Why you might not love a plant-based diet, and why it might not matter

Have you noticed that food is getting more delicious and appealing all the time? Food blogs and cookbooks are works of art compared to even a few years ago, and every recipe promises a mouthgasm. I unfollowed a very popular whole food, plant-based (wfpb) meal plan provider because I actually got sick of hearing about how tantalizing, finger-licking, and luscious every dish was.

I think it’s wonderful that people can create healthy recipes that are enjoyable, and that some people are eating well as a result, but I wonder if the focus on scrumptiousness doesn’t play into the larger issues that got us into trouble in the first place.

Food companies have been using science to discover better and better ways to make our food hyper-palatable. Processed food has precisely calculated amounts of salt, sugar, fat and flavouring agents to trigger all of the pleasure circuits in our brains. It’s not only the big, bad multinational corporations doing this, though. We are doing this to ourselves. I’m old enough to remember broccoli being an exotic vegetable and green peppers (because red peppers weren’t invented yet) being considered too strong-flavoured for children. Supper consisted of meat, potatoes and something from a limited selection of vegetables. Gravy and ketchup were the only sauces that were added. Somewhere along the line, we all broadened our tastes and learned new cooking techniques. We also started expecting everything to taste good. Really good.

A lot of people worry that if they were to adopt a wfpb diet they won’t enjoy their food anymore. The standard response from those of us trying to promote this way of eating is to issue plenty of reassurance that a wfpb diet can be full of mouth-watering, delectable dishes that are every bit as satisfying as the food you’re used to.

What if I were to say that it’s probably not true? Let’s face it, the food you are used to eating is highly-flavoured, high in salt and sugar, and high in fat. That stuff hits all the checkmarks and you love it. The whole foods you really should be eating just don’t have that power. You probably just won’t crave it the same way. And that’s a good thing.

It’s asking a lot of food for it to not only nourish you but to entertain and delight you as well. The problem is that the standard for what is exciting keeps getting higher and higher. The food that surrounds us looks nicer, is higher calorie and is more exotic than ever. We used to be ok with the school Christmas recital in our mouth, but now we want Cirque du Soleil. Or a mouthgasm.

You’ll find lots of whole food, plant-based recipes and meal plans that attempt to reproduce these gastronomic experiences. It’s wonderful to have food that looks and tastes appealing. The problem with that is that many people simply transfer their need for food excitement over to the wfpb world and find it more difficult to keep getting that food high.

It is absolutely non-negotiable to eat enough food, but it is not necessary to eat thrilling food. It is perfectly ok to eat a simple meal of a starchy vegetable or whole grain, some sort of legume and some vegetables. Top everything with a simple dressing and there’s a meal. A meal you could eat every day forever. Will you love it? No, you probably won’t even like it at first. But you will learn to appreciate this nourishing food that doesn’t require fancy meal planning or a lot of weekend prep.

A Simple Plan for Lunch and Supper

It turns out that it is deeply satisfying to eat simple healthy food that actually makes you feel better for eating it. Tomorrow’s dinner doesn’t need to be saltier or greasier or sweeter to fire the pleasure circuits. It’s a great gift to yourself and your family to learn to be content with wholesome food rather than seeking ever greater and higher calorie epicurean delights.

8 thoughts on “Why you might not love a plant-based diet, and why it might not matter

  1. Susan Freeman says:

    Oh my goodness! This is my constant struggle, and the reason I routinely fall off the WFPB wagon! I’m perfectly content with simple healthy meals UNTIL I go out to dinner with friends and reignite my brain’s hyper pleasure circuits and I’m back on the craving train!!! Not sure what the answer is except to stop eating out at restaurants and making food my entertainment. But everyone I know and love centers their entertainment around FOOD, FOOD, and even more FOOD!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bev says:

      It’s so true that the path of least resistance is to eat unhealthy food. As you say, it’s everywhere and it’s the focus. I guess it’s a bit like quitting smoking or alcohol – you may have to just avoid those tempting situations until your resolve has strengthened (or is it cravings have weakened?). I find now that if I eat out too often I actually crave the simple healthy food at home, which means I never feel like I’m off the wagon, or have to start over or anything, and there is a great sense of freedom in arriving at that place.


  2. mybigthinvegandiet says:

    Such an interesting and insightful post. I’ve been veggie all my life and became vegan over 2 years ago now. Since becoming vegan I enjoy (and think about) food so much more and I cook/bake so much more, when I eat out I always have three courses so I can try everything on offer (which I didn’t use to do), I have to try any new vegan junk/fake food that comes on the market, etc., etc.. I guess what I’m saying is I’m having so much fun trying to prove that vegan food is just as yummy as any other food (which I truly believe it is by the way) that I let myself off the hook with my diet far too often!


    • Bev says:

      I think you’re on to something here. A few years ago when being vegan was more hippie/fringe, it was easier to be be a healthy vegan, but now there are almost the same temptations in the vegan world as anywhere else. Except for all the animal products, of course, and that’s huge, but the pleasure trap is everywhere now!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pat says:

    I think it’s become pretty easy to be vegan these days and getting easier to be whole food plant based. I agree that tastes and cravings change as we’re transitioning to a more healthy diet. For me the origins of my eating are what make a difference. I transitioned from omni, to flexitarian, to vegetarian, ethical vegan to whole foods plant based. Because I started veganism for the animals, I’m not likely to crave or eat animal products unlike some of my friends who’ve gone plant based right from an omni diet for health reasons. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally eat a processed vegan burger or french fries but I think it’s easier for me sometimes. I also don’t tend to go out to restaurants a lot unless I can go to vegan or vegan friendly ones and there just aren’t that many unless I want an undressed salad or a baked potato and side of broccoli. (Although we’re getting more and more restaurants where I can actually eat, yay!) All of that said however, my tastes have changed significantly over the years and I’m way more likely to crave beans and rice than pizza. So, I guess like everything, it’s a process but getting easier all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bev says:

      I agree with you that having a vegan line in the sand does make resisting temptation easier. Though it’s not even a matter of temptation with animal products at this point. I will simply not be interested in cheese or meat, whereas my parents, who try to eat wfpb, but are not ethical vegans, are frequently eating things they’d be better avoiding.

      Liked by 1 person

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