Not Everybody Wants to be Vegan or Plant-based -- Respecting Their Boundaries

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study that was done of people with heart disease eating a vegan, plant-based diet versus another group eating the diet recommended by the American Heart Association. As those of us who are whole food, plant-based might have guessed, the people eating the vegan diet slowed the progression of their heart disease whereas the people eating the American Heart Association diet did not. But that's not the point of this article.

Instead, there was something else that intrigued me about the study reported on by the article. And that was that the study was delayed in starting because they couldn't get enough heart disease patients to be willing to go on a vegan diet. And furthermore, of those who did, many went back to a non-vegan diet after the study was over, even though they had seen beneficial results from being vegan. To me, that points out one thing: Not everybody is interested in going vegan or plant-based, even when their health can be shown to improve by doing so.

It's like the friend I had in my house once. He picked up a copy of The China Study that was laying on my coffee table and started leafing through it. Observing this, I casually mentioned, "You read that book and you'll never eat meat again." He immediately put it back down and said, "Then I don't want to read it."

Food means many things to people, and it's not all about sustaining life or energy. Food has huge connections with social and family occasions and traditions. Many of us have fond remembrances of something lovingly cooked by our mom's that we like to replicate. Or there's the uncle's house we liked to go to who would slow roast a pork butt in the backyard. It's not just the taste of that pork butt that we remember, but the taste of pork today can bring back fond memories of great times at that uncle's house.

It's hard to change those images in people's minds. I spent my entire life having turkey at Thanksgiving. Having turkey brings back happy memories of Thanksgivings growing up and of Thanksgivings visiting my wife's family every year as an adult. The first year I was plant-based and went without the turkey seemed strange to me. As good as it was, and as proud as I was of myself for doing it, it also made Thanksgiving a little less like the Thanksgivings I had grown up with and known all my adult life as well.

Like many people, when I first thought about going whole food, plant-based, I didn't think it was something I could do all the time. There were foods that I couldn't imagine giving up. There were foods that I believed were still important to eat from a health standpoint (primarily salmon and olive oil because every dietician I knew of insisted on the importance of those two foods), and so I kept eating them pretty much during the entire first year of being WFPB. Early readers of my blog site may remember me saying I was 90% vegan and 95% vegetarian. Because I couldn't imagine being totally vegan, I started with a book by Mark Bittman called VB6. The idea behind his book was that we may not be able to go totally vegan (and Mark Bittman is by no means totally vegan as he will readily tell you), we ought to be able to go vegan most of the day. So, he proposed being vegan all day except for one meal, and at that one meal, you can eat what you want to eat.

That seemed like a reasonable approach to me, and it seemed like something I could do. I wanted to get healthier and I knew that dietitians all recommended eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. On the diet I was on (basically the standard American, low-carb diet), I didn't see how that was possible. As a result, that was one of the things that did attract me to the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. It seemed to offer a way to meet that recommendation of nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, I had no interest in being a vegan. My image of vegans was of young kids vandalizing property and throwing paint at women wearing fur coats. Or worse. Vegans never presented a very attractive image of themselves in my mind. While today, I understand that better, there is still 95%+ of the population that views vegans in a very negative way, as I once did. And while today, I can cite all the health, environmental, economic and ethical reasons for being vegan, I also think that vegans can be their own worst enemies when interacting with the general public. I believe that more people are turned off by their encounters with vegans than are convinced to become vegans.

The important thing I think is to recognize that we are all at different places in our life's journeys. And we all have our reasons for our beliefs, attitudes and the foods we eat. I can't force anybody to eat the way I eat. And truthfully, I can't convince someone to do so through logic alone. Our connections to the foods we eat are too strong for that. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of people change their diets to a whole food, plant-based way of eating and have seen them getting healthier as a result. And many have done so because they have seen the change that it has brought about in me. I know that because they have told me so. My best statement to people is to tell them what eating this way has done for me.

But still, most people have foods that they aren't ready to give up, don't plan to give up and will not give up. And they have negative images of what it means to be vegan. And they can't imagine going into a restaurant or sitting down to a family meal and not having a piece of meat on their plates. All of that takes time to change, and people have to come to it on their own. What we, in the WFPB movement need to do I think, is to accept people where they are at. We should be able to articulate what a whole food, plant-based way of eating is and why we eat that way, but we should be careful about evangelizing others to do the same.

Instead, we can let them see the changes in us. We can answer their questions when they have questions. And they will have questions. I have found that I can sit down to eat and not say a word about how I eat, and yet people will notice and they will ask me about it. Many people know they should be eating a more plant-based diet and when they see someone doing it, they will ask questions that might help them to move in that direction in the future. In such instances, we can encourage them when they tell us they want to do something. But we need to also respect their boundaries. And if their boundary is that they are going to continue to eat eggs for breakfast or salmon twice a week or whatever it is, we can respect that while at the same time encouraging them to eat whole food, plant-based the rest of the time.

Seeking perfection never works. Meeting people where they are at and giving them gentle encouragement without nagging or badgering can pay dividends though. I'll leave off with the words of Dr. Greger from page 265 of his book How Not to Die:

"Sometimes people's diets take on a religiosity of their own. I remember a man once telling me that he could never go 'plant-based' because he could never give up his grandma's chicken soup. Huh? Then don't (give it up)....I told him that enjoying her soup shouldn't keep him from making healthier choices the rest of the time. The problem with all-or-nothing thinking is that it keeps people from even taking the first steps. The thought of never having pepperoni pizza again somehow turns into an excuse....We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

My Most Nutritious Salad Dressing

For those who missed seeing it elsewhere, I posted a recipe for a new salad dressing on my other site. It can be read here:

It is my most nutritious concoction yet.


J Lanning Smith
November 29, 2017

Eating Out This Holiday Season (and the Rest of the Time Too)

I think without exception, all of the whole food plant-based doctors recommend against eating out. As we are all aware, restaurant food can be loaded with salt, sugar, oils, fats and some chemicals. It's what makes that food taste so darn good. Restaurants are in the business of selling food and that means finding ways for it to be more attractive to us than eating at home is. Of course, a big attraction is not having to prepare the meal or cleaning up afterwards. But after that, taste is the big attraction. Restaurants want to give their foods a taste that will keep us eating more and drinking more. That's the business they are in.

Many of us though have lives that mean going out to eat. It could be part of the lifestyle that we are used to and want to maintain. But it could also be that we work and find ourselves going out with clients a lot or being too tired to make a meal at the end of the work day. Others go out to be with friends or family and to socialize. There are a whole host of reasons to go out to eat. And it seems that during the holiday seasons, there become even more reasons for going out to eat.

So, what to do? I think the best defense is always knowledge. The more knowledge that you have the better. You may choose to break the rules when you go out to eat, and I'll admit that I do break the rules sometimes when I go out to eat, but at least, with knowledge, you are aware of what you are doing. And that gives you the power to make a choice. Without that knowledge, the restaurant is making the choice for you. You may order a white bean and kale soup thinking that you're ordering vegan, not knowing all the while that the broth the restaurant is using is a chicken broth. You might order a bean burger never realizing that the bean burger used eggs as a binder. Without that knowledge, the restaurant is making the decision for you. With the knowledge, you may still decide to order the bean burger, but at least you are the one making the decision and not the restaurant.

The good news is, I think more and more restaurants are willing to work with their patrons who want to eat healthier fare. Not all will, but many will. I always suggest letting the restaurant know how you eat and then asking if the chef can come up with something for you. Oftentimes, that will get you closer to a good meal that is whole food, plant-based then trying to piece something together off of the menu. The chefs, by the way, love the challenge. It gives them a chance to be creative, do something good and show off their talents. And the presentation usually turns out to be such that others at your table will find themselves looking at your food and wishing they had ordered that. And then that becomes an opportunity to talk about how you eat. You never know who might be influenced by that.

Mary McDougall, wife of Dr. John McDougall, has a presentation that she does at the McDougall Advanced Studies weekends in Santa Rosa, CA. For good insight on how to order in restaurants and what to watch out for, it's a good video to watch. It can be watched here. I like her title, Dining Out When You Must. She doesn't view dining out as the norm. She views it as the exception. While that of course is the ideal, there are many people who can't meet that ideal. I think her advice is doubly important for them.

Following is a summary that can help in eating out. It contains information that is in Mary's hour long video. But you're not going to watch an hour long video every time you plan to go out. Here, you can print this out and use this when going to the different types of restaurants. This is based on my own personal knowledge and experience plus a few additional tidbits that I picked up from Mary McDougall as well.

Plant-Based Restaurants

These restaurants include both vegan restaurants and the more healthy restaurants that are truly based on eating whole plant foods as opposed to vegan processed foods. I think it's important to distinguish between the two because some vegan restaurants serve highly processed, highly oiled processed foods. Those are not healthy in my opinion. And in fact, I've heard Jeff Novick say that some of the unhealthiest restaurant food comes from vegan restaurants. I try to avoid those restaurants.

But I am always delighted to find a good plant-based restaurant that serves food that's prepared from whole plants. We have a few in my local area; one of which is Pure Natural Market on Hilton Head Island. I took Dr. Greger there when he was in town and he loved the restaurant and the food. And it's so good, that it was voted by readers of the local newspaper to be the No. 1 favorite lunch spot in the local area. It shows that people can find real food to be delicious.

In restaurants like Pure, I don't worry about the food I am eating. The owners are members of Palmetto Plant Eaters, our local PlantPure Nation pod, and they know about eating whole food, plant-based. But if going to restaurants that are vegan but less so WFPB, then I try to avoid fake meats and cheeses and I try to be more aware of the use of oil and what ingredients are being used to maybe make some of the sauces.

Asian Restaurants

Most of the time when I'm meeting someone for a meal in the local area, I arrange it so as to eat at Saigon Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant. Two other regular favorites of mine are Fujiyama, a Japanese restaurant and Ruan Thai, a Thai restaurant.

I know most of my readers don't live in this local area, so why do I mention these three restaurants? The reason is because Asian restaurants offer some of the best ways to stay eating on a whole food, plant-based way. As a result, when I'm traveling, I will usually look for an Asian restaurant if I can't find a good plant-based restaurant. The next alternative might be a Mexican restaurant, which I will discuss more about below. I used to also look for farm-to-table restaurants because they often had good fresh vegetable dishes for their main courses. But it seems like more and more farm-to-table restaurants these days are focused primarily on meat as opposed to veggies. I'm not sure exactly how that qualifies as farm-to-table since it involves a slaughterhouse in between, but I guess that's another story.

The nice thing about Asian restaurants is the dishes are generally vegetable focused with just small amounts of meat. That is, meat is not the main event like it is in so many other places. And even better, I've never been in an Asian restaurant that didn't also offer tofu as an alternative to meat. So, in essence, every Asian restaurant is a vegan restaurant also. There's no dish you can get that you can't get with tofu as opposed to meat. Right away, that makes life easier. Just be sure to ask for the tofu to be boiled or steamed as opposed to fried.

And there are usually things like spring rolls or papaya salads that can be gotten for appetizers. Even if spring rolls say they come with pork or shrimp, they can almost always be ordered as vegetarian. After all, a good restaurant will be making the spring roll for you. It's just as easy for them to make the spring roll with vegetables as it is with meat. So, don't be afraid to ask if you don't see a vegetarian option on the menu. Just make sure that you are ordering spring rolls and not egg rolls. Egg rolls are fried and are not healthy.

Some of my favorite foods in Asian restaurants are sushi in Japanese restaurants and miso soup in Vietnamese restaurants. Like spring rolls, sushi can be made vegetarian. In fact, sushi is popular in all parts of Japan, not just along the coast. In the inner parts of Japan, sushi is made with vegetables and not with fish. So, again, if you don't see it on the menu ask. Also, regarding sushi (and other dishes ordered in Asian restaurants), white rice often predominates. But more and more Asian restaurants are offering brown rice, black rice or red rice. Those are worth looking for. Regarding the miso soup, it is often pre-made in broth containing fish. But as Mary McDougall points out, it can usually be asked to be made fresh for you using a pot of boiling water.

As with any restaurant, be careful about the salt, oils and sugars used as well. Many Asian dishes can be high in sodium, particularly if they contain soy sauce or tamari. Main courses can be sautéed in oil. But again, a simple request to have it sautéed in vegetable broth can fix that. And Chinese buffets, which I personally tend to avoid, oftentimes use sugar to improve the tastiness of the food.

Mexican Restaurants

Next after healthy plant-based restaurants and Asian restaurants, my choice will be Mexican. Here, I tend to think of beans and rice and bowls. I love Mexican food and it's easy to order healthy versions of it.

Chipotle is a "go to" restaurant for me when I'm traveling on the interstate. By the way, Subway, which I'll get to below, is my other "go to" option when traveling on the interstate. The point being, there are fast food options other than the big names we always think of. Or at least always used to think of.

At Chipotle, I get a vegetable salad bowl with lettuce on the bottom, then brown rice topped with black beans and grilled veggies, pico de gallo, medium or hot salsa, corn salsa, guacamole and cilantro. I will usually ask for a double helping of the black beans and the rice. You could argue with the guacamole and I did not get that for a long time, but our doctors do say that avocado is a good fat and that you do need some fat with your meals for nutrient absorption. So, that's what I do now. You don't have to of course.

But ordering a bowl in a Mexican restaurant is easy to do and it's always good. Just explain to the server what ingredients you want the bowl built with. Also let the server know that you don't want any cheese or sour cream. Too often, they will put both on the food, even when it's not mentioned on the menu or even though you didn't ask for it. I've found they will always take the food back if put on, but it's better to explain upfront that you don't want sour cream or cheese.

Sit-down Mexican restaurants will usually bring chips and salsa to start off with. And even at Chipotle, you can get a bag of these chips and some salsa. Don't do it. Even if they are said to be baked, they will be fried. They're just baked before they're fried. Instead, do as Mary McDougall says, and order soft corn tortillas, which are almost always oil-free. Note that the same is not true with flour tortillas though, so stick with the corn tortillas.

Also, always select black beans. Everybody loves refried beans, but refried beans are killers when it comes to fat. And pinto beans are often cooked in pork. So, stick with whole black beans. They're good and they're good for you.

If you are a real stickler about being vegan, then you may not be able to eat in a Mexican restaurant since many of them use chicken broth to make their rice. But if you are whole food, plant-based for health reasons, Dr. T Colin Campbell has said "Don't sweat the small stuff" when it comes to things like that.

I'll add that even as a vegan, I'm not overly concerned about that though for two good reasons. First, no chicken is killed for the broth. The chicken is killed for the meat it provides. Using the leftover carcass to make broth is just efficiently using the entire chicken, which if you are going to kill an animal for food, then in my opinion, the maximum benefit should be gotten out of that animal. It would be wasteful to do otherwise. The second reason I'm not concerned is PETA itself on its website says to not be concerned over things like that. It says that when we get too strict about things like that then all we do is discourage restaurants from even trying to do better. So, without getting into any arguments over that, that's my position as well.

Sandwich Restaurants

As I mentioned, Subway is a "go to" restaurant when traveling on the interstate. And I just discovered a new place called Which Wich that also offers vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and wraps. While I would not eat at these places on a regular basis, mainly because I try to avoid floured products, an occasional stop when traveling and nothing else is available can be worthwhile.

The rules are easy. Order the whole wheat or whole grain bun or wrap when available. Ask that the sandwich be filled with lots of greens (spinach) to start with and then lots of veggies. Instead of putting mayo, ketchup or oil on the sandwich, ask for mustard or vinegar instead. And skip the fries or chips of course. Most sandwich places will offer at least a small side salad that can accompany the sandwich. Do that instead if a side dish is desired. Or eat an apple when you get back out to your car.

Pizza Parlors

A close kin to the sandwich restaurant is the pizza parlor. While I love pizza, I hardly ever stop at these places. One reason is the crust is flour again and another reason is I tend to eat the whole pizza. In other words, I over indulge. Coming back from this past year's vegan cruise, my traveling companion and I stopped for pizza in Ormond Beach and between the two of us, both WFPB eaters, we managed to wolf down three entire pizzas. And that was after a week of eating gourmet plant-based foods on the vegan cruise! Not good! Well, actually it was good!

My main suggestions are about pizza: Order a whole wheat crust and ask for it without cheese. Skip the fake cheeses. No cheese is just as good. And finally, order it by the slice if you can. Looking at a whole pizza sitting in front of you can be just too tempting. At least it is for me.

American Restaurants

These restaurants can include everything from steak houses to seafood restaurants to farm-to-(slaughterhouse-to)-table restaurants, diners, fine dining establishments, comfort food restaurants, southern restaurants and more. I've been in these sometimes where the only thing I could order was baked potato. Would you believe they didn't even have a vegetable I could order? In such cases, I've been known to order as many as three baked potatoes for a main course and then add salsa or mushrooms or beans or whatever I can find on the menu as a topping.

It can help to call the restaurant before going. As mentioned above, the chefs may be able to prepare something specifically for you if you let them know how you eat. And if they do, I guarantee you that you'll be the envy of the table.

Otherwise, look at what you can piece together from the menu. Think vegetable side dishes, rices and potatoes and steak or seafood toppings. Sometimes a steak topping can be a great topping for rice to make your own idea of a main course. The possibilities are there. I like to study the menu before going. That way, I've had time to thoroughly review and decide on all the options. Plus, then my attention is on the people I'm with and the table conversation as opposed to having my face buried in the menu.

Other Restaurants

There are many other restaurant types not mentioned here. For example, Ethiopian is a favorite food of mine. Other restaurants not mentioned here include Italian and Indian restaurants. Mary McDougall does a good job talking about them (and not recommending either) in her video linked to above. If you're interested in either, then I strongly suggest watching her video. You may still go, as I do from time to time, but at least you'll know what you're up against.

I hope that as we get into the full swing of the holiday season, you've found this to be useful information. Many of you, I'm sure, know even more about this subject than I do. But for those who don't, I wanted to offer what information I had on this.


J Lanning Smith
November 26, 2017


As we go into Thanksgiving this year, I know that many of my friends are nervous about getting together with family and friends during the holiday season. It's not just the obnoxious uncle who will be spouting off political beliefs that we might disagree with, but it's also the food. There will be conflicts that arise as a result of how we eat. Some of that conflict will come as we try to choose around foods that we know are not healthy, some will come from well meaning mothers and aunts who will seem offended if we don't eat what they serve and some of the conflict could arise from those who want to challenge us about our way of eating. In other words, many following a whole food plant-based way of eating are facing this time of what should be filled with joy and love as a time of dread instead. And the holiday season is just beginning.

Thanksgiving was one of my first big tests when I went to a whole food, plant-based way of eating.  I started eating this way in late October 2013, just weeks before Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Not only that, but plans had already been made for the family to celebrate Thanksgiving at my house. That meant my mom and her husband, my brother and his wife, my step sister and her husband and my daughter, her husband and two grandchildren would all descend on my house for Thanksgiving. And they expected a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I was too new at this whole game to deny them that kind of meal. They had seen me in the past yo yo between Atkins and Weight Watchers and the DASH program and a myriad of other diets without much success. They certainly were not going to take this new way of eating seriously after only four weeks or so of my doing it.

At that time, I was fully focused on my weight and my health and not at all on the animals. In other words, at that stage in my life, I had not yet become an ethical vegan. So, I had no qualms about making a turkey on my Big Green Egg, which I've since given to my daughter and son-in-law. But I was firm about the fact that I personally was not going to eat any turkey. Instead I made a squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries and walnuts and it turned out to be delicious. It was so much so that my mother and my brother's wife were both looking at it enviously and saying that they would have preferred that too.

Note how that worked. I made a traditional turkey as a main course for my family, and in doing so, without any preaching from me, some members of my family noted what I was eating and they were envious of it. I would never serve turkey now. I won't even let any kind of animal food come into my house now. But if I were to serve turkey or another meat again, I would probably give people a choice as to whether they would prefer the meat or the stuffed squash for their main course. It may not turn them into vegans or whole food, plant-based eaters, but it would introduce them to the fact that delicious holiday foods were available and could be eaten without awkwardness at a family gathering.

While we all know the importance of food to our own health and many of us are aware of the dangers food also poses to the environment, the economy, our federal budget, our insurance premiums, health care, disease control, the animals and more, we need to remember that most of the population has not been awakened to these conditions. And we are not going to awaken them over the dinner table at Thanksgiving. I put that in bold italics because I think it's something to remember as we get together with others this Thanksgiving.

Our getting together with family and friends is for enjoyment, both our enjoyment and their enjoyment. It's not the time for proselytizing and arguing. The truth is, each one of us can only change ourselves. We cannot force change on others. We cannot browbeat others into submission. But what we can do is be examples to others. Examples in a non-arrogant way. It does no good to say things like, "Oh, I would never eat that" or to talk about cow's milk as cow pus. But when we quietly choose foods that are healthy, people notice. And they will ask questions in a non-threatening way. Some will realize that they could have been eating like you, and will wish that they were if only they had a little more gumption to do it. After seeing you, they'll go home with new resolve to be better at their food choices the next time they are in a situation like that. You may never know that. I'm always gratified when somebody does change because of me. But I also think there's a far greater number of people who have changed because of me, but I don't know them and I have no idea about who they are or where they live.

Here's some tips I try to use to diffuse any potential negativity and to instead have fun and possibly be an inspiration to somebody at a gathering. First, I always offer to bring something. I'm going to a neighbor's house for Thanksgiving this year and I said I would bring a sweet potato lasagna and some triple berry-chocolate nice cream. In doing so, I explained to the host that I was 100% plant-based and I wanted to bring a couple plant-based dishes that I could share with the others who were coming. Right away, I established how I would be eating and the hostess told me that she is looking forward to trying my plant-based foods.

The second thing I try to do is to be a good and gracious guest. I'll be going, not only with my two dishes big enough for a meal for me and for others to try, but also with a nice flower arrangement for the hostess' table. I will find things to compliment about the hostess and her house and I will avoid getting into arguments of any kind. In other words, I want to be the perfect guest. Everybody will know that I'm the one who brought the plant-based food. I don't need to announce it loudly or draw attention to it. Those who are interested in learning more can ask me about it. And those who aren't won't be given the opportunity to argue if I can help it.

The third thing I will do is I will put on my plate a few other foods that are not part of what I brought. I know the sweet potatoes may be loaded with maple syrup or the green beans might have butter on them. But taking one or two very tiny portions of a couple items like that will put others at ease. If I just totally stuck to what I brought, people might see me as rejecting them. And I don't want that. I'm accepting of all others and I want others to know that I'm accepting of them. We're all at different places in our life's journey. Some of us are fortunate enough to understand the importance of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. But others are not. They have not been awakened yet.

Note: If small enough portions are taken, then they don't need to be eaten. They can just look like the remnants of food scraps left after a full plate of food (if you get my drift)!

And that brings me to my final thought on Thanksgiving. That is, the importance of giving thanks. A recent study found that people who are gracious and thankful are healthier and tend to live longer. No matter what our circumstances are in life, we all have a tremendous amount to be thankful about. One of the biggest things that I'm thankful for is the knowledge that I've gained about eating whole food, plant-based. I learned about it for my health originally, but I now also understand the effect that our way of eating has on everything around us. It is perhaps the single greatest issue of our time. And while I think there are too few people who recognize that, I am thankful that I have been awakened to that.

My goal is to help others become awakened to that as well. And many have. Many have changed because they saw the change in me. Many have changed because they've read what I've written and continue to write. But nobody has ever changed because of the inevitable argument that will ensue from talking about it at the Thanksgiving table. This season, it's time to remember to enjoy our family and friends. And to be thankful for all that we have, including the knowledge we have about eating plant-based.

Thank you and have a happy Thanksgiving weekend.

J Lanning Smith
November 22, 2017

Should Salad or Starch Be the Focus of a WFPB Meal? The Answer is Yes!

There are times I've noticed when it appears that the whole food, plant-based doctors are in conflict with each other. And while whenever two or more people are involved in anything, there will be some differences of opinions, minor tweaks in thought with others or differences in how things are done, the differences are not usually too dramatic. The main message for eating lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds stays in tact regardless. And on closer examination, I often find that what appear to be major differences at first glance are not differences at all.

In particular, I'm thinking about Dr. Fuhrman's call to make salad the focus of a whole food, plant-based way of eating versus Dr. McDougall's call to make starch the focus of a whole food, plant-based way of eating. Dr. Fuhrman focuses on the nutritional value of food and Dr. McDougall focuses on the energy and the satiety that foods provide.

So, who is right? Do we focus on the salad as the biggest part of our meal or do we focus on the starch as the biggest part of our meal. And the answer, I believe, depends on who is answering the question. If our eyeballs are answering the question, then Dr. Fuhrman is right. Our focus is on the salad because it will clearly be the largest item on our plate (or at least it should be). In fact, when I was at the recent Remedy conference last weekend, I would start each meal by filling my entire plate with salad and then putting the hot ingredients right on top of the salad. I do this at home also unless I'm substituting a green smoothie for the salad instead. It serves two purposes. First, when I do that, my salad requires no salad dressing and two, it ensures that I eat a large salad and not just make salad a sideline dish.

But what if we ask our stomachs? Our stomachs want satiety and they say that we can get there a lot quicker by having mostly starch-based foods. That's because starchy foods have a higher calorie density, so it takes less of them to fill us up.

What actually happens, or should happen on a WFPB way of eating, is we should see a large salad and a smaller portion of starch. And yet the smaller portion of starch can be, and should be, enough to be able to label our plate starch-based. Dr. McDougall says that 45% to 70% of our plate should be starch-based.

Let's take a look at what that actually looks like. Let's take a typically simple meal like rice and beans with a salad and see what we have. For such a meal of 500 calories, 70% of it, according to Dr. McDougall should be starchy vegetables, 20% non-starchy vegetables (like what you find in a salad) and 10% fruit.That breaks down to 350 calories coming from starchy vegetables, 100 calories coming from non-starchy vegetables and 50 calories coming from fruit.

In other words, 350 calories are from starch and 150 calories can be from salad (if we put the fruit on the salad). Both rice and beans are starchy vegetables. One cup of brown rice is 215 calories and half a cup of pinto beans is 122 calories. That's your starchy vegetables. Now the salad makes up the remaining calories through 3 cups of kale and 1/2 cup of blueberries.

Calorie-wise, that's a starch-based meal. But from the perspective of our eyesight, there's 3-1/2 cups of salad to 1-1/2 cups of beans and rice. The salad is over twice as large as the beans and rice. And yet the beans and rice comprise 70% of the meal, making it a starch-based meal.

So, when it comes to the centerpiece of your meal, you don't have to choose between Dr. McDougall and Dr. Fuhrman. Both are right. You need to eat large quantities of veggies, but you need to get most of your calories from starch. How about that! Instead of deprivation, both are saying to get enough of these important food components.

J Lanning Smith
November 20, 2017