Welcome to Nature Maven's Healthy Eating Healthy Planet Blog

Welcome! If you're a vegan, you'll find support and suggestions you may be able to use here. If you're a vegetarian as I was when I started this blog in June 2008, reading my archived posts may be of interest to you. If you haven't gotten here already, I hope you'll consider trying the vegan way of life, too.

As I try new recipes, learn to eat in restaurants, entertain non-veg friends and make the changes necessary to bring my life into greater harmony with the planet, I share what I learn. And little joys and other thoughts get thrown into the mix here, too.

In March 2009 after starting to read The Engine 2 Diet by vegan firefighter Rip Esselstyn, I became fully vegan, to the best of my knowledge and ability, and I post entries here as I live and learn in this lifestyle. It's definitely a process of experience and discovery.

Please check out the Vegan News Headlines supplied by Google News Reader down on the right, and see my Blogroll for just a few of the choice blogs and websites I've found useful.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My first vegetarian Thanksgiving

It was a nice holiday spent with great friends who made special effort to accomodate my veggie needs. Just to be on the safe side, I brought a few things myself: Whole Foods Portobello Mushroom Gravy and several side dishes (Vegan Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potatoes with Apricots, and Vegan Stuffing). I was so glad I took the trouble to make my own stuffing because our host had only what she made in the bird. I learned some valuable lessons along the way:
  • Only use recipes from trusted sources. I selected 2 excellent ones that worked beautifully from Jill at Persistent Vegetarian State, but I still wanted and searched for the Green Bean Casserole and found many, most complicated. One recipe sounded great, substituting the Campbell's mushroom soup with Creamy Portobello mushroom soup, but the amount it called for had to be really wrong, 32 ounces. My guess is it should have been the small box, not the quart. I followed directions, and thank goodness my husband found a way for us to remove a lot of the extra liquid, which by the way became a tasty gravy. Leading to the next tip:
  • Be prepared to be creative and innovative. My chosen stuffing recipe called for challah bread made into cubes and toasted. I found ready-made bread cubes at Whole Foods. Problem: after I assembled everything, I found that 2 bags was one bag too many, leading to my having to add twice the vegetable broth, plus some additional water. In the end it was delightful, and having a lot more than I needed, I was able to add some Earth Balance margarine to the surplus and make it into balls, then bake them in muffin tins. Yummy!

Last night we met friends for dinner out and I learned that K has virtually given up fish and is now vegetarian, too. They're having a Tofurky tonight, and I can't wait to hear how it turns out. Lucky girl, her man will eat stuffed peppers made with soy crumbles and Tofurky. Maybe in future days mine will, too. But until then, we peacefully coexist and both love animals. To each his own time and place for change.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Still Groovin' the Veggie Way

Wow, three months since my last post! Well, it's been pretty busy. First, we got very involved in the 2008 Presidential Election, working to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden and all the good men and women down ticket. How cool that we succeeded! Yes we did!

Here's a nice YouTube from the campaign:

After enjoying that, let me tell you that we are trying to singlehandedly hold up the economy! Mr. Maven just got his very own 2009 Toyota Prius, a back sexy one. Gone is the fairly big SUV, and all that gas consumption. The Prius we already have (mine, a 2007 in beautiful blue) gets about 48 mpg and even driving between New York and PA weekly, we only use about 6.5 gals.

Now, it's Saturday and we're tired, but it's been a good week. Last Sunday Nature Maven presented a professional workshop in Chicago, and yesterday did it again in New York. Ahhhh. Rest and recuperation in the country!

And, yes, I'm still meat-free for these past 5 months. I've gained about 7 pounds overall with the return to carbs, but I'm okay with it at this point. Eventually I'll get back where I need to be, or maybe I'm already there.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Veggie Reading

One thing any vegetarian must do is stay up on salient information, new products, and recipes and stay plugged in to the veggie community. Some of the ways I do it:
Checking out Google's vegetarian headlines delivered daily to this blog, to the right.

Reading current issues of mags such as VegNews, Vegetarian Times, and a freebie that comes to the office called Natural Solutions that features some veggie products and alternative health options and information.I make many purchases based upon what I learn. For example, in VegNews yesterday I saw an ad for J-41 "Adventure On" very cool-looking vegan shoes with recycled rubber soles (note: they also sell shoes made with leather, so be sure to click on "vegan" when investigating styles and prices). I checked and a store right around the corner from my home sells them! Awesome.

Today: off to a local country fair we go to annually in PA. I know I can get some vegetarian lunch items and will do so. I also know that plenty will be off limits for me. There are 4-H exhibits. I have mixed feelings about them, since the animals usually head to slaughter at some point in their lives. Here's a heartwrenching poem if you have the stamina to read it, called "4-H Boy". On the brighter side, I'm hoping to catch some natural-product vendors and the local Democratic Party booth to get some Obama-Biden stuff.

By the way, Moveon.org is offering FREE (or low cost for quantity) Obama-Biden bumper stickers. Check it out here and get yours today!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Making it Day to Day

Having been vegetarian for 2 months, several truths have emerged for me:
  • Maybe strict vegans, raw foodies and/or fruitarians lose any excess weight automatically with their diets, but (semi) lacto-ovo vegetarians (LOVs) as I am now do not. I am still eating cheese and foods containing eggs often when I eat away from home. I cook and bake strictly vegan at home.
  • Some restaurants accomodate LOV's with pasta dishes, veggie burgers, portabello mushrooms in place of steak, and Mexican entrees featuring beans and cheese, but many other do not. Here's what I can share: Red Robin (Boca Burgers and Gardenburgers can be substituted for beef in any burger) and Chili's (black bean burgers and portabello fajitas are both winners) are LVO-friendly; Long Horn Steakhouse is not (my letter to the parent company to complain as been met with crickets so far); most restaurants will gladly fix an entree for you if the only change they need to make is to leave out the meat (e.g., cheesesteak with everything, no meat).
  • Take home items are a little easier:

  • Chinese entrees like tofu with black bean sauce or most any tofu entree, and veggie or mushroom egg foo young are fine LOV choices, and any veggie version of lo mein, mei fun, chow mei fun, or fried rice are high-carb but vegan (unless eggs are added--ask). Our local Japanese place will make any entree with tofu in place of meat or fish. That's a help, too.
  • Pizza is a no-brainer, and with a few select veggies is best, like mushrooms or black olives (getting the touted veggie pizza offering on most menu boards unfortunately often inlcudes al dente broccoli (read almost raw), never a favorite of mine. PLUS most italian places offer or will make eggplant dishes (heros, parmargiana, rollatini) that are great for us LOVs. And pasta with olive oil and garlic is de rigeur.
  • So that's it so far. My weight has stablized at almost exactly where I started. I have to keep reminding myself I'm not eating this way to lose but to be cruelty-free in my living, as best I can be. I know dairy is cruel too, and so is leather, but this is a One-Day-at-a-Time lifestyle. If it weren't, I couldn't do it. I've added in B-12 tablets and EFAs, and I'm feeling good. More later!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Delicious Vegetarian Gourmet Cooking

Yesterday I bought Madhur Jaffrey's wonderful book, World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the Globe and tonight tried my first recipe. Oh my God, it was divine! I made her "Cauliflower and Potatoes with Ginger, Punjabi Style" (page 163). I had a gorgeous head of organic cauliflower and shopped today for potatoes, fresh ginger, and ground turmeric, coriander, and cayenne. I had cumin in the pantry already. It took awhile to prepare but was well worth the effort. I will serve this to company. I had some chickpeas as my protein, a big green salad, and a rice side dish with sauteed gourmet mushrooms and the bottom portion of a leek, sliced thin, all seasoned with some Bragg's and a spoonful of tahini. An amazing meal. My husband grilled a salmon fillet for himself and shared these dishes with me. He agreed the Jaffrey recipe was wonderful. The other he wasn't that thrilled with. But that was my quick little concoction. The bonus: I have leftovers to take back to the city to enjoy this week, and the wonderful book awaiting me when I come back Friday to try more delightful dishes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Six and a half weeks into my vegetarian journey merits an update. I'm enjoying eating this way now. I am nearly vegan with a few exceptions: occasional ice cream and baked goods made with eggs, and cheese on pizza or other food eaten in restaurants, such as veggie burgers. For dinners home I eat a gargantuan salad before my main course, unless it is my main course. I have become satisfied with adding balsamic or flavored vinegar or squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some Bragg's as my dressing. It really tastes fresh and appealing this way, although I'm sure I'd prefer "real" dressing.
Basic Graphics
I am eating a lot of canned beans added to a quick veggie stirfry of peppers, onions, peapods and whatever else we have handy. I toss in a half cup of brown rice, quinoa or couscous unless I'm having a whole wheat pita at that meal. Sometimes I throw in some fresh blueberries to the salad or the main course. Usually I end the meal with a big bowl of fresh fruit. Mr. Nature Maven often buys us Dancing Deer brownies and ice cream, and although I'd like to say I don't share with him, I do. A half brownie (about 160 cals) with a smaller dish of fruit is how I handle it. I have been noticing that on the rare occasion when I eat ice cream, I often complain of insomnia and/or a headache later on. Maybe this is revealing lactose intolerance. I'm also learning that a bean meal with huge quantities of raw and cooked veggies can mean bloating and discomfort. My latest reading tells me that having cruciferous veggies (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts) along with legumes is asking for this sort of trouble, so I plan on using tempeh with those veggies instead.

My weight feels pretty stable but looking at the log I'm keeping shows I've lost 2.6 pounds over the past 3 weeks. I didn't track my weight before that, but the total loss is between 3 and 4 pounds. That's good considering I've been enjoying many delicious things off the strict Eat to Live food plan (FYI: Dr. Fuhrman has another 2-volume book out called Eat for Health reviewed on the same link) : pizza, Chinese food, eggplant parmesan, amazing spelt-agave scones from Whole Foods, a Jamba juice only-fruit shake on a hungry workday afternoon, 365-brand "Oreo"-type cookies, and my famous vegan cake.
I can imagine that had I been religiously strict in following Dr. Fuhrman's guidelines, I'd have lost significant weight. But my goal has been to make the transition to vegetarianism, not to get thinner, and I am not significantly overweight, maybe 10 or 15 pounds from my ideal. I focus on weight here only because I feared there would be a gain after I went from Atkins where I sometimes literally had pork at every meal and ate no fruit, to a carb-loaded vegetarian lifestyle with scads of yummy fruit and all sorts of whole grain stuff.
We're on vacation in the country for the next 10 days, so having more time to shop, prepare and cook healthy vegetarian foods will be a joy.
And remember, food is just a part of life, not life itself. But don't try doing without it!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Beautiful Vegetarian Day


Another Beautiful Vegetarian Day

Eating the vegetarian way is getting downright easy! I am still having a little cheese when eating outside the house and away from my local Whole Foods where any meal can be a delicious vegan adventure. I am losing a little weight, too, despite eating some very yummy things, so I know the Eat to Live strategy is a good one for me.
I cross-posted the following on DKos this morning on the Saturday Morning Garden Blog, a great place to hang out!
"Nature Maven and partner Etienne are blessed to be city mice during the week and country mice on the weekend, and the country place is part of a little community where the outside is maintained by others, so only potted plants for us. Here's our Lantana, almost dead when we arrived back yesterday, so I guess we didn't get rain since Monday. It's gorgeous again this morning:
Went for a quick nature walk behind the place where roadside wild things grow, camera in hand, and found these:
Self-heal or Heal-all
Common St. John's Wort
Brown-eyed Susans amid the ferns & grasses
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Spiked Lobelia
and White Yarrow
The best part was putting these photos on the computer and using the edit function to blow them up huge and pore over my Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers to figure some of them out."

A Happy and Healthy Saturday to all,
Love, Nature Maven

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dear Mom, My First Vegetarian Example

Four years ago, on July 16, 2004 I took this picture of my Mom, Mary, on her 83rd birthday. She was living at Quarry Hill, in Camden, Maine, happily painting and enjoying friends and family. We didn't know it then, but she had lung cancer, and on March 27, 2005 she died, only 9 days after being diagnosed with that cancer. I am so very glad that she had those good years and months free of fear, and that her passing was quick and in the care and company of loving nurses and staff. My son and I, and my dear cousin Judy, were there that day.

This photo was taken of Nature Maven and Mary in 2003 when we went back to Los Angeles together.

I, Nature Maven, grew up in Los Angeles in the community of Pacific Palisades. Mom became a vegetarian early in my childhood in the 1950's out of compassion for the animals, and she raised me on avocados, sprouts, raw nut butters, hearty whole grain bread, and fruit. One Thanksgiving she made a lentil loaf. I felt deprived back then. Sugar was unknown in our daily life, although I managed to have too much whenever given an opportunity. Mom eventually grew anemic and went back to fish, then chicken, then the occasional beef meal. I know she'd be proud of me today to be on the vegetarian path.

Thank you, Mom. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Having Our Cake and Eating It, Too

Yesterday I baked a Vegan Vanilla Cake and it was divine! I used
Ener-G Egg Replacer, Earth Balance margarine, and soy milk in place of the usual dairy components, and I reduced the amount of sugar from 1-3/4 cups to 1-1/4 cups. I used brown sugar after reading that some white sugar is whitened using bones. The frosting was made with dairy-free bittersweet chocolate, margarine, and powdered sugar. It was wonderful but a bit too sweet, so next time I'll use unsweetened chocolate. And yes, I did get the covered cake stand I mentioned in an earlier post. Found it at a flea market after scouring two huge antique malls. This one dates back to the 60's, said the vendor, and is in perfect shape. The price was right, too, $25. As I said before

in this blog, I am a firm believer in buying gently used items over new in many cases, giving something a new home by recycling it. I had been unable to find a cake stand I liked that had a dome, except for a brand new one for $40 at a major import retailer. Knowing where it originated, I wasn't ready to settle for that one.
My recent baking frenzy has been fueled by the awesome new mixer we got for my birthday last month, and it too was recycled, being factory refurbished rather than factory new, and none the worse for that plus lots cheaper.

So on it goes, learning a little more everyday and making changes in my life that really fit.

Today I sent friends an email with a link to this blog and featuring a story that appeared as a vegetarian headline on Healthy Eating Healthy Planet's right sidebar, The Only Diet for a Peacemaker is a Vegetarian Diet. I hope you'll take the time to click on the link and read it. I have been gaining so much information I can use through reading the news stories via the links my headline service puts on this blog every day.

In addition to paying attention to what I eat, I try to take time to enjoy the beauty of nature every day. Last weekend I took this photo on my nature walk. Brown-Eyed Susans.
Nature Maven

Friday, July 11, 2008

An Appetite for Health

As I complete the end of my first 5 days following the vegan suggestions of Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD (see previous post for info on the book and links), I am aware that my hunger is stimulated by carbs and dairy. We had lunch at a Panera Bread Cafe and I had a half a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich of "piquant peppers, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cilantro hummus on our Tomato Basil bread" (310 calories for half!) and half a fruit and greens salad they describe as, "crisp romaine lettuce, fresh strawberries, blueberries, pineapple tidbits, Mandarin oranges, pecans and our fat-free reduced sugar Poppyseed dressing," pictured on the left (100 calories). Tasted good, and came with an apple. But 5 hours later I was ravenous, more than usual. The bread and the feta (dairy) are the only things I haven't been eating this week. For dinner I suggested we go to our walkable southwestern restaurant where I envisioned a huge taco salad with lots of lettuce, tomato, guacamole, beans and no meat, plus the cheese it would contain and the fried tortilla shell I would partially consume, both items "off plan" but still vegetarian, if not vegan or low calorie.
But, the Universe had other plans for me. The estimated wait was 20 minutes, so we walked back home. I wracked my brain for what I could eat. My spouse had been to Fairway and had a beef and asparagus dish he planned on and a quart of gazpacho, but I hadn't brought any vegetables. I knew I could go to our local Italian place and bring back a huge green salad, but that meant more walking quite a distance or using the car, definitely not a green option. So it was going to depend on what we had on hand. At home I found a can of garbanzos, half used bag of celery, iffy bag of salad from last week, last of the shredded cabbage (red and green) and carrots, half a big tomato, and a whole onion. And there was a perfectly ripe avocado on the pass-through that I'd bought last weekend. Everything I'd need for a great meal:

* Small bowl of cold gazpacho, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, vinegar, canola oil, and herbs and spices

* Huge green salad with lettuce, carrots, cabbage, onion, avocado, tomato; plus 1/2 cup garbanzo beans, 1 TBS of ground flaxseed, and a dressing of 1 TBS tahini with juice of half a lemon and enough Bragg's to make it taste salty enough. I Love Bragg's. I recently found it at Vitamin Shoppe after my local Whole Foods had been out of stock for a month. I had bought my first bottle at a health food store in PA. It tastes like a low-salt soy sauce and is great for adding 16 amino acids and amazing flavor to your food.

* Main course: stir-fried shredded cabbage, onion, and thinly sliced celery made with a small amount of olive oil, with 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, partially mashed for texture, and then steamed for a few minutes in water flavored with a little Bragg's, lemon juice and a few drops of tahini from the measuring spoon I used for the salad. It was so delicious my spouse had several small helpings.

*Dessert: my usual big bowl of fresh fruit salad, this time blueberries, melon, pineapple, and strawberries. I did have a small piece (1-1/2 inch square) of Whole Foods "homemade" granola bar, a healthy treat of seeds, nuts, oats, dried fruits, honey, rice syrup, and canola oil. I savored it slowly and enjoyed it a lot.

The bonus was the fact that today I was down 4 pounds from last Monday! I never felt deprived. Tomorrow I will shop and stock up on fresh, frozen, and canned things so I don't have a crisis next time. I also plan to bake a vegan cake. Keep you posted next time!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Eating to Live

I'm reading an interesting new book and starting to incorporate its guidelines into my vegetarian eating, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, an MD practicing in New Jersey. The plan he advocates is vegan (or if absolutely necessary, with occasional fish and egg whites) and quite matter-of-fact:
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Breakfast: fresh fruit
Lunch: salad, beans on top, and more fruit
Dinner: salad and two cooked vegetables (1 pound), fruit dessert

His "10 Easy Tips for Living with the 6-week Plan" (my summary)
1. Eat salad first at each meal, a pound or more of salad greens
2. Eat as much fruit as you want, but at least 4 fresh fruits a day
3. Vary your green vegetables; have a pound of cooked green vegetables, too
4. Limit starchy vegetables; limit grains and breads even more strictly
5. Eat beans or legumes daily
6. Eliminate animal and dairy products
7. Have a tablespoon of ground flaxseed daily
8. Consume no more than 1 ounce nuts or seeds daily
9. Eat lots of mushrooms all the time
10. Keep it simple (he then refers to quote above)

I have been eating this way since lunch yesterday with no problem. Example: I made a huge green salad last night, added garbanzo beans and some couscous, threw in some blueberries, and added a little balsamic vinegar. Yummy! Calories for dinner were 514, with the whole day only 1,104 (breakfast was cereal with almond milk). For dessert I made fruit salad with cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and shared it with my spouse.

This 6-week plan is geared toward weight loss, but has been very effective for inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disorders, cancer, irritable bowel disease, and many more common illnesses, and the book contains testimonials from people he has treated. I was most impressed by the foreward from the well-known cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz from New York's Presbyterian Medical Center who recommends him highly.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Activism and Being a Vegetarian

On June 11, 2008 I stopped eating meat.

Now I also abstain from fish and most eggs and dairy. After I posted a diary on Daily Kos on June 22 to update my progress on this vegetarian journey, I was referred by another vegetarian to the PETA website where I signed up for a free vegetarian starter kit. It hasn't yet arrived, but their emails have. Today they asked me to email the Smithfield ham people because of some absolutely terrible things some of their contract farmers do to the pigs and piglets they raise. I followed their link. There was an undercover video, and I have learned enough from seeing others to become a vegetarian, but I also know I don't need to be traumatized to change for the better, so I relied on their graphic decription of this cruelty to move me toward taking the action they asked:
...to urge Smithfield Foods to demand that Murphy Family Ventures fire all the workers responsible for this cruelty and work with PETA to enact meaningful animal welfare reforms. Also, tell Smithfield that while it's good that it has promised to phase out the use of gestation crates at its own farms, the company needs to make the transition faster and require independent suppliers to phase out these cruel devices too.

I sent the requested email, and I'm very glad I did. I told my spouse a little about this action I'd just taken, and he stands where I stood for years: I know terrible things happen, but what can I do about it? I replied that I learned today from PETA that my becoming a vegetarian, just me, saves the lives of approximately 100 animals (meat and poultry) a year. That is significant!

And so here I am in my 4th week of vegetarian, nearly vegan, eating, and I am thriving. Okay, I am still trying to stick to a decent amount of calories and not over-carb, but I am doing it. This morning we had breakfast on the road, and I had 2 pecan pancakes and a half a bowl of oatmeal with banana slices and a little milk. I was aiming to enjoy the pancakes without ending up in a low-sugar crash hours later. I think the oatmeal and milk helped mitigate the crash, but eventually it came. About 3 hours later I started getting the low-sugar shakes. I ate a slice of veggie cheese and a granola bar with a little natural peanut butter on it. I'm good to go now, even 4 hours later. Next time I have pancakes out, perhaps I'll have scrambled eggs or Eggbeaters as a side. I want to avoid dairy, but I also have to make sure I get what my body needs.

Tonight we have reservations for dinner and I already spoke to the chef about my dietary needs. He offered to make a pasta special that calls for chicken and just leave out the meat. "I'll adjust the price, too," he assured me. There was a Linguine with Marinara on the menu too.

It's a process. Definitely a process, where the byword is "Progress not Perfection". I think I am actually glad there are animal activists. I am not trying to be one, but I guess perhaps I am.

UPDATE: Awful dinner, overcooked pasta and no more in the kitchen to be had, so I had steamed veggies. Okay. I crossposted this on DKos and got lots of great comments, some challenging and some not so great, but all food for thought. Check it out! One commenter had extensive restaurant experience and said that special orders and substitutions, while waitstaff hasten to agree for their tips, put burdens on the kitchen and they often don't share in the tips.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breaking it Down


This gorgeous photo is an affirmation: I can select healthy foods. Now that I've been vegetarian for 18 days, having fish only once early in the first week and no meat or fish since, I'm beginning to fine tune my food choices. I track my intake at the Daily Plate and this is what yesterday's consumption looked like:

My Calorie Breakdown (2,762)
50.18% carbohydrate
39.87% fat
9.95% protein

This is sobering information. I exceeded my suggested calories by 1,079. It was really easy to see where the problems arose. I had too much food at each meal. I believe I would have been satisfied with less. I didn't need oatmeal AND a slice of pecan french toast at breakfast. I didn't need a second and half of a third breadstick at lunch. With butter (I know, I know! Not vegan). Or the shared trail mix snack two hours before dinner (I was thirsty and bought a diet soda and on impulse bought the package of trail mix). Or the bread and butter at dinner, or the cheesecake shared with my husband. But the worst offender by far was my choice of entree at the restaurant at dinner: Linguine Alfredo (they were out of fettucine). That was the only entree that was vegetarian, and I asked for the linguine because the menu called for cheese tortellini. So I have learned I can't "just eat anywhere and adapt" as I've believed. I worried that I wasn't getting enough protein, so I ate more and yet it was still below 10% with all the food I ate.


Today for breakfast: Smart Bran cereal with almond milk and a half cup of raspberries. The China Study summarized on KidSmart speaks to the cancer risks of consuming 20% protein compared to under 10% with exposure to carcinogenic substances, so I feel okay about it today. By the way, plant proteins do not carry the same risks as animal proteins, so I still plan to go vegan, in time. Live and Learn.

Mid-morning snack: 1" square Whole Foods granola bar

Lunch: leftover vegan lasagne (still good and very tasty) and green salad with a TBS of Italian salad dressing.

Afternoon Snack: 1 slice of freshly baked whole wheat bread (my first in years) with a little Earth Balance spread and fig spread. Delicious! I can do this!

Dinner: organic field greens with quinoa, pepitas, onion and fresh raspberries and 1 TBS Newman's Own Oil and Vinegar; Fakin' Bacon and garbanzos with couscous and broccoli from our neighbor's garden.

Dessert: Soy vanilla frozen dessert with organic blueberries. Total percentages for Today (1,792 calories): 53.73% carbohydrate, 31.22% fat, 15.05% protein. And only 9 calories over the goal.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Food For Thought

Photobucket Good morning! Here I am at Day 12 of my vegetarian lifestyle, and I continue to gather information, Food for Thought, if you will. Today I found on the blog Green Options the following guidelines for buying produce:

Certain produce, termed the "Dirty Dozen" by the Environmental Working Group, is so highly sprayed with toxic chemicals that, many experts recommend eating them only when they’re organic. These include:
Grapes, imported (Chile)
Bell peppers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. The produce you can get away with purchasing as non-organic includes:

Bananas (though I do recommend purchasing "Fair Trade" bananas)

Photobucket Right now we're struggling in the US with the tomato salmonella scare, and I saw a news story on MSNBC suggesting buying local and organic, especially until the source of this scourge is known and understood.

UPDATE: Today the weather was ominous with rain and thunderstorms so we visited a nearby antique mall to scout out a cake stand. We only found a few with domes, and only one in clear glass that wasn't a stellar enough example of the type worth shelling out good money for. This brings me to the ecological value of recycling things found in antique malls, thrift stores and fleamarkets or at garage, yard or stoop sales rather than heading to the stores for a brand new item that usually has a lot less character and quality. Not to mention that most new housewares are made somewhere far away with questionable safety and labor practices.

Martha Stewart Living has a great story on collecting glass cake stands ("Over the Top: Food domes uncover the history of dining through the centuries") in the July 2008 issue.

After baking an organic chocolate cake for our family birthday gathering this weekend, I decided we need just such an item. Having a mission when antiquing makes it all much more fun. Maybe next week...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

I have a bowl of fresh juicy cherries in my office and people have been savoring them along with me. I picked up a bag of California-grown organic cherries this morning to take for the weekend. Looked for grated soy cheese but the best I was able to find was a small block of mozzerella flavored rice cheese I can grate myself. My vegan lasagna, getting a second life this weekend from my freezer, needed more cheesiness. Family are visiting this weekend, so I picked up some maple syrup, creamed honey spread, and fig spread to serve with the whole grain waffles and homemade bread (that I hope I find time to make).

Weight is good. This week I went up 2 pounds on Tuesday but am back to baseline this morning.

One week ago today I posted this diary, "Going Vegetarian", on Daily Kos:

I have made the dramatic decision to go vegetarian, taking in as little dairy as I can and allowing a little fish during the tranisition. It all started with hearing that Oprah is doing a 21-day Cleansing Diet that is vegan, plus caffeine-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free. She is using a plan promoted by author Kathy Freston. I read this on Compassionate Cooks:
Recently, Oprah announced - on her show, on her site, and on her blog - that she is adopting a 21-Day Cleanse outlined in Kathy Freston's new book, Quantum Wellness." Some of you may be familiar with Kathy, whose popular article "Veganism is the New Prius" made its way around the web about a year ago. She is a beautiful and eloquent ambassador for veganism, and I'm thrilled she will be guiding Oprah on her journey. This cleanse includes avoiding gluten, sugar, alcohol, and animal products, but it's not just for health reasons that Oprah is giving this a try.

I went from this site to Oprah's own blog, and then I sought more information. This led me to a vegan site promising a "Free Guide" that when I clicked on it immediately began showing a video on cruelty in the raising and slaughtering of poultry and animals that was so upsetting that I was only able to view it with the sound off. After making myself see it through, I knew I could no longer be a party to this animal cruelty by buying and eating meat. I do not recommend seeing this video because it is raw and terrible, but I will post a link in comments if anyone asks for it. Let me add here that I am aware there are humane persons raising animals for meat and slaughtering them with minimal cruelty, but these are not the norm. Most commercial operations raising poultry and beef employ unspeakable tactics to maximize their profits at the expense of any quality of life for the living creatures in whose flesh they trade.

How we eat is very much a personal choice. I do not seek to convert others to my decision. I am writing this diary to enlist support and to find out about others choosing the vegan or vegetarian way of life and how you did it. So far I have received so much wonderful help. I went to my local Whole Foods and as I was checking out with a basket of new goodies, I asked the tattooed checker if by chance he was a vegan. He hesitated and then he said, "Yes, I am!" and thus began a brief but earnest conversation. He urged me to get quinoa because of its high level of protein, and Bragg's Liquid Aminos to add essential nutrients and flavor to vegetarian recipes. The next day I went back in search of the Bragg's but the store was out of stock, and the guy helping me look for it was so sweet, taking me all over the store to show me packaged and frozen items I'd enjoy as I make the transition. Both guys congratulated me on my decision and welcomed me. I feel wonderful. In my work, I shared this with a couple of clients, one a vegan and the other following a limited plan for health reasons, and both were very encouraging. One loaned me a vegetarian cookbook and box of Vegetarian Times recipe cards.

So this is Day 3, and I have lost 2 pounds without that even being a goal for this change, but the loss is very welcome nonetheless, my having been an Atkins adherent for several years and slowly regaining some of the weight after adding carbs back in. If I can figure out how, I will start a blog.

Well, as you can see, I did start that blog!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Learning as I Go

A beautiful day today, and I have been learning how to build this blog and improve it bit by bit. Today a trip to Whole Foods and I came away with agave nectar, fresh cherries, granola bar, Nature's Path cereals (on sale today at 2 for $6), quinoa, and egg replacer (for baking). I have one a short walk from my office, so I feel very fortunate. I am loving the China Study (see link in the sidebar) and learning why going vegan is the only healthy choice. This is Day 9!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Whole Week!

Yesterday I reported for jury duty and was unable to post here, but all is well nevertheless. Today it has been a full week since I have been eating meat-free. I feel good, but I have been eating too many healthy baked goods, and healthy or not, they aren't good for me to overdo, especially the ones that are sweet. I wasn't selected for a jury, so I'm back to my work and life routine. I used the Vindigo program on my PDA to locate the closest vegetarian restaurant and walked there on the lunch break yesterday. I found it, a cute cafe with plants and paintings all around and funky Nina Simone on the sound system. I got a Hickory Tofurkey sandwich with soy cheese and sprouts on 7-grain bread. It was great. Now if only I hadn't stopped at the bakery tent in the Farmer's Market on Courthouse Square on the way back to buy a molasses cookie! Delicious but too sweet and that tends to awaken the craving for lots more sugar.

Someone on Daily Kos recommended I read The China Study and I just got my copy this morning. So far I can see a lot of sound support for my decision to become a vegetarian and eventually a vegan. I have been anxious that I wouldn't get enough protein, but the book helps dispel that fear. I do know that living on Atkins wasn't healthy for me over the long haul, so I am really glad to be finding my way on the meat-free side of the equation.

UPDATE: I found this chart on the Mayo Clinic website here:


Monday, June 16, 2008

Weighing In

Today I weighed in and am up .2 pounds since last Monday's weigh-in, so the switch isn't making a significant difference overall. I'm not trying to lose, but ever a yo-yo dieter and hoping to shed about 10 pounds over the long haul, I don't want to see my weight balloon after switching from a quasi-Atkins food plan to vegetarian eating which by nature is fairly high carb. This past week involved Whole Foods granola bars (amazingly tasty), Whole Foods pecan oatmeal cookies, and a lot of creative eating with tofu and beans. I took good advice and got Bragg's Liquid Aminos, quinoa, and agave nectar. I found that I could stir a scoop of vanilla Body Fortress whey powder into my coffee and add 26 grams of protein. When the enormous canister is done, I'll find a vegan formula, but this will suffice for now. In addition to making a change for ethical reasons, I am going vegetarian for the planet, and wasting things I already have isn't ethical, to my thinking.

Thought for the Day: scientists estimate that 20% of greenhouse gases implicated in global warming comes from raising livestock and their feed and transporting the same. Learn more from the UN here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Starting the Journey

I began my change in eating on June 11, 2008 after hearing that Oprah was experimenting with a vegan lifestyle. I went to her website, then her blog on this subject, and off in search of more information. Then I stumbled upon a vegan website that showed a graphic and very disturbing video documenting cruelty in the raising and slaughtering of animals for food. I knew there were ugly truths inherent in eating meat, but this time I had reached a tipping point, and thus begins my life as a vegetarian heading toward veganism.

I posted this on June 13 here on the Daily Kos website. I received scores of supportive comments, and I am very grateful for the suggestions I've received thus far. Today is my birthday, a day I spent with family hiking in a boreal bog and learning about plants that have adapted to living far south of their intended range. I feel even closer to the nature that I love having made the decision to abstain from eating meat and avoiding dairy and fish as best I can. I will chronicle the experience here.