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, May 23, 2009

Vegan? Like rich, creamy ice cream? Stogo!



Lower Fat!



When I heard about Stogo, the new vegan ice cream store in the East Village started by actor Rob Sedgwick and friends, I wanted to go there. Thursday I made it there with another pilgrim to the vegan shrine of rich, yummy ice cream. It's a hike from my usual hangout just south of Union Square, and this is a very good thing! They have less fat and calories than regular gourmet ice cream, but the 160 calories for a scoop of the mango flavor quickly climbs if you have two scoops and opt for flavors with nuts, caramel or fudge mixed in. Vegan hot fudge and caramel are available for just $1.00 if you want. I'd love nothing more but I'm also trying to shed a few pounds, so no can do.

Great News: free tastes are offered so you can choose among the colorful batches of awesome flavors displayed behind the glass. My friend and I each had two scoops. I had
Pomegranate Chocolate Chip and Salted Caramel Pecan, both amazing and delicious, although the pieces of chocolate in the Pomegranate Chocolate Chip were a bit hard and sort of waxy until they had a chance to melt, not easy if you tend to scarf down your ice cream. My friend had Peanut Butter Fudge, and Chocolate made with coconut milk, both delicious, too. The other three flavors I mentioned here were made with soy milk. They also offer a few hemp milk flavors. In addition to their excellent ice creams, Stogo also carries some Babycakes vegan cupcakes and other pastries, and vegan truffles and other chocolates, available by the gourmet piece.

Click HERE to view NBC New York's "Serious Eats" video on Stogo. And for more info on flavors, nutrition and other good stuff plus "testimonials" go HERE. I highly recommend Stogo to all ice-cream-loving vegans. Our time has come. By the way, I've learned that Lulu's Sweet Apothocary in Alphabet City in Manhattan is another wonderful shrine of vegan treats for us vegan dessert pilgrims.

I'm now going to prepare vegan potato salad using Follow Your Heart's Vegenaise, which I personally think tastes more like old-fashioned homemade mayo than Hellman's or Kraft ever did. Then I'll whip up some vegan carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. We're heading to the country home of dear friends for a Memorial Day barbecue and I'm bringing these goodies plus some Tofurkey Italian Sausages and Yves The Good Dog vegan franks. I'm gonna really enjoy this.

To prepare myself for the holiday fun, I had a healthy shake this morning made with light vanilla soy milk, Crystal Light raspberry ice tea, fresh strawberries, and Living Harvest Hemp Chocolate-Chili protein. Yummy, freed up about 250 calories over my usual bowl of cereal, fruit, nuts, flaxseed meal and raisins.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Need Help with Nutrition?

I'm all psyched right now after spending about 10 days learning how to use a great free online resource for men and women trying to improve their health through better eating and fitness. It's called SparkPeople and there are "Spark Teams" for Vegans and for Vegetarians.

Here's what I really like so far: unlike The Daily Plate, another good site for tracking nutrition, I find it super easy to navigate and to migrate info. For example, yesterday I tried a "Spark Recipe" called Smoky Refried Beans Soup and was able to migrate my dinner portion right into my daily nutrition tracker with all the nutrients listed. How easy is that? Even better, the recipe was awesome and I really enjoyed it as did my omnivore husband. What is especially attractive to me is the community of people who have welcomed me in as a newcomer. I feel I have another great "place" to hang out. SparkPeople has an incentive system of SparkPoints where you accrue points and earn trophies as you participate, whether you log your food, post on forums, or exercise. In the brief time I've been active on SparkPeople I've lost already 2.2 pounds in the week I've been logging in everything I consume. Not a great deal, but progress for me and right in the suggested range for slow but steady and healthy weightloss. In fact The Partnership for Healthy Weight Management, a U.S. Government site, says:

Most overweight people should lose weight gradually. For safe and healthy weight loss, try not to exceed a rate of two pounds per week. Sometimes, people with serious health problems associated with obesity may have legitimate reasons for losing weight rapidly. If so, a physician's supervision is required.
Update on the Protein Powder: earlier this week I returned the Spiru-Tein to Vitamin Shoppe and exchanged it for Nutribiotic Vegan Rice Protein which is quite good but does need to be mixed with juice to taste okay. I have it at home to add when my daily protein intake has been below healthy range. Yes, SparkPeople's nutrition tracker gives you cool pie charts and feedback about that day's intake which is AWESOME! The better find which I'll use for most weekday lunches is Vega Smoothie Infusion which is delicious mixed with juice (I've had Goji-Acai and Acai so far and loved both) or coconut water beverages (they're really good, too).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Dinner

Happy Mother's Day. It was a good one for me. My husband gave me a great card from him and Daisy and then suggested we take an exercise walk to the lake near the house. We did that and saw a mother goose and her four goslings swimming behind her. We also decided on that walk to get a paddle boat for ourselves. Apparently a lot of people in our community have them but we haven't seen them in use much. The one we saw yesterday in a store had a canopy and we thought it would be just the thing. Better for us than a canoe or kayak where we might end up in a disaster, getting in, getting out, getting around.
We decided to go to Olive Garden but when we got there the wait we were told was 2 hours and 40 minutes. That's ridiculous. So we went to LongHorn Steakhouse, and I was able to have a nice vegan dinner with a large salad with pecans and mandarin orange slices over mixed greens, minus the chicken it came with which my husband will enjoy tomorrow, rice pilaf, and lovely unadorned asparagus. Okay, the pilaf may have had some butter in it, and the cornbread croutons on the salad while good probably weren't vegan, so I tasted them and gave them away to my husband. It was nice to be able to eat there and not just have a bunch of sides and call it dinner.
When we got home my son called for Mother's Day, and that capped off the day. I feel very lucky tonight.

I joined Spark People this weekend and have been learning my way around the site and learning how I can use it to help me with my vegan weight loss regimen. I'll write more here as I find out how it works for me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bee Pollen: Navigating the Shoals of Treachery as a Vegan

I've been trying vegan meal replacement powders to keep lunch quick, easy, nutritious and low-calorie. I started with four different one-serving packs of Vega. It seems to be a great product but is expensive, hence the trial packets. Sadly, I found that the stevia gave it an unpleasant aftertaste, and the green color was a little off-putting, so I kept searching. On a trip to my local GNC, the clerk who helped me knew of no vegan products in their store. A passing customer suggested Gary Null's powder, so I thanked him and went to the Vitamin Shoppe. The very helpful guy took me to a section that was "all vegan" according to him, and the Gary Null powder was about $25, so I asked if they carried single-serving packets. No, they didn't but they did have Spiru-tein in a 7-packet assortment with a mixing shaker. I looked over the package quickly and saw that there was no dairy, so I took it.

Later I sat back and took a closer look and read this on the label:

SPIRU-TEIN®, an incredibly delicious, all-natural energy formula, is power-packed with 14 grams on high quality protein from soy, fermented soy, rice, pea and spirulina- nature's premier sources of vegetarian protein.

In addition to 100% of the daily value for all vitamins, and a broad profile of essential minerals, each nutritious and satisfying sip supplies bee pollen, bromelain papaya, lecithin, bio-flavonoids, oat bran, cellulose, apple pectin and chlorophyll.

Other Ingredients: Nature's plus SPIRU-TEIN POWDER features a unique blend of ingredients, including 100% daily value of all vitamins, Broad profile of essential minerals, Energy nutrients: high quality complete protein and bee pollen, Diet aids: lecithin, spirulina, choline and inositol, Enzymes: bromelain and papaya, Cleansing: chlorophyll, FIBER: Bran, cellulose and apple pectin.
Directions: Add contents of packet to 8 fl. oz. of skim milk, whole milk, or juice, and mix (or shake) until smooth. For best results, milk or juice should be very cold.
Warnings: Not to be used as the sole source of dietary calories.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Oh no! Could vegans eat bee pollen? I started a search. Alas, no.

I learned that bee pollen is collected from the legs of bees as they enter the hive and come in contact with a scraper called a pollen trap, and sometimes a bee loses a leg in the process. The University of Florida IFAS Extension posts some interesting information online. In addition to containing flower pollens the bees have collected, bee pollen contains some other substances such as:

The kinds of debris and foreign matter that can be found in pollen is remarkable. A partial listing includes: (1) lost bee parts; (2) bits of plants like leaves and straw; (3) pollinia or stamens from certain plants that stick to bees and pollen; (4) hair-like threads; (5) various insects, some invisible to the human eye and (6) mummies and scales from bee diseases.

The Vegan Society has a detailed treatise on why vegans must avoid all bee products.

So I am clear now that I will be returning the Spiru-Tein to the store and exchanging it for something truly vegan. What I choose remains to be seen. By the way, as I did my search of information, I came across something on a Gary Null site touting the praises of bee pollen as a "perfect food". Apparently a number of years ago Null did an infomercial for bee pollen and was excoriated for lending credibility to claims the FDA later debunked. You can learn more about that here. So, I plan to get my money back, go to Whole Foods, and read everything over carefully before choosing my next meal replacement. The moral of the story may be that eating a healthy meal is better than trying to replace it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Vegan-Friendly Restaurant

We were out shopping in Lowe's today looking for hanging plants, CFL replacements for the track lighting and more, and I suddenly felt out of energy. The plan to go grocery shopping and then have lunch at home was scrapped and we headed to the closest quicky lunch spot, a Moe's Southwestern Grill that just opened in an adjacent strip mall. I was already feeling sorry for myself that I'd have to get something with no cheese, no sour cream, and probably no flavor. Well, was I wrong! They offer grilled marinated tofu as one of their "meat" selections and have a Southwestern Vinaigrette dressing that is really good, and dairy free. I had a "Close Talker" salad in a fried flour tortilla bowl, yummy but more calories than I should have had. Mr. Maven had a burrito with about half the calories of my lunch, but his came with chips and guacamole, and adding those in made us about even. Nevertheless, knowing I can have any of their entrees with tasty tofu and no cheese or sour cream and really enjoy it made my day.

I've been totally vegan about 6 weeks now, and eating out here in PA has been pretty challenging. Where I can go and eat vegan without deprivation: Olive Garden, Red Robin, Subway or our local Italian takeout place (getting a veggie hero and bringing it home to add my own vegan cheese and cold cuts), Chili's (the black bean burger's okay but not great, and the portobello fajitas are pretty good); Sweet Cream ice cream shoppe where they serve a delicious peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwich.

We go to a nice restaurant not far from the house called Robert Christian's. They have a varied menu and the chef has been willing to make me a lovely Pasta Primavera. Last time, however, despite my stressing no butter or cheese, it tasted very buttery and seemed to be sprinkled with Parmesan. Mr.Maven, an omnivore eschewing red meat now, has to put up with my ever shrinking list of options at home and out, but he's patient.

Tonight I am having Road's End Mac & Chreese for the first time. I added half a tablespoon of Earth Balance margarine and a drained can of mushrooms. I'm fixing Mr. Maven turkey meatballs and marinara over Dreamfield's linguine, and we'll share a nice salad and some mixed veggies.