posted June 29, 2021
by Cherie Hans, VLCE
Vegetables for breakfast (VFB)? Yes. Before you stop reading, I went down a jeans size in twenty-one days without weighing or measuring my food. Vegetables for Breakfast is a requirement for complete success on Chef AJ’s 21-Day Challenge.
Why VFB instead of a healthy bowl of oatmeal and fruit (my go-to breakfast for years)? Chef AJ says, “Oatmeal with fruit is like having cake for breakfast.” In order to keep the sweet cravings out of the rest of the day, we start with veggies to neutralize our taste buds. Eating our veggies keeps us satiated longer than that bowl of oatmeal. It is recommended to eat at least two pounds of uncooked vegetables a day, so eating them as a first meal ensures that we meet our quota.
Also, vegetables are not calorie dense. What does this mean? According to Chef AJ, “A mere tablespoon of olive oil has more calories than 2 pounds of zucchini.” (That is around six zucchinis.) We are asked to eat our non-starchy vegetables (low calorie density) with a starch (somewhat more calorie-dense) at every meal. The calories from the starchy foods are there to satisfy us and give us enough calories, as the veggies will not be enough to keep us full.
I had stopped eating brown rice and potatoes years ago for fear I would gain weight, but the opposite is true. “We humans are built to thrive on starch. The more rice, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans we eat, the trimmer, more energetic and healthier we become,” says Dr. John McDougall.
I read Chef AJ’s The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss twice. Everything about eating a whole foods plant-based diet made sense, but I could not wrap my head around the veggies for breakfast. This whole foods plant-based plan without SOFAS (salt, oil, flour, alcohol or added sugar) works. I was satisfied with what I was eating and did not have to cook complicated recipes with ingredients that I couldn’t find easily in a supermarket.
I baked potatoes in the microwave (on a special dish I bought online) and steamed veggies on top of the stove or in my Instant Pot. Some vegetables baked in the toaster oven. I usually steamed my veggies in a pot on the stove, removed the steamer basket, then cooked pre-made packets of brown rice or quinoa in the same boiling water to save time and cleanup.
What about protein? I work out every day and I believed the protein myth. Renowned vegan athlete, Robert Cheeke, states, “With exercise we are creating inflammation in the body, with muscle tears, so…we need to recover from that. Eating high quality, anti-inflammatory foods will help combat that [inflammation] to help our muscles grow and heal; to get bigger and stronger and more efficient.” The median vegan protein intake is 71 g grams of protein a day, but an Atkins-type diet provides 200-400 a day. The problem? Our bodies cannot process excess protein. “Your body can handle only so much protein, fat, cholesterol, sulfur-containing amino acids, and dietary acids. When you take in more than your body can use, metabolize, neutralize, and/or eliminate, those excess amounts act as poisons,” according to Dr. McDougall.
Was this easy to do? Honestly, no. I was already a vegan for 14 years, but eliminating added sugar, oil, all processed foods, and even tofu or seitan, was a struggle. Once I got the hang of it, it was easier to do.
I feel more relaxed and lighter in every way. My clothing is looser. It is recommended to stop eating at least 3-5 hours before bedtime, and this definitely helps avoid nighttime, mindless snacking, as well as better sleep without a heavy stomach.
Chef AJ says she does not have any more willpower than the rest of us. She says, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Number one is to clear out all junk food from the environment, but the second most important criterion is to have healthy food ready.
Is it worth the extra effort and time? I believe it is and anything worthwhile means we must come out of our comfort zone. What do you have to lose? Some inches and pounds.
 P. 6 The Starch Solution, John A. McDougall, MD, 2012, Rodale Inc., NY, NY.
 Cornell University’s Plant-Based Nutrition course, video of Robert Cheeke speaking about Eating to Prevent Injury section.
 “Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets–A Review,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893534/
 P. 89 The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, MD, 2012, Rodale Inc., NY, NY.
 P. 40 The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, MD, 2012, Rodale Inc., NY, NY.
Cherie Hans is a retired teacher and vegan since 2007. She became a vegan for the animals but found the health benefits an added bonus. After graduating from the Main Street Vegan Academy, Cherie became certified in the Starch Solution program with John McDougall, M.D. and Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition program at Cornell University. She grew up in New York City, but now lives in New Jersey with her husband and eight rescued cats.