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, October 17, 2009

Half-way Through

Here we are about half-way through Vegetarian Awareness Month and my intention to blog daily for the month has been thwarted by work, weather surprises, and life. That's okay, because life happens and we adjust accordingly, right? Aside from staying vegan this week (natch) by choosing good healthy meal options, I can't say I have contributed much to the promotion of the vegan way of life.

Yesterday after working a short day (a blessing of self-employment, at least until the checks come rolling in) I went to the gym and put in 25 minutes on the recumbent bike on Level 5 (except for the last few cool-down minutes).
My vegan-ness emerged again at the Fairway Market in Red Hook where I was intoxicated with the selections. There's a whole annex of whole food stuff, like a wall of Bob's Red Mill products where I found the Golden Flaxseed Meal I heap on my cereal every morning. I was able to get a box of Nugo Organic Dark Chocolate Pomegranate protein bars, a staple of my busy working life and good to have in one's purse or briefcase in case of sudden hunger and nothing to eat but junk! Then from a huge selection of international olive oils, I found the Ligurian olive oil recommended for a VegNews pesto recipe in the Sept/Oct issue.

After a hot lunch of vegan peas and rice, samosas, and sauteed broccoli rabe, we set out again through the rest of the store where I found Galaxy's Vegan Cheddar slices and Gardein Chick'n Santa Fe vegan chicken cutlets stuffed with black beans and corn and in a marinara sauce, nicely heated in the oven for lunch today. Wow! It's a good chicken substitute, might even fool some folks. A pass through the frozen section bagged me some Morningstar Farms Meal Starter Chick'n Strips, great to have on hand to add to my weekly Mexican (Vegan) Caesar Salad.

So that's this weeks wrap-up, and I am still living the vegan way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Courage to Change the Things I Can

These Chinese characters mean "the courage to change". This calligraphy painting is an artwork created by Beijing, China artist Xie Tian Hai and is available here.

Going vegan was a huge change for me, just as going vegetarian had been. Managing my nutritional intake as a vegan imposed a kind of discipline on my eating that meant setting limits and sticking with them, lovingly as I would keep a child from eating only candy to her peril or stop her from running into a busy street. I log everything I eat into a web program for guidance.

Now that I have established the habit of healthy eating, one meal at a time, one day at a time, I have changed and feel freed me and liberated my intent and energy to try new things. To change.

Yesterday I had my already short hair cut shorter, and with the cut, away went 90 percent of my artificial hair color, leaving me salt and pepper gray, lighter in front and darker in back. I had planned on waiting until I was 60 to make this change, but living a more natural life one day at a time has allowed me to do it now. So far so good! The overall impression isn't much different, and the short cut is au courant as far as I can tell. My family gave me the seal of approval, and that's a huge endorsement to me. Change can be awesome!

After the hair appointment, we went shopping for winter clothing and a few things for our kitchen. I shopped for new jeans and was so gratified to find I fit well in a smaller size. But my common sense tells me that slow change is best for weight loss in general, and not focusing obsessively on numbers is best for me.

At lunchtime we tried a new place in the neighborhood, Sonic drive in. I had gone online to check out the menu and knew there wouldn't be much I as a vegan could eat. So I ordered a large order of fries, a large diet limeade, and a banana. The fries were hot, tasty and unsalted, my favorite way to have them, and I used a little ketchup. The banana was still a bit green, so I brought it home and will have it with breakfast another day. The limeade was surprisingly delicious and had two wedges of lime in it. The cup was Styrofoam, one negative point. But I was interested to see that an order of fries and a diet drink held me until dinner many hours later, and the calories were high but manageable. I had homemade seitan for dinner with 31 grams of protein, so I ended up doing fine with the nutritional breakdown.

That homemade seitan has worked out very well. I made cutlets of seitan coated with panko breadcrumbs two weeks ago for vegan chicken fried steak (see Vegan with a Vengeance for the recipe) and froze most of them. I've taken half of one and cut it into strips to add to a dinner salad on a work night. Yesterday I took one and placed it on a bed of linguine, topped it with a slice of Tofutti mozzarella and a half cup of marinara sauce mixed with a small can of sliced mushrooms. This was an awesome meal! I added a salad and some crusty bread and Earth Balance, and had spent my target calories for the day, so I stood pat and decided not to have sorbet or even fruit as my customary evening snack. I learned that choice is not deprivation. That's a big change!
So, change comes slowly, sometimes quickly. It's a process, and our usual tendency is to resist change until the pain of staying the same overcomes our fear of changing. I went gray because my discomfort paying big money regularly to have toxic chemicals put on my hair, not to mention my distaste for the constantly emerging roots, overcame my fear of changing and risking looking older. I've been coloring my hair for decades. I feel liberated already! For today I embrace change.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More HFCS Madness

Welcome to Day 6 of Vegetarian Awareness Week!

Would you believe that today, just a day after posting on the wily machinations of the high fructose corn syrup producers and their promoters, a good friend sent me an email with this link: What Doctors Don't Want You to Know

Here's a taste for you:

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener that has revolutionized the processed food and drink industry - but a new study has found that it may be a
bigger source of mercury than fish. There's been a quiet revolution taking place in the food-manufacturing industry since the 1980s, and it's one that could be damaging our health and making us overweight. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that it may even be responsible for the learning and behavioural problems so often seen in our children nowadays. . . .

. . . Even so, there's no such thing as 'safe mercury' in any form, and high doses can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system. Furthermore, this unsuspected additional mercury load from snacks and soft drinks might also be a contributory factor to the alarming rise we've seen in recent years of cases of attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism and behavioural problems among our youngsters.

Yeow! Now that's food for thought, isn't it? If you read the rest of the article, you'll learn that corn syrup is naturally high in glucose and contains absolutely no fructose. That's right, no fructose occurs in corn syrup naturally. The fructose gets there via a chemical process that in many cases involves substances we should not ingest or inhale such as chlorine or mercury. Check it out!

Natural is better.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The High Fructose Corn Syrup Pushback

Your vegan blogger is dead serious today, on Day 5 of Vegetarian Awareness Month. I'm always dead serious, but usually have a twinkle in my eye, but aside from the silly corn graphic, not so much right now.
I've been reading pro-high-fructose corn syrup propaganda today on a site I use and generally respect and have no patience for it. Now, corn is vegan. That's awesome, and I love an ear of fresh picked corn steamed and slathered with Earth Balance and sprinkled with pepper as much as anyone. But when you fool around with the chemistry in a natural food to make a cheap sweetener that extends shelf-life and can be found in everything from corn flakes to tortilla chips, and practically everything else, I'm not thrilled. The Mayo Clinic gives a good explanation of the issue here.
See that commercial saying the government wants to tax your juice drinks and soda and to urge you to fight it?

How about the one showing a guy picking out the guy in an ear-of-corn suit when asked to pick which sweetener (HFCS, table sugar or honey) leads to the greatest weight gain in a line-up?

Just thought you ought to know that the Corn Refiners Association (with Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland-ADM its most well-known members) is behind this major pushback against HFCS criticism. The corn producers have really been hard at work to create the illusion of real science validating their product as healthful and "natural". The CRA weblink above features the annual report extolling their "multimedia campaign to correct the record on high fructose corn syrup and serves as a commemorative review of this extraordinary effort." They've got some of the best in the business in their defense of their lucrative product.

The line-up ad where the dufus consumer dude with apparently unjustified disdain for HFCS picks out the ear of corn and ignores the sugar cube and honey bear is brought to us by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a non-profit front run by Rick Berman a scandal-plagued lobbyist famous for supporting big tobacco, the booze industry, the safety of mercury in fish, and now high-fructose corn syrup. Here's a taste of his rhetoric from an article posted on the Convenience Store Decisions website:

"People have been spoon-fed misinformation about high fructose corn syrup," said Center for Consumer Freedom Executive Director Rick Berman. "We thought it was time someone explained, in no uncertain terms, that high fructose corn syrup has the exact same number of calories as table sugar and is handled the same way by the body. Any non-agenda driven nutrition expert will tell you the same."

The corn folks bring us SweetSurprise.com, where the "myths" of HFCS's obesity links are "exposed."
The CCF brings you such gems as these:

Judge for yourself. This health-conscious consumer is diligently working to make sure what goes in my body is good for me. Knowledge is power.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Flexibility and Commitment

Today is Day 4 of Vegetarian Awareness Month!
Today as I was reading about vegan nutritional requirements on Vegan Health, a site I recommend, I was directed via a link to Vegan Outreach here. Please read what it says about being vegan. It makes sense as I begin to be more aware of non-vegan sources of Vitamins A and D and calcium in many supplements.
Under the heading "Busting the Vegan Police" I read the following (emphasis mine):

It is imperative for us to realize that if our veganism is a statement for animal liberation, veganism cannot be an exclusive, ego-boosting club. Rather, we must become the mainstream. Fostering the impression that “it’s so hard to be vegan – animal products are in everything,” and emphasizing animal products where the connection to animal suffering is tenuous, works against this by allowing most to ignore us and causing others to give up the whole process out of frustration.

The way veganism is presented to a potential vegan is of major importance. The attractive idea behind being a “vegan” is reducing one’s contribution to animal exploitation. Buying meat, eggs, and/or dairy creates animal suffering – animals will be raised and slaughtered specifically for these products. But if the by-products are not sold, they will be thrown out or given away. As more people stop eating animals, the by-products will naturally fade, so there is no real reason to force other people to worry about them in order to call themselves “vegan" . . . We want a vegan world, not a vegan club.

We need to be clear what we hope to accomplish. I want better personal health, but being vegan isn't necessarily the best or only way to accomplish that. If I use that argument in explaining my rationale for eschewing all animal products and byproducts, others will find holes in the logic easily. I feel that I, as a vegan, am perceived as a fanatic by some who enthusiastically eat meat, cheese, eggs, and all the rest. Fair enough, given my parade of evolving food strictures over my adult life thus far, not that different from my evolving spiritual values that have gone from mainstream to nonexistent to oddball to their present state. I guess I have been a seeker for a long time.
So be it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Having Company

Day Three of Vegetarian Awareness Month!

My cousin is on her way for an overnight visit this weekend. I'm the only vegan in the family, so I've been thinking about how to handle the food. I've decided on a pasta dinner tonight, making two versions of easy sauce. I'll put turkey sausage in their sauce and veggie sausage in mine. We'll have a big salad and a crusty artisanal bread, and we ought to be fine. For dessert, I have ice cream for them and sorbet and vegan ice cream for me. I have my eye on a 3-crock crock-pot buffet server that would let me make each simultaneously and be nice and hot whenever we want it.

I have a tentative plan for the day, but we might easily do something completely different!

My plan: Lunch at Sweet Cream's Cafe in Stroudsburg where I can get a vegan PBJ that also had dark chocolate chips in it. Mmmm. The others can get yummy sandwiches with whatever they want, nicely served and freshly built to order.

If we follow my plan we'll dovetail lunch with a trip through the Old Engine Works antique mall. It's always fun to browse. The boys turn 5 in 2 weeks and are coming here for the weekend to celebrate their birthday and maybe we'll find interesting gifts. If not, there's still plenty of time for shopping at Target.

Olde Engine Works

And it's not all about food and shopping, right? The fall foliage here in the Pocono Mountains is awesome right now, thanks to the heavy rains this past summer. The colors are great, and pumpkins and mums are available at roadside stands and nurseries. The sky is a gorgeous blue and the leaves outside my window as I write are orange and golden brown, just spectacular!

Yes indeed . . .

Life is good!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 2 of Vegetarian Awareness Month

October 2 is Day Two of Vegetarian Awareness Month.
So, here's the low-down: since going vegetarian in June 2008 and vegan in March 2009 I've become much healthier and much more eco-conscious. That means...
  • Method and Mrs. Meyer's intead of toxic cleaning products
  • CFL lightbulbs (until the LEDs are readily available), instead of incandescents
  • 2 Toyota Prius cars in our garage
  • Leather-free Rocket Dogs and Madden Girls on my feet
  • Leather purses on the shelf awaiting donation
  • Suede fringe jacket from Denver donated to Salvation Army
  • Low-carb cookbooks given away and Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Soul Kitchen, etc. in their place
  • PETA t-shirts on my body

  • In my fridge: MimicCreme, Earth Balance, Tofutti cream cheese, Follow Your Heart Vegenaise and vegan sour cream, Galaxy vegan grated Parmesan cheese, flaxseed meal , Bolthouse Farms Soy Vanilla Chai, vegan protein powders and soy milk.

  • Delicious homemade vegan Fettucine Alfredo (right) and vegan Chicken Fried Steak (from my homemade seitan) chubby cutlets on my dinner table.

  • In my pantry: Nutritional yeast, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, Ener-G Egg Replacer, Uncle Sam cereal, Marmite, Road's End Mac 'N Chreese, Florida Crystals (instead of bone-char-whitened sugar), lots of different Bob's Red Mill bags, and much more great stuff.

See anything here you wonder about? Post a comment!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Celebrating Vegetarian Awareness Month

Today is World Vegetarian Day and I'll be posting here daily for October to participate in Vegetarian Awareness Month. What a gift to be vegan now, eating for my health, for animal welfare and for our environment. So many good things are coming from this lifestyle: I've lowered my total cholesterol by 22 points; I've learned to be satisfied with healthy vegan food choices; my cooking repertoire has grown to include wonderful new recipes such as Vegan Chicken Fried Steak made with homemade seitan, Vegan Alfredo Sauce (both soy and non-soy versions) and so many other tasty things; I feel better as a human being that I no longer contribute to the misery and death of animals in my pursuit of sustenance; and I have even lost weight since switching from a lacto-ovo vegetarian way of eating to my vegan lifestyle!

When I'm in New York, I have the abundant selections at Whole Foods and great produce and other treats from the Union Square Greenmarket just a short walk away from the office and a very good health food store and decent neighborhood grocery store near home. I can take a reasonable hike over to Stogo in the East Village for amazing vegan ice cream and sometimes combine this "road trip" with a walking meeting with a like-minded client. When I'm in the country I can try out recipes in my spacious kitchen (comparatively to New York) and enjoy my bright red KitchenAid stand mixer preparing vegan baked goods and protein-rich seitan. The local produce stand offers fresh-picked corn in the summer and pumpkins and squash in the fall and lots of other good things.

Eating out in restaurants has become possible as I've learned more about the ingredients in the foods I order. For example, I love Olive Garden because I can have whole wheat linguine with a tasty marinara there plus abundant salad and bread sticks. Eventually I found out that unless I order the breadsticks "plain" they come buttered. I get the bowl of salad minus dressing, cheese or croutons, ask for the cruets of oil and vinegar and do fine. Most other restaurants have trouble making me what I ask for. They put cheese on the veggie burger, or the veggie burger isn't really vegan as I later learn. I ask for a bruschetta minus cheese and it comes minus mozzarella but loaded with Parmesan. Or I ask for pasta with oil and garlic and fresh vegetables and they come buttered. New York has some wonderful vegan restaurants and most servers don't look at you as if you had two heads when you explain your needs, but in the country, not so much.