10 Simple Guidelines for Eating Healthier than Ever
The more I learn about habits, the more I believe that simplicity is the best policy — especially when it comes to food.
I’m not a fan of restrictions or numbers when it’s time to eat. People often email me to ask why I don’t include nutrition facts with the recipes on No Meat Athlete, and I always answer that I simply don’t believe they’re good, except perhaps in cases where extreme weight loss is required.
Food, and the time we spend eating it, should be enjoyed — it’s one of the great pleasures of life, and to constrain it with complicated rules and numbers is completely unnatural.
Simple is good
Simplicity is the reason Michael Pollan’s three-sentence manifesto from In Defense of Food resonated so well (“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”). And the stickiness of that phrase is probably what led Pollan to write Food Rules, another goodie full of short, memorable rules-of-thumb like “Eat only what your great-grandmother would recognize as food.”
And so here I list the simple food rules I live by. They’re not meant to be as catchy or easy to remember as Pollan’s, but they’re an honest distillation of what I believe is the healthiest way to eat. Not just this month, or until you lose those last 15 pounds, but for life.
1. Avoid processed foods and choose whole, unrefined foods instead.
This one should come as a no surprise. It’s listed first because if you were to throw out every other message you’ve heard about healthy food and retain only the three words “eat whole foods,” you would dramatically improve the way you eat if you’re currently doing something different.
But this single guideline flies in the face of the way people eat in the Western world today, so you’ll have to reject the shiny pseudo-food that food manufacturers want you to buy.
Some specific examples of what this rule implies:
- Brown rice instead of white.
- Fruits instead of fruit juice.
- Whole wheat flour instead of white (more on wheat in a bit though)
2. Get most of your food from plants.
I’m not asking you to become vegetarian or vegan if you’re not already and it doesn’t appeal to you — I like to provide tools and hopefully some inspiration to do so, but it’s never been my M.O. to try to coerce people who aren’t ready.
Unlike many other vegetarians and vegans, I tend not to believe that animal foods are inherently bad for you (dairy products are an exception — I don’t think drinking milk from another species makes any sense). We’ve seen that people can thrive on a variety of omnivorous and plant-based diets, and I think we’re built to handle either one pretty well.
The problem with meat, to me, is the sheer amount most people consume. While our ancestors might have gone several days between successful hunts and the meat that resulted, modern people treat every meal like a post-hunt feast. The caloric density of that much meat leaves little room for other foods, and puts a digestive load on our bodies that leaves us feeling sluggish and full for hours after big meals.
People in many other countries than the United States use meat as a flavoring agent — or as a side dish, perhaps, but rarely as the focus of the meal. I believe that if you’re going to continue to eat meat, this is the healthy way to do it
3. Cook your own food.
To follow the first guideline of eating whole foods nearly dictates that you prepare your own food. Nonetheless, I’ve included it because it runs counter to the way so many people now obtain their meals.
Several posts on this site are dedicated to helping you make your way into the kitchen and start cooking. But it doesn’t stop with preparing meals: just about any food worth eating can be prepared at home, bringing you one step closer to the food you eat and giving you complete knowledge of every single ingredient that goes into it.
Here are a few things you might be tempted to buy that you can make at home with equipment no more sophisticated than a food processor or high-speed blender.
- Baba ganoush
- Sauces: tomato, barbecue, ketchup
- Nut butters
- Flour from grains or beans
- Sports drinks
4. Make raw fruits and vegetables a big part of your diet.
There’s a lot of debate over the virtues of raw versus cooked food. Some say that raw food is more easily digested, since digestive enzymes that exist in the raw state are denatured by excessive heat. On the other hand, many foods are inedible unless cooked, and cooking is something that has gone on for much our existence (long enough to have influenced our evolution).
I take the middle ground on this one, choosing to eat foods in both states. But since we’re so used to eating cooked foods, it’s only raw foods that we need to make a conscious effort to make sure we eat each day.
One of the best habits you can develop is that of having a mostly-raw smoothie each morning and a big salad each afternoon. Combine this with a few pieces of fresh fruit for snacks throughout the day, and you’re getting a significant amount of wholesome, raw food without even thinking about it. Which brings me to guideline number 5.
5. Drink a smoothie and eat a salad every single day.
Even if you ate whatever you wanted the rest of the day, I’d be willing to bet you wouldn’t get fat as long as you made sure to drink a smoothie and eat a big salad every single day.
Sure, if you were to eat at McDonald’s for lunch and Outback for dinner the rest of the time, you could probably succeed at packing on a few pounds. But here’s the thing.
The smoothie and salad act as “anchors” that keep you on track, to remind you just how great it feels to put real, fresh fruits and vegetables in your body. After you start the day with a smoothie, McDonald’s for lunch doesn’t seem so good anymore. And when it’s time to start thinking about dinner, the salad is there to help you make a good choice.
In this way, those two healthy meals turn into three or four … which doesn’t leave much room for junk.
6. Don’t eat too much wheat. (Or any one food, really!)
I realize that you might have no desire to stop eating bread and wheat pasta. And that’s fine; I don’t either.
But so many food products in our culture are now based on wheat that it’s very easy for it to show up in every single meal you eat if you don’t pay attention! Relying so heavily on a single food just doesn’t make much sense, even before you consider the reasons many top athletes now cite for avoiding wheat.
People have varying levels of sensitivity to wheat. For some people, gluten is tremendously difficult and inefficient to digest. For others, the sensitivity isn’t so severe that it’s recognized as a problem, but wheat nevertheless may adversely affect their energy levels. Problems associated with gluten occur even with 100% whole wheat products, not just refined wheat flour (which most athletes avoid anyway, except at certain key times around workouts).
The good news is that there are now plenty of good alternatives to wheat products, especially when it comes to pasta, the runners’ staple. My favorite is spelt pasta, but there are lots of other varieties, made from rice, quinoa, and even chickpea flour.
My suggestion: Don’t cut out wheat completely, but limit it to one meal a day instead of three or four, or ideally to just a few meals a week, just like any other food.
7. Eat a wide variety of foods.
If the idea of eating a mostly-vegetarian diet doesn’t appeal to you, it’s likely that you view it as a “taking away” process. Maybe your meals are centered around meat, and without it, the plate would seem pretty empty.
But the reality is quite different than that. If you’re mindful of what you eat and don’t simply rely on vegetarian junk food, you’ll actually end up adding many foods to your diet as you’re forced to go outside of your normal routine and explore new options at home and in restaurants.
This is a great thing for your health. It means you’ll get a broad mix of vitamins and minerals, rather than potentially getting way more than you need of certain ones and none of many others, as you might if you were to eat the same few foods over and over.
8. With the exception of a daily smoothie, don’t drink your calories.
If you’ve paid any attention to healthy eating over the past few years, this guideline probably isn’t new.
It’s essentially a restatement of the “eat whole foods” guideline, since most drinks with substantial amounts of calories are processed.
Since drinks — even fruit juices — take up relatively little room in your stomach, it’s very easy to take in way too many calories before you feel full.
This reasoning applies to smoothies as well, since you can drink much more fruit when it’s blended into a smoothie than you could eat whole. But as long as they’re made with whole ingredients, I give them a pass since they’re such a great way to start the day with a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables.
But please, do whatever it takes to stop drinking soda, even the diet kind. It’s caffeinated sugar water — or fake-sugar water, perhaps worse — and it has no place in a healthy diet.
9. Eat when you’re hungry, but make sure you really are hungry.
Eating is one of the true joys in our lives, and to me, imposing a limit significantly takes away from that.
Fortunately, if you’re eating the right foods, limiting your intake is unnecessary unless you’ve got a serious weight problem. As we’ve mentioned several times now, when you eat foods that contain all of their original nutrients and are in a form close to their natural one, your body will naturally feel full. The stretch and density receptors in your stomach tell your brain that you’ve had enough for now, and additional intake will become uncomfortable.
That is, if you give your body a chance to realize you’re full. Rushing through your meals sidesteps the system, allowing you to take in excess food before your stomach has had a chance to sense fullness. So take your time, chew your food, and pay attention to how you feel.
The Japanese have a phrase hara hachi bu, which refers to the practice of eating only until you are 80 percent full. It works well because there’s a lag time between when you eat a food and when you feel its volume in your stomach. Start paying attention to how full you feel, and use that as an indicator of when you should stop eating — instead of waiting until your plate is clean or the sitcom is over.
10. Break these rules from time to time.
To me, this guideline is crucial. Especially if you’re new to eating healthily, the idea of “I can never eat ___ again” is poison to your long-term goals.
I’m not saying you should break all of them. Some — like eating only plant foods — may carry with them an ethical obligation for you, in which case you probably won’t wish to break them ever.
But for the most part, I think being flexible in your approach to food is healthier, and better for your entire being, than being overly restrictive at every meal of your life.
So break these rules when the time is right. For some, like Tim Ferriss, that means having a “cheat day” once a week where you can eat literally any food you want, and being uber-strict the rest of the time. If such extremity doesn’t work for you, find an alternative plan for allowing yourself to zig instead of zag.
Best of all, strive to reach the point where you don’t need a plan — indulge when the rare situation arises, knowing that your healthy way of eating is so ingrained that you’re not at risk for “falling off the wagon” because of a single transgression.
Don’t forget … start!
What it comes down to, at the most basic level, is cooking your own food with real, whole ingredients. It takes more planning, more time, and probably more money than the alternative. But with practice it’ll become easier, and soon a habit will form and this way of eating will be second nature.
And in all likelihood, that means more time and money down the road, in the form of a longer, healthier life and fewer medical bills.
There’s no better time than now to start. Once you do, I promise you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.
One of the best things since going vegan is being able to eat as much as I want, not count calories and not gain a pound. I am so in tune with my body now and just listen to what and how much it wants! Great post Matt!
I agree with you totally! Going Vegan have done wonders for me. Also, thanks matt for this informative post.
This is all such good advice. I’ve been vegan for a few years but never really felt an improvement in my health because I still ate a lot of junk and processed foods. For the past few months however I’ve been eating mostly whole foods (including a smoothie and salad each day)and I really feel better-more healthy and energetic! Plus, I’m down to the same weight I was in high school, 25 years ago! To save time, I buy the prewashed bags of greens (romaine, spinach and kale), and to save money I buy beans in bulk and cook them in the crock pot. I’m certain my grocery bill is less than it was when I bought meat and processed foods. I hope everyone who reads this takes your advice and tries this way of eating-the benefits far outweigh what you might think you’re sacrificing (and besides, you can always have that (vegan) pizza and beer once in a while, just not every night!).
GREAT advice! I think people get so overwhelmed with nutrition advice that they just give up. Really, it doesn’t have to be hard and it’s not black and white – eating well is not an all or nothing proposition.
I do disagree with the smoothie thing though! It’s like a soda, with fiber!
Have to agree with the smoothie thing. One day I will write a vegan cookbook called “not another stinkin’ smoothie!”
Know what tastes better than a smoothie? Fruit. and Kale. And spinach. Prepared and eaten seperately. And they are a more satisfying way to consume your calories.
I just don’t get what the whole smoothie thing is all about.
I love my morning smoothie because it is my nutritional powerhouse – an apple, spinach (or kale or beet greens), hemp protein, chia, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon. Something I can blend together, eat and digest quickly before my morning workout. It gives me a ton of energy and takes very little time. I can’t imagine eating 2 cups of raw greens for breakfast – but yet I drink it in a smoothie. I wholly disagree with the “soda with fiber” comment – my drink is loaded with phytonutrients – but I think if you are drinking a mostly fruit based smoothie it can negatively affect your blood sugar.
I totally agree that my morning smoothie must be a powerhouse. I couldn’t possibly get in enough greens if I didn’t put them in a smoothie! This week I couldn’t make my smoothies (too busy at work to go to the store) and I don’t feel as well. Smoothies are the way to go for optimum health!
I think that the problem is most people do not realize how much vegetables we really should be “eating” every day. People are so used to the farmer’s diet level of vegetables, that when they substitute more vegetables for the meats and poultry they aren’t eating, they think its “good enough”. I try to have a smoothie every day on top of my usual meals.
Agreed…. Completely unsatisfying to drink your calories. Only works for people who don’t really like food. Plus, all the fruit he mentions is a TON of sugar, and for middle-aged women, raw can wreak havoc on hormones.
I add Protein to my smoothies, and it does satisfy. I also do not use a Smoothie as a meal replacement. Its not meant to be one – no matter what some companies say. Sure, having a two day vegetable-juice smoothie fast is beneficial once in a while, but I prefer to add real food to go with that smoothie. Protein and fiber does help fill you up on a Vegan diet. I also eat lots of nuts. A cup of Wild Strawberries have been proven to help reduce chances of colon cancer. Raspberries also help.
I drink a green smoothie every morning and I love food. It works for me and many others.
Smoothies or fresh pressed juices are an amazing way to sneak in fruits and veggies that you have no desire to eat but hold high benefit for your body. I don’t feel nearly as good without my morning smoothie.
Hi Lynda – I agree. I used to have Green Smoothies. I so much more enjoy just eating the fruit and greens having them separately instead of blending them together.
No it’s not lol. If you make a smoothie right. It’s very healthy and will definitely do your body good. If you have fifty million fruits and no good veggies or leafy greens in there maybe but if it has the right stuff in it smoothies can do wonders for your health and weight loss. It’s been working wonders for me. I love food by the way. You should not give out false information
It totally depends on what’s in the smoothie: if it’s kale and/or spinach and/or cilantro with Dulse and a cup or two of raw berries, like blueberries, it is definitely NOT like a soda!!!
Sound advice for anyone, thanks! I was just marveling today, because a Carl’s Jr (Hardee’s) flier with coupons came in the mail, that I can’t even eat that stuff anymore, much less crave it. That’s the power of eating whole foods and cutting out soda. Over time, the right choice becomes the appealing choice!
NMA rules; can’t believe how much good advice I have gotten from you that I use every day (i.e. the ultimate smoothie recipe for one example). So the chance to get a new blender and use it for more of your great ideas sounds awesome!
I just wanted to mention that spelt is wheat. So if a person is trying to avoid wheat, they should also avoid spelt.
true, spelt is hulled wheat, however, wheat is not an issue for the vast majority of people
unless you have an actual intolerance or celiac, it’s not an issue
gluten free is not necessarily healthy
I don’t really agree with the “eat only when you’re hungry” concept. Eating only when really hungry generally leads to gorging/over-eating, whereas eating regular, smaller, closely spaced meals leads to fewer calories consumed, a more consistent sense of fullness, and likely a more steady blood sugar level.
Hey! Spanner in the works! Haha. I am a recovered bulimic so I can definitely relate to this. I have always felt quite weak for eating every few hours but reading this post it reminds me of why I do it. Like you said, to prevent extremes. Thanks.
Thank you for your insightful post, Matt.
Homemade anything is always better because there is the addition of the magical ingredient of love. There is the benefit, too, of quality control. Thanks to my health conscious husband, all my baked goods are made with organic ingredients. Previously I received compliments from friends and family, now I receive rave reviews.
Also my husband is sensitive to wheat so I’ve become an expert in gluten-free sweets. I’ve noticed most folks enjoy my gluten-free on equal footing with my wheat flour goodies. So your point about reducing wheat is right on track. As is your comment about
hara-hachi-bu (腹八分). In New York Times Bestseller Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God she focuses quite a bit on the importance of listening to and respecting the body.
Again, many thanks for a great post.
Great post! I agree with most of your rules and have been following them for quite a while already.
I personally disagree on the daily smoothie part, though. No matter how many healthy fats, protein powder, and fiber I add, a smoothie never keeps me full for more than one hour. Maybe it’s because I prefer to eat/chew my food. Plus, I don’t like cold or frozen dishes during fall or winter. Instead of a daily smoothie, I eat plenty of whole, raw fruit (mostly bananas, apples, and seasonal fruit) instead.
Fab tips! I quite agree it is sometime hard to follow these directions to eat healthy food. That’s why from time to time I allow you to eat something delicious and full of calories, just make my soul satisfied. I guess one small piece of cake won’t harm your health.
There are many disputes about raw and cooked food. But I can sure you that both of them are beneficial and I think it doesn’t matter to argue what food is best. I prefer to mix it up and have excellent results.
Vegetable food is really useful to practive as a good way of body detoxification and losing weight. I was a vegetarian for 7 weeks. And what I had is 17 pounds lost, neutralized body and good mood. Thanks for your comments! It is kind of vigorous for me.
Nice one Matt
I keep it even simpler. Leave the animal products out as well. Just eat plants 🙂
And why not consume any animal products you may ask, well, I’ll give the simplest answer there is (like I usually do when people ask why I do not consume any animal products): ¨I do not have to, so, why should I?¨
This breaks down to three sub reasons:
1. It is better for you, as an animal (there are no extra beneficial reasons to eat meat for your health unless you only consume vegan junk food that is, but as you say, eat as much whole food as possible and you can’t go wrong)
2. It is better for the environment.
3. It is definitely better for all the sentient beings that does not have to die because we like to eat their flesh!
I do agree with the idea of not making things to complicated. Personally I like cooked food but I usually eat raw from I wake up until I make dinner (starting the day with a green smoothie, eating fruit as snacks through the day and a big salad for lunch) and make warm food at night. Living in an tempered climate… This is for me the best balance.
I do a lot of sports, and I do them a lot and going vegan is, without a doubt, the best thing I ever done. Not only for because I am very active but it does have had a huge influence on my results, weight, recovery. But I must say, the biggest benefit is that my conscious is clean, no one dies (intentionally) because of me.
Ps. stay of the coffee Matt, Just do It 😉
don’t do it matt. coffee is the same as mate or green tea. In moderation it’s not bad for you and can even have beneficial antioxidant properties, as long as you drink it black.
I still disagree with the “coffee is evil” group. Like anything else a person eats or drinks, I think these two rules apply:
1) moderation is key and
2) everyone’s body is different and thus so is the level of what is moderate for a person. You can only figure this out by trial and error with your own body.
I agree with the general thrust of your post, though, and think that healthier eating is a matter of changing habits.
Excellent reply. I’ve been a vegetarian and now vegan almost all my life. I eat both cooked and raw food. My doctor said of my last blood test – stellar!’
I love having a smoothie every morning. I notice that when I don’t, I feel extremely sluggish and just down. I’m not sure why Sharon feels a smoothie is just like a soda with fiber.
here’s some stats on soda – http://www.onecanofsoda.com/
according to this a can of soda has 40 grams of sugar per 12 oz. now a premade naked brand smoothie (berry veggie) has 18 grams of sugar per 15 oz. (I used the premade to just give an idea of sugar)
the soda has nasties besides sugar, such as sodium benzoate. check out what soda does to you here – http://dailyinfographic.com/the-harmful-effects-soda
as far as the smoothie – yeah it has sugar, all natural fruit sugars, and if you make it at home you can add more veggies than fruit and reduce those sugars. you can’t even compare sodas to smoothies when you look at all the harmful things in soda. if sugar is your only complaint, you haven’t a solid argument against it.
the benefits you get with a smoothie though – antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – are worth drinking them. soda can never give you that; to the contrary, it zaps them from your body.
in the end, you have to do what’s right for your body, so if a smoothie doesn’t make you feel good, don’t drink it. if it does, i wouldn’t worry about it.
Great comment! “In Defense of Smoothies” 😉
totally agree! I have a smoothie every morning – 2 bananas, 2-3 C different baby greens, sometimes hemp seeds or hemp protein, water – I feel great and it’s an easy way to get your greens on days when you don’t feel like a salad
Great tips. Just to clarify: spelt is actually a variety of wheat and contains gluten, so not a substitute for wheat. Rice, quinoa and millet are good gluten-free alternatives to wheat. Oats are often milled in a factory with wheat, so look for oats which say ‘gluten-free’ if you have a sensitivity. Hope this helps.
Thanks for the tips Matt! I started following a part raw, part cooked vegan diet exactly a month ago today. I tried vegan before, earlier in the year, but noticed that I was relying more on processed foods. Now, I’m cooking every day and eating whole, amazing foods. It’s taken some time for my palate to change – I still have a few cravings for overly salty foods, but in general – my emotional eating health has been better than ever. I can’t wait to get my bloodwork done to see the effect that change has had internally. While I haven’t lost a ton of weight (which I really need to do), I’m definitely making progress. Your tips are ones that I will be able to use while losing weight and when I’m ready to maintain as well.
“hara hachi bu”
I’ve been doing this in the past year, and even when I don’t exercise, it manages to keep my weight stable and my fat minimal.I highly recommend it.
Chewing slowly and appreciating the taste of food is something I also do and recommend. I’ve noticed most people eat their food quickly, which not only has you eat more than you should, but you actually can’t taste the food as much as if you have it spend more time on your tongue. Consequently, less taste enjoyment. I have a guess that our satiation is becoming more based on the mind and less on the tongue. We’re training ourselves to enjoy eating more, when we could be getting the same enjoyment from eating slow. Maybe more!
Great post Matt,
I find it hard to make good smothies in the winter. Always eat the big salad once or twice a day. I need to learn to stop buying the chips.
Great information in this post! It’s posts like this that make me a regular at NMA!
I’ve had some debates with friends lately on the subject of “food should be fun”. While I certainly cook (vegan) meals that I enjoy, isn’t it mantras like this that glorify food as a form of entertainment? If we start thinking about food as an engergy source first and making enjoyment a secondary concern, aren’t we better off? While I have no grounds to argue that we should NEVER look at food as a source of enjoyment, I think that the “food should be fun” feels much more like a justification for unhealthy, unnatural, processed foods. It pains me to hear friends say “I could never be vegan because I ENJOY meats and dairy too much” because they seem to be putting the entertainment value of food ahead of it’s true purpose. “Foods” that are heavily processed with refined sugars and fats should never be considered food as they provide ZERO nutritional benefit; so a healthy approach towards what we ingest would never justify this, even on a cheat day!
Of course, none of us are completely impervious to the food marketing that helps us justify terrible food choices (and beer, but that markets iteself!) but I think this fundamental notion of food as a form of entertainment is a dangerous one. It seems to me that if there was a disconnect between food and entertainment; soda, fast food and everything else sites like this fight against would not exist.
Just some “food” for thought.
I think it depends on your idea of entertainment. I think it’s like any other form of entertainment: the more you know and become educated on the subject of food and nutrition, the more you enjoy different natural flavors. Most food marketed to us is equivalent of a Britney Spears song or The Jersey Shore- cheap, easy, and offensive to anyone who has developed a sense of taste in music and or television.
If you want a truly entertaining food experience, try growing cherokee purple tomatoes. My dad has grown them the last few years, and we look forward to them as if we were going to hear Beethoven’s 9th being performed. They are that good.
But most people do cheat and get that quick satisfaction from animal products (it is cheating if you add sugar,butter, cream, bacon, or duck fat to a dish) instead of developing their palates to learn how creamy an avocado can be, or how sweet a fresh apple can be.
Yup. That’s the subject of my second cookbook. If I actually stop being a slacker and write it.
I love your take on this. It’s certainly not as black and white as perhaps I’ve suggested and it’s refreshing to hear about someone who has taken a healthy approach to “eating for fun”. I am just now developing a real appreciation for these great tastes you mention in plant-based whole foods and even more of a disdain for those animal fat-based tastes. I just think an overwhealming majority of our population has an unhealthy relationship with food by way of ignoring our most inherent reason for eating, which is to fuel our bodies. I think we can both agree that the foods most readily available to us are far too high in fat and salt and way too low on the nutrients our bodies need for enegery (also fueling our obsession with caffeine and energy drinks). I just think that this fundamentally accepted notion that food is a source of pleasure and entertainment BEFORE it is a source of fuel is a big reason why obesity and rising health care costs have become such an issue.
I do believe that relationships with food that are like yours, with a great appreciation for the unbelievable tastes available to us naturally that are the benchmark for a healthier culture.
I hope that you get that cookbook out so I can continue on my way to fully appreciating these great foods!
Yeah, I agree that the way our culture associates food and recreation is often unhealthy (Do you NEED that giant vat of trans fat filled popcorn and gallon of soda to enjoy your movie?).
And one thing I love about this blog is that it has made me actually think about myself as an athlete, something I’ve never done before (athletes are those popular jocks who played varsity sports in high school, right?) and therefore made me be more aware of the direct correlation of what I eat and how I feel when I run the next day.
Just always found a subtle irony in the fact that the cultures that really enjoy and savor their foods, you will almost always find less meat and more plant-based and whole foods (i.e. Asia and the Mediterranean).
Dave makes some great points about how we view food. I think food is often used as a distraction or compensation for lack of satisfaction. Like having drinks at the bar when what we really want is just to connect to the people there.
You’ve nailed it, Matt! It really is that simple.
I love all your posts! You are an inspiration!
Matt, I enjoy your blog and I am a plant based runner and athlete for several years. I don´t consume any animal products except the occassional piece of cheese or cupcake someone brought to work. With that said, it was a good blog you wrote except where you mention, that you dont believe meat is bad for you, I think if you are giving people information, you have to give them all the information, as an athlete I encourage you to watch the film FORKS OVER KNIVES and if really keen, read The China Study or tune into nutritionfacts.org, where a doctor discusses plant based diets based on research in over 100,00 short video (2 minute) clips, its really helpful as a veggie and an athlete. Keep up the good work.
I agree, meat and animal products are actually bad for you, even in moderation or rarely. This is because most meat is considered by the world health organization as the same class of carcinogen as cigarettes (I’ve never seen a marathoner or triathlete light up a cigarette) and blood vessel clogging cholesterol is ONLY present in animal products, and complications and disease because of cholesterol kill almost 600k people annually in USA alone.
I love my green smoothies and I’m slightly confused as to why they would be compared to soda… Fruit, greens, and hemp protein are a pretty safe bet. It’s been the best way for me to sneak on my spinach since becoming pregnant and finding I have serious aversions to leafy greens (there went the bulk of my lunches). Also finding myself eating a lot of wheat products these days– anyone have some vegan pregnancy advice to help with this?
All good points but one particularly hit home with me. When I was a child and ate dinner at friends’ homes, I was astounded at how many had a loaf of bread on the table–even when rolls, potatoes and/or rice were being served! Mom told me it came from the Great Depression era when food was scarce and bread was cheap, so it was the mainstay of many meals. We traditionally only ate bread at lunchtime in our family…although it wasn’t very healthy with bologna and Miracle Whip between the slices! Tasty though…
A bit late for sure, but to expand on the idea of not viewing eating more vegetables as a “taking away” process, as a meat-loving runner who switches to vegetarian/mostly-vegetarian when training, I always cook dishes that are traditionally vegetarian. I steer clear of veggie-burgers, vegetarian chili, etc, and make dall saag or beans and rice or what-have-you. Delicious dishes where it doesn’t feel like anything’s missing or been replaced. Because nothing is or has been.
You’ve piqued my interest about making flour from grains or beans. Since you didn’t include a link, I’m guess you haven’t written about it…yet. Can you recommend a site with instructions on how to do this or create a post explaining your process? Thanks!
The easiest way to make your own flour is to invest in a vitamix. Honestly, I was skeptical at first, because it is a huge investment, but I have made quinoa and oat flour in it and both took less than two minutes to get to pastry quality flour. And I have to say that after reading someone’s post about the blender being the key to the perfect smoothie, the vitamix even turned me into a smoothie convert. While I still prefer eating my breakfast to drinking it, in a pinch, you can make a satisfying meal in a vitamix (also makes soups/salad dressings/dips). Ok. Infomercial over.
My saving grace is soup. I make big pots of delicious broths and then freeze them in meal sizes. I eat them hot or cold but especially cold in our hot weather in South Africa. I add all my beans and legumes, guinoa, chicpeas, splitpeas ( whatever I feel like) lots of veg, tumeric and cayanne pepper. Sometimes with tomatoes, sometimes without as I eat a lot of raw tomatoes. It is my “grab a meal” and my “comfort food” . I don’t use recipes but create them as I go along.
A soup a salad a smoothy and a run a day and I dont even have to think about the rest!
Thanx Matt, love LOve your work.
As with any choices in life – the devil is in the details. The healthfulness of your smoothie depends on what you put into it. If you make your thick blended beverage more like a ice cream shake or a neon colored sugar and ice cup then it is terrible for your health but if you put in greens, maybe some other veggies, etc. and some fruit (close to the whole thing not just the bottled juice) then it will be full of real natural food which has real natural vitamins, fiber, protein (depending on the ingredients of course). I am adding more veggies to my diet as I am reading The Hormone Cure and it recommends eating 1 pound of produce a day. I haven’t started following the recommendations yet but I have decided to add more. If you feed your body the nutrients that each system and organ in your body needs you can help it to function better. I cringe every time people I know eat processed garbage-as-food and act as if food is just for taste and to fill their bellies without even considering it can either enhance your health or damage it based on the specific food choices over time. One other thing about eating meat is you are eating all the fat soluble junk they ate and also the hormones and antibiotics they were given to get fatter quicker to make more profit. Any wonder why a significant portion of the country is ailing health-wise and have so many problems related to weight gain, etc.? A significant portion of the population eats junk, processed food grown on artificial growth enhancers in the form of fertilizers, GMOs, antibiotics and hormones in animals, etc. all done with the specific intent of increasing mass quickly — do humans want to increase in mass quickly? I know I don’t so I don’t want to eat that stuff.
I read through all the posts again and I wanted to add a few thoughts:
IN terms of when to eat, Matt had said in his post about waiting until we are really hungry and someone commented that could lead to overeating – I don’t think Matt meant to wait until you are so ravenous you will grab anything you can get your hands on and in as large a quantity as is available and keep searching for more, stuffing yourself until your belly hurts. I think he meant to eat when you are truly hungry and not to eat if you are bored, angry, stressed out, upset, etc. I know sometimes when I have had a bad day I want to plop on the couch and eat something comforting and if I do this without checking in as to the ‘why’ then I could eat a whole bag of something but when I check myself for why I am reaching for it I can see that the real problem is the stress or whatever happened that day. This is not to say I then don’t have a reasonable portion which I have been known to do, stress eating and all.
Also, in terms of food composition – it astounds me that so many people will choose to spend their money on cigarette, alcohol, eating eating junk and low quality food – too many times in too much excess (well OK, some things are to much excess with even once) and also spend considerable amounts of money on other luxury things but then complain about the cost of their medications. If they modified their lifestyle and food choices they could, with so many health related conditions but maybe not all, improve their state of health that they may need less of the medications or not need them at all. Food and beverages can do more than just give us energy, hydrate us, and provide fiber to keep us regular — those are the categories people often take supplemental products for – energy drinks, caffeine, beverages with too much sugar (or fake), sodium, artificial flavors, colors, etc. all in the guise of being hydrated and fiber supplements when people could accomplish these things by eating better quality food in its natural or close to natural form and drinking actual water. The other benefit is each organ and cell of our body would be more likely to then have the real nutrients they need to function optimally thus leading to a better quality of health. When people exist on overly processed, artificial ingredients and enhancers, an excess of sodium, salt or fat they may be mouth-happy but their body is crying out for help. Their organs may have to ‘make-do’ with inferior substitutions when it is trying to rebuild it’s cells and manage daily functions. One good example is the thyroid which I have been told will absorb or try to use other halides than iodine but doing so will lead to thyroid problems which may go unnoticed for a long time leading to health problems which may be undiagnosed as they could be mistaken for other health problems or thought to be caused by something else other than iodine deficiency. That is of course, just one simplified example. But if our bodies are replacing all the cells every 7 years (that’s what I have heard, is that right?) I would think we would need to provide the nutrients the body needs and not some inferior crap that will become the fat soluble toxins lodged in our body for years along and prevent our organs and body systems from functioning as intended not to mention making us gain weight. So my approach is to spend my money on high quality, natural food and take the time as often as I can to prepare the food at home. I actually think this is fun! I try new recipes, I modify old favorites to make them healthier and I invent new dishes and my hubby and almost 3 year old son love it almost all of the time. The old adage is true: You are what you eat. Thus if you eat low quality, cheap crap you will build a crappy body that can’t hold up to the demands you place on it. Thanks for giving a me a place to blather on.
These are food principles I am now sticking to, quite simply, because they work! Learned this years ago, only wish I had stuck to it years ago. No matter, I’m doing it now, and thank God, I have made this a way of life. Simply Balanced and Nutritious, because it works. Thanks Matt! For your awesome posts! You continue to inspire me every day! 🙂
I’m trying to eat healthier, but am having difficulty with not enough calories. What do you do?
Hi guys a lot of people of commenting hoping to get advice and help ? I decided to going vegetarian again. I don’t care about the welfare of animals and I hoping chnage in a mind setting and body. Ineed help for the types of food and buy I don’t have a lot of money to fresh fruit and veg all the time. I work it a one very well known fast food restaurant as a supervisor 8 hour shifts so I can on having fruit carrot bag and salad or buying a suitable protein powder and have if as a shake
Thanks so much for these “rules,” including the one insisting rules are made to be broken. My wife and I went vegetarian early in 2015 and it’s been fantastic. Healthier, leaner and happier with all the energy I need to do workouts. Starting to train for another half IM in 2016 and perhaps a third IM in 2017 depending on how a new hip responds to the pounding. But joint pain is gone throughout the body in the post-meat world. Thanks for your help.
Hey thanks for the nice advice! i really love the approach, and none strict and extremest attitude about different type of foods, neither telling you will go to hell if you eat meat lol its so great to read, as i love cake and wine the most, and its so difficult to see all the diet plans saying no this is b ad this is bad and cutting out everything, instead of giving good other options…. i think it have to be enjoyable to be maintained in the long run! i suggested this site to everybody even my meat eating friends as they can benefit from it as well!
One thing that keeps me motivated is finding new vegetables to cook. Maybe it’s something I tried at a restaurant and loved, or something from the produce shelf that is unfamiliar. This week’s experiment is eggplant! Thanks, Matt, for the inspiration.
I like your simple suggestions and appreciate the honesty. The one thing that I would like to add is about raw versus cooked vegetables. You are absolutely correct that a healthy combination of both is the best way to consume veggies! I studied nutrition science and physiology for my bachelors degree and I think you have a healthy perspective. You mentioned a common misconception that raw vegetables might be easier to digest because of enzymes in the food. This is not actually true and quite the opposite. First of all when you eat something raw your body will digest it prior to absorbing it’s nutrients. This means that hydrochloric acid and gastric and pancreatic enzymes will denature those enzymes in the raw food (rendering them inactive) before they could be of any use or help to our digestion. In addition we do not want to eat exclusively raw foods because cooking actually increases our body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals by anywhere from 30%-90% depending on the food/vitamin. It is actually more difficult for the human body to obtain nutrients from raw food because they are bound and protected by the indigestible fiber, which gets released through cooking. In other words if someone was to only eat raw foods they could be at risk for several vitamin deficiencies. We want a nutritious balance of both raw and cooked because our bodies love fiber and we need the nutrients too. Hope that helps!
thanks Matt and Jess as well. It makes the concept more clear 🙂
A lot of good information, but one clarification: Spelt has gluten and is not a good alternative to wheat.
I absolutely concur that my morning smoothie must be a powerhouse. I couldn’t in any way, shape or form get in enough greens on the off chance that I didn’t place them in a smoothie! This week I couldn’t make my smoothies (excessively occupied at work, making it impossible to go to the store) and I don’t feel also. Smoothies are the approach for ideal well-being!
Love this. Plant based protein is good protein and is good for the athletic body.
Thank you for this article! “Macros” are just everywhere and any kind of counting makes me a little nutty and just ruins the joy of eating IMO.
So simple but diffucult when wanting to retrain taste buds and change habits. I fully believe what you say and how you are raising your family with good healthy eating habits. I will keep trying to make most of my food plant based and focus on whole foods rather than processed but I do struggle.
Thank you for your time and effort to bring to a healthier way
to our lives -appreciated
I liked what you said about eating when you’re actually hungry. Oftentimes I find that I eat when I’m bored instead of really hungry. I’ll be sure to listen to my body and only eat when I actually need it.
Have some high carbohydrate meals like bananas, bagels or fruit juices. These foods are damaged down swiftly and provide glucose to the muscle groups.
Thank you for you. I have a hard time committing. I really love my veggies and fruits but I get lazy when it comes to cooking and tend to eat out a lot. I know this is bad for me. I am a survivor of pancreatic cancer. I only have 1/2 of my pancreas and half of my stomach due to the removal of my cancer with surgery I’ve lost 55lbs. I should not be eating a lot at one meal. I cannot eat anything with skin or an excess of fiber. The dr said to cook most of my food but I do love my fruits and salads. A smoothie is great for me to digest and I find that most lettuce is hard to digest. I am going to try much harder. I have a vitamin and it was suggested I try to purée some of the harder to digest veggies. Will this still provide me with proper nutrition?? Thank you for listening. I am keeping all of your posts. I will keep reading them and little by little incorporate things into to my eating plan. And you kids are precious ?❤️
I already eat the way you are talking about, switched over gradually the past two months. The more I ate plant based who foods the better I felt and my athletic performance really got better.
I’m 53 year old female, post menopause. I cycle 250 miles a week, (most weeks) swim 2 x week about 3,800 yds, light weight training 2 x week.
My concern is over the next several months to a year I will developed an iron deficiency.
I do eat raw kale and raw spinach daily along with beans and legumes.
Any suggests to prevent iron deficiency?
Thanks for your suggests and time.
I make my own granola and eat that most mornings. I don’t have easy access to a good grocery store so keeping fresh fruit is difficult.
I loved that you mentioned eating brown rice instead of white will help you to have a balanced diet. My husband and I are thinking about how to improve our eating habits, and we are looking for advice about what to do. I will let him know about your recommendations to have a healthy diet.
Hey Matt, Yes you are right we should take most of your food from plants. My wife has cultivated many plants in our lawn, she loves doing this. Everyday she makes bitter gourd juice to keep us healthy. Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients.
The evidence for Veganism leading to physical health is abundant. But do you have any empirical, objective studies on the impact eating plant based has on one’s mental health, ie reducing anxiety, depression, etc?
Thank you for the first article. I myself haveff a family of 5, 2 daughter’s and a son. All in their young adulthood’s, my second eldest daughter is vegan, animal protection activist , and political debater. I try not to start any conversations that I will lose. Lol. Both the wife and I are transitioning VERY slowly to this new phase. There are quite a few meals I won’t give up (german food) yet. Lol But we will give it a serious effort, we started a garden!
Hi, thank you so much for sharing the information. Really this article is great.
I cannot find any source of D3 that is vegan. Mushrooms have D2 which is fine, but what is the source of D3 in complement Plus?
Because vitamin B12 is essential to survival for vegans, what kind and dosage is right for most peopleI have been told that all vitamin B12 supplements are not the same and you can do more harm than good to your body by taking the wrong kind and amounts. I am not totally vegan, eat seafood 1-2 times a week, but eat no dairy or other meats
Great article! As a busy father, traveling engineer, and soldier in National Guard, I’m always on the look for better energy sources. I watched the documentary, The Game Changers, on Netflix. It’s mostly about how the best athletes are getting better performance and, more importantly, FEELING better, going to plant-based. That’s what I want. Now, I’m starting my transition, but running into bloating and gas. Probably need to take it slower and allow myself to “break the rules” a little more while I get used to it. Anybody else have this issue? This transition is hard!! Where do I find stuff? What are the recipes? Transition slow so buy variety but not in bulk. Do I start taking probiotics right away to help with bloating? There’s lots of videos about meal prepping but that only works when you’re fully transitioned. I’ll get there. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so neither will my improved energy and health.
I already eat veggies as I love home made soups.. I also love salads But I did eat fish and chicken in my soips untill I read the plant based book and found it will solve many of my problems. I also already bought a tribest Juicer and Mincer las fall after a few surgeries. But I havent used it yet. I have been in the process o buying things from your shopping list and giving away the bad flours and canned goods.I am serious about losing weight to get healthier faster.
I started out last year while going through my health problems weighing 250 and went down 10 170, I have gained 20 punds in 2021. And dont really know what weight I need to be. Now that I found a food programs for myself, I need to also get an exercise program. I have a few problems like, heart, lungs, intestine, bowl track, decinerating bones, Osteo arthritis, diabeties. So I am very serious about getting this under control. I am 78 and 5’2 I am active. But I want to put myself on a program (regime) that will help me reach my goal. If you are on facebook I am also and you can put inmy name and see what I look like, to help you evaluate me better
When I decided to get healthy, I did so by changing my diet. Because I was unable to exercise, I lost weight by changing my eating lifestyle. I had tried “diets” but they were too unnatural for my tastes. I started eating a lot of raw food, gave up as many foods as possible that contained sugar, and limited my grain and dairy intake. It took 42 months to lose 72 pounds. After losing those pounds, I felt like exercising, but I was still disabled by arthritis. I went to a doctor who sent me to physical therapy. After a year of physical therapy, I decided to have my knees replaced. With my major disability gone, I started doing resistance training.
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