After leaving the Marines, Dennis gained weight, had high blood pressure, and was prediabetic. After a year of eating vegetarian, he lost the weight but soon went back to his old lifestyle. Soon after, he almost had a heart attack, and doctors told him he would need a stent. He decided to go back to eating a plant-based diet and began to manage his symptoms. However, animal products slowly made their way back to his diet, and his health problems came back, too. He was told he would need a double stent or bypass surgery, but both options did not have an optimistic outcome. Deciding to make the change for good, he took a 21-day plant-based challenge and found the Barnard Medical Center and the Physicians Committee. He has been plant-based ever since and became a Food for Life instructor to teach others how they can change their life with food.
Learn more about Dennis and sign up for one of his upcoming classes.
What is your advice for people who are interested in starting a plant-based diet?
I recommend watching the documentaries The Game Changers and Forks Over Knives.
What is your favorite go-to meal?
My favorite go-to meals are vegan bean burritos and Yes-You-Can Black Bean Chili. They are both easy to make and satisfying. You can modify them with onions or a little bit of avocado or whatever other vegetables and spices you want and serve with brown rice.
For people who say they are having trouble giving up meat, what transition recipes or foods would you recommend?
I recommend vegan burgers, using black beans or textured vegetable protein, or veggie chili with a red sauce, beans, onions, and various spices. Another meat substitute is portobello mushrooms, which are great for grilling.
Research shows that dairy products increase prostate cancer risk. What are your tips for replacing dairy?
My solution is to make my own nut milks. I experiment, but the nuts that work best for me are Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews. All you need is a high-speed blender, which makes it easy. Then I refrigerate it in a glass jar. If I need if for cream, I put it in a saucepan and cook it down.
Do you have a favorite recipe that typically uses dairy but replaces it?
I make macaroni and cheese with homemade plant milk such as Brazil nut. I will add nutritional yeast and other ingredients, too. I will cook it down to thicken it up and then pour it over the macaroni. Or I will use cashew milk and make a cashew cheese. You can bake the macaroni and cheese in the oven or cook it on the stovetop.
Foods rich in lycopene, like tomatoes, are beneficial for the prostate. What is your favorite tomato-based recipe?
My favorite is vegan pasta or vegan stuffed shells with homemade vegan tomato sauce.
Can you share a success story of a participant in one of your classes?
John was totally against plant-based eating. Through my classes and coaching, I got him to substitute or add one plant-based meal a week. Eventually, I got John and his wife to add one plant-based meal a day. Over time, they found that cooking and eating whole food, plant-based with no oil was easy, and the transition became permanent. Now, I share recipes with them to help them stay on course.