Dr. McDougall and the Healthiest Diet on the Planet

Brown rice and Grains crop

Dr. John McDougall is a giant in the plant-based nutrition community, but his approach is surprisingly different from that of many of his colleagues.

Instead of focusing on micronutrient-rich whole foods, he looks to the humble starch as the key to a healthy diet. As Dr. McDougall says in our interview,

“All large, successful populations of civilized people have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch.”

For that reason, according to McDougall, it’s not leafy greens or fruits that should make up most of our meal, but potatoes, rice, and other starches.

In today’s episode, we chat with Dr. McDougall about his approach to nutrition, his new book, The Healthiest Diet on the Planet, and how in his opinion, the Paleo Diet got it wrong.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • What percentage of our calories should come form starch?
  • Why Dr. McDougall says eating micronutrient-rich food is akin to taking supplements
  • … and why (aside from B12) he doesn’t like supplements
  • Is the Paleo Diet sexist?
  • How athletes should adapt his diet

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45 Tasty, Healthy Vegan Snacks

Roasted spicy chickpeas

Note from Doug: A lot has changed at No Meat Athlete since Susan Lacke wrote the original version of this post. Our content has shifted to be 100% vegan, and the team (along with our appetites) has more than doubled.

So we decided it was time to give our list of healthy vegan snacks an update. We’re tapping into the ideas from our growing team and nearly doubling the number of options.

If you’re already familiar with the original list, you can always skip down to the new section here:

But first, part 1, written by Susan Lacke:

When I was a kid, I always swore that when I grew up my days would be filled with snack time and recess.

Twenty years later, though I still won’t admit to being a grown-up, I will say I’ve managed to make my childhood dream come true: life as a triathlete provides me with plenty of time playing in the water, riding my bike, or running around.

And the best part? The active lifestyle is one which definitely favors lots of snacking.

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What to Do When You Can’t Stay Motivated

Female athlete suffering overtraining

We’ve talked a lot about motivation over the past 163 episodes … how to find it, how to keep it, and what to do when you have it.

But what happens when no matter what you do, you just can’t stay motivated?

When even after all the tricks — like accountability and establishing a routine —  you simply don’t have the motivation to run, eat healthy, or keep up whichever habit you’re trying to maintain?

That’s what we discuss in today’s episode.

SPOILER: We might not land on the solution you’re expecting.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Why Doug “quit” racing (for now)
  • Embracing life’s seasons
  • Should you always have another goal race scheduled?
  • When it’s better to fight through a lack of motivation

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The Sauce System: 5 Staple Vegan Sauces for Endless Meal Options

Traditional thai spicy red curry

When I first started to care about what I ate, my cooking repertoire consisted of Kraft Mac & Cheese and pasta sauce à la jar.

If I added a vegetable into either dish, it was my attempt to impress a lady (smooth, I know).

So when I finally felt the need to learn how to cook, I did what most people do … I bought a cookbook.

I chose one writen by a famous TV chef, went to the kitchen, and made a shopping list. But it didn’t take long to realize that following detailed recipes is both time consuming and annoying, and I was quickly back to heating up jars of red sauce.

That’s the hangup for a lot of new vegans, vegetarians, or people who simply want to eat more whole foods. Planning for and cooking unfamiliar meals is just too darn hard to maintain.

Which is exactly why I love cooking formulas — like the Chipotle Method — that break cooking and planning into an adaptable process to save time, use what’s already in your fridge, and eliminate the hassle of following a recipe.

This summer, my wife Katie and I developed our own system for meal planning. Only instead of a traditional formula, we use sauces. And it has completely changed the way we cook.

The Sauce System for Simple Meal Planning

Matt is a big fan of single ingredient meal planning, where instead of starting with a cookbook, you plan your meal based on an ingredient you already have. That process narrows down your meal options, and eliminates much of the frustration that comes from trying to decide what to cook.

Katie and I have taken that same philosophy, only instead of a single ingredient, we start with the sauce.

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Robert Cheeke on Staying Motivated, Changing Course, and Embracing Imperfection


In an effort to keep the show fresh, Matt and I rarely invite a former guest back on to No Meat Athlete Radio. To be asked back for a third episode puts vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke in rare company.

But with a new book, a move to a different state, and the transition away from speaking and traveling (as frequently, anyway), we knew this conversation with Robert would be different. And it was.

In this episode we talk to Robert about how his lifestyle and career have shifted as more plant-based bodybuilders hit the scene, and what that transition has done for his motivation levels. He also shares why he’s embracing imperfection when it comes to nutrition, and how he’s gained more muscle than ever before.

If you liked the first two episodes with Robert, you’ll love this new one.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How Robert gained more muscle than ever before
  • Robert’s food confession
  • Why stepping away may provide more inspiration
  • Muscle mass and longevity … what’s the connection?

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Dr. Pamela Fergusson on Practical Vegan Nutrition, Speedwalking Ultramarathons, and Living Intentionally


Pamela Fergusson lives in Toronto, where she runs a nutrition consulting practice as a registered dietitian and nutrition PhD. And that’s as normal as Pamela’s story gets.

She’s an ultramarathoner — sometimes running, but sometimes speed walking (different from power walking, as she explains in our interview). And this past summer, she did her own unsupported, self-styled iron-distance triathlon … no clocks, no crowds, just 140.6 miles to cover in a day, by herself.

Pamela has four children who eat like she does and have their own busy lives … but Pamela’s family chooses not to own a car.

Oh, and now and then, she pulls her kids out of school for a month to homeschool them in other countries.

When it’s so easy to let important things slide until it feels like you’re just getting by, Pamela seems to be so on top of everything. How does she find the time?

That’s what I wondered when I met her this summer in Toronto at a meetup of our No Meat Athlete group there, and it’s why I’m thrilled to have her as my guest on this episode of No Meat Athlete Radio.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Pamela’s advice on plant-based meal planning
  • Potential deficiencies in a plant-based diet … and how protein isn’t one of them
  • How to help your kids love eating healthy and being vegan
  • The Zen of speed walking
  • The joy of owning no car
  • Pamela’s experiences with homeschooling her children in foreign countries

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The Healthy, Practical Plant-Based Diet: A Typical Day

[vegan stir fry image]

What do you eat during a typical day?

Even as the plant-based diet for athletes becomes more commonplace, people still ask me this question all the time.

And I like it — it’s an opportunity to explain that you can eat 100% plant-based and really, really healthily … without spending your life in the kitchen or subsisting on trail mix and sprouts (while living in a treehouse, I think).

I’m busy like anyone else. I have two young kids and work hard, and as a result, I’ve streamlined my diet so that it’s affordable and doesn’t take a lot of time.

But I do make food a priority, like it should be. I’m very happy with my version of a healthy, plant-based diet, and I’m happy to share it with you in this post.

A Typical Day on a Plant-Based Diet

I eat according to a few simple guidelines (e.g., until I feel mostly full). My focus is on simplicity and health, and one of the amazing things I’ve found is that over time my palate has adjusted so that simple, healthy food is the food that tastes good.

But there’s another important point here. I’ve set up my diet so that I eat the same types of meals most days until dinnertime, adding variety only within a certain category of foods (like mixing up the fruits or nuts in the smoothie, or choosing different veggies or dressing for the salad).

And what that means is that each day, there are relatively few decisions I have to make around food.

This is important because:

  1. The fewer food decisions you have to make early in the day, the better the choices you’ll make later (see: decision fatigue), and
  2. When you know ahead of time the types of meals you’ll eat, you can “engineer” your diet to include exactly what you want and none of what you don’t.

But I should add that what follows is only a “typical” day — this is the stuff I’ve consciously decided to eat on a daily basis. But because I’m a human, I like eating a muffin when my wife bakes them for the kids’ school, or the times when I have leftover (delicious) pasta for lunch instead of my usual salad. I don’t stress a bit about these little indulgences, because know that what I do most of the time is what matters.

With that, here’s what a typical day looks like for me.

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Summer Running Camp, Part 5: Race Day Walk-Through

A man in a sports uniform is running along the shore of the lake

With this week’s Equinox came the end of summer … and the official closing ceremony at the NMA Summer Running Camp.

If you missed the first four weeks of camp, here’s what we covered:

  1. Building consistency
  2. Running form
  3. How to prevent running injuries
  4. Advanced marathon training and racing with coach Jason Fitzgerald

After much consideration, Matt and I felt there was no better way to wrap things up than to head to the races.

In this week’s episode we share a complete race day walk-through. From port-o-potties to pacing, we present the whole picture and how to manage it.

Oh, and there’s a special treat at the top of this episode, so crank it up.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The days leading up to your race — what you need to know
  • What to eat on race morning
  • Port-o-potties … how to handle the lines
  • Are pacing groups helpful?
  • Dealing with the marathon bonk

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