My Plant Based Diet with ALL my Recipes

A couple years ago we started trying to eat better, mostly for health reasons. I blogged about the journey we took with food mostly as it happened, but those posts are long and scattered, so I’ve summarized the info into a timeline to help anyone considering starting this long process, maybe you can learn from my mistakes :)

2012 – Summer
We were eating completely SAD (Standard American Diet), pizza, burgers, donuts… basically meat/wheat/dairy with every meal. We started researching different ways to eat, realizing that most of the health issues we were dealing with were food related… but terrified to try eating differently we delayed changing for six months…

2013 – Spring
Starting fresh with the new year we tried to go cold turkey for all of two days. By the end of the second day only eating raw fruits and veggies, we RAN to the nearest pizza place and binged till we were full. Next we took it slower, cutting out one food at a time. When we cut out meat, we went through a couple bad weeks before the cravings faded. The same happened with milk. Cheese was next, and it was so hard, three solid days of shaking like a drug addict. What I could not manage to give up was the bread, finally I buckled down and went through my four worst days of withdrawal, including flu-like symptoms, cold sweats, and withdrawal shaking, I even had to call in sick to work one of the days. On the fifth day we allowed ourselves some sandwich bread, but since then have eaten MUCH less wheat. As we discovered with meat, once you stop eating the foods your body can’t process, your body feels better, and does not have any interest in those foods. You just have to break the craving cycle. Even a few months ago I could never imagine a future that I would not need bread as a comfort food. Now I’m looking at trying to create that future, and it’s both scary and exhilarating.

2013 – Summer
We tried a completely wheat free experiment that lasted three weeks. The first couple of weeks I was not interested in losing weight, so I used small amounts of chocolate, and fries, to get through the cravings. The third week we all felt really really good, but could not maintain the no wheat at all. I may try again, or I may just stop trying to force the issue, and let wheat fade away over the course of a year like I did for meat. Only time will tell. What we learned: changing the way you eat is not about deprivation, it’s about change. Saying “I’m not going to eat cheese today” gets you nowhere. All you can think about is cheese. Instead, if all day you are thinking about the wonderful juicy peach you bought for an afternoon snack, and how tasty that will be, you have positive thoughts.

2013 – Autumn
It’s hard to stay hyper focused on something long term. It’s stressful and tiring to stay focused on one life topic, day after day, meal by meal. Sometimes I think we did it the hard way, and other times I know this was how we needed to do it, for our family, to slowly change habits, try out different diets and ways of eating a plant based menu. I feel that with this choice to be simply a whole food plant based vegan, that we are finally on the right track for now, on the path of something healthy that we can maintain long term.

2014 – Summer
I remember feeling so wonderfully healthy when we started eating vegan about a year and half ago, so what has gone wrong? How did we get so unhealthy, and how did we not notice? I imagine what made the biggest difference at the beginning, was merely removing all the processed foods from our diet, and starting to eat vegetables that caused us to feel so well, but slowly we became deficit in the foods we were restricting ourselves from, and the last couple of months we’ve just been feeling awful. So, after reviewing everything I had learned, we decided to stop being vegan. I started looking at how people eat, and why, and success they have with their chosen diet, and as I researched I put all the ‘diets’ into a simple chart. What I discovered was that the people eating ALL these different diets… were ALL healthy! But how could that be? Some don’t eat meat, some eat meat but no dairy, some eat grains, others don’t, and it became very confusing. Finally I started looking at the linking factors, which seem to be vegetables. A LOT of vegetables. Everything else had its place in the food habits of these people, but veggies at every meal seem to be at the core of success for them all. As we’ve been muddling through new recipes, new flavors, new styles of cooking, we have not been totally successful, falling back on our old patterns of eating when all this newness becomes overwhelming. As a family we agree that when we eat plant based we all feel strong, more energetic, and generally happier.
A look at all the plant based diets (most of which we’ve tried), with a comparison chart….
https://growsewhappy.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/diet-comparison-chart/

2015 – Summer
The way I currently eat has worked for me for over a year now. This is the path I think that works best for my health, and is somewhat easy for me to follow. It looks like this…

Unlimited:
Vegetables & Fruits
Rice & Oats
Eggs & Honey

Limited:
Sprouted Wheat Bread (about once a week)
Dairy (about three times a week, usually in the form of probiotic yogurt)
Meat (only chicken that I cook myself, about twice a month)
Beans (about twice a month)

Rules:
-One cheat meal a week
-All diets suspended for vacations and holidays
-I only eat two meals a day, no snacks or desserts

When I eat this way, I feel fantastic, have tons of energy, and lose weight. Does this work perfectly all the time? No. Life happens. When I stray off of this plan all my old issues come back to make me feel ill, and you’ll find me moaning on the couch. After experiencing health I don’t want to feel sick though, so for the most part I WANT to eat this way. The main thing I have learned is to not stress over eating “perfectly”. I still want to enjoy life, a hot chocolate in winter, or cold jello cake in summer is part of life, and I won’t give that up completely, I’ve learned to balance it with eating healthy on the other days of the week to stay physically and mentally well.

I hope reading about my long tour through diet after diet helps you skip strait to what will work for you. I wish you happiness and health for life!

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My Recipes…

I’ve been reading and researching for three solid years, health books, recipe books, blogs, and more. This is my combined learning, condensed into the recipe cards that I use every day in my own kitchen. These are based on my diet plan, and my tastes. Keep in mind they still include some of the unhealthy recipes that I grew up with, because occasionally I still make these recipes for my planned weekly mental-health-cheat-meals.

Click here to download: Basic Cooking Cards

The Soup Card

The Soup Card

Wheat-free Menu: Week Three

Before reading this post, read my post: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis
And this post: Wheat-free Menu Week One & Two

I thought I had enough recipes, but I guess I didn’t realize how much I was still relying on wheat, and it’s so hard to find recipes! If I find a gluten free recipe, it has dairy. If I find a gluten free and dairy free recipe, it has meat. If I find a gluten free, dairy free, meat free recipe, then the food is packed full of tofu and other soy products. All I’m looking for are plant based and whole food recipes! I feel like they should be there, the internet has never ever failed me before! Suddenly when I changed my search parameters, I was finding good stuff! I changed the search from dairy free wheat free whole foods recipes to gluten free vegan recipes -tofu
These are the few gluten free vegan sites I’ve found that don’t rely too heavily on soy products, and I’m enjoying perusing these sites for ideas and recipes:
Clean Eating Chelsey http://cleaneatingchelsey.com/recipes/
Allyson Kramer’s http://www.allysonkramer.com/
Almost Raw Vegan http://almostrawvegan.com/category/recipes-2/
Forks Over Knives http://www.forksoverknives.com/category/recipes/
Naturally Ella http://naturallyella.com/special-diets/

These are too complex for everyday cooking, but they are giving me great ideas for holidays and other special occasions:
Oh She Glows http://ohsheglows.com/categories/recipes-2/food-allergies/gluten-free/
Quirky Cooking http://quirkycooking.blogspot.com/search/label/vegan

So, our wheat free experiment lasted three weeks. The girls’ school threw us a curve ball, and as a family we all had a very stressful week. Wheat has always been my go-to food in stressful times, and with the school situation out of hand I snapped, and we had a Family Pizza Night. Gluten free experiment is over for now.

The first couple of weeks I was not interested in losing weight, using small amounts of chocolate, and fries, to get through what I knew would be inevitable cravings. The third week, back on a normal menu plan, I lost four pounds in a week, but was that due to being on a low-fat plant based diet while cutting out the last bits of occasional sugar/fat? Or from cutting out wheat? Both? I just don’t know. I may try again, or I may just stop trying to force the issue, and let wheat fade away over the course of a year like I did for meat. Only time will tell.

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Both week one and two I was using the potato heavy menu that I created for the occasion. This third week I put together a regular menu, which you can download here:

Daily Meal Plan with Recipes: 20130906 – Meal Plans – with recipes

Matching meal plans with shopping lists for family of four: Meal Plans-Lists
(Note the three tabs in the excel file, one is a blank shopping list, one is a tally shopping list of what is needed for the week, with the summary of the week’s meals, I cut it off the top and put it on the fridge.)

Wheat-free Menu: Week One & Two

Before reading this post, read my post from Friday: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis

So, on to my very own wheat belly situation… earlier in the year, soon after going mostly meat & dairy free, and before I read the Wheat Belly book, I attempted to go wheat free… after reading wheat belly, and doing even MORE research, I think there were a few reasons I failed last Spring:
1. I was not eating enough calories to get through the day.
2. I hadn’t learned enough wheat free meals to cook.
3. I was also trying to be perfectly vegan during my experiment.
4. I was not emotionally prepared.
I ate much less bread after my experience than I had been eating, and that helped me feel sufficiently better that I was not motivated to try going wheat free again. For years I’ve been fairly certain I have a wheat sensitivity, I just refused to do anything about it, so when I happened upon the Wheat Belly book through my library’s audio downloads, I was not surprised to hear that wheat causes such havoc in the body. In the book the author says some do well with just a clean cut from the wheat, and some do better with a gradual release of wheat, I was working on gradual. Each time I ate wheat, I could pinpoint how sick and lethargic it made me feel, forcing me to admit that while I love it, it needs to go. When I felt I was ready, I reread Wheat Belly, not just listened to it, but bought a hard copy and really studied it. Armed emotionally, and with a full wheat free kitchen, I was ready to try again.

About a week ago, as a family, we started a War on Wheat!! We will not eat any wheat at all, for a few months, and see what happens…

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These are the lists and recipes of the menu I created for going wheat free, it’s a little potato heavy, but I felt it was necessary to have enough calories to get through the cravings.

Daily Meal Plan with Recipes: Meal Plans – with Recipes

Matching meal plans with shopping lists for family of four: Meal Plans – Lists
(Note the three tabs in the excel file, one is a blank shopping list, one is a tally shopping list of what is needed for the week, with the summary of the week’s meals, I cut it off the top and put it on the fridge.)


Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis

Spent another week on the train reading instead of sewing, I just finished rereading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, and I really focused on it this time. I’ve read some reviews of this book that say it’s too extreme in its suggesting that we remove wheat, this “amazing staple food”, from our diet. These reviewers quote Aristotle, calling for “moderation in all things”… though Aristotle was probably not dying of the obesity caused by the Standard American Diet when he said that… imagine if the USDA suddenly added arsenic to the food pyramid, does moderation in all things include things that will poison us? It’s being proven that dairy, meat, and wheat are poisoning us, yet people are still saying, “well, we must eat these foods in moderation, the USDA says we need them.” The mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to promote agribusiness, so for them to be in position to tell us what to eat is a conflict of interest.

I believe that most people, given the choice between going dairy/meat/wheat free, or taking medications with horrible side effects, would choose health over managing symptoms. Also I don’t put much faith in “studies” on one topic or another, every clinical study can be skewed, and while many books are saying that dairy/meat/wheat are poisons because of this test or that study of participants, they are also saying that dairy/meat/wheat are poisons because we’ve seen thousands of people cure their own diseases by avoiding these foods… and what I do believe in is what I can see and feel. And I see that people who remove wheat from their diet are losing weight, and losing diseases. And I feel better, more energy, and less irritable on the days that I eat less dairy/meat/wheat. And so reading this book again, I feel very strongly that what I’m reading is truth, from what I see and feel, this makes sense. This is a quote from the book Wheat Belly:

“People who eliminate wheat from their diet typically report improved mood, fewer mood swings, improved ability to concentrate, and deeper sleep within just days to weeks. I’ve personally experienced these effects and also witnessed them in thousands of people.”

I definitely suggest getting a copy from your library and reading this lifesaving info for yourself! The best takeaway from books like Wheat Belly, or 80/10/10, is that the western diseases are preventable, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, obesity, depression, ibs, hypertension, cancer, allergies… they don’t have to happen to us. We don’t have to grow old and sick and die. We can simply grow old and die, without most of the debilitating sickness that has become common. It’s almost good to be true, almost too wonderful that we can eat ourselves to heath, but I’ve decided to believe.

 

Here are some more of my favorite bits from the book Wheat Belly:

“The consequences of wheat consumption, however, are not just manifested on the body’s surface; wheat can also reach deep down into virtually every organ of the body, from the intestines, liver, heart, and thyroid gland all the way up to the brain. In fact, there’s hardly an organ that is not affected by wheat in some potentially damaging way.”

“No demographic has escaped the weight gain crisis…. …Many overweight people, in fact, are quite health conscious… …[wheat has] come to dominate our diets. For most Americans, every single meal and snack contains foods made with wheat flour. It might be the main course, it might be the side dish, it might be the dessert – and it’s probably all of them.”

“In fact, apart from the detergent and soap aisle, there’s barely a shelf that doesn’t contain wheat products. Can you blame Americans if they’ve allowed wheat to dominate their diets? After all, it’s in practically everything.”

“An interesting fact: Whole wheat bread increases blood sugar as much as or more than table sugar.”

“For many the idea of removing wheat from the diet is psychologically painful…. … the process can indeed have uncomfortable side effects akin to withdrawal from cigarettes of alcohol.”

“So why has this seemingly benign plant that sustained generation of humans suddenly turned on us? For one thing, it is not the same grain our forebears ground into the daily bread. It was changed dramatically in the past fifty years under the influence of agricultural scientists.” (much more about this in the book)

“[In this chapter] I will discuss why wheat is unique among foods for its curious effects on the brain, effects shared with opiate drugs.”

“Wheat, in fact, nearly stands alone as a food with potent central nervous system effects. Outside of intoxicants, wheat is one of the few foods that can alter behavior, induce pleasurable effects, and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon its removal.”

“In effect, wheat is an appetite stimulant: it makes you want more… …[of] both wheat-containing and non- wheat-containing foods.”

“Weight grew at the fastest pace once the USDA and others got into the business of telling Americans what to eat. I meet plenty of people who tell me that they follow “official” nutritional guidelines seriously, avoid junk foods and fast foods, exercise an hour every day, all while continuing to gain and gain and gain. The cornerstone of all their nutritional directives? “Eat more healthy whole grains”.”

Sleeping Under The Stars

I had a truly delightful vacation on the coast last week. My wonderful grandpa-in-law rented a condo with a deck overlooking Newport’s Yaquina Bay. The view from the deck:

Unfortunately my grandpa-in-law gets cold very easily, and the inside of the condo was kept stifling hot for him. Not that I mind, I really enjoyed spending time with him, and I’m happy that we could keep him comfortable. I did find the suffocating rooms impossible to sleep in though, which gave me a chance to try out one of the projects on my list! Sleeping Outside.

Over the winter, when I was reading my massive stack of inspiring raw food library books, there were several folks who discovered this healthier way to eat, and subsequently began looking at other social norms that may not be suitable for our wellbeing. Of the numerous things I’ve wanted to try, sleeping outdoors (not in a tent!), both thrilled and terrified me. I had not gained enough gumption to try… until, that is, I was on this vacation and it was necessary to keep the hotel at a balmy 90 degrees… suddenly the crisp cool 70 degree bay air sounded heavenly. We dragged our sleeping bags out and gratefully fell asleep. That first night was not exactly blissful though, with only a sleeping bag between me and a hard wood floor I shifted all night trying to get comfortable, fitful sleep is the best way to describe it. I woke feeling both bruised and refreshed, an odd combination to be sure. Instead of a popcorn ceiling, my eyes beheld a wide blue sky above me and the colors of sunrise reflected on the water of the bay. The majesty of the early morning world was overwhelmingly beautiful… that being said, my body felt like crap, and I would not have slept outside again if I’d had anywhere else to sleep. The second night we put a couple blankets down under the sleeping bags, which made all the difference. So I slept better and better each night, until the last night of the trip I didn’t wake up once, I slept sound, and woke up feeling great!!

So great in fact, that we built a little blanket and sleeping bag nest on our own deck at home, and I slept fabulously on it last night! We don’t have air conditioning, so our house is stifling, and not by choice, access to fresh air all night is so energizing! This is a pic I took before I left for work…

I hope this feeling continues, if I don’t do an updated post, know that I’ll be sleeping every night under the stars until it gets too cold, probably in September, a little colder than the coast, our low last night was 50 degrees, but we were snug as a bug. Instead of weary and groggy, we all woke up on time and invigorated, the fresh morning air clearing my mind of sleep. Even my little late sleeper, who is impossible to drag from sleep, woke up first, and with a smile on her face!

My happy little Kay this morning!

UPDATE: the mosquitoes drove us inside. After almost a week sleeping out of doors, my family out-voted me and we went back to normal. I was the only one not getting bitten by the mosquitoes, so my opinion was biased toward staying outside. My idea to fix the problem is to get a canopy, and put mosquito netting over it, I don’t have the resources to do it now, however by next summer, I’ll have it worked out for sure!!