Forks over Knives -- Eating a Plant Based Diet

Updated on October 13, 2011
E.M. asks from Chicago, IL
16 answers

I haven't seen the movie, yet, but intend to watch it soon. I would like to eat a more plant based diet, but have a few problems with it:

1 -- it is much easier and less time consuming to throw a hunk of meat on the grill or in the oven than it is to make a filling plant-based meal. I don't want to dedicate a lot of energy to meal planning, grocery shopping & fixing meals.

2 -- my husband eats a lot of meat. It seems to be the only thing that fills him up.

3 -- my kids (4 & 2) are accustomed to eating meat and dairy products. I'm pretty sure they'd rebel if I gave them beans & rice for dinner.

My question, have any of you morphed your family from a traditional "western diet" to a more plant-based diet? And if so, how did you make the shift? What kind of small steps did you take? Do you have any kid-favorite recipes? I'm not talking about taking my family completely vegan, but would like to get out of the meat, potatoes & cheese rut some of the time. (BTW, my first husband was a vegetarian, so I know I can do it, but how to steer my family in that direction?)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I have not.

What I have done is to make meat less of the "focus" at every meal.
And I add few meatless dinners per week (1 or 2). Healthy, gentler, and saves $$ too!

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answers from Chicago on

All or nothing hasn't worked for a high percentage of the population. I would instead of taking all meat, dairy,eggs away and going strictly plant based, I instead would opt for less meat and more plant, veggie, fruit, bean. I used to make meat only chili with 4lbs. Of meat, now it is more like 6 oz of meat and now beans and other veggies make up the volume. Instead of a full scoop of ice cream we have like a quarter scoop and sprinkle a lot of fresh or frozen berries. I believe in east meets west medicine. Happy lives are about moderation and cutting here and there not cutting out completely or partaking exclusively. Talk to those who are happy folks that are right by 100 mark and most will tell you the same. They are contented and have done things in life, eaten things, and drank things but never to excess, but still felt the enjoyment of those things.

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answers from San Francisco on

The science they used in the movie was flawed. They left out some very important facts. Check out this article for a well-researched look into the data:

The above link is a LONG article, but goes back to the original sources that the movie used and examines them carefully. Bottom line, everything in moderation. A raw vegan diet is good for cleansing in the short-term, but the scientific data shows that long-term, it causes cell death in the liver, which can lead to death. Too much animal fat isn't a good thing, either, obviously, but too little is worse. I was actually really surprised when I looked at the data myself.

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answers from Kansas City on

I took a pretty intense 14 week course with most of the docs featured in the movie. While I completely agree that plant BASED is the most healthful for us, I disagree with the docs that it's all or nothing.

I have not watched the movie yet either, so I'm not sure how they spin it, but 1 on 1 in the class it was pretty much veganism is the only healthful diet. I've since done quite a bit of more research on my own, and from my own personal experience believe that everyone has different biological and chemical makeups, duh! And that some of us do truly need animal protein for our health. I won't mention which one, but one of those featured in the movie told me I just wasn't trying hard enough to be a vegan when I explained in detail my symptoms trying to cut animal products out completely.

But what I do at home is present my protein differently. Instead of it being a focus of the meal it really is a piece of the larger picture. So instead of everyone getting their own steak for instance, I will cook 1 steak and slice it up before serving. Many times there are left overs. Chicken breasts are usually cut in 1/2 which is more of a 'serving' than a whole breast. Same way with fish. I then will have 2 vegetables and MAYBE a starch. Often a tossed salad of some sort and I'll slice up apples and put on the table. Or chop up other fruit as well. So the animal protein is just a very small part of the meal.
I also experiment a lot. I'm very blessed that my family will eat what is served so if I fix sesame tofu, they will eat it. At least a little bit of it, then fill up on the salad and vegetables!

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answers from Dallas on

I went veg last year. Best decision I've ever made! I am the healthiest I've ever been. I lost 30 lbs too (: I made the switch by making my favorite foods without meat. There are lots of fake meats available that make it easy to transition also. I did eat a lot of pasta in the beginning, but now I eat tons of different foods. Pasta is just as easy, or easier, than "throwing a hunk of meat on the grill". Portabello mushrooms are an amazing meat substitute. I marinate whole caps just like steak and grill em up. Delish! Mushroom fajitas are super easy. There is a cookbook called Happy Herbivore with tons of yummy vegan recipes that are super easy to make. Most are 30 minute meals. A google search of quick vegetarian recipes will bring up tons of good stuff. It's much easier than you think, trust me. Just take it one day at a time. Start with a meatless meal once a week and go from there. You'll be healthier in no time!
My husband also used to be a big meat eater (3 meals a day), and now he eats it once or twice a week. There hasn't been one meal I've cooked that he didn't like. A word of advise though, stick to familiar recipes. I find that they are much easier to tweak. Oh, and if you've never heard of quinoa, get you some! It is an ancient grain similar to rice. It is also one of the few plant foods that are complete proteins (meat is a complete protein) so it's a wonderful way to get all the protein you need. Make sure to use lots of healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, flaxseed (great source of Omegas). It's completely possible for your children to thrive on a plant based diet, you just have to make sure to give them a wide variety of foods. Good for you for making this choice! You are helping animals, the planet, and yourself! You won't regret your decision (:

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I am trying - I would agree that it is easier to cook a meat meal but primarily because it is habit. Joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) has helped with the shopping issue - now we mostly need to figure out what to do with the produce. I have just decreased how often I buy meat and try to do a meatless meal at least 4-5 nights a week (if DH cooks, he will locate meat somewhere). My son (5-1/2) has always eaten whatever we eat so we have never cooked 'kid friendly' meals. That said, I'm pretty sure most kids would be perfectly fine with vegetarian chili, pasta with vegetables and vegetarian stews.

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answers from New York on

I have introduced a lot of veggies into our diet. I think ethnic cooking is the way to go. It does take more time, but you can cook for 2 days at a time.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I disagree with it being less time consuming to cook meat. I think it takes more time. Veggies steam in 7-10 minutes meat can cook for up to an hour. Brown rice takes 45 min, but there is not alot involved in that. My son doesn't really like meat (he is two and the only meat he will eat is an ocasional chicken nugget.) you never know what your kids might like. My son doesn't like beans and rice because he doesn't like rice, but he loves beans. he pops them in his mouth like m&ms. I agree with Amanda G about keeping fish and milk in your diet for a while intill you get use to it. In fact some people on a meatless diet have a hard time with no dairy at all. I had a friend who was vegatarian and went vegan and then started loosing her hair. I was vegatarian then cut out dairy and i felt weird all the time.(plus I was couting calories and fat free dairy products have less calories then the soy based versions) Try simple dishes to start, like veggie stir fry (you can crumble in tofu if you want) lentil stew is pretty easy too and a favorite of my two year old, my hubby prefers the lentil pitas (lentil and cucumbers mixed with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little oil and stuffed in a pita and topped with greek yogurt.) I like veggie fajitas. (cook brocoli and pepper onion mix,/or red green and yellow peppers and onion. and mushrooms with fajita seasoning. add a little pepper jack cheese once the veggies and cooked (you want to cook them in a large skillet adding half cup water at a time and then the seasoning near the end) put the mixture in whole grain tortillas and top with a littl FF sour cream or greek yogurt.

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answers from San Francisco on

Some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten was made by a woman who went to a raw, vegetarian diet. VERY healthy. However, she usually took hours to make her meals, and they were a big focus of her whole day.

Also, she still died of the cancer she was trying to fight.

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answers from Chicago on

We are not vegan but mostly vegetarian with occasional seafood. I usually cook 3 types of food that are prepared quickly:

- Pasta with vegetarian sauces (there are so many vegetarian possibilities)
- Stir fry. Also quick and easy. I usually make it with Tofu, but if your family doesn't like tofu you might be better off with just veggies
- One pot recipes like Chili or soup, etc.

There are so many recipes when you check the internet and many don't take up all that much time to prepare. To cut food prep time considerably you can always use frozen veggies. It seems that I spend most of my time prepping the veggies.

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answers from Salinas on

Both my girls and myself are pretty much Vegetarian. We do eat fish occasionally (my littlest says we are pescatarian :). My husband still eats meat but a lot less than he used to. I've been eating this way for over 20 years (wow that dates me!) and my girls for life. It is not hard at all, or time consuming.
Meat Free & Easy...
Any pasta with Veggies (pesto sauce, tom sauce or garlic OO & basil etc.)
Most mexican dishes (enchinladas, quesadillas, veggie tacos, fish tacos)
Grilled veggie sandwiches
Veggie burgers
Soup-just sub veg stock for beef or chix
Veggie chili
Portabella sandwich
I could go on forever. Just start with a couple meals per week. Use meat substitutes like tofu or soy to add to sauces and sandwiches. We still eat cheese and drink a little milk but the less you have it seems the less you want. Just be creative and see what happens, you migh tbe surprised at how easy it is.

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answers from Chicago on

I don't personally think your kids are old enough to cut out meat and dairy from their diets. They are getting essential fats, omegas, and proteins that can't be replaced in high enough quantities at their ages.

I also have 2 kids, 2 and 4. I am a vegetarian - technically a pescetarian because I eat fish but no poultry or meat. Anyway I cook 2 dinners every night. It's not as hard as it might sound.

I want my kids to have meat and dairy in their diets...later on in life if they choose to become vegetarians, that will be their choice, not mine. As for my husband, he LOVES meat but also loves that we eat healthy. So for the kids, who are hungry somewhere around 5-5:30, I make a protein (hamburger, grilled chicken, meatballs, sausage, fish sticks), then make a carb - pasta, grilled cheese, farro (google this if you haven't used it before - it's a grain that tastes like brown rice...TONS of health benefits and my kids love it), corn...we consider that a carb. :) Then we do a veggie - peas, broccoli, tomatoes, edamame, whatever I have on hand. The kicker is that on my days off work I roast squashes, beans, and eggplants and puree them & throw them into the freezer in serving portions. I put a serving of roasted veggies into almost any dinner I make for my kids. Orange squash puree into homemade pizza sauce, acorn squash puree into Annie's white shells & cheese, roasted beets into a strawberry-banana smoothie. You get the idea. Therefore you can continue serving some kid-friendly foods which are actually heartily fortified with veggies.

For my husband and I, we do a salad about 4 nights a week. Escarole or arugula or other salad greens, dry roasted walnuts, fresh dill, chopped tomatoes and radishes, whatever else you like. Good enough to eat almost every night. Then we'll throw fish on the grill, or I'll make a yummy sauce for some pasta or risotto, and I'll saute kale or roast broccoli, cauliflower or squash (try delicata squash with fresh garlic and shredded parmesan, roasted until golden brown then deglaze the dish with dry white wine when it comes out of the oven). My husband and I don't eat until 7:30 or so, but we don't mind because it's a peaceful meal, just the 2 of us.

I was vegetarian for 12 years before I got pregnant with my 1st baby...I started eating meat again during that pregnancy, and ate meat all the way until I was finished nursing my 2nd one. Back in June of this year I quit eating meat totally again (except for fish). I had my cholesterol and full bloodwork done back in March...then I had it done again in Sept because we applied for life ins. My overall cholesterol number dropped 12 points, and it was all LDL. Also my triglycerides decreased by 13 points. Pretty significant.

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answers from Houston on

I quit very abruptly at age 12 and never looked back. You learn as you go along. Vegetarianism usually brings with it a wealth of knowledge on all things health related as the years pass.

I would recommend keeping fish and milk in your diet until you adjust, most people who dive in head first get too overwhelmed and give up.

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answers from San Francisco on

Like anything else, making the change gradual will make it easier to adjust.

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answers from San Antonio on

I watched the movie. My husband is very anti-vegan and I love the taste of meat a lot and we love cheese. BUT - I did find the movie enlightening. Since watching it, I have added more veggies to my family's diet. I personally don't eat as much meat since watching it (I also learned that my blood-type apparently doesn't 'like' a lot of meat anyways). I don't push my son to eat a ton of meat anymore. He LOVES his veggies. I do want him to get his protein, and we do eat meat at almost every meal, I just don't make it the huge CENTER of the meal.

So we have made baby-steps and have not 'morphed' by any means. We've just replaced a tiny bit. And it's more me than my husband. I am a SAHM so I can decide breakfast and lunch for me and my son. I make dinner be the most normal, although I'm adding more veg, so we're eating more veg and less meat.

So last night, we'd normally have chili dog, mac n cheese, and that's it. But instead, we had chili dogs (son and I had the dog, no chili, no cheese. Husband ate chili & cheese), mac n cheese, and fresh green beans.

We used to eat a frozen pizza once a week. Then I asked a question a few weeks ago about adding spinach to my diet (see my asked questions - one about green beans, one about spinach). First of all, my husband saw spinach in the fridge and was like "Oh can I make this dish I used to make all the time??!?!" He was excited to be in the kitchen and cook. Wow. Amazing. He never cooks. And it was yummy. Back to pizza --- After reading the spinach suggestion, we have started making veggie pizzas with pepperoni - we do sauce, cheese, olives, spinach, tomatoes, bell pepper, oregano, pepperoni. Surprisingly, husband was all game with that one too.

Rice & Beans - add some frozen peas, carrott, add some sausage or chicken and your kids should be okay with it. :)

Fried Rice - tons of veggies, add a little chicken and/or egg....

btw - the movie is on Netflix streaming



answers from Chicago on

Make this as journey, as others have suggested. We are not completely meat free, but it's less of a focus in our house now. 1 steak feeds 4 of us now.

The government changed the pyramid to a plate. Use that as a guide for your family. 1/2 your plate is veggies, then 1/4 carb and 1/4 protein. A side of fruit. That's an awesome goal to get to, and then refine what the protein looks like.

In terms of taking time to cook, it's all about finding the right recipes. We pretty much only ever cook frozen veggies. It's just faster and just as healthy.

I have salads a couple times a week and am able to make those interesting by varying what's in it and dressings. I buy organic boxed lettuce, and that lasts me a week (be sure to check the date). My 6 1/2 year old LOVES salads. And she's modeling what I eat as well -she seems me pack my lunch every morning.

Take time on Sundays to prep for the week. Any raw veggies I have I try to prep - carrots, peppers. I just started grilling veggies this summer. YUM!

I prep what I can for dinner the night before. We have a weekly menu and that helps a lot.

Take it one step at a time, make gradual changes, and that will be easier for all.

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