Restaurants and the Whole Foods, Plant-Based Way of Eating

There are many things I like about Dr. Michael Greger's book titled How Not to Die. For one, it's chock full of information, probably more information than I've seen in any other book except for maybe The China Study by my friend, Dr. T. Colin Campbell. And the information is fully footnoted and supported by scientific studies. But more than that, it's entertaining. It's not a heavy read. While it's heavy on the science, nobody needs to be a scientist to be able to fully appreciate the book. As a result, it has become a favorite of mine along with The China Study in terms of explaining the whole foods, plant-based way of eating.

But there's another reason that I like How Not to Die and that is in the fact that it's practical. It meets people where they are. And perhaps one of the best examples of that is in the quote found on page 265 where Dr. Greger states, "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....I told him that enjoying her soup shouldn't keep him from making healthier choices the rest of the time.

That is such a powerful statement and it's so true and yet we who are whole foods, plant-based advocates tend to forget it over and over again. We need to meet people where they are. To insist on 100% compliance to a whole foods, plant-based way of eating is to lose people. People will say they can't possibly do that all the time or they will say they don't want to do that all the time. So, they will walk away from this and never get any of the benefit. Wouldn't it be far better to acknowledge that it's okay to eat chicken soup or pizza with cheese occasionally or steak on Christmas day than it is to be so adamant as to turn people off totally to our way of eating?

This plays out particularly when it comes to restaurant eating. Many people have to eat out in restaurants. Like the gurus in the whole foods, plant-based movement who travel constantly to give speeches and attend conferences and cruises, many people travel quite a bit. It might be for work. It might be for vacation. It might be to visit family. There can be a multitude of reasons for why people travel. And when they travel, they eat out. They may eat out a lot.

I'm friends with a couple who eats out a lot. Due to physical challenges, they cannot cook very many satisfying meals. Plus they are socially engaged in a way that has them eating out with friends and colleagues on a regular basis. They aren't about to give up their lifestyles. And if we insisted that they did, then we would lose them. It's as simple as that.

Yes, restaurant food can be full of sugar, salt and fat. But as Dr. Greger would say, eating restaurant foods shouldn't keep a person from making healthy choices the rest of the time (or while in the restaurant). In the restaurant, a person can ask for no meat or animal products. That in itself is huge. We know the research done with animal protein done by Dr. Campbell. We know the research done with saturated fat done by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. So, just cutting out the animal products is a lot in itself in terms of restaurant eating.

I like to seek out farm-to-table restaurants when I eat out. For one, they use fresh, local ingredients and you don't find a lot of artificial ingredients that fall into the categories of salt, sugar or fat. So, a good farm-to-table restaurant is an excellent option. Steakhouses are also good. You can get side dishes of vegetables, mushroom steak toppings, potatoes and rice and so on. Just be cognizant of the fact that steamed vegetables are often served with butter. I'm not sure what these restaurants think is the purpose of steaming vegetables if they then turn around and put butter on the vegetable.

I like Asian restaurants a lot. But it should be recognized that Asian food can be heavy on the salt, sugars and oils. Watch out particularly for Chinese buffets because there you can have no choice but to accept what is put in front of you.

All in all, the decision about how much to eat out is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer to that question. I eat out quite often myself. And I've continued to lose weight and to see improvements in my bloodwork numbers. So, I am satisfied with the results I have attained from eating a whole foods, plant-based diet while not giving up the lifestyle I want to live. To me, giving up animal products, processed foods, and oils doesn't have to mean giving up on my overall lifestyle. It just means that I adapt my eating behaviors to fit my lifestyle. Isn't that the way it should be?