Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Forks Over Knives

"Someone needs to stand up and say that the answer isn't another pill. 
The answer is spinach." 
- Bill Maher

Let food be thy medicine.
Hippocrates, 480 B.C. (or something like that)

I confess: I've let my low-cholesterol diet slip a bit.

(Okaaaaaay ...a lot.)

I wouldn't say I am completely off the wagon. It's more like I'm hanging on by one arm while the horse is quickly gaining speed.

When I last went to the doctor in October, she brought up the issue of cholesterol medication. Again. And my high triglycerides. Again.

I don't go to the doctor. I'm not interested in medication. My doctor wasn't too interested in hearing about dietary changes, including the admittedly few that I had made. She seems to be the type who is a little too attached to her prescription pad.

Needless to say, I will be finding a new doctor.

He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the time of his doctor.
Ancient Chinese proverb

In the meantime, I've been talking via Facebook with one of my very best friends who has some similar issues and who, in that past two weeks with the support of her husband, decided to begin a "plant-strong" diet.

"You need to watch Forks Over Knives too," she told me. Which I then did, on Wednesday.

Have you seen this documentary? (You probably have. I am the last person in the world to see every movie.) It's eye-opening and, in my opinion, well-done. A lot of the information I'd already heard, but the way it is put together in the film - combined with real-life stories of people who have adopted a plant-based diet - is fascinating.

I know that there are some controversies surrounding this particular film and that there will always be people convinced that we need to continue consuming meat products and dairy. I'm not so sure. Forks Over Knives advocates a plant-based diet, meaning one that is primarily plant-based (no animal products), consists of minimally processed foods, and no oils.

I watched with my laptop, taking notes, but the statistics were coming too fast for me to type (even as I looked away during the visuals of the open heart operations; those were a little too graphic for my ... um, taste). I found it especially interesting to see the historical connections.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans started to believe that we needed more protein in our diets. This coincided with seeing visuals of starving children throughout the world and the introduction of convenience and fast foods. Coronary artery disease became more prevalent, and in 1971, President Nixon and Congress declared a "war on cancer."

Too many of us here in the United States are still fighting that war, especially when compared to other countries.

Awhile ago, my friend also told me how much she and her husband like the recipes in Lindsay Nixon's Happy Herbivore books. This week, I discovered that my library had Everyday Happy Herbivore so, in an effort to recommit to eating better and because of being inspired by Forks Over Knives, I decided to try a few of the recipes and make some immediate changes.

On Wednesday, I made the Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie recipe from Everyday Happy Herbivore for dinner.

It's incredibly simple. Instead of oil, I sauteed onions in the juice of canned diced tomatoes. I also added a little bit of garlic. Then, it's a can of black beans and corn. (I had a bag of steamed corn in the freezer.) Top with mashed sweet potatoes, and that's it.

I happened to think this was absolutely delicious. The kids thought it was okay but were fans of the aesthetics. ("It's black and gold ... Steelers colors!" Boo said, while he helped me stir. (That's his hand in the photo above.) "This would be a great Super Bowl meal next time they win.")  The Husband ... well, he hated it. (He's not quite on board with the idea of a plant-based diet while eschewing cholesterol medications. He's somewhat of the mindset that, if the doctor says you need to be on a pill, you're to run to the pharmacy that instant. I'm a bit - okay, a lot - more skeptical.

For Thursday night's dinner, I made up my own vegan creation: a stir fry with a large portobello mushroom. He wasn't too happy with that, either.

As my mid-morning snack on Friday, I had a large bowl of fruit that I purchased at Costco: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and a plum. That filled me up until early-mid afternoon.

For our traditional Friday night pizza night, I still ordered pizza for the family but I added a garden salad large enough to share with everyone. Nobody accepted. I had a decent portion, plus two smallish size slices of pizza. (As opposed to the three slices I typically have.) I just did the same for lunch today.

Part of the issue is that these are foods The Husband doesn't like. Vegetables, beans, tofu, fruits - not his thing. We've both been vegetarian for 14 years, but truthfully, most of the time that takes the form of being pasta-tarian. If there's a classification called Italian-arian with a diet of pizza, ravioli, baked ziti, lasagna, macaroni and cheese ... that's us. We also eat a lot of vegetarian substitutes - veggie burgers and crumbles, faux chicken, etc., which can get pricey. For me, it's just getting to be too much. I'm tired of having no energy; I'm tired of my migraines.

So, to each his and her own. I've decided that while I'm not going to force the issue - I'm not interested in being a nag or turning this into a battleground - that's not going to stop ME from making the changes I want to make. There are bigger issues at play here; we have two kids; he just got over having cancer; and if I live past August 4 of this year, then I'll officially be older than my dad when he died.

Food for thought, indeed.

Weekend Cooking is a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone with a food-related post to share.

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copyright 2013, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Carole said...

Really interesting post. We are eating a lot less meat these days but I couldn't go completely vegetarian. Have a great week.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

This is a thought-provoking post and so well done. I applaud your efforts to eat better and be healthy. It's not always easy to please everyone, but instead of throwing in the towel, you push on. Bravo to you.

Beth F said...

We love our doctor -- he advocates lifestyle changes whenever possible. Do some reading on salmon (I know, you're a vegetarian, but bear with me). According to newish research, eating salmon and other omega-3 fish once a week is as good as taking cholesterol medicine. Taking omega-3 supplements just won't make enough of a difference.

We eat meat a few times a week and fish at least once a week. But regardless, I've been a strong believer in the idea that Americans eat way to much protein -- especially fatty protein. On the other hand, I don't think soy is the answer, and I watch how much I eat, keeping my intake to the barest minimum.

Joy Weese Moll said...

Good job taking steps to improve things. On one level it's so hard because it's stepping out of main-stream eating. But once a find a paradigm that works for you and some structures and routines to make it that work, it starts to get easier and easier.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

A great friend of mine who's just completed reconstruction surgery after having a double mastectomy recommended the Happy Herbivore books to me as well. Her husband is an anesthesiologist and has done a lot of research since her diagnosis. My husband, however, would respond exactly as yours :P I've thought about trying to institute one night a week for no meat. We'll see how it goes. Enjoyed your thoughts today :)

Cecelia said...

I watched Forks Over Knives this past year and thought it was very interesting. It also reminded me of the time in my childhood when my mom turned us all into plant-based vegetarians in an attempt to control my brother's Type I diabetes through diet. Everyone rebelled (including his blood sugar). I liked that the film asked you to seriously consider what your food intake means for your health, but I don't intend to cut out all animal products.

Thanks for sharing with us - I'd love to see how you decide to make changes going forward!

Sue Jackson said...

Well, you aren't the last one in the world to see Fors Over Knives - I hadn't even heard of it :)

I have high triglycerides, too. We eat a very healthy diet - lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein. I think sugar is my downfall - I do love sweets. I can't eat dairy, so that eliminates fatty cheeses, etc. (though I miss cheese very much)

I am quite mystified how someone who doesn't like fruits, vegetables, or beans can be a vegetarian for so many years!

Good luck with your healthy eating!!


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Melissa Sarno said...

I haven't seen this film. I would like to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing! I am a proud meat-eater (I'm sorry, I just love it) but I eat vegetarian almost all week at dinner because I basically only shop at my farmer's market these days (although, man, the winter in the northeast is brutal...if I have to eat one more potato...) This cookbook has made me very happy so I thought I would share it with you.

Elisabeth said...

My hubby has high cholesterol too and also does not want to take the prescription meds. He has been taking on over the counter product called Cholestene. It is red rice yeast. He has been on it for almost ten years and his cholesterol was 189 when last tested. The doctor still tries to get him to take the prescription but he cannot argue with the numbers the hubby gets from Cholestene. I would give it a try!