Saturday, August 20, 2011

Making the Transition to a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

I talk to so many people who say things to me that go something like this:

“I have read The China Study and I know I should change my diet but I just can’t do it. The idea of giving up cheese makes me crazy. I can’t imagine pizza without cheese no matter how good you say it is. Sure I believe that meat, dairy, meat and sugar are bad for me but my family won’t read The China Studay and they won’t eat this way with me. I am too busy to make 3 different meals every day, one for the kids, another for my husband and then one myself.”

This was a real world example that I clipped from an email of a person who wants to remain nameless. What was your reaction when you read this? Do you think this lady is ready to change, or does she need just a little help to cross the goal line as it were? What would you say to help her since she is clearly asking for guidance? Why do you think she hasn’t changed? What advice would you give to this lady to help her incorporate more healthy vegan meals into her life and the lives of their family?

I have some thoughts on this which I have already shared with this lady but I want to hear your thoughts. The reason I posted this was that I get emails like this all the time. I suppose I am a safe to talk for a number of reasons. First I am reasonably anonymous so they don’t have to run into me later unless they choose to. Next I am not going to jump on them for eating meat because I do believe that while a healthy plant-based diet is the best answer I also realize that most people aren’t going to go there. I suppose I am in the minority vegans that thinks that every small change should be celebrated.

I know that this woman isn’t alone. She is not the only one that has this same problem based on the email I get. The most common thing I hear from women is that their husbands won’t eat a vegan diet. In fact it is so prevalent that I can only think of 5 women whose husbands actually eat vegan at home, and 3 who are married to other vegan. Since I am sure there are many of you who have experienced this first hand I am sure you have some thoughts on this what would help this woman. Please share what you have discoverd so that we can all learn from each other.

My week:

Wow, how can it be Friday already? This week has flown by at a very quick pace. It seems like it should be Wednesday today. I guess that is a good thing except that I haven’t gotten nearly enough things crossed off my to-do list. *sigh*

On the bright side Dan and I had a nice chat about him taking care of himself which was my way of bringing up his lack of exercise. Dan agrees that exercise is good for him and has been joining me for long walks before work this week. :-) This is a very good thing! Now I need to get him home from work early enough so that we can get back to the gym in the morning.

This is one of my quick meals from Wednesday. I roasted zucchini, portabellas, bell peppers and potatoes and topped them with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce with chili garlic sauce and raw cashews. This is a great dish because you can make it all ahead of time and then have it cold as leftovers. I love meals like this.

I had my phone call with my coach this week which was a little sad. It is extremely nice to have someone to talk to who shares so many of my goals and values. However I am grateful for making the connection and I am certain we will be keeping in touch! *waves hi to Janet* :-)

Thursday afternoon my girlfriend Deirdre texted and announced that she was starving and wanted to know if I had lunch. What lunch at 1:30 of course I hadn’t eaten yet. Heck I didn’t get home from my 4.5 mile trek until 10 something and then I still needed to use my TRX and shower before breakfast ... needless to say I typically eat a late breakfast. So 20 minutes later I was running out the door to meet Deirdre at our usual place. I am not kidding when I say we all end up spending more time with Ian than we do our families. ;-)

Deirdre had a tough morning of neuropsychology so she just wanted to kick back and relax and who could blame her. We chatted briefly about healthcare and traumatic brain injury and then shifted into laid back mode which involved talking about boys.

I forgot to shoot pictures of Deirdre’s lunch but she had the lamb sausage pizza with roasted red peppers, feta, olives, harissa and tomato sauce. It looked really good but Ian does make fantastic pizza.

I asked him to make me a veggie and hummus wrap which I really wish he would put on the menu…I am still working on that. This was a monster sandwich with a big pile of roasted white and sweet potatoes. Needless to say half the pizza and sandwich were boxed up for us.

That doesn’t mean Deirdre didn’t have room for dessert .., she loves dessert. ;-) This time she had chocolate mousse cake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. LOL only Deirdre, I wish I was 32 again and could eat that way and not blow up.

As we were finishing up lunch it started to pour down rain complete with hail the size of garbanzo beans. We both looked at other and said "I really don’t want to leave yet "because we had not bothered to bring umbrellas with us. So what did we do? Since we were impersonating “ladies who lunch” we ordered a bottle of sparkling rose and sat under the roof on the patio watching the rain and sipping wine. I know it is a rough life. LOL

While we were sipping wine we talked with everyone who was coming in for the dinner shift, continued talking about boys, school, sailing, etc. In other words we were goofing off and relaxing big time. David (our eveing server) is possibly leaving for Germany on Wednesday (he has his ticket) or he may change his mind. because this is what he does *shakes head* I was really surprised to see David at work on Thursday since he had been in NYC in the morning. Yes I realize that I know too much about what happens with everyone at the restaurant.

The craziest thing happens around here when it rains people seem to stay home; I kid you not they actually don’t venture out in the rain! The restaurant wasn’t very busy Thursday night and most people who came out opted to sit inside. *wimps* Since we weren’t keeping David from turning the table we ordered a second bottle of wine. I know you are shocked right? It was a very low alcohol wine, 5% to be specific, and by this point we had been at the restaurant for literally 6 hours. Dan ended up meeting us for "dinner" and he ordered an individual pizza which included roasted red peppers, roasted onions, red potatoes, basil, and tomatoes while Deirdre and I drank wine.  *hiccup*  Okay that was just to be funny, with the amount of time were were at the restaurant (8 hours) and the low alcohol content we were both sober.  This particular wine was probably about the same alcohol content as a wine cooler.

Friday evening we were back to the restaurant for dinner. What? I know, we need a new wife this one is just falling down on the job of cooking. ;-)

Dan started with a samosa because as you well know by now he loves them. I got my one bite and the rest of the samosa was all for Dan.

Then we ordered a new salad from the menu only without the parmesan. This salad was a sweet and sour butternut squash over baby arugula topped with roasted cloves of garlic (which were sweet and delicious, BTW), and pistaschios. I had to order this because I make a sweet and sour butternut squash that I wanted to compare to Ian’s.

After the butternut squash we also ordered the antipasti platter made vegan. This one really has become a family favorite. Our platter included roasted portabellas, olives, house-made pickles, roasted peppers, artichokes with dill, spicy chickpeas and topped with basil threads. This is served on top of very thin and very crispy semolina flatbread. I may have to make the flat bread soon just because I have never put that on the blog and they are really good because they are thin and crispy like crackers and you can make them on top the stove which is perfect in the summer. Feel free to remind me of this if you don’t see them in the next few weeks.

Our last dish was a fruit salad of melon, strawberries, grapes and oranges on baby arugula topped with balsamic glaze.

We ever one of the last few tables out of the restaurant on Friday, not that this is shocking since it is usually the case. We chatted with everyone and because we hadn’t seen most of them since Thursday. Hey, a lot can happen in a 24 hours. ;-) Are you starting to see why they make special dishes for us? We really do spend a lot of time at the restaurant.

Happy thoughts:

• It was wonderful to spend most of the day with Deirdre on Thursday. I am really enjoying having her live within walking distance. When Deirdre lived in Annapolis I didn’t see her very often which wasn’t good.

• I am totally thankful that today is Friday! *woo hoo* I love my weekends. :-) You will not be surprised to hear that I am looking forward to the weekend with my hubby. Now if he just doesn’t have to work this weekend I will even happier.

• We only have a few must do items this weekend which also makes me happy. I am looking forward to relaxing at least part of weekend.

• My girl Aimee should be back from Florida by now. I can’t wait to see her and hear about her vacation. Dan and I both adore Aimee whom we consider our “non-adopted daughter.”

• We dropped off “how-to” sailing videos for Jenn on Friday. We wanted to make certain that is we used any sailing terminology it was at least familiar to her. It is so much fun for us to have someone who wants to learn how to sail. Both Dan and I enjoy sharing our love of sailing.

• My precious little fur children are completely back to normal which is wonderful. Both babies (Luca and Masi) have recovered completely from their dental procedures. Additionally Massimo’s vomiting has disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. I am thrilled to have them back to their old selves.

• Friday was a very busy day for me. Dan was extremely sweet to offer to take me out to dinner so that I could relax. I am a very lucky girl to have the world’s most understand and generous husband. Additionally I am also lucky to have Ian and the gang who go out of their way to make us vegan food even though they are not a vegan restaurant.

Signing Out:

It has been a long week but it has also been a good week. I was productive this week but I am also looking forward to a little relaxing time. Next week will be another busy one with Dan having meetings in DC and Richmond and both of us having our physicals.

Are you doing anything fun or relaxing this weekend? If the weather holds up we may have a picnic down at the harbor or just hang out by the water at sunset. I love spending time at the water and the weather has been so nice this week that if it holds up I think that would be great time to do at least one day this weekend.

Talk with you again soon.  :-)


  1. Sounds like you had a lovely day! And as usual the food looks absolutely amazing. Salut!

    I can totally sympathise with the lady who emailed you. That's where I am.

    All I can say is go slowly. Start with a handful of plant based recipes that you know your whole family will eat and enjoy and make them more often.

    Cut back on the meat and dairy by offering slightly smaller portion sizes. They probably won't even notice but will be eating healthier.

    Their tastes will hopefully change slowly over time the less meat/dairy they eat and the more plants they eat and you can then slowly incorporate more healthy meals into your diet.

    They may never be completely vegan (I know mine won't) but they will be eating healthier. And you will feel a lot better.

    It's not logical or sensible to expect anybody to cook separate meals every day for family members.

    If you want to be totally vegan I would suggest on the days you do cook plant friendly food for your family cook huge portions and freeze some. Then on the days they're eating meat you can always pull something out of the freezer for yourself.

    Ideas for plant based family friendly meals:

    Wholemeal pasta with roasted veg tomato sauce.


    Veggie fajitas

    Soups: minestrone, butternut squash etc.

    Sorry, I've gone on a bit there.

  2. Carol,

    I remember how frustrated I was when we were transitioning to a vegan diet and I had the benefit of 20+ years of cooking and a husband who would eat anything that I cooked. I can only imagine how much more difficult the transition is if your family isn't on board with the change. However I did know that most of you also had this same situation as this lady and would have great suggestions and you did. :-) Thank you very much for sharing! It is wonderful when we can all help each other.


  3. Beautiful Photos!! Gosh, there are SO many raw and regular vegan cheezes out there now. One for every purpose!! Even though Daiya is processed, it has not cholesterol and really doesn't have much junk in it. I would say transition any way you can. Eat the veggie burgers. There are actually veggie burgers without a bunch of crap in them!! Eat baked fries. Just start with plant based and then improve from that. It's getting much easier now!! Make sure you have food ready to eat, so you don't get hungry and binge on cow pus!

  4. I'm one of the lucky ones, my husband did make the choice to go vegan with me. However my children not so much. There have actually been tears shed at the dinner table.My daughter told me she didn't feel like she belonged in this family because she doesn't like beans. Because of the gravity of the situation I had to back slide and allow the children to choose a few things that they missed the most. I do allow them cheese but only once a week. They will eat chicken but not in my home. If we eat out and they choose to order a meat I say nothing. I buy them as many affordable non dairy frozen treats as I can find so that they don't ask for ice cream. Unfortunately budget is a huge concern so I can't afford the fancy substitutes.
    It's been a year and a half of transition and it is getting easier but it's a long way off from where I want to be. My kids are ages 9 and 6. As it is kids of that age or already terribly picky. I can only hope that my children will decide to follow in my lead but for now I gently guide them as best I can without too much drama.
    I find it nearly impossible to force anyone to eat something they don't' want too but if you do not want to eat something you cant' be forced either. Don't' let your family be an excuse not to eat they way you see best.

  5. That antipasti salad looks wonderful, but I think all of the food pictures you post look tantalizing!

    My sons do not share my vegan diet. They eat much healthier than they used to because I have healthier choices in the house. I don't push them as that would have the opposite effect. I do, however, sneak in vegan dishes (stuffed shells made with roasted butternut squash and tofu) and they never suspect they are eating a much healthier version of a favorite dish.

  6. I'm super lucky in that my significant other will eat whatever I cook. There's very little food he doesn't like. I also consider it a personal mission to convince him he does like certain things (such as Brussels sprouts -- he said he hated them until I showed him otherwise). I have to say, in my experience, it really has to be their choice. You can't force someone to see the light, but you can make delicious options available to them. I do all the cooking, but I always ask if there's anything in particular he wants, and recipes he loves, we repeat. His favorite is vegan chili with mushrooms and beans.

    I can't wait to get the recipe for that sauce. It sounds like a winner!

  7. My God the photos...the wrap and antipasti platter are the ones doing it for me right now. And the pizza.

  8. It has definitely been a process. Since there was sooo much in our diets to change, it's being done in stages.

    Initially I made vegan meals and also meat, separately, for hubby and kids - like pasta/veggies and sauce, bean burritos, baked potato night, home made pizza's - all things hubby could easily eat with meat and/or cheese.

    My kids have been really picky - and so one battle that was great to stop was the "finish your meat" fight.

    Then I started introducing new whole grains and beans on a regular basis. Some hits, lots of misses, but I would adjust and reintroduce every few weeks.

    Next phase was making smaller amounts of side dish meats (kids had stopped eating it) to be used as a garnish, but cheese has still been a prevalent add in for the kids.

    I stopped cooking meat, but have some in the freezer. If hubby now wants meat, he is welcome to defrost it, and cook it on nights that he is on dinner duty (very seldom), and I've asked him not to push meat on the kids if they don't want it. He mostly just gets his fill of meat when we're out for dinner.

    Next step is moving to vegan cheeses (already got rid of cream cheese!) and completely phase out the dairy milk (still buy small amounts for hubby and one of our kids).

    It hasn't been easy. And it's not perfect, but such an improvement. Received lots of complaints and resistance, but they are coming along :)

  9. Hey there! I have a question you might be able to answer...

    I am using Dr. Esselstyn's book as my diet guide as my whole reason for changing my diet is prevention/reversal of heart disease, which runs rampant in my family. What would make this easier is if I could incorporate my deep love for sandwiches into this process, and that entails having good no-dairy, no oil whole grain bread. I've tried the Ezekial breads and frankly, they just aren't cutting it.

    I don't mind making bread, it's finding a recipe that doesn't result in cardboard disguised as bread. Making bread is work, and it gets really frustrating when you put all this effort into it and the result is unpalatable.

    Since you read lots of cookbooks and attend lectures on the topic, I was wondering if you could recommend a recipe or two that has either turned out well for you (or someone you know), or looks like it may work.

    I really appreciate your time.

    Kindest regards,


  10. Nice post, the food sure looks fantastic. Please post your flatbread recipe!!! Also the chili garlic sauce for the roasted veggies and the balsamic glaze for your fruity salad. Thanks!

  11. Hoping you and fur babies will all be ok when hurricane comes by...Coco

  12. Sounds like you've had a great week. And glad the kitties are back to normal. That hummus wrap looks fabulous - I really have to make one (some!). Hope you're all safe and sound during the hurricane.

  13. Get Skinny Go Vegan,

    I am guessing you are a fan of Dr. Barnard too. He is great isn't he?

    Thanks for the photo compliment.

    I worry about the soy protein isolates that are in a lot of processed vegan cheeses. However it is very easy to make your own non-dairy cheese at home. I find that when people try them they realize that it isn't as difficult to give up dairy-based cheese as they imagine. Change always starts with a single step. Right?

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. :-)


  14. Imperfections,

    You are lucky that your husband made the transition with. Mine did as well and I feel for the ladies who struggle with this every day.

    Great advice to be patient and understanding with kids. They are picky and have peer pressure to content with that is far in our rear view mirrors.

    Good luck with your dietary transition. It sounds like you have made a lot of progress to me. :-)


  15. Lori,

    Thank you for letting me know that you enjoy my photos. They really do depend mostly on appropriate lighting. :-)

    Great idea to make healthier version of the foods your family already enjoys. I did a lot of that when we were fairly new to veganism. Now we will eat anything. ;-)

    Thanks for sharing your suggestions,

  16. Brigid,

    You are fortunate that your significant other will eat anything that you cook. Many ladies are not the lucky.

    I agree that dietary choices have to come from the person otherwise they won't stick. I have found that once they understand the reason behind the choices they are easier to embrace. Some people are motivated by compassion and others by health. Whatever works is fine with me, the end result is what is most important and better for everyone (humans and animals).

    I may make the sauce again this weekend. When I do I will measure this time. :-)


  17. Health, art and the girl gamer,

    Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed the photos and the food. :-) We are very fortunate to be friends with a talented chef (also nearby) who will make us vegan food (though it isn't his speciality) whenever we stop in.


  18. Becky,

    I think you were wise to change in stages. We literally when from omni to vegan overnight and that probably wasn't the best plan for many reasons.

    Have you tried making almond milk at home? It is very easy to do and much cheaper than store bought. Also I prefer the taste of it. There are also a number of vegan cheeze recipes on my blog when you want to try you hand at those.

    I imagine kids are difficult to deal with in this situation. But they are very lucky to have a mom that is welling to deal with the fall out if the end result is better health. Congratulations!


  19. Susan,

    Congratulations on making healthy changes to your diet to avoid the heart disease that runs in your family. Good for you!

    I use collard leaves to make wraps and find that to be the easiest answer. I have heard people say that they use applesauce (in equal amounts) in place of oil in bread recipes works though I haven't tried it because we have been trying to only eat bread when we are out. Bread was always my "comfort food" so the more distance I have from it the better it is for me. ;-)


  20. Laura,

    Which bread did you mean the pita or the semolina flatbread that looks like a cracker?

    The balsamic glaze is very simple you simple pour balsamic vinegar in a pan and cook it slowly until it reduces by half. Be sure to stir it often so it doesn't stick. That is all there is to it.

    I may get around to making the pepper and chili garlic sauce this weekend. When I do I will post it.


  21. Coco,

    Thank you so much for your concern. We were all fine. In fact the cats weren't phased in the least. Sometimes I think they are too mellow. LOL


  22. Barbara,

    We were both thrilled to have our fur children return to their old selves. They were running through the house chasing each other this morning and are all sleeping now....just like normal. LOL

    Ian whips that wrap together for me and it is different each time but always delicious. He always uses a little hummus (for food glue), both fresh and roasted veggies. He heats the entire thing (in the oven I believe). It is a delicious sandwich. I hope you try it and like it as much as we do.

    We were fine in the hurricane other than losing part of one tree in our yard. Some of our friends (just up the street) were without power until Friday. Clearly the hurricane wasn't that bad for us. :-)



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