Weekend Reading: Epiphanies from the Buffet (and a great vegan recipe)

With the Holiday Season now in full swing, I’ve noticed that it’s really interesting to approach a holiday buffet or cocktail party as a vegan. Well, almost a vegan. As I’ve said on this blog before, I’m not an ‘absolutist’ when it comes to eating. I’ve eliminated the vast majority of animal products from my diet because I want the majority of my nutrition to come from plants, but I’m don’t get fanatical about it.

Most of the year, eating a predominantly plant-based diet is pretty easy, so much so that I don’t really notice I’m doing anything different than anyone else. But then I go to a party, especially a Christmas party, and it seems like everything is packed with butter, cream, cheese, and meat! The truth is, nothing really changed at the buffet table; I’m only noticing it because I’ve changed the way I look at food.

Standing in front of a long Holiday buffet table recently, a few things occurred to me:

People can get used to just about anything: Since a diet rich in plants and low in processed foods is typically lower in sodium, my sensitivity to salt has dramatically increased. In contrast, people who consume a lot of sodium develop a tolerance to the taste, leading chefs and food manufacturers to add even more salt so those people can taste it. For sedentary people, too much sodium is a leading cause of hypertension. But if people would eat less salt, within a few weeks they’d also want less salt.

We have a problem with cheese: Don’t get me wrong, there can be a time and place for cheese. But it doesn’t belong in or on everything! Last spring one of my coaches tried an experiment: the only thing he changed about his diet was that he stopped eating cheese, and he didn’t replace the calories with other foods. He didn’t eat an excessive amount of cheese to begin with, but after cutting it out he lost 10 pounds in 6 weeks. Cheese makes people lazy eaters. When they want to make something richer or less dry, or they just don’t know how to improve its taste, they throw cheese on it. It adds up to a lot of calories, but when we have athletes cut cheese – or all dairy products – from their diets, they almost immediately start dropping weight and they don’t miss the dairy.

I should have been a pig farmer: The bacon craze doesn’t seem to be slowing down any, which is hopefully very good for pig farmers, but it’s not so good for people. Nutritionally, there’s nothing good that can only be found in bacon. It has virtually no redeeming features. The one good thing about bacon is that the flavor is so strong that chefs don’t need to use much of it in order to get the flavor into a dish. So if you like bacon, do yourself a favor by looking for dishes that have been flavored with a small amount of it, rather than eating a bacon-wrapped anything.

But perhaps the saddest thing I saw at the Holiday Party Buffet was the obligatory veggie tray. Baby carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumbers. Creative. There are so many great vegetarian and vegan recipes out there. Here, for instance, is a great vegan Red Lentil and Carrot Soup that Phoenix chef Mark Tarbell created for “Chris Carmichael’s Fitness Cookbook”. It will be a hit at any Holiday pot luck you have coming up!

Red Lentil and Carrot Soup

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-4 large carrots and 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped (approximately 1/2” chop)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 quart +1cup fresh water
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a 2-3 quart saucepan boil the 3 cups of water, add the red lentils, and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain and set aside
  3. Heat a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the olive oil and heat for 1 minute.
  5. Add the chopped onion and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped carrot and stir for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients with the water and simmer/low boil for 35 minutes until the carrots are soft.
  8. Place in a food processor and blend until smooth. You may have to split the batches in order to fit them in the food processor.
  9. Pour back into the saucepan, reheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.


  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • Kosher or Sea Salt to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients together until blended, and season with salt.
  2. Ladle the soup into a bowl and use a spoon to drizzle the topping over.

Nutritional Information

  • Calories/Serving: 292 (CPF Ratio: 64-11-25)
  • Carbohydrate: 47g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Fat 8g

Have a great weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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