What To Do After "What The Health"

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One day... or day one. You decide. –Paulo Coehlo

 

AS THE MOVIE What The Health came to an end, I remember looking at Kip in that grocery shopping scene and wondering to myself what he was getting. Partially out of curiosity to see what a hotshot vegan director eats day to day, but more so because I knew anyone who wasn’t already plant-based, or even those new to it, could definitely use help and guidance to make the switch.

My suspicions were confirmed when, over a period of a few months, I was bombarded with messages from non-vegan friends asking me what they should do next. They’d just seen the movie, and they were definitely moved to the point of change – but they had no idea where to begin. I did my best to tell them to start slowly, study up on food, be patient – and whatever else I could come up with, but it was scattered information at best. Next, I started writing things down so I’d have more well thought out information to give people. Finally, it occurred to me: Why isn’t this information already out there? Something readily understandable to immediately put into action. Most people already hate change; if a thing isn’t super easy, they’ll abandon it quicker than a gym membership a month after New Year’s. So, after much time and effort, I can proudly say I have put together the most effective plan ever on What To Do After 'What The Health'.

 

*Note

It was purposely decided to exclude emotions and personal feelings from this blog, not because that’s not important, as it most certainly is, but rather to follow the model of What The Health -– a roadmap for guidance in a plant-based lifestyle, grounded in scientific facts and understanding. 

Also, easy advice would be to just go to the nearest Trader Joes and grab a bunch of pre-made vegan food, but that's not the point. Yes, there are vegan versions of almost everything. And yes, they definitely come in handy sometimes. But the purpose of this blog is to arm and empower you with information, in order for you to fully understand what a plant-based lifestyle is and how to best navigate within it.

 

Long!

Oh, and this blog is pretty LONG! So, you can either keep reading it all the way through now…

OR… download THIS HANDY LITTLE CHECKLIST that has been prepared for you as a PDF. It’s a free tool you can use to quickly reference this information when you need it.

 

LET’S BEGIN...

Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle can seem terrifying at first. Like everything is going to change and get so much harder. But, like most things in life, the idea of it is scarier than the reality. If you’re patient, and follow the points being made here, your progression doesn’t have to be difficult. And one day it’ll be so natural you won’t even think about it.

 

SOMETHING NEW

Ok. You just turned off What The Health. Now, where do you start? Where else but in the kitchen. Here’s a list of things you must have in your kitchen at all times. If you don’t have them, get them. (It’s assumed you have obvious basics like salt and pepper.)

  • Grains
  • Tofu
  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beans
  • Noodles (real noodles!, not those cheap ramen packs)
  • Curry powder
  • Coconut milk
  • Nuts
  • Vegetable stock
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Chickpeas
  • Frozen fruits
  • Garlic
  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Ginger

 

This list could’ve read like a medieval scroll, and there are going to probably be some people that think I left a few things off of it - maybe I have. But this quick list is great because it offers variety, taste, and health. Also, for those of you who are, like me, basically brain dead when you shop, you can even use it as a shopping list -- or at least a guide. It's perfect for those times when you've been super busy, and can't be bothered to make a from-scratch list, check it twice, and then go get all the food. You'll be able to come home, or wake up, ready to make a lot of great tasting foods a lot easier.

 

COOKING/PREPARING FOOD

It doesn’t matter what level of chef or cook you are now. What’s important is, in order to be the most successful in your transition, you’re going to have be able to re-imagine how you see your plate. Imagination and creativity is the art to plant-based cooking.

First, start with simple, easy to follow recipes. We’ve created, for free, an Easy 3 Ingredient Recipe Vegan Book, because we know how important being able to eat tasty, easy to prepare meals is – especially for those just making the transition.

Going from microwave master to preparing a 5-star 7-course meal won’t happen overnight. But becoming a serviceable kitchen hand is doable. Learning to do a lil' somethin' somethin' in the kitchen means you’ll never go hungry or have to depend on anyone else for a quality meal.

I also highly recommend taking a plant-based cooking class. For those of you who realistically aren’t going to do that, I recommend attending the University of Youtube. Speaking from personal experience, it truly works. Obviously, it’s not as hands-on as a cooking course, but there are a lot of different chefs out there sharing valuable information.  

 

FOOD SEASONING TIPS

Season the heck out of cold foods

When food is chilled, flavors and aromas are dulled so it’s important to counteract the cold by being generous with your seasoning.

Add herbs at the right time

Herbs that are stronger in flavor, such as oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme, should be added early in the cooking process. This ensures the release of maximum flavor without their texture being too invasive.

More delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, and basil should be added last minute, so they keep their flavor and color.

When you completely mess the seasoning up

In most cases, if you’ve added too much salt, sugar, or spice you can forget about it. That dish is toast!  But in other more mild cases, stronger ingredients can (sometimes) be concealed by adding another strong food from the opposite flavor family. Below are a few examples to better help you understand.

  • Too salty? Add a sweetener (sugar or maple syrup) or an acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice, unsalted tomatoes)
  • Too sweet? Add an acid (vinegar or citrus juice, herbs, cayenne)
  • Too spicy or acidic? Add a fat (vegan butter or cheese, avocado or olive oil) or a sweetener (sugar or maple syrup)
  • Remember to lightly season at the beginning then adjust to taste after serving.  

 

CRAVINGS

Realistically, the feeling (and thoughts) of not being able to live without meat will probably surface at some point. This is because meat releases a chemical (dopamine) that is similar to drugs like cocaine and heroin. This is the foundation of where our cravings begin. In other words, it’s addiction. And ss with any addiction, quitting means having to go through some withdrawal. Luckily, in the case of meat, they don’t last forever. Even luckier is it that there are vegan versions of literally every food you could possibly crave and they come without the additional health risks.

 

CROWDING 

This is the best way to offset cravings. Most people attempting to go plant-based initially believe it’s about immediately cutting out all animal products from their diet -– but it’s not. Cutting things out too quickly causes people to feel like they’ve lost something, or that they’re being deprived of it. Crowding something out means that you replace it with something else – so the loss isn’t felt. It’s an old economic theory that just happens to work perfectly when it comes to plant-based conversion. Crowding out is also great because every time you discover a new plant-based food you like, an animal product you used to adore gets pushed back further into your memory.

 

SLIP-UPS

I wish I could look you in the eye as I relay this message, but nonetheless, I hope these words impact you the same. You are going to slip-up and make mistakes. You are going to eat something you had hoped not to eat, either by accident or your own doing. It’s called being human. The most important thing to do when you have a slip-up or two is to not live in the mistake. Some people use a slip-up as an excuse to quit, when it should be viewed as a learning experience as they move forward. Veganism and/or plant-based diets are not about being perfect. They’re about doing your best with a concerted plan of action you’ve decided upon. Just make sure you reaffirm the reasons why you’ve decided to change. And remember that all of us had extreme moments of temptations and failure. Learning to accept, forgive, and move past them is what matters most.

 

VEGANIZING ANY FOOD

As you get better at understanding cooking, you’ll learn that great tasting food isn’t dependent on having animal products in it. It’s the textures and flavor that make all the difference in the world. Think about the last time anyone ate a steak that wasn’t well rubbed or marinated. Foam could have offered you the same joy had it been seasoned well enough. Food being spicy, tender, juicy, crispy, etc. is all anyone truly cares about. Experienced plant-based chefs have the ability to add their own spin to any recipe. Rather than seeing it as restrictive, they see an opportunity to get creative: “How can I veganize this?” is an accepted challenge. That being said, here are a few ways to understand the principle around veganizing some your favorite foods.  

 

HERE’S A BASIC LIST OF WHAT TO REPLACE WITH WHAT

  • Eggs (in baked goods) = applesauce, pureed soft tofu, flax, mashed bananas (experiment to see which you like best).
  • Eggs = tofu (scrambled)
  • Milk = almond, coconut, rice, oat. (I guarantee you'll like at least one of them. And here's a tip: get mad scientist and mix a few together. I mix rice and almond and it’s delish!)
  • Fish = chickpeas or tempeh
  • Fish flavor = seaweed
  • Meat = mushrooms can mimic anything with a meat-like texture
  • Ground Beef = crumbled tempeh, seitan, or cooked lentils
  • Heavy cream = coconut cream
  • Mayo = avocado or hummus 
  • Oil = unsweetened applesauce
  • Butter = coconut oil
  • Pulled Pork = jackfruit
  • Bacon = tofu strips (with soy sauce; baked)
  • Honey = maple syrup, agave or date paste.

 

CHEEZE! (IT NEEDED ITS OWN SECTION)

I’m going to say something more controversial than anything Donald Trump ever could. And I need you to take a deep breath when you read this, ‘cause it’s going to make you feel something major! But I swear to you, it's 100% true. Ok, ready?... Plant-based cheeses are just as good as dairy-based ones. Right, right -- what does the vegan guy know? Well, remember, I wasn't always vegan, AND I was a chubby kid -- so I know what tastes good and what doesn't. Right now, all you know is dairy cheese, but think back to what I said earlier. Proper plant-based eating is all about re-imagining how you see food. And because we know how important cheese is to people, we made it possible to have all kinds. Here’s a free recipe book called The Vegan Cheeze Bible. It has every classic cheese you can think of, and teaches you how to make them yourself without any frustration. We’re hoping it makes a believer out of people and the transition to plant-based living that much easier. Enjoy!

 

EATING OUT VEGAN

When you’re invited out and aren’t sure how to handle being around a crew of non-plant-based people in a non-plant-based setting, it's good to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Eat before… and after.

Eat before you head out. Then choose the fruit platter or salad etc while you're there. Then go home and eat again.

Use your pockets

I can’t tell you how many times a granola or protein bar has gotten me out of a bad hunger situation. Use those pockets for something other than chapstick and your phone, and carry a little snack with you when you go out.

Call before

It’ll be fun. Imagine... actually talking to someone on your phone for a change. But seriously, call ahead and ask questions. See what you’ll be up against before you get there. Of course many restaurants list their menus online as well, for those who would rather scroll. 

Communicate

Most chefs and waiters just want to know what you want. Remember, you’re the customer and their job is to make your visit the best it can possibly be so they can make the most amount of money that they can. if you don't investigate ahead, just ask a greeter or a server about the plant-based options. They’ll be able to give you the rundown before you take a seat.

Go ethnic

Middle Eastern food is easily the most vegan-friendly foods in the world, followed by Indian, Mexican, Thai, and Ethiopian which aren’t far behind. (Keep in mind that they all may include hidden animal-based ingredients, so be sure to ask.)

Translate the codes

Many menus have little icons that indicate which items are vegan or vegetarian. Most times it'll be a “V," “VG,” or some other plant-like indicator. If you’re not sure, ask someone what they stand for.

Back-up plan for your back-up plan

Some places will claim to have vegan options, but when you there you'll see nothing but things like salad, potatoes, and bread. When it happens to you enough you'll develop contingencies. You'll learn scope out a few places ahead of time. Maybe keep that Thai and Indian restaurant you saw a few blocks away in the back of your mind. Just in case the restaurant you're in tries to offer regular as a 'vegan option'.

Apps

We’re living in the app age, so you might as well make your life a little easier and use a few of them. There are a lot of great sites that can assist you in finding veggie-friendly restaurant options near you. Our favorite is Happy Cow. They’re really user friendly and have pointed me in the direction of some great food spots.

*Bonus

When traveling abroad, you definitely want to learn the local word for 'vegan' and other useful phrases like ‘no meat’, ‘no animal’, ‘no fish sauce’, etc. It’ll save time and a lot of confusion.

 

WILL SOY GIVE YOU (BIGGER/MAN) BOOBS? 

Yes, big ones. Just kidding. No -– not even close. Soya contains exactly zero estrogen. And there is no evidence that it disrupts sexual development in humans. (*Interestingly enough, cow’s milk actually contains plenty of actual mammalian estrogen, which is the kind of estrogen that can cause sexual development in humans.)

Farmers feed ‘their animals’ soy, so when you eat meat you’re getting recycled soy whether you like it or not. And since Americans currently spend billions of dollars yearly on breast augmentation surgeries, if soy was any good at enlarging breasts, there’d be lines down the block of people begging for it.

 

ARE CARBS BAD?

Yes… and no. Let me explain.

For too long plant-based foods have been incorrectly lumped all together as one group of carbohydrates – which is not only lazy but irresponsible as it's caused so many misinformed people to reduce or even eliminate them from their diet, and the long-term health consequences of that aren’t good at all.

Here’s the deal. Yes, too much of some carbs is definitely not good for you. Highly processed and refined ones like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour should be something you limit. This is because they’re empty calories low in fiber and nutrients and usually combined with salt and/or fat. These are obviously bad calories.

But that’s not ALL CARBS

Complex carbohydrates found in whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are extremely beneficial. They’re not only essential to a healthy diet, they’re also the great majority of it.

So yes, eat carbs. But only the good ones… obviously!

 

GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN (*EYE ROLL*)

I’ll start this by saying that Americans (among others) consume far too much protein. On top of that, (I almost hate having to break this you), protein is a myth. Yup, I said it. A big fat, well-marketed myth, at least in terms of the way it’s been sold to you. A person literally has to almost try to not get enough protein, in other words, consuming nothing but processed garbage foods.

Think about this: When’s the last time you heard of someone getting sick and/or dying from a lack of protein? No, seriously, I’ll wait…

Just do me a favor and don’t listen to that one-gram-of-protein-per-pound-of-body-weight nonsense. First of all, because it’s not backed by any reputable science. And secondly, because it’s not convenient or sustainable in terms of everyday life. According to world-renowned bodies like the World Health Organization, and the United Nations University, only about 10% of our food energy needs to be supplied by protein. In essence, this means it’s not necessary to worry about making sure to consume enough protein, or calcium, or omega 3s, or any other vitamins or minerals people seem to focus on so much when it comes to plant-based diets. Just make sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet and you’ll be better than 95% of people.

 

A WELL-BALANCED PLANT-BASED DIET IS BASICALLY:

  • Fruits, vegetables, grains, lentils, and beans, etc...
  • Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, etc. (or other starchy carbohydrates)
  • Water: lots of it! (even if you don’t feel thirsty you likely need more hydration)

 

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT VITAMINS?

This is one question you can ask a thousand people and get a thousand different answers to. We know that vitamin supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet, and we have to think in terms of what’s the most logical, so we’ve come up with 2 you should think about supplementing -– both for different reasons.

B12 is a vitamin that aids the human nervous system, blood-cell formation, digestion, and brain function. It's created by bacteria and therefore found in areas of bacterial growth, specifically dirt and soil -- making it something we have to get through diet and/or supplementation. Because it’s water-soluble, we need to replenish it every single day. Needing B12 isn’t just a vegan or plant-based thing, it’s an everyone thing. Many people think they get B12 by eating animal products (because animals eat plants and then we eat them) but the problem with that is that when animal products are cooked, the B12 is cooked away with it.

And…

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and immune system function. The main source of it is sunlight in contact with the skin, so, where you live and the amount of sunlight you receive is the deciding factor of needing supplementation or not. In other words, the less sun you get, the more you might want to consider supplementing your vitamin D.

There is no substitute for healthy eating. Gobbling down 50 different vitamins every day is unnecessary. Just be thoughtful and do what you think is best for you. And if you feel like something is off, go see your doc. We recommend plant-based doctors for obvious reasons.

*People who are on certain medications might want to check with their doctors before taking a supplement, just in case there’s any form of drug interaction.

 

GAS. LOTS OF GAS… AT FIRST

When you start replacing animal products with healthy plant-based foods, feeling different is unavoidable.  Changing too much too quickly can shock your body and result in constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and... lots of farting. If/when it happens, remember, it’s not the food that’s doing it to you, it’s your body. Amazingly, our systems adjust to the types of food we most commonly eat, and our gut bacteria optimizes for whatever it’s confronted with the most – no matter if it’s healthy whole foods or processed crap.

 

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU BE EATING?

This is another question people ask all the time. I get it, because all the information out there would have you multiplying our body weight with a bunch of numbers and dividing it into something else. Not to mention with all the acronyms used, you’d need a degree from Oxford to figure everything out. This is why I rely on science (and simplicity) to answer the question for me.  

Remember, food is fuel. This is why when you miss a meal you feel a little tired and cranky. It's just like trying to drive a car without gas. Instinctively, we humans have this incredible, built-in mechanism that lets our bodies maintain a healthy weight without having to do a bunch of confusing calorie counting. It’s a system that relies on our instincts, some exercise, and finding an optimum weight.

The approach works by simply controlling your appetite. Often, eating leads to more eating – your body gets used to more calories and you likely need to eat and drink more calories to feel satisfied.

When your body settles it asks for fewer calories. Over time you probably won’t feel hungry enough to eat all the things you normally would have in a day, and when eating, you’ll notice that it takes much less to feel satisfied.

If you listen to your body’s signals by staying moderately active and ONLY eating when you’re hungry – not when you’re bored or because food is around– as well as eating enough to feel satisfied but not full -– you’ll be able to achieve and maintain your ideal body weight.

 

THE HUMP

Another thing you’ll notice about a plant-based diet is that it becomes easier with each passing day -– and soon days turn into weeks. Generally speaking, once you hit around the three week mark, most people find that it’s become second nature and much easier to navigate. It takes most humans at least three weeks to break any habit, good or bad -- so give yourself that amount of time to adjust and make sure you're properly going about transitioning yourself.

 

WRAPPING IT UP

The hope is you’ve now been given enough information to get started on your plant-based journey. It's inspiring that so many people have been so positively influenced by movies like What The Health, and are opening their minds to the possibility of change. It was Gail Sheehy who said "If we don't change, we don't grow. And If we don't grow, we aren't really living." 

The best part of all of this is it’s never been easier to live plant-based. I have an uncle that’s been veg for over 40 years and after hearing some of his stories, I'll just say count your blessings that you're living in today's more plant-friendly world; and it's only going to get better. Anyway, please take all of this information and USE it. As well as the 2 free books we've created (HERE and HERE). It will only be as life-changing as you decide to let it be.

 

ACTION

If you know of anyone that can use this information be a good pal and SHARE it with them! Remember, sharing is caring!

 

Good luck, Godspeed on your journey, and welcome to the other side. Salute!

 

-Gerry Warren 

Vegr co-founder