Budget Reduction

Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has provided Five Ways to Save Billions – and Boost the Nation’s Health.  The article is specific to the gargantuan debt problem of the US government and includes recommendations such as cutting junk food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) and prioritizing health in commodity purchases.

  • Food manufacturers are benefitting from SNAP while SNAP recipients get sicker and sicker.  If SNAP benefits were limited to truly healthful foods, we could address hunger, malnutrition, AND healthcare at the same time, while saving billions.
  • Instead of the USDA buying millions of pounds of cheese or beef for school meal programs and other food assistance programs, the USDA could support farmers in providing fresh, local vegetables to schools and ensure each school-aged child has the opportunity to eat from a fresh salad bar at least once a day.

Although we may have no or little impact today on how the US government spends tax payer money, we can create our own budget reduction by:

1. Stop buying junk food. 

You don’t need it.  And if you have it at home or stashed at work, then you’ll eventually eat it.  Once you cut out all junk food and replace those calories with plant-based calories, you will stop craving the junk because your body is getting what it needs.

2. Increase your range of healthy snacks.

Not only do you need to expand your horizon of healthy snacks, you need to have them available at all times.  Rely mostly on whole fruits, raw veggies, and whole grain snacks and enjoy the higher fat snacks like nuts, nut butters, and hummus only occasionally if you’re trying to lose weight.


 3. Reduce the amount of processed food you buy.

Once you evaluate the amount of processed food you buy, you will probably be surprised at what percentage of your grocery bill it represents.  Use the snack list above to think of ways to eliminate processed snacks, like using sliced cucumbers instead of crackers or roasted chickpeas instead of chips.  When you buy processed food for convenience, make sure the ingredients support your health goals- no corn syrup, low or no sugar, low or no oil, and plant based.

4. Buy ‘smart’ prepared foods.

When you do buy processed foods, make them count.  For example, a single packet of prepared chana masala can be the base of a quick dinner for four if you add a can of chickpeas and leftover or frozen veggies and serve it over brown rice.  The same thing is true for a single serving package of lentil soup- add a bag of frozen mixed veggies and serve over a whole grain for a complete meal for 2.  Add more lentils or quinoa to serve 4.  THAT is healthy fast food!!

 5. Think long term.

By changing your diet, you are saving thousands of dollars long term on healthcare.  By changing your diet, you are dramatically reducing your chance of having a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or cancer.  Every craving you resist and every healthy choice you make gets you one step closer to where you want to be- healthy and disease free for the rest of your life.



Roasted Chickpeas

Use canned chickpeas or make your own using the Basic Beans (Slow Cooker) recipe.

For each 15 oz can or 1.5 cups of chickpeas, lightly spray with oil or toss in 1 t oil, then season.  Plain ol’ sea salt works fine here, but prepared seasoning mixes are great too- BBQ, Cajun, salt substitutes- whatever you have tucked away in your cabinet.  Use a different baking sheet for each seasoning.

Roast the seasoned chickpeas on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350˚ for about 30 minutes, shaking once or twice while cooking.  Keep an eye on the chickpeas during the last 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.  The chickpeas should be crunchy when they’re done but will also continue to harden as they cool.


Baked Tortilla Chips

Cut whole wheat tortillas into triangular pieces and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets.  Lightly spray with oil and season with salt.  Bake at 375˚ for 8 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets once if the chips are cooking unevenly.


Soft Serve Ice “Cream”

Serves 3

Peel, slice, and freeze 4 to 5 bananas in a gallon freezer storage bag.  Using a high speed blender, such as VitaMix, puree frozen banana slices with a small splash of non-dairy milk (<1/4 c) as quickly as possible.  Stop the blender to stir as necessary.  Use chocolate non-dairy milk for chocolate ice cream.  Add other frozen fruit with the bananas to flavor the ice cream.  Serve immediately or freeze for 20-30 minutes to harden.


Challenge Yourself for 21 Days

What do you do when you are faced with a challenge?  Aside from nothing, you can turn inward or you can reach out.  Even if at first you shut down for a bit, when the time is right, introspection or meditation or doubling down on our resolve or willpower  can be very powerful.  You can also reach out and lean on your networks of family, friends, and co-workers.

If you can surround yourself with people who are fully supportive of your dietary changes, then that is fabulous- enjoy and take advantage of it!  However, those in your circles who blatantly disagree or who aren’t fully supportive of your dietary changes can be a real challenge.  This is the time to expand your network to include others making or maintaining similar choices.  Meetups and Facebook make this so easy that all you really have to do is search and find the group or groups that are right for you.  Every month there are thousands of people who start the 21 Day Kickstart  or become Nutritarians or McDougallers.


Making good choices is hard work.  But you can do hard work.  Think about all the struggles you had with making good choices as a teen or college student.  Whatever they were, you are here now and most likely overcame some pretty significant hurdles.

Food is something we must deal with at least 3 times every day and usually much more often than that.  Commit yourself to a jellybeanspure whole food, plant based diet for 21 days.  It’s just 3 weeks.  If this seems unbearably long to you, think of it in terms of the time you have in jelly beans.  Make changes now so poor health and nutrition don’t steal your time.

If you allow yourself to cheat during the 21-day period, then your body (and particularly your taste buds) won’t fully adjust to the new food.  If you are occasionally eating animal products or processed foods, then your cravings could be worse and you won’t reap the benefits of all the hard work you’ve put into the other 18 to 20 days.  Commit 21 days to your health and see how you feel at the end.  This is a way of life, not just a 3-week cleanse, but you need to start somewhere.  Wait until the end of the kickstart to decide what happens afterwards.

Three weeks will reset your taste buds, get you back in touch with real food, and remind you what it feels like to be healthy and energized.  Yes, it’s going to be hard work; but you do hard work all the time for other people.  Do this for you.

A final note: You may not see dramatic weight loss in 21 days, but you didn’t gain that extra weight in 21 days either.  Just give it all you’ve got for 21 days – you owe it to yourself.



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Fill Up With Fiber to Down Size

If you’re frustrated with your inability to maintain or lose weight or do not feel nourished by the food you are eating, check out the following keys to natural appetite control from Dr. Barnard’s 21 Day Weight Loss Kickstart.  You may be surprised that by following these recommendations, there’s no need to count calories or measure portions.

1. Bulk up on fiber.Fiber_Rich_Foods

Target 40 grams of fiber per day.  Fiber is plant roughage, and there is no plant roughage in animals or oils.  Accomplish 40 g fiber/day by meal planning and embracing an “eat this” approach instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat.  Here’s a sample daily food plan that gets you well over 40 grams of fiber:

  • Breakfast – 1 cup cooked oatmeal (4g fiber) topped with ½ cup fruit (2 g fiber) and 1 cup orange juice (1g fiber)
  • Snack – 1 medium sized apple, orange, or banana (3 g fiber)
  • Lunch – Salad with 4 cups of lettuce (8 g fiber) topped with  1 cup veggies (4 g fiber) and a baked potato with the skin (4 g fiber)
  • Snack – 1 piece of whole grain bread (2 g fiber) and 1 cup of fruit (4 g fiber)
  • Dinner – 2 cups of brown rice (6 g fiber) with ½ cup of lentils (7 g fiber) and 1 cup of cooked vegetables (4 g fiber)

In addition to high fiber intake being consistently associated with lower rates of colon and rectal cancer, fiber soaks up undesirable toxins and excess hormones in the intestinal tract and carries them out as waste.Campbell and Campbell; Barnard and Reilly  Not to mention that fiber fills you up!!  Long before you’ve eaten the number of calories in a burger and fries, the fiber from a diet rich in legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains will signal to your brain that you’re full.  And there’s no need to count calories or restrict portion size.

2. Rev up your metabolism by omitting fatty foods, such as meat, dairy, and oils.no_meat

Animals are just like humans in that extra calories are stored as fat.  When you eat animal meat (and hence animal fat), no matter how ‘lean’ the meat is, it contains fat.  One gram of fat holds 9 calories, whereas one gram of carbohydrate or protein holds only 4 calories.  Even Atlantic salmon and skinless white meat chicken (3.5 oz servings), both regarded in the Standard American Diet as being ‘healthy’, are 40% and 23% fat, respectively.  A boiled egg and 2 ounces of cheddar cheese are 61% and 74% fat, respectively.  On the other hand, broccoli is 4% fat and contains 3 g fiber (1 cup cooked), and lentils are 3% fat and contain 8 g fiber (1/2 cup cooked).Barnard and Wyrick

By eliminating animal products and significant fat from your diet, there’s much more room for whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.  And because these whole foods are so much lower in calories, you will feel full without worrying about portion control.  Sometimes it may even seem like a chore with all the chewing you’ll need to do to ingest anywhere close to your normal caloric load.

Eating a whole food, plant-based diet actually changes your cellular biochemistry.  High levels of intramyocellular lipids (fat droplets inside muscle cells) impede the work of insulin and the ability of cells to utilize glucose as energy.  It’s the build-up of intramyocellular lipids that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which is why a whole food, plant based diet can reverse type 2 diabetes.

Normally the cellular mitochondria metabolize some of the fat you eat, but when you consume too much fat, the mitochondria cannot keep up.  There’s also evidence that high fat diets turn down the genes that regulate mitochondria. Sparks et al  Not only are the existing mitochondria unable to burn significant portions of consumed fat, but mitochondria seem to be down regulated as intramyocellular lipids increase.

The way to rev up your metabolism is to omit fatty foods from your diet – this reduces intramyocellular lipids, ensures cells can transport and utilize glucose efficiently, and ensures mitochondria are present and working efficiently to burn fat.

In addition to eliminating animal products, if your goal is weight loss, limit or eliminate nuts, nut butters, seeds, and avocados until you’ve reached your ideal mass.  Or use small amounts as condiments or in sauces.  One ounce of out of hand nuts can easily turn into a few ounces or a daily snack habit and sabotage weight loss.

In addition to planning your meals and snacks in advance, remember that it takes 21 days to adjust your taste buds.  You may miss junk food, but once you’ve lost weight, you won’t miss those pounds.



Barnard ND, Wyrick, J. 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health. 2011

Campbell TC, Campbell TM. The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. 2006

Sparks LM, Xie H, Koza RA, et al. A high-fat diet coordinately downregulates genes required for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle. Diabetes 2005; 54:1926-1933.

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