Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
New Year's Day Special
Volume 6 No. 322 January 1, 2016

III. General Weekly Features

Health: 10 Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet in 2016

by Mary R. Wendt, MD

Finally, a New Year's Resolution That Makes a Difference to Your Health

Start the new year off right by giving your body what it truly craves: a healing plant-based diet that will help you drop those stubborn extra pounds and feel great! Mary Wendt, MD, offers helpful tips to ease you into a sustainable vegan diet that could drastically improve your life.

New York, NY (December 2015) - The new year is finally here and if you're like most people, you are really ready for a change. The past few months of holiday frenzy and celebration have most likely left you feeling sluggish, rundown, and well, not your best. Furthermore, you've probably been thinking about transformations you'd like to see in your own life. Dr. Mary Wendt says that the new year is the perfect time to take charge of your health and diet so you can lose weight, feel great and thrive. How can you achieve this optimal level of health and energy? By swapping out your meat and dairy products for healthy and delicious plant-based foods. In short - by going vegan, or at least mostly vegan.

"Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself," says Dr. Mary Wendt, founder of and author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life (Doctor Doctor Press, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-49749246-2, $14.95). "Meat and dairy contain inflammatory proteins and excess saturated fat. Getting rid of these artery-clogging foods frees up your plate so you can enjoy more vitamin and mineral rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains."

Wendt, who eats a plant-based diet herself, says that right now - the beginning of the new year - is the best time give up (or cut way back on) meat and dairy. And don't worry! This kind of change is very doable and best of all it promotes sustainable weight loss; vegans tend to be thinner, fitter and more energetic than their meat eating counterparts. Talk about a winning resolution!

Once you make the decision to remove meat and dairy from your diet, you are well on your way to achieving better health and hopefully dropping a few spare pounds for good. But first you have to actually make this drastic change happen - and that can seem very daunting indeed to lifelong carnivores. Don't worry, says Dr. Wendt: Going vegan (or near-vegan if you can't quite commit) is much less difficult than you likely imagine. Making a transformation to a plant-based diet can be an empowering (even joyful!) event. Below is a step-by-step guide that will help you make your transition with ease.

Do a 24-hour food recall. First, get an accurate idea of how much meat you're currently eating. Instead of keeping a food log (which you're prone to forget about after Meal One), do a 24-hour food recall. Write down everything you ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and drinks for the past 24 hours. For many people, seeing a typical day's diet in black and white is eye-opening.

"Even if you don't think you eat much meat, consider the World Health Organization's recommendations," Dr. Wendt instructs. "Just 50 grams of processed meat, or a little less than 2 ounces daily, increases your risks. Bacon or sausage for breakfast, plus a deli sandwich at lunch, might put you well over 50 grams - and that's not even counting supper!"

Stop thinking of meat as the main event. Unless you grew up in a vegetarian or vegan household, chances are you were raised to think of meat as the main dish and everything else as "sides." Dr. Wendt says it can be helpful to mentally switch these designations.

"Consider meat a condiment that you can sprinkle over beans, whole grains, or vegetables, rather than the main dish," she recommends. "For instance, you might crumble a small amount of chorizo into your vegetable soup or top your salad with a pinch or two of bacon bits."

Get over your fear of carbs, too. Are you afraid that stepping away from meat will inevitably lead to more carb consumption...and then to more body fat? This is a common concern, but Dr. Wendt promises that it's unfounded.

"There's much more to a plant-based diet than bread, rice, and pasta," she points out. "A balanced plate includes fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, and more. And anyway, not all carbs are bad. You do want to stay away from simple carbohydrates (like those found in white bread and white rice), which are easily broken down by the body and quickly converted to fat - without leaving you satisfied. However, complex carbohydrates (like those found in whole grain products) will fill you up without filling you out."

Take the transition slowly. There's nothing pleasant about quitting your favorite meats cold turkey (pun intended) - and anyway, this strategy is unlikely to be successful in the long run. If you're currently a committed carnivore, start by eliminating meat from just one meal a day. After a few weeks, you can move on to having meat only once per day - and after that, to one or more meatless days each week.

"No matter what kind of dietary change you're making, the key to lasting success is sustainability," says Dr. Wendt. "A slow, gradual transition gives your body and palate plenty of time to get used to more plant-based options and keeps you from feeling restricted and dissatisfied."

Stretch your culinary muscles. As you cut back on the amount of meat you eat, you'll want to add new plant-based recipes to your kitchen repertoire. (Sorry - eating more chips, French fries, candy, and other meatless junk food won't do your health many favors in the long run.) Also, variety is important both for nutrition and your new diet's sustainability.

"Fortunately, finding recipes and learning new cooking techniques has never been easier thanks to sites like Pinterest and Epicurious, plant-based food blogs, YouTube tutorials, and more," notes Dr. Wendt. "If you don't want to spend time searching and prefer a more customized approach, my Get Waisted program gives you access to thousands of curated plant-based recipes."

Look for satisfying substitutions. Instead of telling yourself, I can't eat that, ask, How can I make it healthier? Your quest to eat less meat (or even go meat-free) won't feel like a sacrifice if you can find a plant-based way to replicate the flavors and dishes you've always loved.

"Before I cut meat out of my diet, I used to love making - and eating - Vietnamese pork bundles," shares Dr. Wendt. "I mourned their loss for four whole years before I had the idea to substitute pinto beans for the pork. Turns out their creamy goodness, and even their coloring, mimics ground pork reasonably well. And bonus: Beans are consistently linked to high productivity and longevity. By choosing a bean over meat, I had not only found a way to extend my life, I was improving its quality, too.

"The point is, you don't have to look for an all-new repertoire of meatless recipes - just get creative when preparing your old favorites," she continues. "In addition to subbing beans for meat, give meat-replacers like tofu, portobello mushrooms, lentils, and eggplant a second (or first) chance."

Start the day off right. Many of us view cured meats like bacon, sausage, and ham as a breakfast staple. We may even have thought we were doing ourselves a favor by avoiding sugary cereals and carbs. But based on the WHO's recent report that processed meats are linked to cancer, it's wise to bid a (perhaps tearful) farewell to these old meaty favorites - or at least enjoy them on a more limited basis.

"Don't skip breakfast altogether if your old go-to option is off the table," Dr. Wendt warns. "This meal is a great place to start incorporating plant-based substitutions. You can try vegetarian and vegan sausages and bacon if you prefer to start the day off on a savory note. Personally, I was surprised by how close to the original many of these copycats are. And don't forget options like oatmeal, fruit smoothies, and whole grain breads and cereals. All of these are healthy, and once again, will fill you up without filling you out."

Harness the power of association. If you really want to get serious about saying no to meat, go on the offensive by associating something very yummy with something even more yucky. Every time you bite off a piece of bacon, for instance, picture a mouthful of chemical-laden smog. When you're craving a hot dog, conjure up a mental vision of a sludgy, disgusting landfill.

"During my own transition, I was frequently assailed by cravings for barbecue," Dr. Wendt recalls. "So when I smelled or just started fantasizing about this dish, I would think about dirt. Sometimes I'd even picture a little pig on a factory farm, living his life in a crate, never getting a breath of fresh air and never knowing what it felt like to stick his nose in some nice mud. This tactic worked amazingly well!"

Consider what makes cents. Face it: Many types and cuts of meat are expensive! In fact, over 20 percent of the average American grocery bill is spent on meat (and meat prices are continuing to rise). So if you're motivated by a good deal, you may find it helpful to remind yourself of the money you're saving by choosing plant-based options.

"You might object that fresh produce and other non-processed foods can also be pricey - and I hear you!" Dr. Wendt acknowledges. "However, if you're no longer funneling one-fifth or more of your grocery budget toward meat, you'll have a lot more to spend on these items. Plus, alternate sources of protein - beans and grains - are very inexpensive compared to animal proteins.

"Also, remember that the cost savings aren't limited to what's (not) on your plate," she adds. "For instance, many of my patients find that they spend less on cosmetics because a plant-based diet improves their hair and skin. And, of course, by eating nutritiously, you're avoiding piles of medical bills in the future."

Find some friends to share the journey. It's a lot easier to make healthy transitions when you're working toward your goal with friends, old or new. Don't underestimate the power of support, encouragement, and commiseration.

"If you can't get your family on board with a reduced-meat or no-meat diet, maybe you can swap plant-based meal plans with a good friend or team up with a coworker to make sure the break room is stocked with healthy lunch and snack options," Dr. Wendt suggests.

"This is a great time to start making lasting changes that will improve your whole life," concludes Wendt. "You can begin a new, healthier chapter of your life today, with no distractions or excuses weighing you down. It is my hope that the prospect of a more fit and healthy 'you' is inspiration enough to reclaim your health using the undeniable power of plant-based foods."

About the Author:

Mary R. Wendt, MD, is the founder of 'Get Waisted' and the author of 'Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life'. She is an expert on making the transition to plant-based nutrition and has 20 years of experience practicing internal medicine in private and hospital practice. When she's not eating rice and beans from Chipotle, she's searching for the latest healthy choices available all over New York City. 

Recipe: Curried Sweet Potato Pancakes

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

If you are looking for a unique item to eat on New Year's Day after all the partying, here it is.


1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled (1-2 sweet potatoes, depending on size)
cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Scant teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if you don't like heat)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 large eggs, beaten
Approximately 4 tablespoons milk
Peanut oil for frying
Applesauce, optional for serving


1. Coursely grate sweet potatoes in food processor (you can also use a hand grater). Set aside.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cayenne, curry powder, cumin, ginger, and salt in medium bowl and mix well. Add scallions, eggs, 4 tablespoons milk and sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add a tablespoon more milk at a time until consistency is right.

3. Line a baking sheet with several paper towels and set next to stove. Heat -inch of oil in large nonstick skillet until barely smoking. Drop heaping tablespoons (about 1/8 cup) in oil and flatten with back of spoon. Fry over medium-high heat several minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Serve with applesauce if desired.

Ideally, these should sweet potato pancakes should be served right away. To reheat leftovers, place sweet potato pancakes on rack over baking sheet in 350 degree oven until hot and crisp.

Yield: Makes about 16 3-inch pancakes

Source: Once Upon A Chef Printable Recipes

Family Special: God's Plan for Marriage and Family

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

On this feast of the Holy Family, let us consider three things: the structure of the family, the struggles of the family, and our strategy for the family.

I. Structure

All through the bible, we are instructed on the basic form or structure of the family.

  • God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons (Sirach 3:2).
  • May your wife be like a fruitful vine, in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants, around your table (Psalm 128:3).
  • Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they may not become discouraged (Colossians 3:20-21).
  • Each year, Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover ... Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety (Luke 2:45, 51,).
  • And he was obedient to them ... And Jesus advanced in age and wisdom and favor before God and man (Luke 2:51-52).

And thus we see the basic structure of the family:

  • A father in honor over his children
  • A wife and mother, supportive of her husband and his authority.
  • A mother, having authority over her children, supported, loved, and encouraged by her husband and obeyed by her children
  • Children who both honor and obey their parents
  • Fathers, and by extension mothers, who instruct and admonish their children, not in a way that badgers or discourages them, but in a way that encourages them and builds them up.

A family structure that helps children to advance in age, wisdom, and favor before God and man

This, then, is God's basic teaching on family and marriage. This is the basic structure that God sets for the family: a man who loves his wife; a woman who loves her husband; and children conceived within their stable, lasting, and faithful union of mutual support and love, and raised in the holy fear of the Lord.

Add to this the principal description of the book of Genesis, which describes how God sets forth marriage: A man shall leave his father and mother, cling to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). And to this first couple God gives the mandate, Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22).

And thus the Bible sets forth the basic structure for the family: a father, a mother, and children, all of whom are reverential and who support one another in their various roles and duties.

Note how the structure of the family take its basic form in terms of its essential fruit: the procreation and rearing of children. Why should marriage be a stable and lasting union? Why is Adam told to cling to his wife, to form a stable and lasting union with her?

Because this is what is best for children! Children both need and deserve the stable and lasting union of a father and a mother, as well as the complimentary influence of the two different sexes. This is the best atmosphere in which to raise and form children. Hence, the family structure of a father and a mother, a male and a female parent, flows from what is best for children. The structure of the family, as set forth by God, is rooted in what is best for children. This is what is sensible. And it is what is best, both sociologically and psychologically, for the proper development of children.

Even without considering the Bible, it makes intuitive sense that a child should have both a father and a mother, a male and a female influence. There are things that a father, a male, can better teach and model for a child than can a mother, a female. And there are things that a mother, a female, can better teach and model for a child than can a father, a male.

This much is clear before we even open the Bible. Both male and female influences are essential for the proper psychological and sociological development of a child. Clearly, then, God's biblical mandate, that marriage should include both a father and a mother, is not without basis in simple human reason and common sense.

To intentionally deprive a child of this context is both unjust to the child and unwise. Hence, we see that the basic structure for marriage takes its shape from what is best for children. Both God and nature provide for a father and a mother, a male and a female, to conceive and raise a child.

It also makes sense based on simple human reasoning that the relationship should be stable, something upon which children can depend from day to day, month to month, and year to year throughout their formative years.

This, then, is the proper structure for marriage. It is set forth both by God and human reason.

II. Struggles

And yet what should be obvious to us as a culture seems to be strangely absent in the minds of many. Let us be clear: sin clouds judgment, making many think that what is sinful and improper is in fact good and acceptable. It is not. In our current culture we gravely sin against God and against our children through consistent misconduct and by the refusal to accept what is obviously true. The words of St. Paul are fulfilled in our modern times: their senseless minds were darkened, and they became vain and foolish in their reasoning (Rom 1:21).

It is clear today that the family is in grave crisis. It is also clear that it is the children who suffer the most. Our modern age in the Western world displays a mentality that is both deeply flawed and gravely harmful to children.

Marriage and family are in great crisis due to the willful, sinful behavior of the vast majority of adults in our culture in the areas of sexuality, marriage, and family life. The rebellion of adults against God's plan has caused endless grief and hardship, and has created a culture that is poisonous to the proper raising and blessing of children.

Children have much to suffer in this world of our collective making. And while not all of us are equally guilty of contributing to their suffering, none of us is entirely innocent either, if for no other reason than our silence.

Consider that most children today are not born into the stable and lasting family unit they justly deserve, with a father and mother committed to each other till death do them part.

The problems begin with fornication, which is rampant in our culture today. And while most do not think of this as a sin of injustice, it is. This is so primarily because of what it does to children.

The fact is that many children today are conceived out of fornication. Tragically, most children who are thus conceived are outright murdered by abortion. Approximately 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. Despite all the claims that contraception makes every baby a "wanted" baby, nothing could be further from the truth. With the increased availability of contraception, abortion has skyrocketed. This is because the problem is not fertility; it is lust, promiscuity, fornication, and adultery. Contraception fuels these problems by further enabling them. The promises associated with contraception are lies; contraception does the opposite of what it promises.

Thus fornication and the contraceptive mentality (founded on lies) cause grave harm to children, beginning with abortion in huge numbers. And the children conceived of fornication who do manage to survive until birth are often subjected to the injustice of being born into irregular situations (e.g., households headed by single parents).

Add to this dismal picture the large number of divorced families. Make no mistake, these shredded families cause great hardship and pain for children. Children are shuttled back and forth between different households each week; they have to meet Daddy's new girlfriend or Mommy's new boyfriend; they endure all sorts of other family chaos. Blended families also dramatically increase the likelihood of sexual and emotional abuse because purely legal relationships seldom have the built-in protections of natural relationships.

All of this misbehavior, individual and cultural, harms children. Not being raised by parents in a traditional marriage dramatically increases a child's likelihood of suffering many other social ills, starting with poverty.

The chief cause of poverty in this country is single motherhood/absent fatherhood.

71% of poor families are not married.

Children of single parent homes are:

  • two times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime,
  • two times more likely be treated for emotional and behavioral problems,
  • twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school,
    33% more likely to drop out of school,
  • three times more likely to end up in jail by age 30,
  • 50% more likely to live in poverty as adults,
  • and twice as likely to have a child outside of marriage themselves.

[Getting the Marriage Conversation Right, by William B. May].

Added to the burdens that children experience is the new trend of same-sex adoption. Never mind that it is best for the psychological development of a child to have both a father and a mother, a male and a female influence. No, what is best for children must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Same-sex couples seeking to adopt must now be given equal consideration under the law (in many states) to heterosexual couples. It is the adults and their rights that seem to matter most here; what is best for children is quite secondary.

These, then, are our struggles. Our families are in grave crisis; most children in our culture today are not raised in the stable and committed homes they deserve. And let us be even more clear: to intentionally deprive children of this sort of home by raising them outside of marriage or in same sex unions is sinful, wrong, and an injustice.

Let us also be clear that it is not possible to personally judge every case of a broken family. The modern world has experienced a cultural tsunami and many have been influenced by lies and false promises. If you are divorced, it may be the case that you tried to save your marriage but that your spouse was unwilling. Perhaps in a moment of weakness, or before your conversion to Christ, you fell and bore children outside of marriage but since then have done your best to raise them well.

In the end, though, children in our culture have had much to suffer on account of adult misbehavior. We need to repent and to beg God's grace and mercy for our grave sins of commission, omission, and silence. We have set forth a bitter world for our children to inherit.

III. Strategy

So what are we to do? Preach the Word! Whatever the sins of those of us in this present generation (and there are many), we must be prepared to unambiguously re-propose the wisdom of God's Word to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even if we have fallen short, we cannot hesitate to announce God's plan for sexuality, marriage, and family.

Our strategic proclamation must include these key elements:

  • No sex before or outside of marriage, ever, or under any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is designed for procreation, the production of children, and there is no legitimate use of it except within marriage.
  • Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and mother, committed to each other till death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God.
  • Gay unions, or single mothers and fathers, are not acceptable alternatives to biblical marriage. To intentionally subject children to this for the sake of "political correctness" does them a grave injustice.
  • Marriage is about what is best for children, not adults.
  • Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not resort to divorce, which offends God (cf Malachi 2:16).
  • The needs of children far outweigh the preferences and needs of adults.

Whatever the personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (cf Gal 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage, and family to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Back to the Bible!
Back to the plan of God!
Away with modern experiments and unbiblical schemes!

God has given us a plan. And we, thinking we had better ideas, have caused great sorrow and hardship for our descendants. We have acted unjustly. We have murdered or children through abortion. By sowing in the wind we have caused those who have survived our misbehavior to inherit the whirlwind.

It is time to repent and to help our heirs to rejoice in chastity, marriage, and the biblical family. Otherwise we are doomed to perish.

God's plan must be our strategy in escaping from our struggles. We must get back to God's structure for our families.

This song says, "So, humbly I come to you and say. As I sound aloud the warfare of today. Hear me, I pray. What about the children?"

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