Episode 28. Vegetarian Diets and Vegan Dieting
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Mike currently eats a mostly vegetarian diet (he has fish occasionally), and many of Scott and Kevin’s clients have been vegetarian, vegan, or fell somewhere else about the spectrum. We discussed reasons why people should or definitely should not start eating vegetarian.
(Over the course of the episode, Scott became a bit obsessed with his favourite textbook, Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, since it mentions vegetarian dieting and has a bundle of related statistics and points.)
Why Choose a Vegetarian Diet:
- Mike eats as a vegetarian for ethical reasons; he thinks eating animals just isn’t something we should be doing, if we can help it.
- A lot of what people do for their diet depends on why they did it. So your average vegetarian dieter who just cuts out meat without having a good basis of what to eat instead ends up turning to convenient “faux” foods (usually based on soy, tofu, etc.). But a hardcore fitness competitor often sticks to “real” foods, but they also cut out starches, legumes, and things like that, and basically eat pounds and pounds of leafy greens, which is… taking things to an extreme.
- Both Scott and Kevin have seen a lot of “hiding behind the label” of vegan or vegetarian dieting that ended up being an excuse for what is (in reality) disordered eating.
- Long story short: don’t use a vegetarian diet as an excuse to eat in a disordered way. Try to be brutally honest. Is this about health, or ethics, or is it related to body image?
- Scott keeps an eye out for people looking to “a diet” as a reason to restrict foods, as opposed to making a series of specific, individual choices.
How to Eat a Vegetarian or Vegan:
- Scott loves Michael Pollan’s formulation: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” A lot of the benefits comes from turning to real, whole foods, and not eating giant portions of them.
- Mike mentioned a point Michael Pollan makes [ I think it’s In Defense of Food, but it could be Omnivore’s Dilemma — M ] about looking at the habits of people who take a lot of supplements, but then ignoring the actual supplement part of the equation, since they do so little, if anything. It’s simply that those people are health conscious, so yeah, they tend to be healthier, live longer, be leaner, etc.. They also tend to not smoke, to get more sleep, and things like that.
- There was a bit of a debate about carbs. Scott and Mike both think carbs are important for satiety, though at the same time, Kevin has eaten low carb for years. But they all certainly agreed that just eliminating foods for the sake of eliminating foods is never a good idea.
- You have to listen to your body. If you switch to eating a vegetarian diet, don’t eat so many cruciferous veggies that you spend all your time on the toilet. Experiment with foods. See what makes you feel best. (Mike, for example, is still eating more dairy than he’d prefer, but it provides far more satiety for him than does various combinations of rice and legumes and so on.)
- Don’t get into “Calorie Counting” at the same time as you switch the content of your foods. You should be trying to do both these things at the same time.
General “Wrap Up” Tips:
- Don’t get into calorie counting at the same time as you switch.
- Don’t also suddenly restrict starches (or go “low carb”) at the same time.
- Eat a variety of foods; be an omnivore.
- Eat stuff that you want to eat.
- None of these things apply to special populations (children, pregnant women, anyone over 50).
- Don’t do it all at once if you’re not comfortable doing so.
- Scott’s final wrapup: consider the health of the planet and the treatment of animals (if for no other reason than it takes diet into another realm entirely and represents a totally different approach to food and eating).
Links & Resources
A PDF containing Vegetarian and Vegan meal options from a couple of Scott’s diets (right click, save as)