Welcome to Lean Green DAD!
My name is Cory and I am so glad you are here. Welcome to our blog! The idea for the blog came after my wife was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis just a few months before we were to be married. At the time of her diagnosis, we were left with nothing but fear, misinformation, and uncertainty. At that point in our lives, we decided to make some serious changes to our lifestyle. We started to think more about the food we put into our bodies and began to read a lot about plant-based diets. We watched a few great documentaries (like Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) and were hooked. As an athlete, I saw a major improvement in my athletic performance and for my wife, she was able to taper off of her medications and increase her quality of life. As our family grew and became a family of five, so did our understanding, compassion, and appreciation for this healthy way of life. Today we focus on remaining lean and green in our commitment to health through the food we eat, the quality time we spend together and the relationships we build. We manage my wife’s chronic condition and our family’s health on a day-to-day basis by eating the most nutrient-rich foods possible consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains!
Eating a whole food, plant-based diet is by far the best way to eat, in my opinion, but getting there can be challenging…especially as a busy parent. The road to a 100% whole food, plant-based diet has been a journey for our family and in order to make the journey a bit easier for you, I have separated many of the recipes on our site into three separate phases depending on where you and your family feel comfortable. Most of the recipes will default in phase three (more on what that means soon). Each phase is plant-based, but the first two phases will help you ease into this lifestyle a bit slower and doesn’t focus so much on perfection. You’ll get there if you want, but even if you eat all of your meals in phase one, you will still be contributing a significant amount to your health, the planet, and our animal friends!
I would love to eat at home every day of the week, but I know and understand that cooking multiple nights a week is unrealistic for many busy parents. With that being said, try to cook at home two to three times per week. The rest of the time can be attributed to eating out with friends, going to social events and parties, or going out as a family. We will review each of the phases below, but I want to make sure you know that even if you are eating out, you can still eat in phase one, two, or three. It might just take a bit more effort to stay plant-based when you eat out, but you can do it. In our family we bounce around between all three phases, with most of our meals happening in phase three. Everyone loves a little comfort food sometimes and when you get to the point when you are eating in phase three for most of your meals, you deserve an indulgence from time to time!
Eating A Plant-Based Diet In Three Easy Phases
This phase is for the person or busy parent who wants to try a plant-based diet, but might not know where to start. As you know, a plant-based diet does not contain meat and dairy, which can be tough to cut when it is all you have known for most of your life. In this phase, I want you to substitute your meat with one of the many plant-based brands that I recommend in the recipes. There are so many other meat-free options out there for burgers, barbecue, hot dogs and other traditionally meat-based products, that it’s easy to make the switch. If you are trying to make a change for your family and you miss your meat, these are a perfect option to help you transition. The same thing goes for cheese and dairy-free butter. There are so many wonderful products out there that melt, smell, and taste similar to your favorite cheese, that you won’t miss a thing. I have single-handedly tested many, if not all of them. I only recommend the best tasting brands, in my opinion, but I also understand that everyone has different taste buds. In fact, with Beyond Meat’s “Beyond Burger” coming out recently, I had so many folks tell me how great it was, but then a handful who thought it was awful. Everyone is different, so buy a few and give them a try and see what your family likes best. Also remember, these items are not what you will be eating most of the time, nor are they what you will be eating on a regular basis. The meat and cheese substitutes in this phase contain small amounts of canola oil or some other types of oil. While many of the oils in these products are non-GMO, all oils are high in saturated fat, calorically dense, and should be limited or eliminated to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Speaking of oil, I understand you are probably using small amounts at the bottom of the pan or in some of your favorite salad dressings. It’s ok in phase one and we’ll talk more about oils in our next phase.
I Know What You’re Thinking
“Wait a minute here! You want me to substitute my grass-fed, farm-raised meat for some processed soy-based or pea protein product? I don’t get how that’s better for me!” Hear me out. People who begin a plant-based lifestyle do so for one of three reasons: personal health, saving the planet, or compassion for our animal friends. By the simple act of substituting your meat and dairy for a delicious, meatless brand, you accomplish all three! You are cutting your carbon footprint by 50%, silently saying “no” to factory farms, and reducing your saturated fat intake by up to 40%! (Sources: NutritionFacts.org)
In the next phase of your journey to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, I want you to eat less if any meat substitutes. The main reason we are leaving our meat-free copycats behind in this phase has to do mostly with the fact that they contain oils. By cutting down on your oil intake you are saving a ton of empty calories. At nearly 4,000 calories per pound, oils are empty, concentrated saturated fat calories that can be bad news for your heart. If you are trying to lose weight, cutting down on oils will significantly help in your battle to shed pounds. We have been told that olive, coconut, sunflower and many other olive oils are good for us. Did you know that it takes approximately 1,000 olives to make 1 liter of olive oil. How long would it take you to eat that many olives? Your body isn’t ready for all that oil without the fiber and other nutrients that are left behind in the process of this “extra virgin” liquid. Sadly, the only thing they are good for is a concentrated source of saturated fat. Be conscious of how much oil you are using in this phase. Awareness is the key to helping you take control of your family’s diet. You can still use your plant-based butter and perhaps you still like to use a little bit of cooking spray or oil at the bottom of the pan before you cook, but use just a little. As you pour or spray, remember that your relationship with oil is only one-sided. Once you step into phase three, you’ll be ready to break up with oil altogether!
Congratulations! Phase three recipes are the cleanest, healthiest, and easiest way to be a plant-based super hero! When you are cooking recipes in this phase you have every right to wear a cape when you are preparing your family’s meals. Forget the meatless meats and oils altogether. Instead of oil in the pan, consider using vegetable broth or water. Open up your body to the wonderful benefits of eating foods that will fuel your body and mind with the best ingredients the world has to offer…plants!
In place of oil-rich dressings, try some flavor-infused balsamic vinegar! There is a family-owned company that we love called Bema and Pa’s that makes some of the most incredible balsamic dressings that I have ever tasted. We have a cucumber & melon infused balsamic for salads and our secret sweet treat is the chocolate raspberry infused dessert balsamic, which is perfect for our whole food, plant-based Cashew Creamies dessert.
Many of the recipes on our site will default in phase three, with options for how to make them phase two or phase one in the notes section if you are interested. We also have recipes in phase one or two, with the other phases’ options in the “notes” section of the recipe. You might want to eat in phase three all the time. That’s great! You might want to stay mostly in phase three, but incorporate a bit of phase two or phase one from time to time (like our family). That’s ok too! The fact that you are aware and conscious about what your family is eating makes you a great parent and you should focus on making progress, not being perfect. Each of these phases are a tremendous victory for you and your family and should be celebrated.
You Can Do This
You don’t have to be a master chef to prepare delicious, plant-based meals. Today it’s easier than ever to start a plant-based lifestyle and enjoy foods that are quick, easy, and nutritious. You have to know where to look and what brands to look for. Although I acknowledge that taste is subjective, I feel I have a good handle on things that taste too much like soy or cardboard or just don’t taste quite right. I don’t use those items and be assured, I wouldn’t recommend them to you. We do incorporate soy-based products from time to time but do so sparingly. Although soy is derived from soybeans, more than 3-5 servings per day can have a negative effect on insulin-like growth factor (IGF) levels in the body (Source: Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org). The brands that I recommend are backed by individuals or corporations that believe in environmental sustainability, disclose all of their ingredients, and support families with a healthy lifestyle by providing only the best in their products. They taste pretty darn great too!
So now that you know the three phases, take a look around! In fact, take a look at these three recipes (just click on any of them for the recipe):
They are some of our most popular and easy to make. I know you will love them. And if you happen to be wondering what type of foods folks on a plant-based diet get at the grocery store, I’ve got you covered. In my free, 3-part video series, I will take you through Whole Foods Market and show you the exact brands that I trust with my family. I will also send you chat sheets that you can take with you next time you head to the store. Just let me know what email to send my “Ultimate Grocery Guide” to, and it’s yours! Simply enter your email below. Thanks for visiting and see you soon!