Plant Based Eating: Food for Thought

by Anne Rivas

I’m a meat eater, a carnivore.  Like my mother and grandmothers before me, I plan and cook meals where meat is the main attraction.  I enjoy a high protein diet, and for the past 4 years have focused on eating mostly whole or minimally processed foods, organic fruits and veggies, and pasture-raised meats.  I even tried paleo for a little while, but eliminating whole food groups didn’t seem healthy.Anne0701[1]

This spring I found out I need to lower my cholesterol.  I wasn’t surprised.  To avoid medication several years ago, I gave up red meat and walked or biked 90 minutes a day.  It worked.  Three months later my cholesterol was down.

My doctor and I discussed shifting to a plant-based diet.  I’ve watched Forks Over Knives, read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselsten, Jr., M.D., and most of Michael Pollan’s books.  The USDA has revamped dietary recommendations once again, this time including plant proteins.  Maybe I don’t need three meat-based meals per day.

I decided I could do it.  I would switch to a completely plant-based diet and exercise vigorously for 90 minutes every day.  My doctor deserves a medal for keeping a straight face during this conversation.

I confess that for years I have flirted with vegetarian eating.  I have made smoothies and “ice cream” with frozen bananas and tofu.  I’ve grown my own organic vegetables, made my own bread and yogurt.  I have mad hippie skills, but they’re not necessary now that organic vegetables, good bread, and yogurt are easily available.

A lifetime of cooking meat and saving leftovers for sandwiches proved more difficult to change than  expected.  My all-or-nothing approach has already failed, but it did distract me from exercising.  Switching from a diet of mostly meat to a diet of mostly plants takes trying new recipes and developing new tastes.  I am moving toward more plant-based, but not totally vegetarian eating.  Cutting out an entire food group still doesn’t seem healthy.  I still eat fish, eggs, and yogurt.  And sometimes hot dogs – the good ones without nitrates.

I’ve found a couple of recipes I like:  Black Bean Patties from Moosewood, and White Bean Soup.

Pollan’s words are my new motto: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”   And I’m looking for reasonable ways to incorporate more exercise.

White Bean Soup

1 lb. dried white beans (navy or cannellini), rinsed;

10-11 cups water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock.

1 large chopped onion,

several cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

¼ Cup of grated or shredded Parmesan Cheese

Bring the beans and water or stock to a boil on the stove, then dump into the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  Blend as much as you want to with immersion blender.  Sauté the chopped onion and minced or pressed garlic cloves in the oil, then add to the soup.  They should be a little crunchy.  Stir in the cheese; add salt and black pepper to taste.

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