What is “Crowd-Out”?

How Can You Apply it to a Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet?

Any time we see the word diet that feeling of dread drapes over us like a familiar blanket. We retreat to that place to protect us from having to sacrifice the foods we love like Chocolate Cake, Popcorn, Chips, and Steak in the name of reaching whatever physical goal we have in mind at the time. Our current concept of “Diet” is that “going on a diet” means sacrifice in the short-term.

On the Contrary

Your diet is your nutritional lifestyle: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It doesn’t matter if you eat only the healthiest, and most responsibly sourced of foods at every carefully planned and timed meal, or if you’re cramming down that Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich because it’s what you could get quickly between picking your kids up, and dropping them off at soccer or swim practice.

Either way, we’re discussing your diet.

Your diet is what you eat, but for some reason we like to use the word “diet” when we refer to the things we don’t eat.

For example:

You might say: “I’m a vegetarian.”

By which you would mean to say that you exclude any variation of:

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Animal by-products
  • Fish

Still, this isn’t to say whether you actually eat a healthy diet or not. Afterall, Vegetarians can still drink soda’s, and eat many processed sweets and food items which contain high amounts of sugar and preservatives while they provide little to no actual nutrition.

Also, by focusing on the foods you can no longer have because of your diet, you run the risk of craving them more because they’re at the front of your mind. Many of the things we eat, we eat out of habit but we also eat them because we enjoy them. This sort of diet mentality makes most diets unviable because they’re unsustainable.

We’re creatures of comfort and familiarity. We feel safe when we’re comfortable in familiar territory which is why the thought of giving up favorite foods is an unsustainable practice in our attempts to follow healthier eating patterns.

This is where the concept of “Crowding-Out” Comes in.

When you “Crowd-out” your diet you switch your focus from the things you cannot eat to the things you can.

An Example scenario:

Ralen is a very rambunctious and happy 6 year old boy. There are certain foods he loves like Oreo blended ice-cream. There are also foods he really dislikes such as green beans and broccoli.

To get Ralen to eat healthier foods his mother offers him a variety of vegetables and fruits throughout the day to fill up on. He loves carrots, corn, and pickled green beans. So, instead of focusing on removing Oreo blended ice cream and chocolate cakes from Ralen’s diet, or trying to argue with him about eating broccoli, Ralen’s mother simply adds healthy foods to his plate she knows he will eat lots of without argument.

Since he’s more likely to eat sweet corn while it’s on his plate than he is to actually save room for that extra bit of ice-cream, she figures she can win an argument by simply crowding out his choices.

This same concept applies to adults. Crowding out your diet with Whole-Food Plant-Based options throughout the day allows you to add foods into your diet from your already existing baseline. Don’t start a diet by removing foods. Start a diet by adding options in.

Your Next Shopping Trip (for food)

The next time you go grocery shopping, pick up rolled oats along with your cereal, and some banana’s along with your potato chips. When you’re getting your work lunch ready for the next day, pack the banana’s instead of the chips. Save those for after work. During the day, load up on the WFPB options, while leaving room and possibility for the foods you eat because you enjoy.

Crowding out allows you to incorporate WFPB eating habits into your already existing diet. The idea is the more healthy options you reach for at greater frequency, the more likely you are to reach for them out of habit and preference in the future.

Your love of pizza and chocolate cake likely won’t go away. Luckily, with crowd-out, you still get to enjoy the foods you love but the quality of your diet increases over time.