I’ve been on the whole foods plant-based bandwagon for about a year now.
I mean exactly what the phrase suggests. Plant-based is self-explanatory (I hope) and whole foods are not more than a step or two removed from their natural state. We’ll stick with “WFPB” for short before I work up a carpal tunnel case.
How I came to that after just shy of 32 years of steak-chomping and milk-chugging is another story…but, here and now, that’s where I’m at.
And the experience has been excellent.
Not only did I gain 94 pounds of muscle, but the doctor said I’m his first patient to “de-age.”
No, obviously not.
But it’s been good. Very good, actually, thanks in part to some unexpected benefits.
Removing the grease saves so much kitchen time it isn’t funny
While I’m obviously not frying up bacon or grilling a burger these days, there are plenty of greasy plant-derived products as well. And whatever the source of the grease, there is no denying it sucks to clean up.
But the more I emphasize the whole foods portion of a WFPB, the less time I spend dealing with the irritating scrubbing and soaking that used to drive me nuts.
Seems a bit over the top, right? Not only no butter or lard (duh!) but no nothing?
True, you have to approach things a little differently when there’s no layer of oil to distribute heat and keep food from sticking. This is mostly a challenge on the stovetop, of course, due to high and direct heat.
But this sort of challenge says more about our habits and assumptions than anything else. If “food” to you means lightly (or not so lightly) fried, then this will be hard to wrap your mind around. (Hey, I get it. My wife’s half of the family is Filipino, and boy oh boy, let’s just say the American South has nothing on the Philippines for fried chicken consumption!)
But as soon as I took a second look at the fundamentals of stovetop cooking, I learned that there are always other ways. Check out this video (and the whole channel!) for some incredibly simple alternatives.
After dropping a few bucks on a super fancy non-stick pan (can’t find the link, but almost identical to this one) and being willing to experiment, I probably get in and out of the kitchen 15 minutes faster than before, on an average day.
Sounds small, but 15 minutes of greasy nuisance repeated several times a week has a way of getting on your nerves.
I never realized nourishment was this cheap
Don’t you love getting those “wow, I have it good!” moments?
I sure do. And here’s a freebie that hit me hard over the past year.
The USDA says we spend a ridiculous small amount of our incomes on food these days. Yeah, I know, we’re talking very broad averages, and the content of diet is another matter.
But stick with me.
Back in 1960, Americans spent 17% of disposal (post-tax) income on food. By 2019, it was a hair under 10%. Another report puts the 2015 number at 6.4%: the lowest percentage in the world, despite many of us eating far too many calories in the first place.
We also eat out much more than our parents and grandparents did, so the cost of at-home food has probably fallen even more. But I’ll leave that one to the economists.
Here’s the kicker, though. Pre-WFPB, I was already spending a lower income portion on more food than anyone ever. But that was with expensive animal foods galore!
Eggs — a long-time personal staple — are around $0.19/100 calories according to this write-up. And that’s a bargain compared to mainstays like chicken breast ($0.54) or sirloin ($1.00).
But my current legume mainstays are more like $0.05-$0.07. And even the occasional block tofu, at $0.59 (and with zero greasy prep), is a modest indulgence.
Obviously, you won’t get rich saving a couple bucks a day on groceries. It’s a bit like the making-versus-buying-coffee debate in personal finance.
But the simple truth is that multiplying that couple bucks a day by 3,650 days per decade and by multiple people in the household does add up to a hefty sum. Not a life-changing amount, but enough that I’d rather not leave it on the table — so to speak.
(Oh, and that’s assuming a simple WFPB won’t reduce medical costs. But it probably will.)
I worry less about losing upside than increasing downside
I’m a numbers guy at heart. Most of my work here leans heavily to the personal finance and investing side of things; everything becomes more or less a question of expected value and risk analysis and whatnot.
So, the question continually running through my mind is, “What to I stand to lose if I’m wrong?”
I think we can all agree that whole plant foods are healthful. Granted, there are disagreements on specific ones, but it’s fair to say there’s not much serious, categorical disagreement in the big picture here. In other words, eating plants good; not eating plants bad.
Animal foods have more controversy and uncertainty. If I avoid ones that end up completely harmless after all, then I’ve missed out on quite a few tasty meals. But if I eat ones that are in fact harmful, then I’ve greatly increased the risk of all sorts of things I could do without.
Personally, I’d regret health damage (if any) far more than missing out (if at all).
Sort of like Pascal’s wager, but for bacon.
I’m fairly sure fellow Seattleite Michael Allen Smith put this point in more precise words a while ago (albeit for a somewhat different way of eating), but his exact wording and post elude me.
Of course, there are also far-reaching and massively important questions of environmental and ethical upside versus downside. Those weren’t my main WFPB motivations, but they’ve become more so over time. That’s a topic for another day, though.
It’s been an interesting and entirely positive experience. It lines up with some things I know or strongly believe to be true, which is a load off in its own right.
No health concerns have emerged whatsoever (nor did I think they would) and unexpected benefits like the above have been pleasant surprises along the way. I anticipate more of them as I keep learning and experimenting with what I fully assume will be my long-term way of eating.
And to anyone who saw how much beef I used to eat, that’s saying something.