Going Plant Based/Whole Foods, the First Steps in my Journey

After reading Ultra Processed People and In Defense of Food I knew I wanted to embrace a more plant based/ whole foods diet.  It wasn't a huge leap for me as I already eat a ton of veggies, fruits, and have been limiting processed foods for years anyway. 

I have been easing into this slowly; we didn't rummage through the foods in our house and throw anything away but as we are using up products I am reading tons of labels to pick the best choice replacement (or making it myself!).

  • Plant based does not mean vegan or vegetarian (at least not to me anyway- some people disagree); I'm not giving up animal products but I am trying to eat less of them.
  • Limiting processed foods this is a much harder/ grayer area. For now I'm trying not to buy anything with more than a handful of ingredients listed on the back and I'm making sure that I know all (or nearly all) of  the ingredients listed-- no "weird" or long words I can't pronounce. 
  • Incorporating more whole grains, nuts, and seeds into my diet (I say more because we've already been eating whole wheat pasta for years and we often buy nuts and seeds) 
  • When buying anything diary-related I'm trying to buy whole milk/whole fat versions since they tend to have less processing and junk added to them (but milk products in general tend to cause my eczema to flare up so I've been working on limiting diary for well over 5 years)
My afternoon snack one day was just a small 1/4 cup measure of nuts and seeds and kept me pretty full until dinner


Combining plant based with whole foods means things like veggie burgers and most vegan meat substitutes are out; if given the choice between a Boca burger and the ground beef we have in our freezer (from a 1/2 cow we bought and had slaughtered locally) I'll pick the burger.  But I won't be eating a burger every day; in fact I tend to limit red meat to once a month naturally anyway whereas my family tends to eat it once a week. 

I knew my desires to eat this way would be a fine line juggling my wants with the family's.  

It was easy when the boys were little to switch up our diet because they pretty much had to eat what I bought and what I made but with 2 young adults in the house and all 3 having their license and their own money I don't want them to feel like they have to go out and buy their own food (and they would and do sometimes anyway but I don't want them to feel like it's my way or the highway) so we're all making some compromises.

There are some foods that each of them (my husband included) feel are non-negotiable and so I'm keeping them on our grocery list and buying them. The majority of items are things I don't and wont eat anyway so their choices and mine don't intersect. I try not to lecture either but I have noticed at least my younger two reading more labels! 

Their Cheez-its, crackers, lemonade, breads really stand out against all my fruits/veggies, nuts and seeds but that's real life for you. 

We all are on our own for breakfast and lunch so as long as I keep a wide variety of foods on hand we're all satisfied. Dinner is the only time of day that my choices effect their choices but since I've been moving in this direction for years they aren't really noticing any major changes. 

For now I'm focusing on small changes: 
  • making sure we have one vegetarian meal on our menu each week (after a few months I plan to move to twice a week!)
  • make small changes for dinners on the other nights; when my boys have tacos or nachos I just eat a salad and since I'm not a big fan of taco meat I stopped using that altogether months ago but I do sprinkle on a few nuts and seeds.  When they had pulled pork baked potatoes I just ate the baked potato with the vegetable side dishes (since I don't like pulled pork anyway).
  • I did eat the orange chicken with rice the night I made some from scratch but made sure 1/2 my plate was filled with vegetables and ate a small salad too so my portion size of chicken was smaller than usual. 
  • Instead of eating my fruit and yogurt parfait I'm eating the fruit with some homemade granola and omitting the yogurt entirely. 
  • I'm subbing out 1/2 the regular flour in any recipe for 1/2 whole wheat flour (otherwise everyone else in the house complains) and hope to slowly add in more whole wheat and lessen the all purpose flour (or use alternative flours like cassava). 

Baked potato, veggies and salad (on a night my family had pulled pork baked potatoes with salad)

I heated up a sweet potato with the leftover veggies the next day

Leftover whole wheat orzo and vegetable soup I made

My splurge meal at our local restaurant was an eggplant parm. grinder with 1/2 the cheese of normal and some fries.

I did have some Mediterranean baked fish with broccoli/cauliflower mix and some eggplant & mushrooms with my salad one night. 


I'm finding the plant based side of things to be much easer than trying to ease away from processed foods. There are some things I know I'll never manage to eliminate-- I'm not going to start making my own mayo or my own ketchup; I use them sparingly anyway and the work of it all is not worth it to me. 

I am, however, making my own granola. 



I started making all my own spice mixes again.  We swapped out extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil for all other cooking/ baking oils. I blend my own spreadable butter using stick butter and olive oil or sunflower oil. 

In adjusting to this new way of thinking and eating I have a few little mantras/sayings I'm keeping in mind:
  • Eat real foods; mostly plants
  • Make sure the least amount of people/machinery touch our food
  • Think of meat/animal products as a side dish or a once in awhile treat
  • Eat a rainbow/variety of vegetables and fruits and an array of seeds, nuts, and whole grains. 

It's going to be a very slow process for sure since I have been so ingrained to think about protein at every meal.  For starters I think I'm doing pretty well and might even be eating too much each day trying to get a wide variety of nutrients into my diet but I'll keep tweaking and adjusting and trying new recipes. 

I've already tried so many new foods I've never eaten before like this quinoa salad:


 I've tried roasted chick peas, edamame, and have bought a bag of farro to try. I'm sure there will be some misses along the way but I'm still giving myself credit for trying lots of new things and new combinations of things I might have not been open to just a few years ago. 

Linking up with: Thinking Out Loud, Spread the Kindness, 







Comments

  1. We were mostly plant based for almost 2 years and it really opened my eyes to how much processed food we had been eating before. You will start to notice how much higher your energy levels are!

    Lauren @ Don’t Mind Our Mess

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    1. Gosh I would love for that to happen; I feel so lethargic lately but, then again, I often feel that way when our weather is less than great.

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  2. This is very inspiring me to me- thank you for sharing- hope you keep sharing info and recipes with us!

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  3. I just had dinner last week with a friend who is eating more plant based. Thankfully, we went to a super healthy restaurant so the choices were easy to eat healthy there. This is a great post!

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    1. I have only found one restaurant near us so far where eating a plant based meal was downright impossible. I'm finding that lots of restaurants are getting better about adding healthy choices to their menu which helps.

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  4. You sound just like me. I've been making all these changes myself and I just love this way of eating. Everything is so delicious to me! Visiting from "Wow on Wednesday"

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    1. I think so too! I don't feel like I am missing out on anything.

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    1. Thank you! I'm trying to take it slow and just take each meal as it comes.

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  6. Good job on trying the new changes and implementing them. For sure the fewer hands or machines that have touched our food the better!

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  7. I one time did the Paleo diet for two months and I couldn't believe how much better I felt after I detoxed from all the sugar! My energy was through the roof.

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  8. This is so inspiring! I'm interested to see your journey as you progress. Have you thought of using a countertop butter keeper? We use this and just press a stick of butter into it. Because it is at room temperature, it is always soft without adding oil. Here is the one we use, but there are lots of options: https://amzn.to/49c9Nd6

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    1. I hadn't but I'll have to look into that; thank you!

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  9. We feel so much better when we eat this way.

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  10. We eat very healthy and feel so much better doing it. And it's so much tastier.

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    1. I definitely think so; it's funny but even eating some of my old favorite processed foods they all taste a bit "off" or "funny" to me and then I don't even want them anymore.

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  11. I've been trying to give up red meat and eat more meatless. I've already noticed a difference in my energy level. I look forward to some meatless recipes from you in the future. ❤️

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  12. Bravo for all of these changes!!
    And I think it's the best way to do it a little at a time especially for those that are a little more picky.
    We still eat meat daily because Rob can't have legumes and therefore we can't have beans and lentils and such.
    But I still think healthy is healthy. Even with the meat there are better meats than others with quality. And you still have to enjoy life.
    By the way we buy a very natural ketchup that doesn't have a lot of crap or sugar in it. I think they're out there but sometimes you have to look at sprouts or the other grocery stores!
    Xoxo
    Jodie

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    1. Thank you! I struggle with beans and lentils since I really do not like them.. but I'm trying to prepare them different ways and we'll see... in the meantime I'm relying a lot on quinoa which I've read has all the essential amino acids and while a carbohydrate is also considered a complete plant protein and I do still eat meat/chicken/OR fish once a week.

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  13. Congratulations on your commitment to this new way of eating. I am in a slump of not really thinking much of anything sounds good. But, I still keep eating!

    https://marshainthemiddle.com/

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  14. Such a great plan as there is so much stuff in our foods nowadays! I love the idea of seeing meat as a small side dish. We used to eat vegetarian only some years ago but after an illness we went back to eating meat - sadly about 6 out of 7 days!! I've been trying to buy less processed food too, but like you I can't control what the rest of the family buys as they all have their own money. Glad to read I'm not the only one who prefers whole milk over the low fat. I only use a small amount of it in my coffee anyway, we're not big milk drinkers. I rather get my calcium from broccoli. I do eat whole milk plain yogurt more frequently. Best of luck on your journey!!

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    1. Thank you! I was vegetarian for a few years before I got pregnant with my first born and then I just craved red meat like crazy (and turns out my iron was really, really low so it made total sense).

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  15. This post is inspiring me to pay a lot more attention to what I am eating. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting and stopping by. I am definitely trying to be more intentional but still allowing myself treats and reminding myself it's all about moderation.

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  16. Hi Joanne we have moved more to plant based and have eaten whole foods for quite some time. Cutting back on the processed and packaged foods. We both enjoy cooking which helps and plant based diets are certainly not boring.

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    1. We've been cutting back on processed and packaged foods for years too but had started slacking off and getting lazy so I needed to redouble my efforts. I am enjoying a wide variety of plants and challenging myself to try one or two new plants each week.

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  17. This is absolutely awesome, I am not vegetarian or vegan, but also limited my intake of 'bad' foods for the past 5-6 weeks and I can feel the difference. Good for you and I love your choices.
    I visited you via Randomosity: The National Hotel: South Beach
    My links this week are 26+27. We will be so happy if you share your blog links with us at SSPS. Link under BLOGGING

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  18. I would struggle eating a plant based diet because I love meat so much, but I could definitely stand to cut out some processed foods!! It's great that you're doing this! I'm excited to see if it makes a difference in the way you feel after you've been eating this way for a while!

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  19. Good on you Joanne! This is what I want to do too. I was already well on the way but with my life being a bit chaotic lately it's fallen by the wayside quite a bit with some bad snack foods creeping in. I otherwise cook and eat quite healthy meals. Snacks is my trouble zone! Thanks for linking up with #WWWhimsy - have a great weekend! xo

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  20. Many people think that because I've been vegetarian for years I'm so healthy but you're eating way healthier than I am. I have a hard time not eating white flour and many, many processed foods. And of course, my daily Coke addiction :) Way to go on inspiring me to be more aware of what I'm eating. And I agree, small changes over time add up.

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  21. I learned so much from reading In Defense of Food. Like you, I find it most difficult to move away from processed foods. I am definitely more aware now and find myself reading labels to see whether I know what the ingredients are. Good luck with your transition to a more plant-based diet.

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  22. Wow! It sounds like you have made some really positive changes. I have found that changing one's diet takes time and is a process . I became a vegetarian 45 years ago and it took me until 4 years ago to become whole food and vegan. I am a soup lover so I make a lot of vegan soup. Good luck !

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  23. I often have days just like this, only having protein in the evening. Everything looks delicious!

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  24. Joanne, this post is one of my features for WTJR this week, thank you for sharing with us!

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