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.

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.