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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Engine 2 Diet's Amazing Vegan Omelet

Today I made a delicious vegan omelet from the recipe found on page 156 of Rip Esselstyn's "The Engine 2 Diet." Rip is a Texas firefighter and son of famed cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn, MD (a colleague of T. Colin Campbell, MD author of "The China Study.") Rip challenged his fellow firefighters to undertake a vegan diet to reduce their high cholesterol levels and to lose weight. They did, and this book was born. He's been interviewed on the Today Show. After I bought the book, I was able to transition from vegetarian to vegan.

I made the vegan omelet (the recipe makes 2 omelets) and entered it into a nutritional program I learned it was only 157 calories! It was really good. You can get all the details you need to make it by checking out the E2 book. The link above takes you to Rip's site with recipes and other good things.

First I sautéed the fresh veggies. Here's a photo of half the filling:

Below is the gorgeous finished product.

My other half came over to see what I was eating and thought my breakfast looked so good he took a taste. He's a flexatarian who avoids tofu and any faux vegan foods I eat. He ate the forkful and pronounced it "okay," saying the "egg" "didn't have any taste," to him. Believe me, that's a supreme compliment! He added that he hasn't eaten an egg in a really long time and aren't they loaded with cholesterol? The answer is yes! One egg is "67 percent fat and has over 212 milligrams of cholesterol" according to Rip's book (page 156.) That said, I sprayed some Bragg's on it myself because it was a bit bland. Next time I'll add ground black pepper and a dash of hot sauce to the base, and some Bragg's to the filling, too. Maybe some garlic. Rip suggests being creative and putting in avocado, tomatoes, pineapple or olives. I swapped out the spinach, red pepper and mushrooms for home grown Swiss chard, zucchini and tomato.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Still Think High-Fructose Corn Syrup is "Safe"?

I Like my corn fresh, hot and slathered with buttery Earth Balance and doused with a little salt and pepper. I like it yellow, white, bicolor and bumpy. I like it in a husk, ready for shucking out on the deck. I liked it popped, and I like it ground into cornmeal for awesome corn sticks and corn bread. I don't like it sweetening my breakfast cereal, my catsup, my soda, my candy, my cookies, my ice tea or my bread. I don't like it in my salad dressing. And now that I understand that high-fructose corn syrup is a chemically altered corn derivative that delivers intense, shelf-stable sweetness to nearly every commercial food product available in American grocery stores, I am outraged.
Just this past week a story emerged from the Endocrine Society's San Diego conference:

On Friday Reuters posted a story titled "Too much fructose could raise your blood pressure." They say:

The more fructose (subjects') diet included, the more likely they were to have high blood pressure. Of course, that could have been influenced by a variety of factors, such as obesity and disease, or getting too much of other sugars, salt or alcohol.

But even when adjusting for all these factors, the odds of having high blood pressure increased in those whose fructose intake was above average. For the most severe form -- stage 2 hypertension -- the odds were 77 percent higher.

"Given the new findings, people might want to think twice about what they throw into their shopping carts," said Dr. Michel Chonchol of the University of Colorado Denver, who worked on the study.

"In the grocery store, you see food without high-fructose corn syrup," he said, adding that it would make sense to reduce fructose intake by choosing those products and avoiding the ones containing added sugars.

"There is no question that fructose itself appears to have effects that other sugars don't have," said Chonchol. The exact mechanisms are unclear, although several have been proposed, he added."

I am so tired of the corn producers and their ad blitz hard-selling their chemically modified corn product and mocking those of us concerned about the effects of HFCS on our health (not posting a link here but sweetsurprise dot com is one of their propaganda sites).

Read your labels and run the other way when you see "high fructose corn syrup" as an ingredient whenever you can. As a vegan I already have limited commercially mainstream products, and some of those have HFCS, such as Oreos, so sometimes I buckle under and have some. What have I learned? That stuff ALWAYS tastes like more. It wakens that sleeping monster that recovery folks call "a phenomenon of craving" that can trigger overeating, even dangerous high-volume bingeing. I shared this with a vegan friend who asked why I don't eat Newman's O's instead of Oreos. Oh yeah! No HFCS, no animal fats. All good!

The Scientific American provides another source of important corn facts and the pervasiveness of corn in the production cycle of most meats, "That burger you're eating is mostly corn." I love corn, but I'd prefer it hadn't passed through a cow, chicken or fish first.

To show that HFCS concern has gone mainstream, I watched NBC's Today Show for a little while this morning, and Lester Holt did a segment on BBQ options, including along with the regular meaty wieners and burgers, Tofu Pups and Amy's Texas Veggie Burgers. He then pointed out that Hunt's makes a catsup now that "doesn't contain fructose." Yay! You can watch it here. By the way, Heinz Organic is HFCS-free, too.

Happy Independence Day! Today I'm striving for many forms of independence, including freedom from HFCS. All the best to you with yours.

Glad I'm a vegan! Live and Learn. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gardening 101

Yesterday I planted my first garden in about 25 years. It's also my first as a vegan. Our little community has set up an amazing fenced raised bed community garden. I signed up for a 4X4 plot and yesterday planted 2 Burpee Big Boy tomato plants, 2 rainbow Swiss chard plants, two zucchini plants, 5 pole bean plants, and 2 cubanelle sweet pepper plants.

Today I plan to buy stakes, basil and marigold plants. We didn't have any space for a garden before, so this community garden is awesome! The management absolutely scored with me big-time with the raised beds, fencing, watering set up. organic topsoil, gravel paths and more. All who use it must agree to avoid non-organic herbicides and pesticides. I am totally thrilled.

Here are some of the foods in my fridge and pantry.

The vegan way is an awesome path to follow, and I'm still learning what works best for me. I utilize a lot of vegan substitutes for the foods I used to love: vegan sour cream, Vegennaise, Earth Balance Buttery Spread, Rice Vegan cheese, Gardein "chicken" and "beef" products, veggie burgers, soy or almond milk, soy or coconut yogurt (no milk-derived cultures), soy of vegan ice creams (my fave is Purely Decadent of any flavor), Daiya vegan cheese, soy-based hotdogs, deli meats and sausages, and probably many more things I'm forgetting right now.

All this being said, I think I need to cut down on these and get more into the natural fruits and veggies and get more protein from beans and whole grains. Here's where the garden comes in! Veggies galore, I hope. Until the harvesting fun begins, I'll be visiting my local garden stand and farmers market.

This blog will take a decidedly garden turn from here on. until garden season ends in the fall up here in the mountains.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Springing Along as a Vegan in year 2

Last month I passed the one-year mark as a vegan. How am I doing? Awesome! I've lost 15 pounds. My cholesterol has been lowered without medication. I'm eating well and feeling great. At the end of last summer I rejoined the gym and get there about three times a week. Here are some regular people, places and things in my life after a year:

VegNews Magazine: I love this so much I won't throw old issues away, and after reading it for a year, starting while I was still a vegetarian, I re-upped for two years, and got a cool eco-grocery tote bag as a gift. The recipes are great, but so are the product reviews and even advertisements for vegan products. Just this week I bought a bottle of vegan calcium after seeing it in VegNews. I give away old issues when I've totally wrung every treasure out.

Baking and Cooking: I have the most awesome cookbooks now (see previous posts) and regularly make cupcakes, cookies, and other treats. I've learned to make my own seitan and started with chicken fried steak and now make veggie meatballs with it.

SparkPeople: I joined SparkPeople, a social networking site focused on diet, nutrition, fitness, and related health topics, with teams for every imaginable interest from birding, to 12-Step Recovery, to Tarot cards. I use the awesome Nutrition Tracker to log in my foods every day. That's right, every day! This is how I am able to eat bread and "butter" (Earth Balance) and dessert practically every day and still lose some of the weight I gained after giving up the high-protein, low-carb and terribly unhealthy diet I'd been following until 2008. The site offers recipes that can be searched by dietary category such as vegan, and you can add your own recipes in, getting an exact calculation of calories and nutrients, and the portion of any SparkRecipe can be added into your day's entries in their Nutrition Tracker. I've "met" some really great people through the various teams I've joined and learned about foods, fitness routines, books, activities and more. I've given and received support for problems shared. Of all the social networks out there, this one seems to have just what I need.
It's better if you make it yourself: Foods I prepare are usually healthier than any convenience foods I buy, even thought they are usually organic and always vegan and I'm lucky enough to shop regularly at Whole Foods and several other excellent grocery stores who stock robust natural foods sections on shelves and freezer cases. I've made homemade Peanut Butter Cups, thanks to Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet. I've made gorgeous cookies and cupcakes no one would guess weren't loaded with butter and eggs, and yet they're not. The wreath at the start of this post is one I made myself after a trip to a crafts store. We went in to buy a ready-made wreath and came out with a bare grapevine wreath and the makings for a gorgeous spring statement for our front door. It felt so amazing to hang it and feats our eyes on it every time we come home.

Live and Let Live: I have adopted a dramatically different way of eating and living and this sets me apart from the vast majority of friends and family members in my life. Rather than try to convince or convert others to seeing things my way, I just stick to my values and try not to flaunt it. Okay, being vegan is a huge attitude commitment for health, compassion for the animal world and the environment, but that commitment is totally personal. So I may say "I'm vegan" when I order in a restaurant or check out at the grocery store, but it's an explanation and not a proselytizing statement. Leading by example is often our best strategy.