THE VEGGIE GUIDE

Ryan Geiss

How to successfully transition to a tasty, healthy, humane, and holistic diet.

18 July 2006

 

Contents:                                                                                                                                                         Page:

 

I.              THE INFO                                                                                                                               3

II.            RECIPES                                                                                                                               10

III.           EQUIPMENT LIST                                                                                                              15

IV.                OTHER TIPS                                                                                                                       16

V.            STRATEGIES FOR PHASING MEAT OUT OF YOUR DIET                     18

VI.           ONLINE RESOURCES                                                                                                      19

 

 

 

This document was written primarily for anyone who has a degree of interest in vegetarianism (or eating less meat).  Whether you’re already there, just started, or just investigating, there should be plenty of useful information in these pages.

 

This document will provide the nutritional background and culinary ideas one needs to be a successful vegetarian.  In a dizzying world of fast, fake, and processed foods, this guide will help you get back to a healthy, natural diet.  And it also tries to answer the question: “If you want to eat a minimal amount of meat – or no meat at all – what the heck do you eat?”  But first, let’s talk a little about this crazy concept called ‘vegetarianism.’

 

I’ll readily admit that it’s not 100% natural for humans to be vegetarian (...but, what is natural these days, anyway?)  We are much closer, biologically, to herbivores than to strict carnivores, which have long, sharp canines and 3-foot intestinal tracts.  But still, we are not strict herbivores, mainly because we have just 1 stomach, and because we need trace amounts of vitamin B-12, which comes only from animal products.  (We would get enough B-12 just from tiny eggs and residues on our vegetables, but since they are hyper-washed these days, it gets rinsed off.)

 

The world has changed, though.  In the past 30 years, two accomplishments have made vegetarianism practical and safe (despite our hyper-washed foods): first, a deep understanding of nutrition; and second, synthetic vitamin B-12.  Thanks to these advancements, it’s now something humans can comfortably, safely, and healthfully do.  I’d like to propose that the argument should no longer be whether or not it’s natural (…unless you happen to be a strict naturalist, living electricity-, car-, and chemical-free!) - but rather, whether it’s a more compassionate thing to do.

 

Now, whether or not it’s okay to eat animals might be up for debate.  But factory farming is an entirely different thing, and not so morally ambiguous.  It provides a life of intense misery for over 9 billion animals, every year, in just the U.S., and sadly, is the source of the vast majority of the meat we eat.  Never in the known history of life has so much suffering existed (nor has it ever been so intentional and well-hidden from the minds of good people).  The saddest part is that it’s completely unnecessary; if we’d all just pay a little more for free-range, organic meat and animal products, it would allow those animals to live in far better conditions.  And if we could make a cultural shift to vegetarianism, or near-vegetarianism, it would end this suffering almost completely.

 

There are 300 million people in the U.S., and we kill about 9 billion animals for food (not even counting seafood), each year.  Per person, that comes to 31 entire animals.  Multiply by the average life expectancy in the U.S. – 77 – and you get 2,400.  That’s the number of animals’ lives it takes to support one lifelong meat-eater.  (Just imagine having to spend that many lifetimes – let alone one day – on a factory farm.)  But over 10 million people in this country alone are living proof that we can be perfectly healthy without eating any animals, at all.

 

Reduced meat consumption is excellent for your health; it increases life expectancy and is directly linked to drastically lower rates of heart disease, cancer (two out of three cancers is diet-related!), osteoporosis, obesity and many other prevalent conditions & illnesses.  A vegetarian diet is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, both major cancer-fighters.  It’s also lower-calorie, which increases life expectancy (believe it or not, lab rats live much longer when fed less food).  In these pages, you’ll find all the information you need to responsibly replace meat in your diet, and improve your diet overall.  You’ll find tons of ideas for great plant-based protein sources, and…        (over)

many other great foods, as well as tips on how to shop for them & prepare them.  You’ll find pertinent information about vitamins and minerals, especially those of concern to vegetarians (or anyone who is eating only a small amount of meat).  There are even get tips on shopping at a natural foods store (which can be confusing at first), some recipes, and a summary of what to keep in mind to plan a balanced, healthy diet.

 

Just remember that although being strictly vegetarian (or vegan) might not be for everyone, two things should be: first, boycotting factory-farmed meat; and second, practicing minimalism – taking only what you feel you need.  And remember that every little bit counts; going “half-veg” with a buddy (cutting your meat intakes by half) is the equivalent [in terms of animal suffering] of one of you going entirely vegetarian.  Every time you sit down to eat and choose an alternative to meat [or insist on free range meat], you’re eliminating suffering and saving lives.   And there’s no easier or simpler way to prevent so much suffering, with so little effort; nothing else even comes close.

 

It is my hope that this guide serves you well, informs you, inspires you, and makes you healthier & happier.

 

 

 


Now on with the show.  First and foremost:

 

1. get to know other high-protein foods.  I put this first because it’s foremost in many people’s perceptions of the dangers of vegetarianism.  In fact, most vegetarians get ample protein with little effort (while most Americans consume harmful excesses of it); but to soothe worriers, I’m listing the main veggie protein sources here.  So here goes…

                Contrary to popular belief, there are a variety of plant-based foods that have the same protein content as beef, per calorie.  These include:

·         beans & legumes (all manner of beans; lentils, green peas, etc.)

·         soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy cheese)

·         wheat gluten (fake meats such as seitan; protein powders)

·         spinach and broccoli (although these tend to be low-calorie)

There are also several plant-based foods that have about half that much.  Some are:

·         nuts & nut butters (especially peanuts / peanut butter)

·         hearty grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat, quinoa (“KEEN-wah”), and millet

 

The above list is by no means exhaustive; there are useful amounts of protein in just about everything.  To figure out your daily value, divide your weight (in pounds) by 3; this gives you your daily protein recommendation, in grams.  Don’t stress about counting grams, though; when you’re lacking protein, your body will “tell” you: you’ll have a craving for something with protein, and you’ll act on it.  Also keep in mind that getting your protein from these sources is much healthier than getting them from meat; these protein sources have far less saturated fat & cholesterol than meat; far more fiber (for healthy & regular digestion – meat has none!); and they are rich in calcium and other minerals, and in a very absorbable form.  And perhaps the most surprising myth-buster is that they have distributions of the 9 essential amino acids [the essential building blocks of life] very similar to those found in meat, eggs, and dairy - see the chart below. 

 


[units: grams per milligram of protein.  Source: Becoming Vegetarian, by Melina, Davis, & Harrison.]

 


Now let’s look at some of these sources in more detail.

Beans & legumes are probably the best, and most accessible, protein source for vegetarians.  They are packed with it – usually 13-14 g for ¼ cup.  Learn how to cook lentils ("Dal" in Indian dishes) with a bit of seasoning [they cook in just 30-45 minutes].  Try all the beans out there: lentils, mung, kidney, adzuki, garbanzo (chickpeas), white (northern), black, etc. Note, however, that some beans require pre-soaking, and most – except lentils – require 1-3 hours to cook.  So for beans besides lentils, you’ll probably want to buy them canned (which come pre-cooked).  Split pea soup is a protein-rich treat and you can buy the flakes in the bulk aisle, then just add hot water for an instant, healthy, high-protein soup (great for camping!).  Hummus (made from garbanzo beans) is great on sandwiches and is also high-protein.  In general, if you’re feeling a craving for protein, you can always find some Mexican food with plenty of beans.  And don't worry about the infamous side effect of eating beans: for most people who eat them regularly (at least every few days), their digestive system adapts and they don't get gas anymore.  Edamame in Japanese restaurants are just steamed & salted soybeans, and are delicious.

You can also get all kinds of fake meat products, mostly based on either soybeans or wheat gluten.  Veggie burgers are common these days; “cook” them (they don’t really require cooking) with a little olive oil to give them a great juicy taste (otherwise that can be dry).  There are also many varieties of delicious fake sausage, fake chicken patties, fake sliced lunchmeat (“seitan”, or “wheat meat”, made from wheat gluten, is delicious, especially when seasoned with shiitake mushrooms – makes a great fake steak sub or sandwich), and so on.  One of the best things about these is that they’re pre-seasoned and almost always pre-cooked, so preparing them is super easy.  You can also sometimes find texturized vegetable protein (TVP) in the bulk bins; it looks like fake dried meat strips.  [Cook it in tomato sauce for 10-15 minutes to rehydrate & cook it, and add salt, basil, and oregano to taste.] 

With fake meats, be sure to try various brands; there’s a lot of flexibility in seasoning, so you might not care for one, yet love another.  Also, keep in mind that there are two kinds of fake meat products: those made to taste authentic (like meat), and those made to taste good in their own element.  The latter is far less limited in flavor, and often turns out much better.

Tofu (made from soybeans) is another great protein source - it soaks up whatever flavors you cook it in.  Try cooking it with chopped onion, ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms or sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce or tamari, or some kind of ginger/miso dressing.  Look for calcium-fortified tofu, and cook it for 15-20 minutes with some of those ingredients, and you're in for a treat.  Or just dice it up and chuck it into a soup or a stir fry. 

Even better, though, is Tempeh, which is fermented, cooked, cracked soybeans and often has added grains (rice, millet, barley) in it; it comes deliciously pre-seasoned, is easier to cook, has an excellent texture [which is often what scares people about tofu], and is very easy to digest.  You find it in the refrigerated section, with the tofu.

Soy milk is loaded with protein.  Try rice milk too - it's thinner and has less texture.  You can also get oat milk (my favorite) and almond milk.  They are all quite different in taste and texture, too, providing a lot of variety.  They also vary a lot from brand to brand, so try them all – you’ll likely find a favorite.  And soy yogurt is as high in protein as regular, milk-based yogurt; and it even has the active cultures (bifidus, acidophilus, etc.).

Quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") is a grain you can find in the bulk bins at health food stores.  It's been known as the “mother grain” in the Andes for over 5,000 years, it's the highest-protein food grain in the world, and it's delicious and quick (10-15 minutes to cook).  See the ‘recipes’ section for cooking details / ideas.

Whole wheat bread has about twice the protein of white bread (4-5g / slice), and often, less added sugar.  You can also get whole wheat bagels, waffles, pastas, and so on.

Basmati rice is the mother of all rices, as far as nutrition and flavor, and also has plenty of protein.  You can get white or brown basmati; the brown has more fiber, a stronger flavor, and a slightly longer cooking time. 

Nuts are also loaded with protein; most have 5-7 grams of protein per ounce.  Buy them straight or processed into butters (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)  The nuts with the most protein include peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, and chestnuts, but the rest are still very high in protein.  Get them toasted or roasted (they’re more digestible that way, and tastier) but unsalted (all that salt hurts your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, and dehydrates you).  You can always find these in the bulk bins at natural foods stores, separate or mixed.

Split pea soup is also a great, high-protein quickie; buy the “flakes” in the bulk aisle, then just add hot water.  It’s mega-cheap, healthy, instant, and loaded with protein.  You can also often get instant lentil soup flakes.

Protein bars are extremely high in protein, but they’re also quite expensive (for their weight).  Notice where the protein comes from: usually soy, whey (milk), or peanuts.  (To aim for a good distribution of amino acids, I try to buy the peanut ones because I usually eat more soy and dairy than peanuts.)

Vegetables, in general, have a surprisingly helpful amount of protein.  Green peas have about 9g/cup (they’re technically in the legume family); a whole artichoke or avocado has about 4 g; a potato has 3 g; and broccoli and asparagus have just over 4 g / cup.  Most other vegetables have around 1-2 g per serving.

“Kanji” is a real treat, and an extremely solid protein source – see the recipe below, in the recipes section.

The above foods are the best non-animal sources of protein.  As you can see, many are staples of a vegetarian diet and, together, provide ample protein.  Don’t stress about it; most Americans get 2-4 times more protein than what is recommended, which inhibits our absorption of vitamins & minerals, especially calcium (which is why the vegetarian’s risk of osteoporosis is about half that of a meat-eater).  Just keep in mind that if you eat a varied diet of healthy, varied food, you won’t have to worry much about protein (or many other things).   The only real recommendation I have is to use a variety of protein sources; don’t go soy crazy and get all of your protein from soy [i.e. soy milk, tofu, tempeh, TVP, fake meat products, protein bars].  Different protein sources have slightly different distributions of those 9 essential amino acids, so there is definite value in “mixing it up.”

 

2. the vitamins to watch: Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. 

These are the only two vitamins that, according to clinical studies (and not myths or assumptions), vegetarians actually tend to be deficient in.

 

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is essential for a healthy nervous system.  Unfortunately, it comes only from meat & animal products.  However, because we only need trace amounts of it, most vegetarians throughout history have obtained adequate B-12 just from the tiny insects, eggs, and residues left on plant foods.  Sadly, though, in most developed countries these days, the fruits and vegetables we buy are hyper-washed, causing the B-12 residues to disappear.

                The good news is that your body can store anywhere from a 3 to 20-year supply of the vitamin, and if you’re behind, sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets can help you catch right up. 

                The bad news is that B-12 deficiency hits with no warning signs, and often involves irreversible nervous system damage, first marked by numbness in fingers or toes, or (less often) chronic anemia. 

The other good news, though, is that it’s very easy for “B12-aware” vegetarians to get the amount they need, many times over.  The ONLY sources are: [best first]

 

·         sublingual tablets: these tiny things dissolve under your tongue, have around 15,000+% of your daily value of B12, and are supremely absorbable (and great for catching up if you’re behind).  There are no known adverse side effects of taking in too much B-12, so play it safe.

·         vitamins:  most multivitamins or B-complex vitamins have 100% or more of your DV (daily value) of B12.  “Vegetarian”-labeled vitamins have yeast-based or synthetic B12. 

·         dairy & eggs […organic, if you want to be humane about it]

·         fortified foods [such as protein bars, breakfast cereals, some soy milks, etc. – check labels]

o        “Emergen-C”  drink packets – a healthy, fizzy vitamin packet you add to a cup of water.  Loaded with vitamins (including 400% of your daily B-12) and great for kids.

·         “Red Star” nutritional yeast (or other strains certified to have a significant amount of B12)

 

IMPORTANT: Because B-12 deficiency is so serious, vegetarians should take a multivitamin AND a B-complex vitamin daily.  Vegans should also take sublingual tablets every now and then.  After 2  years, you should have a doctor test your B-12 levels; if you’ve followed these guidelines, you should be fine.

 

About yeast: you can usually get nutritional yeast flakes (especially high in B12) in the bulk aisle of your natural foods store.  I put it in a large-pore shaker, and sprinkle it heartily on soups and stir fries, and absolutely dump it on casseroles.  It's yummy and tastes a lot like cheese, so put it on anything you'd put shredded cheese on/in. 

Also, be aware that although some fermented soy products (such as tempeh) are extremely rich in B-12, it is in a form that is almost totally unabsorbable, and should not be depended on as a reliable source of B-12.

 

Vitamin D

…comes naturally only from the sun.  When sun falls on our skin, it enables our bodies to manufacture Vitamin D, which is essential for the regulation of calcium.  Without it, kids get rickets (skeletal deformities), and adults get weak muscles & bones.  To produce enough vitamin D, light-skinned adults should get 5-10 minutes of sun a day, on the face and hands; or 30 minutes to 3 hours for the dark-skinned.  Yet another reason to go outside and play, no matter what your age!  

Note that your body can store several months’ supply of Vitamin D, for getting through the winter. 

Foods can also be - and often are - fortified with Vitamin D, however.  It is commonly added to milk, soymilk, and tofu; check labels.

 

3. eat an array of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.  They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, and

especially vitamin C, which is essential for good absorption of the others.  Fruits and veggies also have a lot of fiber, which slows down the digestive process, to help you get more out of the food you eat.  (That also keeps your colon squeaky clean, which will drastically reduce your propensity for colon cancer.)  Also, a piece of fruit just before a meal will help provide the Vitamin C you need to get the most out of it.  The best thing about fruits and vegetables is that there are thousands of them, many of which you’ve probably never even seen; there’s a whole world of culinary delights out there that most people never even realize exists!

4. iron

Iron is often something to watch for vegetarians or not-much-meat-eaters.  I hate to say it, but “heme” iron (from meat) goes much farther than non-heme iron (from plants).  However, if you know which foods are high in iron and keep an eye on it, it’s rarely a problem.  However, if you are a women, are elderly, or are predisposed to anemia, you might  also want to take an iron supplement to be safe (see below).   If you start eating less meat and you feel tired, and you’re already taking a multivitamin (to ensure proper B vitamins), you probably aren’t getting enough iron (although protein is a possibility too).  Also keep in mind, though, that iron is one of the few minerals you can *overdose* on; too much of it is bad for you!; so try to get the right amount.  Excellent sources of iron are:  [best first]

·         seaweed (hijiki, nori, etc. - add small amount to a stir fry or soup, or check the bulk bins for seaweed-based snacks [often with sesame] – they’re cheap, delicious, and ultra-ultra-healthy.)

·         brewer’s yeast

·         blackstrap molasses – a dark, sugary syrup – add to soy milk for a healthy treat

·         quinoa (a grain – rinse it, cook 10-15 min 2:1 with water, serve w/butter, ghee, or soy sauce)

·         tahini (like peanut butter, but made from crushed sesame seeds) (use as sandwich spread, salad dressing, etc.)

·         dried apricots / prunes; raisins

·         cooked beans: lentils, kidney/garbanzo/pinto/white beans, black-eyed peas

·         spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens..

·         almonds, walnuts, cashews

·         berries (especially good in smoothies – buy them frozen)

·         cook your food using a cast iron pan – the iron will come off into your food, which is very good for you, and adds a great flavor.   [care for the pan, though: keep it seasoned [oiled], don’t use soap when you wash it, and heat it up to evaporate all water off of it after “washing” it, to prevent rust.]

·         for the super-anemic, there are iron supplements (pills), but of course, DON'T OVERDOSE.

Iron supplementation: If you take an iron supplement, use ferrous succinate or ferrous fumarate – they are the most absorbable (significantly).  Also, take iron supplements in between meals (unlike most vitamins/supplements) for best absorption (by a factor of about 3x).  Vitamin C helps absorb iron, too. 

 

 

5. got fat? – Believe it or not, fats are vitally essential for healthy cell functioning.  Although vegetarian diets tend to be extremely low in fat, the fats that they do have are of the highest quality (unsaturated) and are essential for disease prevention and overall good health, energy, & good feeling.  In addition, fats help in vitamin absorption: vitamins B and C are water-soluble, but vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that fats have to be around to get them out of their chemical bonds, and into a usable form!  However, fats range from the ultra-bad-for-you (hydrogenated oils) to the ultra-healthy omega-3 and omega-6’s.  Here’s a quick breakdown:

 

Fat Type                 Healthy?                Examples

PolyUnsaturated                  healthiest               flax, hemp, fish oils (omega-3, 6) (very heat/light-intolerant) (liquid)

MonoUnsaturated               healthy                   plant oils: olive, canola, etc. (omega-9) (more stable) (liquid)

Saturated                               not so healthy      animal fats: butter, lard, tallow.  Solid at room temp.  Heart Disease.

Hydrogenated oils               very bad                                “hyper-saturated” fats that don’t exist in nature, but are very common

    in processed foods.  Solid at room temp. & cheap to make.

 

The saturated fats (animal fats and hydrogenated oils) are extremely heart-unhealthy, and are the main reason why heart disease is dramatically more common in meat-eaters than in vegetarians.

 

The worst of the bunch – hydrogenated oils – are not only worse than anything nature designed, but worse yet, they’re often made from cottonseed oil.  Cotton isn’t considered a food crop, and thus, is one of the most heavily-sprayed crops in the U.S. (with pesticides).  Yet, the oil goes into a huge amount of our food!

 

The healthiest fats are the unsaturated ones, especially the “omega” fats, which are discussed more in the next section. 

 

In general, though, vegetarian diets tend to be very lean in fat.  Try to be conscious of this; be sure you’re taking in fats on a regular basis – daily, if not at every meal – so you can actually absorb all that vitamin A, D, E, and K.  The best general sources for healthy fats are:

 

·         olive oil, soybean oil, or canola oil – for cooking.  [in general, olive oil is the healthiest & tastiest cooking oil, but these are good to use every now and then, and they’re often cheaper.] [for baking, safflower or sunflower oils are the healthiest.]

·         nuts (calories from fat: 70-85%) (walnut, sesame, almond, sunflower, pumpkin seed, cashew, peanut)

·         avocados (calories from fat: 82%) or olives (91%)

·         tofu (calories from fat: 50%)

·         organic butter (100%), organic eggs (65%), organic cheese (60-70%), organic milk (50%)

·         soybeans (“edamame” in Japanese restaurants – 37%)

·         oatmeal (16%), hearty grains (buckwheat, rye, whole wheat, brown rice: 5-7%)

·         most other plant-based foods are well under the 10% mark

·         for reference: most meats have 40-80% calories from fat… but are mostly saturated fats

 

6. omega-3/omega-6 essential fatty acids

 

The very best fats (oils) are the unsaturated ones – specifically, the “omega” acids – and they’re not optional.  Due to the “low fat” craze and the proliferation of processed foods and hydrogenated oils, most Americans (around 80%!) tend to be deficient in these essential fatty acids (EFA’s), leading to a huge array of cell-level health problems, including: fatigue, lack of endurance, dry or weak skin/nails/hair, dry membranes, a weak immune system, gas/bloating, aching, sore joints, forgetfulness, arthritis, high blood pressure… and on and on.  The following foods are unusually rich with omega-3’s [best first] and should be given special consideration:

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·         flax oil1-2 tablespoons daily is almost universally recommended for anyone, vegetarian or not.  Very important: flax oil must be kept refrigerated in an opaque bottle!  Put it on salads, waffles, quinoa, rice, in soups or stir frys – anything, really – just don’t cook with it or heat it up (or those nice fats will break down).  You can also get it in liquid capsule form (…the capsules don’t require refrigeration).

·         fish (for “pescatarians”)

·         walnuts (specifically – just 3 tbsp. per day is 100% of your DV!) (other nuts don’t really compare)

·         flax waffles, cereal, etc. – these are grain-based foods that have flax seeds in them, and flax is loaded with omega-3’s.

·         hemp waffles, cereal, etc. – same idea; and don’t worry, there’s no THC in these foods!

 

 

7. eat whole grains – they have more nutritional value, more fiber, more protein, and fewer carbs.  This

mostly applies to wheat, since it’s the only grain that we heavily process.  You can get whole grain breads, bagels, waffles, pasta, and so on.  Also, whole grain breads tend (in general) to have less added sugar.  (Whole grain pasta is kind of gross though; try alternative grain pastas, as mentioned above.)  There are also a whole slew of delicious, healthy, high-protein, high-fiber cereals out there; try them with soy/rice milk and raisins, berries, or sliced bananas.

 

 

8. avoid too much wheat – wheat is a grain, and we make LOTS of things out of it: bread, buns, toast, waffles, and pasta are common American staples, but they’re all made from (often) just wheat.  Look for alternatives.   Buy multi-grain bread (where wheat is just one grain that goes into it); instead of pasta, cook rice,  quinoa, or polenta.  (Polenta is made from corn, and is quite versatile; you can even buy it pre-cooked and pre-seasoned in a yellow “sausage link” package.)  Also try Lifestream’s “Buckwheat Wildberry” waffles (made from potatos, corn, and buckwheat – but no wheat!); they’re delicious.  There are also good pastas made from alternative grains (corn, quinoa) instead of wheat.   You can also pick up some “vita-grain” or “6-grain” cereal in the bulk bins; you usually cook it 2:1 (water:cereal) for about 5 minutes, then add soy milk [and raisins or honey to sweeten] and you end up with a delicious, warm breakfast with great balance of grains (usually including quinoa!).    Ah, one last thing: be aware that couscous, although delicious, is made from 100% wheat - just processed a little differently.

 

9. calcium. 

Although calcium is, by far, the mineral that your body needs in the greatest quantities (to keep your bones strong),  vegetarians still tend to get plenty of it, and as a result, have only half the standard risk of osteoporosis.  There are several reasons vegetarians tend to be calcium-abundant:

·         the calcium in vegetarian foods is far more absorbable than that in meat & dairy products (esp. milk)

·         excessive protein intake leaches calcium from the bones  (…as does refined sugar)

·         common veg. foods (especially beans, soy, and leafy green vegetables) tend to be very high in calcium. 

o        the best leafy greens are kales & cabbages.  don’t count on spinach, though; although very high in calcium, it is minimally absorbable!

Keep in mind, though, that lifestyle can play a very important role in calcium retention and strong bones:

·         regular weight-bearing exercise is necessary for strong bones to remain strong; without it, they get porous and brittle.  (examples: walking, running, swimming…)

·         adequate vitamin D (from sunlight or fortified soy/rice/cow milk) helps in calcium absorption.

·         caffeine, alcohol, excess protein, excess salt, and refined sugars all increase calcium LOSS.

 

10. develop healthy snack habits.  Some suggestions:

·         Expect to snack a little more, since a low- or no-meat diet is lower-calorie, and your stomach is only so big.

·         Stay stocked up on fruit: apples, oranges, bananas; all kinds of pears; plums, apricots, melons, berries, cherries, etc.  Try new fruits: pluots (yum!), kiwis, persimmons, mango, pomegranate, loquats/kumquats, guavas, etc.

·         Stock carrots in your fridge, as a snack

·         Apple with peanut or almond butter

·         Keep a jar of unsalted nuts (see protein section, above, for suggestions) handy as a daily, healthy, high-protein snack.  Maybe mix in some (unsweetened) dried mangos, apricots, bananas, apples, etc. from the bulk bins.  My favorite nut mix is raw, unsalted almonds, walnuts, and a few cashews.

·         Instant soups: dried lentils, split pea soup... they're super cheap, “instant”, and nutritious.

·         A glass of soymilk with molasses

·         There are actually some surprisingly healthy protein bars out there (but also, a lot of bad ones).  Read the ingredients: the first few should be wholesome grains, soy protein concentrate, nuts, seeds, or peanuts.  You should see very few “scientific names”; and the sugar content should be low.  Read the labels, try a dozen or so, and you’ll be an expert in no time.

·         Avoid refined sugars; they leach calcium from the bones and depress the immune system.

·         Not as healthy, but still not terrible: Rice Pudding, Tapioca Pudding, Soy Ice Cream, and “Tofutti Cuties” (soy-based ice cream sandwiches) are all delicious.

 

11. get ready to try new things.  New fruits and vegetables; new tastes and textures; and so on.  When you

eat a veggie burger, don’t expect the taste of a real burger – it’s totally different!  It’s a different food, with its own taste, so be open.  Likewise, soy milk and rice milk do not taste like cow’s milk (thankfully – I never was a big fan of drinking pus).  Try new vegetables: jicama, yams, beets, parsnips, burdock root, sunchokes, the zillion varities of squash, taro root, etc.  Try new greens: chard, kale, collards, etc.  Buy fresh ginger, garlic, and onions (or shallots, a convenient onion-garlic mix) and peel them, chop them up, and throw them in everything.

 

12. thoroughly explore your local health food store.  Empower yourself.  Just once, take an hour to just

scour the store; learn it; look at the mind-blowing variety of foods you didn’t even know existed.  You will be inspired, blown away.   This is, perhaps, the most vital step in transforming your diet in a positive way.  That hour you devote to just ‘learning’ the store is invaluable, especially because there are so many “new” foods [to us] in there.  You won’t catch everything - I still discover wonderful new foods in there, that were in my “blind spot” all along, after 3 years – but you’ll discover enough to get started in a way that is painless, and likely fun.  Also, be sure to spend plenty time studying the myriad bins in the bulk aisle: give it a good, thorough browse; half of the cheapest & best food in the store is right there!  (Also note how the labels on the bulk bins give you the nutritional information, and usually, cooking directions, too.)

 

13. familiarize yourself with vegetarian[-friendly] restaurants around town.

Check out http://www.vegetarianusa.com/ for guides to big (or small, progressive) cities.   Also, familiarize yourself with Asian restaurants around town (chinese, japanese, sushi, Indian, Sri Lankan) and any Middle Eastern (especially Greek!) restaurants, as they often use healthy ingredients and dark leafy greens that aren’t on menus in most other restaurants.  In Chinese restaurants, tofu (also called “bean curd”) or wheat gluten strips are common meat substitutes.  And if you ever get stuck in a restaurant without many vegetarian options, make something up – mix and match ingredients.  Almost always, the chef will be happy to make something new for you!  (And if you’ve been at this for a while, you might help them discover something great that they can add to their menu.)

 

14. rotate leftovers

If you cook at home a lot, cooking fresh veggies, a grain, and a protein source every night is often too much.  But what you can do is cook just one per night, but cook 3 times what you need; then refrigerate the rest.  You can then start a cycle where you have a fully balanced meal each night, but only have to prepare one item.

 

15. dairy & eggs: strictly organic

Organic food tends to be slightly more expensive.  If you’re in a good place, financially, you’re probably already buying mostly organic food, so that you’re not consuming large amounts of pesticides.  However, if you’re not, you might want to consider at least going organic when it comes to any animal products that you do eat: organic milk, organic cheese, and organic (and cage-free) eggs.  

 

For animal products, “organic” means that the animals who produced the products were not given steroids or [unnecessarily] antibiotics.  This is good for you – it means that the stuff you’re eating or drinking isn’t loaded with unnaturally-high levels of hormones, which get passed on to you.  It also means that the animals were taken good enough care of that they were able to survive, and produce milk or eggs, naturally.  But when antibiotics are [constantly] added to the animals’ feed, they can survive in much more squalid and miserable conditions, which means far less maintenance, and, hence, less cost.  So when you see the difference in price, think of that; it’s not that you’re paying more for a more humane product; it’s that most people are buying the cheap stuff, where the animals are jacked up on steroids and antibiotics, and used like machines.

 

Keep in mind that animals were meant to live free – not to be mutilated, drugged, hooked up to machines, and mechanically slaughtered.   There is really no way to produce dairy & eggs, commercially and competitively, in a completely humane way.   But buying organic is the least we can do, and it makes a tremendous difference.  Minimalism – taking only what you feel you need to be healthy – is another way you can greatly help.  [Plus, drinking cow milk is unnatural: we’re the only species that steals milk from another species, or that drinks milk as adults.]

                          

15. essentials checklist: in general, try to include the following foods in your daily diet:

·         highly recommended for any diet:

o        a daily multivitamin

o        vitamin B-12  through an occasional sublingual tablet.  Also from vitamins, nutritional yeast, fortified foods.

o        an iron supplement, for women, older folks, or anyone who feels low-energy.

o        1-2 tablespoons flax seed oil, or a capsule, taken daily

·         protein –1 gram for every 3 pounds of body mass, daily, from a variety of sources.

o        Soy foods/drinks, beans/peas, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, hummus, seitan, [eggs/dairy]…

·         vitamin D – through sunlight or fortified foods

·         several servings of vegetables, and a few pieces of fruit, every day, for calcum, vitamins, & minerals

·         omega-3 sources – walnuts (3 Tbsp./day), flax oil (1-2 Tbsp./day), or hemp oil

·         fat sources – avocados, nuts, tofu

·         dark, leafy greens once per day.  (kale / bok choy / chard / other green vegetables)

·         hearty grains, like quinoa, oats/oatmeal, basmati rice, or whole wheat.  (Or corn, potatos, …)

·         healthy snacks (see above).


II. RECIPES

 

Here are some of my favorite recipes that seem to have very wide appeal.  Most of these are of medium complexity; if you want simpler stuff, just simplify what’s here, or buy the indispensable Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook (by Carole Raymond), which is loaded with fast, healthy, and cheap vegetarian recipes.

 

 

1. vegetable stir-fry

a)       First, spread olive oil in a wok (or large pot) and heat it; dice up an onion and throw it on there; simmer until brown (3-4 minutes).  You can also peel & finely chop garlic or ginger and add that at this time.

b)       Add diced, fresh vegetables:  (pick 4-6)

                                                                       i.      cook longest: the firmer varieties of squash; peeled beets

                                                                     ii.      next longest: pea pods, green beans, yellow squash

                                                                    iii.      cook normal: carrots, burdock root, tender squashes, hijiki (seaweed – use sparingly), spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, cabbage, jicama

                                                                   iv.      throw in last: zucchini, mushrooms, well-rinsed spinach

c)       seasoning: as it cooks, add any combination of soy sauce, copious amounts of Annie Chun’s Shiitake Mushroom Sauce, or some kind of ginger-miso dressing.  Also add a small amount of toasted sesame oil and/or seasoned brown rice vinegar for a more savory flavor.  [These seasonings also work great for making just tofu.]

d)       alternate seasoning: white wine & garlic

e)       alternate seasoning: lemon & basil / other herbs

f)        serve with some kind of grain (quinoa, rice, etc.) and maybe some applesauce or yogurt.

 

2. quinoa

Quinoa is very high in protein and quite tasty.  Works great as a grain side, or a base for many other dishes (put veggies over it, etc).  It also makes a great replacement for rice in burritos.  You can buy organic quinoa in the bulk aisle; it looks like couscous, and it’s quite inexpensive. 

a)       [optional] rinse the quinoa just before cooking, to to remove a slightly bitter-tasting pollen

b)       boil water

c)       mix the quinoa 2:1 [water:quinoa]

d)       cook for 10-12 minutes on low heat with a lid on.

e)       just before it’s done cooking, add pureed tomatoes (YUM), butter, ghee, soy-veh sauce, soy sauce, or powdered vegetable stock (from the bulk bins).  If you add the tomatoes, know that this has a special name; it is called tomato-qua because it is very special.  Using stock is very cheap and incredibly delicious, and works well with not just quinoa, but any grain (rice, millet, barley, etc.).

f)        [optional] mix in some frozen green peas or corn kernels. 

 

3. kanji – a little-known gem

                -“kanji” is a delicious, ultra-high-non-soy-protein, hearty breakfast dish that takes only a few minutes

to prepare and then cooks overnight; you wake up in the morning to a great meal that’s as hearty and filling as a steak-and-potatoes meal, yet far healthier, and delicious.  (And you have leftovers!)

                -in a crock pot, mix 5:1:1 water:grains:legumes.  The grains can be any mix you like of brown rice,

quinoa, barley, buckwheat, etc.   For the legumes, use lentils, adzuki beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, etc. (any beans you like).  [note: be sure to rinse the quinoa first, in a mesh strainer, for best flavor.] [I like to put a strong emphasis on the quinoa and the lentils, personally.]

-cook it all in the crock pot overnight (8 hours), on low.  When you wake up in the morning, you’ll

have a delicious, incredibly nutritious, protein- and vitamin-rich breakfast ready to go!   Note: crockpots vary; 8 hours on low is for the fast-cooking ones.  Some require an extra hour or two on high; you can do that first, or last, it won’t matter.

-seasoning: serve yourself some in a bowl and add soy sauce to taste.  A little toasted sesame oil is good

too.  And if you’re up for it, a little gamazio (freshly crushed & toasted sesame seeds) is superb.  (Crush ‘em up a little with a mortar and pestle, and fry them on a skillet on medium heat for ~3 minutes, or until they pop a bit.)

 

4. smoothies

            a) just mix it all in a blender and run it for ~20 seconds.  Start with most “liquidy” elements first.

b) fill up to the solid line (so the solid ingredients are fully immersed) using liquid ingredients: soy milk, organic yogurt, and maybe any fruit juices you have around.  (if you don’t add enough liquid, it won’t blend very well.)

c) solid ingredients: [frozen] berries (rasp, black, blue); frozen (or fresh) mango; diced apple; ~5 med.-sized ice cubes (to give it a good texture)

d) [optional] to really make it good, add spirulina.  It’s a dark green powder made from algae, and the highest-protein substance on the planet, cultivated & eaten by the Aztecs.  A small amount goes a long way;   sprinkle some on the smoothie - maybe 0.5 to 1 tablespoons.  Adds a great flavor, color, and a good dose of protein. 

e) [optional] there are also a lot of good quinoa- and soy-based protein powders out there you can throw in.

g) then blend it up good (20-30 seconds) and enjoy.  If it’s not blending easily, add more liquids.

           

Also, here are a few specific recipes that never fail to impress:

 

* blend up soymilk + peanut butter + a banana; this is perhaps, one of the most delicious things ever.

* mango lassi, a traditional Indian drink, is half yogurt and half mango, blended together.

* carrot-apple-ginger: juice some carrots (if you have a juicer) or buy carrot juice, and blend it with apples

and some peeled ginger.  The ginger gives it some awesome kick.

 

5. greens

a)       rub some olive oil in a large pan or wok and heat it up

b)       dice up some onions, throw them in, brown them a bit.  While they brown…

c)       rinse & cut up a large bunch (or two) of a dark, leafy green: kale, dinosaur kale, chard, spinach, or any kind of asian greens (such as bok choi).  It will be BIG (…but will cook down very small).

d)       Shake excess water off the greens, then throw them in & cook for ~4 minutes at a low flame, *with a lid*, so they cook evenly.  They will wilt slightly (~20% reduction in volume).

e)       Add balsamic vinegar and [plenty of] salt to taste, then cook for another 3-4 min, until fully wilted.  (~80% reduction in volume).  Sage or other spices can be good too.

f)        for a complete meal, serve with a source of protein and a grain (or quinoa, which satisfies both).  Applesauce always makes a good side, too.

 

6. tuber casserole […thanks to Johan Dowdy for this one!]

a) dice up any roughly 1:1:1 combination of tubers [carrots, burdock, skinned beets, parsnips, turnips,

jerusalem artichoke, etc.]; potatoes of various kinds; and yams.  Optional: some cabbage or broccoli.  Shake 'em up in a big yogurt/margarine tub with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extras (shiitake mushroom sauce, ginger sesame dressing, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce…); then place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle quinoa or sesame seeds on top to make it pretty.  Caution: beets will stain a wooden cutting board!

b) [optional] dice up some tempeh (for protein, flavor and texture) and mix it in. 

c) [optional] dice up a block of Vegan (soy-based) cheese to top it off; it works well here (it’s very melty).

            d) add a little water in the bottom (1/4 cup) to make sure it doesn’t dry out in the oven

            e) cook in oven @ 400 for 50-60 minutes, or until it's all a little squishy.

            f) serve & add salt/pepper/nutritional yeast/oregano/parsley/other herbs to taste; and enjoy having a few

    meals' worth of leftovers! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Krasnow Wonder Food […by Lee Krasnow]

a) throw some quinoa or millet (maybe mix in some barley) in a pot. 

b) add water & get cook for 8-10 minutes […see directions for quinoa above], but not all the way.

c) add some well-rinsed spinach and cook for a few more minutes, til the spinach wilts and the quinoa is ready.  Turn off the heat.

d) add:

-a can of black beans [drained]

                                -an avocado or two, cut into slices.  [*critical*]

                                -some diced tomatoes

                                -some crumbled feta cheese

You now have one of the simplest and most mouth-wateringly delicious meals in existence – enjoy!  Great with a little yogurt or applesauce on the side.

 

8. yams!

-Did you know that one yam has far more potassium than a banana?  And loads of antioxidants.

-Cooking up a yam or two is easy.  Just clean it, poke a dozen holes in it with a fork, and wrap it in aluminum foil.  Add a little butter inside the wrapping if you like.  Then bake at 375 degrees for an 60 minutes.  Then remove the foil and mash it up with a fork and enjoy.  (I eat the skin, too, but some people just eat the inside.)

-If you’re in a hurry, you can microwave it; just don’t (!) use any foil, and put some water in there somewhere (in a little dish), so it doesn’t dessicate.  Takes about 5 minutes.  (But is it as healthy?  I really don’t know.)

 

9. summer salad

                -greens: organic red leaf lettuce, spinach, or mixed baby greens (not iceberg lettuce!)

                -diced apple, pear, cucumber, tomato; thinly sliced jicama or sunchoke

                -walnuts, dried pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds; pine nuts + organic feta cheese…

                -grated carrots or organic cheese

                -sprouts

                -top off with flax oil, tahini, and/or your choice of dressing

 

10. dal (lentils) – solid protein & deliciousness

a)       throw 1 cup of lentils and 2 ½ cups water in a pot.  Chop up an onion, throw it in.  Cook, covered, for 30 minutes (or until lentils are tender).

b)       while they cook, rub some olive oil into a pan, heat it up, and add 1 more chopped onion, plus chopped garlic (enough to fill 2-3 thimbles), and a teaspoon (each) of any or all of the following: curry powder, turmeric, or coriander.  Saute on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. 

c)       at the end, combine & stir, and cook just a few more minutes after mixing.  Salt to taste & serve.

 

11. minestrone soup

a)       throw 3 cups water (or better, vegetable stock – see ‘winter vegetable stew’ above) in a large pot.

b)       Ingredients: (chop them all up, but don’t add them yet) 2 carrots, 1-2 burdock roots (if you can find them), 2 stalks celery, 1 zucchini, 1 tomato, and ½ cup of pasta shapes.  You can also throw in a handful of cooked kidney or garbanzo beans, if you have them around; or any other vegetables that sound good to you.

c)       seasoning: add 4 cloves minced garlic, ¼ to ½ tsp. pepper, 1tsp. oregano, and 1 tsp. dried basil (or ~10 fresh leaves).

d)       add the carrot, burdock, onion, celery, and herbs to the stock; simmer for 15 min.

e)       add the rest; simmer ~10 more minutes, or until everything is cooked. 

f)        add fresh parsley at the end for a fantastic finish.

g)       salt to taste; add flax oil and copious amounts of nutritional yeast; serve with whole grain toast, and enjoy!

 

 

 

12. veggie soup

a)       stock: you can just use water as the base, but stock is quite tasty, and healthier.  To make the stock, save up all your unused vegetable scraps for a few weeks, in a bag in the freezer, until you’ve got enough to fill a medium-to-large pot.  Anything goes (especially garlic/ginger/onion skins)!  Then throw them in and cook for 20-30 minutes (in just enough water to mostly submerge the veggies).  Add a whole, fresh artichoke for an extra nice flavor, and adding plenty of ginger never hurts (you can just dice it – the flavor will soak out).  You can also add ¼ - ½ cup of barley to it.

b)       (after the stock cooks 20-30 minutes, strain off the liquid & use it to make a soup, or freeze it for later.)

c)       ingredients for the soup:

-flavor: add onion, garlic, ginger (all chopped up – pre-sautee it for extra goodness!)

                                -tubers: [any or all] [chopped] parsnips, turnips, carrots, burdock root

                                -veggies: [any or all] [chopped] broccoli, potatoes, seaweed, celery, asparagus, cauliflower, green

beans, cabbage, tomato, zucchini, etc. 

-optional: maybe also a drained can of corn kernels, a handful of pasta (add a little late), or some

diced tofu or tempeh.

                                -optional: add some lentils early and extend the cooking time […lentils need ~45 min to cook]

                                -cook for ~20 minutes, or until veggies are just right. 

-Add salt, pepper, soy sauce to taste.  Serve w/nutritional yeast sprinkled on for a yummy

cheese-like flavor; and a slice of whole wheat toast.

 

13. avocado sandwich

                -toast 2 slices of whole wheat or multi-grain bread

                -spread organic mayonnaise, mustard, or Annie’s cashew pimento spread (the orange stuff)

                -spread avocado over that.  Cut the avocado lengthwise, but the pit is large and solid, so you have to cut

around it, in a circle.  Then pull it in half.  Take the half without the pit, and use the knife to remove any overly large brown areas, then to dice it up (inside the skin) on a fine square grid.  Then take a spoon and spoon it out of the skin and spread it onto the toast.  (It’s far easier to spread it if you’ve done that dicing step!)

                -then add salted & sliced tomato, cucumber, organic cheese, red leaf lettuce, sprouts, etc.

                -alternatively: you can leave out the avocado & replace it with hummus for a great variation!

 

14. tortillas (summer)

-heat up some olive oil on a skillet or pan, then throw a few whole wheat flour tortillas down; flip them

around for a few minutes, until they’re all warm & slightly firm.

-warm up a can of refried beans or black beans (or any leftover, cooked, dried beans from the fridge) and

slop ‘em down in the tortilla shells

                -dice up any combination of avocado(s), tomato(s), cucumber, mushrooms, peppers and sprinkle them on. 

                -drip a little mild or hot salsa on, for extra goodness

                -add some grated organic cheese, wrap it up, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. random breakfast ideas

     

     pancakes

-you can make ‘em from scratch, use pre-mixed dried ingredients (just add the wet), or (bleh) use a pre-made mix.

-you must, must, must try replacing the eggs with bananas.  It is incredibly delicious.  It’s like having banana bread pancakes.  YUM.  (one egg = half a medium-sized banana)

-I also highly recommend mixing some granola into the batter.  (thanks to my brother for this one!)

-Mixing in some coconut (from the bulk bins) is also quite delicious.

-And of course, real maple syrup (grade B) is yummier and healthier than imitation (corn syrup with artificial flavorings).  You can also put berries & yogurt on top.

-For a great side: “Gimme Lean” fake (soy) sausage.   Angela says “they are good.”  Throw on a pan with some hot olive oil and fry on each side for a minute or so.  Dip it in maple syrup along with the pancakes.

 

     waffles + warmed frozen berries

-pick up some frozen waffles (I recommend Lifestream’s ‘Buckwheat Wildberry’ wheat-free waffles). 

-toast them, and while they’re toasting, warm up some frozen berries in a pot. 

-pour some grade B (and real) maple syrup on the waffles, then add some berries, and enjoy.

     6-grain cereal / quick oats

-buy ‘vita-grain’ or 6-grain hot cereal from the bulk bins.  It’s ultra-cheap and very healthy.  This is a roughly even mix of ~6 grains, often quinoa, triticale, rye, wheat, millet, oats, whole wheat, or barley. 

-figure out how much cereal you want to eat (I usually do 5 oz. dry cereal).  Add twice that amount of water to a pot, and bring it to a boil.  Add the cereal, then cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

-add honey or raisins or dates to sweeten, then add soy milk (or rice milk) to cool it quickly & add a great flavor.  Enjoy!

-you can also get 3-5 minute “quick oats” in the bulk bins.  They have a much nicer texture than the instant stuff and still only take a few minutes.

     Toast with hummus+basil, vegemite, or marmite

-pretty self-explanatory.  Vegemite/marmite are harder to find in the states but are worth it.  It’s a very strong & delicious salty yeast that you spread (sparingly) on toast.

     Smoothies

                (see above)

     Kanji

                (see above)

     Bagel with “tofutti” imitation cream cheese

                -it’s delicious and has no trans-fats (made from blended, non-hydrogenated vegetable oils).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THOUSANDS MORE RECIPES can be found online at these sites:

                http://www.ivu.org/recipes/

http://www.vegsource.com/recipe/

                http://vegweb.com/food/  (complete with feedback, ratings, etc. for each recipe!)


III. EQUIPMENT LIST

 

Stuff that I’ve found is worth having around:

 

-two big knives with thick blades: one serrated, one smooth.  The handle should be raised, so you can

chop veggies on a flat surface and the blade can come down flush with the surface (without your knuckles hitting the cutting board first).

                -a chopper – these run about $20 and are indispensable for finely dicing onions, ginger, and

garlic.  Put the peeled onions/etc. in the chamber and then bang on the handle 10-20 times; each time you hit it, a curvy blade rotates and chops at a new angle, and voila, you have finely-diced onions in about 30 seconds.

-a large wok, with lid (for stir fries & greens)

-a cast iron pan for the iron content; big enough to be useful, but not so big that it hurts your wrist!

                -a blender, for smoothies

                -a peeler, for vegetables (although I never use one)

                -a cheese slicer (because most organic cheese doesn’t come individually wrapped!) (looks like a small

metal spatula, with a sharp slit in it; you pull on it)

                -a grater (for carrots, cheese, nutmeg, etc.)

                -a large, pyramid-shaped structure filled with the following foods:

 

 


IV. OTHER TIPS

 

 

[ Tips: The transition ]

 

            a) Don’t change your diet too suddenly.  Do it slowly but steadily.  If you change it too quickly, your body –especially the balance of bacterial flora in your intestines - doesn't have time to adjust, your immune system can take a beating, and you might falsely assume that your body can't go without meat (or some other false conclusion).  I cut meat out of my diet over the course of about a year, and the transition was quite effortless.

 

            b) If you find yourself craving some kind of meat, keep in mind that your body is craving what’s in the meat, not the meat itself.  If you’re craving meat in general, you might need more protein; if you’re craving beef, you might need more iron.  If it’s fish, you’re probably not getting enough omega-3’s.  And so on.

 

c) Once you start eating a natural, healthy, vegetable-rich diet, you can probably expect a noticeable boost to

the strength of your immune system – all the antioxidants (and all the fiber!) will, literally, clean your system out.  You are also likely to experience the most stable, regular bowel movements of your life.  This stunning regularity escapes most people because meat has absolutely no fiber in it, and white bread and pasta have most of the fiber stripped out of them.  Fiber is the indigestible "glue" that keeps things moving through your bowels slowly & steadily, so you can really get all the nutrition out of it - and have a smooth, easy B.M. at the end, as nature intended.  With so little fiber in the Standard American Diet, it's no wonder colon cancer (and gnarly diarrhea) are so common. 

          

           d) For those trying to lose weight, ask yourself this: how many obese vegetarians do you know?  The extra (well, normal & natural) amount of carbs you get in a vegetarian diet is often more than offset by the increased amount of fiber.  Also keep in mind that no “diet” is complete without daily aerobic exercise.  This won’t just burn calories while you’re exercising; it’ll raise your overall energy level, and you’ll burn more calories in general, and feel better and be healthier, using your body at the metabolic level at which it evolved to be used.  It’s also great for your bones, helps clean your body of toxins (through sweating), helps you sleep better at night, gives you more energy during the day, enhances your libido, stimulates endorfin production, and exercises your heart, so you’ll live longer.  Use it or lose it!

 

[ Tips: Shopping & food selection ]

 

            a) If you want a healthy diet, it might be wise to avoid eat anything with ingredients that have only a scientific (or hard-to-pronounce) name (i.e. no "natural" name).  Also watch for artificial flavors and colors - often, food containing these was designed to have a long shelf life and taste sweet (i.e. comes loaded with sugar or hydrogenated oils or cottonseed oil) - not to be healthy.  In general, get in the habit of reading the ingredients label, and also, the nutritional value label.  You'll be able to spot unhealthy foods in no time.  It’s pretty straightforward.

           

           b) Avoid partially or fully hydrogenated oils at all costs.   They're a prime ingredient in most foods and candies you’ll find at your normal grocery store, but they are the worst known oils for your heart and your health.  Be especially wary of cottonseed oil (often seen as “partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil”); since cotton is not a food crop, it has lower standards for pesticide use, so the oil tends to be very high in pesticides.

           

           c) Normal grocery stores aren’t selling healthy food.  They pick the fruit green, then artificially ripen it later, with gases; they spraypaint the oranges orange; and many of their products have hydrogenated oils, too much sugar (even the damn ketchup!), or dozens of gnarly, unpronouncable ingredients in them.  Try shopping at your local natural foods or health food store(s) - you’ll benefit just by buying the brands in there.  You'll also be surrounded by fresh produce and fruit and healthy foods, instead of having to plow through 30 aisles of sugar-loaded, unnatural, unhealthy food.

          

           d) For baking, instead of totally-bleached (and nutritionless) white sugar, try using sucanat (evaporated cane juice), turbinado sugar (sucanat that’s been milled 2 or 3 times), or honey.  (White sugar is sucanat that goes through about ten millings and is then bleached.)   Also, stick with grade *B* maple syrup; it has fewer of the minerals processed out.  (You can actually survive on nothing but lemon water and grade B maple syrup - this is how many people fast! - but grade A won’t cut it.)

           e) I want to plug a few brands/products that really stand out.  They are:

 

·         Amy's organic veggie burgers.

·         Gardenburger brand veggie burgers.

·         Amy’s organic soups  (minestrone, pasta & 3 bean, veggie chili, lentil...)

·         Lifestream's "Buckwheat Wildberry" frozen waffles.  They have no wheat (they're made from potatoes & corn?) and are delicious. 

·         Annie’s “cashew pimento spread” is orange and comes in a little clear tub in the refrigerated section, and is unbelievably delicious on sandwiches.

·         Stonyfield’s organic yogurt – because the company is so awesome and altruistic.

·         Annie Chun’s Shiitake Mushroom Sauce (for cooking the best tofu on earth)

·         Gimme Lean fake sausage – comes in a white cylinder-shaped package

 

 

[ Tips: Miscellaneous ]

 

          a) What to drink with all this great food?  Water goes best, in my humble opinion, but there’s also soy/rice milk, fruit juice, and hot tea.  (Although tea is better drank separately from meals, since it tends to inhibit vitamin absorption.)  And during the holidays, try Silk Nog instead of egg nog.  I've actually heard many non-vegetarians say they like it even more than the real thing!  (Kinda gross, drinking eggs…)

 

          b) also try to balance:

·         live foods (fruits, veggies) with “non-live” foods (grains, dried beans, etc.)

·         soy protein vs. non-soy protein.  Getting all of your protein from any one source is sub-optimal; use a variety of sources, to ensure a safe distribution of essential amino acids.

·         hot foods and cold foods.  A balance here is good for your immune system.  “Tilt” as needed.

 

          c) if you use basil a lot, try growing a small potted basil plant indoors.  You’ll have fresh basil all the time.  Keep it in a window that gets plenty of light and water it every other day.  Give it a nice name, of course.  And, most importantly, pinch off the buds whenever it starts flowering.  It will grow large and prosperous if you keep doing this, and last for a year or more.  If you don’t, and let it go to seed, it will just die off rather quickly.

 

       


V. STRATEGIES FOR PHASING MEAT OUT OF YOUR DIET

 

One can combine any or all of these strategies to help kick the habit:

 

·         boycott factory-farmed meat; only eat meat when you can get it humanely.

·         cut pork and chicken out of your diet.  (they’re the most inhumane – pork because pigs are so intelligent, and chickens because they’re so small.)

·         allow yourself to eat meat just once per day.

o        after a few months, try every other day… and so on.

·         when you go to a restaurant, put your blinders on, and pretend you’re a vegetarian when you try to decide what to eat.  If you honestly can’t find something you’re willing to eat that’s vegetarian, then acknowledge the rest of the menu.  Think of it as a good habit, but not a requirement; or think “if I’m going to take a life for this meal, I should at least put in this tiny effort first.”

·         consider pescatarianism –  only eating fish/seafood (no land animals).

·         and finally, of course: consider going vegetarian (no meat) or vegan (no meat or animal products).

 

Also, if you’re going to eat some meat, consider these points:

 

·         avoid lobster, because it's cooked alive.  It doesn’t get any crueler than that.

·         when it comes to beef, choose steak over hamburger.  Steak comes from bulls, who live mostly natural lives outside in pastures.  [...they only spend the last 6-12? months of their lives in feedlots.]   80% of hamburger in the U.S., though, comes from spent dairy cows, and dairy cows have very lousy lives.

·        In general, many would say it's better to eat large animals; a single cow's life feeds ~100 times more people than a single chicken's life.  But pigs are so smart (smarter than dogs; as smart as 2-year-old humans; and so close, genetically, to humans)... so that really just leaves cattle.  And cows are abused, so that leaves bulls, which means steak (!).  Beef might not be healthy to chow down on, but if it's eaten sparingly, the heme iron and the protein are beneficial, and the saturated fats won't be a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

VI. ONLINE RESOURCES

 

·         common questions and answers about vegetarian diets: http://vegweb.com/misc/articles.shtml

·         how do Christianity and vegetarianism go together?   http://www.christianveg.com/hgc.htm

 

·         for [other] FREE vegetarian starter kits:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/VSK/starterkit.html

http://www.vegetarianstarterkit.com/order.asp

or call 1-888-VEG-FOOD and they’ll send you a free one.

 

·         recipe sites with thousands of great (and well-indexed) vegetarian recipes:

http://www.ivu.org/recipes/

http://www.vegsource.com/recipe/

                                http://vegweb.com/food/

 

·         books:

                Becoming Vegetarian by Melina, Davis, and Harrison, $26.99

Dispel the mystery surrounding nutrition. This $12 book is extremely well-written; it goes into depth about nutrition, and, specifically, how to have a healthy vegetarian diet (with extra chapters on going vegan, too). 

                The Student's Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond, $12.95

This book is chock full of simple, fast, cheap, healthy, EASY vegetarian meals. Absolutely essential for transitioners who aren’t already well-seasoned cooks.

                                Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael T. Murray, M.D., $22.95

Accurately named, this 500+ page gem contains everything you could imagine about holistic nutrition, in a well-organized and easy-to-read fashion.  A wonderful investment.

 

·         videos to watch online (or share with others):

                Chew on This (2 minutes) (powerful, substantial, but not very gruesome) 

                Meet Your Meat (10 minutes) (gruesome)

                                These & hundreds of other online videos: visit http://www.petatv.com/

 

·         traveling soon?  find the veg-friendly restaurants where you’re going, with the vegetarian city guide:

http://www.vegetarianusa.com/

 

·         activism and more information:

                                People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: http://www.peta.org/ - everything…

                                Action for Animals: http://www.afa-online.org/ - famous quotes, bumper stickers…