My Daughter’s Birth
My plant-based journey began with the birth of my daughter Faye in June 2009. A few weeks later she was diagnosed with a progressive life-threatening liver disease called biliary atresia. Medical bills for hospitalizations and surgeries over the next 5 months exceeded $750,000! Thankfully my out-of-pocket costs maxed out near $2000 so health insurance covered the remainder. I had considered myself to be quite healthy for the majority of my life. The very real possibility of me becoming a living liver donor to my daughter committed me even further to optimize my health. The human body is so amazing that it only takes about 8 weeks to fully regenerate after removing up to 60% of the donor’s liver!
My Introduction To Whole Food Plant-Based
My journey towards Whole Food Plant-Based eating accelerated in January 2014 while flying home with a nagging cold. As the plane descended, pressure increased in my left ear until my eardrum burst due to severe congestion. Upon seeing my primary doctor, he indicated that my eardrum had a micro-tear and should heal on its own. In passing, my doctor also referred to “The China Study” which I never heard of previously. Shocked about my lack of awareness, my doctor’s eyes lit up. He spent extra time excitedly sharing some details of the book with me. I ordered the book from Amazon that same evening. I remained glued to it every evening while going to bed until sleep beckoned me. No other book has had more impact on my life! I immediately dropped my daily intake of dairy – Cheerios with organic non-fat dairy milk and yogurt nearly every single day.
I competed in the local badminton club and that change to my diet elevated my game beyond my wildest expectations. Amongst the half dozen or so players I frequently played singles with, I previously won about 65% of the time. I used to only have the stamina to play 2 good matches per evening. After dropping the dairy without any other lifestyle changes, I went undefeated for 3 months while frequently playing 5-6 matches per night with energy left to spare! As a competitive athlete, easily winning so many matches certainly encouraged me to keep my new eating habits. The athletic performance benefits of eating plant-based are now becoming widespread news around the world. Here’s a shortlist of vegan athletes: Rip Esselstyn (triathlete/swimmer), Rich Roll (ultra-endurance), Novak Djokovic (tennis), Venus and Serena Williams (tennis), Scott Jurek (ultramarathon), Alex Honnold (Free Solo rock climber), James Wilks (MMA), Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1 Racer), Colin Kaepernick (football), Kyrie Irving (basketball), David Beckham (soccer), Hannah Teter (snowboarding), Tia Blanco (surfing), and on and on…
Due to my confusion on appropriate nutrition as instigated by the powerful food industry, I waffled a bit on periodically eating salmon, sushi, and eggs for a couple of years. Sadly, some doctors/websites even convinced me to add coconut oil and eggs back into my daily routine for several months. That ended upon discovering the truth on how bad they really were for my health from Dr. Greger’s terrific evidence-based https://nutritionfacts.org/ website in early 2016. I used to get sick 8-12 times per year resulting in missed workdays including a few visits to the doctor. Now I’ve only succumbed to a total of 2 viruses in the past 5.5+ years! Our health has been betrayed by the healthcare industry, big food industry, big pharma, and government, all in the name of profits. We need to take back control of our health through education and action.
Being a hardware design engineer for over 20 years and living well below my means enabled me to step away from that career in 2016. I then focused on my daughter’s health while simultaneously tweaking my own plant-based eating and lifestyle for the better. Many people incorrectly assume that eating plant-based is more expensive than the SAD (Standard American Diet). Despite popular belief, eating plant-based is actually more affordable than the standard fare. The base grains, beans, and vegetables are free from expensive processing/packaging/etc. Primarily eating whole plant foods pretty much forced me to cook and eat at home given the severe lack of healthy restaurant entrees. This also saved me costly visits to the doctor. While I used to eat out at least once per day, I now eat out about once per month on average.
100% Plant-Based Road Trip
Unfortunately, I received limited family support for this new way of eating despite obvious signs of my better health. During the summer of 2017, I took my then 8-year-old daughter Faye and 5-year-old son Kai on a cross-country road trip adventure. Under my direction, we ate 100% plant-based while mostly camping during our nearly 7-week long, 10,285-mile long road trip! Frequent meals included oatmeal, cereal with soy milk, pasta, lentil soups, and snacks like hummus, guacamole, fruit, berries, and various veggies. After returning home, Faye continued to primarily eat plant-based.
I then searched to join local vegan groups. At one of my first monthly potlucks, I met Timaree doing a cooking demonstration. I then discovered that she taught a plant-based nutrition course at Cosumnes River College. To help optimize my nutrition knowledge for the benefit of my whole family, I immediately enrolled in her nutrition course. I also enrolled in the adjacent sustainable agriculture course as part of the newly created Plant-Based Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture (PBNSA) Certificate program. Soon after Timaree’s first lecture began, she played a couple of videos from one of my favorite nutrition websites: Dr. Greger’s https://nutritionfacts.org/. Although already plant-based for a few years before Timaree’s classes, the education she provided me greatly reinforced and improved my food choices. It also helps me defend/explain those choices to others. This class (Nutrition#303) along with her corresponding cooking class (Nutrition#331) were the two most important courses of my entire life. Both classes should be mandatory at all colleges world-wide and adopted for high schools to catch kids earlier in their lives.
Now I thoroughly enjoy educating others on eating plant-based for their own health, animal welfare, the environment, and saving money. I am pursuing my passion to promote healthier lifestyle choices, potentially saving some of the 85% of lives lost to chronic diseases caused by poor lifestyle choices. Every single life I change for the better makes all my effort entirely worth it! I recently started this website and listed a few of my favorite tips at http://www.plantbasedsaver.com/tips/
Single Father Raising Two Kids
As a single father raising two energetic elementary school children, quick and easy meals are necessary. My kids’ favorite meal is a slight modification to Timaree’s Seasoned Black Beans as described in her excellent The Foodie Bar Way cookbook. We all love garlic so I mince a whole head of garlic and leave out the chipotle due to Faye’s over-sensitivity to spicy food. We then use it for topping brown rice and quinoa. For dessert, as similarly learned in Timaree’s cooking class, we frequently enjoy chocolate banana nice cream with sweet cherries mixed into it. As for school lunches, they often eat leftovers from prior dinners, fried rice, canned Amy’s lentil soups, or sunflower butter and jam sandwiches.
Chocolate Cherry Nice Cream:
- 3 large and very ripe frozen bananas allowed to partially thaw
- ¼ heaping cup cacao powder
- Mix it in a food processor until smooth.
- Add in the desired amount of sweet cherries – I typically use frozen ones that have also thawed a bit.
- Pulse a few times to incorporate the cherries which remain as sweet chunks of goodness intermixed within the smooth chocolate nice cream!
- Note: To make it creamier, add a little nut butter and/or avocado.