If you follow any of my social media accounts you probably already have a good idea regrading the foods I eat and advocate for. My philosophy on eating has evolved over the years but the core principle has always been the same, avoid meat. I began minimizing dairy and eggs around 5 or 6 years ago but finally made the full commitment to omitting all dairy and eggs around January of 2020. The reason I finally ditched the dairy was because of the powerful information I learned during my studies at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies while obtaining my Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate.
First and foremost, I am a big believer in a nutritious lifestyle, rather than "going on a diet". Diets are effective in there own ways, but often lead to reverting back to old habits and gaining back the weight down the road. I believe in making healthy changes for the long-haul. Our bodies are complex organisms that need proper nourishment on a regular basis in order to function properly. Making healthy lifestyle changes can be challenging at first. If you think about it, you are working on reversing the habits you've put into place for your whole life, so of course it's going to be a challenge...you're changing your whole lifestyle! But the long-term benefits of how you feel, look, and enjoy life outweigh the beginning struggles tenfold.
Let me preface by saying that though I have my Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from eCornell and I am constantly educating myself about nutrition, plant-based eating, and health in general, I am not a registered dietician. I consider myself very educated when it comes to nutrition and am always reading scholarly content in order to broaden my knowledge. Everyone is different but for my personal eating philosophy, I follow a general 80/20 rule. I don't measure or track anything that I eat so these numbers are just estimates. 80% of the food I consume is considered whole food plant-based and 20% vegan. I know this may seem confusing and these terms are often misused and sometimes can even be defined differently depending on the source, so let me explain.
80% Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB)
According to Forks Over Knives, "A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes... [excluding] meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil." In summary, I believe in eating mostly plants and avoiding meat, dairy, processed food, and oil.
During a typical week, Monday through Friday (up until dinnertime Friday evening) and generally breakfast everyday of the week, I follow the above description of eating. I find it pretty simple to stick to eating clean throughout the week. Preparing meals ahead of time and batch cooking are incredibly helpful ways to stick to eating wholesome meals and avoiding processed food temptation. Luckily, I enjoy cooking and have little to no desire to eat out. When cooking at home, it is easy to omit oil as well. Most restaurants saturate their foods with oil, which is best to avoid. If you consume oil on a daily basis and are curious to know why the WFPB way of eating avoids oil, check out my blog post from last year, Why No Oil.
Below are some ideas of the types of meals I regularly eat throughout the week. If you are interested in recipes, check out my plant-based cookbook, The MM Subscription.
Everyone is different. For me, eating clean throughout the week has become second nature. Even before ditching dairy entirely, I mostly ate clean and leaned towards plant-based foods during the weekdays. Since routines on the weekdays vs. weekends are usually different, I think this is a good way to find balance. Of course eating WFPB 100% of the time would be even healthier, but I still like to splurge and try out all the tasty vegan products on the market. This leads me to the other 20% of the time.
From an eating standpoint, a vegan is defined as "a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals" (Webster). From an ethical standpoint, vegans also avoid animal products and products that cause harm to animals like leather, makeup tested on animals, etc. I abide by this philosophy no matter the day of the week because I believe in causing no harm to animals.
As far as eating "vegan" 20% of the time, to me this means consuming some foods with oil and processed ingredients. Generally on the weekends, I enjoy indulging in some of the unhealthier foods that are considered vegan but not technically "whole food plant-based". I'm talking Impossible burgers, vegan cheeses, cereal and dairy-free ice cream (more of my favorite products pictured below). These foods are definitely not considered health foods but they sure are yummy! I want to treat my body right with all the wholesome WFPB foods but also "treat myself" to the other foods out there. I find this balance keeps me feeling and looking good, but never too restricted to where I am missing out. Again, everyone is different and I find this balance to work well for me.
Below is a sample of some meals that combine wholesome WFPB foods with some extras considered in the "20%" category. For instance, I add Tofutti brand vegan sour cream on top of my nachos (processed and made with some oil), but still choose to make plant-based queso from whole ingredients like potatoes, carrots and nutritional yeast (this recipe is seriously amazing). Another example is making a pulled jackfruit sandwich with slaw. The "pulled jackfruit" is made from jackfruit and homemade BBQ sauce with no added sugar and slaw which includes vegan mayo. One appetizer I've been loving lately is my newest Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe. I use cashews, spinach, artichoke, nutritional yeast, a small amount of vegan cream cheese and seasoning. The cream cheese is processed but the rest of the ingredients are WFPB. It's all about balance while still being mindful of your health and enjoying what you are eating.
At the end of the day, it's important to build a healthy relationship with food. The goal is to nourish the body and to be excited about the foods you are eating by not feeling restricted. I find my general 80/20 philosophy of eating to be a good balance and also sustainable long term.
Whether you are already happy with the balance you've created with the foods you eat or are seeking a new way to eat that helps to accomplish your health goals, I'd love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!