About one year ago I became convinced that I could eliminate salt from my Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, aka the WFPB SOS Free diet. It was after the Chef AJ visit, lecture and cooking demo at my house. I collected a variety of salt substitutes and began using them in all of my home cooking. I started to neuroadapt and my food tasted very good to me without salt for the first time.
It was during that Chef AJ visit that I met Wanda Huberman. Her husband, Mark Huberman, is the president of the National Health Association, and they attended the cooking demo at my house.
What I did in my home was one thing, but the compromise that I was willing to make when I went out to a restaurant was a whole nother story! Sure, I didn't order anything with a mother or a face, but I also didn't make any effort to make sure that there was no oil or salt in the food that I would eat when I was out. I even started to compromise my efforts when eating at Whole Foods, of all places! I would eat pretty much anything that was vegetables and Vegan, knowing that the reason it tasted good was the oil and the salt. But I gave myself these allowances because when eating out, at least here in Cleveland near where I live, there are no WFPB SOS Free restaurants.
So in talking to Wanda one afternoon about how her and her husband deal with restaurant eating, she told me about a card that she carries with her wherever she goes. She presents it to waiters in restaurants and asks them to hand the card to the cook or chef.
I saw it and I cringed. I thought, there is NO WAY I have the balls to present that card at a restaurant. I didn't have the confidence that any restaurant would take a radical request like that seriously, nor be able to produce any meal that didn't consist of a plate of steamed or raw vegetables. My expectations of other people's abilities in this one arena are pretty low. I mean, when you work in a restaurant, how do you know how to make anything that is not loaded with salt, oil and butter?
I put the stack of cards that Wanda so generously sent me away somewhere, but I never forgot about them.
Fast forward five months. My attempts at maintaining a healthy weight on a WFPB diet (with a Nutritarian focus) are failing me. My efforts at cooking and eating from the new Eat to Live Cookbook did not result in the weight loss that I had so hoped for. I began to entertain the idea that something really needs to change.
I saw this video from Chef AJ. I decided that I wanted what she has and that I will do what she is doing if that's what it will take. I began watching all of her recent videos on YouTube, looking for clues as to the types of recipes that I should be making and exactly what I should be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I started compiling my own cookbook of only Chef AJ Ultimate Weight Loss Plan recipes (SOS free, nut free, flour free and whole food plant based). We began to talk on a regular basis (Chef AJ provides private coaching to people all over the world) and what come up in those conversations is very, very enlightening.
We identified that eating restaurant food is one issue preventing me from achieving the health that I so desire.
What's funny is that I have been carrying my own salad dressing around with me for a long time (a nut based dressing, which I have since changed to a bean based dressing based on the principles of calorie density and neuroadaptation). So I would eat a big raw salad with beans and my homemade dressing for lunch (no nuts on top, occasionally some dried cranberries, no starches in the salad except beans, a la E2L) because I wanted so much to lose weight.
By the time 4 o'clock would roll around, I would be ravenously hungry. But it wasn't time for dinner and per the Eat to Live books, I thought there was something wrong with me and my "toxic" hunger. Instead of powering through the hunger, I became like a rabid dog the minute I walked in to my house after work. I would start eating whatever was easiest, then move on to dinner and whatever else was around that was Vegan, but not necessarily healthy.
But back to my problem with restaurant eating, which actually is the subject of this blog post!
So what was my light bulb moment about eating in restaurants?
Well, first, it was that in addition to my own dressing/sauce, I NEED to bring my own oil-free, salt-free source of starch. Think baked potato or sweet potato, or cooked whole grain or squash. That way, even if the only thing I can safely order in a restaurant IS steamed or raw vegetables, I will be satisfied and happy, because I can make a real meal out of it.
For example, this was the salad that was made for me at a restaurant called Sweet Melissa's near my home yesterday. Isn't it gorgeous?
I was very clear with the waitress that I didn't want any vegetable that had oil in it, but that I was okay with any vegetable or bean that they had in the kitchen. I made suggestions, but the rest I left up to chance. I thought about Wanda's card and wondered if I would have had the gumption to present it at that moment. I might have.
I added a package of cooked quinoa and my own dressing (recipe below). I've started keeping the frozen bags of brown rice and quinoa in my work freezer so that I have no excuse at lunchtime. I think I'll begin to bring cooked sweet potatoes as well as other cooked whole grains as I have leftovers from dinners. The key is that I always need to be prepared!
The lunch of raw vegetables, quinoa and my dressing was so wonderful and so filling that I couldn't even finish it all! I'd be happy to eat in restaurants if I felt confident that I could enjoy my experience and leave satisfied, rather than frustrated with the experience. But I will tell you that without that quinoa, it would have been just another frustrating restaurant experience that left me hungry shortly after and set me up for an evening of grazing.
I'm even thinking about making my own cards to give out at restaurants. Now that's progress!
Roasted Red Pepper Dressing/Sauce. Vegan. Oil-free. Nut-free.
Makes 3.5 cups
1 large roasted red pepper from a jar
1 15 ounce can no salt navy or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup water
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped shallot, or 1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 large date
Fresh black pepper
Place all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until very smooth.
Use on salads and rice or potato bowls with steamed vegetables.
I really don't want to create hysteria here, but I need to share something with you all. I have been trying for the past four years to be a perfect Nutritarian and really struggling. What I struggled with was not eating the Nutritarian food--I loved that and I'm a pretty decent cook. But somehow, no matter how much healthy Nutritarian food I ate, I found it increasingly more difficult to bypass the crap around me. The cookies on the lunch table at work, the restaurant food with the salt and oil it in, the ice cream cake at the relative's birthday party--I would "indulge" in even these foods that I KNOW are poison. I had horrible feelings that there was something wrong with me, and I gained weight over time. Then Chef AJ suggested that I read The McDougall Plan for Maximum Weight Loss. Now don't get hysterical and start to attack me, I am just sharing my truth. I always thought The McDougall Plan was basically the same as Eat to Live, but I was SO wrong. I didn't understand McDougall's perspective or the importance of starch in my diet. I was afraid of starches, because Fuhrman tells you to severely limit them if you want to lose weight. Well, in one week on MMWL I have had no problem passing by any and all trigger foods. I'm not saying it's for you. You may be doing perfectly well on E2L, and that's wonderful. But if you are struggling, and struggling badly, on E2L, you may want to find out what finally worked for Chef AJ.
Here's a clue: it was a combination of both Doctor's advice. It's a calorie density approach with a strong element of help for people with compulsive overeating disorder and food sensitivities/addictions.
And I can't recommend this book enough. No matter what WFPB eating style you ascribe to, I believe that it is essential that you understand the principles presented in this book.