by Judith Fertig
image courtesy of PlantPureNation.com
In 1776, the stirring phrase in the U.S. Declaration of Independence—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—became a rallying cry for American colonists seeking these inalienable rights of self-government. In 2015, those seeking a new way of eating for personal wellness, a more vibrant local economy and a healthier environment are fomenting their own kind of rebellion.
“You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, that of your family and your country,” according to former President Bill Clinton. In early 2010, suffering from heart disease, Clinton chose to radically change his meat-lover’s diet to a more plant-based focus. “I wanted to live to be a grandfather, so I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival,” he says.
Clinton is part of a growing leadership group that espouses a more vegetarian approach to eating, including a federally appointed panel of nutritionists. For the first time since its formation in 1983, the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee this year elected to factor environmental sustainability into its recommendations, noting that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact. The impetus toward plant-based foods is also stronger than in their last report in 2010.
A bold pioneer in the charge for plant-based eating is PlantPure Nation, a grassroots organization founded by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., the author of the bestselling The China Study, a book that helped persuade Clinton to make his own dietary change. Today, his son, Nelson Campbell, is at the forefront of this food revolution, most recently producing the independent documentary film PlantPure Nation, set to debut nationwide on July 4.
Those enticed by the delicious concept of better health for themselves and the planet can also turn to The PlantPure Nation Cookbook, with more than 150 plant-based recipes by Kim Campbell, Nelson’s wife, whom he names “the chef in the family.”
“No issue is bigger than the one of plant-based nutrition,” says Nelson. “It’s at the root of our healthcare crisis, affecting the lives of millions of Americans, the vitality of our economy and the solvency of our government. The food we eat has enormous effects on climate, water and soil resources. Our food choices also affect the way in which food is produced and distributed in this country, equitably or not.”
Historically, political revolutions tend to be violently adversarial, but a food revolution can take a more nurturing and inclusive course. “The first step people can take is to change their own diet,” Nelson says. “The next step is to help others do the same. The third is to get involved in the movement.”
New Fourth of July Barbecue
A fun way to help ourselves and our friends and family consider making dietary changes is hosting a plant-based Fourth of July get-together. Kim’s recipes for a smoky “barbecue” sandwich, creamy potato salad and a zesty, colorful bean dish celebrate traditional picnic foods with a twist. They’re also perfect for potluck-style entertaining.
“We have often branded this idea of plant-based nutrition as such and such a ‘diet’, and then built these brands around personalities. But in order to make this a more mainstream idea, we need to frame it differently. This concept of plant-based nutrition is a fact of nature; a simple idea that’s accessible to all,” says Nelson.
In a 2012 Gallup poll, just 5 percent of U.S. adults identified themselves as vegetarians, plus 2 percent as vegans. It’s a start, Nelson contends, and there are other promising signs. “The local-food movement is blossoming, with farmers’ markets springing up all over the United States,” proclaims the National Geographic special publication The Future of Food (Food.NationalGeographic.com). The number has increased dramatically in the past five years. The editors point to the demand for fresh produce and a desire to invest in local economies as driving this growth.
“I love the idea of a movement involving millions of people fixing a problem that industry and government have largely caused,” says Nelson. “Our success may show a new way forward for solving other pressing social problems.”
Judith Fertig blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, KS.
PlantPure Nation Recipes
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 to 7 hours
Green jackfruit, a native plant of Asia, is often termed the vegetarian’s meat. The hardest part of this recipe is finding canned green jackfruit (available in most Asian markets). Although fresh green jackfruit is occasionally available, it’s messy, sticky and difficult to cut.
Two 20-oz cans green jackfruit in
1½ cups barbecue sauce
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
Rinse the green jackfruit thoroughly.
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker at medium heat for 4 to 5 hours. Jackfruit will soften, begin to fall apart and take on the consistency of pulled pork. Use a fork to pull apart the fruit and stir thoroughly.
Turn the slow cooker to low heat and cook for another 1 to 2 hours.
4 Customize this recipe with a favorite barbecue sauce that has no added oils and a low sodium content.
4 This recipe gets better the longer it’s cooked. Leftovers are good.
4 Serve the barbecue on a whole-grain bun and top with coleslaw.
Creamy Potato Salad
Yields: 6 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
This traditional potato salad has the perfect blend of celery, onions and seasonings.
2½ pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
4 organic celery stalks, thinly sliced
½ red onion, cut in half again
6 green onions, sliced
½ cup tofu cashew mayonnaise
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Cut the potatoes into half- to one-inch chunks.
Place potato pieces in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil 5 to 10 minutes; then turn down the heat to medium and cook until tender.
Rinse the cooked potatoes in a colander with cold water until they are room temperature. Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients to the potatoes and gently stir thoroughly.
¼ cup raw cashews, soaked in water
at least 2 to 3 hours, then dried
7 oz firm tofu
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp tahini
4 tsp lemon juice
1½ tsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2½ tsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp water
¼ tsp xanthan gum (in grocery
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth and shiny. The key is to soak the cashews first.
Thai Tofu Wraps
Yields: 6 wraps
Prep time: 15 minutes
The tofu filling for these wraps is full of Thai flavors, with the perfect combination of peanuts, lime and cilantro.
1 14-oz block extra-firm tofu
¼ cup natural peanut butter
(100 percent peanuts)
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1½ Tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1/3 cup small diced red bell pepper
¼ cup sliced green onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 whole-wheat tortilla wraps
2 cups sprouts
Drain the tofu and gently press between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, garlic powder and Sriracha.
Add the tofu, bell pepper, green onion and cilantro and stir with a fork until well mixed and the tofu is crumbly.
Place a portion of the tofu mixture in the center of a whole-wheat tortilla wrap, top with sprouts or favorite veggies and roll up the tortilla.
4 The Thai tofu filling can also be served in a sandwich (e.g., on toasted whole-wheat bread with fresh basil).
Caribbean Quinoa Bowl
Yields: 4 servings\
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cook time: 10 minutes
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¾ cup salsa (medium hot)
½ cup diced pineapple (fresh,
canned or frozen)
¾ cup corn (fresh or frozen)
¾ cup diced avocado
¼ cup sliced green onions
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly, which can have a bitter taste otherwise.
Add the quinoa and the water to a pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Lightly steam the kale until bright green. Add to the bowl with quinoa.
Add the beans, cumin, chili powder, salt, salsa, pineapple and corn. Toss until the ingredients are well mixed.
Top with the avocado and green onions and serve immediately.
Source for all recipes: The PlantPure Nation Cookbook, by Kim Campbell.