Phase 1 – Healthy Eating

Phase 1 – Healthy Eating

In this HeartStrong.com video/article, we are going to discuss the phase 1 healthy eating plan. Once everything is planned and set for your healthy eating in phase 1, then phase 2, 3 and 4 just tweak the phase 1 eating plan a bit, which will be quite easy.

The ultimate goal of the HeartStrong.com Healthy Eating Plan is to transition you to the ideal eating pattern for your situation which usually means increasing plant based foods and decreasing or eliminating meat and dairy. We will do this gradually as you will come to see. Remember this will take time and some effort, like learning to Play The Guitar. Having said that if you feel as though you can make the change quicker than the HeartStrong.com leads you to, feel free to do this! Simply replace the meat/fish with a plant based protein and that is it!

Here are the goals of the phase 1 healthy eating plan:

  • If overweight/obese – introduce the proper healthy eating pattern to lose weight
  • Eliminate junk food, added sugar/oil and other high fat foods that are not heart healthy
  • Introduce heart healthy food choices
  • Make a healthy eating plan/schedule that you can follow
  • Reward yourself for accomplishing your healthy eating goals

The Phase 1 eating plan is designed to show you results quickly. While there are some rewards to sticking to the healthy diet, this will still be a difficult plan for many to follow initially, especially when it means giving up some of the foods that you may have had since childhood.

Just remember all the skills that you learned. More help is to come soon in the program like How To Develop the Motivation and Willpower to be healthy. Embrace topics like these and you will be successful. You CAN and WILL reach the goals of phase 1, then move on to the phase 2 eating plan where you will find even more flexibility.

Also, it is VERY important to remember how your taste preferences will change when you make this transition. Instead of craving a double cheeseburger you will find yourself craving a plant based indulgence or meal. No joke!

Three Eating Patterns for Life

The HeartStrong.com program allows you to follow one of 3 health eating plans in regards to what your ultimate goals will be considering your specific health situation. You need to chose one and follow that plan for the rest of your HeartStrong.com program. Here are the 3 eating patterns and guidance as to which one is right for you.

Plant Strong: 90% of calories from plant sources

A diet with a large majority of calories from plant sources is critical for long term heart health. While having 100% of calories from plants is quite healthy and ideal for most, it is not necessary for all situations and honestly, not achievable for everyone. Those who should follow this pattern include

  1. People with no prior heart disease, vascular disease or diabetes type II history
  2. No strong family history of heart disease or hypertension
  3. People who simply are not able to achieve 100% plant based due to other factors

Plant Perfect: Whole Food Plant Based with no SOS (salt, oil and sugar)

This eating pattern getting all calories from plant sources is ideal for heart health. This cholesterol free, nutrient dense eating pattern is a powerful tool to prevent heart disease. Those who should follow this pattern include:

  1. People with heart disease that has been treated and is not severe/critical
  2. People with vascular disease that has been treated and is not severe/critical
  3. People with diabetes type II, hypertension, high cholesterol or a strong family history of heart disease
  4. People who fall into the above “Plant Strong” pattern but want to be more aggressive with prevention

Heart Disease Reversal Eating Plan*

This eating pattern, while more restrictive, is still very achievable and enjoyable. It still has 100% of calories from plant sources, but lowers the fat in the diet even further by eliminating higher fat plant foods. Those who should follow this pattern include:

  1. People with severe heart disease that has not been treated with stents or bypass surgeries and who are attempting to avoid these interventions and/or relieve angina symptoms
  2. People with severe vascular disease (peripheral arterial disease, aneurysms) that are trying to avoid surgical interventions and relieve symptoms of claudication
  3. People who fall into the “Plant Strong” or “Plant Perfect” pattern but want to be more aggressive with heart disease prevention

*Note: The HeartStrong.com program eases you into the Heart Disease Reversal Diet over a few months. If you are having stable angina symptoms and are in need of quick dietary change/intervention, go straight to Phase 4 Healthy Eating for Heart Disease Reversal and be sure to read Reversing Heart Disease with Diet.

Remember that it is crucial that you have been through the Healthy Eating section and learned about why it is that HeartStrong.com has used these above 3 dietary patterns. Learn about a Whole Food Plant Based Diet and embrace an eating pattern of predominately plants.

Calorie Balance

Recall that counting calories is not all that important on a whole food plant based diet and is in fact discouraged. Despite this fact, whether you are normal weight (BMI 18.5-25), overweight (BMI 25-30) or obese (BMI > 30), the appropriate calorie balance should still be in your mind. This is why Calorie Balance and Calorie Density were discussed previously. Again, the proper calorie intake is not difficult to achieve on a whole food plant based diet. Our goal by the end of phase 1 is for your BMI to be at least < 30, meaning not obese, but if you are starting the program with a BMI < 30 already, then we might as well start working on the ultimate goal of lowering your BMI to your ideal body weight.

A majority of people entering the HeartStrong.com program will need to have a negative calorie balance, meaning you will need to burn off more calories than you eat. If your BMI is already 18.5-25 at this point, then you can have an even calorie balance. This is easy to do when plant foods due to their high fiber and low fat content as you recall, so no need to count calories.

Having said that, if you are trying to keep the doctor away by eating 20 apples a day, then it will be a challenge to take off your extra weight. So even though we are not counting calories in phase 1, don’t go crazy overeating with plant based foods. Remember these 7 rules for phase 1:

  1. Fruits (no more than 5 servings per day)
  2. Nuts/Seeds (limit to 2 serving per day or less ). Note: Heart disease reversal diet eventually eliminates these
  3. Avocados (limit these in general, best to keep less than 4 servings per week). Note: Heart disease reversal diet eventually eliminates these
  4. Whole grains/Potatoes, whole oats/wheat, brown rice, whole wheat pasta – moderate amounts are good, but large amounts will sway the calorie balance in the wrong direction
  5. Alcohol – not allowed in phase 1 if BMI > 25
  6. No liquid calories of any kind except small amounts of fruit/veggie smoothies
  7. Do not overeat even healthy foods – stop when you are full

These rules will be relaxed in future phases as you achieve greater weight loss and exercise ability…not to worry.

Remember: Don’t Count Calories!

Recall the basic premise of a whole food plant based diet: Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds without added sugar, oil or salt. While understanding calorie balance and density is important as we said, do NOT count calories.

Remember when we eliminate any calories in the form of liquids (fruit juice, sodas, coffee with sugar), a negative calorie balance will be much easier to obtain. Learn how to check the labels of items for added sugar or oil of any kind as again it will add extra calories that you don’t need.

Reducing or Eliminating Unhealthy Foods

Even if you keep the right calorie balance, the content of what you eat is extremely important for both weight loss and for overall heart health. You could lose weight eating only Oreo Cookies (a completely plant based snack, although not a “whole food”) if you eat only a VERY small amount of calories, but your body will not be happy metabolically or nutritionally as you will be lacking the proper nutrients and vitamins for good health.

Since you know a lot about nutrition now, we can apply those principles to the phase 1 healthy eating plan.

In phase 1, things to ELIMINATE COMPLETELY include:

  • Saturated fats from animal sources (beef, pork, shrimp, dairy including cheese) – recall small amounts allowed in “Plant Strong” people
  • Added oils (including, but not limited to olive, vegetable/canola, sesame, coconut, safflower and sunflower oil) – some allowed in phase 1 – eventually eliminated completely
  • Processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, white pasta, chips, crackers, pretzels)
  • Added sugars (soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, granola/candy bars, most cereals etc…) – some allowed in phase 1 – eventually eliminated completely
  • Alcohol and other drinks with calories (drink mostly water)

As you see, most people will be completely eliminating meat and dairy. This will be the most difficult part for most. Chicken (no skin on, baked not fried) and fish (baked) can be included for the “Plant Strong” people in small amounts, but since these foods do contain saturated fat and cholesterol, it is nice to try to limit or avoid them as much as possible…less than 10% of overall calories for these people. Also, using meat substitutes can be a great way to transition more to a complete whole food plant based lifestyle which will be included in phase 1. While these may have added oil and even sugar, they are better than the alternative of eating cholesterol/saturated fat.

Now is the perfect time to look into your refrigerator, cabinets and pantry and just literally throw out or donate any food item that does not fit the above description. Not the only one who lives in the house? Remember you need to develop a strong support system, so talk to the other people in the house to see how they can help change the foods you keep around to help you be more successful.

Introduce Heart Healthy Foods

The basic concepts of healthy eating as you know from previous videos include a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fats. The foods you should introduce into your diet in phase 1 include:

  • Fruits (3-5 servings per day)
  • Vegetables (as many servings as you can per day, minimum 5)
  • Beans/legumes
  • Whole grains (in moderation to assure adequate calorie balance, CHECK LABELS to avoid added sugar/oil, keep carbohydrate/fiber ratio < 5)
  • Nuts/seeds (2 servings per day, none in heart disease reversal group)
  • Plant based, unsweetened milks instead of dairy milks (optional, small amounts)

Your carbohydrate sources should be whole grains (in moderation), fruits and vegetables. Remember there is nothing wrong with a “high carb diet” as long as it is coming from fruits, vegetables and good clean whole grains.

Getting a “whole grain” bread? STOP…wait a minute…not supposed to be in phase 1. If you must, look at the label and you will likely see sugar and oil added. IF you must have bread try “light” bread. This frequently takes out the oil but keeps in sugar which is not ideal, but better than regular bread. A great whole grain to add to your diet is a whole grain oatmeal or cereal WITHOUT added sugar. Keep the carbohydrate to fiber ratio < 5 since some products advertised as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” still take out some of the fiber which is not good. For example, a light bread with 24 g of carbohydrates with 5 g of fiber or Uncle Sam cereal which has 38 g of carbohydrates and 10 g of fiber.

Your protein can come from vegetables, beans/legumes/soy products, nuts/seeds (except for heart disease reversal) and whole grains.

Your fat should NOT come from animal products of course such as meat and dairy (including cheese). You want the fat in your diet to be from plant based sources. In general if you are trying to lose fat from your body, you should limit your fat intake significantly.

“The fat you eat is the fat you wear, from your lips to your hips” – Dr. John McDougall

In phase 1, while not ideal, feel free to occasionally use “transition foods” such plant based protein items like Gardein. These are not “whole foods” but can really make the transition process easier as you add more good whole food recipes to your diet. Also, you can also use PlantPure Nation Food as this is indeed whole food plant based and they will deliver to your door, however there are nuts/seeds in most of these items.

Phase 1 – Healthy Eating Schedule

Now we need to put this all together to make a schedule that you can follow. We will discuss more in the Putting It Together section. This schedule should be flexible since everyone is different in regards to their own daily schedule and their food preferences. Each day usually has 3 meals and 3 snacks. Still hungry? Eat extra vegetables all you would like and even an extra fruit.

Start adding to your “inventory” of meals, then write out when you will eat each meal. For example, if you made 3 breakfasts (lets call them B1, B2, B3) and 5 lunches (L1-L5) and dinners (D1-D5). Then you can decide to mix it up and eat B1 Monday for breakfast, B2 Tuesday, B3 Wednesday and so on. If you would like to make things simple, go a week at a time. Eat B1 every day for breakfast this week, L1 for lunch and D1 for dinner. Then next week you can do B2, L2 and D2. You get the point. Do whatever you like!

Summary and Conclusions

For Phase 1 of the HeartStrong.com eating plant, first figure out if you should follow the “Plant Strong”, “Plant Perfect” or “Heart Disease Reversal” plan. All three of these categories start out essentially the same in phase 1, but will progress differently in future phases.

Stick to the healthy eating principles that you learned for that eating pattern and be sure to understand the power of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet.

Here are the rules for the Phase 1:

Universal Rules – Phase 1

  • Eliminate all processed foods and junk foods completely – eat real food
  • Eat 3-5 fruits per day
  • Eat unlimited vegetables
  • Eat beans/legumes as your predominate protein source
  • Eat whole grains and potatoes (fat free) in moderation
  • Watch closely to avoid added sugar and oil, moderation allowed
  • Avoid alcohol completely if BMI > 25
  • Do not overeat in general

Plant Strong – Phase 1

  • 90% of calories from plant sources, 10% from meat/low fat dairy/eggs
  • Use of meat substitutes/transition foods allowed
  • Eat food from all plant food groups (fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds)
  • Nuts/seeds limited to 2 servings daily
  • Avocado limited to 2-3 servings per week

Plant Perfect – Phase 1

  • 100% of calories from plant sources, eliminate meat/dairy/eggs completely
  • Use of meat substitutes/transition foods allowed
  • Eat food from all plant food groups (fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds)
  • Nuts/seeds limited to 2 servings daily
  • Avocado limited to 2-3 servings per week

Heart Disease Reversal – Phase 1

  • 100% of calories from plant sources, eliminate meat/dairy/eggs completely
  • Use of meat substitutes/transition foods allowed on occasion
  • Eat food from all plant food groups (fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds)
  • Nuts/seeds should be avoided if possible, but limit to 1 serving daily
  • Avocado should be avoided if possible, but limit to 2 servings weekly

Do not forget as you are planning and executing your healthy eating plant to take advantage of all the excellent FREE online resources and invest in some books on plant based nutrition. Here are the HeartStrong.com Plant Based Resources we put together to make this easier for you,

We will talk more about your healthy eating schedule in the Phase 1 – Putting It Together and give you a nice 1 page log to help track your day to day progress. Now start planning your eating schedule and calendar. Design your meals, then read through this article or watch the video again to be sure you are following the appropriate guidelines. Get healthy!

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