Many times I meet folks with simply awful diets, filled with fast food (McDonalds), microwaved quick-foods (Hot Pockets), and processed meats, cheese and snacks (Lunchables, Skittles, soda, cheese cubes, Goldfish). Breakfast starts with a drive-through, a microwaved breakfast, or a bowl of Froot Loops. This sets the tone for the day which often looks something like this:
7am Breakfast- Drive through breakfast sandwich or Toaster Strudel/Poptart or bowl of Froot Loops/Lucky Charms/Cinnamon Toast Crunch
10am Mid-Morning Snack- Doughnut at the office or Soda or crackers/chips
12pm Lunch- Fast food (burger + fries + soda) or sandwich + chips + soda or lunch special at restaurant (Burger/Chicken Fried Steak/Enchiladas + side + soda)
3pm Snack- Candy or chips from vending machine + soda/ coffee/energy drink to offset energy slump
7pm Dinner- Frozen Lasagna or Hamburger Helper or microwave meal
9pm snack/dessert- Popcorn or chips or cookies or ice cream
This is a pretty standard lineup. This is the Standard American Diet (SAD diet).
When I meet folks currently following this menu, I often find that they expect me to rip apart how awful their habits are and begin lecturing them on how to do a complete overhaul. Instead of seeing judgement in this menu, I see infinite opportunity to improve. For someone eating a SAD diet, gradual changes easy to incorporate and often snowball into making even more healthier changes.
Yes, there are folks out there that are ready to make a sweeping changes all at once. Perhaps they had a medical scare, or a revelatory meeting with a scale or mirror. For many making a sudden change, it is because they have recently read or watching life changing informational material, such as Forks Over Knives. Once they have the knowledge and know a healthier way exists they often want to get busy right away.
For others, however, the process of a total diet makeover seems daunting, cumbersome, and flavorless. I understand these sentiments, especially since it is very common for those who want to make the move to plant-based to have many concerns about how to do it. I get it. You find yourself realizing that everything you have always eaten is not good for you, so what the heck can you eat? Will it even taste good? Thats why The Green Spork exists. We help with this transition.
Back to the diet above. When I see someone eating a SAD diet, and they have decided to make healthier changes I always advise that they focus on adding instead of subtracting. If you take a look at the above menu you will notice that there is a complete absence of fresh fruit and vegetables (french fries and tomato sauce at best). There are no whole grains or legumes either. There are really no whole foods here. In a nutshell, there is no fiber or vitamins and nutrients. It's literally all process, refined, salted, sugared and oiled. This means this diet is brimming with opportunities to improve!
Where to start? Add, add, add, add... Add more food. People are often shocked to hear me start with 'add' especially when the SAD diet is brimming with excesses (fat, salt, oil, cholesterol, etc) that do need to be reduced or eliminated. There is no denying that there will ultimately be a need for subtraction, but the key to successfully removing is by first adding healthy foods. Whole foods. Real food.
You see, the more whole foods you eat, the less room you have for the processed junk. The more you begin to be mindful of your food, the more you will continue to be mindful. By adding whole foods (even animal foods at first) you will also begin to cook more. No, you won't be a slave to the kitchen but you will have a hand in creating most of your meals. Cooking, even your favorite items, at home is guaranteed to reduce the amount of preservatives, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and other weird junk that goes into you body. Fast food, restaurant food, and any convenience packaged food are all loaded with all kinds of things that aren't food. They have ingredient lists a mile long. They have salt and sugar crammed in to every ounce and plenty of preservatives to keep them 'fresh' for years. Ick!
So we begin by cooking food. Real food. Anything you like as long as it is a whole food. We add food (REAL food) to you rmenu. As time goes on we add more vibrant real food, especially colorful veggies. Making simple swaps that you can eat unlimited amounts of easily adds flavor, fullness and vitality to your menu. Soon the SAD diet foods aren't around much anymore because you are filling up on nutrient dense foods.
Here is a sample transitional menu that might be created during our first step of adding:
7 am Breakfast- Fruit smoothie or Oatmeal with fruit and nuts or whole grain pancakes
10 am Snack- Nuts/seeds or fruit or hummus and pitas
12 am Lunch- Big salad followed by anything you want prepared at home (leftovers from last night?) + water or tea
3pm snack - Nuts/seeds or fruit
7pm- Salad + 1 veggie side + anything you want prepared at home.
9pm- Frozen banana 'ice cream'
The idea is to begin getting your palette used to eating veggies while still allowing any other foods that you might enjoy, but only after eating the salad and veggies. This makes sure you get the veggies in first and fill up on the good stuff. This time also allows you to get used to shopping, prepping and cooking more of your food. Don't worry. In a few hours a week you can prepare everything you need to eat all week.
Additionally, this first step adds weight loss, peace of mind, free-time and substantial money savings. Eating out is costly, time-consuming, and harder to eat nutritious food. Take on this first step of adding and you will find yourself well on your way to making lasting changes.