Archives for posts with tag: food

Hello.  I’m back.  I recently graduated university, became a Monday-Friday working girl, was a bridesmaid at my big sister’s wedding in London, spent all my new cash on food and concerts and clothing,  had all four wisdom teeth removed, and now here I am with time to burn while my cheeks de-poof.

It’s time to go vegan again.

Since my April challenge of eating vegan for thirty days straight I have been continuously on and off the wagon but always knowing that living a vegan (or in the least vegetarian/pescatarian) lifestyle is where I would like to be.  But breaking up with brie cheese and California rolls is like breaking up with a boy you really like but know is all wrong for you.  It sucks.  Every time you smell a BLT it brings you back to all the good times you had together and no matter how much you know it’s wrong, all wrong, it’s so hard to not give into old habits and do what you know is best for you.

FACT: I love cheese and whipped cream but it makes me feel bloaty and clogs up my insides.

FACT: Hot dogs are tasty especially at a baseball game or music festival but supporting factory farming practices isn’t worth the greasy yumminess on my tastebuds.

So here is the challenge.  Today, Thursday August 19th – Thursday September 16th I will cut out all meat, dairy, sugar, etc. and eat vegan.  Normally I would start a challenge on a Monday, ideally the first day of a month, playing the mind game that this scheduling will make me stick to the task at hand.  It never works.  So this time I am starting mid-month on a Thursday. Ha!  Fool-proof.

Do you have any suggestions/tips for transitioning into a veg*n lifestyle and getting over this initial hump?

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The vegan diet is a more effective way of curbing climate change than driving a hybrid car (according to a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Chicago). This is worth repeating: eating less meat is a more effective way to help the environment than driving a hybrid car or reducing the amount you drive your vehicle.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that started in 2003.  The non-profit initiative encourages people to cut meat out of their diets once a week to promote environmental sustainability and preventative health.  This campaign has become an international movement, with cities in U.S.A., Belgium, France, The United Kingdom, Brazil, Holland, Canada, Finland, Taiwan and Australia promoting Meatless Mondays.  Ghent, Belgium was the first city to officially promote Meatless (Thursdays, or VeggieDag, in their case) with government-funded support.  In April of this year San Francisco council adopted a meat-free resolutionMeatless Mondays is now endorsed by celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Chris Martin, Al Gore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Pollan and Mario Batali.

There are three main reasons outlined in the media to reduce meat consumption:

1. Reduce your carbon footprint and help fight global warming

Cutting meat out of our diets is by far the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint.  Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions -more than those emitted by all forms of transportation combined (which account for 13 per cent) and is a leading cause of deforestation and water pollution.  In Canada, it takes seven times more land to feed a non-vegetarian than to feed a vegetarian. With one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and 90 per cent of the world’s soy harvest being raised for animal feed, the energy required to grow these crops is a major factor in toxic gas emissions.

2. Help your current and future personal health

Avoiding meat and high-fat animal products lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, decreases obesity and prevents heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.  Cutting out meat once a week will increase veggie and greens consumption and make you aware of alternatives to the standard North American diet.  It’s time we start taking responsibility for the impact the food we eat and the lifestyle we live has on our health and well being.  Read more about this.

3. Boycott animal cruelty

The factory farming system of modern agriculture strives to maximize output while minimizing costs.  From PETA: Animals on today’s factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats: neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, and drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transport through all weather extremes, and gruesome and violent slaughter. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.

For a clear portrayal of the brutality of standard factory farming, watch Meet Your Meat.

As outlined in the documentary Food Inc., increasingly strict laws are being passed in the States that make it illegal for consumers to view the conditions of factory farms owned by large corporations, like Monsanto.  The fact that government-backed laws can be implemented that block us from viewing the food we are putting into our bodies epitomizes the misconstrued realities of the modern food industry.

This movement is hot hot hot and we’re bring it to Victoria, baby!

For my PR and Marketing class my team is currently putting together a PR campaign to promote Meatless Mondays here in Victoria.  Although this started as a hypothetical campaign, we are now in touch with Trevor Murdock of Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association, who is planning to actually get the campaign going here in the city!  I had the opportunity to talk about Meatless Mondays on CFUV’s Break’in Ice: The Climate Change Reality Radio Show, with Richard Habgood and Brian Gordon.  There should be a podcast of the show out soon.  If any city in Canada is going to be a Meatless Monday city it should be Victoria.  We can be leaders in health promotion here on the West Coast and increase our notoriety as a forward-thinking and green city.

Cutting meat out of your diet one of the seven days a week isn’t the biggest deal

Check out MeatlessMonday.com for ways to get involved, meat-free recipes and other news about the international movement.  What it comes down to is that not eating pork, beef, or fish one out of seven days of the week is not the biggest deal in the world. If choosing a veggie burger instead of a beef burger once a week will have a significant impact on the health of your own body and everybody’s planet – can you really say no to that?

What’s important to know is that if you join in Meatless Mondays, you’re not saying that you’re going to become a vegetarian.  It’s not an all-or-nothing deal – the point of the campaign is to raise awareness around the global impacts of meat consumption and start a discussion and provide knowledge for people in their everyday lives.

Cut out meat once a week and help your planet, your body, and the animals.

This has nothing to do with yoga but this version of Juevos Rancheros is my favourite meal right now and I want to share it with the world!  Here is what you do.

1. Spread refried beans on a tortilla (I like Dempster’s Ancient Grain) and put it in the mic for about 20 seconds.

2. Put a whole, ripe avocado on top (just spoon pieces out and spread them over the tortilla).

3. Toss chopped green onion and a couple fried eggs on top.

4. Pour on some salsa and a little hot sauce if you’re feeling sassy (which I always am), eat with a knife and fork and enjoy!

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Today is Day 8 of yoga in a row and I feel most excellent.  Someone told me yesterday that I look exuberant and I’m going to attribute that to all the yoga!

''The Grasshopper" smoothie from Rebar (apple, mint, wheatgrass & pinneaple)

Well, today is the last day of my thirty days eating vegan.  This month has definitely changed my outlook on food and diet and has made me put more thought into what I’m going to put into my body.  I’m going to continue avoiding meat (chicken, beef & pork) in my diet but I’m going back on fish.  A lot of people transitioning into vegetarianism continue eating fish for the first while and I can see why – my body is still craving this.  Chicken, beef, pork, and dairy though I can do without.

Oh right and I’m back on eggs – love eggs.  I’m not going to be super strict about it – it’s just not my style – but I know that I feel better when my diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables and real, unprocessed foods.  I am trying to clarify for myself why specifically it is that I want to be a vegetarian, and I broke it into the three main categories I can see as to why people choose to ditch meat:

1.  Environmental Concerns.  Livestock accounts for 18 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gases – more than those emitted by all forms of transportation combined – and is a leading cause of deforestation and water pollution.

2. Health Benefits.  Factory farmed meat is full of traces of antibiotics, hormones and toxins produced by stress & pesticide residues that become concentrated from all the crops the animals have eaten.

3. Protection of Animal Rights and Ethics.  Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines.  All farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing.

For me it is a combo of all three as to why I’m going to continue striving towards a more veggified (should be a word) diet.  Not only has it made me feel healthier (my body shape has changed and is leaner after thirty days without meat or dairy) but I can also feel more guilt-free about choosing foods that aren’t as harmful to the environment or to animals along the way before they end up on my dinner table and in my tummy.

Paul McCartney endorsed the Meatless Monday movement (as did Alec Baldwin, Twiggy, Al Gore & Simon Cowell)

In my Public Relations and Advertising class, my team is going to put together a PR campaign to try and persuade the people of Victoria to adopt Meatless Mondays (one day a week cut out meat).  This movement is gaining momentum all over the world (San Francisco implemented a meatless Monday resolution at the beginning of April) and we want to try and bring it to the island!  I think Meatless Mondays could actually gain a pretty big following here, with all the students and tree-hugging hippies and activists and outdoorsy people and whatnot.

The MacLean’s article Save the planet: Stop eating Meat suggests that the vegan diet is a more effective way of curbing climate change than driving a hybrid car.  A little food for thought.

P.S. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this cookbook yet!  ExtraVeganZa is an all-vegan cookbook with everything from Spelt Cinnamon Buns to Shepherd’s Pie.  It’s fantastic!  I made the soy French Toast the other morning and my three-year-old nephew Tyler said it was the best French Toast he’s ever had – and he’s no easy critic.

Now that thirty days veganism is accomplished I’m starting a new thirty day challenge tomorrow: thirty days of yoga in a row.  I am so pumped to get into shape yoga-styles. Woo!

Do you ever get weird cravings?  I woke up this morning with the biggest craving for dirt.  I thought about dirt all day long.  Dark, crunchy, moist dirt makes me salivate.  I know how weird this is.

I know I used to eat dirt for kicks when I was little so I told my mom about this weird craving that’s been haunting me all day long, and she said dirt cravings are called pica and that it means I’m iron deficient!  I thought she was pulling my leg, but sure enough I googled it and she’s right.

Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for non-nutritive substances (like metal, clay, soil, chalk, paper, etc.)  The craving has to persist for more than a month to be considered pica and it occurs mainly in pregnant women, kids, and those with developmental disabilities (and no I’m not preggers).

In addition, multiple sources I found stated that craving dirt normally means you’re lacking iron in your diet.  Good sources of dietary iron include red meat, fish, poultry, lentils, beans, leaf vegetables, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, fortified bread, and fortified breakfast cereals.  So, being 26 days vegan now, this would make sense, since back in the day my main iron source would have been meat.  (On the other hand though I did donate blood three weeks ago and they said my iron was all good.)

p.s. I tried a spoonful of dirt, just to see what it tasted like!  Not as good as you might (or might not) think.  The flavour’s actually pretty good but it is so gritty and I’m pretty sure my dentist wouldn’t approve.  Anyways it did not satisfy me so clearly it’s not really dirt I’m craving!

That’s a quotation by Doug Larson, in chapter five of Green For Life. I totally agree.  Bacon smell is unbeatable.

I’ve read a lot during this month of eating vegan about how we can get all the protein we need from leafy green vegetables.  But I never completely understood it, because I’ve grown up (as most of us North Americans have) believing that we need to eat meat and cheese to get enough protein.  Boutenko outlines the difference between complex proteins found in meat, dairy, fish, etc. and individual amino acids, found in fruits, vegetables, and especially in greens.

*note: Every protein molecule consists of a chain of amino acids.  An essential amino acid is one that cannot be synthesized by the body, and therefore must be supplied as part of the diet.  Humans must include adequate amounts of 9 amino acids in their diet.

Boutenko explains this difference in a way that I understand and went aha! now I get it.  I’m not sure if it’s because my sister’s getting married and looking at wedding dresses – or just the fact that I’m a girl so clothing analogies work for me – but here is what she writes:

It is clear that the body has to work a lot less when creating protein from the assortment of individual amino acids from greens, rather than the already combined, long molecules of protein, assembled according to the foreign pattern of a totally different creature such as a cow or a chicken.  I would like to explain the difference between complex proteins and individual amino acids with a simple anecdote.

Imagine that you have to make a wedding dress for your daughter.  Consuming the complex proteins that we get from cows or other creatures is like going to the second hand store, and buying many other people’s used dresses, coming home and spending several hours ripping apart pieces of the dresses that you like and combining them into a new dress for your daughter.  This alternative will take a lot of time and energy and will leave a great deal of garbage.  You could never make a perfect dress this way.

Consuming individual amino acids is like taking your daughter to a fabric store to buy beautiful new fabric, lace, buttons, threads, and pearls.  With these essential elements you can make a beautiful dress that fits her unique body perfectly.  Similarly, when you eat greens, you “purchase” new amino acids, freshly made by sunshine and chlorophyll, which the body will use to rebuild its parts according to your own unique DNA.

Contrary to this, your body would have a hard time trying to make a perfect molecule of protein out of someone else’s molecules, which consists of totally different combinations of amino acids.  Plus, your body would most likely receive a lot of unnecessary pieces that are hard to digest.  These pieces would be floating around in your blood like garbage for a long time, causing allergies and other health problems.  Professor W.A. Walker from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, states that, “Incompletely digested protein fragments may be absorbed into the bloodstream.  The absorption of these large molecules contributes to the development of food allergies and immunological disorders.”

……..she goes on to say lots of interesting things I don’t have time to write……..

In summary, greens provide protein in the form of individual amino acids.  These amino acids are easier for the body to utilize than complex proteins.  A variety of greens can supply all the protein we need to sustain each of our unique bodies.

Interesting.  Thinking of it the way she describes it, I would way rather eat greens and have my body build its own own protein instead of trying to digest the protein some cow put together from the grass (or more likely corn) it ate and eventually have parts of this dead carcass float around in my blood.  Kind of gross when it’s put like that.

Today is day 25 not eating meat and I don’t miss it at all.  The thought of putting a piece of chicken into my body just isn’t appealing anymore now that I actually think about where that chicken came from and how it will make my body feel.

I did cheat with dairy the other day (cheesy pesto pasta which yada yada yada led to half a loaf of sourdough and a full container of spinach feta artichoke dip) and it made me feel like shit.  After not consuming dairy for almost a month my body was like what the eff are you trying to do to me?!  I’ve felt out of whack the last couple days since the cheat and have been eating tons of fruit and veg, trying to get back to normal.  Grosses me out that I was eating so much dairy and meat before that this gross feeling wasn’t even there because I guess I felt like that all the time?

Anyways this was a long post, whoever made it all the way to the end (well done, you!)  Five more days to go vegan-styles.

I just read this Slate.com article by Christopher Cox, an oyster-eating vegan who argues that even a strict vegan should feel comfortable eating oysters (since farming produces minimal negative impact on their ecosystems and there’s no less doubt that oysters feel pain than that plants do).  Cox talks about losing the vegan title, because technically he can’t call himself a vegan if he’s eating oysters:

Because I eat oysters, I shouldn’t call myself a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there’s an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.

I read this and first of all had to look up what a flexitarian is:

flex·i·tar·i·an

(flěk’sĭ-târ’ē-ən) n.  One who normally maintains a vegetarian diet but occasionally makes exceptions and eats meat or fish.

Then I started thinking, why is it that we have to label ourselves by what we eat in the first place?  Cox goes on to say:

When I talked about this article with my editor at Slate, she said, “I won’t lie—you’ll be attacked viciously for being a vegan, and attacked equally viciously for not being a strict enough vegan.”

Changing your diet not only requires a change in food consumption, but an on-hand knowledge of reasons and facts to draw on when defending your diet to other skeptics.  A good friend of mine went through this when going vegetarian a few years ago and always felt anxious around family gatherings because she knew she would be attacked with questions like why don’t you eat meat? how are you getting your protein? are you sure you’re getting enough? aren’t you afraid you’re going to waste away? etc. etc., you get the picture – I can imagine it got old fast.

That is one of the reasons I don’t really want to call myself a Vegetarian (even though I am considering staying mainly vegetarian or even vegan after this month-long challenge).  Because what if some day I want to eat a chicken burger or have sour cream on my potatoes?  If anyone witnessed this behaviour coming from a “vegan” I can imagine this would be a huge no-no, as if I’m betraying my religion.

But what is a vegan anyway?  Yes, for the past 16 days I haven’t eaten meat or dairy, but I did kill a spider last night (on purpose) and I’m pretty sure the paper in my textbooks killed a few hundred trees, which destroyed a whackload of forest creatures (not very vegan), and the gas my car’s using definitely is not helping members of the planet ( not too environmentally-friendly or vegan either).

What I’m trying to say is where do you draw the line??  Everything we do has an effect on something or someone else.  There can be self-titled vegans who drive gas-guzzling hummers, or meat-eaters who plant trees and subscribe to the 100-mile diet.  In the end I just don’t think the labels make all that much difference.

I don’t know.  I guess if I have to label myself after all this I’ll be a flexitarian (…?)  I just think it’s strange how we label ourselves based on the food we consume.  I understand that we’re categorizing beings and need labels to make sense of ourselves and of others, but where do you really draw the line between a pescetarian and a flexitarian, or a vegan and a vegetarian – and in the end what’s the point?  People can get all heated and defensive if put to the test regarding  personal food behaviour and morals.  I guess if “you are what you eat” is true – and I think to a certain extent it is – then it makes sense that people would get so emotional about the whole topic, I’m just confused by it all.

Oh and p.s. I cheated and ate honey (not vegan) and drank a Grower’s Cider that has processed sugar (not vegan). My bad.  Other than that I’ve been good, I promise.