Thursday, January 17, 2013

Transitioning to a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle - Step Two

(the Baltimore Inner Harbor near the boat)

How did becoming adequately hydrated work for you?  When I changed my water drinking habits I was shocked how well it worked.  Understanding that the body is mostly water helped it to make sense for me so that I was willing to do it. Once the benefits kicked in I was hooked.  Now you will always find me with a water bottle.  I don’t leave home with it.

This second step is more difficult than drinking enough water but will also make a huge difference in both your health and how you feel.  Next I want you to make certain that you are eating a minimum of 10 servings of natural produce per day.  Okay I almost could hear the collective gasps when I typed that.  Yes 10 servings are manageable for the average adult.   I also make certain that I eat at least that many fruits and veg each day.

(Roasted mixed mushrooms with a balsamic and soy marinade and candied kumquats over arugula)

Why 10 total servings of produce?

There are two kinds of nutrients in food, macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein and water) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  Americans suffer from an excess of macronutrients (except water) and an insufficiency of micronutrients. When you increase your consumption of produce you naturally reduce your consumption of macronutrients and increase your consumption of micronutrients.  Both of these factors improve your health.

It must have been over 10 years ago now that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) started suggesting that Americans consume more plants.  While the original suggestions were 9 servings for adult men, 7 servings for adult women and 5 servings for children only the 5 a day made it the press.  I am not sure if they reduced the number because the American population was so far away from the goal or for some other reason.  
However I believe that the evidence is clear that eating more plants is better for your health.   Did you know that the average adult American eats 3 servings of fruit and veg per day and half of those are from some form of white potato?    Clearly we have a lot of collective work to do in this country in terms of our produce consumption.

Our ancient and not so ancient ancestors ate a diet very high in plants and low on meat.  Think of the diet of your grandparents and great grandparents. They ate a lot of produce that they grew themselves.   Meat was a luxury not too long ago.  For our ancient ancestors meat only came around when someone was able to kill an animal.  Without refrigeration it was eat it now because it won’t be good later. As you can imagine they also ate mostly plants.

Now think of the all the studies you see showing things like “lycopene reduces prostate cancer” or “vitamin C consumption is inversely associated with the incidence of colon cancer.”  When I see those headlines 99 times out of 100 they are touting micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) found predominantly in plant foods.    You do occasionally see articles about omega 3 fatty acids but don’t forget these don’t come from fish. Fish get omega 3’s by consuming plants though that isn’t mentioned often.

Nutritional science is continuing to indentify new phytonutrients every year. This is another reason that it is important to eat your produce rather than to get your vitamins and minerals in supplement form.

(Veggies and hummus with paprika - a common meal or snack here)

How do you manage to consume 10 servings of produce per day?

Anything that you want to do requires a plan in my opinion.  I would suggest that you start by determining how many servings you will get in each meal and then track your consumption.  In order to get 10 servings you need to average 3 servings in two of your meals and 4 in the largest one. That is what I find to be the easiest.  If you are still eating animal products you can continue to have those only eat them after you have eaten your produce. Make the produce the first thing you eat not the last that way you are certain to get it in. 

You can start with a big fruit salad in the morning and easily get in three plus servings.  Maybe you might want to have a green smoothie which would also be three or more servings. 

Lunch could be something like a big salad or a bowl of vegetable minestrone.  Maybe you might want some sort of vegetable salad.   Another option would be a smaller salad and a piece of fruit.  Maybe you would like to have a big serving of crudités and dip (salsa, a raw cashew ranch, or humus).  Just manage to get in 3 servings of produce.

Dinner can be anything (salad, soup, a casserole, crudités, etc.) you like again just be certain to reach your minimum 10 servings for the day.

(Watermelon and tomato caviar skewers with micro greens at Jaleo)

Assuming that you are transitioning from the Standard American Diet don’t try to move immediately to a vegan diet.  For this week simply focus on eating the 10 servings of produce and continue to remain well hydrated (from step 1).  Stay on this step until you are easily consuming 10 produce servings per day then jump into step three which I will post next Thursday.  Don’t worry if it takes you a month or more on this step. Consuming 10 servings of produce is a big change from most people. This may not happen quickly or be easy at first. However if you stick with it you can make it happen and your body will thank you.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Dan is still doing well which I love.  It was very scary when his temperature was so high but he is definitely doing much better now.  *woo hoo*
  2. Today I had a chance to check on my folks which is always good. Having elderly parents is work but they raised me so the least I can do is help them out now.
  3. I spent a lot of time chatting with a friend off and on during the day.  You can’t put a price on time on with friends in my opinion.
  4. Our friend Matt is still off the cigarettes and I think this is day 8 now.  Not only is he smoke-free but is also moving toward an animal free diet.  That is a lot of change in one week which I think is amazing!  J

Signing out:

Today was a busy day but also a good day.  I have a lot of things to do tomorrow but that will keep me out of trouble.  ;-)

I hope you are starting to get excited about the weekend, I know I am. Unless something comes up we should be seeing Walid and Jackie on Friday.  I can’t wait!

Let’s hope that all of us have a fantastic Thursday. I will talk to you again tomorrow. Arrivederci.


  1. Thanks for breaking down the ten servings into examples that makes it easier to understand. Yes I'm still smoke free and thanks to Doritos a happy non meat eater so far haha.

    1. Hey Matt,

      Let me know if you ever have any questions I am happy to help. Now I need to get you to swap those Doritos for cheezy kale chips. ;-) One day it will happen.

      You get a big woo hoo for being smoke and meat free. That is so awesome. Love it!


  2. I bought some "sea snacks" yesterday salty seaweed and almost died trying them. My wife says I'm very extreme when I commit to something but not that extreme.

    1. Hi Matt,

      You bought the little sheets of roasted seaweed? I love those, but it sounds like you weren't too crazy about them. Sorry! You can use them as wraps to hold other foods. That may help you while you acquire a taste for them. They are nothing more than the wrapper that goes on sushi only roasted and salted. Seaweed is packed with minerals that most Americans are deficient in. Hopefully there is another brand you will like more. However, I love that you tried it. :-)


  3. I've been vegan for years but not a healthy one, so this series has been really helpful, thank you! Do you have any tips on how to roughly determine what constitutes "one serving" of fruit/veg?

    1. Hello Raven,

      I am happy to hear that this series has been helpful for you! Thank you so much for letting me know. :-) I wish more people realized that it is just as easy to be an unhealthy vegan as it is an unhealthy omnivore.

      First, you can't eat too many servings of either vegetables or fruits. That being said the easiest way to think of a serving is that generally one piece of fruit is a serving (about 1/2 cup). A standard banana would be 2 servings. You get the idea. As far as veggies are concerned 1 cup of raw veggies or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables is roughly a serving. For something like leafy greens you need to really pack them before measuring the cup. I usually just eye ball 2-3 cups of unpacked leafy greens and call that a serving. Something like dried fruit is a much smaller serving, think 1/4 cup or less. I hope that helped. :-)

      If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask. I am happy to help any way that I can.


    2. Thanks that's exactly what I was looking for! As I suspected, I'm eating fewer fruits and veg than i should be and too many processed grains. Thanks again!

    3. Raven,

      Don't be too hard on yourself. I read somewhere that only 3% of Americans eat that much produce. Since the average American gets 3 servings, with two of them being potatoes, I am sure you are far ahead of that. :-) However more is always better for you.

      You are welcome. If you ever have any other questions please feel free to ask. If I know I am happy to share.



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