4 out of 4 stars
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If your refrigerator contains hummus, Tofutti sour cream, or Beyond Meat crumbles, chances are you are a vegan. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, usually organically grown. They generally avoid processed foods and foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Googling the “standard American diet” (aptly called SAD) will tell you what most Americans eat as well as why no one should eat like that. Allyn Raifstanger’s 2019 book, We Don’t Just Eat Lettuce!: Vegan Recipes for Carnivores, offers good evidence that leaving behind the SAD diet can improve your life and your health in surprising ways—and it doesn’t mean nibbling greens for the rest of your life.
At 40, Raifstanger learned he had high cholesterol and pre-diabetic blood-sugar levels. He began taking medications for the conditions. Fifteen years later, he was still eating the SAD diet and taking more medications for more health problems. A restaurateur for three decades, he became curious about how his diet contributed to his health conditions. He was impacted immediately by a documentary about dietary-based cancer treatments. Within two days, he had adopted a 100% plant-based diet. The details of his about-face are poignant and might appeal to you, whether you dabble in healthy eating or are a full convert.
Raifstanger lost 25 pounds in the first 60 days of his plant-based food model. His energy level increased so much that he trained for and ran in two marathons. He details the health benefits of plant-based diets and discusses foods that are believed to contribute to major illnesses. A useful section on shopping and meal planning leads into the recipes. Raifstanger prepares many of these dishes as vegan alternatives at Allyn’s Café, his Cincinnati restaurant since 1991.
I enjoyed reading We Don’t Just Eat Lettuce! It is packed with facts and personal experience that successfully support the author’s belief in a plant-based diet. His friendly, confident tone doesn’t push or preach. He simply shares his experience and knowledge.
Part memoir, vegan diet primer, and recipe book, this will likely appeal to anyone interested in improving their health through diet. From experience, I know that creative recipes with good protein sources are essential to sticking with a vegan diet; Raifstanger’s recipes contain complete protein sources from combining legumes and rice or using the latest plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. I tried the vegan stir fry, which contains a vegan chicken product, and it tasted every bit as good as the meat version I have made. The vegan cheesecake with graham cracker chocolate crust is next!
The author hopes carnivores will be drawn to a vegan diet through his delicious recipes, and I think vegetarians and vegans will especially appreciate the ones that don't show up in every vegan cookbook. The Vegan Jambalaya and the Young Jackfruit Barbeque are two of the Cajun-inspired dishes on my list.
The book is professionally edited and contains just a few minor errors. I have one suggestion about the placement of the beautiful food photos. They generally appear by themselves on a separate page. They are good quality photos, and I think they would attract readers to the recipe if incorporated into the page where the matching recipe begins.
I gladly award We Don’t Just Eat Lettuce! 4 out of 4 stars for its soft-sell educational value, relatable personal story, and creative recipes. The author succeeded in teaching readers how to improve their health by replacing animal-based foods with palate-pleasing, plant-based alternatives.
We Don't Just Eat Lettuce!
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