Q & A

The whole foods plant based diet is so powerful that it can reverse, halt or prevent illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.  To follow this diet means eliminating all animal products, all processed or fragmented foods, all oil and salt.   It may sound boring and bland – the kind of thing people would only stick to if they liked eating cardboard and sawdust, but that could not be further from the truth.   More and more people are actively choosing this way to live as a way to maximize their energy levels, be more in tune with their bodies, stay healthy, save money and save the planet (really!).

My husband and have been on a months-long journey into WFPB living, starting by eliminating dairy from our home to help our son’s reflux, then meat and eggs to lose weight, and then gradually moving more into a full transition.   

Since we changed our diet, I have been asked many questions, some of which I have answered below. However, if you have additional questions, please email me so I can answer – I’d like this to be a comprehensive list, so you’d be helping me out too!

Questions and answers

YES!  I get enough protein!  No one seems to care about anyone's protein intake until someone says that they are vegan.  Some of the biggest and strongest animals on the planet are herbivores - rhinos, elephants and gorillas.  They get all their muscle from plants.  Only 10% of our daily calories need come from protein - this is far less than the food industry would have us believe.  Protein deficiency in the developed world is incredibly rare and is only seen in cases where there is an overall calorie deficiency as well.   Eating a varied WFPB diet will ensure that you get enough to thrive and in a good balance with other nutrients and fiber too.
No - no animal milk is permitted on the WFPB plan.  Human breastmilk is designed to be the best food for human infants.  Cows milk is designed for calves, sheeps milk for lambs etc.. No other creatures on earth consume the milk of another species.  Beyond being a strange thing to do, the evidence shows that it is harmful.  Dr Colin T Campbell following his decades-long research into the links between disease and cancer, and the son of a dairy farmer no less, has said that casein (milk protein) is a far more relevant carcinogen than any pesticide, herbicide, food additive or other noxious chemical ever tested.
There is a good amount of crossover between WFPB and the food choices made by vegans.  Being a vegan is usually an ethical choice driven by compassion for animals and which extends beyond what you eat into what you wear (no leather or wool), whereas WFPB is a way to eat for optimal personal health.   Vegans can still eat processed and deep fried or unhealthy foods, so cutting out animal products alone does not set you on a path to health.   When I'm in a restaurant and need to ask menu questions I often start with I'm a vegan because this is better understood than WFPB. As an observation, I have found that learning about WFPB living and not actually eating any animal products has really heightened my feelings towards animal welfare - just knowing that people do not need to eat animals or harvest their milk to be healthy makes that argument collapse.  If we don't need the animals, why are we doing this?
No.  It is still animal meat and even though from a weight loss point of view it is often considered to be a light option but fish meat is not included in the WFPB plan. Additionally fish absorb toxins and pollutants in the ocean / rivers.  The land animals that we eat are in a short food chain - they eat grass or grain and people eat them.   But the aquatic food chain is different - small fish are eaten by bigger fish who are eaten by even bigger fish.  This leads to a bio-accumulation of the nasties that each creature at each stage of the food chain has absorbed. As you go further up the aquatic food chain, the build up is increases - shrimp, salmon and tuna are among the most toxic fish.
There are several reason why we should avoid eating oils. Oils are highly processed fruits or seeds comprising of nothing but fat. All the protein, carbs, vitamins and mineral are gone leaving a high calorie, nutrient-void product behind. Consuming oils even in small amounts, adds empty calories to our foods which in turn leads to weight gain, and associated lifestyle diseases. Most worrying of all however, oils have been shown to wreak havoc with the endothelial cells in our blood vessels, damaging them and leading to heart disease. In the quest to eat whole foods, oils should be eliminated entirely from the diet.
There are really no such thing as healthy oils. All oils are over processed, high calorie fats which are superfluous to our diets Yes, we do need fats in our diet, but we must obtain these as whole foods. This means with the proteins and fiber that nature packages them with. So, you can eat olive oil, but only if you eat the whole olive, omega 3 oil can be obtained by eating flax seeds, and nut oils with the whole nut, or nut butter. Nut butter is a minimally processed food, and therefore green-lit for the WFPB diet.
Think of the difference between an apple and an Oreo.  Neither contains any animal products, but one is the way nature made it and the other has been through a very long process of refining, fragmenting, and rebuilding.  White flour is a sad and nutritionally void shadow of the wheat it once was.  They take out the fiber, bleach it and then artificially add back in some minerals.  Sugar is a the juice of the sugar cane which has been extracted, dried, crystallized leaving nothing but empty calories.  The fats in an Oreo and other processed foods are vegetable oils chemically engineered for flavor and enhancing shelf life. When talking about a WFPB lifestyle and not eating processed foods, this does not mean that everything needs to come directly from the tree or bush, just not to have anything taken away, nor to eat things in a refined state.
Fresh fruits and vegetables.  Most of my grocery shopping is done in the fresh produce department and I have noticed that whereas one bunch of bananas would last the family a week, we are now getting through twice as many.  Fresh leafy greens, berries, potatoes, onions, herbs etc.. I like to see seasonal fruits and veggies come in to the supermarket and experimenting with them - mango and avocado seasons are our favorite and just now we are getting starfruit and persimmons. Canned beans and vegetables.  Ideally low in sodium, canned legumes are awesome for putting on salads, in stews or to make a dip or spread without any planning.  They are high in fiber, protein and are ready to go.  Unusually, the beneficial lycopene in tomatoes actually increases the more cooked down they are and as such canned tomatoes make an excellent addition to any WFPB pantry Dried fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains.  These are great sources of fiber, have concentrated flavors, they last well and in the case of mushrooms, they can be re-hydrated and treated as fresh.   Although it's more time consuming to soak and cook chickpeas or black beans from scratch, the results are often more satisfying to work with than canned.  For example, you can add flavors to the cooking liquid and have greater control over the final texture.  Brown rice and whole wheat pasta ought to be a pantry staple too. Dried herbs and spices. These little jars will give your foods a rainbow of different flavors - a teaspoon of one thing and a pinch of another can change the flavor of an entire pot of soup from Indian to Mexican or Thai.  My spice drawer's contents have doubled since starting this plan and I have loved seeing a new spice in store to bring home and experiment with. Nuts and seeds.  Possibly the best energy snack there is, nuts are chock full of fats and are sure to break you out of a mid afternoon slump.  You can grind them down into butters to spread on bread, crackers, apple slices etc..  Seeds are nutritional power houses and excellent sources of fiber - Dr Greger recommends eating 1tbsp of ground flaxseeds per day The best guide for what to eat is Dr Greger's Daily Dozen, first introduced in the book How Not To Die and detailed in this infographic
My children eat this way too. My husband and I have made the choice to follow this lifestyle for our own long-term health. If we believe that this is this is the right choice for our bodies, I think that continuing to feed my children foods that we personally would not eat would be a poor parenting choice. This means that the meals I prepare for the family at home and the lunches I pack for them to take to school are WFPB. When they go to a birthday party I do not prohibit them from eating cake, pizza or even hotdogs. While this approach may seem contradictory, I believe that allowing them to participate in food-bsased activities with their friends without restriction is an important part of childhood and I comfort myself with the knowledge that 95%+ of the time they are eating the best diet they can. Sometimes when we are hosting a playdate at home we'll make whole wheat pasta dough together with their friends, or I'll make a batch of 'nice cream' for them all. Any step in the right direction is a vast improvement on the Standard American Diet, and I enjoy working towards having them really love the WFPB way of eating and eventually making the right choices themselves. For anyone interested, the first step we took was to eliminate milk. We all went cold turkey, initially for my son's digestive health on a suggestion from his gastroenterologist. One day we finished up the cows milk and the next we were all drinking almond milk. It took about 5 weeks of refusal and resistance before the first time that they actually asked please can I have some almond milk and it was worth every single battle! It's not what works for everyone, but I found that going all in (or all out!) is what has worked best for us
Yes. I take a B12 tablet. B12 is the ONLY thing that you cannot get from plants alone. More information about B12 can be found here Eating a varied and WFPB diet will ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals in a way that the body is able to absorb effectively. Many vegans and vegetarians are concerned about iron levels. I personally do not take an iron supplement, though I know many who do. I am sure to eat several leafy greens each day to cover my iron requirements. Read Dr Colin Campbell's view on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements here