If Your ‘Healthy’ Diet Stresses You Out, Can You Still Call It Healthy?


“No matter how healthily you’re eating, if it’s causing you stress to do so, you’re not eating healthily.”

That’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my friend, author, and (vegan) certified nutritionist, Sid Garza-Hillman. And it’s one that has changed the way I eat.

So how much stress does your diet cause you? See if any of these sound familiar:

“I struggle to get enough variety and I’m bored with my diet.”

“When I get home late from work, I usually just end up microwaving something from the freezer or getting takeout.”

“I have trouble finding time to plan ahead, and end up wasting a lot of food and eating junk.”

“A lot of times I just end up eating snacks as meals, even though I know this isn’t good.”

“I’m worried I don’t get the nutrition I need as a plant-based athlete.”

If I had a piece of tofu for every time I’ve heard one of these concerns from a No Meat Athlete reader or listener … well, I’d have a lot of tofu.

And you know what they all are, right?


What’s funny is that with all the progress plant-based diets have made in the past decade, these are the exact same issues I used to get emails about when I first started this blog seven years ago (and back then, I was dealing with the same issues myself!).

There’s a disconnect here: we’re all eating better, or at least we’re trying to. And despite some confusion around controversial foods, we know more than ever about what’s good and what’s bad, with the trend clearly moving in the direction of whole foods.

So why are so many people still having these same issues? Why is there still so much stress around eating a healthy, whole-food plant-based diet?

There’s not just one answer, but I can give you three big ones:

  1. Misconceptions about what’s actually healthy (or necessary).
  2. Overly complicated approaches to nutrition — yep, I’m calling out calorie-counting and even macronutrient ratios here.
  3. My favorite topic of all … habits. In this case, bad ones.

On that third point: rather than having a plan in place — a plan where the default is healthy food, built into the very structure your day — most people’s food choices vary wildly. And they vary according to factors that are more or less random … factors like what time they got out of work, whether they happen to have leftovers in the fridge, and let’s face it, what they happen to be craving.

It’s time to bust out of the rut, clear up the misconceptions, and simplify the way we eat.

So who did I call in? You guessed it: Sid Garza-Hillman, the guy who got me thinking this way in the first place. For an epic, 90-minute conversation around this very topic, where we break down the big three problems above to help you remove the stress from your diet … so it can be as healthy as it ought to be.

But I know 90 minutes is a lot, so to help you fit it in to your day, I’ve broken the recording into three, bite-size chunks (see what I did there?), starting with Part 1 today.

Click the play button below to listen now:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


  • Click the links below to download the MP3 file (you may need to right-click and “save link as”):


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  1. MaryEllen says:

    Looking forward to part 2!

  2. veganman says:

    I don’t understand why maximizing proteins is better than say, fat; or vitamin XYZ.
    Also, the quality of protein is to be considered; along with its type (structural, enzymes, receptors, etc.) I think it’s best not to worry too much about it.

    • Exactly! Sid makes a great point when people ask him about protein powder, saying if we needed protein powder, then why wouldn’t we need a carbohydrate powder and a fat powder? And you’re right: if you eat whole foods, then you don’t need to worry about it.

  3. Christopher Vandermeer says:

    Nice stuff, can’t wait for the other two parts. I can’t access the /health website at the moment though.

  4. Peggy Cawley says:

    I’ve been a long time listener and I think I always expect to run out of things that I get from the podcasts and emails. I’m happy to say that I’ve been wrong. I’m really excited to delve into these food plans!

    I’m curious as to how many people who are hesitant to let their tastebuds change to the fresh food “cravings” have also said “Oh, beer? It’s an acquired taste. Just try it. You’ll see.” and haven’t realized that’s exactly what they’re hesitant to do!

  5. Do we have examples of the kind of food? I ask because, living in another, middle-income, country, I (and I’d guess many other readers) don’t have access to, lets say, canned beans, canned-whatever. For example, those jamie oliver 15-minutes, 30 minutes recipes all take me 1 hour+, and I am really fast!.

    In this country, but I know this is (somehow) also true in many other ex-OCDE countries:

    – you soak beans (including chickpeas)
    – you dont just “toss” salad, you have to wash it through, including (and specially!) spinach. And pick up the leaves! I take more than 15 min for a bunch of spinach. And thats why I usually have arugula or colllard greens.
    – nut milks, you make your own (the advantage is that in many middle income countries you have access to great nuts (except for almonds – they only grow in California)

    I would love to join the meal plan project, but it has to work for me …. Lindsay meal plans did not. 🙁

  6. Candice Wyatt says:

    I am a almost 64 year old female. Smoker, ex drinker and of course overweight. I have COPD,Sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. I have been through pulmonary classes and I still attend a once every three month support group,this is where I heard about you. I now have a membership to a fitness center and try and make it three times a week. I work 20 minutes to a half hour on each of the following:rowing machine,nustep, each time. Plus I get in at least a 15 minute walk twice a day.I am trying to change the way I treat my body. So I was interested in some of the things in your book to try and improve ,even get off oxygen,loose my CPAP and improve my lung function.So I was interested in your grocery list.What I have read or heard so far sounds good

  7. Is there a transcript for these audios? I’m hard of hearing. Thanks in advance.

  8. Excellent podcast! Ive lately been thinking that whole plant based food is the way to go. I be been vegan for 10 yrs. but not always eating whole food. I’m thinking I want to eat more simply. I used to stress on calories and macronutrients. I have been sick with CFS for 6 months and since then it has changed my focus. Now I focus on eating whole plant based foods and am trying to heal my body. When I was focused on calories and macronutrients I actually thought and obsessed my food. Now I don’t. I wish other people would learn this.


  1. […] Matt Frazier invited me on his podcast this last week for an epic discussion of Stress-Free Healthy Eating (1.5 hours–broken up into […]

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