Archive for December, 2011

You Won’t Miss Meat As Badly As You Think

Mark Bittman’s Truthbomb: Reducing Your Meat Intake Isn’t As Difficult As You Think

by Hanna Brooks Olsen

Flexitarian. Lessitarian. Semi-vegan. There are a lot of titles that pertain to the way Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times writer, chooses to eat. But they all pretty much boil down to the same thing: healthy, simply, and with a little less meat and dairy than the rest of the United States is regularly consuming. In a blog post on his site today, Bittman, who has had several forays into vegetarianism, but still chooses to eat a little meat here and there, explains what meat-avoiders have been saying for years: that it’s really not difficult to limit your intake of animal products, and that you don’t have to “go vegan” just to eat better (one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in America). And you know what? He’s spot-on.

Which is not to say that veganism, vegetarianism, or even the limiting of meat, dairy, and eggs is some kind of silver bullet toward a nutritious diet–plenty of vegan foods, like Twinkies and french fries, offer just as many empty calories and fat as fast food or anything containing meat–but cutting back on red meat and dairy has been linked to a reduction in the risk of certain kinds of cancer. And, when done correctly, preparing the occasional meal without meat or dairy can lead to more well-rounded meals that incorporation more vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins from sources like beans and nuts. And, as Bittman points out, it’s not nearly as hard as most people think.

I can’t count the number of times that someone, most often over a meal where they are eating meat and I am not, has told me that they “couldn’t live without meat/dairy/some other food product that it is entirely humanly possible to live without.” Whenever someone says something like this, I can only think “Oh, I didn’t realize that your body is composed so divergently from my own, because here I stand, alive and well, not eating those things.” Sure, it can be inconvenient at a restaurant, where a Garden Burger is the only non-meat item, but that’s why being flexible, and only occasionally limiting intake of these foods is important. It’s not that any single person can’t exist on a diet without meat, or dairy, or other items that Americans have been conditioned to believe are “essential”–it’s that they haven’t found the right way to quietly, healthfully omit them in their own homes.

A vegan meal, contrary to what die-hard meat lovers may think, doesn’t require enrollment into PETA, and it doesn’t have to consist of an unpronounceable grain, a pile of sprouts, raw spinach, and a some kind of gelatinous, genetically-modified protein product. Think of all the dishes that are easily made vegetarian or vegan: thai noodles in peanut sauce, pasta with red sauce, salad, sorbet, pizza without cheese (or even pizza WITH cheese, if you want), mashed potatoes made with olive oil instead of butter, stuffed bell peppers, rice and beans, burritos…the list goes on, and I promise you won’t spontaneously sprout dreadlocks if you eat one of them.

Bittman makes some excellent suggestions about how to limit the intake of meat and dairy in ways that won’t feel like something’s missing. Simply leaving the meat out of pasta sauce (or substituting it with TVP), or making lentils or another kind of high-protein legume the star of a meal, or seitan instead of beef in stir fry can all help cut back on meats which may be high in fat and cholesterol. And when you find that your usual go-to dishes are meat based, you may be more likely to sub in something hearty and healthy, like brussels sprouts, squash, nuts, or grains, in place of the old standard.

Becoming a vegan in the New Year is a pretty lofty goal. But “eating better” is attainable–as long as you allow yourself to live with less of those foods you “can’t live without.”

Copied from on 12/30/11


How to Get Started Being Vegan-ish

So, you’ve decided to try this easy vegan-ish thing out, but you just don’t know where to begin.  Today’s post is all about step one.  You don’t have to throw out everything and start today.  We’re going to move through step-by-step process that will make the transition easy. All next week, eat normally.  But, when it comes time to replace the imitation maple syrup or the PopTarts or the Pizza Rolls, don’t.  You have a whole week to think of other vegan choices.

And thinking is the key.  Rid your mind of the idea that dinner has to be a meat and 2 vegetables.  Banish the thoughts that carbs are the bad guys.  Dismiss the notion that vegetables are boring.  Don’t worry about high calorie foods like nuts and avocadoes.  We’re going to use the next 6 weeks to get your mind on target to being a fit, vegan-ish hottie the easy way.

This week you have 2 goals.  You are going to start finding the vegan options as they exist in your kitchen today and start phasing out fake food. You might not have to change as much as you think.  After all, you’ve been watching what you eat for forever.  So, look around.  Do you have a can of minestrone?  Frozen vegetables?  Box of ginger snaps?  You have vegan food.  Pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes with salsa, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, almonds—they are all vegan.  Forget your diet head trash about food.  If it’s real and it’s vegan, eat it.

But being vegan is half the battle. We’re going to keep vegan easy by simply eating real food.  No artificial stuff.  Eat food that was made in a kitchen and not in a laboratory.  Did it take a team of researchers to make your coffee creamer?  Then it’s not natural.  Take a look at the ingredients list on your cereal?  If it has high fructose corn syrup (or its secret identity name Corn Sugar) in the ingredient list, it’s not natural.  Is half the contents of your cabinets fat free or sugar free?  Was it that way in nature?  If not, it’s not natural. You don’t have to toss it. (Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.  There are starving children in Africa that would love to eat your fake cereal.)  But, resolve that you’re not going to buy more of it either.

It’s going to be natural from now on.  The highest quality food you can afford.  Forget your diet head trash about food.  If it’s real and it’s vegan, eat it.

If you start to lose motivation, read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.  I had decided to be vegan before I even finished the introduction.  Don’t worry about your friends that say you won’t get enough protein or calcium.  Don’t listen to the nonsense that your body will go into starvation mode and you’ll lose muscle mass.  Bullhockey!

Think of these two things when your friends challenge you:

1.  If eating protein helps you stay thin then the USA should be the thinnest country in the world because we eat more than anyone.  But, of course, we’re not.  We’re fat and getting fatter (even though we diet constantly).

2.  Cows, whales, giraffes, rhinoceroses, hippos, antelope, deer–they’re vegan and they are plenty muscular.  They eat nothing but plants and somehow they still manage to grow and have muscle.

Next week we’ll start working on introducing new food!

No-Dieting New Year’s Resolutions

Have you dieted for months, charted your weight loss, and counted every calorie during every January for the last decade?  I used to feel like losing weight was a mystery.  I could do everything just right and see no results at all.  Or, I could just barely slip up and watch the numbers rise on the scale.  Because it seemed like it was out of my control, I got frustrated and depressed with the whole process.  Don’t set goals that focus on the results because you can’t always control results.  Set goals that encourage healthy behaviors.  You can control your behaviors.

May I suggest a couple of New Year’s Resolutions for you?

1.  Release stress.

What do you need to do to make your life less stressful?  Can you cut down your schedule or let yourself off the hook for something?  Should you stop dwelling on a bad relationship and move on?  Is there something hanging over your head that you know you need to do, but you just don’t have the motivation?

If anything is dragging you down, get rid of it!  Stress makes you fat and ugly.  It complicates your life and steals your joy.  You will age more quickly and less gracefully.  Much of life’s stress is unavoidable so don’t harbor any that you don’t have to.

2.  Pursue simple pleasures.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but living a good life is a lot of hard work.  Luckily, there are many things that make it wonderful and worth the effort.  Make a quick list of things that you encounter on a regular basis that bring you enjoyment and resolve to savor the pleasure in them.  Life will get in the way of pleasure if you let it.  But, you may find that if you make pleasure a priority you will find it more often.  Don’t deny yourself the joy of making yourself happy.

Now, I’m not talking about irresponsibility in any way.  Stupid decisions today could rob you of tomorrow’s pleasure.  I’m talking about a simple stop-and-smell-the-roses approach to life.

3.  Eat the highest quality, most natural food you can afford.

This is all about pampering your body from the inside out.  Fuel your body.  Do not use your body as a trash can or dumping ground.  If you had a very important dinner guest you would prepare a very special, fresh meal.  Well, you do have a very important dinner guest—yourself.

 4.  Embrace the best version of yourself.

How would you live if you were thin and healthy?  What would a thin, healthy you do after work or on the weekends?  How would it feel to stand up straighter and feel confident?  Imagine yourself that way and live as if it’s already happening.  The truth is this—When you live like a thin person, you will become one.  Do you know why diets never work?  Because when you’re on a diet, you eat like a fat person who is on a diet.  But people with a healthy relationship to food, don’t live like that.  They live and eat like thin people and they stay thin.  When you can live like you’re thin, you will be thin and you will stay thin.

5.  Find an exercise you can live with for the rest of your life.

You might have to experiment a little to find what you like, but resolve this year to find an exercise that you can grow old with.  May I suggest Pilates (or its Eastern friend yoga)?  Classes are readily available, videos are quite effective, and the routines are simple for all ages and fitness levels.  Combine Pilates with walking a few days a week and you’ve got yourself a formula for healthy aging.

Good luck in the coming year.  For the next few days, we’ll look at each of these recommendations one by one and see how we can use them to make ourselves better, happier people in 2012.

The Health of a Vegan Diet is Getting Noticed

Have you wondered if you can get enough protein, calcium or iron being vegan?  Check out this article in!

I would add my comments, but I couldn’t say it any better.  Just an editorial note:  The article references a “well-thought-out vegan plan” as an ideal way to eat.  If you need one of those plans, check out the What’s for Dinner page in January!  I’m going to make being vegan super easy by doing the thinking for you!

Getting Ready To Be Vegan for New Years

I have to be honest with you—I’m not always a great vegan.  I cheat.  I don’t eat meat, but I do eat cheese sometimes and things baked with milk or egg.  I’m not proud of it, but I will admit it.  Those occasional failures serve to remind me of why I went vegan in the first place.  After a week or two of tolerating failure I’m like to have a stomach ache, a general feeling of lethargy and tighter pants.  Then, I’m ready to knuckle down and clean out my food choices.

Well, that’s where I am now.  I’ve eaten one too many Christmas cookies around the water cooler at the office.  I’m ready to get back to normal!  I’m sure I’m not alone.  This is about the time of year when thousands of Americans start planning the diet that starts in January.  Would you like to join my family and be a better vegan in January?  Here’s how we’re getting ready:

  1. Gathering recipes.  I’m keeping my eyes open now for quick, easy ideas and making them as often as I can.  Why wait to feel great?  I can eat vegan today and feel good today.  Plus, in January, I’ll already have pulled together some ingredients and tested out a few things.
  2. I’m using up and giving away all my non-vegan food.  Friday I will be on a mission to bake and use up all the eggs, milk chocolate, hot cocoa, etc. that is taking up space and threatening to weaken my resolve in January.  I’m going to make hot cocoa, invite over my kids’ friends and serve the all the stuff I make.  What’s left is going home wrapped tightly on paper plates or is coming with me to my large family get-together on Sunday afternoon.  (My brother will eat it.)
  3. Everything I buy from here on out is going to be vegan.  The dish I bring to mother’s Christmas dinner?  Vegan.  Our intimate family gathering on Christmas Eve with just the kids?  Vegan.  I can’t control what everyone else serves (and wouldn’t even try!), but I can assure that I have a choice that I’m happy about.
  4. Visual imagery.  I don’t know that I can stress enough how helpful it is for me to rehearse situations in my mind before they happen.  Here’s an example:  When I visit relatives, we almost always put the desserts on the kitchen table, pour a cup of coffee and sit down around the table and talk for hours.  Inevitably, I pick and snack all afternoon.  I can’t just walk away or I’ll miss the conversation.  I can’t suggest that everyone move because they like sitting around the desserts.  This year I’m going to do something just a tiny bit different.  I’m going to fix hot tea instead of coffee (I associate coffee with dessert), hold the mug in my hands and lean back in the chair.  I’m going to make sure that the desserts are not in my line of sight and are more than an arm’s length away.  I’ve rehearsed in my mind how I’m going to look at the faces of my family instead of at the goodies on the table and how relaxed and calm I’ll feel when I’m sitting and talking and not cluttering my attention with food.
  5. I’m going to eat whatever I love.  The keyword is “love.”  I’m not going to eat something just because I like it or it’s okay or there’s nothing else.  I’m not going to eat it just because I felt obligated to or because it’s still on my plate.  I’m not going to eat it because it’s time to eat or because everyone else is eating now.  However, I will eat whatever I love.  And, I will eat it as long as I love it.  Which means, I may stop halfway through a slice of pie because it’s starting to get sickening sweet, or I may eat the whole thing.

I feel really good about the next 10 days, and I am really excited about starting 2012 feeling better than I did when I started 2011!

Being an Easy Vegan Offers Weight Loss Results

So, I’ll keep her identity a mystery to spare her exploitation, but you should know that easy “veganishim” has helped a friend and avid blog follower of mine to shed 10 pounds in the past month.  Last night, over a  vegan dinner, she proudly and unreservedly credited her success to her veganism.  Her exact words were something along the lines of “I’ve eaten plenty of food, I haven’t skipped any meals, I’ve been satisfied, and I’ve had anything I really wanted, but I’ve still dropped about a half pound a day.”

So, you may ask, how long will this last?  After all, everybody can lose  for a while.  Well, good question.  Her weight loss will continue  for as long as she listens to her body and eats what she needs when she needs it.  Eventually, she will lose so much that her body will slow down its pound-shedding and level off.  She will never have to alter her eating at all.  She will continue to eat what her body needs when it needs it.

Good Job, Friend!

If you have a good weight loss experience with vegan or vegan-ish food, please share it!


Great Vegan Snack–Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans are a super food.  They’re high in fiber so they promote digestive health and appetite control. Plus, they carry a low glycemic load so they are easy on the insulin levels.  A cup of garbanzos will give you nearly 30% of your USDA of protein and 50% of your fiber in only 268 calories!

Try this delicious, spicy snack when you’re watching football this Bowl Season!

Roasted Spicy Garbanzos

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1-15.5 oz. can of garbanzo beans

1 tsp Cheyenne pepper

1 Tbs cumin

1 Tbs salt


1)      Pre-heat oven to 450 F.  Pour spices into a large plastic freezer bag.

2)      Pour olive oil onto jelly roll pan and place in preheated oven for three minutes.

3)      Drain, rinse and dry beans.

4)      Toss dry beans in bag of spices until thoroughly coated.

5)      Arrange spiced beans on hot jelly roll pan in a singe layer and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir and continue to cook for 10 more minutes or until beans are firm and almost crunchy.

6)      Serve immediately or sprinkle over a salad.

We loved this idea so much, we’ll be trying some other spice combinations in the future.  Check back to hear the results!

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