In a Restaurant: Think G-Bombs and Daily Dozen; Not Vegan

I just came back from a five day trip, three of which were spent in Disney parks (the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom) with my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law. As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, I didn't think I would be able to eat 100% healthy on that trip, but that would be no reason to miss the trip. As it turned out, I was able to eat healthy at least 90% of the time, and the one big time that I went off plan was fully my choice (and I don't regret the choice I made that one time).

I weighed myself the morning before leaving, and with everything else the same, I weighed myself the morning after getting back (at the same time, immediately after waking up each morning). I lost two pounds over the course of that five days. Some people might attribute that to all the walking there is in the Disney parks, but according to my Fitbit, that wasn't the case. I actually walked less in a full day of the Magic Kingdom than I do when I'm here at home. I attribute the weight loss to probably less snacking between meals. I ate three wholesome, healthy, satisfying meals each day, and with all the activity going on, I didn't have the urge to snack in between.

But I was thinking about how I approach a meal in a restaurant versus how I hear many others approaching meals in restaurants. And I thought I would share my thoughts on that. Many plant-based people I think tend to think the word "vegan" when going into a restaurant. And I believe that tends to steer us wrong. For example, I was in southern Florida visiting my brother and his wife about three weeks ago. They took me to a restaurant that turned out to be a delicious meal, but they said they picked it because it has a vegan section on the menu. They too think of me as vegan as opposed to whole food, plant-based.

When I got my menu, they pointed me to the vegan section of the menu where the first item listed was the Impossible Burger. This is a "vegan" burger that has over twice the amount of saturated fat as a lean hamburger does. It has almost eight times as much sodium as a lean hamburger does. It contains oil. And it has more calories than a lean hamburger does. It might be a good choice for vegans who want the taste of a cow in their diets, but it doesn't impress me as being a healthy choice. And yet, I've heard people who have tried it, exclaim how wonderful it is because it tastes just like real hamburger. I just think to myself, "But that's not my criteria." I'm not doing this to pretend like I'm eating a cow; I'm doing this for my health in addition to doing it for the environment and for the animals.

The other options on the vegan menu weren't any better. And that's why I don't think "vegan" when I go into a restaurant. And I don't tell the server that I'm vegan when I go into a restaurant. If I do that, then I find that nine times out of ten, I'm having to explain what's wrong with this or that suggestion that the server comes up with.

Instead, I think Dr. Fuhrman's G-Bombs, or if that fails, then I widen it to Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen. That's how I eat at home too. I try to get G-Bombs into every meal and I try to get the Daily Dozen into every day's worth of nutrition (unless I'm fasting of course). What are G-Bombs? It's just an acronym that Dr. Fuhrman came up with that stands for greens, beans, onions, mushrooms (cooked only), berries and seeds. That's what I look for on a menu. I look for non-meat dishes that contain as many greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds as possible. That's my criteria in a nutshell.

Almost all restaurants can do that. Usually, I will get as much salad as I can with these ingredients, and I will also order a main course that is comprised almost entirely of these ingredients or similar. If there's nothing on the menu, I look to see if they have those ingredients in the kitchen and then I ask them to prepare me something with those ingredients. I can do so and still specify no meat, cheese or oil. Many times what I get is much better than the rest of the table. People are always looking at my plate and wishing they had ordered what I ordered.

So, what does this look like. Well, one day I ate at the Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom.  There I started off with a delicious noodle salad that included edamame beans, cooked mushrooms, carrots, red pepper, mango and pickled lotus fruit. For my main course, I had curried vegetable crews stew, which included tofu, pineapple, cauliflower, greens and more. There were a few G-Bombs missing, but the foods were right in line with the intent of the G-Bombs and they worked toward satisfying the Daily Dozen.

Another day, at Yak n Yeti in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I had roasted cauliflower with greens and red quinoa and brown rice. I had that with a side of sauteed Bok Choy. Again, not totally G-Bombs, but that meal went further in the G-Bomb direction and in the direction of the Daily Dozen than a dish with fake meat or fake cheese would have.

Eating outside the park, I ate at two places in Kissimmee. One was Sweet Tomatoes where it's easy to make your own salad containing all the G-Bombs and more. I also had a delicious ginger soup there that I added tofu and green onions too. It was so good that I ate several bowls of it in one setting. Of course, they were small bowls. Another two times, I ate at Golden Corral. While the meal wasn't perfect, I was able to put together from the food bar, a plate of black-eyed peas, a sweet potato that I covered with cooked mushrooms, salad, sauteed onions and peppers, and cooked carrots and brussel sprouts. I'm sure some of that had butter on it and I did find a tiny piece of ham (that I removed) in my black-eyed peas. But all in all, it was the healthiest of the choices I had at the time.

Some will argue that it costs more to eat the way I did in Disney. And ordering fresh vegetable and fruit dishes is more expensive than ordering a burger or something like that. But I would argue that food is a very intimate thing. After all, food is one of the only outside items that we let enter our bodies. And it's so important to our health and well being. Having good quality food, to me, is a priority. So, I'm willing to spend what it costs to get that. That's why I buy organic for example. Sure, I could spend less and then have more money to go to the movies or do something else instead. But the quality of what I put into my body and the quality of my health is too important to me. So, I make the quality of what I eat a priority.

And if you just do a veggie burger or other fake food item once or twice a year, it's not going to hurt you. I started off mentioning that I went off plan once myself during this trip. And I thoroughly enjoyed that meal. But it will probably be Christmas before I eat another meal like that. But if you eat out frequently and you frequently think vegan instead of G-Bombs, then you're probably not doing your health any favors. And you may not be seeing any results from being whole food, plant-based.

So, instead, go into a restaurant thinking non-meat, non-dairy G-Bomb and Daily Dozen foods. You'll be happier and healthier from having done yourself that favor.

J Lanning Smith
Twice the Man, Half the Weight
January 31, 2019