Starting a Whole Foods Plant Based No Oil (WFPBNO) journey can seem daunting. Here are a few tips we've found helpful that can start you out. Remember, it's a process. My wife and I jumped into the new menu right away. That doesn't mean everyone can. If you manage to eat plant based just two or three days a week, you'll be better off. If you intend to build up to every day, that's fine. Here are some suggestions on how to get started, and more info from our previous blog.
What's your Why?
The Big Why. Why eat plant based? There are several reasons you might consider: For your health, for a cleaner, more livable planet, because you're sensitive to animal rights, to lose weight, or simply because you've researched it and can't 'unlearn' all the benefits. But it's important to have a reason, a 'big why,' and the more focused on that reason you are, the better your chances of continuing.
We're doing it for our health, and also because we're pissed off. Let me explain. From what we've read about the predatory practices of the food industry, we've all been fed a load of lies and fabrications for years. The food business, particularly the animal agriculture conglomerate, does the opposite of what they advertise: They claim their products are healthful, nutritious, and necessary. Not true.
Based on what we've read, and from the documentaries we've seen, it's obvious that big beef, big pharma, the egg business, the dairy industry, chicken, turkey, and other consumable fowl producers, all the big conglomerates that supply food to the public have misled us for years. We've chosen to no longer participate in the biggest lies ever foisted on people, that animal protein is necessary and good for us, that cow's milk is a necessity, that dairy products and eggs are healthful and needed in our daily menu. None of that is true.
We're doing it because those industries' products are injuring thousands of people with preventable diseases a year. They also have the power to kill not only hundreds of dozens of animals every day, which they do, they also have the power & money to kill robust, professional, peer-reviewed research that shows the damage their products do, both to us and to the environment. Much of that research can only be obtained through FOIA requests, and it's research that's been paid for with taxpayer funds! Those industries have power over the Congress that allows them to suppress valuable data that can help people manage their health.This makes us angry, and it should make you angry as well.
My wife was a cardiac nurse for many years. She's angry because for all the years her patients looked to her for assistance in managing their health, it turns out she was passing along the lies that helped make those folks her patients in the first place. The simple truth is that animal protein is not healthful. We do not need beef, fish, or chicken to get our protein. Cow's milk is not a necessity, unless you happen to be a baby cow, and then it's necessary only till you're weaned.
But enough of our personal why. Find your own 'why,' and then eating only plant based foods is much easier. By the way, if your 'why' is to lose weight, a word of caution: We're not experts, but our first indication that eating plant based is improving our health has been our rather remarkable loss of weight.
Tools are Critical
Next, tools. Tools are critical to creating any product, and this menu is no exception. We've acquired an immersion blender for refining vegetables in soups etc., a heavy-duty blender for many other things, and an air fryer because it requires no cooking oils, which we avoid. No endorsements of products here, but after reading what blender works best, and then test driving the Vitamix, we'd recommend it highly. It makes a world of difference in making foods smooth, and creamy. The air fryer is a nice-to-have tool, not a necessity unless, like us, you avoid cooking oil. The immersion blender is very useful as well. Knives are the most important tool of all.
Knives: Expensive, and worth it
A good set of knives will save much time in the kitchen, so don't hesitate to spend a bit of $$$ on them. Good, sharp knives can actually be safer as well, requiring less effort to cut things.
Lastly, acquire a set of MEP (Mis En Place) jars such as those pictured below. Various sizes and styles are fine, since most recipes call for various amounts of ingredients.
When starting out whole food plant-based no oil, establish a system. My background is in aviation, where systems are critical to safe operations. As a pilot, my mantra was this: If it's bad on the ground, it will only get worse in the air.
My wife's background is in nursing, where systems are equally important. Her mantra was this: If you don't write it down, it didn't happen.
So it wasn't a stretch for either of us to create a system that allows us to cook efficiently and quickly.
MEP = Mise En Place
Establish a System: We have a new verb in our kitchen, 'To MEP,' as in, 'Would you MEP this recipe for me?' Mise En Place is French for 'Set in place.' What it means, as illustrated above, is to place all ingredients out, with the exact amount needed for whatever recipe we're making.
The WFPBNO menu makes us much more aware of the value and necessity of spice & seasoning additions, so it's important to get them right. To enjoy the full benefit of PB eating, we've had to get familiar with what various spices and seasonings do, and how they interact with other ingredients. It's not High School chem class; it's more interesting, more educational, and at least in my case more useful.
A couple of things this MEP system does: One, it simplifies the process, and makes sure nothing's missed, especially if we're not used to cooking with various spices, seasonings, and tastes. The second reason MEP'ing is important is that WFPBNO cooking takes longer. We're spending more time putting together recipes, reading food labels, preparing certain additives, and generally focusing more on food than we ever have. Without a system our time in the kitchen increases, so we always put our MEP together first.
Brand New Vegan's 'Amazing Vegan Cheese Sauce.'
Read it All: Something we've found helpful getting started is to read the entire recipe first. We learned this practice the hard way, when once or twice we misunderstood directions, ended up with leftover ingredients, or weren't satisfied with the outcome. Reading the entire recipe gives a good overview of where we're going, and how to get there, a kind of road map to the final product. (Photo/Recipe courtesy of Brand New Vegan, one of our favorite WFPBNO sites for great recipes. brandnewvegan.com)
If you're looking for professional assistance as you begin, there's likely no better site to go to than the cooking course offered by Forks over Knives. The course itself comes from Rouxbe, a cooking school that's affiliated with FOK, The Rouxbe course is how we learned the intricacies and methods of WFPBNO cooking and eating. A self-paced course, the Rouxbe folks offer many lessons, with efficient ways to create amazing and delicious meals, from main courses to desserts. If you're seeking in depth, gratifying instruction from professional cooks, and access to wonderful meal planning, this course comes highly recommended. When we took the Rouxbe course, it was $250.00 USD, and worth every penny. (We receive no compensation from websites or vendors listed here.)
Two more items about cooking systems. Number 1: Measuring. Remember, if you don't write it down, it didn't happen. The picture above is our spice collection. We've arranged our seasonings alphabetically, using the same jars for all of them. We replaced the jars they arrived in from the store with these because we wanted similarity & ease of locating the spices. But also because our new jars have wider mouths, so measuring spoons fit inside them. A small thing, but it helps.
Number two: Dates are important. Plant based eating reminds us to date certain dishes, and sauces, and additives. Since we try to avoid processed foods, and so called shelf-stable products, we have to know when we made things. Especially since we live in South America, where produce arrives for sale with few preservatives, our vegetables and fruits don't keep longer than a few days. So we date everything, and then sample it before eating it just in case. Most plant based foods won't 'spoil,' as such, but they lose much of their appeal, and some of their nutrition, if not consumed quickly. We use simple and cheap sticky labels and apply them to everything so we know what's inside, and how old it is.
Good luck! Next post, we'll write more about our own 'big why,' a few recipes we love, and further tips on cooking and eating WFPBNO. Thanks for reading.