Help Me Save My Mother!

Ok readers, it’s time for me to ask you for a little diet help.  But it’s not for me; it’s for my mom, whom I’m visiting to celebrate Mother’s Day, since I was on final exam lockdown last weekend.  Mom went to the same Tony Robbins seminar that made me want to give up meat, and Tony had the same spellbinding (brainwashing?) effect on her.  Just like me, Mom cut the meat out of her diet.  Unlike me, she replaced it with garbage.

Caitlin, the author of one of my favorite blogs (Healthy Tipping Point), decided to go vegetarian just a few weeks ago.  I found this quote of hers interesting: “One thing I’ve kind of accepted is that if you’re a vegetarian, there will be times when you have to basically eat junk food instead of a healthy meal…” This is something that I haven’t experienced at all since I gave up meat!  Obviously there’s no issue when you’re cooking at home; what Caitlin is referring to is eating out.  But even then, I’ve almost always been able to find a grilled veggie wrap or something to tide me over until I get back to my veggie-marathoner friendly home.

Matt and MomBut my mom has certainly experienced what Caitlin is talking about.  And for Mom, those “times when you have to eat junk food” are all the time.  Perhaps I shouldn’t say she has replaced meat with garbage; rather, meat was about the only non-junk food in her diet, so now all that’s left is garbage.  Case in point: yesterday I suggested that we get some real food for breakfast instead of the cookies that she normally eats.  She excitedly responded, “Ok, we can go to McDonald’s and get an Egg McMuffin with no meat!”

I guess when you don’t cook at home, that’s what “real food” is.

So here’s what’s going down.  My mom has asked me to help her eat better by giving her a two-week diet plan.  She’s never eaten healthily in her life, so even though I hate the temporary diet mindset as opposed to the lifestyle mindset, I think that two weeks of eating well would at least show her how much better you feel when fuel your body with real food instead of dumping processed, preserved crap down your throat.

Sounds easy, right?  Can’t she just read this blog and make whatever I make for dinner?  Nope.  She never learned to read.

Kidding!  Illiteracy jokes are still ok, right?  The real problem is that she just opened a new deli and has to spend a lot of hours there, which means no cooking at home.  She has a small grill at the deli (a panini press, really) and a slow-cook oven that only gets up to about 300 degrees.

I’ve accepted the challenge of getting her to cook and eat healthily with just this minimal equipment.  Failure means a certain return to meat-eating, or the slow demise of my mother.  And either of those would make me very sad indeed.

This is why I need your help.  I don’t have many ideas for what she can make.  I’ll have her drink a smoothie with fruit, yogurt, flax, and a little protein powder each morning.  And some fruits and vegetables for snacks.  Other than that I’m stuck.  She can’t eat a grilled veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch and dinner every single day.

So send me your ideas for what she can make!  Maybe there are even some raw foodies among you who have some no-cook suggestions?  I’ve been wanting to try eating some more raw meals myself.  Help me save my mother!  Or, if that doesn’t motivate you, help me save the thousands of animals she’ll eat for the rest of her life if this doesn’t work!



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  1. I know it is pretty boring, but if I don’t have leftovers, I’ll just eat a wrap(or peanut butter and jelly). I basically just get a whole wheat wrap and put in spinach, tomato, cucumbers, grapes and any other veggie on hand. Just top with some sort of NMA approved dressing and eat. Its pretty simple with no cooking needed, beans could easily be added as well.

    As for the smoothie, I have been adding a half of a banana and taking out the protein powder since I didn’t like the taste of it with the powder in it. Speaking of which, I have two containers, one Vanilla and one Chocolate, that you are welcome to have. Also, the Magic Bullet is awesome for smoothies!

  2. I second Pete’s wraps…I’ve been eating pretty much that exact thing all week.
    Whole wheat pasta does require cooking, but it’s super easy to make ahead of time, and there’s a ton of different variations that can be created. I’m a big fan of making a big recipe of something (vegetable soup, chili, polenta) at the start of the week and putting it in containers to take to work.
    Also, I always have popcorn kernels, walnuts, low-fat cheese, and pita bread (for making pita chips) on hand for snacks.
    Good luck!

    Emily’s last blog post..Hypothetical Guilt-inducing Quarantine

  3. stuff people can eat while busy are better when they already cold things maybe a WW pasta salad or hummus with raw veggie and pita bread lol good luck!

  4. Hello Matt, as of now I can think of a huge variety of salads.

    Besides, I’ve come across website that have a lot of interesting raw non-meat food you could browse from.

    Spirited Miu Flavor’s last blog post..My Secret About May 13th, Picnic By The Sea & Fresh Basil From Flower Festival

  5. suganthi says:

    Just found you through the “loop” on Runner’s World.
    Not sure if this helps for now, but I suggest getting a pressure cooker at some point: both for mom and you. Easy peasy lemon squeezy to make delicious bean soups. ( I use a simple Presto cooker).

    If mom does not want to cook, how about checking out the local library for some books on Raw cooking.

    I think Amy’s frozen entrees are not too bad a choice and Kashi’s MAyan bake is delish.

    There are numerous vegan/veggie blogs, but all of them will entail some cooking.

  6. LifetimeVeggie says:

    Depending on how much/little gets her full, diced fruits and veggies are always good options–plus, they’re full of fiber, which keeps you full. Also, though it’s not the most natural of choices, you can buy rice in packets that you basically just nuke for 90 seconds in the microwave.

    Also, there are a lot of great vegetarian slow-cooker meals out there, so even if she doesn’t have time to cook, per se, maybe she can find time to throw some stuff into a crock pot and have it cook while she’s at work.

    It’s also pretty quick and easy to make some sort of grain in a large amount and top it with frozen veggies and some spices …

    Hope this helps!

  7. Does your mom actually like vegetables? Just because I’d hate to throw out recipe ideas if she won’t eat a thing in them! But I have links to all sorts of fabulous recipes and websites on my page, and there are plenty of other bloggers that do as well. For cooked ideas I love the site 101 cookbooks, you can search for ingredients…for raw ideas, I just read a lot of recipes and let people inspire me. And I think the library is a great resource for “free” cookbooks with recipe inspiration.

    But seriously, in my humble opinion, what it all comes down to is this: she will eat what she is surrounded by. I think the most important thing for you to do is go through her cupboards with her present and throw out the “bad stuff” and then replace it with good things. Let her see what is good and bad, and remind her to take the time to buy fresh fruit and veggies a couple of times a week. But then, when she is seriously hungry, and needs to throw together a quick meal…she will only have the option to throw together a fast salad, or a brown rice bowl with some veggies on top.

    Rhoni’s last blog post..Whatcha Eatin’?

    • Thanks Rhoni! You make a good point about her eating what she’s surrounded by, and that’s something that concerns me. She literally NEVER cooks at home, so what she’s surrounded by is really all the fast food places, Starbucks, etc. that she passes on the way to and from her deli.

      I read your blog and 101 cookbooks, but I haven’t really done much recipe searching there. I’ll do that when I put together a diet plan for her.

      I think that deep down she does like fresh vegetables and wholesome food. But it’s so different from what she’s used to. But she’s willing to eat whatever I tell her to for these two weeks, and I’m hoping that will be long enough to convince her that it’s the best way!

    • Erin Frazier says:

      I agree with you Rhoni! In fact, this weekend I am going to a conference and just went to the grocery store prior to leaving to stock up on healthy foods. I find when I travel it is harder to eat healthy foods because you become surrounded by vending machines and processed foods (especially in hotels). So this time I planned ahead and will feel much better for it!

  8. Also found you from runner’s world, and came here looking for recipes, not expecting to contribute one 🙂 but, here is my personal favorite quick-and-easy veggie meal (although for me it is more like a cook once and eat for a week kind of thing):
    roasted veggies–the slow-cook oven goes to 300? set it at 300, cut up any and all veggies she likes (my favorites: eggplant, squash, broccoli, grape tomatoes, carrots, peppers, onions) put a little olive oil into the bottom of a baking pan and toss all the veg in it. sprinkle with salt and pepper and put it in the oven. wait 25-30 minutes and turn / toss the veg and then pull it out in another 20-25 minutes (no need to watch closely, you can do lots of other stuff while its cooking). Its good as it is, nice and warm all by itself or as an addition to rice or pasta and if you make a bunch and keep some in the fridge its good cold in a sandwich/wrap/pita with cheese or hummus or as a salad with some balsamic vinegar sprinkled over the top. I’ve even used roasted veggies in scrambled eggs and as pizza toppings! its a good/ easy way to add more veggies/nutrition to pretty much everything–
    hope it goes well!!

  9. How about making a big pot of veggie chili? Then she has some leftovers for lunches or can freeze some for the next week.

    I also find chopping up all my veggies ahead of time really helpful. Then when I go to get a snack, it’s the easiest choice available.

    Good luck to mom!

    • Good idea! Come to think of it, she sent me a tempeh chili recipe that she made once, maybe I could get her to do that again, after checking the ingredient list.

  10. This is a recipe I adapted from The Flexitarian Diet, but it’s so easy I make it at least once a week. It’s a single serving, so she could double or triple it and make enough for several lunches.

    Caprese Pitas

    1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    1 oz mozzarella cheese, diced
    1 TBSP pine nuts
    2 TBSP Italian or balsamic vinaigrette
    1 whole wheat pita, cut in half

    Toss the first four ingredients with the dressing and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Stuff both halves of the pita with the salad and enjoy!

    Ami’s last blog post..Another Local Summer

    • This is excellent! I’d want to eat this even if it weren’t healthy. And it’s easy!

      How is the Flexitarian diet? I looked at the book and it seems like such a doable way for people to eat less meat without having to commit to not eating it all.

      • I borrowed it from the library and only actually tried several recipes from the first week of the recipe plan because I loved them so much. It’s extremely accessible and the recipes are very easy to adjust for additional servings or ingredients on hand. It would probably make a great gift for your mom and might help with the whole planning ahead and cooking for herself problem.

  11. Ha Matt, I was just checking out your site from your Twitter profile,I think this is a great thing for U to do for your mother! I wish that I could get my mom to try eating healthy!

    The easiest and the most healthy thing to do is Green smoothies,I know U may be thinking, “Green Smoothies YUK” or that she’s going to get board or go hungry, but I do two to three of these a day, and the Nutrition factor just can’t be beat and they taste absolutely DELICIOUS! I Blend all,Raw all,Organic,Mangoes, Apples, Bananas, Strew Berries, Kiwi,Bell Peppers, Mush Rooms, berries of all kinds,Cucumbers, cherry Tomatoes, Grapes, Limes, Lemons, and Most importantly, Very Green Leafy Veggies like Kale, Beet Tops, Carrot Tops,Turnips, Parsley or a whole host of other leafy Greens! Then add some Supper Foods like Cacao,Spirulina,Chlorella,MACA POWDER,Goji Berries, she can also add some Adaptogens like American and Asian Ginseng, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng, Licorice root powder to help her handle any stress,add some Raw Honey or Agave Nector to sweeten to taste if she wishes! She won’t go hungry and her body will begin to cleans and heal it self! Stay far away from those processed veggie meals! They’re just as bad as the other processed foods!!!

    I welcome U both to follow me on Twitter: and to learn more about me and my site here:
    And if I can be of any further assistance to ether or both of U, please don’t hesitate to ask!!! I’m here to help, that’s what I love to do!!!

    Amir aka Amir_HeathGuru

    P.S. I bet U would have a lot more energy and recover alot faster if U go Raw! Don’t be scared, give it a try!!!

    Amir_HealthGuru’s last blog Trailer – What Does Organic Really Mean?

  12. Are you still taking suggestions? An easy (and healthy) no-cook meal for me would be a wrap or pita filled with either hummus or guacamole and salad greens (and cut up peppers, cukes, mushrooms – whatever she likes). All of it can be found at the salad bar, all cut up and ready to go. Then grab a container of hummus or guac or other spread (pick the one with the least amount of ingredients) and a package of tortillas, pitas, wraps or lavash to stuff it all into. Good luck!

    jessica~’s last blog post..Spicy Peanut Coconut Sauce (with no actual peanuts)

    • Thanks Jessica! I’m in the process of making her diet plan now. There will definitely be a few wraps like this, and I think the spread is a great idea to make it not boring.

  13. Michaele Maurer says:

    Two words: Mark Bittman. He’s the author of a series of big fat cookbooks that might look intimidating to your mother, but they’re full of recipes that are simple, flavorful, and cheap. One of them is even a beautiful vegetarian cookbook. They’re all searchable at Get How to Cook Everything Vegetarian out of the library and start bookmarking things. Cook the first dozen or so that appeal to you. Keep some cooked beans and cooked rice in the fridge to improvise with. Even canned beans are decent.

    Meantime, for breakfast? Pilaf. Oatmeal (preferably steel-cut oats, which you can do in a crockpot or [presoaked] in a rice cooker, even) with savory things like avocado, a little goat cheese or cream cheese, leftover savory vegetables from the night before. A baked potato with highly flavored vegetables on it. And there’s nothing wrong with a side of salad for breakfast.

    Here’s a great Bittman jumpstart – 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less: More than half the suggestions are meatless.

    Also, have her check out his blog at the New York Times:

    Oh, and re Kelly’s suggestion of veggie chili: HTCE Veg has a beautiful bulgur chili that is full of flavor and sticks to your ribs – and bulgur is cheap!

  14. Michaele Maurer says:

    NoMeatAthlete, you said:

    The real problem is that she just opened a new deli and has to spend a lot of hours there … She has a small grill at the deli (a panini press, really) and a slow-cook oven that only gets up to about 300 degrees.

    Hey! Mama has the beginnings of a kitchen! I mean, what is she selling at that deli? Why can’t she have a cold case full of wonderful vegetable dishes from Bittman’s “101 10-minute meals” list? She could serve all the vegetarians in town, and the carnivores could “just add a ham sandwich.” 🙂

    • Good idea! Even if they were just side dishes that would appeal to non-vegetarians as well. A few side dishes can make a pretty good vegetarian meal. I’ve actually read Mark Bittman’s Food Matters (and wrote my recent “Moderation” post about a problem I had with it), but I haven’t made any recipes from his cookbooks. You’re right that they’re huge and intimidating! I’ll get some from the library, my new favorite place.

  15. Michaele Maurer says:

    Speaking of side dishes, a little invention of my own: finely grated carrots, raisins, a little sweetener, a squeeze of lemon or orange juice, and garam masala – or other warm spices like you’d put in a cake. Maybe a few crumbs of orange zest too.

  16. Guess Mom’s trial period is over but this is a great topic. I am seriously veg (31 years) and at work every day. My quick lunch favorites: baked tofu (Tofu Lin from SoyBoy is my favorite), on toast, with mayo and drained salsa; hummus (in every grocery store now), on toast with salsa; toast, cheese, mayo, salsa …Well, you get the idea. When I forget the bread I have crackers. When I can, leftovers from dinner — but your mom won’t have any! When there’s nothing else, peanut butter on whatever (or on nothing), or a commercial protein shake mixed with water. Keeps me going!
    My husband found you and he made the tempeh with peanut sauce tonight — just right — I still feel the warmth. Thanks!

    • Thanks for all the ideas and I’m glad you liked the tempeh! My favorite tempeh recipe so far is buffalo tempeh wraps, but that’s just because I’m a buffalo junkie. My mom’s trial really isn’t over, she’s still looking for ways to eat better. She’s on a diet right now that I don’t really like (something like 1200 calories a day, I don’t like calorie-counting), but I’ll keep trying to give her new ideas!

  17. Kelsey H says:

    if all your mom has eaten her life is basically meat and junk food, then i would try hard to get her to TRY other things. there’s a whole (sometimes scary) world of food out there and once she realizes how much freedom there is in having a varied pallette from which to choose what she wants to eat she will realize how many options and not limitations she does have. get her passionate about cooking or planning meals for herself and the easiest way to do that is for her to find something that she really likes?

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