November 7, 2012

Natural Foodie: Making the vegan switch proved to be a win-win-win

Channel 13's Jeff Peterson saw his energy spike, his cholesterol plummet and 31 pounds melt away.

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The Peterson family sits down for a dinner of creamy vegan “chicken” casserole with chopped-pumpkin-seed tossed salad recently at their Portland home. Clockwise from lower left, Bryant Peterson, 13, Madison Legassey 13, Brady Peterson, 4, Gabriela Peterson, 2, Jeff Peterson, Laura Peterson and Carly Peterson, 12.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Peterson before

Additional Photos Below


TO SEE VEGAN RECIPES by Jeff and Laura Peterson, like Jeff on Facebook at Peterson posts recipes on Mondays.


JEFF PETERSON and Pastor Brian Undlin do a comedy show to raise money for needy families during the Christmas holidays. Jeff's performance will include jokes about his work on TV and his vegan diet.

WHEN: 5:30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1; 8:45 and 10:30 a.m. Dec. 2

WHERE: Life Church, 8 Elkins Road, Gorham

HOW MUCH: Free/donation

INFO: 839-6354

"My doctor said he'd never seen anything like this," Jeff recalled.

Noting that many people with lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes find they can get rid of their medications after adopting a vegan diet, Jeff said, "It's like the medicine of the 21st century."

Laura said the diet change boosted her energy levels and left her feeling light rather than bloated after meals.

"I lost seven pounds in that timeframe," Laura said. "I didn't have as much to lose, but I hadn't been able to lose it. I hadn't been a big meat eater, but I did love my dairy."

Her total cholesterol dipped 43 points over the course of five months.

In addition, they both saw their race times improved, shaving minutes off their results in 5Ks and 10Ks.

In May, Jeff's four-part series on his transition to a vegan diet aired on WGME-13.

"In 25 years of television and all the stories I've done, I've never had as many people come up and talk to me about one as have about the vegan series," said Jeff, who anchors the 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts.

As a follow-up to the series, Jeff began posting a weekly vegan recipe on his Facebook page.

"The first few weeks I did it I'd get 80 to 100 comments," Jeff said.

While many comments were positive, he was more intrigued by the people who took personal offense at his posts, with quips such as "don't push it down my throat" and "humans are the top of the food chain."

He said the hostile reactions to the recipes stand out from the comments he gets on other posts.

"On Fridays I do a movie recommendation," Jeff said. "I've never had someone say, 'I'm a fan of dramas. Don't try to cram comedies down my throat."

Now that he's at his ideal body weight (and had to buy all new clothes), Jeff has been surprised by the comments he's received about his physique.

"People will say to me, 'You're getting way too skinny,"' Jeff said. "People aren't used to seeing people at regular weight."

But Jeff doesn't let the negative comments get to him.

"I laugh it off," Jeff said. "I think the whole thing is funny."

This December, Jeff even plans to poke fun at his conversion to vegan eating during a fundraiser for the needy at the church he attends in Gorham.

But on balance, much of the reaction he's received from viewers, friends and family has been positive. A number of friends have even followed his lead and started eating a plant-based diet.

Being a public figure, he also fields frequent inquires from people who want to improve their own diets.

When asked, Jeff offers four pieces of advice.

First he tells people that while an immediate switch worked for him and Laura, others might do better with a gradual transition.

He also tells people that "going vegan is not for everybody. But if you can cut out processed food and meat a couple times a week," such a move will have health benefits too.

Along the same lines, he recommends "reversing your plate." This means instead of eating a large piece of meat and a small side of vegetables, eat a large helping of vegetables and a small piece of meat.

Finally he reminds people that exercise and staying active was a key part of his weight loss and improved health. The good news (for those who hate the gym) is that Jeff says now that he has more energy and feels better, he actually looks forward to working out.

Laura adds that the cook in the family should purchase a few vegan cookbooks, plan out a handful of meals and use meat substitutes as tools to help transition to whole foods, plant-based cooking.

Even though his initial motivation was a compelling story, when he reached the 60-day mark, Jeff didn't want to go back to his old eating style.

"There's no way I'm turning back," Jeff said.

Another frequent response, according to Jeff, is people who say: "'I could never do that,' and I said the same thing. I love a good hamburger and steak. But people have no idea that after you get going it's not hard."

Calling himself a former meat-aholic and Laura a former cheese-aholic, Jeff said, "If we can do it, anybody can do it." 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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Additional Photos

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Peterson after


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