SASSY Vegan Plant-Based Meals - Free of Current Food Fears Including 'Processed' Foods (Part 2)

My SASSY vegan plant-based meals are simple, healthy, and balanced.  They harmonize with the season, and our needs ~ whether health, time, or budget related.  In my previous post, I mentioned that a healthy plant-based diet can include oils.  In this post, I continue with a discussion about several other healthy plant foods that are commonly vilified by many influencers, in both the low-carb / Keto / Carnivore diet tribes, and among many in the whole-foods, plant-based camp.  

When I originally published  Make Every Bite Count, Eat Right, Lose Weight & Feel Great with a SASSY ~ Super Affordable, Simple, Satisfying & YUMMY Produce-Rich, Plant-Based Way to Health (MEBC) in 2014, I focused on a produce-rich, low-sodium, minimal oil whole-foods, plant-based diet.  (I'll be making that book available again soon.)  My desire was (and still is, at least in part) to inspire cooking simple, healthy, fresh plant-based meals at home to have greater control of your health outcomes.   It's all about choices we make each day.  I have charts in MEBC showing how to make more elevated choices, according to your needs. 

At the time that I first published MEBC, it seemed a somewhat novel way to eat.  Westerners are habituated to centering their meals around a slab of animal protein, rather than 'grains, greens and beans' as I referred to them in that book. 

Even though I may know in my mind what the most elevated choices may be for me, like most people, I don't always make the best choices.  I get lazy at times.  If I don't plan ahead, I'm more likely to compromise, and rely on 'convenience' foods, or not prepare as many dark leafy greens and vegetables as I like to eat to feel my best.  I sometimes inadvertently consume too much sodium, too many treats, or just too much food or even liquids ~ all of which I scaled back on to help me with my stubborn weight loss

In other words, my diet is not perfect.  I've even put a few of those pounds back on over the winter ~ although my current weight is still 8-10 pounds less than my average had been before restoring our vegan macrobiotic diet.  

All that said, what gets me fired up these days is all the dietary paranoia being spread.  

Commonly Vilified Plant Foods

What bothers me is the vilification of so many basic, affordable staple plant foods that help keep a vegan diet SASSY, including soy foods, rice, oats, whole wheat, vital wheat gluten which is an excellent source of plant protein, and all gluten-containing grains; corn, potatoes ~ especially russets or white potatoes ~ and 'sugar' which means different things to different people.  Some refer to refined white granulated 'table' sugar.  Others may refer to all sweeteners, and still others extend the 'sugar' category into most starchy carbs and higher sugar sweet fruits and vegetables.  

The Carnivore dieters exclude all or most plant foods, believing them to be unnecessary and harmful to health, despite decades of research to the contrary.

Plant oils are also vilified.  In my previous post, I shared why I don't believe it is necessary for all people to avoid all oils at all times, when you may want to minimize and who may especially benefit from including small amounts of oil in the diet.  In that post, I shared a video by Dr. Gil Calvalho of Nutrition Made Simple on YouTube who shares his conclusions on the health effects of consuming plant seed oils after combing through a lot of research.   In case you didn't watch it, I reposted that video again, below.  It's worth the watch if concerned about oils in the diet.

In this post, I'll look at several of those commonly vilified foods.

There are other foods (or isolated components of several plant foods) that are commonly vilified, especially among the Paleo and low-carb / Carnivore dieters.  These include foods with higher concentrations of lectins (grains and legumes), oxalates (especially high in spinach and almonds, and other leafy greens), those dreaded seed oils already mentioned, and all 'processed' foods.  (Many plant-based dieters also caution against consumption of 'processed foods.')

In fact, on the CarnivoreCringe Instagram page, it's common to read posts from folks in the Carnivore Diet forums discussing their ongoing diarrhea, constipation, skin break outs, swelling and inflammation and other symptoms while eating almost exclusively beef and possibly eggs, questioning if their symptoms are the result of 'oxalate dumping.'  So blinded by the hopiod crisis, believing their magical all meat diet will eventually bless them with near perfect health as soon as all those pesky plant foods that some claim are 'out to kill us' finally detox from their body.

Well, to an extent, Don and I did the same.  We succumbed to the belief that we were not getting enough of something ~ such as 'heme' iron, calcium, choline and other nutrients considered more bioavailable in meats, dairy foods and eggs.  Hence we concluded our vegan plant-based diet was not sustainable for our long-term health.  

In hindsight, we see how short-sighted we were, which is why I am now writing these posts.  I hope to encourage others to avoid our mistakes, and reconsider tweaking their diet or discussing their challenges with others before becoming an 'ex vegan.'

I'll discuss more about the mental / emotional / spiritual components influencing all of our decisions  in upcoming posts.  In the end, it's all spiritual, but I digress.

Dietary & Health Recap

For those who don't know, when I first met Don, I joined him in following the Paleo Diet, consuming animal meats and protein, while avoiding whole grains and legumes, as they contain all those 'evil anti-nutrients.'

Well, that didn't go well for me.  I developed an alarming breast condition, which you can read more about here, or in my previously published books, some of which are being made available as FREE Ebooks.

My condition quickly cleared once I added those lectin-rich whole grains, soy foods and other legumes back into my diet.  And I lost at least 10 pounds, having reached my all time heaviest weight around 125 pounds (at 4 feet, 11 inches, that's chubby) while eating a Paleo diet too high in animal protein and fat.

We remained on a plant-based, vegan diet for five years or more, before we foolishly returned to animal-centered diets. 

Processed Foods

Peel a banana, or an apple, and you've technically processed the food.  Harvesting grain, and separating the wheat from the chaff is a form of processing.  Whole grains are further processed once cooked, or ground into flour to make bread.  Likewise with beans and legumes.  Chickpeas and lentils are ground into flour, and made into noodles.  Tofu is a way to process soybeans into an edible form of protein, a blank slate for which an innumerable variety of possibilities await the creative cook.  Soy beans can also be  processed into milk, or fermented into tempeh, miso, and soy sauce.  

When we use these terms generically, it creates confusion.  It's not unhealthy to consume processed foods.  It's normal.  Our stomach processes foods.  That's called digestion.  To know whether processed foods are good or bad, we need to be more precise with our language.

What processed foods are unhealthy?

I think most people automatically know the answer.  Foods that have been stripped of their innate nutrients, then combined with unhealthy components, including food colorings, preservatives, natural and chemical flavorings, excess sodium, fat, and sugars, that offer little real nutrition can be classified as processed foods.

Think Nacho Flavored Doritos, commercially prepared cookies and pastries, hot dogs, Cheese Whiz, many cold cereals, etc.

And then there's bacon.  And sausages.  I certainly have consumed my share of both!  Especially while following a ketogenic diet.  

"Yeah, but bacon tastes good.  Pork chops taste good."  Remember that line out of Pulp Fiction?  

Bacon and sausages are highly processed foods ~ high in fat, sodium, preservatives and sugar  ~ yet meat eaters give those foods a hall pass.  

Even some whole-foods, plant-based dieters consider plant-based burgers and meats to be ultra processed, and lump them in the same caliber as any other 'processed' food.  Yet many if not all foods are processed in some manner, as stated above.  Plant-based meats are hardly the health hazard compared to bacon and pork sausages!

Dairy comes from animals artificially inseminated against their will by men sticking their arms up their hind sides with semen from a bull they jerked off.  Then, as soon as the calf is born, it's dragged away to the horror of the mother cow who mourns for her offspring.  And, that liquid from another species of animal is given to humans to drink, add to their coffee, pour on their cereal, or churned (processed) into butter, or further processed into cheese.

Yet while plant-based meats are practically synonymous in people's minds to an 'ultra processed food' ~ dairy somehow isn't?  Seems a bit biased.

Animal Foods - Disguised By The Name

Animals ~ pigs, cows, turkey, chickens and even fish ~ live in unnatural settings, are  fed unnatural diets, pumped full of antibiotics, treated incredibly inhumanely, then slaughtered in weakened conditions, and 'processed' by a butcher.  All that fear passed on to the unsuspecting consumer who purchases neat little packages of beef (versus cow parts),  pork (versus pig parts), and dismembered chicken parts.

People get super defensive about their food choices, and believe everything in moderation is fine, which for health purposes, may be true.  You are not going to die of a heart attack eating bacon here and there.  Heck, you may not die of a heart attack eating bacon daily.  But that doesn't mean there are not consequences for your actions.  There are always consequences. 

There's a ton of suffering perpetuated to feed what ultimately comes down to craving addictions.  

Hyper-Palatable Foods

Fat + salt = hyper-palatable food.  People are addicted to hyper-palatable foods.  Fast food chains are keenly aware of this!

And I sadly contributed to this.  I hardly even care to see these pictures anymore, I'm so turned off by it, because I know the systemic nature of this type of treatment to any sentient beings.  But, here are photos of foods we consumed during our 'Hypercarnivore / Ketogenic Diet daze.

It's laughable to me now.  People get all elitist about their diet choices.  Avoiding soy, wheat, rice, gluten, oats, oils, sugars, etc. is currently en vogue.  And, avoiding all those foods may help you thrive.  Or, they help you believe you are thriving by avoiding those foods.  

Either way, it doesn't matter to me whether anyone chooses to avoid soy, gluten, wheat and sugars.  (Our SASSY vegan plant-based meals does not exclude any of those foods!)

My pushback is in the growing belief that these foods are inherently bad for all people at all times, because there is insufficient data to support these erroneous belief systems.  They most likely stem from animal industry giants threatened by the growing popularity in plant-based foods.

On top of this, food companies jump on dietary trend bandwagons as a means of selling more products at premium prices.  Slap a label that says keto or paleo or keto friendly, gluten-free, or free of any of the foods currently being touted as unhealthy, and your product gets a 'gold star' in this red merchant matrix system.  As long as food companies meet the standards of those purity junkies willing to spend more money at the grocery store, they can warrant a higher ticket price.   

Let's consider a few of these 'evil foods' ubiquitous in our modern diet.  I'll start with one of the most demonized foods, sugar.

Does white sugar cause diabetes?

Actually, white sugar has been successfully included in helping patients reverse advanced kidney disease and diabetes.  Walter Kempner treated patients with on a diet consisting of "white rice, sugar, fruit, fruit juices, vitamins and iron, and provided about 2000 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 700-1000 ml of liquid as fruit juices.  Sodium content was extremely low, about 150 milligrams per day, and chloride content about 200 milligrams per day."  Other foods were added back if results were good.

Kempner presented his results at a meeting of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1946 with clear charts, photographs, electorcardiograms, and lab results documenting the benefits of his diet.  He described his diet as being "monotonous and tasteless," however "preferable to alternative of certain death."

This type of diet strategy may not be likely to be administered today, yet, it casts doubt on popular memes claiming' all the 'whites' (white foods) are bad, including white rice, white sugar, white potatoes, and white bread.  

How about potatoes?

Ever hear of Chris Voigt?  Executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission consumed the equivalent of 20 potatoes, or 7 pounds worth of potatoes a day for 60 days just to prove that "Potatoes are not the scourge of the earth." He was pushing back against the low-carb diet trends blaming potatoes and starchy 'carbs' for Americans' growing waist line.  

He lost 21 pounds consuming 2,200 calories of potatoes a day, and chronicled it all on his blog,  According to Voigt, "My cholesterol went down 67 points, my blood sugar came down, and all the other blood chemistry –– the iron, the calcium, the protein –– all of those either stayed the same or got better.  I always said there is no one single food that meets all your nutritional needs, but if you were to pick one, potatoes would be a good one."

What about gluten?

Dr. Greger has a video series discussing why abstaining from all gluten-containing grains and foods may not offer much benefit to those who do not need to, and investigates the validity of gluten sensitivities.  Ultimately, a diverse diet of fiber-rich plant foods, including gluten-containing grains are beneficial for a healthy gut microbiome, which forms an important part of our immune system.  


  • Rice may be grown in waters and soil contaminated with arsenic.  Some regions contain more than others.  Arsenic is actually actually found in many foods.  Macrobiotic diets center around whole grains, and especially revere rice as 'the perfect grain.'  Asian cultures consume a lot of rice.  Some types of rice, such as Thai or Basmati rice may have less arsenic.  White rice will have low amounts because any arsenic is in the germ.  If you like to consume a lot of brown rice like we do, I recommend purchasing organic brown rice from Lundberg.  Otherwise, vary the whole grains in your diet.  I personally am not highly concerned as we have consumed a lot of brown rice over the years and never noticed any symptoms.


  •  My guess is that the newest concern about oats has arisen because of the competition oat milks are giving to the dairy industry.  The concern relates to glycophosphates sprayed on some commercially grown oats after they are grown.  While this doesn't make sense, and seems avoidable, for now, until demand dictates, choose organic.  

Then there's soy

  • Many are concerned about GMO soy foods, however, the largest percentage of soy grown is used for animal feed.  Less than 10% of soy foods are used for human consumption, all of which is NON-GMO organic soy.  Read labels to be certain.  
  • Soy also contains compounds called  'phytoestrogens' but  are not actual estrogen hormones, nor will they give men boobs (however dairy foods and animal foods high in saturated fats will!) Soy has receptors that mimic estrogen, and can help up or down regulate estrogen as needed by the body.  
  • Soy foods also contain isoflavones which have been extensively studied, and found to have anti-tumor / cancer protective benefits.  Historically, Japanese women who regularly consumed soy foods have low rates of breast cancer, and do not have uncomfortable hot flashes or other symptoms during menopause.  Linked below are a few studies with soy and reduction of cancer risk and heart disease.
These are just a few studies showing the cancer and health protective benefits of soy foods.

Is a raw diet best?

Another belief circulating, especially among the vegan communities is that an entirely or mostly raw diet is best for health.  The belief is that you get more enzymes and nutrition when eating foods raw.  That is true, to an extent.  However, many foods are easier to assimilate once cooked, hence you extract more net nutrients.  Plus, not all people will thrive on a raw diet.  From a Chinese and Ayurvedic perspective, the bulk of foods should be consumed at least lightly cooked.  According to these systems, too many cold, raw foods puts out the digestive fires, and are best suited during hotter seasons, in hot climates, or for those with a hot constitution.  That said, some people seem to thrive on a well-planned, raw / high raw vegan diet.

Certainly seed oils are really bad for you, right?

I covered this in my previous post, but in case, here's a video I recommend by Dr. Gil Carvalho at Nutrition Made Simple on YouTube.

I hope you are seeing a trend here.  I'm not wanting to do a lengthy, scientific deep dive into the benefits or health risks of these or other foods in this post.  For those who like more references, grab a FREE copy of Don's previously published Powered By Plants ebook while he continues to work on an updated version. 

My concern is the spread of misinformation that is causing many people to question the long-term sustainability of a vegan plant-based diet.

When Including More Refined Foods May Help 

Athletes and men and women who require higher calorie meals, and/or have gas and bloating issues when consuming too many beans, or too much fiber (hello Vata types) may do better having lower fiber (more refined / processed) foods alongside higher fiber foods to minimize gut distress.  A good example is using white rice with black beans.  They taste great together, and the white rice tends to be easier to digest.  

Having an Impossible burger ~ or some of their spicy Italian seasoned sausage sold in bulk cooked into a delicious Homemade Spicy Marinara Sauce, or a few Gardein Meatless Meatballs ~ or  any other plant-based ground meat, 'chick-un' tenders, burgers, fish, and others ~ is not a health deal breaker.  Actually, many of these foods are quite good, or at least fun to try once in a while.  Nothing wrong with eating them daily either, if it fits with your health goals.

Why I LOVE SASSY Vegan Plant-Based Meals

SASSY vegan plant-based meals are fun.  Super Affordable, Simple Satisfying and YUMMY!

Plant foods are colorful.  Bountiful.  Naturally sweet.  And they contain the energy of the sun, and all the elements.  Plants are a direct source most nutrients, including protein.  The muscles of dead corpses contain a secondary source of protein, which they too get from plants.  Plant foods are low on the totem pole, close to the earth.  Eating higher up on the food chain increases risk for pathogens and problems, on multiple levels.

I personally love our SASSY vegan plant-based meals.  I love the freedom of exploring the many plant-based protein options now available, for quick meals.  And I love the fact that I don't get all mentally wigged out when I want to add a little brown sugar to an Asian marinade, or because I'm in a brown sugar on top of my oatmeal kinda mood.  (I'll be looking at the power of the mind in the next post.)

We use small amounts of higher quality oils (typically more during the winter, less during the summer), small amounts of sweeteners including organic brown sugar and maple syrup, and salty condiments (mostly reduced-sodium tamari, miso, umeboshi plum paste and seaweed) as per what will provide the greatest balance to whatever we may be eating, which changes seasonally.  

That's what Vegan Great Life is all about.  Finding the right personal balance, as opposed to following a formula of 'eat this, not that.'  Create some SASSY vegan plant-based meals that you enjoy, so you can sustain a plant-based vegan diet for a lifetime.

As previously stated, If I can help another plant-based eater avoid being an 'ex-vegan / plant-based dieter,' I've done my job here.  If I can inspire those on the sidelines to get their feet wet with a more plant dominant diet, I'll really be encouraged.

As long as you are consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes and/or plant-based 'meats' including tofu, tempeh, seitan etc., and nuts and seeds ~ as per your health condition, constitution, and needs ~ you will be fine.  

Never let perfection and purism become the enemy of the good.  But do be aware of potential nutrient shortages, and plan accordingly, or seek out a vegan / plant-based health coach

With respect to oils, the dose makes the poison.  Several plant-based doctors, including Dr. McDougall, are adamantly opposed to including 'free oils' in your diet.  They are too calorically dense, weighing in at 9 calories per gram.  Keep that in mind, and choose according to your health needs and goals, limiting total quantity to 1-2 teaspoons per day, if using.

In Summary

In summary, the reason I am writing a blog post about countering the current dietary myths is because, in my opinion ~ take it for what it is worth ~ the more that basic staple foods are publicly demonized, the more fear it instills into the mass public, causing the average person to be more dubious than ever about even entertaining the thought of adopting a plant-based vegan diet.  

That, to me, is counter productive.  

Remember, I've been on this diet train for much of my life now!  

Through my efforts to improve my health ~ I tried many diet styles, including rotation diets, elimination diets, The Body Ecology Diet, and strict food combining where I consumed starchy plant foods separate from higher protein foods.  I tried a fruit-based raw diet, and low-carb diets ~ eating mostly animal protein and veggies plus salads, with minimal to no starchy plants ~ along with low sugar fruits.  

For one year, during the late 1990s, I followed a special 'diet' designed to help one overcome a 'sugar addiction.'  This diet included lots of beef, other animal proteins, vegetables, flax oil, and the like.  I never was a fan of beef up to that point, but suddenly I found myself consuming it much more frequently.   I would order Beef Broccoli at Chinese restaurants, and skip the rice, or eggs and chicken or turkey breakfast sausage, 'hold the potatoes and toast.'  

I really thought I was eating 'real food' as opposed to 'filler food.'  (Sorry Chris the Spudman, but I was once an enemy of the spud!)

Well, eating a lot of refined grain breads, high in sodium, or other more refined foods, devoid of fiber and all the nutrients is never a good idea if you desire to be in and maintain good health as you age.  White breads, cookies, scones, and other pastries, bagels and crackers are not health foods.  I think on that most people agree!  However, most people now believe that starchy foods like potatoes and bread are causing weight gain, rather than considering what higher fat foods are slathered on top of either! Order a baked potato at a steak house and what do they ask you?  "Do you want that loaded?"  

And of course, if someone has a gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, avoiding gluten containing foods is essential.  Likewise, some folks may have allergies or sensitivities to soy foods.  

Or, if you just don't love rice, no problem.  Although whole wheat is a super nutritious, sweet whole grain that can be grown locally in temperate climate zones, there are plenty of other grains to choose from!

Even though oils and sugars are not the dietary demons many make them out to be either, that's not a green light to consume these foods mindlessly.  

Hence, our SASSY vegan plant-based meals include soy, wheat, rice, oats, high quality oils, salty / savory condiments, and yes, even the forbidden spoonful of sugar here and there.  

Whatever way one desires to modify any of my recipes to suit personal health needs, have at it.  I'm all for making my recipes and information work for you!  

My advice:  Stay open.  Unplug from all the dietary fears.  Let go of beliefs taking up mental space.

Keep it SASSY and you'll sustain a vegan plant-based diet for life!

Here's More:


FREE vegan macrobiotic e-book
Free Ebook whole-foods, plant-based diet 21-Day challenge

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