The Daily Beet

07 Mar Are you complicating matters?

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green and red healthy food


We get a lot of e-mails every day from people who ask us questions about the plant-strong life. In these e-mails I usually find that they reveal a lot about the person, and usually the complexity in which they are approaching their plant-strong life.

Here are a few ways you can make things harder than it needs to be:

1. You worry about nutrition/protein/calories/fat/vitamins. 

The plant-strong diet is complete. You do not have to worry about getting enough protein or fat or calories or vitamins. You don’t have to count calories, track your nutrition, figure out carbs, or protein. Stick to the basics: vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains and you’ve got all you need. No need to add to that to get what you need.

*Take b12 – that is the only supplement we recommend. AND vitamin D (which is really a hormone) IF your Dr. has tested your levels and if they are low and your Dr. has recommended you take them.

What always surprises me is that people generally do not start worrying about things like protein or sodium or fat until they start eating plant-strong. The modern diet of junk food is going to do a lot more harm and should cause a TON more concern when it comes to if someone is getting what they need.

2. You are eliminating things you don’t need to eliminate. 

With the rise in popularity of Paleo and other grain-scare diets, people have been eliminating things like whole grains when they do not need to. A very small percentage of the population have a documented gluten allergy or Celiac disease. Celiacs is a serious disease that causes a lot of suffering, one of the first signs is usually weight loss and a host of very uncomfortable physical symptoms. If you suspect you have a wheat allergy, get tested.

If you do not have an allergy, there is no reason to go gluten free. Whole wheat and whole wheat products can be part of your plant-strong life.

3. You are only cooking from recipes. 

Recipes can definitely have their place in your plant-strong life. But often the easiest thing is going to be creating a meal out of the basics that require no actual recipe. 100’s of combinations can be found from vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. Last night I had 2 baked potatoes, spinach and salsa for dinner. That was it. No recipe, a simple, fast and tasty meal.

4. You are trying to fit eating out into your plant-strong life, a little too much. 

I believe that at 99% of restaurants you can get a plant-strong meal if you know how to ask for one. However, I also believe that you are going to probably get a lot more for your money and a much tastier meal if you are eating at home.  If your life revolves around eating out, it might be time to evaluate that part of your life, or restructure it in a way that works a little better. If eating out is your hurdle to a plant-strong life, my advice is to stop eating out. Take a break from it for a while. When you go out with friends, eat before you go instead and when you are with your friends stick to herbal tea, fizzy water or ask for a bowl of chopped fruit. Get the focus off the food and into the reason you are going out – to socialize.

5. You are looking to add things that you do not need to. 

When you start down this road it is easy to get side tracked into thinking that there are other things you might be missing in the world of health and nutrition. You start to look at other advice to find “tricks” or in many cases, gimmicks on living a healthier life. I get that. We want to make sure we are doing everything possible. So when someone approaches you and tells you that X mineral is really important or that a pill is going to give you an extra 17 servings of vegetables per day or a protein powder is going to boost your athletic performance, or you should be drinking tons of greens to boost your health even more, we want to believe it.

This way of eating is complete, and the longer you do it, the better it gets, the healthier you become. It takes time and work (like anything worthwhile). You will not be at your ideal weight overnight, or a pro athlete in a week. There aren’t short cuts. You will get a great body by eating right and working out. It won’t come from the extra stuff that is sold to you – just the simple, basic (maybe boring) stuff: eat right and move your body. Which, incidentally does not bring in huge amounts of money, thus all of the marketing gimmicks to get you to spend more for no good reason.

When going down the plant-strong path, keep it simple, and rest assured that you are in the right place, heading in the right direction!

Here is a great article by Jeff Novick, MS, RD on the “Top 10 Reasons for Failure” it covers a few of things talked about in this article.

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Natala Constantine
  • JulieAnn
    Posted at 10:46h, 07 March

    YES! THIS IS ME!! Well was me, I actually stopped being plant-strong because of the things you talk about. here. First I was roped into buying this complete garbage vitamin from a friend called Juice Plus, I found out later it was a scam, I spent a lot of money for it to do nothing and my MD to tell me it was junk AND my MD was supportive of me being plant-strong, Anyway, I felt bad for my friend, spent a lot of money, it made it harder to buy groceries. They also suggested drinking smoothies, well again, it’s expensive (had to buy a blender) and not to mention it’s a waste of food, I was hungry like an hour later, and my blood sugar was going up, a lot from drinking them. I ended up giving up the plant-strong stuff because it was “too expensive” and my blood sugar was not good. I thought recently that I had it wrong because if I didn’t buy the stupid pills and if I wasn’t drinking these smoothies it might be better, I can sell the blender, chew my food like Engine 2 recommends anyway! Just joined Engine 2 Extra, hoping that will help.

  • Steph
    Posted at 10:56h, 07 March

    I just wanted to echo JulieAnn on the supplement thing, I spent a lot of money on garbage. It wasn’t just that one, I got caught up in any supplement that Dr. Oz was pushing, I spent about 3000 dollars last year in things I didn’t need (protein powders, supplements and more). When I stopped all of that, it’s when my health got a lot better.

  • Jan
    Posted at 12:19h, 07 March

    This is me, exactly. I’ve been making things way harder than they need to be. Thanks for the post.

  • Michael Rehling
    Posted at 12:49h, 07 March

    Very good advice. Something to remember is that ‘simple’ is better than complex. A good analogy since ‘processed food’ is a lot worse than ‘simple veggies, fruit, and grains’.

  • Elaine Kean
    Posted at 13:23h, 07 March

    Natala ~ this is so insightful and VERY encouraging! My husband and I are eating a plant strong diet ( 4 + months ) and it has been not only a real blessing but an amazing taste adventure …even with really simple meals!!

  • Tami D.
    Posted at 18:27h, 07 March

    The longer my husband and I have been plant-strong and unprocessed, the simpler our foods have become. We are no longer “foodies” who spend a lot of time and money seeking out gourmet delights. Early in our plant-based venture, most of the “healthy” recipes tasted awful to us, but our taste buds gradually changed. A serving of plain chick peas or unsalted brown rice would not have appealed to us before going plant-strong, but now we find these foods satisfying. My husband used to dislike green salads and vegetables, but now he fills up on them with no complaints. He decided getting off his cholesterol and blood pressure medications and achieving a lean and fit body was worth learning to like greens and vegetables. I had to get over my desire to please other people with my cooking–my priority shifted to health first–pleasing others was secondary. The benefits of eating a whole, plant-based diet are so rewarding that I am not even tempted to go back to eating meat, dairy, eggs, oil, and processed foods.

  • lani
    Posted at 20:48h, 07 March

    Natalie, i am plant strong second time around but it gets me so angry when someone says that you should just eat the plant strong materials and not worry about it. The reality is that you could stuff yourself with grains, etc and be way over the calorie limit if you are trying to lose weight. Emotional eating can still cause people to think they can eat to their heart’s content without consequences. Yes, one may get full. However, many people keep eating even though they are full. In my case, I thought I was doing everything right-but became very sick, protein DEFICIENT and anemic because I didn’t take into account the amount of calories I was burning from exercise. So, the net amount of calories I was taking put my body into starvation mode without my realizing it. If I hadn’t had blood work done to find out what was going on, I would not have been able to self correct. I just don’t think you can make a blanket statement to everyone . I know your initial words of advice are what alot of practitioners say but I think one has to be intelligent about it. I was living proof and now am very careful to ensure my calorie amount is sufficiently high..

  • lani
    Posted at 11:58h, 08 March

    why did you take my comments off line?

  • JBWeb
    Posted at 00:04h, 09 March

    I just finished 4 weeks on the program… Total chol dropped from 181 to 121. LDL went from 123 to 78. Amazing! No stopping now.

  • Amy Krause
    Posted at 08:47h, 11 March

    This was a great (and much needed) reminder to keep dinner simple. I meal plan on Sunday afternoons before hitting the store, and I find myself stressing out making sure we get enough of this or that. Not this week. I got a ton of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, and I’m keeping it simple. Last night we had a delicious and easy dinner of roasted okra and spaghetti squash “pasta” topped with a quick avocado sauce made with things I already had on hand. Perfect way to start the week.

  • lainey
    Posted at 13:43h, 14 April

    I’m proud of you Natala. What inspiration for me. God led me to a festival this weekend where I was saw a video about the abuse of animals for mass production of meat. Afterward, I cried deeply. I knew in moments that I was being led to a plant-based life, one for which my body aches to experience. It won’t be easy, but I can foresee a healthier better me. My purpose is to be testimony for those around me who need the same. Kudos to what your group is doing. Wish me luck!

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