I’ve been truckin’ along the Plant Powered Promoter (P3) path for about 19 days now. During this time I’ve had some awesome meals:
and some less than stellar meals:
You can’t win them all. But here are 5 lessons I’ve learned that helps me win more than I lose (and hopefully will help you too!)
1. Embrace the constraints
The business book ReWork by Jason Fried is a good read. His premise is that to be successful in business, you don’t need more (resources, people, money, time etc). You actually need less, because that forces you to be creative while living with or working with exactly what you’ve got.
This approach works in making changes in how you eat too. I would love to say that I have been cooking up a storm during these last couple of weeks – that was certainly my plan when I took on this challenge at the start of the month – but an unexpected trip to deal with and a death in the family on top of an already busy back-to-routine timetable, has left me limited time to shop, cook and experiment.
I could have used that as an excuse to slide back to my old way of eating or to postpone this challenge for a better time but instead I tried to roll with the punches. Have my meals all been gourmet quality and tantalizingly prepared each day? No – but they have been real food and almost exclusively plant-based (with a few eggs, some yogurt and cheese thrown in, on occasion).
When staying with my sister as we took care of family matters, she was able to raid her pantry and throw together a flavourful beans, rice and salsa dinner that worked for the kids and for the grown –ups (thanks Barb!). Pasta and peanut butter (sometimes even together!) have come to the rescue a couple times when I’ve eaten out or when I’ve been strapped for time after a particularly long work day. And there is always tofu.
What I am saying is that, I have not let the constraints of my schedule or the ability to spend quality kitchen time hold me back from embracing this challenge. Didn’t John Lennon say “life is what happens when you are busy making plans”? Very true!
2. Planning ahead makes everything easier
So despite the fact I am tap dancing as fast as I can to stay the course, here’s the thing: planning does make things smoother.
While flying back to Saskatchewan, I made sure to throw something (a protein bar, a container of mixed seeds and nuts and an apple) in my carry-on that I could eat on my flights if the airline had no healthy meatless choices. And yeah (surprise!)– they didn’t. Unless you count Pringles and red licorice. Blergh.
We had some pre-booked restaurant dinners out with friends in the past few weeks and before we went, I checked out the menus online to see what I could eat. This totally enhanced my enjoyment of the evening because I knew there’d be something I could eat (even though two of them were old timey steak houses) so that there would be no fuss at the restaurant to detract from the fun. The Keg offered a baked brie appetizer and a stuffed mushroom with asiago rice entree. I added a side of steamed asparagus. Just a note – If I wasn’t eating dairy…the choices would have boiled down to these very limited choices: a house salad and fries or a baked potato, with the above-mentioned asparagus. Fail.
My meals at home also take thought. One of my best learnings is The Master Mix. This is a versatile and nutritionally dense ingredient that is super helpful and keeps for a week in the fridge.
Here’s what’s in it:
- 2 cans of beans (I used black and a mixed medley)
- 2 cups matchstick carrots (the bagged kind, but you could grate some yourself)
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 sweet bell peppers, chopped
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of grilled corn
This mix can be used in myriad ways to put together a meal in minutes:
- as a salad
- a stir-fry
- an omelet
- as a soup or chili base
- in fajitas
- mixed with whole grains or pasta
- in a wrap or a rice roll
to name just a few ideas.
Tip: you can substitute whatever veggies, beans, legumes you’d like. Just be sure they are the hardy ones so that the mix stays crisp. You can always add the softer ones like tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados as you prepare your dishes.
3. Stressing over balancing your nutrition bite by bite is futile
When I began this challenge a couple of weeks ago, my biggest concern was trying to get a wide variety of nutrients in my diet on a daily basis. I was particularly focused on getting enough plant based protein at every meal. It was crazy-making and in the first few days I worried “Can I even do this?”
But once I remembered exactly what I tell my clients, no matter what changes they are trying to implement in their lives “persistence, not perfection”, everything got easier.
Even though I know a lot about food and nutrition, this is a new way to eat for me. So I face the same issues my clients do when they embark on switching up their diet or their lifestyle.
There are new habits to form and old ones to let go of. I can’t cook or eat on auto-pilot (yet). I have to ask questions, read labels more carefully and take more time shopping. And I’ll make mistakes – like the cauliflower leek soup I ate at my club the other night….that was made with chicken stock. Oooops! Forgot to even ask.
Anyway – I am confident that over the course of the week, even if I have to call a potato and salad dinner, I am getting plenty of protein, carbohydrates and beneficial fats. And I’ll do better at the next meal.
4. This is not a weight loss plan
I think we’ve all read those breathless accounts from celebrities about pounds melting away when a vegetarian or vegan diet is adopted. I’ve had clients come to me specifically because they want to ‘go vegetarian’ to lose weight.
Let me be clear: being a vegetarian does not guarantee weight loss. We are each biochemically unique; so just like any diet, some people will find weight loss easier without meat in their diets, and others – like me – may not. Although I feel ‘lighter’ and feel like the ‘summer bloat’ has disappeared, my weight had not gone down significantly.
It’s funny, I actually think I am eating a higher calorie diet, given the amount of grains and fats I have added back into my days. Just another proof point that eating more – of the right foods – will not cause weight gain.
Eating a plant powered diet made up of whole, non-processed foods will add more fibre and bulk to your diet. And with that comes more ‘output’ – if you know what I mean!
For optimal health, you should be pooping multiple times a day – ideally, ‘one meal in, one meal out’. Most who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) do not come close to this and conventional medicine says that pooping 3 times a week (yes, I said a week!) is ok and not considered constipation. Blergh! No way!
The harder it is to poop and the longer waste products remain in your colon, the more chance there is for toxins to build up and cause a wide variety of health concerns, including
- inflammatory bowel issues
- skin disorders
to name just a few.
Vegetables, nuts, fruits, seeds, whole grains all increase the chances of smooth moves on a daily or thrice-daily basis. Meat and dairy have the opposite effect and slow down your regularity.
Let’s just say, I’m on track!
Healthfully yours –