New "What The Health vegan" seeking advice


Sep 10, 2019
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Chelmsford, MA
  1. Vegan newbie
Hi All

Newly minted WFPB vegan here. I've been eating better for a year or two for health reasons and last week committed to be a reducetarian. Then I watched Cowspiracy and What The Health over the weekend and am now a cold turkey, WFPB vegan! If you only knew how much I loved cheeseburgers you'd be as surprised as me at this turn of events!

So day 4 and I'm really excited but surprised that this is going to be even more difficult than I thought. Its not missing meat - I'm fine with that. But learning the differences between WFPB and vegan I'm discovering how much stuff is off limits. I'm particularly thinking about peanut butter and hummus. Is there enough oil in these products that I should be steering clear or is it trace amounts? And how processed is too much? Jams and preserves? Canned tomato products? Frozen and canned veggies?

My other question is about my upcoming vacation. I'm going to Ecuador for 10 days next week. I think once I get settled there I'll be fine eating out or cooking in as I'm staying at AirBnBs but the journey is going to be almost 24 hours door to door and at this point I have no idea how to eat WFPB while out and about. Any suggestions as to how to eat while traveling?

Hi! Welcome aboard.

Although veganism is a lifestyle, WFPB is just a diet. And like every diet you don't have to do it perfectly every day. (come to think of it that is true for veganism too).

Besides reducing or eliminating meat and dairy, the WFPB diet also reduces or eliminates the consumption of (highly) processed foods, especially processed oils. It's not fats that are off-limits, people need fats. So peanut butter is ok. In fact, nuts are good. They are actually recommended and required. But nuts having a lot of fat need to be moderated. I think the general consensus is about 2 tbsp of nuts a day.

Same thing with hummus. Although I don't think there is a recommended minimum amount of hummus.

as far as how much processing is allowed, I don't think anyone has come up with a good clear requirement. I bet someone has come up with a good guideline - but I don't recall ever being introduced to one. I think for the most part you can just use common sense.

Keep in mind that ALL foods are processed to some extent. Take for instance a carrot. You pull it out of the ground, wash it and peel it and that is three steps right there. You might even chop it. but no one would mistake chopped carrots for processed food. Maybe that is why we are now seeing food described as "highly processed".

Oatmeal for breakfast is recommended by almost every WFPB practitioner. But oatmeal goes thru at least 5 processing steps before you pour it out of the box. Maybe its not just the steps but also how much is added to it. No one recommends Frosted Flakes on a WFPB diet.

Sorry, i don't have a better answer, but maybe this will work. Anything with a shortlist of ingredients is probably good.

I'm sure that you will be able to work things out on your trip. But I wouldn't stress out about the 24 hours of travel time. It is just a day. No biggie.
Hello & Welcome!

I've been a 'whole food vegan' for 2 years and WTH is the doc. that I watched that 'converted' me, too. I have found that really the only inconvenience (if you can even call it that) is drastically reducing the amount of restaurant or pre-prepared meals I buy. But what seemed at first as "restrictive," I've found it to be quite the opposite. Basically, I spend most of my time in the produce department. I eat a lot of fruit (bananas, apples, medjool dates, frozen berries make up the bulk of it), and a lot of greens, broccoli, beans, and whole grain sprouted bread (not much, maybe 1-2 slices/day. I also love potatoes, which I steam in the IP, and I eat a lot of nuts, seeds, and avocados. I'll eat frozen veggies sometimes, but not that often. As long as they are just the veggies and no added "sauce" they're fine. I also keep some canned black and garbanzo beans on hand at all times (even if I'm not eating it, it's good for the 'emergency stockpile). I try to stay away from pre-made pasta sauce due to the copious amounts of oil. It's super easy to make your own, anyway, with canned or fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and some italian seasoning.

There is a brand of hummus you can get that's oil free - my local Whole Foods carries it. Look for it if you have one near you. But it's also super easy to make your own! I am not a fan of peanut butter (I think it's the highest in fat of all the nut butters), but nut butters are acceptable on a WFPB diet. I sometimes have tahini on toast.

One thing you may wish to do after you've been on a completely wfpb diet is have your B12 checked, and it's a good idea to take a supplement, and get some nutritional yeast that B12 fortified. I did have a problem with a slight deficiency earlier this year, but I since then I've been taking a B-complex vitamin and B12 drops and I feel great now (will go back in a couple months to get checked again).

As for travelling, I would personally look for markets and grab some bananas, apples, whole grain crackers or a baguette, Larabars for the convenience factor (usually only 3-4 WF ingredients), and stay in places with a microwave where I could heat up some stuff like beans and rice or broccoli, etc.

There's girl on YouTube called High Carb Hannah that I would recommend.... She has a lot of 'what I eat in a day' vids. Basically, keep it simple, and avoid pre-packaged foods. I'm a pretty simple person when it comes to food, and a lot of times I just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl... Greens, onions, seeds of some kind, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, lentils/beans/tofu (I doubt that tofu is a "whole food," but it's pretty nutritious and certainly oil-free, packed with protein, so I eat it sometimes). Basically a little bit of everything in a bowl. That is honestly my favorite meal. Also look up - the website and the YouTube channel. Basically anything Dr. Greger has to say has been researched for the health benefits and/or risks. There is a wealth of information on his site.

My weakness is salt... But I will add a little to my food sometimes since I don't really eat processed food - that's where most of it comes from.

In the WFPB world, chopped veggies is not considered a processed food, nor is oatmeal.

In all of this, don't neglect other aspects of your life - sleep, exercise, adequate sunshine, and cultivating harmonious relationships. These are all part of a healthy lifestyle.

Bonus to all of this, is that you are reducing harm to animals, and you may find that a move toward veganism is a natural progression. It all happened at the same time for me.

...A year after I became vegan, I also quit drinking alcohol (hello - highly processed and pretty much toxic - no judgement if you have a glass of wine once in a while, just understand what you're consuming), and I don't think I've ever been as healthy as I am right now - physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Like @Lou said - it's not about perfection, and I do have my "cheat" days. Examples would be a veggie wrap at subway (all the veggies, no cheese, xtra spinach, add avocado), or a grilled veggie meal with rice & beans at a mexican restaurant (be sure to ask about the rice - the place where I get this has brown or white, and the white rice is made with butter, but the brown rice is vegan). Just make sure you're getting a little bit of everything and that you're getting enough calories. @Lou - I'm surprised you didn't recommend Chronometer ;) ...Playing with that for a few days you can get an idea of where you're at and what you might need to add or remove to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need. The goal, IMO, is to focus on nutrient-dense foods, and lots of them.

Congrats on your decision and may you have a wonderful trip to Ecuador! I would be looking for the farmer's markets for new and interesting fruits and veggies to try! :)
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Welcome @mitchmcc and congrats on your decision to switch to a whole food plant based and vegan lifestyle!

So many of your decisions regarding fats and oils and processed foods etc should depend on your health. Dr Esselstyn recommends extremely limited amounts of fat if you have heart disease, diabetes etc. If you are healthy then, as @Lou stated having good healthy fats like nut butters, nuts, avocado etc is okay.

When I travel I like to take simple foods like peanut butter and jam sandwiches (hmmm I now see that you are British and so may not be aware of this tasty sandwich), nuts, dates, and then check for fresh fruit along the way. You can request vegan foods on flights. Chick peas can also be made into great "tuna salad like" sandwiches, just google for recipes and could even be made into a salad to go. If you google "travelling on airplane vegan" you will find all sorts of good suggestions too.

You can use the app Happy Cow to find vegan restaurants and stores in Ecuador and I am willing to bet you will enjoy lots of good whole foods while there.

Again, welcome and please let us know how your trip goes and what you managed to eat.

Emma JC
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Thanks all. Lou and TofuRobot, I'm trying to take on board what you said about not being too strict with myself. I think my problem is that several years ago I finally quit smoking for good but before that I "quit" dozens of times and there were occasions when I stopped for years but went back to it because I thought I was beyond the addiction and could just have one. In my VERY short time as a vegan, I've been perfect so I worry that if I slip at all it will be the slippery slope back to cheese burgers. But I probably should lighten up a little. I've dug the Nutribullet out of the basement and will definitely be trying home-made hummus and I'm excited by a lot of the recipes I've found online.

Emma, my health is decent for a 56 year old. Or should I say it is the normally acceptable amount of bad. I'm not overweight, no diabetes etc but I have a few ailments and enough meds that I need a pillbox! Which in a way is a negative. I'm not going to see the massive drops in weight and cholesterol that some people see but I'm hoping I'll see some improvement in arthritis, gout, a-fib - things where the link to diet is perhaps not so well established so I feel like I have to be extra good to get these marginal benefits.

Of course, I'm also interested in not getting Alzheimers and not needing heart surgery etc. etc. but those future benefits will always be somewhat intangible. If I could get off a couple of meds and type without my thumbs clicking, I would consider that a major win!

Thank you all for the food suggestions, I will definitely be using many of those but......almond butter!!?? OMG, this may be the reason people hate vegans!! lol


P.S. I'm going to keep booze as my one vice - I can't give up everything, right? But I think I'll switch from rum and coke to beer or wine to get that soda out of my diet. Wine's pretty much a whole food, right? I've even still got some that I made myself so it can't be that processed. (Yes, I know alcohol is poison but as a WFPB vegan, I think I have to moderate my extremism!) :)
Have you had a blood test so that you can compare the before and the "after a few weeks"? I wish I had done that except that I do not like visiting any medical establishments that are not absolutely essential (read none other than dentist).

You may find your cholesterol drops and if you stay away from "oil" and oil-laden foods you may be surprised by how quickly you see changes in your arthritis, gout etc. Oils (also animal products) cause inflammation and inflammation is the source of most disease.

I don't see any issues with continuing to enjoy some wine and I would just suggest that you enjoy it 3 or 4 days out of 7 and allow your liver to rest the other days. Bye bye to coke is a definite plus! we enjoy sparkling water with a tiny bit of wine, or lemon juice added or, most of the time, we drink soda water straight.

I am not sure where you saw the almond butter suggestion but I will say that almond butter is extremely tasty and unfortunately extremely expensive and although I have made it myself, once, it is too hard on the food processor to do it regularly so I just enjoy peanut butter instead and add peanut butter powders to my smoothies or fruit bowls, a great way to get some protein without all the high fat in the actual nut butter. I save the actual peanut butter for toast or PB&J sandwiches.

It feels really good to take control of your own health and the fact that you are helping the planet and the animals, as a by product, makes it that much sweeter. Congrats!

Emma JC
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Have you had a blood test so that you can compare the before and the "after a few weeks"? I wish I had done that except that I do not like visiting any medical establishments that are not absolutely essential (read none other than dentist).

Hey Emma
I didn't do it because of my diet but I do get regular checkups so I have my numbers from a couple of months ago. And now that I look again, my numbers are borderline high and, from what I've read recently, the conventional standards are a pretty low bar. My LDL is technically acceptable but I think much better outcomes are likely if you reduce it significantly below the conventional 'normal'. I think I saw that 75 is the number to shoot for rather than the normally quoted 130 so I do have quite a bit of room for improvement.
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Welcome abroad, you'll be in the right place if you choose to give your body a rest and simply eat the fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables in Ecuador. It doesn't have to be perfect everyday, but if I were you I'd take advantage of all the freshly grown produce in their natural state, think of the healing benefits your body will receive from the enzymes and nutrients fich soil. Enjoy!
30 different fruits vegetables seeds nuts and legumes each week is how I roll.
Welcome on board :)

I have some great news :)

Peanut Butter: try to find 100% peanut (and maybe some salt) in the ingredients. Then you are on a winner :) Many cheaper brands are filled with sugar and processed oils, simply avoid those.

Hummus: Make your own :) don’t add oil, it is not needed. If you are travelling you can dehydrate it and add water when you want to use.

Here is the recipe starts at 5.18, feel free to add tahini and salt to taste, it’s good :)

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