- Photographs by Michelle Donner Photography and Sarah Felder.
Jessi and Franklin Reategui have made it through week three of the 28-day challenge on the Engine 2 Diet. Their children, Kaylan (15) and Denzel (12), have also been along for the ride. The family has collectively lost 32 pounds in 21 days with the help of our local Whole Foods Market Sarasota and their Healthy Eating Specialist Kathryn McCue. I have provided menu planning and answered their daily questions about plant-based living on the Engine 2 Diet.
The Engine 2 Diet eliminates animal protein in all forms: meats, eggs, fish and any dairy protein (casein found in milk, whey, cheese, etc.) So ... How do plant-based dieters get their protein? Engine 2 Diet-approved sources are plant proteins that do not contain artery-clogging cholesterol. Some great examples of plant-based protein can be found below:
Legumes: lentils, soybeans (edamame), beans (garbanzo, pinto, kidney, black beans)
Vegetables: kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, peas and sweet potatoes
Grains: quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal and sprouted grains
Seeds and Nuts: pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, pistachios, hemp seeds, peanuts and nut butters fall into this class, too. Beware that a daily serving size is about one ounce, as nuts are calorie dense. A small heap in the palm of your hand is a good measurement. A little goes a long way with this group.
These aren't the only sources, just some good examples to follow.
The Engine 2 Diet also eliminates oil. Why no oil? Simply put, all oil, no matter what kind, contains about 120 calories per tablespoon. Rip Esselstyn, the man behind the Engine 2 Diet, began his food journey and revolution because of his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former cardiac surgeon and researcher with The Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, explained why he believes no oil is best:
"The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100 percent fat calories. And above all they contain saturated fat, which immediately injures the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, or any other kind of oil."
I also admire Chef Cathy Fisher of the Straight Up Food blog, who does a great job explaining the reasoning behind an oil-free diet and how to substitute for it in her article "Cooking Without Oil." She is also a wonderful resource for fabulous plant-based recipes.
Part of eating a healthier diet also involves changing the way we do some normal things. Many times we're too tired to think ahead about dinner during the busy week. One thing I made sure of is that the Reategui family had plenty of resources for meals. I did a menu plan for each week and loaned them a large stack of cookbooks. I also compiled a long list of food blogs and websites to follow and bookmark in case they decided they didn't want to make what was in the plan.
Planning ahead, even for snacks, lessens chances of straying from the budget, lessens waste from buying foods you won't make or eat and lowers chances of cheating with tempting foods.
A sample menu plan for a day, starting with dinner and repurposing leftovers, looks something like this:
I asked the Reateguis to double most of the dinner recipes and use them in some form for lunches the next day. This saves menu planning for everyone. It's budget and time-friendly, and makes mornings go smoothly when lunches are packed as you're cleaning up from dinner.
Cook chickpeas in a skillet covered with teriyaki sauce. When the beans are warmed and the flavors have combined, pour chickpea mixture over a helping of cooked brown rice. Serve with a steamed vegetable or salad. Very simple, quick and nutritious. I never enjoyed kale until I discovered this recipe. Aarti Sequeri's Massaged Kale Salad is packed full of nutrients and takes about 5 to 10 minutes to make. I prepare it without the oil.Breakfast:
Water with sliced lemon, lime and oranges and/or herbal tea
Tofu (plant-based "eggs") scramble with tomatoes, onions and bell peppers
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 block tofu, drained and pressed
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. soy sauce (optional if you're watching soy or sodium intake)
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adds vitamin B12 and cheesy flavor)
1/2 tsp. turmeric (optional)
- Slice the tofu into approximately one-inch cubes. Then, using either your hands or a fork, crumble it slightly.
- Sautee onion, pepper and crumbled tofu in oil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook 5 to 7 more minutes, stirring frequently. You can also place the tofu scramble in tortillas, greens and salsa for a different version or to turn it into lunch.
Lunch the following day would be the chickpeas with brown rice (leftover from dinner) with sliced tomatoes and avocado wrapped in tortillas, and a side of fresh fruit from breakfast, packed and ready to go.
Sunday night is a great time to prep for the week. Keep a couple of refrigerator containers handy and stock up on vegetables you can pre-cut for the week, such as broccoli, carrots, celery, radishes or whatever is in season for quick, crunchy snacking. We also like our vegetables dipped in Rip's own oil-free hummus recipe. Apples and carrots dipped in almond butter make for fabulous snacking. I've also found some great muffin recipes, so I make a large batch on the weekend to put in lunchboxes.Homemade Larabar recipes, pre-made for the week, keep hungry kids at bay. This great recipe from 100 Days of Real Food for homemade nut-free Larabars is a keeper.
Another great breakfast or dessert item is Chia Seed Pudding. Chia seeds are a great source of daily omega-3 fatty acids. They help balance blood sugar, boost energy, promote weight loss, are mineral rich and strengthen brain power.
Chia Seed Pudding
2 cups plain almond milk
3/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (or a container with a lid). Stir until the mixture begins to thicken (about 2 minutes).
- Leave the bowl out and stir for 30 seconds every 10 minutes for an hour.
- Place in the fridge overnight and allow to thicken even more.
- Top with fresh fruit and serve.
As for Jessi, Franklin, Kaylan and Denzel, they have a newfound love for tofu, black beans and rice, new soup recipes and making meals as a family. Jessi (the mother) has been headache-free for three weeks and is down 14 pounds. Franklin has lost 11 pounds and is finding new energy where he used to have afternoon slumps. Denzel has lost 10 pounds and has also noticed that he feels better. He loves to try out the new recipes and suggest things for mom and dad to make. Kaylan's moods and energy continue to improve with each week. Jessi and Franklin have also noticed that Kaylan is sleeping better and her body is more relaxed instead of the tense state she is often in, even while at rest.If you've been reading along these past few weeks, you've probably picked up that the main idea is to eat whole foods. It's also about preparing, budgeting and planning ahead for success. The Engine 2 Diet is affordable and simple if you take the time to plan. Whole Foods Market can have a reputation for being on the expensive side, but their premade deli items are fresh and very healthy, their 365 Everyday Value brand is incredibly affordable and I'd challenge another store in town to find more knowledgable employees when it comes to their food, where to find it, what is in season and even meal prep ideas. Kathryn McCue at our local Whole Foods Market Sarasota has trained at the Whole Foods headquarters in Austin, TX and with the Engine 2 Diet team as well. When it comes to following the Engine 2, plant-based way of eating, Kathryn is the expert in our area.
Next week I'll give you the final recap, with weight loss totals and some photos of the Reategui's amazing transformation during this month-long journey for their family.