I was raised on southern food – fried, rich, creamy, and almost always Crisco in hand. As I grew older and became more active, I sought out different foods on my own accord. My path to healthy eating has been a life-long path. I started eating a healthy diet step-by-step. I did not follow fads such as the latest books that promise immediate weight loss and I did not follow what some might call a “strict” diet–eliminating certain foods for the sake of filling up on others.
So what did I do? I ate real, whole foods. I continue to eat real, whole foods. I also eat what could be classified as “junk” food sometimes. And, I do not freak out if someone serves me a dish with my least preferred food.
Eating the healthiest diet that is right for you and your body, and our world is a learned habit that takes patience, trial and error, and a lot of self-love and proactive intention. It also takes time – months, even years. However, once you establish the fundamental principals of healthy eating, you will see that all those trendy diets out there are in many ways just another creative marketing plan.
The best diet is a way of life. A healthy diet keeps our mind, body, and heart balanced and has us coming back to refuel on the real, whole foods more and more, not because we have to, but because we have a deep desire to keep the balance.
I am going to introduce to you my many years of walking the path of healthy eating, my many trials and errors, and ultimately the principals that were a constant and did not fundamentally change. They are the principals of what I call the “Eco-Veggie Diet.”
The Eco-Veggie Diet (EVD) is a way of life that guides us to maintain our internal balance and keep the unnecessary weight off long-term. Why another diet name? Because all the other diet names left me feeling boxed in and did not adequately describe the way I ate. I mostly eat vegan food, but sometimes I have an egg or a piece of cheese. I also eat vegetarian and sometimes if my only options that were served to me were meat options I may take those options as a last resort. But on a regular and consistent basis I do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or dairy.
The Eco-Veggie Diet is something I can identify with and reasonably and comfortable live with in harmony with my inner and outer worlds. So what is this Eco-Veggie Diet? It is a sustainable whole foods, plant-based way of eating with options to eat non-plant based, whole foods in a sustainable and ecologically conscious way.
I chose to use the word ecological because it is the branch of biology that deals with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms, and human ecology deals with the branch of sociology concerned with the spacing and interdependence of people and institutions. Both are important in understanding and living the Eco-Veggie Diet.
How did I guide us to develop this model to understand and guide us through the healthiest way to eat and live? I looked at 2 underpinnings of many diet plans. They either will be based on guiding you towards greater health, with a few focusing on ethics, and another handful combining health and ethics. In the combination of health and ethics in our diets, some diet plans pose restrictive philosophical issues to contend with and my answer to that is the Eco-Veggie Diet.
The Eco-Veggie Diet is a way of life with step-by-step goals. Here they are:
EVD Goal 1 – Eliminate Processed Foods From Your Diet
This process may take weeks, months, or years. If you force change, it is likely that the changing action will force you into a contorted shape, freezing you in atrophy in both mind and body, which is not a stable place to be when trying to follow and manage your diet goals (if you know what I mean).
So, start taking the boxed foods, most canned foods, junk crackers and chips, meats, cheeses, and drinks that have artificial flavor enhancers, MSG, dyes, and mostly things you cannot pronounce off your grocery list. Stop buying them. You may still crave them, but stop buying them. The cravings will slowly go away. This goes for the eating out junk too.
EVD Goal 2 – Add More Veggies, Fruits, Whole Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
Once you have spent some time going through the trial and error of eliminating the processed stuff and add more of the fruits and whole grains that you really love. This piece is important. This is not the time to experiment more than you already are with this process. You need a stable foundation right now and your stable foundation is the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains you already really like to eat. These are your staples – beans, legumes, rice, pasta, etc. – of the whole grain variety. Jasmine and basmati rice are great options too, and now you can buy them in the whole version.
EVD Goal 3 – Eat Less Meat
I did not say eat no meat. I suggested eating less meat. That is right, I do not eat meat and I am not telling you not to eat meat. I am saying – lessen your consumption of meat. But what about protein? It is just wrong information and data we hear that we can only get our protein from meat. Yes, we need protein, and vegetables, bean and legumes, and nuts and seeds have plenty of protein!
Take baby steps. If you eat meat at every meal, eliminate meat from one of those meals each day, then two, three, etc., until perhaps a whole day of not eating meat. What happens after that? Maybe you evaluate how you feel and you take a couple of days a week or more of not eating meat. Try it, and remember to take baby steps.
EVD Goal 4 – Consume Less Dairy
Just as with eating less meat and after you have tackled that process for a while and you feel ready to move on to adding another diet change, begin to slowly lessen dairy from your diet. This was the hardest one for me, since I love dairy cheese!
Follow the same step-by-step dairy plan you did for lessening the meat consumption. You do not have to eliminate all dairy, but you will notice effects on your body when you do eliminate some dairy, especially if you are an addictive dairy consumer.
This piece is very important after decreasing meat from our diets as many will consume less meat only to consume more dairy! The goal here is to decrease the animal protein intake. Why? Casein is an animal protein found in meat and dairy and has been found that when consumed in high quantities has a high correlation to cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease. This is not an ethical question; it is a major mass health issue that must be addressed now.
If you would like more information on how the animal protein casein has been linked to all major modern diseases, I highly recommend reading The China Study.
EVD Goal 5 – Drink It Naked
When we eliminate processed foods, we must also eliminate all those processed drinks – energy, coffee, and all those claiming to be “healthy.” Drink water and a lot of it. You do not have to be a water plain jane. Try adding fresh or frozen fruit to your water. Drink hot tea and cold tea. There are all so many varieties to fulfill your diverse palate. Try natural sweeteners such as stevia, honey, and agave nectar. Definitely take sodas off the grocery list and buy them as a treat. If you miss the fresh, crisp, carbonated bite that soda offers, try some sparkling water and squeeze in some fresh juice. Many brands of carbonated water now come in a variety of natural flavors. Lastly, this is a big one – decrease your weekly alcohol intake.
EVD Goal 6 – Eat the Sweetness, but Hold the Mixers
Some of those cookies, cakes, and chocolates in the stores have tons of additives and belong to the processed foods category, but deserve a special mentioning here. If you like chocolate, skip the milk chocolate and try some dark chocolate. There are so many options to choose from with dried fruits, nuts, spices, etc. You can satisfy your sweet tooth and boost your system with some sweet antioxidants (though take it easy on the intake, enjoy a little sometimes).
Make your own smoothies or shakes. There are so many possibilities to satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy smoothies and shakes. Bake it at home! Baked goods have no additives and are so fresh. Try sweetening your bread with honey or maple syrup.
EVD Goal 7 – Explore
Now that you have established a fundamental eating routine, explore other fruits, vegetables, and non-meat alternatives you have never tried before. You will have a great foundation to fall back on. You can allow yourself time to explore and trial and error on many different things without the fear of losing the fundamental principals of your diet, because you have already walked that process. In that process, you will undoubtedly notice and feel the great benefits and stick with it.
This is also a great time to try ethnic foods and vegetable or fruits you have refused to try for years. When we clean up our palate our taste buds change. This is also a great time to explore vegan and vegetarian cookbooks as they give us a great understanding of how to prepare meals without meat and dairy.
EVD Goal 8 – Add Raw Foods
Learn to love foods in their natural state. I agree, plain broccoli in its natural state does not sound very enticing, but throw some raw broccoli in with fresh fruit, lemon, and nuts and suddenly we have transitioned from boring to explosively delicious. My secret to adding more raw fruit and veggies to my diet is adding them to things I have already cooked. As an example, I love adding raw chopped zucchini and carrots to top my cooked beans of choice.
We get the best of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber when we eat raw foods.
EVD Goal 9 – Bake Without Eggs
Explore baking sometimes without using eggs. We do not need eggs in pancakes, muffins, or bread. We can make great versions of these favorites without eggs. Trust me, try it. There are many ways to substitute egg in recipes (flax eggs [flax powder with water], applesauce, etc.). This is where the vegan and veggie cookbooks come in handy because they have some great substitute ideas.
EVD Goal 10 – Buy Local and Organic
By now, you are pretty well versed in the ways of the EVD goals. You have got enough savvy skill that you are ready to take your healthy eating up a notch. Start buying what you can at your local farmer’s market (or buy local items in the grocery store). Be sure too to check out your co-ops. When economically feasible, go organic and definitely hormone free (especially if you are buying meat, buy the grass fed and hormone free variety). If you choose to buy eggs, buy organic and pasture raised eggs.
EVD Goal 11 – Mix It Up: Oils and Vinegars are Not All Equal
Experiment with the wonderful world of oils – olive, grapeseed, coconut, peanut, etc. These oils in addition to your general cooking will be the base for many of your sauces and dips (because most store bought dressings and sauces are packed with way too many additives that strip away the healthy intention of the dressing or sauce). Vinegars are a great addition to our foods as well as they give the food a natural flavor boost, especially when mixed with natural oil and juice.
30-40 Day Challenge –
The great thing about the Eco-Veggie Diet is that you can tailor these goals to your lifestyle and mind/body needs. Give the EVD a try for 30-40 days as it takes about that long to kick an old habit and establish a new one.
Now that we have covered the basic principals of the EVD, let us revisit the ecology piece again. Recall that ecology is the study of relations and interactions between organisms and their environment. The more conscious we become about our eating habits, the more conscious we become about the effect our eating habits have on the environment and the world around us. When we change our eating habits, we change how our mind and body respond to our environment, and in that action, we change the world to a more sustainable place for all to love and have access to equality of opportunity to experience their bliss.
The more conscious we are with the food we eat, the more the environment around us will be preserved and renewed for growth (less waste, less toxins, less stripping of the unnecessary use of resources from our planet).
There is much compelling documentation on how much food and water is given to our livestock, which we kill, then consume. Food and water are resources we cannot be wasting away. We are still fighting hunger in our modern world. Animals our grandparents raised are not the same animals that are being raised for mass consumption today. The animals are being treated poorly and pumped with toxic hormone growth chemicals. This is toxic for our environment because of the land we are using for this mass consumption and growth hormones are toxic for our bodies.
Recent research suggests that the overall cost/benefit of raising animals for food is very low in terms of conserving resources and feeding hungry mouths. It takes a lot of grain and water going into our animals to produce a small portion of marketable meat and this pales in comparison to the amount of food and water we could have saved less feeding the livestock and have available to feed to the hungry poor and conserve the resources of our earth (think water conservation here).
If we lessen our consumption of animals, we lessen the demand for their slaughter, and we have more water and grain to feed our hungry and conserve resources.
The goals of the Eco-Veggie Diet guides us to become more conscious eaters and consequently when we become more conscious eaters, we become more conscious of the food source and the environment. We naturally become more concerned about the sustainable growth of our environment for humans and animals.
I think we can all agree that when we start a diet plan, we do so to become healthier overall, even if our only immediate intent is to lose weight. The Eco-Veggie Diet is a step-by-step process that provides foundational principals to guide us to balance our mind, body, and heart, and it takes off the unwanted pounds.
If you want to lose weight immediately, this is not the plan for you. Just know that if you follow another plan for immediate weight loss, you may lose your weight quickly, but it is not sustainable. That means that it is highly likely that the weight will come back and you will kick the diet plan to the curb.
If you are looking for a long-term diet plan that is not just a diet, but is a lifestyle that is sustainable for you and the environment (because we need a healthy environment to keep us healthy), and to lose weight, the Eco-Veggie Diet is definitely something to try.
We grow in many ways in response to our environment. If we are around people that are in bad moods all the time we tend to adopt those same moods. The same effect applies with our food. If we keep polluting our environment through non-sustainable food practices (growing and eating) we will grow in response to that pollution.
Following the Eco-Veggie Diet plan we become more aware of the symbiosis between us, what we eat, and its effect on the environment and our bodies. We will notice how great we feel when we eat well. Besides losing weight that will stay off, our immunity systems will become stronger saving significant dollars in medical costs in our pocket book and our nation’s pocket book.
As we follow the Eco-Veggie Diet, not only are we saying yes to a healthier us, we are also saying yes to a healthier community, nation, and planet.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea