4-Leaf Thanksgiving; “Harmony hike” + healthy feast-to-remember


Lisa, Andrew and Jason -- during our "harmony hike" to Brown Hill next to Wachusett Mountain.

My healthiest Thanksgiving ever — and one of the most enjoyable. The day began with me sitting beside Jason’s new pellet stove with my MacBook Pro at 0600; publishing my daily blog at the crack of dawn.

Later, when the rest of the family came downstairs, we began a 4-Leaf Thanksgiving to remember. Everything was absolutely perfect: the weather, the food, the hike, the fellowship, the fine dining by the pellet stove, the sharing, the wine and the vegan cookie after my best Thanksgiving dinner of all time. And, I’ve got photos to share all of the above; along with some guidelines that might help you enjoy a 4-Leaf Christmas-to-remember for your family in less than four weeks.

Can't be much simpler than this; grapefruit and banana for breakfast.

Key to 4-Leaf Eating. Establishing a routine for certain meals like breakfast and lunch — and keeping things as simple as possible. If you can get into a routine of deriving almost ALL of your calories from whole plant-based foods for those first two meals of the day, then maintaining a 4-Leaf daily score will be a snap — even if you have an occasional 2-Leaf or 3-Leaf dinner (all plant-based of course).

As I have said many times before, the healthy 4-Leaf routine does not mean a lot of calorie counting. For once you get into your routine, you simply know whether your meal is 4-Leaf or not. Our Thanksgiving was a good example.

Breakfast. We started the day with an extremely simple 4-Leaf meal. How much easier does it get than one whole grapefruit and a banana? Jason peeled the grapefruit using just his hands — without losing any of the healthy portions of the fruit (See the healthy white stuff in the picture). I peeled my own banana and thoroughly enjoyed my first several hundred calories of Thanksgiving Day — and I didn’t need a reference book or a calculator to know that ALL of those calories were comprised of whole, plant-based foods, still in Nature’s package.

I was doing a little creative photography while Jason was preparing our brunch.

Brunch. Since we were planning to have our main Thanksgiving Dinner meal during the mid-aftrnoon, we chose to have a big 4-Leaf Brunch before leaving for the mountain for our harmony hike. While I call my oatmeal the Sailors Daily Oatmeal, my son calls his the Hearty Hikers Oatmeal. So, when in Rome…we enjoyed Jason’s version of this family favorite at his home in Holden, MA.

The main difference between my Sailors and his Hikers is that he uses more ingredients (all plants), uses more oatmeal and doesn’t use as much liquid as I do. Yesterday, he began preparing brunch for the four of us by adding anywhere for 3/4 cup (for me and Andrew) to almost two cups of oatmeal for himself. Then he added raisins and poured some cold rice milk over the top.

Jason's Hearty Hikers Oatmeal -- Now ready-to-eat with walnuts on top.

While all of that soaked, he began cutting up all kinds of fruit: apples, pear, banana, strawberries, and kiwi — adding each of them to the top of his soaking whole grain oats. He then topped off his masterpiece with a few English walnuts and we were ready to eat. Ranging in calories from 300 to 700, the meal derived 95% of its calories from whole plants — only the rice milk was not in Nature’s package.

We had that meal at 10:30 before leaving for a hike, and I was not hungry again until sitting down for dinner at 3 p.m. — and the only calories I had in between was one cold Budweiser and a handful of almonds following our 4-mile hike.

Adult beverages sidebar. We all know that beer and wine are plant-based but we also know that they are processed and therefore are not 4-Leaf. People sometimes misunderstand our 4-Leaf formula, thinking that we’re recommending up to 20% animal-based calories. NOT.

To be very clear — we never recommend ANY animal-based calories but just wanted our system to have some built-in flexibility for the foods that are not whole plants in nature’s package: bread, pasta, oil, potato chips, wine, etc. Even with my beer, scotch or an occasional piece of cheese at someone’s home, I manage to post a 4-Leaf score almost every day. And I am quite confident that no matter where you get that “other 20 percent” of your calories, if you’re eating at the 4-Leaf level, you will be among the top one percent of the healthiest eaters in the Western world.

Salad course for four -- notice the glow of the pellet stove AND the the warm sunbeams across the table.

Now for Dinner. A 4-Mile Hike followed by a hot shower and a 4-Leaf Dinner. Since Jason and Lisa installed their pellet stove in the living room two months ago, they have not enjoyed a single meal in that room. So, yesterday was our first meal next to the warm glow of the pellet stove; while basking in the glorious rays of sunshine from the southwest.

We pulled an old table out of the garage, put four chairs around it, lit some candles and sat down for a most enjoyable dinner that Lisa had prepared the previous day.

From 2-Leaf to 4-Leaf. Her new recipe for this great meal began with the Raise-the-roof Lasagna from the Engine 2 Diet book by Rip Esselstyn. We had all enjoyed Rip’s version of this meal at our yacht club last year (when Dr. Esselstyn spoke there) and were looking forward to having it again. But, like most recipes in even the healthiest of cookbooks, the original version of this meal derives well over half of its calories from tofu and the whole grain lasagna — neither of which are “in nature’s package.” Once again, we’re not saying these foods are bad for you, we’re just trying to help you understand what kind of eating is going to deliver the “most vibrant” level of health for you and your family.

The lasagna was exceptional delicious and the corn was crisp and sweet. I savored very bite.

So Lisa wanted to prepare this great meal in her own “4-Leaf style.” She began by eliminating the tofu completely and cutting way back on the amount of pasta in the dish. She then doubled or tripled the amount of whole veggies in the recipe and ended up with one of the healthiest Thanksgiving meals in the history of New England.

We haven’t run the numbers yet, but if you add the green salad with cucumber and dill dressing, the wine, the vegan cookie and a small slice of vegan chocolate cake — this  entire feast was probably a solid 3-Leaf meal, deriving more than 60% our calories from whole plants.

Score for the entire day.  4-Leaf without a doubt. We didn’t measure the calories of a single item, but we know that up until 3 p.m., over 90% of our calories were from whole plants. So even if the total dinner came in at 65% whole plant calories, we’d still be over 80% for the day.

Thanksgiving 2011. 4 people, 4-mile hike, 4-Leaf eating and living in harmony with nature on this wonderful holiday.

So what’s so special about 80%? Three words. Simplicity, flexibility and superiority. Is it the healthiest diet-style in the world? Maybe not, but I’d bet a lot of money that it’s in the top one percent. And, it’s so easy to do. It’s also a lot fun to eat all you want, when you want and NEVER have to worry about counting calories.

It’s also nice to spend the entire day harmonizing with nature and not harming another single creature on this special holiday of thanks-giving.

Here’s hoping that there’s a Merry and Healthy 4-Leaf Christmas in your future next month.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

Jason and Lisa. Can you believe these people eat over 3,000 calories a day? My favorite 4-Leaf poster kids for sure.

And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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4 Responses to 4-Leaf Thanksgiving; “Harmony hike” + healthy feast-to-remember

  1. Denise says:

    This is so wonderful to read these comments about such healthy Thanksgiving meals! Thanks for your inspirational blog!

  2. Linda Dale says:

    At my 2 year old grandson’s request, I prepared a tomato-based kale and cannellini-bean sauce over lightly-toasted, homemade, no-fat polenta triangles for our main Thanksgiving entree. Prior to the entree, we had a salad of romaine lettuce, sliced fresh mango, pomegranate seeds and cashew-orange dressing (Dr. Fuhrman’s recipe). My daughter (who along with my grandson is also a whole-foods 100% vegan) provided a shepherd’s pie made with lentils and mushrooms, mashed sweet potatoes, and sugar-less fresh cranberry relish. For dessert, I served homemade oatmeal-pecan-date cookies (vegan and no-fat), and homemade strawberry “ice cream” – frozen strawberries, a banana, a few walnuts, one date, and a bit of hemp milk, blended in my trusty Vitamix. We so enjoy all the wonderful foods we eat on a daily basis, but it’s especially nice to get up from a holiday table feeling content and satisfied rather than bloated and a little ashamed. 🙂

  3. cacatua21 says:

    I found a recipe for molasses bread in Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet cookbook to go along with Thanksgiving. I know the molasses is fudging a bit on a whole-foods plant-based diet concept, but nearly everything else was good – Whole Wheat pastry flour, cornmeal, chopped walnuts, raisins and unsweetened almond milk with vinegar to set the soda off. So I suppose the almond milk isn’t exactly whole foods either, but no oil, or eggs, which any quick bread would have required before, back in the “other programmed world.” (Sometimes I feel like we all took the red pill and the rest of the world is the one not seeing reality.) I might add that this is so good that neither the eggs nor the oil are missed at all in either consistency or flavor.

    You have me a bit confused though, Jim. You seem to imply that whole wheat pasta is not as good as what – intact wheat berries? I consider whole grain to be….well…whole, whether cracked, ground or in the kernal. I suppose stone-ground WW flour is best because there are lower temperatures involved, but wheat-berries are most likely cooked before they are fit to eat, and then they are pretty chewy. I can get rolled wheat also, or cracked, and either of these would cook better and quicker than wheat berries and be somewhat less processed than WW flour. One could conceivably eat the rolled wheat raw if necessary.

    We have a blend of rolled oats, rolled rye and rolled barley cooked for breakfast, with chopped walnuts and bananas and cinnamon. My husband puts some almond milk on his but I like mine so thick that the spoon stands up in it.

  4. inwardhealth says:

    My Thanksgiving meal consisted of the veggie pot pie recipe from the Candle Cafe cookbook (with less tofu and more veggies), sauteed spinach and baked sweet potato. For dessert we had a tasty maple syrup pecan pie. I didn’t make the vegan version this year. I did use fresh farm eggs from the Groton Family Farm. Everything was delicious and healthy!

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