The Daily Beet

31 May Stuck In A Rut.

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You have been going strong for a while with your plant-strong life, but all of a sudden you aren’t losing weight, or maybe your cholesterol numbers are not where you’d like them, or your blood sugar has started creeping up. What do you do?

First things first, remember that eating a plant-strong diet is complete in every way, you don’t need to worry about if you are getting enough nutrients, enough protein or enough fat, you are, so you can stop worrying about that.

Sometimes we let things sneak in, without even realizing that we have. Here are some of the top culprits of being stuck in a rut:

1. You’ve added oil. This one can slide right in. It starts with more spray oil, or maybe a little bit in a few recipes. Maybe you have added vegan junk food like vegan cheese, sour cream, mayo, or butter. When you eat out you aren’t requesting  “NO OIL”. You might not check all of the food that you purchase to make sure it has no oil. We had an E2-er write to us recently, she had this to say:
“I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong! So I did what you said, checked all my packaged food. Well, wouldn’t ya know, there was oil in my whole grain bread, my whole grain crackers and get this; MY WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE! I purchased a pre-made brown rice, and just assumed it had no oil, well low and behold, it had 2 different kinds of oils!” – Janice

2. Salt. Salt magically works its way into a lot of plant-strong meals. You start to not pay attention to the “1 to 1” label reading rule, or maybe you start adding salt into your cooking as you are preparing a meal. Go check your labels! Salt should be a 1 to 1 ratio, meaning if there are 100 calories per serving there should only be 100 mg of sodium (or less) of salt per serving. In addition, make sure that any salt you add is AFTER you finish preparing your meal.

3. High fat plant-foods. Don’t get us wrong, we love a few slices of avocado from time to time, but if high fat plant-foods have become a staple rather than a treat, you might run into a rut. Tofu, avocado, tempeh, nuts, seeds and nut butter should all be condiments/treats. The largest portion of your meal should consist of foods lower in caloric density. Make sure your plate is first filled with whole grains/starches, vegetables, beans and fruit. After that, you can sprinkle a FEW nuts or seeds, add a few cubes of tofu, a couple of slices of tempeh, 1/4 of an avocado. You also want to watch dressings, even oil free dressing can be packed with calories and fat if they rely on too many high fat plant-foods. If you’d like, cut out the high fat plant-foods for a while to see how you do. You will not miss any nutrients and you will get all of the fat you need, so long as you are eating enough (just like protein, if you are eating enough, you are getting enough)

4. You are drinking your calories. It seems logical that the more you cram in a glass in the way of plant-strong foods, the better, right? Not really. We now know that chewing is a very important part of digestion, and we should not skip it if we don’t have to. (Of course if you have a medical condition which prohibits you from chewing, you will need to adjust accordingly). Chewing food does all sorts of wonderful things. When we drink food, we bypass salivary digestion all together, and often get a big hit of calories and often sugar (from fruit). In addition, think about all of that food you stick in your fancy machines, could you eat it in one sitting? If not, you should not try to drink it in one sitting either. Instead of drinking your calories, chew them. It will help with your overall health and it will also help keep you feel full and satisfied longer.

As a nice summer treat? Sure, go ahead and have a plant-strong milkshake with some frozen fruit and non-dairy milk. But as a meal? You are better off chewing all of that food you are sticking in your blenders.

*There is a lot more research on blending vs. chewing and we could go into a lot more detail. However, we like to keep things simple around here, give it a try for yourself and see how you do. We have heard from a lot of you who stopped drinking calories and had really amazing results after the fact. So give it a try. It will be okay, we promise.

5. You are eating out more and not asking for plant-strong meals. We have fallen into this trap a few times. We are out with friends, we see the ‘vegan’ menu item, we order it, and it comes out and it’s glistening with shiny, fatty, artery clogging oil. Instead of skipping it, or re-ordering, we eat it and later pay for it. Be sure to have an eating out plan. Know how to order when you are out to eat, call ahead and ask if they can meet your crazy plant-strong request.

Recently we heard from E2-er, John about his Chipolte habit: ” I started grabbing Chipolte everyday for lunch. One day, a co-worker asked if my veggie bowl was really plant-strong. So I checked. I found out that they put oil in the brown rice, lots of oil and salt in the veggies and even the beans! The pinto beans also have bacon fat in them! The guac has added oil and salt. The chips are full of fat and salt. The salsa has lots of salt. Soon my “healthy” Chipolte meal was a fat and salt bomb! Now I bring my own lunch, brown rice, vegetables, salsa and beans, but all oil free, no salt added, it is much better!” – John

6. You are eating a lot of bread, pretzels and crackers. Even whole grain breads, pretzels and crackers can be a lot more calorically dense than you might expect. They are also very easy to over-snack on. Try going with out them for a little while. Have your homemade veggie burgers on a bed of greens instead of a whole grain bun. You can have a couple more burgers instead of the buns, and it will fill you up more!

7. You are eating chocolate. We love chocolate. That is why we can’t have it around. It is a treat that we have for special occasions. If there is dark chocolate around, we will eat it, it’s that simple.

8. You are eating a lot of dried fruit/dates. A sprinkle of raisins on your oatmeal is just fine, however eating a lot of dried fruit is going to put you in a rut. Dried fruit is very calorically dense, so you need to watch how much you are including. Also, a lot of dried fruit has added oil/sugar, so you’ll want to watch that. Dates fall into this category as well. Dates are delicious, but make sure you are keeping it to 1 or 2, and not eating them by the handful, or using excess amount of date syrup/paste.

9. You are putting non-dairy creamer/sugar in your morning coffee. Of course, we’ll first encourage you to start cutting back/cutting out the caffeine. If you feel the need to drink caffeine we’d encourage you to look at your diet and lifestyle and see why you feel the need to use caffeine. All of that aside, many people will dump soy creamer and sugar into their morning hot drinks, and it can add up. We also hear from people who have made Starbucks a habit, even the non-dairy drinks at Starbucks are going to set you over the top in calories and sugar. Don’t forget, coffee with non dairy creamer/sugar has excess calories. We looked up a popular Starbucks non dairy drink and it had over 400 calories!

10. You are drinking too much. A glass of wine every so often is okay. However, when you start drinking a glass a night, you might want to consider cutting it out, except for special occasions. (not just wine, any alcoholic drink). It is not required for alcohol manufacturers to include nutrition facts on their labels. Many people drink without thinking of the calories they are consuming. Beer ranges from 100-200 calories for a glass and wine ranges from 100-150 calories for a small glass. To give you an idea of where that falls, regular coke has 136 calories per serving. If you feel the need to drink every night, we would encourage you to start evaluating your relationship with alcohol. If you need help, please reach out and ask.

So if you find yourself stuck in a rut, check the above and see if you are falling into any of our “rut traps”. If you need more guidance, please feel free to e-mail us at:

What are some of the ruts you have fallen into?

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Natala Constantine
  • Caroline

    Hmmmmmm a few of these have been creeping in for me lately. I’m finding it really difficult to restart the engine2 program like i did at first. I’m sure thats the case for many people. Any advice in how to get stricter gratefully received

  • Maggie

    I cut out my morning smoothies, lost 6 pounds THAT week and that is all I did differently.

    • Rachel

      Did you replace it with real food though? Skipping breakfast might have helped you lose weight that week, but it’s generally a dieting no-no 101.

  • Jen


    I just ordered Pleasure Trap !

  • Marcia

    I thought I was doing myself a favor with juicing and smoothies, got myself an expensive blender and expensive juicer. After a month my triglycerides shot up and my blood sugar was higher than it was before, I was pre-diabetic and my Dr. said I am now diabetic! I was really angry because everyone says they are so healthy for you! Well, not you guys obviously. Now my Dr. is not vegan or anything and asked me what I was doing and I told her about the smoothies and juices and she said that it was a bad idea for me to be doing that and that I could be vegan, but I should not drink food, it wasn’t good for diabetes. So I’m back to chewing food and my sugar, now that I’m checking it is doing a lot better.
    I just realized I need to watch the tofu and tempeh, I think I do too much of that. Thanks for the great article Rip!

  • Karena

    Guilty of all except #s 1 and 9. It is so easy to let these little things slip in. It’s also so easy to do it right. Time to start paying a little more attention and get back to my feel good place!

  • Cynthia

    I’d like to see a write up on why coffee is bad. It was mentioned in E2 but not given a thorough explanation. I haven’t read all the other resource books yet, so maybe I’m coming to that topic but a thoughtful and thought-provoking explanation would be helpful.

  • Natala (Engine 2 Team)

    Dr. Esselstyn says that coffee damages the endothelial lining. It also makes your heart pump faster than it needs to and can increase blood pressure. We say that if you need a stimulant to stay awake, you probably should be making some lifestyle adjustments as it is.

    • Bethany

      I love my coffee sooooooo much! However; I am going to quit. Weening myself down this week, next friday will be my last day of caffeine ever!

      • Alta

        Good for you, Bethany! I know you will be so much healthier for giving up all caffeinated drinks! Congratulations on staying Plant Strong!

    • Cynthia

      Thanks for the quick response. Dr. Esselstyn’s book is next on my list. I don’t think coffee works as much as a stimulant for me, but it is a ritual I’ve enjoyed for my adult life. I’m willing to give it up, but I want to understand the “why” of it. Again, thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
      Cynthia ~

    • Rachel

      Of course, there are also are also POSITIVE side effects to coffee though…

      • Engine 2 Team

        We’ve yet to find someone who really has positive effects – most of the studies done are not very reliable and we find that people have the most positive effects from changing their diet – which should be the focus.

  • Doug

    Protein shakes messed me up big time, I thought I needed them, did the vegan ones (VEGA) and I ended up worse off than when I started. Went off the shakes, and thigns have been a lot better.

  • Cheryl

    I did not believe E2 about cutting out my twice a day smoothie habit and I e-mailed them a couple of months ago because my weight wasn’t budging. I tried it, and was not happy about it for a few days. I didn’t change anything else in my diet, but I noticed when I took out my 2 time smoothie a day I started eating less and wasn’t as hungry later in the day. I still have a smoothie as a treat about once every 2 weeks like a milkshake lol but not like I was. I’m happy to say my weight started coming off again. I know people do not like being told to cut out smoothies, but if you are stuck and that is a habit its def. worth trying cutting them out in case.

    • mike crosby

      Smoothies are something I’m having a hard time eliminating.

      I make one every other day and it contains greens, beets, just a lot of great stuff. I get so much liquid already that I hardly drink any liquid, counting the water in fruits, vegetables and grains.

      So for me, I look at having smoothie as not only being healthy, but it makes sure I’m giving my body enough liquid.

      I wish there would be a cheap test to get our cholesterol, triglycerides and other stuff checked more frequently. Then we could really see what is going on with our bodies.

      • Jamie

        Drinking all my smoothies caused severe kidney issues for me, ended up in the hospital, you can drink too much and get too many toxins, we’re not meant to drink greens in that quantity, I don’t know if we’re supposed to drink calories at all.

      • Cynthia

        Our Wallgreens Pharmacy will do cholesterol tests, you might check with your local pharmacies to see if they offer them too.

      • Cat

        Your local blood bank will usually give you a free cholesterol check when you donate…also Healthcheckusa has some reasonably priced tests..Good luck,Cat

  • Kirsten Walker

    This is awesome…a great checks and balances for when things seem to be out of balance…I’m printing this and keeping it handy as a reminder!

  • Debbie Kelt

    What about tea? I drink orange pekoe (black?) tea…is it considered the same as coffee? Does it have the same effect on your body as coffee does? I don’t drink tea for an energy boost, I just really enjoy drinking tea. I have cut out dairy except for in my tea…I still add a tablespoon or two…this is the toughest thing to change for me! I normally drink two cups of tea a day.
    FYI – I am about 2 weeks into going plant strong and have lost 5 pounds and feel pretty good!

    • Ashley Chisum

      Coconut creamer is a really yummy alternative to regular creamer. LOVE almond milk for everything else but if you are used to a heavy creamer this is a better match.

  • Engine 2 Team

    We’d say to limit anything with caffeine in it. And maybe go with almond milk instead of dairy milk?

    • Debbie Kelt

      Thanks! I will give it a try :)

  • Erica

    I’m going to cut out my morning smoothie and the dried fruits and nut butters are definitely an issue…Thanks for the article, I have been feeling in a rut for awhile, but just felt I was eating so healthy, I didn’t want to cut anything else out! Caffeine raises cortisol levels, too…still a hard habit to break.

  • Rochelle Beach

    I love my green smoothies…as a type 2 diabetic…I am not longer diabetic…and I am off all of my meds as well. I drink 2 quarts of a savory green smoothie each day and most of my diet is plant based. So for me savory green smoothies work. I have been looking at this diet for a while and I worry about the high carb content…is there anyone who is a type two diabetic, with high blood pressure, and a heart condition that has had success with this diet?

    • Engine 2 Team

      1000’s of people have reversed t2, and reversed heart disease as well as a number of other conditions.

      Remember that drinking food can cause other digestive health issues that you might not see right away. Give it a try and start chewing food to see what happens, you might be surprised.

      • Jamie

        As I mentioned above I ended up with bad kidney issues because of the large amounts of greens I was drinking, it is not healthy, people should chew, simple.

  • Alex

    Convicted. I have been a lifelong salt-aholic. I have cut down drastically but really need to work on this one more. Avocados…..oh boy, I think I’ve been eating near 1/2 to a whole one per day spread out through a couple of meals. Is it weird to crave them? Is it a signal of your body wanting something specific? I’m having a hard time making a connection to what it might be.
    These are excellent reminders! Thanks! :)

    • Bethany

      I’m with you Alex! Salt does find its way of creeping back into my meals. I find when I’m using a lot of fresh herbs I don’t have a problem. It’s when I start getting cheap with my self and use dried herbs that I find myself wanting additional flavor.

    • Natala (Engine 2 Team)

      Yes – we are all hard wired to crave the most calorically dense foods and foods with lots of fat. It doesn’t mean you need something, more that you are normal and your brain wants fatty food because it feels good (pleasure trap).

      • Alex

        Thanks! I thought it was a really weird thing to crave so I thought there should be a reason. I guess fat is as good a reason as any. lol
        If 1/4 is a serving and it should be a “treat”, not the norm…..what does that realistically look like in a week?
        Just trying to wrap my brain around a new, better kind of normal. Thanks for the help!

  • Ashley Chisum

    Guilty of chocolate, bread and avocado addictions…it’s just way too easy to start justifying when other people are eating so much crap “I’ve given up so much…I should get chocolate.” LOL. The funny thing is that I don’t even miss anything I have “given up”. And I didn’t miss chocolate OR coffee when I gave them up either, but as soon as I allowed myself to have them I started craving them all the time. Seems harder to give up the 2nd time. We never eat oil at home, but at restaurants once I have ‘veganized” the meal it’s so hard to get them to agree to no oil – one time I asked for no oil so he used butter instead?!? He said “well how do you want me to cook it then?” and when I told him “in water” he looked very annoyed.

    • http://Engine2 Behnaz Safavi

      So very very true. Yes, I read Kathy Freston’s daily lean, and she is always suggesting dark chocolate. Once I fell prey to the trap, and since she is really really skinny, I have not been able to quit. The same with coffee. My teeth have exposed roots, and dental cleaning is tremendously painful. Tremendously. And coffee with non dairy milk which is full of fat causes staining. I am so mad that two months after cleaning, I stained my teeth again. When we drink coffee early in the morning, our body craves it all through the day, I agree with you. The same with sugar. I enjoyed reading your response.

  • Roy

    Is it possible to get free of heart medications when you have 8 stents in your heart? I am healthy otherwise, exercise and do not have weight issues. The cost of the meds are like making an extra car payment and getting higher.

    • Natala (Engine 2 Team)

      Have you read “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”?

  • http://Engine2 Behnaz Safavi

    Salt rut, coffee rut, lots and lots and lots of sea salt during cooking, pop tarts which have 400 calories with lots of high fructose corn syrup. My dysfunction with food is coming up all over again. I dropped from 225lbs to 160 lbs, and I am quickly going up, and am 170 lbs. I guess I went to my dysfunction with food, eating for old pleasure and old habits. My partner is not vegan and has bought a bunch of pop tarts from Sam’s. He is also eating eggo waffles and maple syrup. My problem is really when I am hungry right in the morning and in the afternoon. Thank you for all you do. And may more and more people learn to benefit from your knowlege and help. God Bless You.

    • Cat

      PopTarts are NOT food!!! Just remember that[please?]

    • val

      Behnaz, eat SOMETHING ELSE…you don’t HAVE to eat the pop-tart…ugh, it’s almost entirely made from chemicals. Keep some cut up veggies around, ones you LIKE, or fresh fruit. You can do it!

    • Guest

      I think Douglas Lisle’s book, The Pleasure Trap, may be helpful for you. You can also find videos of him on YouTube.

  • http://Engine2 Behnaz Safavi

    And David’s mom had another bypass, with the same arteries clogging again on both sides. Just like you said in your book, how to prevent and reverse heart disease. Thank you.

  • http://Engine2 Behnaz Safavi

    Thank you for the Chipolte information. I was getting addicted to it as well.

  • Barbara

    Have not seen anything on tea…specifically black tea. Is it as harmful/damaging as coffee?

    • Engine 2 Team

      We encourage people to cut out caffeine, no matter where it comes from. If you need it to get through the day, we say to look at your other lifestyle habits.

      • Macushla Hayden

        So herbal caffeine free tea is ok in that case?
        Thanks ,Macushla

      • Dasha

        Research has actually proven people who consume low calorie coffee/black tea drinks have lower body weight and less body fat than their caffiene-free counterparts. On top of that, it has been shown to have some very interesting anti-carcingenic benefits. I would reconsider demonizing caffeine as unnatural or unhealthy.

  • Markie

    Can I still drink kool aid with an non caloric artifical sweetner OR without any sugar? I am not sure what to drink since Rip only drinks water flavoured with lemon or lime. Also I ask you another question: Some GMO veggies can hurt you chemically like bt toxin….how can I find non GMO veggies and fruits?

  • Engine 2 Team

    We really don’t think kool aid with non caloric sweetener is the healthiest option. We’d say to find some delicious herbal tea and have it cold (iced) we recently found a blueberry one that was really good.
    The rule is to use about 1tbs of extracted sweetener a day – no matter what kind.

    As for non gmo, if you want to use non gmo check with your local store to see where they get their produce. You can also look into local farmer markets and CSA’s.

    • val

      folks, Celestial teas makes Red Zinger teas which are made from hibiscus flowers (very high in antioxidants by the way!) and I like the “Wild Berry” flavor…really nice especially with a squeeze of lemon. But there are TONS of other herbal teas out there that taste great, so it’s easy to ditch that Kool-aid.

  • Kathryn Polster

    This is helpful!

  • Aurora

    Im in a nut rut i think…..i eat apples just so i can dip them in peanut butter!!
    I have been wondering if fresh ground peanut butter you can get at whole foods in the bulk section has added oil in it? It seems pretty oily to just be ground up peanuts…I know in the past in order to make a nut butter ,say in a Vitamix you have to add a little oil to it sometimes. It doesn’t say anywhere on the label that there is though just says roasted peanuts. Anyway to find out for sure?

    • Jay

      I make peanut butter in my Vitamix and have never added oil. I store it in the fridge to keep it firm. I use bagged unsalted roasted peanuts from Trader Joes.

    • Tszeecous Deacous

      Eat your apples without peanut butter. Peanuts are legumes, but with a nutritional profile more like nuts, so just like nuts, peanuts and peanut butter should be special occasion items or condiments used sparingly. This is bad news for us peanut butter lovers, but it’s good information. Oil hides in many places and is high in calories, not to mention contributing to insulin resistance that causes too much of the food we eat to be stored as bodily fat.

    • Taylor

      I use fresh ground peanut and almond butter, the cool thing about it is that the oil sits on top after a day or two on the shelf. Just dump the excess oil off the top, it’s still creamy without all the oils.

  • plant based

    The recommendation of 1 to 1 ratio of sodium to calories Rip indicates is not the reality in his products. Take a look at the engine 2 unsweetened almond milk. It’s like 1 to 3. Hmmm… I’m making my own now.

  • Erika

    I have been plant strong for two years now, I think I eat pretty healthy but I am feeling desperate, I am gaining weight, I gain about 10 pounds in the past months. I am a healthy person, it is making me doubt as to what is the reason for my weight gain, do I have to restrict my calories? I don’t want to, I was enticed into my plant based diet due to not having to count calories. Help.

    • Dasha

      You may have B12 or D3 deficiency. Regardless of diet, some people are more inclined to have vitamin deficiencies. Particularly on limited diets. I am vegan, but am very, VERY careful about taking supplements on a daily basis. On top of getting B12 and D3 supplements, I would recommend a cortisol support supplement. Stress easily contributes to weight gain, particularly abdominal fat. Solgar brand and Now! brand supplements are very good, many are vegetarian. Good luck!

    • Tammy Travis

      Erica, I am having similar problem. Have you been eating any nuts or oils? I have a very sm amt oil, and about 1/4 cup nuts per day. I wondered if that my problem. even though when I add these things and juice (without meals ) I lose.

  • Tammy Travis

    I have been somewhat vegetarian all my life. In january went strict vegetarian then a month later pretty much vegan. I also juice to lose weight. When I do I drink 3 – 16-30 oz juices per day, but still end up snacking on about handfull of nuts, maybe a few saltines with chickpea salad or something else. I can lose 1 and 1/2 lb a day, But as soon as I eliminate two of the juices and eat plant based meals (even one meal per day) I gain weight back. sometimes as much as a pound a day. I have been juicing 2 red grapefruit and an orange for breakfast every morning, then mostly vegetable juices the rest of the day. I know from the article I should probably eliminate the nuts. I am almost oil free as well.

  • Yvonne

    I went vegan, but I did not lose weight until I counted calories. 2000 calories of carrots is still 2000 calories. To lose weight I eat 1200 calories and I walk for 30 minutes. So far I have been losing two pounds per week.

  • Wisdom

    Once I started on a plant based lifestyle, I lost the 40 pounds I needed to lose, and was able to quit counting calories. For me, it is almost impossible to overeat on a plant based diet.

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