The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is challenging Care2 members to take the Vegan Kickstart, a 21-day program designed to help people adopt a healthy vegan diet.
According to PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard, the author of Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings—and 7 Steps to End Them Naturally, certain foods (namely meat, cheese, chocolate, and sugar) contain opiate-like chemicals that keep people coming back for more…and more…and more.
Dr. Barnard says it takes just three weeks for people to stop craving unhealthy foods. Ultimately, it’s easier and healthier to stop eating addictive foods entirely than to try to eat them “in moderation.” (This same basic philosophy applies to all unhealthy or unethical behaviors, really. When was the last time you heard someone earnestly say that smoking, driving drunk, or kicking dogs wasn’t that bad as long as you only did it on occasion?)
For optimal health, base your diet on a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and all the nutritious foods made from them. Plant-based foods are cholesterol free, low in saturated fat, and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. They also contain phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, which knock out carcinogens and fight inflammation. Vegans are known to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases.
To help you make the transition to a vegan diet, PCRM will provide tips, recipes, and more. In the meantime, here are a few basic tips to help you eat healthier:
*Choose veggie burgers rather than hamburgers, bean chili instead of beef chili, soy sausage over pork sausage, and chickpeas, not chicken.
*Do a diet inventory and think about the foods you regularly eat that can easily be made vegan. For example, make oatmeal or cereal with soy milk instead of cow’s milk, leave the cheese off of bean burritos (or use soy cheese), and use Ener-g egg replacer instead of eggs when preparing pancakes and waffles.
* Try vegan ethnic foods. Most Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern restaurants offer a variety of vegan options. Many popular chain restaurants, including Johnny Rockets, P.F. Chang’s, and Moe’s also offer vegan items. For a list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, see VegDining.com or HappyCow.net.
*For a quick and healthy lunch, whip together a hummus wrap with leafy green lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, sprouts, and shredded carrots, or toss together a four bean and corn salad with an Italian or vinaigrette dressing. For more innovative ideas for both adults and children, see veganlunchbox.blogspot.com.
These are just a few suggestions—please take the Vegan Kickstart for many more.
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