It has taken me almost a week to collect my thoughts on the Oprah show from last week. If you missed it…find out more here. But just to give you some background on the show, Oprah and 378 of the Harpo staff went vegan for one week. Well it all sounds good in theory but when I thought about the show and broke it down, there is a lot that needs to be said. Of course I don’t have all the answers, so I encourage you to share as well.
To start out (my starter kit):
The new term “Vegan-ish” was coined on the show which I actually like – as long as it means fresh whole foods. However I am afraid that is not the message viewers got from this show. I know that most people after this show are thinking about attempting to “lean” into veganism to see how it works for them and their lifestyle – but if “vegan-ish” gets the reputation that experimenting with processed and packaged foods – then that is clearly the wrong message. Anyways, there is so much to share, and that is why it has taken me so long to post my thoughts.
I have decided to organize and summarize my thoughts in terms of what I liked and what I didn’t like . You will see my points emphasized and then in italics beside are my suggestions and thoughts on what could have been done!
What I didn’t like:
In the beginning of the show Oprah mentions how she has access to good free range eggs….great but what about America? Why couldn’t other suggestions be made of how those without access can get their hands on farm fresh organic eggs?
There was not much education on how + why one would choose to go vegan. It seemed like the staff was given the challenge, given a bag of groceries, fed vegan food for lunch – but did not have a full understanding of health + ethical implications of a vegan diet. Why couldn’t cooking classes, info sessions or workshops or cookbooks been given throughout the week to go into depth on the benefits + different topics, not to convert people to veganism but just to make them aware and enlighten them?
On that note, why were there grocery bags to take home filled with Junk Food – when they clearly mentioned on the show that a vegan diet can be junk based unless people make healthy choices. The staff weren’t left to make healthy choices, they were snacking on cereal, chips, cookies all week long, but that is okay because it was vegan…right?
It was pointed out, as it is always an area of interest that vegans do not have enough nutrients or get enough protein etc… Yes, this is absolutely the truth when eating a vegan junk food diet. This will of course create imbalances and cause people to become ill or malnourished. If people are shown how to eat a balanced, whole and fresh diet as a vegan, these imbalances are much less likely!
Because Kathy Freston is clearly not a nutritionist, the staff should have been told of some of the adjustments and changes they might experience during the week (gas, bloating, more bowel movements, lethargy, headaches) having this information beforehand might have helped the process. Also this may potentially help to increase the follow through rate of staying on a plant based diet for longer knowing that your body will change over the course of a few weeks and that it takes time for your body to adjust.
Kathy Freston also took a family grocery shopping to “restock” their kitchen (after being unloaded of processed food) so that they can make “healthy meals” at home using faux meat substitues- the kids clearly demonstrated that they didn’t like the meal that was prepared. That is never a good sign, especially for national TV and people considering going vegan. How good can a ground up soy concoction taste as the basis of a meal – at least take this opportunity to show the family how to cook with fresh whole foods? Even using organic ground turkey would have been a better choice!
Just to reiterate…America was shown (even in a Whole Foods Market) that a vegan diet comes from a package or a freezer- America got to see the Tofurky and Earth Balance define the basis of a vegan diet! Eating truly vegan to me means eating plants, neither of those options are plants.. why wasn’t quinoa, beans, yams or a head of kale shown to viewers of the show?
The produce aisle was completely over looked in the store, not even mentioned. That is where people need to be shopping!
And lastly it infuriated me, that they showed Cargill is our “friendly neighborhood” meat slaughtering/meat packing plant. Okay, so it is clean and well managed, but the cows still eat genetically modified corn and other “grains” which are most likely just ground up sugars and potentially other meats. The cows were packed into a feedlot, sad, unhappy etc. They weren’t making any noise or moo-ing because they were tired, sluggish, overweight and mostly likely have just given up. (Okay I am going on here). But the fact that a meat plant was glorified – made me very angry. Why couldn’t they feature organic farmers like Joel Salatin or other places where America can be shown where naturally-happy raised animals are raised and that their innate diet should be weeds, grass and herbs?
What I did like:
That the Vegan movement was recognized and got the big OK from Oprah and was featured on TV. That is always exciting!
That so many staff made the commitment to go Veg for a week! I mean, what have they go to lose?
That Michael Pollan was on the show and made it clear that if you do eat meat- eat it fresh, local and organic. It’s the only way to go!
That a vegan diet can be high enough in protein as long as you choose whole foods like greens, beans legumes. This was mentioned on the show = 1 point, but not explained or showed = -2 points.
That it takes time to transition to plant based foods and no one can make these changes over night. This goes for anything. It is all about small steps and little changes. But as long as people understand the benefits, than anything can happen!
There is room for error – you don’t have to be 100% vegetarian or vegan. Just trust what is right for you and to be more aware. That is the message at the end of the day!
Oprah and her staff made mention and are going to embrace Meatless Mondays. This is a bold move for the Harpo staff to take on, it may just encourage more people around the world to take this on!
I understand that a bridge needs to be gaped in order for America to make some changes, but it is away from all packaged and processed foods that we need to emphasize. America is already eating the worst foods from a package but changing that over to “vegan” junk is not the way to go. It wouldn’t have been that difficult to introduce quinoa, brown rice or even and spelt flour. Even a can of Eden organic beans could have been used as an example if necessary. The whole concept and benefits of VEGETABLES I think was not emphasized enough in this show. This could open a whole new chapter of information for viewers.
Now don’t get me wrong, Kathy Freston definitely did present some great points, but this was a chance to truly show everyone watching the power of plant based foods – I just wish it was taken advantage of!
There needs to be a few more follow up episodes to see how people are doing or to bring more WHOLE FOOD HEALTH information to America.
More experts in the field should have a chance to be featured. (Like me?)
More tools and key information that makes it EASY for people to make this transition to whole foods is essential – a cooking class, informative workshops/info sessions, a trip to the farmers market or an organic farm or building a community garden and at the very least… showing people how to shop properly and effectively in a grocery store.
I truly hope that those of you who watched the episode and who read my blog know that it is so much simpler then it appears to make changes to eat more healthfully. It can be as simple as adding greens to your smoothie or an extra salad a day! Read my article about going veg here!
If you are thinking of trying plants out or leaning in to veggie foods or being “vegan-ish” then you may want to continue to read my blog and get your hands on a copy of my book Veggin’ Comfortably. This will be available online via my website next week!
I didn’t cover everything, so please share your thoughts on the show, express points that I missed or things that were relevant to you.
What you liked, didn’t like. I want to hear!
What would be included in your Vegan Starter Kit?