SOS Free? What’s that?

In the plant-based nutritional world there is no shortage of diets and health guru’s to promote them. As if cutting out all animal products is not enough, we tend to further subdivide into the categories of cooked, raw, high fat raw vegan (HFRV), low fat raw vegan (LFRV) and fruitarian. For those not familiar with these styles of eating, there is certainly an abundance of material online as well as numerous YouTube characters discussing the merits and the pitfalls of each of these.

Jason Velick Plant Powered Living - VEGAN

Plant Powered Living Contributor: Jason Velick

Recently, I was exposed to a new term that I was not familiar with called SOS Free. SOS Free is a plant-based diet which is free from all added Salt, Oil and Sugar. Sounds simple enough right? Well, it’s actually very easily to implement, however presents certain challenges as well. Why would anyone want to follow a diet free of all the “good stuff” (salt, oil and sugar)? According to Doug Lisle, PhD (, these compounds lead to a phenomenon known as the “Pleasure Trap”. I highly recommend watching the TedX Talk on Doug’s website where he discusses why it’s so difficult for humans to make the right choices when it comes to how we nourish our bodies. Dr. Lisle discusses how the addition of these compounds into our foods leads to a lapse in our brains ability to recognize true satiation. There are two types of ways that our body knowns when to stop eating. There are stretch receptors in our stomach that say to the brain “stop eating, full!” and nutrient density receptors in the brain that do the same. When we consume SOS the mechanism does not work properly. The food tastes so good that we literally cannot stop eating it when our body has had enough.

Wait a second, what would food taste like without salt, oil and sugar?


Well, if you currently consume these products to be perfectly honest it is going to taste bland, really bland! When I first adopted this diet plan I was really disappointed and didn’t know if I could maintain it. What happens though over time is that as your body starts to adapt to not having these flavors in food it starts to be able to pick up other flavors that were masked in the past. Suddenly, a ripe tomato can taste like the most flavorful bite I have ever eaten. I have noticed a tendency to really favor foods that are not processed at all (raw fruits and vegetables) and the grains and starches are really only a backup and not something I find myself craving. SOS Free is not a raw diet, although a raw diet can certainly be SOS Free (this would be referred to as a “hygenic” diet). The parallels with Natural Hygiene are hard to ignore and the TrueNorth Health Center ( in Santa Rosa, CA offers NH books on their online store. Where SOS Free diverges from NH is that they advocate a greater diversity of food than what you would typically see in a hygenic diet and often include grains and starches.

Incidentally, the TrueNorth Health Center is a medical facility in Northern California that specializes in helping people achieve greater levels of health through medically supervised water fasting and a subsequent transition to a plant-based SOS Free diet. They have helped over 15,000 people regain their health through nutrition and fasting and have helped people to recover from terminal illness including cancer. 

So what does SOS Free food actually look like when prepared? Actually, with a little work and minimal processing there can be some very appetizing and relatively flavorful dishes. Cathy Fisher is one of the culinary instructors at the TrueNorth Health Center. Here is a recipe for a “Beefless Stew” from her website

Prep time:  30 mins
Cook time:  35 mins
Total time:  1 hour 5 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 (makes about 10 cups)


1½ large yellow or white onions, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
3 ribs celery, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 portabella mushrooms (about ½ pound), cut into ¾-inch pieces
1½ tablespoon finely chopped garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
5 cups water
2 pounds white potatoes (I use about 3 large Yukon Gold), cut into ¾-inch pieces
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1½ cups green peas (if frozen, thaw first)
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large soup pot on high with 1 tablespoon of water. When the water begins to sputter, add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently as the edges of the onion browns slightly, and adding a little water as needed to prevent sticking.
Stir in the mushrooms and garlic, and continue to cook while stirring for an additional 5 minutes, adding water as needed.
Add the 5 cups of water, potatoes, tomato paste, dried Italian herbs, and paprika. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a low boil. Stir in the rosemary and cook covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peas, and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
Place 2 cups of the stew (broth and vegetables) into a blender, and blend under very smooth. Stir this back into the pot to thicken the stew, and stir in the parsley. Serve with a few twists of ground black pepper and, if you like, add a small sprig of rosemary as garnish.
Peeling the potatoes: I like to peel my potatoes before cooking them, but you can also leave the skins on.

Fresh rosemary: Fresh rosemary is wonderful in this stew, but if you only have dried, use ½ teaspoon.

To summarize, the SOS-Free way of living is something you may hear about as you go through your life journey and may wonder if it is for you. I highly advocate any diet that gets back to eating unprocessed foods. Eliminating salt, oil and sugar from my diet has resulted in greater levels of health and well-being.