The Daily Beet

01 Aug The Buzz Word Trap (plus a giveaway)

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(don’t buy into the buzz word trap!)

First the winner from our giveaway on Monday! Fawn! She wrote “I get that comment a lot. “You don’t get to eat anything fun anymore”. I promptly invite them to eat with me or I make them something. I have yet to have anyone turn me down. My enthusiasm is over the top and they can’t resist!” Congratulations Fawn! Please e-mail info@engine2.com

Has this happened to you? You are walking through the grocery store and you see some words on a package or on a display and you think “WOW! That must be plant-strong it says “vegan” or it says “gluten-free” or it says “organic”!” You stare at the vegan, gluten free, organic donut made from organic vegan sugar and organic dairy free butter and you put it in your cart, it seems to have ALL the right buzz words!

Likewise, people get trapped in the “super food trap”. They see words like: goji berries, green tea, acai, olive oil, chocolate, raw and they think “healthy”.

Because some of you are thinking it – let’s get something out of the way. Don’t fall into the “but it is healthier than the non organic counterpart!” Sure, maybe it is.  But is an organic cigarette better for you than a regular one? Maybe, but we’re still not going to suggest you go pick up a pack of “better” cigarettes.

And one more thing you might be thinking “But I can’t deprive myself!”. We think that eating plant-strong is the furthest thing from depravation. Society has gone so far the other way when it comes to healthy choices. The diets of most Americans have become so extreme that what used to be a ‘treat’ is now an every day thing for most Americans. Our society is not doing well, and clearly we need to go less extreme on our diet choices, and get back to basics, get back to natural, get back to plant-strong.

In fact, according to recent reports Americans are sicker than ever. What we don’t want you to ever deprive yourself of is your health! You deserve more than a lifetime of suffering from preventable diseases. Not only should you not deprive yourself of the best health, you should not deprive your family of YOU. Here at Engine 2 we hear far too many tragic stories of people who passed away far too young from food caused diseases that never needed to happen. We can’t imagine one food that is worth that kind of tragedy.

Dying far too young from a disease caused by the food you eat is kind of like dying because you didn’t wear your seatbelt, completely senseless.

Ok, back to the buzz word traps.

Every so often we post labels of food on facebook and ask people if the food is plant-strong or not. What we find most shocking is that when we post something completely plant-weak almost ALL of the comments will say something along the lines of “I WOULD NEVER PUT THAT IN MY MOUTH!! EVER!! I’D EAT MUD BEFORE I DID THAT!!!”

But then something really interesting happens. We post what the ‘food’ is, and people get angry, some of the very same people who just told us they would never touch the stuff. When they find out the 100% fat food with all of the chemicals that we posted is the vegan butter they have been using every day, they seem to get upset.

And we get it. Junk food, no matter what buzz words are used, is hard to give up. We seek out high calorically dense foods, it doesn’t matter what the buzz words are, a junk food is a junk food. It doesn’t matter that it might be a slightly better “junk food”.

Every day we get food journals from people who tell us they are following Engine 2 or a plant-strong diet, but they are not having success. We are always surprised what people consider to be plant-strong.  And it is not surprising. 90% of Americans say they eat healthy, 38% say they eat very healthy, yet only .5% meet the bare minimum standards of a healthy diet & only 3% meet the requirements of a healthy lifestyle (thanks to Jeff Novick for the stats).

Here are some of the foods/dishes on a few food journals we got this week from people who are having trouble with their numbers/weight loss (and who told us they were following the plan completely)

Lays potato chips
Salted peanuts
Olive oil chips
Green smoothie with peanut butter, chocolate chips, dates, maple syrup
Green smoothie with coconut oil, almond butter, fruit, kale, apple juice
Chipolte burritos
Hail Mary macaroons
Uncle Eddies organic cookies
Organic Whole Foods sandwich cookies
Raw milk
Organic eggs
Taco bell tacos (no meat/no dairy)
Earth Balance
Coconut milk ice-cream
Coconut spread
Gardein  chicken
Boca chicken nuggets
Quorn chicken
Lara bars
Cliff Bars
Luna Bars
Amy’s burritos
Field Roast
Homemade veg lasagna with boca crumbles, rice cheese parmesean, dayia mozzerella
Raw kale chips (store bought)

(we could go on, but you probably get the point)

If you aren’t sure why some of the things on the above list are not plant-strong, check the labels the next time you are at the store and see if they come close to any of our label reading guidelines.

It’s time that we stop looking for substitutes for every single SAD junk food only to replace them with better sounding junk food. It is time that we start focusing on changing our tastes. We have been introduced to so many dangerous foods in our society. We’re overrun with addictive substances in the form of fat, sugar and salt. It is time to break our addictions, and it’s time to not fall into the buzz word traps.

The truth is we are addicted to fat, sugar and salt. And the way to stop our addiction is not to have the junk food a little less or to pick an organic version of that junk food. Just like we wouldn’t say to have a better cigarette or sugget to an alcoholic they just switch to organic alcohol. The pleasure trap response is exactly the same to organic/vegan/gluten free junk food as it is to SAD junk food. Your brain does not care if it is organic oil or non organic oil. It is still the highest calorically dense food on the planet. Your brain does not care if it is organic sugar or regular sugar, it will still cause the same issues in your body, your pancreas does not say “OOOOH it’s organic, it’s ok, we don’t need as much insulin for that!” Will it do slightly less harm? Perhaps, but it is still not healthy.

Junk food is junk food. There is no better junk food. For some of you this is tragic news. But for most, we hope, there is a little freedom in this news.

The good news? It is easy to get plant-strong. It takes about 3-5 weeks to change your tastes. And we at Engine 2 think everyone is completely capable of changing their tastes. We believe in all of you, and we don’t want you to listen to anyone who does not believe in you, or anyone who tells you that you “NEED” junk food in order to make changes. We think you are stronger than that, even if you don’t.

And not only will your tastes change, plant-strong food will start to taste REALLY good. In fact, the junk food will not seem all that appealing. Trust your body, trust your taste buds, trust your ability to make changes.

Maybe the same warning should be on organic junk food:

For more on this subject, we are going to turn it over to our friend, Jeff Novick. Read the following articles for a greater understanding of what we wrote about in this post.

Jeff on Moderation : Part 1 and 2
Jeff on Calorie Density
Jeff on simplicity
Jeff on Label Reading
Jeff on Dates
Jeff on the top 10 super-foods
Jeff on What we should eat.
Jeff on is there pleasure in eating this way?

And now for a giveaway. Tell us if you have fallen into the ‘buzz word trap’ and how you were able to get out of that trap. Or, if you have never fallen into the trap, what are some of your tricks to staying away from the buzz word junk foods? We will pick 2 winners tomorrow!

We are giving away 2 copies of Jeff’s video “Calorie Density, How to Eat More and Weigh Less”

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Natala Constantine
  • Melissa
    Posted at 10:58h, 01 August

    Thank you a billion times for writing this!! I went plant-strong a year ago, and then started to fall into this very trap. I didn’t eat meat or dairy or anythhing, but vegan junk food started becoming way more than an occasional treat. Soon I was heavier than I started and my cholesterol was higher! Finally re-read Engine 2, got back on track. I find that saying something is not food helps, like fake cheese is not food, but beans are!

  • Doug
    Posted at 11:01h, 01 August

    I am really glad I didn’t get into this trap. I didn’t even know those foods were around, I live in a very small town, I watched Jeff’s videos (highly recommend) and I just stuck to the basic stuff, beans, grains, veggies, fruit. It has been so simple I almost hate telling people about how easy it is. I don’t even know what my body would do with the junk food. But who thinks potato chips are ever healthy? I guess they are potatoes? LOL

  • Laura
    Posted at 11:04h, 01 August

    For me it was smoothies and juices. I thought I was adding good things to my diet by adding them in. When I did, my weight started going up and my tryglicerides went up like crazy. I had e-mailed with Natalia and she suggested taking out liquid calories, low and behold when I did my weight came back down and my tryglicerides also are now great. I think some people fall into the trap of more is better, I think eating more greens is great, but when you blend them all up and put them in a blender with a lot of other things it might not be the smartest idea.

  • Kelly
    Posted at 11:07h, 01 August

    this explains a lot. i’ve been eating what i thought was plant-strong, just read jeff’s label reading and i am definitely not doing any of those things. i lost weight the first month, then gained weight the next month, i didn’t want to go back to eating meat and stuff but i am doing a lot of the packaged stuff that you mentioned, i always think i need to find substitutes, maybe that isn’t the way to go. thanks for the post, i’m going to read the rest of jeff’s articles now.

  • VeganChick
    Posted at 11:12h, 01 August

    I’m an ethical vegan, but I’m also plant-strong now. What is funny to me though is that so many vegans will say that we need more vegan food, I think we have plenty of vegan food, natural, great tasting vegan food. If all the vegan junk food wasn’t around, I’d still be vegan, I wouldn’t say “oh, there isn’t enough junk food, I can’t love animals”. It’s kind of silly to me. Why not make it simple and sustainable? Support vegetable farmers and stuff like that? And I don’t want to get sick and die young from vegan junk food either, I have a lot to do in my life and I want to help animals for as long as possible.

    • Marissa
      Posted at 11:20h, 01 August

      YES! I get so mad at vegans who make it seem SOOO hard to be vegan and post all of their fake meats/cheeses on instagram or whatever, and then people think they need those things to be vegan, when they don’t at all. Why not help people in all areas be vegan and not just the 1% who can afford all that junk?! It really ticks me off. I like Happy Herbivore a lot because she uses ingredients you can find anywhere, it’s not complicated and not expensive. That is the message it should be, it shouldn’t be that you can’t go vegan if you can’t eat fatty vegan ice-cream or candy bars!!

      • Kathrynas
        Posted at 15:54h, 01 August

        I know what you mean. I sometimes go to a vegan meetup, and so many people bring fake animal foods (vegan cheeses vegan ‘chicken’) etc. It’s much easier to be an unhealthy, junk-food vegan nowdays than it was 20 years ago, when I went vegan. Too many ‘vegan products’ isn’t necessarily a good thing.

  • James
    Posted at 11:16h, 01 August

    LOL I don’t know what most of those things on that list are! I came from Paleo, I got very sick, was following it 100% and doing cross fit. I did it for over a year,hunted meat and all, and I ended up with really bad heart problems. I was even drinking smoothies with raw eggs in them. It was very hard to change my mind set, but I could not argue that my health on Paleo was the worse its ever been. I just changed plant-based after reading about Arian Foster and his recent diet change. It is very new to me still, but I think the good thing about Paleo is no dairy and encourages vegetables but you can still do a lot of bad to yourself with everything they do allow. I’m hoping this new lifestyle helps my heart, I hope I win one of Jeff’s videos, I will read his notes on facebook, thank you for the education.

  • Kim
    Posted at 11:43h, 01 August

    It was also drinking my calories for me, I thought I needed more greens so I started making these giant smoothies, it was Rip who pointed out on FB to me that I should think about eliminating them. I tallied up the calories and one of them had 1500 calories, no oil or anything, just food I thought was E2 approved and thought it was even better if I could cram lots of kale into it. I was drinking it 2 times a day, almost twice the amount of calories i need every day in liquid! Anyway, getting rid of them has helped a lot, I now eat my greens in the form of a big salad every day.
    I really like Jeff, thank you for posting the articles.

  • Lori
    Posted at 12:00h, 01 August

    Jeff’s notes and videos should be required for everyone who wants to go “plant-strong” idk why I didn’t get the no junk food message when I watched Forks Over Knives, but I fell into the buzz word trap big time. I dropped meat, dairy and eggs and started eating everything else, more unhealhthy than when I was eating meat dairy and eggs! I was having things like fake turkey on bread with potato chips, veganaise and dayia cheese pizza’s every day almost, and vegan candy. I got sick and blamed the vegan diet. A friend of mine posted something about Jeff on facebook and so I read his notes and watched a few things online. It became clear very quickly what I was doing wrong and why I was sick, my veganaise was almost 100% fat and I was eating about 4x the amount of salt that I needed. I was following this RD on twitter who advocates having oil and not depriving yourself, she needs to read this, she is turning more vegans away because people don’t make the connection that junk food that is vegan will get them sick and they will be more tempted to not be vegan anymore. Since following Jeff’s advice I’ve lost 23 pounds and my cholesterol dropped almost 60 points. I hope more people realize that not all food is created equal, not even organic food! !

  • Dan
    Posted at 12:17h, 01 August

    NUTS! It was nuts for me. I was eating them by the handful every single day thinking they would help me lose weight, fat is fat folks! I fell into the healthy fat trap!

    • Jenn Edwards
      Posted at 08:48h, 02 August

      Dude, me too! My weight loss stalled. After reading the article about Chef AJ’s calorie density issue, I stopped eating a 1/4 cup of walnuts a day and have dropped 7 pounds in the last two weeks!

  • Cynthia
    Posted at 12:44h, 01 August

    The only thing that has helped me is to read every label. EVERY label, because you can’t rely on the packaging to tell you what is organic or healthful. I so appreciate the notes, videos, and articles explaining how to read the label and what the important landmarks for healthy foods are.

  • LC
    Posted at 13:17h, 01 August

    I agree with Cynthia – compulsive label reading has been my key for avoiding “front-of-package” buzz word traps. Firstly, I try not to eat too many things that come from a package in the first place. But of those that do, a couple of simple math tricks help me to stick to healthy, real foods. First, calculate calories per pound of food – if it’s over 600 calories/pound, I put the item back on the shelf (a pound is about 454g – serving sizes are usually labeled in grams). Second, look at the calories from fat, and compare it to calories per serving; if it’s more than 10-15% fat, I put the item back. Of course, added oils and sugars also earn the item a trip back to the shelf…

  • Sally D.
    Posted at 13:27h, 01 August

    It’s easy to stay plant-strong when you plan your meals out. It’s when we fall into the trap of working too much or being lazy about prep work that we fall back into eating the convienience foods.
    The key is to take an hour or two and get everything ready for a few meals, with enough for left over lunches, so you can fix plant-strong foods fast!!

  • Mary Lynn
    Posted at 13:55h, 01 August

    When I first started eating “healthy” I thought all the front labels with the buzz words were true. I thought they had to be or it would be false advertising. I didn’t know about the truth and laws for advertising. After reading more and more and educating myself more and more I found that reading the ingredients panel is the only way to ensure a truly healthy choice or alternatively just eating Gods gift of veggies and fruit 🙂

  • Leslie
    Posted at 13:57h, 01 August

    Eating too many avocados…they should be more like a condiment, and more of an occasional thing. Also, hidden oils. Oh…they are baked chips? It’s gotta be okay, then, right??? First or second ingredient: OIL. Just had to draw the line and say NO to those types of foods. And you know what? It’s the best thing I have ever done! I feel amazing!!!

  • Pam Wertz
    Posted at 14:26h, 01 August

    I’d LOVE the giveaway!

  • Patricia Holcomb
    Posted at 14:30h, 01 August

    It was nuts for me. They are not man made so it sounds like you can have them But, no. I stay plant strong by not eating anything processed and only consuming things that actually grow in nature.

  • Lisa Murdock
    Posted at 14:33h, 01 August

    This makes so much sense! I haven’t fallen into the buzz word trap but I see how it would be so easy to do. I do like the taste of food prepared fresh so the packaged foods and snacks ate few and far between in my house. Plus I can’t afford the buzz word traps either, they do come with a price tag beyond my budget! 🙂

  • Kathy McLean
    Posted at 14:36h, 01 August

    I am oh so new at this so far and haven’t fallen into the “fake” stuff. I read Eng2 book and it made me question everything in my cart. My biggest thing is Mac and Cheese and did search very hard to find Amy’s rice mac and not dairy cheese for my comfort fix. The best thing for me has been to stay as close to nature as possible….and most of nature’s products don’t come boxed, canned or cellophane wrapped.
    Thanks for the books and information.

  • Debbie
    Posted at 14:38h, 01 August

    Jeff is awesome!

    I can’t think of specific times where I have fallen for buzz words because I have been a label reader for years. But then I see that list and while some of it I gasp at, some of it I have had in the past couple of weeks! I know it has oil but it is one thing compared to a 99% oil-free diet. I can see the danger in that. And those ranch kale chips don’t even have oil, just tahini! I have also been going overboard on healthy fats, I think? I don’t need to lose weight, and I have a 1 and 3 year old who are skinny-minnies; why would I go low-fat? So that is something I am still struggling with.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 14:40h, 01 August

    I’d really like to win this giveaway! I feel like Jeff is the only plant-based dietician who has not completely sold out. There is one that tells people that smoothies are completely okay, and I had the same problem, I was drinking them 2-3 times a day and I was having really bad blood sugar issues, I asked that dietician about it and she insisted it wasn’t the smoothies, they are healthy! I finally listened to Rip and took them out and my blood sugar improved dramatically the next day. I didn’t change anything else at all.
    Sometimes too much of a good thing is really too much !

  • Steph Marks
    Posted at 14:45h, 01 August

    I admit it. I’ve fallen into the trap. I’ve used Earth Balance and organic salad dressings with oils and sweeteners like agave. I’ve been happy to see that ‘organic’ label on something I really wanted to eat and feel ok about. You can only kid yourself for so long before you have to do a reality check. And it’s not always an easy thing to do. My best bet for staying plant-strong is to keep it simple – salads, roasted and grilled veggies, stir frys, not too many processed items like ‘meat’ crumbles and store-bought veggie burgers, a little quinoa and brown rice, and some fruit. By using herbs and spices, I find I can feed myself pretty well. And I sure do feel better!

  • Sarah
    Posted at 14:45h, 01 August

    I made a Vegan mac and cheese dish last night that my husband was willing to try. I told him it was Vegan, but not necessarily healthy, because of all of the oil/vegan spread. He was happy I warned him because he assumed that because I said it was Vegan, that is was healthy. It is easy for us all to fall into that trap.

  • Jen
    Posted at 14:52h, 01 August

    I have been vegan for 16 years, a very passionate animal rights activist. 16 years ago there were hardly any vegan substitutes, we had to rely on real food, grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, some nuts and seeds. It was easy, no complicated things to look for you knew if something was vegan or not because it was either a plant/starch or it wasn’t, you don’t have to read the label on a sack of brown rice to see if it is vegan or spinach. I’ll admit when all these substitutes came out I tried them and got hooked on a lot. My Doctor shocked me when he told me that my cholesterol had gone up last year, my blood pressure was not “stellar” like it had been and I had gained 12 pounds in one year and my blood sugar was higher than it should be. He had always been a huge support of my vegan diet, and all of a sudden he had “serious concerns”. I didn’t tell him I was eating more vegan junk food, but I knew what happened. I cut out all of the packaged junk, and got everything back in check. I really want to see more vegans, but I don’t want to see a bunch of unhealthy vegans who get sick either. It is just much easier to stick to the basic principles of eating healthy, rather than seeking out “better cigarettes”.

  • Carol W.
    Posted at 14:57h, 01 August

    It’s an easy thing to do and hard to avoid — for most people – me included. I try to avoid all processed foods – vegan included! I do include them sparingly on occasion but 99% of the time I use only ‘the real thing’. When I first became vegan I tried to eat things like Boco burgers and substitute cheese. Honestly, they taste nasty!! I make my own now — for instance, I make a huge batch of veggie/bean burgers and freeze them individually. I much prefer them to anything in the stores. I make dinner and freeze the leftovers for my lunches. I try to stay away from soy products because I don’t feel well eating them. If I don’t hurry up and win one of the DVD’s I’ll just have to buy one because I love, love, love my home-made burgers!!

  • Kim Riley
    Posted at 14:57h, 01 August

    I became plant strong in February 2012. It all started with a few posts on facebook from a friend who had lost weight being vegan. After the holidays I was starting my annual diet and this seemed like a good one to try. The difference this time was I did a lot of reserach prior to embarking on what I felt was a huge change. Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 is what made it happen for me and my husband. We’ve both lost the weight that we’ve been trying to lose for years in about 5 months. And our cholesterol numbers are perfect! Best of all, we are so happy with our new way of life! However, I have fallen into the “buzzword trap.” I find myself in the section of the grocery store that I had previously referred to as the tree hugger section, looking for something quick and healthy. But even there, I’ve got to read the labels on the back. I have certainly found that “organic” does not equal healthy. “Gluten Free” does nothing for me…I don’t have a gluten allergy, and it does not equal healthy. I stay focused thanks entirely to Engine 2, Forks Over Knives and Jeff Novick. At the end of the day when I’m unwinding on facebook or surfing the internet, I focus on these sites and it keeps me on the right track! I would love to win Jeff’s videos! I’ve not seen them yet, but clearly they are a must.

  • Patricia D.
    Posted at 15:00h, 01 August

    For me, it’s sugar – I didn’t understand how harmful and addictive it is until relatively recently, and I always thought of it is as something “natural” that had been safely consumed for ages (unlike artificial sweeteners). I prided myself in choosing sugar over aspartame or saccharin, but now I realize that it really drags my energy level down and makes me crave more and more sweets.

  • Kate
    Posted at 15:00h, 01 August

    When I started eating plants only, I tried a couple junk things like soy cheese. It was gross. Giving up cheese, I thought I would die. But within a very short time, even the smell of cheese made me gag. The rest of the stuff I simply decided were poison. I believe one of the plant diet gurus said in his book that hydrogenated oils were poison and should never be ingested for that reason.

    I use that reasoning on sugar, processed foods, vegetable oils, and cholesterol or casein laden animal products of all varieties. Once in awhile, I really want a pizza or baked goods. Then I remember seeing my grandmother’s heart on a monitor at the hospital, as the cardiologist spoke to us about her after care. OR I relive caring for my in-laws through their final months of cancer and dementia in 2011. They died within 5 months of each other. I NEVER want my children or grandchildren to experience a living nightmare like that. OR I remember my other grandmother’s funeral at age 57ish from a diabetic coma. OR I think about my parent’s health problems.

  • louise
    Posted at 15:01h, 01 August

    I was vegetarian for years, and did eat the processed fake meat. ick. I’ve been plant strong since January, and do not find it hard to eat this way. I do shake my head at a lot of vegan recipes online, especially if people are eating this way for their health. I managed to gather a large number of healthy plant strong recipes and I never feel deprived. I even have Jeff’s blog to turn to for fast healthy recipes so there is no excuse to consider processed!

  • Matt Moore
    Posted at 15:01h, 01 August

    When looking for hamburger buns or english muffins I used to fall for the “100 % Whole Wheat” buzz words. Only to find that the ingredients included up to five different processed sugars, milk, eggs and some other crazy ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

  • martha
    Posted at 15:04h, 01 August

    Sugar free coconut ice cream, and well, all vegan ice creams. Doh! I finally have given them up. It is hard, but only if they are in the house. If I don’t buy them, I never crave them.

  • Cori
    Posted at 15:12h, 01 August

    I’m glad to say that, while I do struggle being 100% plant strong, I never use any substitutes, oils, etc. when I am. I thank Engine 2 for that! Too many vegan cookbooks and forums have recipes and people proud of the processed vegan items that they eat. It’s sickening as they don’t realize how bad that stuff is for you. It also makes it difficult to find new recipes from sites other than my regular ones.

  • Laurapcat
    Posted at 15:24h, 01 August

    I was a soy sausage addict! I knew in my heart (haha) that they were junk food so for 2 weeks I cut back to Sunday only. Now I am free of not only them but also other soy meat-like junk food crutches.

  • Marissa
    Posted at 15:43h, 01 August

    I don’t know if you saw today, but Veg News came out with their best of survey. Noticeably absent, Engine 2, Forks Over Knives, Happy Herbivore, think that is because you guys all support health plant-based diets and their magazine is all about unhealthy plant-based diets? I was most upset for Happy Herbivore because she does so much for her community and for veganism and gets the most crap it seems , because she doesn’t praise the deep fried vegan crowd. I will say, I didn’t buy the new FOK cookbook because one of the authors is a very well known vegan junk food author, I know that is totally her right to be that, but it was sad to me that Forks Over Knives didn’t go with someone like Lindsay who promotes healthy food all the time, not just part of the time. All those people buying the cookbook are going to by the other cookbooks by the same author under the impression that they might be healthy that Forks Over Knives promoted it, sad to see them sell out on this stuff.

    • Sue
      Posted at 15:51h, 01 August

      I saw that too! I was shocked but not surprised, HH doesn’t use any of the products they push in their magazine!
      And I agree about FOK it is a shame they didn’t go with HH or FFVK that would have aligned with what they are promoting a lot more, or what I THOUGHT they were promoting. Although, hate to say the RD they use also endorses Earth Balance so it doesn’t surprise me that they sold out on this as well.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted at 21:05h, 01 August

      I was really disappointed in the VegNews survey too. In the past, I recall them having a category for favorite vegan doctor, but I didn’t see that one this year. They did seem to have a category for every single kind of vegan dessert though. I’m vegan for ethical reasons and it worries me to see how many vegan activists push processed foods. The last thing I would want is for people to give up on veganism because the junky fake foods made them ill. There actually seems to be a bit of a backlash against vegans who are interested in being plant-strong and oil-free, and unfortunately, I think Lindsay Nixon gets the most flak because she’s the most well-known advocate for this sort of diet. It’s really sad, but I’m happy this blog and HH are here for us plant-strong vegans!

    • Mark
      Posted at 10:18h, 02 August

      I condered about VegNews as well. But, if you notice, they promote an amazing array of high-fat and high-sugar recipes and food products (let alone from their advertisers), so in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

      Nuts, they’ve had my own book, Heart Healthy Pizza” (no-oil vegan) for over 5 mos. and haven’t mentioned it (of course, those recipes don’t use Daiya, or Teese, etc., some of their big advertisers). They even recently put together a master list of faux dairy cheeses.

      VegNews, imho, may be in danger of missing the true health directions advanced by E2, Fit For Life, FOK, and so on. Whether it’s a conscious decision for corporate/company sponsors or just not knowing any better is open to debate.

  • Rob
    Posted at 15:48h, 01 August

    ok, I read this this morning and I was really pissed and had a lot of things to say about it. I then read all of Jeff’s notes that you suggested. I thought about it all morning and realized that maybe I’m more of an addict than I want to admit. I keep saying I’m better than everyone else because I’m eating the “healthier” junk food, the truth is that my weight has gone up, my cholesterol is not doing well, my Dr. wants to put me on meds. I watched Forks Over Knives, which is a great film for explaining why eating animals is bad, but that is kind of it, it didn’t really get into junk food and oil and stuff. I guess I need to look at my diet and I like how you say how we are eating is extreme so many people think plant-strong is extreme, maybe it is the oppostite. I’d like to win the DVD, I haven’t watched anything by Jeff yet. Thanks for the thought provoking post. Is the organic coke real?

  • Alisa Johnson
    Posted at 16:28h, 01 August

    Nuts get me as a quick fix when I “need” some protein. I’ve just been trying to stay away from anything processed or packaged… no need to read the labels that way.

  • Nicole
    Posted at 16:53h, 01 August

    I was a vegan before reading E2, and while I love the diet, I find that I still have more than an occasional binge on vegan junk food. Even after having some delicious E2 mac and cheese, I go back to Daiya and fake meat products quite often. I think the word traps for me are vegan and organic. I certainly know that a vegan, organic cupcake does not equate to a healthy one, but I am still drawn in and addicted to the tasted of sugar and salty junk food. I originally became vegan because of animals, but now that I am a little older, I am trying to focus more on my health and I should try to stick to this diet more often.

  • jojo
    Posted at 17:03h, 01 August

    Definately organic wording grabs my attention. I’m a plant strong wanna be but haven’t learned how yet. Thank you for the opportunity to get more education.

  • Jean D.
    Posted at 17:03h, 01 August

    I bought vanilla almond milk without realizing it was sweetened with sugar.

    Thanks for a great giveaway!

  • Christa
    Posted at 18:35h, 01 August

    Yes – I’ve fallen in the buzz word label trap – too many ways to count over the years. What helped?
    Lots of things were helpful – I watched Forks Over Knives, read Dr Esselstyn an Rip Esselstyn’s books (and have been trying the recipes), T.Colin Campbell’s book, and watched this 9 minute Jeff Novick video (Health Food vs Healthy Food – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=yd9XnyNGXGs ). All these resources helped with giving me information and motivation to make healthy choices. – but the video is the quickest introduction to label reading – and staying out of the trap. Thanks to all of you.

  • Kathy Grant
    Posted at 18:53h, 01 August

    When I first started on the plant-strong trail in Jan 2012, I ate lots of nuts and avocado, along with my greens. I thought, hurray, I love those foods! I waited until April to have my cholesterol checked. I read about all these people whose numbers had dropped so dramatically. I thought mine would have also. I mean, I wasn’t using oil or eating junk food. I was bummed when my results came back and found my numbers had only dropped 10 points or so. I emailed Natala and she suggested cutting back on the nuts. So, I have cut those way back. I am going to wait a couple more months and then have my numbers checked again. Now, I just need to get off Barbara’s fig newtons!

  • Tara Joyce whipp
    Posted at 19:13h, 01 August

    No added sugar or only unrefined sugar. Usually honey or dates or maple sugar. I have a sweet craving and I tend o give in to that more than something sweetened with high fructose corn syrup

  • Kim Wilson
    Posted at 20:07h, 01 August

    I went plant strong almost 2 years ago, and in the beginning I started by just making substitutions (this was well before I discovered E2). After I found your book, it just made sense to me. If I’m purposely giving up meat and dairy, WHY try and find replacements for that stuff? The whole point of eating this way is to ENJOY a whole food plant based diet, period. I found that sticking to the “real” stuff has completely helped me. Thanks for helping me set higher guidelines.

  • Terry Trzecak
    Posted at 20:24h, 01 August

    In the dark of night, I crack the refrigerator door just enough to slip out the carton of almond milk without alerting the entire household. The shaft of light from the fridge seems to highlight the nutrition label as I slowly take a big gulp! (Yes, I know I am suppose to use a glass… yet I am only drinking a little bit!) Having purchased it for 50% off I felt proud standing at the fridge…. I am on the program and saving money at the same time…I chuckled to myself. So what if it is the sweetened kind of almond milk… you know… the one that tastes like ice cream!

    Squinting my eyes, the fridge light pinpointed the calorie count on the label. It hit me like a bolt of lighting… 140 calories per cup! I thought , one small drink at midnight was okay, wasn’t it? But truth has a way of biting you when you least expect it! One drink… maybe… the 14 other “little” gulps during the day just might be a bit of a problem when it comes to the weigh-in!

    Thank you all….. for keeping me in the light!!!!

  • Elizabeth
    Posted at 20:54h, 01 August

    One thing that has really helped me avoid the “Buzz Word Trap” (dig that phrase by the way!) has been my lack of finances. It’s easier to pass up vegan junk food when you can’t afford it! (And has anyone else noticed how expensive it usually is?) I’m also a voracious label reader, so the front-of-package claims rarely hold up when I read the ingredient statements on the back. I won’t even consider putting something in my cart until I read the ingredients, and most specialty foods don’t live up to my plant-strong standards. 🙂

  • cheryl ooton-krebs
    Posted at 22:00h, 01 August

    Yes fallen into the trap of vegan products at the grocery store. then I went to farms 2 forks immersion in Chicago. boy did that open my eyes!! Everyone needs to get Jeff Novicks label reading DVD. OR EVEN BETTER GET TO AN IMMERSION!!

  • Susan
    Posted at 22:50h, 01 August

    Can’t believe how I look forward to salad and veggies w/ balsamic vinegar dressing that I make from Engine 2 Diet book! Just takes trying something different! What an adventure!

  • Sarah
    Posted at 22:53h, 01 August

    I fell into the grocery store vegan desserts trap. Oh it’s vegan so it must be healthy. But baked goods (scones, cookies, cakes, etc.) aren’t healthy just because they are free of eggs, butter, milk, etc. A lot of the times they are filled with added sugars and making myself “treats” at home with fruit or cacao is not only healthier and more satisfying but also saves money. Win win in my opinion.

  • nik
    Posted at 23:34h, 01 August

    I’m not all that buzz wordy…I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to health and food claims…having lots of doctors and scientists in the family will do that to you. 😉
    Thanks for the superhelpful article. I try to read all that I can when it comes to current buzzes, trends, studies, etc, just to stay informed and practice my critical thinking skills. Cheers!

  • Lynne Cunningham
    Posted at 23:49h, 01 August

    It basically comes down to reading labels. I try to buy bulk grains and fresh local produce. Much less expensive and no need to read labels. Keep it simple !

  • Jodie
    Posted at 03:53h, 02 August

    When i first started eating this way, or what I thought was eating this way, I fell for “organic” and “vegan” a lot. That was before we saw Forks Over Knives and learned the evils of oil. This opened the door and led to me researching Engine 2 and all the wonderful plant strong doctors (Esselstyn, McDougall, Barnard, etc). Since then we have been plant strong (about a year and a half now)!

    I don’t find it hard, in fact I don’t even read the “buzz” words. I follow Jeff’s rules and never trust what it says on the front of the package. Read the ingredients, watch out for hidden names for sugar and oil, make sure the sodium is 1:1, and calories from fat no more than 20%.

    Even if it’s whole foods but in a package, I don’t assume it’s okay. I check the ingredients on the bag of frozen veggies to make sure there is nothing added, and make sure my canned beans have no added salt or oil.

    Eating Plant Strong is easy. Eat plant-based whole-foods, quit looking for substitutes or food like items.

  • mary
    Posted at 05:19h, 02 August

    Thanks for writing this. I always check labels. I even found added salt in plain frozen vegetables.

  • Jenn Edwards
    Posted at 09:03h, 02 August

    I will admit to a LARA bar or two occasionally. 🙁

    Reprogramming one’s brain from, ‘I’m in the store, grab a package!’ to ‘I’m in the store, grab an apple!’ is more challenging than I thought it might be. Consumer culture is a formidable foe.

  • Clare C.
    Posted at 09:55h, 02 August

    This isn’t a buzz word exactly, but I certainly fell for the front-of-the-label trap. When a can said it contained “kidney beans,” I assume that meant kidney beans, water, and maybe some salt. When I got home, I decided to read the ingredients: kidney beans, high-fructose corn syrup, salt. Why they put high-fructose syrup in kidney beans I can’t imagine, but I learned my lesson that day. I’ve also been a dedicated eater of Amy’s frozen burritos, which I now know have too much fat and salt. Unfortunately, they’re a perfect option for Fridays when I run out of whatever I’ve prepared for lunch that week. I need a replacement for that.

  • Johanna
    Posted at 10:11h, 02 August

    More than the buzzword trap, we have fallen into the Whole Foods trap. What I mean is: we walk into Whole Foods and it smells healthy and the store is attractive in all areas and we walk down an aisle to get a can of no-salt black beans and pretty soon we’ve added a couple other things because they….well, there is no great reason to justify it, they were at Whole Foods and it’s like a drug in there for me.

    But we have fallen for the “organic” buzz word quite often before we started eating more produce!

  • Anu
    Posted at 10:14h, 02 August

    I’m a grad student and I fell in the trap of eating luna bars, cliff bars and lara bars. Once I read the labels and realized how much sugar and calories was in one of those I stopped. The way I got out of the trap was to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. So now I snack on sugar snap peas, carrots sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets. I also make a huge pot of vegetable soup and freeze half and eat the other half for lunches.

  • Sandy Whisman
    Posted at 10:17h, 02 August

    When I find myself stalling in my weight loss or feeling some of those old “tired feelings” I just assume it is because I have allowed some of those “buzz words” to invade my grocery cart and my diet. What I do then is get back to the basics — I try to avoid anything processed for a while. We eat fresh fruits and vegetables and I cook my own beans and just try to get back to the basics of what we should be eating — pretty soon my weight loss picks back up and that old familiar “tired” feeling goes away. Once the processed foods start slipping back in, it is easier to tell when we are eating something we shouldn’t be. Your taste buds will let you know if you slip once you make eating whole foods a habit! Thanks for all the great info — love you guys!!!

  • Kyle
    Posted at 10:18h, 02 August

    I’ve always loved Morningstar Farms ‘sausage’ patties. They are so quick and easy, and FATTY! I NOW try to limit myself to once a week, (they were popping up several times a week!) and then I plan to push for once a month. I’m in a foodie town, brunch is a big deal so now eggs are also on the same regime for me… only once a week now, pushing to get them off my plate for good. This article is very helpful, we all need the ugly truth sometimes, and sometimes we need that truth reiterated!!!

  • Dawn
    Posted at 10:18h, 02 August

    I was on a health group message board for a while. It amazed me every day how many people were “addicted” to protein shakes, protein bars and other “supplements” rather than focusing on eating REAL FOOD!!!!!!!!!!! Come on people, get back to the basics of eating, REAL, WHOLE FOOD and you will feel better than any of that crap can make you feel! I mean, some of these people I believe are truly addicted to supplements and hadn’t eaten real food in a while!!!!!!! So sad!!!

    OH.. and another thing.. my mom works for a private school which hires a catering service every year for the meals…. I am so sad to see what they chose this year… an Italian restaurant that doesn’t have a single healthy thing on their menu… all processed crap…. I so wanna get into the catering business and teach these people some stuff!!!!!!!!!

  • Josh
    Posted at 10:18h, 02 August

    I’ve fallen for not “buzz words” but the color and appearance of labels which usually contain buzz words. Manufacturers have started making their labels appear bright and “fresh” to give the perception that their product truly is healthier for you than a competitor. Or a label may have a picture of a fresh looking piece of produce on it and the contents are far from that. I’ve pulled out of that pitfall by knowing what I need, finding that product and just looking at contents and nutrition information.

  • jocelyn
    Posted at 10:21h, 02 August

    In the regular grocery store I see a lot of whole wheat looking bread that is actually just dyed brown to look healthy! I think the buzz word was whole grain but the packaging just says wheat or whole wheat, it looks healthier than the white bread but it really isn’t!

  • Debbi Fair
    Posted at 10:21h, 02 August

    Oh I sure have fallen into this trap! I have gotten so much better at really reading the labels. Now I find it annoying that this is done and at times like I’m being tricked into something. In fact, I showed a picture of something I’d had for dinner on Facebook and a fried pointed out there was buttermilk in it. I reread the label and there it was! That’s what friends are four.

  • Mary Faron
    Posted at 10:21h, 02 August

    I fell for the fake meat trap and replacement dairy products, especially the frozen treats. Still tempted by the frozen treats, but less and less because I realize that I just do not feel good after eating them. I began to keep a detailed journal of everything I ate and how I felt after eating them, and soon realized that there is always a negative consequence (muscle twinging/soreness, retained fluid, skin irritations/acne, higher blood pressure, etc., after you consume these fake foods. I just keep trying to bring myself back to eating “clean” real foods. Always works for feeling good.

  • Sarah L
    Posted at 10:22h, 02 August

    We tell ourselves that jut because it is vegan or organic doesn’t mean it is healthy. My husband is better at it than I am 🙂 so I think it is taking longer for my taste buds to adjust. Also traveling to visit family with two kids made it extremely hard since they eat all junk. Every time I turned around my kids had junk food in their hands courtesy of grandma. It was frustrating, especially since she thinks she eats healthy because she “doesn’t eat a lot.”. It is still junk. Seeing how I don’t want or children to turn out helps a lot!

  • Mark
    Posted at 10:22h, 02 August

    I find that I have more impact with people (and keep myself doing better, always trying to improve) by not defining myself by what I can’t eat, but by what I can! A simple idea that can really change one’s attitude.

    I actually tried some high-salt high-fat vegan products for the first time in five years at the vegan potluck I went to the other week. There was a curiosity as to the taste of the products provided as well how would I, after all these years, “feel.”

    Well, soon enough my body let me know the real score. Suffered physically for at least two days, which was a nice and vivid physical reminder of the path I want to stay on: no-oil plant-based and plant-strong.

    Gotta listen to your body!

  • Pat
    Posted at 10:23h, 02 August

    Started off great. Waffled some and still struggling with certain foods, although we are probably 90-95% plant-strong. We are headed for a conference in a week where I will be responsible for cooking for 4 people (2 of whom are not plant-strong eaters). I’m planning menus and purchasing food that will keep us in the plant strong mode as a means of forcing myself back into that successful way of eating. It’s not dull…it’s actually quite exciting trying new recipes. My new best friend through this? The Fat Free Vegan blog. She has great recipes and inviting pictures. 🙂

  • Marianne Murphy
    Posted at 10:25h, 02 August

    Thanks for the info! I’m taking the steps to change my diet and those pitfalls are EVERYWHERE for me. I have a lot to learn about healthy eating, and this is the place to do it. =;)

  • Katrina
    Posted at 10:25h, 02 August

    I have fallen for the buzz word food trap before but not anymore. Regardless of what the package says about it being “healthy”, I go straight to the ingredients. It is remarkable how many so called health foods have trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and MSG in them.

  • Lisa
    Posted at 10:26h, 02 August

    I am always surprised when I grab something at the store assuming I am buying it at Whole Foods it must be good. Then I get it home and read the label and find it has MSG, hidden sugars, oil, etc…reading labels has become imperative. Just because it says organic or vegan does not automatically mean healthy. I am still learning this!

  • Jennifer R.
    Posted at 10:33h, 02 August

    The “buzz word trap” that I got stuck on was “all natural”! When I saw those big bold words on the front of a food package I would just assume that it was literally all natural, almost like it was homemade. Then when I bought and read “The Engine 2 Diet” book I learned about reading the nutrition label. Now I know to look at the ingredients on the label … If it has anything I cant pronounce or an ingredient I wouldn’t have at home… I just don’t buy it!

  • Lisa McCann
    Posted at 10:34h, 02 August

    It was store bought hummus and pre made black bean burgers for me. My husband loved hummus and instead of making the healthy hummus and starting buying it in a store, until I realized it is full of oil. The burgers, my husband was really only missing his hamburgers and these seemed to fill the bill, but then he began eating them everyday at lunch. They are now gone from the house. He asked about them last night. Wondering if I made E2 burgers would they freeze well, so he could grab and go.

    But last night we had whole wheat pasta with tons of spinach, cracked black pepper and nutritional yeast. My husband LOVED it. I was shocked as he is normally a sauce person. Looking for more ways to get him to eat his greens.

  • Bren
    Posted at 10:35h, 02 August

    I bought some bars that had the most AWESOME label on the front!!! These words flashed across the package:
    “RAW*REVOLUTION” “Organic LIVE Food Bar” “All Organic, Gluten-free, Peanut-free, Kosher, Vegan!”
    What could be wrong with that?? I bought 6 of them at $3 a pop!!! When I opened one I was amazed at how “greasy” it was. I looked at the BACK of the label….yeah, I messed up. 14g of FAT! The calories were 230 per bar and 130 of those were from FAT. Sugars were 15 gms.
    Yep…big time buzz word trap!

  • Naomi
    Posted at 10:36h, 02 August

    Yes, yes, yes, I have been trapped over and over again. I have just made the choice to be plant strong. I am over whelmed by the products and literature. I am trying to educate myself and have found so many recipes and products that are vegan but not “plant strong.” So new, I don’t know if I am using these terms correctly. I find a lot of recipes call for oils or products with added oils. I try to follow a basic guideline list when I go shopping. I try to keep it simple. I am still at the struggle stage of this process. My husband is not doing this with me and I am slowly converting my child. My goal is to get so good at this and to just be a good example to my family that they will choose some of or maybe all of my new eating habits. I appreciate your posts. They are the motivation. I NEED .

  • Keleigh
    Posted at 10:38h, 02 August

    I fell into the trap with Earth Balance, spreading it on my morning whole grain bagel or my St. Alvarado toast. I thought since it says vegan, it was ok. My body told me otherwise, and I now I make my own oil-free hummus and use that! It’s also made me more conscious about reading labels. I just wish I would have learned all of this when I was younger! I think I would have been much more productive in my 20s and 30s. Better later than never I guess. Thanks for always being there for us! You’ve made my transition to being plant-based (and staying plant-based) so much easier.

  • Candyce
    Posted at 10:44h, 02 August

    I’ve only been following the plant based diet since May but am losing 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per week. Luckily my early adventures into vegan processed food were not good – I thought they tasted awful and so sticking with veggies, legumes, fruits and grains has been most of what I eat. Only ran into references to Jeff today – so am looking forward to exploring his material.

  • Lindsay
    Posted at 10:49h, 02 August

    I don’t really do junk food, but I love NUTS! I need to stop eating them every day and then wondering why my weight won’t drop.

  • Tracy
    Posted at 10:50h, 02 August

    I have done my best to not fall into this trap. The best way I’ve found is to keep our food as natural as possible. Closest to the original food source. That way there is no trying to figure out if it’s o.k. to eat or not. If it doesn’t have a label, I see it as a pretty good think. Havn’t seen a nutrition label on a tomato yet : )

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 10:52h, 02 August

    I have definitely fallen into the buzz word trap many times – those marketers know how to get us to buy their food! I agree with Jodi in that even if it’s a whole food packaged for convenience, I don’t assume it’s okay. I check the ingredients to make sure there is nothing “added” – HFC, oils, etc. For a can of black beans, it should say “Black beans, water”.

    For me it is now intuitive because I have read many books (McDougall, Barnard, Lisle, Campbell, Esselstyn), watched many videos or movies (Forks Over Knives, Hungry for Change) and it just makes sense that if I want my body to be the healthiest it can be, processed food is NOT on the menu. I can feel my body rejecting the food right there in the aisle – no need to put it in my mouth. It is an “inner knowing” now.

  • Tricia Griffith
    Posted at 10:55h, 02 August

    I was reading most of the article…thinking that i haven’t fallen into the buzz word trap, then I read some of the items on your list….and I realize I have fallen into the trap. I would have never guessed that Lara Bars would be on the list. We use those sometimes as convenience option.

  • Cathy Novak
    Posted at 10:55h, 02 August

    I became a vegan last Sept. I fell into the trap two ways. First by eating too much fat and sodium in foods like lara bars, Chipotle and Tace Bell burrittos, Gardien chicken, and nuts by the handfull. The second was eating a food I thought for sure was vegan but later learned it wasn’t. Foods such a Five Guys veggie burger. The bun has egg in it. Or by eating Galaxy soy cheese and later reading the package a little closer to discover it contained casein. Or by eating Ak-Mak crackers and not even reading the back of the package. It contains butter. So I went to a vegan immersion (Pie Ranch) and now I follow Jeff’s Novick’s rules: sodium equal to or less than total calories and fat calories not more than 20% of total calories. I now make Jeff Novick’s veggie burgers and other simple meals. It has only been a few weeks since the immersion and I had surgery on my rotator cuff between then and now. So even cooking with one arm in a sling Jeff Novick’s recipes are pretty easy to make.

  • Gretchen
    Posted at 10:57h, 02 August

    I have not fallen for the buzz words, as I read the labels and look at the ingredients. If it is a vegan convenience food, I make sure it passes the Engine 2 tests for ingredients and fat amounts! I have, by the way, lost 12 pounds so far 🙂

  • Beki Lincks
    Posted at 10:57h, 02 August

    I had my thyroid removed 15 years ago and have been overweight/obese since then. I’ve had a personal trainer, changed a LOT of my diet, spent two years with a psycho therapist specializing in weight issues and have spent thousands trying to lose weight. I moved to Tennessee from Portland, Oregon a year ago and it’s frightening to be without good medical care and abundant healthy food options. I have been vegetarian since moving here because meat options are either Tyson or Hormel or unknown sources. But my former personal trainer, Judy Heller, has been encouraging me to follow your food plan. She’s amazing and I trust her completely.
    P.S. I remember the old “Butter Busters” diet – and the “FAT FREE” fad…so I know packaging is just fake marketing. It’s like saying “Tide is new and improved”.

  • nancy
    Posted at 11:08h, 02 August

    In the past I’ve tried vegan “cheese” and in the back of my mind always felt it was just plain wrong. It seemed so fake and processed. I try to stay with simple, natural plants. I feel and look better. And, it’s cheaper and easier to prepare meals.

  • Jacqueline Drake
    Posted at 11:11h, 02 August

    Since having my 2nd child, I have found myself eating way more vegan “junk food” than I should be. Convincing myself that it was okay because it was vegan and organic. Well I am now 10lbs heavier than when I delivered my daughter and working to get the pregnancy weight back plus those lbs. off again. Thanks for posting this article, it was a nice reminder.

  • Marck
    Posted at 11:15h, 02 August

    Well shoot, ya got me on the Lara bars :=) Darn it! I love the Apple Pie and Cherry Pie Lara bars! Oh well, they have been a once in a great while thing, guess I ought to skip them completely! My latest effort toward increasing my intake of lower calorie dense foods has been to eat more raw fruit – never has been a favorite, but I am learning to enjoy it by having it at least twice a day.

  • Caroline
    Posted at 11:18h, 02 August

    I was about to say I’ve never actually fallen into the buzz word trap but I realize I have. I’m a lifetime Weight Watchers member since 1987 and I’ve always been kosher so I’ve always read ingredients and fat count. Now that I think of it, Weight Watchers was promoting two teaspoons of a “healthy oil” every day. I was using olive oil and then when I became vegan I started using 1 tsp. of flax oil for my omega-3’s. After reading E2, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, as well as a bunch of McDougall books, Fuhrman books, Barnard books, and Lisle’s book I know better. I’m currently following Jeff Novick’s calorie density guidelines: veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole intact grains. What a difference. I’m actually losing weight and eating a TON of food. I lost 70 lbs. on Weight Watchers and kept it off for 7 years by carefully weighing and measuring everything. Then 10 lbs. crept back on from stress eating. Now, following Jeff’s calorie density guidelines, E2 and C. Esselstyn’s guidelines I’m actually losing weight and not counting a single point or fat gram or weighing anything. WOO HOO!

  • Brad
    Posted at 11:22h, 02 August

    Jeff is hilarious!

  • Al Sergel
    Posted at 11:22h, 02 August

    thanks a bunch for this post. I needed this article. good kick in the pants.

    I also need the Novick resources…he’s got a LOT to offer me as the head chef of my house. haha


  • Janet
    Posted at 11:32h, 02 August

    I have been following a plant-strong diet for six weeks now.

    I have to admit, I was thinking of purchasing veggie burgers and protein bars when I first started this lifestyle as that is what others seem to be doing. When I examine the labels, I don’t really recognize all the ingredients, so I’ve been hesitating…I’m glad you came out and said that we don’t need these “substitutes.” Great post!

    Would love Jeff’s tapes. Have heard great things about them.


  • Mary
    Posted at 11:34h, 02 August

    I am slowly eating the last of my veggie sausage and my Boca burgers, and then will not replace. Same for the peanut butter, though I fear I will miss my “organic sugar-free” peanut butter!

  • Rachelle Meyer
    Posted at 11:35h, 02 August

    Great post. We need to be reminded that these foods are not health foods. Plant strong is the way to be!!

  • Anthony Hernandez
    Posted at 11:41h, 02 August

    I feel into the organic label trap. Since taking a more critical view of ingredient I have made progress around my waist and numbers. Cheers!

  • Susan
    Posted at 11:55h, 02 August

    I have fallen into the trap of buying foods labeled organic and vegan such as Tofurkey and not checking the fat content! What I find to be very helpful is shopping at Whole Foods and looking for the foods marked with the Engine 2 label.

  • Mike Hurd
    Posted at 11:55h, 02 August

    My mistake has been thinking that Cliff Bars and Luna Bars are plant strong whole foods. “made with organic oats and coconut” sounded like it was healthy to me. My solution is to make my own granola snacks and look for Engine2 approved labels at my Whole Foods market for other snack ideas.

  • Richard Hickey
    Posted at 11:58h, 02 August

    We never believe the front of any package and only read the ingredients list. We watch out for any added oil, salt, emulsifiers (monoglyceride, diglyceride, and lecithin), and forms of sugar and how many sugars are in the ingredients, and processed foods. We only buy foods that have whole wheat flour or whole grains other than wheat, and when possible fresh produce. We even read the ingredients list on all frozen foods.

  • Richard Hickey
    Posted at 12:00h, 02 August

    We also avoid avocados and coconut.

  • Sheila
    Posted at 12:00h, 02 August

    Believe it or not it’s the “vegan” label. I used to buy items with the vegan label or look at vegan recipes and didn’t realize items or recipes could have a ton of oil and even processed foods in them. It takes longer to shop but its worth it reading labels rather than getting home and finding out there is a lot of oil or even casein in a product.

  • Katie Loss
    Posted at 12:09h, 02 August

    I used to fall into this trap, thinking that “vegan” was a healthy option. But now I’ve learned if any ingredient on the label isn’t real food, but rather some kind of processed derivative, or if there is any additional oil or fat on the label I avoid the packaged food. I still need to work on avoiding packaged foods that have more sodium than the number of calories in a serving size.

  • Catherine
    Posted at 12:22h, 02 August

    I am a Celiac and I have had to read labels for the past 5 years. The food industry is very crafty in how they hide ingredients or even alter them to be lower in sugar and fat. I am also allergic to MSG and the USDA allows that to be listed as a natural ingredient! I am lured in with brown papered packaging and green lettering labeled foods that claim they are organic and healthy, but upon turning it over and having to read a list of 12 ingredients I can’t even pronounce, back it goes and back to the produce area I go where the list of ingredients for each item is one.

  • Rachel
    Posted at 12:27h, 02 August

    I’ve fallen into that trap with “dairy” and meat replacements. I went vegetarian months ago and recently went vegan but I still find myself reaching for the overly processed vegan food. It’s just easier sometimes cooking for kids, and I feel like if I give up those things then the non-vegans in my life with think I’m not feeding my family properly. HELP!

  • Stacy Anderson
    Posted at 12:29h, 02 August

    I fell into this trap a few weeks ago when I bought Earth Balance butter. Then I read on one of the many websites or blogs about the dangers of using any oil at all. So now that butter is sitting in my refrigerator having only been used once. Only a month into going vegan. I think I am finally at the point where I have no more animal stuff going into my body. But last night as I looked into my refrigerator it all looked so plain and boring even with all the fresh produce I have that I almost picked up my purse and went to McDonalds for a fish sandwich. I took the lentils out of the cabinet (first time trying them) and while cooking them I went on the internet trying to find a way to spruce them up and came across first a video on You Tube with Ellen Degenerous and then the first 15 min of a video called Earthlings. That made me strong enough to fight my stupid learned Mcdonalds urge. I am so thankful for Engine2 blogs and the book. I need to find some cooking videos to help me. Any ideas on good instructional videos would be greatly appreciated. I even emailed my local grocery store to ask for vegan demo cooking. Haven’t heard back but at least the thought is out there. Thank you everyone for everything you write. You are all inspirational.

  • Lauren Stewart
    Posted at 12:55h, 02 August

    I used to think “organic wheat flour” and “organic sugar” were healthy and okay to eat freely. I know way better now! Processed food is still junk food, organic or not!

  • Karin Marie Plunkett
    Posted at 13:14h, 02 August

    That giveaway sounds great! It would make it easier to share the wonderful info I am learning.

  • Mandy
    Posted at 13:24h, 02 August

    Green smoothies ended me up in the hospital with a really serious kidney problem – greens are great, drinking quarts of greens a day is NOT great and can cause serious problems. I should have sued the plant-based Dr. who suggested it. I finally realized what Jeff Novick was saying this entire time, it really doesn’t have to be complicated, you just need a common sense view of nutrition. There is just no need to drink quarts of your food or greens, eat greens with meals, have salads, like normal people. You don’t see ape’s in nature with vitamixes and they seem to be doing ok for themselves!

    • Dan
      Posted at 13:29h, 02 August

      I thought I was the only one. I juiced for 30 days and got very sick. Now I eat my food and things are much better.

  • Love2Kwilt
    Posted at 13:35h, 02 August

    This is good info to remember. For me, this is a journey that I’m just beginning. I am trying to gradually crowd out the bad stuff by increasing the good food. When I look back on what I ate on a regular basis just a few months ago, I have increased plant-based food intake by leaps and bounds. It is a huge switch to go from the SAD full of processed foods to a plant-based diet, and I’m content to be the tortoise and make gradual, lasting changes!

  • Dar Steinis
    Posted at 14:16h, 02 August

    I started eating plant-strong in April and so far I’ve lost over 40 lbs. My cholesterol went down from 170 to 146 after just two months. I am doing well and fortunately haven’t fallen into the junk food traps. What has helped me a great deal is PCRM’s Power Plate. I went to their Food For Life classes and received the Power Plate on a card the size of a postcard and I keep in on my fridge door. I eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. If I can’t fit it into one of these four categories, I don’t eat it. Forks Over Knives was the catalyst for my change in diet. And Jeff’s DVDs on burgers and fast food have been helpful as well.

  • KdC
    Posted at 14:36h, 02 August

    Information, information, information. The more you know the easier it is to stay on track. Don’t stop with one DVD or one book, or just a YouTube clip. Read ALL of the books you can get your hands on. If you start questioning your decision or your resolve, pick up one of the books and re-read a chapter. It will keep you on course. Reinforce what you know over and over again. You will learn things that you missed initially and improve your ability to make wise purchasing and eating decisions. Don’t give up if you make a mistake. Just know that you will make a better decision the next time.

  • bridget
    Posted at 14:41h, 02 August

    what’s wrong with a larabar?? all the ingredients on the package seem fine for engine 2 diet…

  • Janet
    Posted at 14:48h, 02 August

    When we first went plant-strong that was exactly what we looked for–PLANTS. I NEVER tried to replace meat, cheese, butter, etc. We just focused on what we could/would eat, not what we weren’t. My current cookbook of recipes is about 4″ thick and we eat very well. I have since learned to use some unusual foods such as tofu and maybe crumbles or seitan once a month. But, for the most part–it is PLANTS and we love them and have a huge variety to choose from. This summer we have a big garden, our first, and while our neighbors plant maybe 5 different things, we have had over 30 different produce items from our own garden–VARIETY. Love it!

  • Kim Davis
    Posted at 14:50h, 02 August

    My husband and I started our vegan journey on March 20, 2012, one day after watching “Forks Over Knives”. At first we purchased a few of packages of “fake” cold cuts to put on sandwiches and some fake “cheeses” for cooking.

    They weren’t as tasty as we were hoping they would be and looking at the nutrition facts and ingredients we found out they were high in fat in addition to being expensive on the pocketbook. The weight was going down but not as fast as we were hoping it would.

    Being on a fixed income and having more time than money, we decided we need to explore making our foods from scratch when possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables and bulk beans and grains are our staples now. We have done away free oils in our diet but still use a small amount of cooking spray for baking occasionally (not every day).

    I saute with a variety of liquids including veggie broth, balsamic vinegar or plain water and it works great.

    At first we were depending on a lot of smoothies which included kale or other greens at first but realized how calorie dense those foods are so we rarely consume smoothies now.

    We walk for 1-4 hours every day, often up steep hills for exercise. Our neighbors can’t believe the energy we have now! The weight is steady for both of us but we each have about 5 pounds to lose. That tells us there are still some changes needed to optimize our diet.

    Becoming plant-strong been a wonderful journey and a great learning experience and we tell anyone who will listen that they need to adopt this diet for their health and for the health of the planet.

  • Michael
    Posted at 15:00h, 02 August

    When I first went plant-based, I thought I had to include all the animal food substitutes to make sure I was getting all my nutrients. I also took a multivitamin, for extra insurance.

    However, I have found that the more I have learned about the plant-based approach, especially the wealth of evidence supporting it, the more I have been able to make well-informed choices for my health. Continuing to learn and grow in the approach has been crucial to my success, and I am very grateful to all those who have helped in my education. (Thank you to the Engine 2 Team, as you are very influential in my journey.)

    I have come to a point where I no longer consider the buzz word junk foods as “foods”, and I can keep them off my plate and away from my mouth quite easily as a result. For all those having trouble, I would encourage you to learn as much as you can from the wealth of reputable resources we have available so that you can better identify and avoid any “traps” you may encounter. I wish you the best.

  • Alison
    Posted at 15:09h, 02 August

    I have been plant strong since April 1st of this year, losing about 35 lbs. so far. My main traps are tortilla chips. Used to have reg. tortilla chips w/veg cheese. Now I am trying to have baked tortilla chips w/HH nacho cheese sauce. Better but still not the best, I know. My other downfall is beer. Today’s rationalization is that I am celebrating my birthday. I do try to limit it to once every few weeks only. But it is still hard because I am the only one in my household of six eating plant strong. Keep on keeping on is my motto!

  • Mo
    Posted at 15:13h, 02 August

    Natural! This word doesn’t mean what people think it means! I read labels carefully but still slip sometimes. I have found that since we stopped eating popcorn cooked in oil, that I can’t even eat a single potato chip without thinking it tastes gross. I knew they were greasy clearly, but now it is unappealing since we started cutting out oil. We are getting there and I hope my kids continue this path when they are older and on their own.

  • Noemi Aylesworth
    Posted at 16:25h, 02 August

    Jeff Novick teaches us not to trust anything you read on a label, in plain english that means DO NOT TRUST ANYTHING YOU READ ON A LABEL! I once fell for all the SAD substitutions but now know better. I once was lost but now I am found…YES…I eat a whole food plant based diet. THis is amazing since I gree up in the world of serving food ( my parents owned a cafe while I grew up and I own a cafe ). Changing to this new way of eating (4 years now)I shocked all my 12 siblings and my father-in law who is suffering from type 2 diabetes. He says my husband ruined a good cook (I no longer cook the meals I once had for them), and it is all good with me as I feel 25 but at the moment in a body 57 years young. Life is good! But the best thing of all this lifestyle change is sharing the good information with others. I am confident in sending others to the Engine 2 Diet site, Jeff Novick site, Dr T Colin Cambell’s book, The China Study and Dr John McDougall site. A big thank you to all of you helping spread the benefits of eating whole foods!

  • colby higgs
    Posted at 20:40h, 02 August

    My downfall is peanuts and candy corn. I just do not buy them anymore.

  • Kathy
    Posted at 00:11h, 03 August

    Buzz words on products catch my eye but I always look “under the hood” before dropping it in my grocery cart. Know what you need to avoid and always read the nutritional information.

  • Carol
    Posted at 07:46h, 03 August

    I haven’t fallen into the trap. I have been reading the backs of labels for 25 years. Also I have stayed away from the highly processed boxed and canned foods. My mantra has been “the more man has touched it – the more you stay away”. There is enough truth on the back label and common sense to determine if it is healthy or not. I have worked with people on nutrition for years and sadly feel the label confusion and other propaganda give everyone the “ignorance is bliss” excuse. Unfortunately, America is in worse health than ever and there is no bliss in that!

  • Tonya
    Posted at 10:12h, 07 August

    Thanks for posting this. I was vegetarian in my 20s and blew up from 280 to 350 pounds not eating meat. Why? Because pie didn’t have meat, french fries didn’t have meat, neither did tempura vegetables with white rice. Is it any wonder how I gained all that weight. I didn’t t understand it. Folks around me didn’t understand it. I have feared returning to a meat-free diet because of that weight-gain experience. But now I understand the difference between “not eating meat/dairy” and eating “plant-strong.” It’s not simply a matter of semantics; it truly is a different way of life.

  • TracyP
    Posted at 23:53h, 07 August

    This post was so thought-provoking for me. I was convinced that as long as I ate meat and cheese “vegan” substitutes, I was healthier. No way. I gained weight and my cholesterol numbers increased. It was so disappointing. Now I don’t buy those products and I am loving the real plant-based foods I’m eating.

  • Andrea
    Posted at 19:23h, 12 August

    I would like to follow the links at the end, but it says “content unavailable”. When they work, would you please repost them?

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