Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook Makes A Plant-Based Diet Easy

easy vegan recipes

Six years ago, chef Del Sroufe, author of Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, was the portrait on an unhealthy vegan. Weighing in at about 460 pounds, he wasn’t eating any animal products–but he was eating processed food,  baked goods, and loads of sugar and fat. But after a 10-hour class at the Wellness Forum in Ohio (where he’s now the executive chef), he realized that while it’s easy to be an unhealthy vegan, it’s just as easy to eat a healthy, plant-based diet.

Sroufe was kind enough to take some time last week to chat with me about the recipes and tools in the book, as well as the ways that every single person can easily and inexpensively incorporate healthy, plant-based meals into their diets–just by adding and subtracting a few ingredients. Being a healthy vegan has never seemed so accessible.

There are a lot of people, it seems, who see a plant-strong or vegan diet as difficult, expensive, or too full of pitfalls like the ones you’ve experienced, like eating too many refined products. What would you say to those people, who are critical of a plant-based or vegan diet because of experiences like the one that you had?

I think we all fall into this trap, and it’s one of the things that we all do, is we take any diet and we look for shortcuts. Our program doesn’t teach that, unless you have certain diseases, you have to go on a vegan diet, but if you do decide to go on a vegan diet, you have a lot more choices than you used to.

But your only real responsibility, or homework as I call it, is that you have to be a responsible, educated consumer. And once you become educated, it gets a lot easier. Because, I think that our diet really opens up–I eat a much wider variety of foods than I used to. I have more options available to me, because I think differently about food. My food is sometimes a little more simplistic, and sometimes it’s gourmet and fun, but it’s always healthy.

And one of the things that I’ve done and that I teach in my Wellness 101 class is to start where you are, look at how to make some of the dishes that you already make vegetarian or vegan, so taking out the meat or the animal products. And then another thing that we tell people to do is take out the oil. And it’s a really quick and easy thing to do, once you learn how to do it, that health-ifies the recipes that you already make.

So, starting where you are, you don’t need to throw out the whole cupboard. But you do need to learn to read labels. Like tomato sauce, for example doesn’t need to have oil in it, so you find an oil-free tomato sauce. That’s an easy one. Whole grain pasta is no different to cook than regular pasta. You know, a lot of those things are easy.

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    • Angela

      I think long term Vegan-ism is not only going to make you go into “starvation mode” (which will leave you overweight and undernourished,) but you can get dangerously sick on a oil free, no fat diet. Cardiologists now know that it’s not fats that are bad, it’s the specific kind of fats that are bad. Processed junk of all types and vegetable and flower oils are bad. . .but there are good ones. We get much good from animal products too, but the studies are often conflicting with what kind of meat of dairy or eggs they test. If we get our food from something that’s healthy, like a free range cow giving us raw milk, it is not only safer, it is full of good stuff, including the enzyme to help us digest it. If you drink it’s typical pasteurized form though, it is not digestible and it’s full of toxins. Chicken is 3 times as fatty as it is when free range, it also has no omega 3′s, or vitamin D. Besides it having antibiotics, pesticides, and a bunch of junk that resides mostly in it’s bones and fat. . .making it too toxic to be even usable for broth! It is a false premise that makes us avoid all oils and fat. They are not all created equal. Our ancestors knew that olive oil was very good for us, as well as fish, chicken, and meat of all types. They even made oils of parts of the fish to supplement with. (Cod liver oil) A vegan diet short term is helpful for a detox if done healthily, but please don’t go extreme with no oils or even eggs or raw milk! You are not hurting any animal if you get free range eggs, and raw milk from a free range cow. . .any more then you would hurt the honey bee (If it’s done right and raw) to take their honey. So, that’s why I see no sense in avoiding any of those even for ethical reasons.

      • Becky

        Olive oil is 100% fat. Why eat olive oil when you can get your fats from flax, walnut or other seeds and they come with other nutrients-in other words-they aren’t 100% fat. Read about Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr’s research. His patients have lived 20 years or more on his plant based diet and they have 1T flax seed and no oils/day- no heart attacks and less cancer than that population should have had. When I look at the research on PubMed I see more research showing the dangers of meat and dairy and the benefits of fruits and vegetables. But, I admit it can be confusing.
        If vegans live longer and rate themselves happier that vegetarian and meat eaters, it seems to me that is additonal evidence to go whole plant based when choosing what to eat. Check out http://www.nutritionfact.org. I like it because it list the sources.

      • Hanna Brooks Olsen

        While it’s true that the source of meat and other animal products matter, just know that both free-range and grass-fed, just like “cage-free,” are meaningless labels. Unless you’re purchasing certified humane, small-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy products, you’re likely purchasing from factory farms.

        Additionally, no vegan or plant-based diet is 100% free of oils. Nuts, which are oily and high in fat, are big staples, as are coconut products. And many vegans, who are quite healthy and do meet all of their nutritional requirements, are no where near “starving.” The idea that humans require meat, eggs, or dairy is simply untrue–and there are millions of Americans alive and healthy to prove it.

      • loui

        The fact that you know so much about raw milk and so little about veganism is astounding! That you think a healthy vegan diet would put you into starvation mode is suprisingly ignorant when you have the entire internet to your disposal, the fact is that no matter if eggs are free range or not, billions of male chicks are culled every year for those free range eggs you say ‘”are not hurting any animal”. And, since you obviously aren’t aware, bee populations are declining. You may not see the sense in it, but that only says something about you.

      • DiaaKristy

        These particular healthy vegans don’t avoid oils. They eat oils in their whole food, natural state. Don’t eat corn oil, eat corn. Walnuts, not walnut oil. Soybeans, not soybean oil. Olives, not olive oil. Besides nuts, green leafy vegetables are loaded with healthy fats. Kale, spinach, arugula. Carrots, too. And of course, flax seed. I believe the extraction, separation, bottling and shipping of “shelf stable” oils (now devoid of most of their nutrients) is a rather recent invention. Perhaps people in the old world have been stomping on olives for centuries but they knew better than to believe that they could expose that oil to the heat and light of today’s processing and shipping. They used it – quick. The more sediment, the better.