First off, let me just say…I hate diets. Sure, it’s easy to follow a rigid meal plan when you have no plans, but at some point life gets in the way (birthdays, holidays, girls’ night out, etc.) and the diet goes down in flames (pun intended). That being said, I was skeptical when I came across The Engine 2 Diet cookbook while perusing my local Whole Foods. The diet was created by Rip Esselstyn, a Texas firefighter and vegan who developed the plan when he discovered that the cholesterol levels among his crew were dangerously high. The diet itself is nothing particularly groundbreaking; the idea is to eat only plant-based foods for 28 days in order to lose weight and lower cholesterol. Essentially, it’s being a vegetarian for a month. But is eliminating protein for a few weeks really the answer to effective weight loss that lasts? Is it practical for the average person? I decided to find out for myself.
My initial research of the Engine 2 diet brought up really positive feedback. A lot of people have lost weight by following it, and I can see why. The diet is fruit and veggie-centric, and does allow for beans, lentils, and tofu, so lean proteins are still present in the plan, although anything animal-based is banned. Whole grains are also on the menu, which I liked because I disagree with the idea of a carb-eliminating diet. There are plenty of recipes available to choose from, so no matter your palate, you can find foods you like. I was pleasantly surprised to see that approved versions of burritos, pizza, and even desserts were included.
The pictures looked appetizing enough, so I decided to give the Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna a try. The grocery list for the recipe was somewhat daunting at around 20 different ingredients, but I liked that it was full of veggies, and any pasta dish that’s also diet-approved sounds like a winner to me. I have to say, finding the ingredients in the grocery store was a lot harder than choosing the recipe (Silken Lite Tofu anyone?). When I finally checked off the last ingredient on my list, I made my way to the checkout and discovered that this one meal had set me back about 40 bucks (added bottle of wine not included). I was determined to be positive, however, and headed home with a bevy of fresh produce.
The meal itself was actually pretty darn good. It was relatively easy to make, and the combo of sweet potatoes, spices and fresh veggies provided a unique flavor twist to your typical lasagna. It was a pretty filling dish too so there were plenty of leftovers, which made me feel a bit better about spending so much on one meal. Overall, I really liked the meal, and I would definitely consider giving other Engine 2 recipes a try.
My verdict on the Engine 2 Diet overall? Not too shabby as far as effectiveness. Yes, you’ll give up meat for a month, but you’ll get plenty of protein through other sources, and lots of fruit and veggies to boot. The recipes are tasty and super healthy, but they are a little pricey. The recipes in the book don’t share many ingredients among them, so if you go on this diet, you’ll have a thinner wallet to match your thinner waistline. The only other problem I have with the diet is its longevity. Unless you’re planning to become a vegetarian for life, it’s likely that you’ll end up back to your old food habits once the 28 days are up. My recommendation? If you’re interested in trying the diet, go for it! You’ll enjoy cooking the meals, and you’ll lose weight provided that you stick to it for the full month. But after it’s over, aim to go meatless one or two days a week to keep those healthy habits and keep the pounds lost at bay. And who knows, Engine 2 just may just make a vegan out of you!