“Are you on a special diet?” Absolutely!

special diet
special diet

Are you on a special diet?

As I filled out a medical form today, I felt confused by one of the questions. What was it?

“Are you on a special diet?”

I honestly wasn’t sure how to phrase my response.  

Over the past few years, eating whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet has become such an integral part of my life that it no longer feels like a “special diet.” I sometimes think that, when it comes to food choices, I’m the normal one.

I feel the adjective “abnormal” more accurately describes everyone else eating the genuinely awful Standard American Diet (SAD)!

But then I think of my friend Emily. She loves to ask, “Who gets to define normal?” If “normalcy” refers to cultural norms, then SAD is most definitely “normal.”

Whether I like it or not.

Some highly regarded WFPB authors stress that we who eat plant-based follow a lifestyle more than a diet. No matter how we spin it, however, we’re choosing to reject a cultural norm.

Even with all this running through my mind, I was reluctant to check the box pigeon-holing my diet as “special.” But then it hit me.

Suppose the dietary staff slipped me some cow’s milk or chicken nuggets because they didn’t know I religiously avoid those foods? So, in the end, I accepted reality and checked the box.

The answer is, “Yes. Yes, I am on a “special diet.”

WFPB Special Diet Foods

Anyone interested in what makes my diet so “special” or how someone might transition to one like it? I’ll start with my “foundation” foods. 

They’re the ones I eat every day, prepared in the recipes I love most.

  • Vegetables, such as leafy greens: including kale, arugula, collard or mustard greens, and watercress. I love their tang; a pound of them weighs in at only about 100 calories, and the bulk of those calories comes from protein. Carrots, squash, beets, and potatoes round out the list of my favorite vegetables.
  • Fruit, with berries at the head of the line: Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries fight cancer and protect cardiovascular health – and they’re available year-round! 
  • Legumes such as lentils and beans: My go-to protein sources are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  • Brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains: Dr. Greger recommends getting three ½ cup servings every day, in the form of 100-percent whole-grain cereal, pasta, or low-sodium bread.
  • Nuts and Seeds: I also enjoy small servings of nuts or seeds. They supply me with healthy fats, antioxidants, minerals, and phytosterols. 

WFPB Special Diet Rules

In July, I first posted my Seven Rules for Seven Days to help anyone willing to follow a “special” vegan diet for a week. Here they are again:

  1. Be prepared. Take time before beginning to search online for whole-food, plant-based recipes. Or purchase a plant-based cookbook. Then stock up on a week’s worth of the ingredients in the dishes you find most appealing. Finally, treat yourself to a meal at a health-focused, plant-based restaurant such as Fruitive.
  2. Keep it authentic. Avoid all junk or vegan imitation foods. If a vegan restaurant serves cheap imitation burgers, oil-drenched French fries, or greasy pizza, stay away.
  3. Listen to your body. Eat plenty of veggies, fruits, beans or legumes, and whole grains — but stop a bite or two before you feel full. Don’t go hungry during the week!
  4. Inform yourself. Take the time to read the PlantBased.com daily blog posts and one plant-based book from my Top Ten list. Listen to a plant-based podcast. Or watch some outstanding vegan documentaries, like Forks Over KnivesThe Game Changers, or Earthlings.
  5. Don’t go it alone. Accountability is beneficial. Share your experience with a friend and on social media. I’d love to hear from you as well.
  6. Take care of yourself. Set aside daily time for deep breathing, stretching, and exercise. Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.
  7. Live in the moment. Treat the entire seven-day challenge as a body-mind experience. Instead of dreaming about the steak waiting for you on day eight, focus on enjoying every plant-based bite.

Rethinking My Answer

Have you ever had the experience of not coming up with the perfect response to a question until the moment for it has passed?

As I was writing this post, I realized my answer that a WFPB diet is special was correct – but not in the way the questioner might think.

Here’s a partial list of Thesaurus.com’s synonyms for “special”:

  • exceptional
  • extraordinary
  • proper

and my personal favorite:


When defined in those terms, my WFPB diet is absolutely “special!


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