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Reap The Benefits Of Going Meatless With The Latest In Healthy Eating—The Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

October 1 is World Vegetarian Day and the whole month of October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. So for those looking to start making healthier eating choices, taking a cue from vegetarians might just be the thing. There are several types of vegetarians (like lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans), but you don’t have to go completely meat-free to begin reaping the benefits of a more plant-based diet. One movement that’s recently been gaining popularity is the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet. More than a fad, it’s grounded on solid nutritional principles.

 

Maryland “Crab” Cakes made with banana blossom and seaweed, served with cocktail sauce

 

WFPB nutrition is based on unprocessed or minimally processed vegetables, fruits, tubers, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds. It excludes animal-based products such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. While it’s similar to a vegan diet in that both do not allow any animal products and by-products, the key difference is that veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. A WFPB diet, on the other hand, emphasizes eating whole fruits and vegetables, consuming whole grains, and abstaining from or minimizing the intake of animal products and processed foods for health reasons.

Chef Nancy Edralin, as the Philippines’ first and only certified chef in WFPB nutrition, has made it her advocacy to educate the public about the advantages of a wholesome, plant-based diet. “There are so many benefits!” Chef Nancy explains. “It can reverse the effects of heart disease and lower cholesterol, for example.” Having experienced an illness last year, switching to a WFPB diet was one of the things that aided her swift recovery. Her firsthand experience with the life changing benefits of the diet made her a believer: “That’s the reason I want to get involved.”

 

Sweet Potato Bolognese using sweet potato “noodles” and quinoa

 

An educator and practicing chef, Chef Nancy currently handles the cafeteria operations and in-school catering of a number of international schools in Metro Manila. Prior to that, she had taught at several culinary schools both locally and abroad, and served as the executive chef of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. “It’s heartbreaking,” she shares, “when I learn that a patient I cooked for has passed away. And I see so many people who are sick, and they’re getting younger and younger.” By switching to a WFPB diet, it’s possible to avoid many of the ailments that stem from poor nutrition. “I see students eating fast food every day. That’s what kids love.”

One of Chef Nancy’s advocacies in one of the schools she handles is Meatless Mondays. The program, which is set to start in November, is her attempt to ingrain healthier eating habits in kids. To that end, she’s created kid-friendly menus. Included are Tofu Fried Chicken (that’s guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters), Pasta Bolognese, Maryland Crab Cakes, and a Purple Sweet Potato and Tempeh Burger.

 

Purple Sweet Potato and Tempeh Burger on a whole wheat bun, served with silky “mayo” and tofu sour “cream”

 

“One of the hardest parts about switching to a WFPB diet is starting,” she admits. In Chef Nancy’s case, she tried lacto-ovo vegetarianism for a few months before she was ready to fully transition to a WFPB diet. “It’s really hard to change. At first you will miss (meat and processed food) but you can do it slowly. Maybe you can start with a Meatless Monday and then have meat only thrice a week.” She also recommends substitutions like brown rice instead of white rice, and finding alternative sources of protein like lentils, beans, and tofu. Another tip is to experiment with ingredients—nutritional yeast is one of her favorite “secret” ingredients that gives extra flavor and an added boost of vitamins and nutrients to meals.

 

Tofu “Chicken” Tenders with honey mustard sauce

 

Tofu is pressed to remove the water and achieve that chicken-like texture, then coated with potato starch before pan-frying

 

And a healthy diet, according to Chef Nancy, need not be expensive. “Fresh vegetables may be 5 to 8% more expensive than meat but think about the long-term benefits to your health and the money you save on hospital bills!” There are also groceries selling Indian and Middle Eastern ingredients, she says, where you can buy nuts and spices in bulk to save on costs.

 

Baked Apples with cinnamon, raisins, and cranberry, served with a maple syrup sauce

 

For now, Chef Nancy is busy serving up her WFPB meals to her students and faculty, but she definitely has plans underway. Under the brand Green Leaf Culinaire, a plant-based diet delivery service by the end of the year, cooking classes by next year, and some ready-to-cook food items in development… There are many ideas she wants to explore, and plenty of room for experimentation. Because if there is one thing Chef Nancy is adamant about, unlike most diets, a whole food plant-based diet is not a gimmick or a strict diet that promises instant results at the cost of your long-term health. It’s a movement and a lifestyle that’s for everyone.

 

For more information on Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition and Green Leaf Culinaire, contact (0917) 915-3264, (0927) 307-9447 or e-mail greenleafculinaire@gmail.com

 

Photos by Janelle Año