WFPB Basics: Winning Over Skeptical Friends and Family
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, stocked your kitchen for success, and braved the initial tummy distress that can sometimes accompany transitioning to a WFPB diet, you’re probably feeling healthier and more energized than ever and can’t wait to share your newfounds success with others. After all, if you’re feeling so much better, couldn’t your friends and family benefit as well?
You might be surprised and discouraged when your loved ones respond with skepticism and defensiveness about a WFPB diet. Don’t worry - this is completely normal! Even going vegan (abstaining from eating animal products) seems extreme to many raised on a standard American (SAD) diet, but no oil, sugar, and processed foods too? That’s just next level crazy. So how do you win over the skeptics in your life and open their minds to this new way of eating?
No need to wrack your brain - we’re here to help you respond to the skeptics and win them over with delicious WFPB food! This fourth installment of our WFPB Basics series will help you combat two common objections to WFPB eating - isn’t a WFPB diet too restrictive, and shouldn’t you be eating a low-carb diet instead?
So, sit back, relax, and arm yourself with ALL the knowledge to keep those skeptics at bay!
Objection #1: A WFPB diet is SO restrictive - you won’t last on that for long!
The idea that a WFPB diet is restrictive is all too common. People imagine dry salads, bland soup and anything else cardboard-related, and, well, that’s pretty much it. This isn’t surprising, given that the average American meal revolves around everything we limit or avoid completely on a WFPB diet. There’s not a single WFPB element in a Big Mac (scratch that - maybe the lettuce and onions? You get our point!)
What most people don’t realize is that the SAD diet itself is extremely (if unintentionally) restrictive - centered mainly around meat, milk, cheese, and other dairy products, eggs, processed foods, and lots of salt and sugar, it largely excludes most whole plant foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds. It is so devoid of these beneficial plant foods that only 9% of all Americans get even the CDC-recommended minimum 1.5 to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Of the 1996 lbs. of food the average American eats per year, 630 lbs. come from dairy products, 185 lbs. come from meat products, 141 lbs. come from added sweeteners (yes, you read that right), 85 lbs. come from pure fat (i.e. butter and oil), and 147 lbs. come from (primarily processed) grains. Eating more than half of your yearly food volume from just 5 individual foods? That sounds pretty restrictive to us!
When you open yourself up to the big, beautiful world of plant foods, you’ll be amazed at the choices you have. There are over 2000 types of fruit, 400 types of beans, and much, much more - overall, there are between 250,000 and 300,000 known edible plant species! Talk about variety!
When confronted with a skeptical friend convinced we’ve consigned ourselves to lives of boiled broccoli, here’s how we respond:
Suggest friends and family members seek out a new fruit, vegetable or bean every time they go to the grocery store to incorporate into their weekly meals. Most people are so used to picking up the same SAD foods that they bypass the sections of the store with the most variety - the produce and bulk sections. Once they see how much variety there is in the plant kingdom, they are often intrigued and want to learn more. Once they’re on the hook, you can go into more detail about the benefits of a WFPB diet without them getting defensive.
Make WFPB versions of meals your friends and family love. One of the best ways to combat the notion that a WFPB diet is restrictive is to create tasty WFPB versions of hearty classics. Some of our favorites include:
WFPB Pizza, made using whole-grain pizza crust or whole wheat pitas, oil-free marinara sauce, nut- or seed-based “cheese,” and veggie toppings of your choice;
WFPB Lasagna, made using whole grain or brown rice noodles, oil-free tomato (or our own Bolognese!) sauce, tofu- or nut-based “ricotta,” and your choice of veggie fillings;
WFPB Burritos/Burrito Bowls, made with oil-free Sofritas, beans, brown rice, sauteed veggies, salsa and (if applicable) a whole-grain, oil-free tortilla, and
WFPB Mac n’ Cheeze, made with whole-grain or brown rice pasta and nut-based cheeze sauce (use a cheeze sauce made from potatoes and carrots for a lower-fat version).
Before long, your friends and family will be jumping on the WFPB train with you!
Objection #2: A WFPB Diet has WAY too many carbs to be healthy. My (insert purported nutrition expert here) told me a (keto/paleo/insert low carb diet here) is SO much healthier!
In the standard American nutritional vernacular, carbs are the enemy. Everything from diabetes to obesity and more is blamed on too many carbs, and a host of low-carb diets, including the original Atkins diet and newly popular keto diet, have cropped up as the supposed cure-all for what ails us. But are carbs really the enemy, and are meat- and fat-heavy, low-carb diets the answer? NO! Here’s how to respond to a low-carb-crazed friend or family member:
As we explained in the first installment of our WFPB blog series here, carbohydrates are the body’s primary short-term source of energy, and most of your calories should come from carbohydrates. The confusion comes from the difference between refined carbs and complex carbs: refined carbs, found in processed foods and refined sugars, are easily metabolized by the body and cause a quick blood sugar spike and weight gain, because refined sugars are calorie-dense and require barely any energy for the body to process. By contrast, complex carbs, the type of carbs found in whole plant foods, are full of fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar and digestion and keep you full. The most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, are full of complex carbs - run towards, not away, from these nutritious foods!
While low-carb diets often appear promising for short-term weight loss, they are not the cure-all that many people believe. People often lose weight quickly in the early days of eating a low-carb diet because, without the reliable fuel that comes from carbohydrates, the body is forced to burn fat stores. Low-carb diets can also have the appearance of helping to control high blood sugar and diabetes, because blood sugar levels remain low when carbohydrate and sugar intake is low. Unfortunately, under the surface, low-carb diets cause damage to our bodies and a whole host of problems down the road.
Low-carb diets encourage the consumption of high-protein and high-fat foods, including meat, eggs, and oils. As a result, while people on these types of diets lose weight early on (though, because low-carb diets are notoriously unsustainable, they often gain the weight right back), they increase their risk of heart disease (including AFib), high cholesterol, and even early death. In addition, contrary to popular belief, long-term adherence to low-carb diets actually raises the risk of Type II Diabetes. This is because Type II Diabetes is caused by insulin resistance - not a shortage of insulin (as is seen in Type I Diabetes patients), but a decrease in insulin sensitivity caused by the buildup of fat in our cells. Because the animal foods encouraged on a low-carb diet are high in fat, eating them regularly contributes to this fat buildup and consequently increases insulin resistance. Then, when a low-carb devotee “goes off the wagon” and eats carbs, their blood sugar spikes are more severe because of the decrease in insulin sensitivity caused by the excess fat. As fat is the primary culprit here, it is unsurprising that whole-food, plant-based diets, which are comparatively low in fat, decrease the risk of Type II diabetes and can even be used to treat it.
So, how do you ensure you’re eating the right kind of carbs to keep your body happy and healthy? Make sure to focus on whole plant foods - refined carbs (like packaged white breads, white rice, crackers, cakes, and more) have been processed to remove most of the beneficial fiber, but fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds still have all the goodies intact. If you’re on the hunt for breads, pastas, and other grain products that still fit the WFPB bill, check the ingredients to ensure that they contain only whole grains, and use this handy 5-to-1 fiber rule to ensure that packaged foods have enough fiber compared to carbs to prevent blood sugar spikes.
So, don’t let the skeptics get you down! Keep living your WFPB best life! Want to really impress the skeptics? Order from our weekly online menu and get delicious, ready-made WFPB items that you can combine into easy and delicious meals to please any omnivore!