramount health reasons to ditch dairy – particularly in the form of cheese – from the high saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, and hormone content to the opiate-like casomorphins that encourage its addictiveness. Just the mere fact that approximately 75 percent of the global population is lactose intolerant is enough to reason that we have no business consuming the milk of another species!  Fortunately, there has never been an easier time to chuck cheese because there are infinite plant-based alternatives available both commercially and in the DIY format (a la delicious recipes).

To reduce calorie density and maximize nutrient density, I recommend minimizing or avoiding the use of oils. Thus, if you love cheese the way many people do, it is ideal to make your own without using oils.

Here is a collection of 20 whole food, plant-based cheese recipes that are easy to make, oil-free, and absolutely divine…

1. Vegan Feta (That Tastes Really Good!) by Dreena Burton

cheese

2. Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce by Fat Free Vegan

cheese

3. Vegan Cheese Sauce by Contentedness Cooking

cheese

4. Nut-Free Vegan Nacho Cheese Slices by Vegan Richa

cheese

5.  “Cheezy” Cashew Dip by Jazzy Vegetarian

cheese

6. Sharp White Cheese Sauce by Veggies Don’t Bite

cheese

7. 6 Ingredient Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce by Veganosity

cheese-6-ingredient8. Pistachio-Crusted Cheese Ball by Jessica in the Kitchen

cheese-pistachio-ball

9. Veggie Cream Cheese Spread by Veggie Inspired

cheese-veggie-cream

10. Spicy Vegan Almond Cheese Spread by Vegan Chickpea

cheese

11. Cheesy Smoky Butternut Squash Pasta from The Vegiterranean Diet via The Blender Babes

cheese

12. Vegan Queso Fundido by Veganosity

cheese-queso

13. 2 Vegan Parmesan Substitutes: Brazil Nut Parmesan and Cheesy Sprinkle by Dreena Burton

cheese

14. Walnut and Herb Vegan Cheese by Green Evi

cheese

15. Jalapeno Cashew Cheese Spread by Cadry’s Kitchen

cheese-jalapeno

16. Sundried Tomato Cashew Cheese by Loving It Vegan

cheese

17. Vegan Cheese Quesadillas by Contentedness Cooking

cheese-quesadilla

18. Ultimate “Cheese” Sauce by Veggies Don’t Bite

cheese

19. Vegveeta Dip by Dreena Burton

cheese-vegveetadip

20. Roasted Garlic Cheese Fritters by Contentedness Cooking

cheese

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20 Plant-Based Experts’ Favorite Recipes

Delicious Nutritious Recipe Roundup

If you haven’t heard about Lighter yet, here is your chance to get an exclusive taste of their deliciousness! A powerful tool designed to help the world eat better, Lighter offers insanely useful grocery lists and flexible weekly menus based on the recommendations of plant-based leaders. To follow my eating recommendations – customized for you – visit my Lighter profile.

This recipe roundup features favorites of experts in the plant-based world, from physicians and dietitians to athletes and food bloggers, and offers a super sampling of what Lighter is all about.

1. Dr. Michael Greger’s Super Salad with Golden Turmeric Dressing

lighter-dr-gregers-super-salad plant

2. Dr. Neal Barnard’s Tabbouleh

lighter-dr-barnards-tabbouleh plant

3. My Green Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing and BBQ Tofu Wings

lighter-green-salad-maple-mustard-dressing-bbq-tofuwings plant

4. Micaela Karlsen’s Salad Nicoise

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5. Kathy Pollard’s Potato Leek Soup

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6. Dr. Michael Greger’s Go-To Quickie Tacos

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7. My Hearty Nachos

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8. Marco Borges’ Moroccan Lentils with Sweet Potato (*Omit Oil*)

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9. David Carter’s Classic Crunchy Lentil Tacos (*Omit Oil*)

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10. My Japanoodles and Noritos

lighter-japanoodles-noritos plant

11. Dr. Michael Greger’s Portobello Steaks With Mashed Cauliflower

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12. Christy Morgans’ Zucchini Noodles with Chunky ‘Meat’ Sauce

lighter-zucchini-noodles-with-chunky-meat-sauce plant

13. My Holy Kale with Herbed Tahini Dressing

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14. Dr. Joel Kahn’s Tamale Pie

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15. Kayli Dice’s Yamadillas

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16. Matt Ruscigno’s Easy Spanish Rice & Black Bean Burrito

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17. My Fiesta Fantastica

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18. Dr. Michael Greger’s Collard-Ritos

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19. Kayli Dice’s Portobello Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cream

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20. My Lentil Chili

lighter-lentil-chili plant

For more recipes, profiles, meal planning strategies and then some, visit Lighter.

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It Doesn’t Get Easier Than These 50 Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less

In this previous post filled with meal plans and hundreds of wholesome recipes, there leaves no question that there are infinite delectable dish options on a plant-based diet. The other crucial part of this lifestyle is that eating this way does not have to be challenging. At all. In fact, it can be super simple. With a sprinkle of creativity and a twist of courage, you can whip up a meal that is healthy, delicious, quick, low in cost, and (yes!) made with five ingredients or less!

Here are 50 – yes 50 (!) – oil-free, sugar-free, whole food, plant-based recipes that can be made with five or fewer ingredients from breakfast through dessert:

***Note: I did not count herbs, spices, or other seasonings in this roundup because those are optional and the easiest addition to anything, as it is just a dash or sprinkle here or there. I also excluded other optional ingredients or garnishes in the “five” for a few of these because they were too good not to be included and still just as simple as the rest…

1. Chocolate Crispy Fruit Squares from The Vegiterranean DietVegiterranean Crispy Fruit Squares_2

2. Green Chia Pudding by Veggies Save the Day

3. 3-Ingredient Vegan Pancakes by Green Evi

4. Easy Oil-Free Granola by Feasting on Fruit

5. BLT Savory Oatmeal (*Omit Oil*) by The Mostly Vegan

6. Instant Pot Buckwheat Porridge by Veggie Primer

5-ingredient-savory-oatmeal7. Raw Peanut Butter and Jelly Collard Wrap by Lauren Vacula

8. Glamping: Easy Power Muesli by Champagne Tastes

9. Perfect Pumpkin Pudding by Garden Fresh Foodie

10. Sweet Potato Toast by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken (*Top with oil-free hummus, mashed avocado, smashed banana, or nut butter*)

11. Lemon Vanilla Bean Rawnola by Feasting on Fruit

5-ingredient-carrot-soup12. Easy Vegan Carrot Soup by Contentedness Cooking

13. Kachumber Salad by Vegan Richa

14. 5-Minute Lentil Tomato Salad by The Garden Grazer

15. Basil Mustard Salad by Eating Vibrantly

16. Detox Broccoli Soup by Contentedness Cooking

5-ingredient-avocado-mash17. Chickpea Avocado Mash with Lemon by The Garden Grazer

18. Tuna-Less Tuna Salad by Rouxbe Online Professional Plant-Based Cooking School 

19. Warm Asian Bok Choy and Mushroom Salad by Carob Cherub

20. Creamy Tomato, Basil, & Rice Soup by Sprinkles & Saturdays

21. Simple Spaghetti Squash by VegAnnie

5-ingredient-thai-green-curry-meatballs22. Thai Green Curry Meatballs by Contentedness Cooking

23. Hummus Tortilla Pizzas by Dreena Burton

24. “Hungry Guy” Burgers by Jazzy Vegetarian

25. Quick Avocado Pasta by Green Evi

26. Crispy Baked Potato Wedges by Carob Cherub

5-ingredient-portobello-fries27. Oil-Free Baked Portobello Fries by Fat-Free Vegan

28. Smoky Spiraled Sweet Potato Fries by Strength & Sunshine

29. Perfectly Crispy Baked Tofu by VegAnnie

30. White Bean Artichoke Burgers by A Virtual Vegan

31. Tofu Sofritas by Rouxbe Online Professional Plant-Based Cooking School 

5-ingredient-rainbow-collard32. Rainbow Collard Wraps by Phruitful Dish

33. Spicy “Refried” Lentil Dip by Veggies Don’t Bite

34. Frijoles de Cabo by Fried Dandelions

35. Yellow Split Pea Dip (Greek Fava) by Veggies Don’t Bite

36. Jalapeño Hummus by My Plant-Based Family

37. Crock Pot Potato Soup…A Bowl Full of Comfort by My Plant-Based Family

Bowls of Red Lentil Ragu and Fresh Pesto Zoodles38. Blueberry Balsamic Mint Cauliflower Steaks by Athletic Avocado

39. Red Lentil Ragu with Zucchini and Fresh Basil by Garden Fresh Foodie

40. Oil-Free Vegan Avocado Pesto by Glue & Glitter

41. Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup by Sweets and Greens

42. Gluten-Free Baked Oat Bread from The Vegiterranean Diet

5-ingredient-truffles43. 2-Ingredient Blueberry Ice Cream by Vegan Heaven

44. Mango Coconut Ladoo by Vegan Richa

45. Baked Apples in Parchment by Jazzy Vegetarian

46. 5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Chocolate Gelato by Dreena Burton

47. Maple-Raisin-Date Truffles by Jazzy Vegetarian

5-ingredient-choc-ice-cream48. Mint Chip Brownie Homemade Lara Bars by Feasting on Fruit

49. Vegan Coconut Panna Cotta by Green Evi

50. 4-Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream by The Vegan 8

 

easier

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What Vegans Eat…Sample Meal Plans Made Simple + Hundreds of Recipes

Eating vegan can absolutely be easy, affordable, and most definitely delicious. On the gradient between super simple and grandly gourmet, there is a ton of wiggle room to make eating plants an everyday, enjoyable experience for everyone. You definitely aren’t limited to munching on lettuce and carrot sticks all day because there is a universe of possibility out there.

what vegans actually eat

Because there are innumerable benefits (and even more) of a vegan diet for humans, our planet, and the billions of animals that can be saved annually, it is an extraordinary investment to accept the learning curve necessitated by facing up to the process of redefining your plate. Most of us were raised eating a standard western diet. That is how we were taught to prepare food and how we simply look at our food. Thus, taking meat out of the center of the dish and reworking the culinary repertoire (or meal ordering know-how) you have hardwired in your brain from years of experience requires a reset. I liken it to learning a new language. You begin by trying out a few new ingredients such as nutritional yeast or quinoa (as in learning the fist few words on a new language). Then you try some recipes out (like learning some phrases). Then you start connecting those meals and stringing them into days (initiating some conversational sentences). Before you know it, with plenty of practice under your belt, you become fluent in how to eat a plant-based diet.

Flexibility is key in making the transition simple. Allow yourself to experiment with an open mind. Explore and find recipes online, via friends and family, or in books and bookmark the ones you love. I print or write out my favorites and collect them in my cookbook cabinet in my kitchen so they are always there for me to refer to when I need some inspiration.

VS Simple

 

Aim to follow the Plant-Based Food Guide Pyramid and Plate, emphasizing The 6 Daily 3’s, and pick your preferences. Mix and match any of your favorite foods that fit into your lifestyle.

6 Daily 3's Web Sized

 

Here are hundreds of delicious, healthful, simple, creative, and absolutely practical meals you can use to build your repertoire:

Breakfast Options:

What vegans eat via The Vegan RD via UnCruel EatsLunch and Dinner Options:

What vegans eat_Vegan Sidekick

Snack and Dessert Options:

  • Hummus with crudite, whole grain crackers, whole grain bread, corn thins, rice cakes, whole grain tortillas, nori paper, rice paper
  • Air-popped popcorn with optional spices and nutritional yeast
  • Fresh fruit
  • Trail mix with your favorite combination of nuts, seeds, and fruits
  • Baked potato, sweet potato, or yam
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Steamed edamame
  • 25 Savory Snacks
  • 40 Whole Food (Sugar-Free, Oil-Free) Vegan Delicious Desserts

And this is only a small sampling….what is YOUR favorite meal plan or meal planning tip?

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30 Bountiful Breakfast Recipes Worth Waking Up For

No meal carries more controversy than breakfast. Skip it or prioritize it? Breakfast as a king or light and breezy? Grain-free or a hearty bowl? Smoothies and juices detoxifying or harmful? With so many questions, this one simple meal can be confusing. Well, what if you threw all the rules out the door and brought …

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30 Bountiful Breakfast Recipes Worth Waking Up For

Eat Breakfast Like a KingNo meal carries more controversy than breakfast. Skip it or prioritize it? Breakfast as a king or light and breezy? Grain-free or a hearty bowl? Smoothies and juices detoxifying or harmful? With so many questions, this one simple meal can be confusing.

Well, what if you threw all the rules out the door and brought breakfast back to the table under your own terms? After 20 plus years in the health and fitness industry, working with clients and researching the science, here is what I recommend when it comes to breakfast:

  • Eat your first meal when you are truly physically hungry. Never force it, rush it, or hold off based on a preconceived notion of when you are “supposed” to eat. There is research recommending (daily) fasting which would encourage waiting as long as possible between your last meal the day before and your first meal of the next day. On the flip side, there is also science to support eating smaller meals every few hours. Yet, only you know you. So honor your body and eat when your body wants to eat. So long as it is not “toxic hunger,” your body will be your perfect guide for when and how much to eat.
  • Whether you want just fruit for breakfast, dinner for breakfast, or anything in between, go for it! There is no perfect food or magic meal makeup that is ideal for everyone. Again, hone in on your instincts for what you prefer. Some mornings may feel like a smoothie morning while others may inspire a heartier dish.
  • PBD Food Guide PyramidLook at your overall diet to balance your meals. Focus on getting your 6 Daily 3’s and the Plant-Based Food Guide Pyramid and Plate and simply structure your meals around that.
  • Eat mindfullyTuning into hunger and satiety signals and also noticing how your body feels after you eat specific foods will give you all the answers you seek about what you need. Also, chew well, eat with the fewest distractions possible, and taste your food. These are practices that improve with time, but they are gifts that will support your health over a lifetime.

Breakfast Pic

With the rules removed, there are infinite options available for your fave first meal-of-the-day.  If you are a smoothie person, you can enjoy one of these 20 scrumptious smoothies. Here are a few grain-free options. Or, you can explore one of these 30 game-changing (oil-free, sugar-free) choices:

1. Vegan Salmon Bagel by Green Evi

Breakfast Salmon Bagel

2. Magnificent Maple Granola by The Jazzy Vegetarian

Breakfast Maple Granola

3. Chickpea Flour Scramble (*Swap vegetable broth or water for oil*) by Vegan Richa

Breakfast Chickpea Scramble

4. Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Porridge by Rainbow Nourishments

Breakfast PBJ Porridge

5. Creamy Rice Pudding by Dreena Burton

Breakfast Rice Pudding

6. Spicy Tofu Scramble by Lazy Cat Kitchen

Breakfast Spicy Tofu

7. Red Pesto and Kale Porridge by Green Evi

Breakfast Savoury Porridge

8. Vegan Superfood Breakfast Bars by Contentedness Cooking

Breakfast Superfood Bars

9. Chocolate Waffle Fruit Pizza by Feasting on Fruit

Breakfast Chocolate Waffles

10. Mango Lime Chia Pudding by Get Inspired Everyday

Breakfast Mango Lime Chia

11. Cinnamon French Toast and Potato Shallot Frittata (Double Whammy!) by Dreena Burton

Breakfast Potato Fritata

12. Vegan Chickpea Flour Omelette by Strength & Sunshine

Breakfast Chickpea Omelette

13. Apple Muffins with Pumpkin Seeds by The Jazzy Vegetarian

Breakfast Apple Muffins

14. Chocolate Pudding Breakfast Bowl by A Dash of Compassion

Breakfast Pudding Bowl

15. Green Chia Pudding by Veggies Save the Day

Breakfast Green Chia

16. Turmeric Steel Cut Oats by Vegan Richa

Breakfast Turmeric Oats

17. Carrot and Coconut Breakfast Bowl by Green Evi

Breakfast Carrot Coconut

18. Pumpkin Seed and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Bars by Dreena Burton

Breakfast Bars

19. Cranberry Apple Spice Overnight Oatmeal by A Dash Of Compassion

Breakfast Cranberry Oats

20. Vegan German Chocolate Pancakes by Fragrant Vanilla Cake

Breakfast German Chocolate Pancakes

21. Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge by Eggplant & Olive

Breakfast Amaranth Blueberry

22. Everyday Quinoa Breakfast Bowl by Contentedness Cooking

Breakfast Quinoa Bowl

23. Breakfast Tacos by My Plant-Based Family

Breakfast Tacos

24. Fluffy Vegan Pancakes by Feasting on Fruit

Breakfast Pancakes

25. Vegan Chocolate Zoats ( *Omit Agave*) by Vegan Heaven

Breakfast Zoats

26. Strawberry Banana Baked Oatmeal Bites with Chocolate Chips by Veggie Inspired

Breakfast Strawberry Oatmeal

27. Snickerdoodle Energy Bars by Get Inspired Everyday

Breakfast Snickerdoodle Bars

28. Chickpea Pancakes with Dried Tomato Sauce by Green Evi

Breakfast Chickpea Tomato

29. No Bake Brownie Energy Bites by Jessica in the Kitchen

Breakfast Brownie Bites

30. Black Forest Overnight Oats by A Virtual Vegan

Breakfast Black Forest Oats

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How to Optimize the “Whole” in a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

Food can feel complicated. But it really doesn’t need to be. Keeping it simple and as close to nature as possible is all that is necessary. An optimal diet that reduces risk for disease is based on whole plant foods which are recognizable and enjoyed in their most intact form, avoiding animal products and processed foods. But what is a processed food, exactly? Clearly, Twinkies, Skittles, and fluorescent colored energy drinks would fit the bill of being highly processed. But what about something less obvious…such as a green smoothie, pasta, or plant-based yogurt?

From a diced onion and juiced carrot to refined sugar and artificially-colored corn chip, there is a whole lot of gray area in between when defining processed foods. Especially when you consider that processing includes all sorts of transformations that can be done on food, including grating, mincing, chopping, blending, boiling, baking, blanching, chargrilling, canning, pickling, extracting, changing the chemical or physical structure, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

With many–but not all–of these alterations, there may be implications, such as these:

  • Nutrients can become lost. From the moment a plant is plucked from the Earth, nutrients start to degrade. Even from the time between when food is harvested to the time it ends up in your kitchen–let alone on your plate–significant losses occur. Cooking foods causes further leaching of certain nutrients and refining a whole grain significantly reduces fiber, protein, and other key nutrients.
  • Unhealthy or potentially harmful substances can be added in. On most food production lines, preservatives, artificial colors, (artificial) sweeteners, artificial flavors, stabilizers, thickeners, and other ingredients are added into the original food for myriad survival reasons. Even using high temperatures to cook potato or grain products can promote byproducts such as acrylamide formation.
  • Olives versus Olive OilNutrients can be concentrated. There is an increase in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals when blending and juicing fruits and vegetables (however, this may also reduce fiber and satiety). Further, a dramatic enhancement of fat and calories is found in olive oil as compared to whole olives or carbohydrates from sugar beets as compared to table sugar when refined (however, this reduces fiber and most other nutrients).
  • Satiety can decrease. When fiber is reduced, many health benefits are minimized and satiety is often also slighted.
  • Caloric densityCalories can increase. Taking out fiber or water leaves room for more calories. Highly processed foods such as sugars and oil contain the most calorically dense foods of all. But even dried fruit increases caloric density as water is removed.
  • Enzymes can become activated. Certain foods are best eaten raw or even sprouted, to protect their disease-fighting phytochemicals and to enhance nutrient absorption. For example, allicin in garlic protects against cancer and is only activated when cut or crushed based on the enzyme allinase. Similarly, sprouting seeds significantly improves their nutritional benefits.
  • Cravings may be enhanced. Highly processed foods have been shown to provoke  physiological responses similar to addictive drugs.

Here is a graphic to help illustrate the journey foods can take from its original state to a more processed version of itself: 

Calorie Nutrient Density

Here are 5 ways to optimize the “whole” in your whole food, plant-based diet:

  1. Fill at least half of your plate (or bowl) with raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits.
    • Include at least half of your diet from raw foods to benefit from their original nutritional profile.
    • Include cooked foods as well to incorporate the benefits that take place with cooking certain nutrients, such as carotenoids.
    • Drink soups and stews to make sure you retain any nutrients lost in the cooking broth.
  2. Minimize or avoid oils and refined sweeteners.
  3. Choose whole grains over refined grains as often as possible.
  4. When purchasing food with a label:
    • Focus exclusively on the ingredient list.
    • Aim for the fewest ingredients possible.
    • Completely recognizable and pronounceable ingredients.
    • ignore misleading marketing on the front of the package;
    • Avoid artificial flavors/sweeteners/colors, preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners.
  5. Prioritize The 6 Daily 3’s: 3 servings of legumes, leafy green vegetables, other-colored vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and exercise.

6 Daily 3's Web Sized

Ultimately, it all lies on a spectrum…

Spectrum

 

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