The Daily Beet

05 Apr Guest post: Ann Esselstyn:8 tips on healthy eating.

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We might be biased, but we think that Ann Esselstyn is the best food coach around! Here are her tips on healthy eating:

“I am not a chef.  I don’t peel anything and if it looks even a little bit complicated, I don’t make it.  What we have found is that eating plant based  WITHOUT OIL is delicious, easy and  above all magical.

Follow 8 principles and you may well find yourself becoming PLANT PERFECT!

1. Eat oats (Old Fashioned) for breakfast, any way you can as oatmeal, as a cold cereal as we do with alternative milk and fruit or in waffles or pancakes or just put  your cereal bowl with oats, banana and alternative milk and a table spoon of flax seed into your waffle iron and you have your oat breakfast in waffle form  There are delicious ways to use steel cut  oats too.  Oats help lower cholesterol and also reduce artery inflammation.  Find the breakfast  with oats you love then eat it EVERY DAY!!!

2. Eat GREENS especially leafy greens as well as all the symphony of rainbow colored vegetables.  Cooked or raw vegetables are king!  Make leafy greens like Kale, collards and Swiss chard the nest on which you put your food, mix greens into your food or pile greens on the side of your plate.  Make kale sandwiches , mix greens into soup, cook kale, etc. cut in small pieces into pasta 4 minutes before it is done, then drain and you have a meal in one or mix a bunch of greens into pasta sauce and spread on your whole wheat, no oil pizza crust (see www.samisBakery.com on line for an awesome millet/flax pizza crust) and top with vegetables of your choice.  Never cheese.

3. Eat Beans and Lentils instead of meat and dairy.  All lentils are delicious.  Try red lentils in soup.  They cook quickly and make the soup a nice color.  Put beans in salads.  Hummus made without tahini or oil  has become our mayonnaise as a sandwich spread or dip for vegetables and crackers and even part of our favorite salad dressing.   Our main party dish is brown rice and black beans piled high with chopped tomatoes, thawed frozen corn, chopped green onions, water chestnuts, chopped cilantro, chopped arugula, chopped peppers, etc. and topped with salsa, low sodium tamari or if you don’t have heart disease with guacamole.  AVOID all the highly processed fake soy meats and any of the vegan cheeses, which have lots of oil in them.

4. Eat WHOLE  Grains.  Be sure that the word WHOLE is in front of wheat or rye in the ingredient list.   If not then it is just white flour fancied up to sound impressive.  Check also to be sure that there is no added oil in the bread.  Ezekiel makes many wonderful sprouted grain products available in the frozen food departments of health food stores. The Ezekiel Tortilla wraps are excellent and useful for everyday or parties.  Fill them with your choice and then roll them up and bake them for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven.  Delicious!  Use whole wheat pastry flour or barley flour in baking instead of white flour.

5. Eliminate oil! Empty all oil, even virgin olive oil out of your cupboards then you CAN’T use it.  Instead any liquid works.  Vegetable broth (no sodium), water, wine, beer, orange juice, carrot juice, vinegar all work in stir -frying.  Instead of oil in baking, use applesauce, baby food prunes, bananas.    Finding a salad dressing you love is a challenge at first but there are so many possibilities out there you will soon never miss the oil filled ones.

6. Drink WATER! You can’t go wrong with water.  You can flavor it with a splash of  orange or apple, etc. juice occasionally.  Never drink juices!  And absolutely never drink pop, with or without added sugar.

7. Avoid sugar and salt as much as possible.   Save sugar for birthdays or special holiday treats.  Instead put grapes in your freezer for an amazing sweet treat or freeze bananas or mangoes and blend them in a strong blender for delicious “ice creams. “  Look at the government label for the amount of salt in a product.  No added salt is ideal or aim for the salt content being equal to the calorie content.  Instead of salt add vinegar, lemon juice,  lime juice or hot sauces.  You will lose your taste for salt before you know it.

8. Read Labels, especially the ingredients.    You will be surprised that often proclaimed zero fat products have oil listed in the ingredients.  The government allows anything under .5 grams of fat to be called FAT FREE.

Fill up with all the great plant based food.  Life is GOOD!!!”

Thanks Ann for the great tips!

Here are some of Ann’s favorite recipes:

Black Beans and rice

E2 Almighty health wrap

Kale, lemon, cilantro sandwich

Ann’s panini with spinach, mushrooms and hummus


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Ann Esselstyn
Ann Esselstyn

Ann Crile Esselstyn graduated from Smith College and received a Masters in Education from Wheelock College. She taught English and History for 27 years, receiving the Hostatler Award for Outstanding Teaching, and was a Field Hockey Coach for 15 years. She juggled raising four children, teaching, and figuring out plant-based, oil free ways to cook that are delicious and appealing. Since 2000 she has focused on creating the recipes to prevent and reverse heart disease and counseling patients on how to prepare and eat plant-based foods. She has frequently been referred to as the ‘Julia Childs’ of plant-based cooking.

  • Joanne Pellinen
    Posted at 11:32h, 05 April

    Hi, My name is Joanne. My husband and I are starting the 28 Day Diet Monday April 9th. I was wondering if someone could answer a question for me. I printed off all diet material, menus, shopping lists, and recipes. But I can’t find the recipes on the diet plan, they are not on the recipe web site or in the book example ; Stuffed Pita with Hummus, Spinach Starter Salad. That is only a couple, If you know the answer of where to find these please let me know. We are very excited to start. Thank You, Joanne

  • Kate
    Posted at 12:06h, 05 April

    I have to agree that Ann Esselstyn is the cutest health coach on the planet. She’s one of those that makes you want to put her in your pocket and take her home. Nobody could be unhappy around someone like her. And…her advice is great.

  • Ami Mackey
    Posted at 12:39h, 05 April

    I started eating raw rolled oats with strawberries and chia seeds for breakfast with a splash of almond milk. I love it! Thanks for the idea Ann! All of your tips at the immersion weekend were wonderful!! I thought of you yesterday when I was at Whole Foods marveling at all the flavors of balsamic!

  • Joan Nelson
    Posted at 13:02h, 05 April

    So does that Gimme lean sausage that Rip recommends in his book count as okay or not? it is wheat gluten I think- I love it in those breakfast tacos and migas. I don’t have it alot so maybe I am okay?

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 21:24h, 05 April

      We’d say to use it every so often – we really like using beans instead now.

  • Cary Daly
    Posted at 15:39h, 05 April

    What a gem Ann seems to be! I would love to hear more from her, especially on how to feed toddlers and up a plant-strong diet. I want to avoid transitional foods, like soy hot dogs and just stick to the basic whole plant-based foods that her family has found through research to be good for long term health. Seems like I’ve got a few years before my child gets into school to school- and fast-food proof my child. Thanks, Ann!

  • DiaSong
    Posted at 16:46h, 05 April

    I’m just shifting to this level of ‘Plant Strong,’ & am also Gluten free (almost 3 years, since genetic testing my daughter had done) & so rarely have even GF 0ats – tho I used to love them. Do OK with some baked in things, but tend to get sleepy after a bowl, like I used to after gluten! Also (of course) GF whole grains – so no ‘BROWN’ – “Barley, Rye, Oats (unless GF) Wheat, Never-ever!)

    As a Massage Therapist, I often make these suggestions to clients – eat more greens, drink your water, consider going GF & stick to whole grains ….

    Coconut milk kefir (that I make myself, only additive is a bit of sugar BEFORE culturing it, as dairy is higher in sugar) is one of my favorites, & I use it in dressings, as well as my own morning bowl (chia & hemp seeds, dried fig slices, blueberries & grated apple or pear w/ 1/2 C coconut milk kefir – YUM!! I soak the chia & frozen berries overnight in ~ 1/3 C herb tea)

  • Meredith
    Posted at 17:34h, 05 April

    I like the idea of making a waffle from the oat mixture, but how do you get it off of the iron if you don’t spritz with oil/cooking spray first?

    • Meredith
      Posted at 16:13h, 10 April

      No tips on this one?

      • tanonymus
        Posted at 20:05h, 09 November

        Hi, is that a problem with teflon irons?

  • Vickie
    Posted at 18:47h, 05 April

    Never drink juice?? What about juicing for health like the mean green juice that many veg sites and films are advocating? They say it is cleansing, detoxing, and anti-cancer.

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 21:28h, 05 April

      We recommend that people look into facilities in which fasting is supervised, like True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. For others it might not be wise, depending on their health condition.
      Remember that juicing still removes a lot from the vegetable/fruit, for some it can raise sugar and blood pressure. It also bypasses salivary digestion (chewing) which can also cause issues for many people. We recommend starting the switch and if a person is experiencing health problems, that they contact a health center like True North.

  • Laura McGowan
    Posted at 20:54h, 05 April

    “AVOID all the highly processed fake soy meats and any of the vegan cheeses, which have lots of oil in them.”

    This is probably good advice for the uber believers. I, however love fake meat. LightLife makes good chicken strips, they are more wheat than soy, however, so maybe not on the “no” list. They don’t use oil.

    I do avoid oil in all my experiments. It is never a necessity. As a former devotee of butter and olive oil, I will demonstrate alternative techniques to anyone interested.

    I also love to make tofu “bacon” by soaking tofu strips in a soy, maple syrup marinade. Seitan is another favorite. So many possibilities. I also use tempeh in my creations.

    As much as I hate eating meat, I love playing with all sorts of plant-strong alternatives. I was such a cheese lover all of my life, that I also enjoy trying to recreate its special richness with miso, nuts, and tofu. That can’t be all bad.

    I think we should celebrate plant strength in all its forms. And not be judgmental about experiments.

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 21:31h, 05 April

      A lot of people do very well with what we call ‘transition food’. It depends on your health condition, many of those foods contain go well above the recommended sodium, have oils that can do damage to the endothelial lining and more. It is in no way a judgement, but a guideline to help people no matter where they are starting.
      However, it sounds like you are actually making your own products most of the time – what Ann is saying is avoiding the highly processed brands – some which contain 70% fat and tons of excess salt, sometimes sugar, HFC’s and more.

  • Laura McGowan
    Posted at 21:02h, 05 April

    BTW if you mention that you are following Dr. Esselstyn’s vegan, no oil diet to your PCP, even one who has just entered into practice, you might, at best, get an eye roll. Or you might be told you are compromising your health.


  • Sharon Byers
    Posted at 22:11h, 05 April

    Could you share the recipe for hummus without tahini or oil? Thank you for the great tips!

  • Ninufar
    Posted at 23:32h, 05 April

    1. Sounds like a good bias to have!!

    2. The kale sandwich is awesome… after Passover is finished I will try to make whole-grain GF bread again so I can eat that. I have some decidedly whole-grain GF matzoh to eat, but I’m not sure it can hold up much kale. On the other hand, it is very believable as “the bread of affliction.” 🙂

    3. Funny how we make decisions… and I’m still working my way to full Engine 2-style eating, but anyhow… I’d read books by Drs. Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard years before I found out about the Esselstyns. I was persuaded by the science but annoyed by the recipes, bc after tossing out ones w/too much sugar or too much bother, I wasn’t impressed with what was left. When I tried 2 of the 3 recipes I found on the Heart Attack Proof website (meaning the kale sandwich and the beans and mango currently here http://pcrm.org/kickstartHome/celebrity/esselstyn/index.cfm#mango ), they were both easy and delicious, and I went and checked Engine 2 out from the library! So thank you Ann Crile Esselstyn!

  • Kay Greenwalt
    Posted at 05:54h, 06 April

    We love you Ann! thank you

  • Kay Greenwalt
    Posted at 05:54h, 06 April

    We love you Ann! Thank you for making it so simple and so delicious,
    Kay and Friends

  • Randee
    Posted at 18:31h, 08 April

    Isn’t a small quantity of healthy oil necessary for the nervous system?

    • MarthaLA
      Posted at 13:22h, 22 February

      There is a “small quantity” of oil in plants. The Dr. Esselstyn dictum is not to ADD any oil; he considers there is NO healthy added oil.

  • Ann D.
    Posted at 17:10h, 13 April

    For those who long to eat out and stick to the whole plant regime, I found going to a Japanese restaurant and ordering vegetable maki a sure bet. Sometimes brown rice is available, but if not it’s still a better alternative than most.
    While traveling, my husband and I look for the closest Whole Foods store where you can find brown rice maki and whole grains and steamed (no oil) vegetables.
    Easy and cheap!

  • Sandi
    Posted at 20:49h, 13 November

    Do you have a recipe for making carrots taste like hot dogs? A friend said that you had a great way to spice up carrots, at least!!!
    Thanks for your super recipes and ideas.

  • Jean
    Posted at 21:40h, 29 December

    My husband, daughter, and I have been transitioning very well since right after Thanksgiving to plant based eating. We love the recipes in the Forks over Knives cookbook and love Ann’s suggestions also! This has not been a hardship at all and none of us have felt deprived for a moment! Still working on totally eliminating oils, coffee, and dairy. It is a wonderful adventure so far.

  • Matt
    Posted at 19:13h, 20 December

    Have you ever once read anything where an Esselstyn has mentioned gluten? I don’t get it.

  • Hope
    Posted at 06:15h, 18 April

    Whole Soy Yogurt is now back in distribution. The ingredients list no oil or casein. But it does have 3g fat (1/2 sat) which they imply is naturally-occurring. Would you consider this a safe food? I love to put a smidgen on baked potatoes and I’d like to come up with a salad dressing. The only down side for me is it contains evap. cane sugar and is high in sugar. Although they do make an unsweetened plain one. I just started eating according to your food plan and am really enjoying the positive effects. Thank you so much.

  • Dina
    Posted at 22:35h, 21 February

    I made two items from your cookbook today, the corn muffins and the one of the soups (Tarizana I think it is called) contains, sweet potato, lentils and onion. I just took my blood pressure and it is the lowest I have seen it in a long time. Just went off oil recently and also my BP meds. I have been plant based for a few years- just the oil was hard to give up but the cookbook is helping me with that. Your 3/2/1 dressing is great and easy to make. The recipes turned out delicious. Looking forward to making more recipes from the book. Hope to go to one of your retreats too this year or next. Thank you for all you do!

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