I've been dancing around with becoming a vegetarian for years now. I've known that there are many positive benefits to eating a primarily plant, nut and fruit diet, including anti-cancer benefits, for a while. I just couldn't find a system that was easy and healthy that I liked.
Well about 2 weeks ago while at the dentist, I heard about the book "Eat To Live" by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. It's been on the New York Times bestseller list for a while, but I had never read it or explored it until I heard about it from my dentist.
While he was poking around in my mouth he was talking to the hygienist about vegetarian recipes he was making and they sounded really delicious so when he finished, I asked him to tell me more.
He gave me a quick overview of the "Eat To Live" program and it intrigued me, so on a whim I ordered the book from Amazon that night.
The book came a few days later and I've been hooked ever since. It makes a lot of sense to me. The basic premise is that we should be eating:
- Primarily nutrient-dense, natural plant foods: vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Few if any animal products (one or two servings a week at most)
- No sugar and almost no foods that are empty of nutrients such as sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed food and fast foods.
It's not really as hard as it sounds. For me, it was simply removing meat from my diet as I already try not to eat sugar or fast foods, and have been trying as much as possible to eat fresh foods vs. processed foods anyway. Since I've already been weaning back on meat for the last few years anyway, it wasn't a huge problem for me to remove all the meat in my diet.
The biggest change for me was how to replace dairy. I've learned to use almond milk in my smoothies, and as a replacement for any milk that I would typically use. I've cut out cheese almost 100% (every now and then I have a small piece of cheese if I'm craving it) and have cut out meat entirely.
With an 85-90% plant based diet your body will benefit from the protective micronutrients and phytochemicals that you get from vegetables. There are some "power foods" which have the highest levels of these micronutrients, below.
Another change for me is that I now have at least one (and often two) smoothies each day. One of the basics for this program is that you need to add a LOT of vegetables to your daily diet; ideally a pound of vegetables a day! An easy way to do this is to add them to a smoothie. I would recommend getting a Vitamix blender if you decide to add vegetables to your smoothies, otherwise you'll taste the greens (I use spinach, but you can also use kale, lettuce and carrots). The Vitamix works so well that I only taste the delicious fruit that I add, and not the greens.
I now have one every morning for breakfast and often have another one around 3:00 if I want a snack. Below is my current favorite which is packed full of nutrients, vegetables and fresh or frozen fruit (frozen fruit is just as healthy as fresh fruit which is useful, given how quickly fruit goes bad).
Blueberry/Banana Smoothie (Serves 2)
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 banana
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
Directions: Load it all into a high power blender in the order above and blend on high for 2 minutes.
I know it seems weird to put greens into a smoothie, but you don't taste them because of the intense flavor from the fruits and with a high powered blender you don't experience that gritty texture of the spinach. It's really good and really filling. I have this for breakfast every day, and mix up the types of fruit I use. I try to use a lot of berries which are considered to be superfoods and have so many good nutrients and are full of vitamins and phytochemicals.
For lunch I usually have a big salad, but now, instead of adding meat or cheese, I add chopped vegetables and a half cup of rinsed canned beans (red, white, black). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of nuts which are your only source of fat on this program.
Then for dinner I make soups. I love soup and there are a million soups you can make with vegetables that will fill you up and which taste delicious. They're very easy to make - basically you just throw every vegetable you have in the house into a big pot and cook it for an hour and season. It's going to taste delicious because it's all fresh. You can also add lentils, quinoa, beans and other grains to make sure you're getting enough protein. There are a lot of other recipes in the book and I've just started experimenting with them. So far they're all really good if you like vegetables (as I do).
So far I've been doing this for 3 full weeks and I'm not feeling like I've given anything up and I have a lot of energy, a nice side benefit that I wasn't expecting. Plus, I've lost 3 pounds. And if you saw how much food I'm eating you wouldn't believe that I could lose weight eating like this.
I plan to stay 100% on the program for 6 weeks to clean out my body and then will start to add back some meat once or twice a week just so that I can still enjoy going out to restaurants although I don't miss meat in my diet at all.
PLEASE NOTE: I'm not telling you to follow this diet if you're not willing to give up meat, dairy and sugar as it's certainly not for everyone.
But I would recommend that you try to incorporate some of the elements of the program into your current daily diet, specifically adding more fresh vegetables and fruits each day so that your body can absorb the important nutrients they provide. It's amazing how many vegetables and fruits you can consume if you add them to a smoothie and by replacing just one of your normal meals with a vegetable/fruit smoothie each day, you'd be making a very big positive impact on your health.
How about you? Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? Is there anything about the "Eat To Live" program that you'd want to consider for yourself?
Claudia Schmidt blogs at http://www.myleftbreast.net
You can also reach her on Twitter @claudoo
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