I should probably start off by defining this diet before getting into details, so that you, the reader do not formulate your own opinion prior to hearing how this way of eating transpired for me. Planet-Based Eating is simply the conscious awareness of the food we eat and how it effects our body and planet. I am not hear to preach a specific method of eating, however, I am hear to speak my passion on how we are destroying our earth and unfortunately, it is the only one we have. And to look at it at another level, if we are destroying our earth, than it goes without saying we are destroying our bodies.
I do not want to go into my beliefs on our existence and how it relates to the world around us, but to keep it simple, everything is connected. Every action creates a reaction. We do not own the earth, we are simply guests here for a limited time, with limited space, and each choice we make, has an impact on the health and longevity of this planet and ourselves. Unfortunately, since we as a human only experience it for a short time, we tend to disregard how important it is to care for the earth. Choosing to eat a diet that is earth-friendly only works to create a body that is healthy and more connected to the food we eat. We cannot deny (of course some will) that we are increasing the C02 levels faster than initially thought, leading to a planet that is warming faster as well. And just as our body creates a fever to rid itself of disease, our planet will eventually do the same.
We are all human beings that many of us have the good fortune of choice. A Planet-Based Diet is not about “eat this” or “don’t eat that”, well it is and it isn’t. It is more about being thoughtful to the food you eat. Where did it come from, what impact could it have on our planet or did have? This diet is not to say, “oh, you ate a hamburger, you are a bad person or you are destroying the planet.” but it is saying, “maybe if I cut way back on the eating hamburgers, it will result in better conditions for meat processing or even the possibility that we can rid our planet of meat packing facilities and go back to farmers (we eat WAY too much animal protein which I will discuss later). Every choice of food has an equivalent impact on our planet, so what can you do to limit the effects and help create a healthier body and earth?
- buy local fruits and vegetables
- Find a local farmer to get your eggs and milk from
- Grow your own selection of fruits and vegetables, or herbs.
- Begin a compost pile that you discard food scraps (plenty of how-to videos).
To look at more specific foods to eat, here are my thoughts on creating a healthy diet:
- We eat WAY too much animal protein. Especially, if you are over the age of 35, you definitely should not be eating animal protein more than once per day. Especially if you are including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and specific grains. Yes we need protein for repairing of cells, but if you are mostly sedentary with less than 30 minutes of strenuous activity per day, at most you should have only 1 serving of animal protein per day.
- Non-animal Proteins are abundant. As a college instructor, I would always ask my class, “what do you think has more protein per weight: Broccoli or beef? Of course they know its a trick question, but yes, broccoli has more protein per weight. It is not a complete protein, but mix it with rice and now it is. Some other great sources of non-animal protein are quinoa, buckwheat, and soy. Soy has a high estrogen content, so I definitely limit that in my diet, not to mention, it is one of the most abundantly grown Genetically Modified Crops out there, so high pesticide content. If you eat it, find it organically grown and Non-GMO.
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Many people think that these won’t fill you up, but on the contrary, due to their high fiber and water content, they take up a large part of volume in your stomach to provide you the feeling for being full, and they stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t have that crash in several hours.
- Beans and legumes. I know Paleo advocates shy away from them since they believe that these weren’t available during primitive days, but in moderation, they have a high protein content among many other essential nutrients and when you mix with grains, they provide a complete protein to repair damaged cells.
- Wild Caught Fish. Stay away from farm raised is my belief, since I have seen some pretty nasty reports showing what they feed them.
I think many of us know the answer to this, but to provide a few examples, some of the ones I believe are not healthy for us or our planet:
- lunch meat
- white breads and pastas
- added sugar
- added preservatives
- artificial flavors
Anyone that looks at my past 10 years or so, will see a potpourri of eating styles that range from one side of the spectrum to the other. Each with its benefits, all with their learning experiences which I will write about here shortly. Failure to commit to any of these has always been the giving in of temptation to follow the worst diet of them all: The American Diet (Western Diet). The one that favors the busy lifestyle resulting in minimal thought about food choices. The food choices becomes motivated by cost and convenience over health and nutrition. This diet is laced with the occasional fast food, mixed with plenty of sugar, processed foods, and the worst one being multiple meals that consist of animal flesh protein. The premise behind a Planet-Based Diet boils down to our awareness of the food we eat. It is about making a conscious decision in regards to the food we CHOOSE to put into our body.
The statement cannot be argued as when we look at our food system, convenience is the primary motive that families seek due to their daily tasks becoming more time consuming each day. The more we seek convenience for our food choices, the less we are concerned with their impact on our body and our earth. I was transformed several years ago when I decided to do a detox for a week, that would consist of only fruits and vegetables (and most of it was in smoothie form). For several days it was exceptionally difficult for 2 main reasons:
- Breaking the habit of poor eating choices. The ability to “grab-n-go” is a luxury as we cram more activities into our daily schedules. I am a father, husband, employee, self-employed, and all the activities that go along with it. The ability to patron a drive-thru or take something frozen out of the freezer and bake it is a blessing when you’re trying to cram everything in. Having to actually prepare your meals or even just the process of picking out your fruit and vegetables (organic only), setting out the right proportions, cleaning them, and blending them up wasn’t difficult, but it requires more thought. And it is this “thought” that deters many from consistently staying on track.
- Breaking the sugar habit. Let’s face it, sugar is in everything. Whether its added or a main ingredient, it is as powerful as any drug. We as a society, are addicted to sugar. Which is why almost all food has added sugar. It stimulates neuroreceptors that excite us and leave us wanting more. This dopamine effect also creates this weird occurrence that we actually become less excited about the level of sugar intake, and we crave more to receive the same feelings of excitement.
After about 3-4 days, I noticed something happening that I didn’t expect, which was that even though my food intake was drastically reduced, I began to feel so much better all over and inside. I just felt more alive. I at that point, thought that if I felt this good after several days of just fruits and veggies, let me keep going and see what happens. This was my introduction to being Vegan. Not that I was taking a stance against the meat industry, and yes, I deep down knew that it was disgusting and we consume too much meat as a society, but this was about clearing out my body. I had developed some skin condition (eczema or psoriasis) all over my body and I wanted to see if I could heal myself from the inside. Even though I didn’t restrict myself to just fruit and vegetable smoothies, I kept all animal protein, all processed foods, and anything that wasn’t in its whole form, out of the diet. Needless to say, I dropped weight rather quickly, and even cleared up my skin condition. Another benefit was that I actually eliminated my seasonal allergies that I had every spring from grass and tree pollen. I was convincing myself over and over to stay on this diet.
So why after the success I had and the new appreciation for food, I don’t just promote the Vegan diet? I do believe that is another post, however, if I haven’t made my point clear, if you are over the age of 35, and you are not engaging in almost daily vigorous activity, there is no reason you should be eating animal protein more than once per day. “Maybe I like it” could be your response, and that is fine, honestly, I am surprised you even made it this far. I am writing this post about helping to achieve optimal levels of health, and wellness. If you are hell-bent on sticking to your current diet, than all the power to ya.
Lessons From A Vegan
I do admit that this year of transformation opened my eyes to a whole different world that existed around me. A new appreciation to be more direct. Outside of the health benefits I felt on the inside and the physical appearance that was drastically transformed, what I learned about food was the greatest joy of this process.
- Real food tastes great. I discovered that by eating so much artificially flavored, sweetened, processed foods, that we actually screwed up our tastes buds and appreciation for real food. I couldn’t believe that even just eating a bell pepper tasted so good! I wouldn’t even entertained the idea before making this change. Makes me think about not eating your vegetables being younger and your parent says, “if you’re hungry enough you’ll eat it.” Even though it wasn’t necessarily about being hungry, it just was that you didn’t fill your stomach with empty calories, so when you ate a fresh piece of fruit or vegetable, it tasted delicious!
- Hunger is a result of decreased blood sugar due to a previous elevation in blood sugar. I was probably the most surprised how rarely I felt hungry, even though weight was dropping off me quickly. I would imagine that a diet consisting of mostly plant-based foods, that my daily calorie intake was much less than before. I believe that since I was not consuming foods that were high in sugar, my body was not having to release insulin to store that sugar, which allowed for a consistent balance throughout the day. Just a note, it doesn’t have to be straight sugar, but cookies, crackers, white breads and pastas create the same effect.
- I connected to my food. The greatest joy I discovered throughout this process was the connection I made to the food. It only makes sense, our food selection is the most important one we can make, and it is what allowed the human species to survive. I choose not to let some corporation select the food I eat and what it contains, this is my body, and I will choose accordingly. Taking the time to prepare meals actually became one of my greatest joys for a recreation standpoint. I started a vegetable garden, and truly appreciate the nutrition that these foods provide my body.
I am not here to be all roses and rainbows. As I mentioned earlier, the temptation of the Western diet can draw you back slowly, and begin to pick apart what you worked so hard to build. Just a few months ago I found myself on the receiving end of a year or so of on-and-off good eating with bad. When I went to the doctors the beginning of this year, and their scale said 227lbs, I said “enough!” and since I know what to do and how to do it, I simply need to reconnect with the pleasures of eating in coordination with the world beneath our feet. As this process continues, you will be seeing more recipes and nutrition concepts mixed in with my posts. This helps me strengthen that connection I have towards maintaining a healthy life. I hope you will too!