For a girl that was brought up in a pizza shop and who loved chili cheese dogs at one time, plant food eating would have never been my thing. However, over the last two years while working on my health by improving my diet and getting in daily exercise, it is an eating style that I have thought about more and more. Two weeks ago I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives, which examines the claim that many (if not all) major diseases can be reversed, controlled or even healed by changing our diets. After watching this I was sold. I decided to go vegan for 5 days and report back with my results.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, Forks Over Knives promotes a plant based diet consisting of whole foods. To simplify it, you generally eat, in lieu of any animal-based or processed foods, plant based foods including fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and sprouted grains.
5 Days of Plant-Based Eating
The first step of adopting plant food eating for me was generally determining what I could and couldn’t have. One bonus to this diet is also that there are no measured portions. You eat when you want to eat and eat as much as you want to eat as long as those items are whole food, plant based. And you should have 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day so you are not filling up with grains.
Approved items include:
-All fruits including apples, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, oranges and other citrus fruits grapes and all berries as well as tomatos.
-All vegetables, and especially green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, asparagus, beets and tubers (plant stems).
-Whole grains like sprouted grain (Ezekiel) or millet breads, barley, brown rice, brown rice pasta and steel cut oats.
-Legumes or beans like black beans, pinto, kidney beans, and garbanzo or cannellini beans. Also allowed are peas and lentils.
-Nuts and seeds as well as peanut butter (the natural stuff), hazelnut butter (not Nutella or ones with large amounts of added or unnatural sugar) and almond butter. Some nuts include almonds, walnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts etc.
-Non-dairy milk, such as coconut or almond milk – I bought unsweetened.
-Naturally derived (unrefined) sugars, like coconut sugar or honey are okay in small portions. (Here is a great guide to good and bad sugars.)
Some of the foods that are not considered plant-based or vegan friendly are: eggs, red meat, chicken, pork products, dairy like milk and cheese. Other “nos” are processed foods, anything with added or refined sugars.
While on this diet I kept a journal of general foods I ate, keeping it simple and coming up with ideas for recipes where I could switch out the meat or eggs for a plant food item. There are many resources for these recipes online (listed below).
Tips for Eating Plant Based
Like any other “diet” or style of eating, the plant-based diet does require some basic prep and organization. Some tips that helped me while on this diet where:
- Read the Labels – For anything that is not grown and picked, read the labels and know what you are eating. For example brown rice pasta had the ingredients of brown rice and water. That food was okay. However there were other foods that were not that had added sugars. One example was a protein bar I thought was okay until I read the label and realized that it had a ton of processed ingredients. Also look for hidden refined sugars or added sugars.
- Plan Your Meals – Like any other diet, meal preparation is essential. I had to think about what I wanted for each meal and have those things ready. Soups were also a big benefit of this diet. I made veggie and bean soups many times and they were simple, healthy and delicious.
- Don’t Starve Yourself – Make sure you eat when you are hungry. While trying out this vegan lifestyle, I had breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner, a snack and a snack before bed. I never deprived myself of food.
- Load Up with Fresh Fruit & Vegetables – A plant-based diet calls for tons of fresh fruit and vegetables, so eat away. There were often days that I would have a few apples, 2-3 bananas, berries by the bowl, etc.
- Juice – Whether you invest in a good juicer or visit your local health food store, having organic and fresh juice is a must as part of a plant-based lifestyle. I juiced every day, at least once a day. It was one of the best ways to get some great servings of both fruits and vegetables in my diet.
THE BENEFITS OF GOING VEGAN:
Some personal benefits of adopting this eating style for me were that I had tons more energy. I felt lighter and never tired after meals. My skin cleared up beautifully and my mood improved.
I also had been having headaches and muscle aches after eating certain foods (mainly items with gluten), and I had none of these symptoms for the entire time I was on the diet. As a side note, I had no weight gain while on this diet. I actually lost a pound.
I loved doing this little experiment and will definitely be keeping a plant-based lifestyle as part of my routine. I highly recommend this style of eating to anyone who wants to try it!