Not Just Salads & Fake Meats- Dispelling Plant-Based Diet Myths

plant based vegan whole food plant based Nov 10, 2023
Brussels Sprout & Cauliflower Taco

I haven’t always been on a plant-based diet. In fact, I have been practicing a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPBD) for only about a year and a half now. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make this drastic change regarding my food choices overnight. I have been educating myself on nutrition, and been consciously aware of my food choices for most of my adult life. Sure, I ate fast-food when I knew it wasn’t healthy, and have indulged in sweets or fatty foods whenever they presented themselves, despite my self-education. But for a few years before I settled on this particular diet, I was really starting to dive deep into cutting out certain foods, while still sitting on the fence when it came to my overall food choices.

Now that I am on a WFPBD, I feel so great that I just want to announce to anyone who will listen about how happy I am with this decision. Don’t worry, I know it is not a popular lifestyle choice to make, and so I try to not over-evangelize it, but I thought I would try to clear up some myths about the subject here.

When in conversation on the topic of a WFPBD, there are some common misconceptions that a lot of folks have. I feel like it would be helpful to illuminate some of the misunderstood notions of WFPBD’s. Common rebuttals to the topic include:

-“I cant live on nothing but salad.”

-“Ive tried those fake meats, and Id rather have the real thing.”

-“I need more protein than a WFPBD can provide.”

Hey, I get it! I have thought these things myself at one point or another. But it turns out that if you are doing the WFPBD right, these arguments are no longer valid. Please let me explain a little further.

I also can not sustain myself on nothing but salad. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times I have eaten a green salad since I started my new lifestyle. It is so rare that I have eaten a salad, that I can remember, in detail, the specific salad I had each of the three times that I chose that for a meal in the last 18 months.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy a crisp, leafy salad. But I usually have so many other choices of dishes that I can make, that is honestly the last item on my menu.

“Well, what do you eat, if not salad?” you might ask. I pretty much eat all the ethnic dishes that we are familiar and comfortable with, sans animal products. I try to work with what is in season and on sale, and I build my meal plans around those items. I consistently rotate through Mexican, Italian, Asian, and Mediterranean dishes in my kitchen, to keep from getting bored. Each of my meals are packed and balanced with fresh vegetables and whole grains, with plenty of fresh fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth for snacks. I believe that sticking to whole, nutrient-dense foods is a primary factor in improving my chronic pain symptoms.

I also try to limit my intake of “fake” or plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. You are right, they don’t taste like the real thing. Sure, there are some products that have come out in recent years that are surprisingly tasty, such as the Beyond or Impossible burgers. But the key to making a WFPBD work is the emphasis on whole foods. Animal product alternatives are not whole foods, in fact they are far from it. They are usually composed of many highly processed ingredients that are further processed together in an effort to make them resemble the “real deal”. The whole point of this diet is to reduce the intake of processed, chemical garbage that is more taxing on our organs than natural foods. So, while it seems like it might be getting easier for people to explore going meatless, I would daresay that you are better off with eating the real animal product in its original form, versus relying on industry-made products.

Now eating these items occasionally, is not all bad. In fact, it is nice that you can find an Impossible burger while traveling on the road, for example. Or taking some Beyond burger patties to a family BBQ. I am just saying that if you do choose to go the WFPBD route for its health benefits, try to avoid relying on manufactured animal product alternatives.

Next, lets address some of the protein myths in regards to WFPBD’s. In recent decades, there has been rising emphasis on eating high-protein diets to maintain muscle mass, and limit fat composition. There has also been a rise in kidney and heart conditions, because I believe this information is being misused.

I am a chronic pain coach, and a health and wellness coach. I am speaking to those who are suffering with chronic pain, and/or other health and wellness related issues. If you are a semi-professional athlete, body-builder or Olympian, you can skip this part. For the rest of us, tune in, I am going to share what might be some controversial opinions. That’s ok, if you don’t agree with me, you can take from this article what does work for you, and toss the rest.

Most of us do not need to eat high-protein diets, especially for long periods of time. There, I said it.  Yes, we need protein. No, it does not need to come from high-fat and cholesterol pork or beef or other animals. Yes, there are plenty of plant-sourced proteins out there to choose from.

I think the biggest myth is that many people think that plant foods don’t have any protein. This is very untrue. In fact, I make several meals that would be considered high-protein dishes, all without incorporating animal products.  For example, one of my favorite dinners is brussels sprout tacos with beans and brown rice. Each of these ingredients is packed with protein, and the meal itself even has a higher protein content than if you were to eat beef tacos alone.

Protein-packed ingredients that you can develop your menu around include tofu, beans, whole grains, any sprouted vegetables or grains, seeds and nuts, and even avocados.

“How do you keep from getting bored with such a strict diet?”

Great question! As I mentioned above, I rotate through a variety of ethnic dishes over the course of time. During any given month, I usually complete a trip “around the world”, as I like to call it. This not only keeps me from getting bored of eating the same things, but also making them. This also is a sneaky way of ensuring that I consistently have a varied, balanced diet.

By incorporating different vegetables, proteins, and even spices in order to make an ethnic dish, I am making sure to consistently incorporate a variety of nutrients. This also serves to keep my gut biome healthy and diverse.  

I hope that this short article has been helpful in clarifying any misconceptions that you may have around going plant-based. My goal here is not to stir up any controversy, nor to defend myself. I simply want to provide information so that you can make educated decisions for yourself-especially if you are struggling with chronic pain or health issues.

I am certainly open to further discussion around this topic, so please share your thoughts in the comments!


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