Archive for September, 2009

h1

Vegan Challenge Recap

September 30, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1/2 banana with almond butter and small handful fresh raspberries

– Bowl of steel cut oats with a half scoop calcium/magnesium powder, 1 tsp chocolate protein powder, 2 tsp PB2, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, and a splash of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze. I had never had steel cut oats before. Now I know why everyone raves about them!

– A few sunflower seeds and a sandwich with 2 slices multigrain bread, mustard, hummus, 3 Tofurky slices, green pepper, broccoli sprouts, and delicious tomatoes from Westwood’s garden

– 1 apple, carrot sticks, 1 tbsp almonds and a couple beanballs

– Shiritaki noodles with black bean salsa (I used the recipe in Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet for the Family as a guideline and discovered that I really do enjoy black beans when they are mixed in with other flavourful ingredients), and 1/2 banana plus 1 fig with almond butter for dessert

– Bowl of air-popped popcorn (a real single-portion-sized amount! Victory once again).

The Vegan Challenge comes to a close

Today is the last day of the vegan challenge. The very last day! I’m not sure quite how I feel about that.

Let’s recap what we set out intending to learn back at the beginning of the month, shall we?

1. Spreading awareness about animal products

From lip balm to toothpaste to alcohol to condiments to pasta, animal ingredients seem to lurk everywhere. Some restaurants were nearly impossible to eat at; the people who worked at Cafe 22 couldn’t even promise that their salad dressing was vegan. Consequently, I was unable to have anything other than an Alexander Keith’s beer and a “salad” (aka romaine lettuce with tomato chunks) for dinner that particular evening.

But the interesting thing is that even though there are animal ingredients in so many of our products, there are also many products which do not *have* to have animal ingredients in them. I found vegan versions of lip balm, toothpaste, alcohol, condiments (well those I like to make myself at home), and pasta. Sometimes it required extra effort on my part to really hunt down these products, but they’re out there. This leads me to wonder why it’s so necessary for us to use animal products at all. If animal ingredients aren’t necessary to make toothpaste, why don’t we stop using them and use plant-based ingredients instead? Or is this even an issue that needs to be brought up? You tell me. Does it bother you at all that there are animal ingredients lingering in nearly everything we put in our mouths? Is it a bad thing or does it not really matter?

2. Decrease my carbon footprint

As I noted earlier in the month, I eat plenty of foods which make my carbon footprint the size of a small country, I’m sure. Fresh fruit and PB2 are the big ones, I think. Eating “meat replacers” such as Tofurky defeats the purpose a little bit because it’s still contributing to a larger carbon footprint, what with all of the manufacturing and packaging that goes on behind the scenes. Even so, eating a meat-free (and egg-free, and dairy-free…) diet this past month has, I think, likely cut down on what my footprint might otherwise have been.

3. Increase my knowledge and understanding of different diets and lifestyles

My words a month ago: “I don’t ‘get’ veganism. I’m skeptical about how nutritious it is.”

I also said this: “I don’t want to knock it if I haven’t even given it a shot… There are all kinds of controversies over how healthy veganism is and I’m on a mission to find out from personal experience.”

I have certainly learned amazing amounts over the past month. Veganism can be a very healthy way to eat- just the same as nearly any other diet. It is dependent on what’s right for your body and it’s also dependent on how much variety you get and how much attention you pay to consuming the right amounts of all the nutrients. Balance is essential.

My body reacted very well to veganism. I had very few real difficulties with cravings and my energy levels didn’t change. My weight stayed the same and my mood didn’t fluctuate either (as a result of the veganism, I mean. I might have gotten a wee bit stressed out a few times over the past week or two from the heavy work and school load, but I attribute that to taking on too much at once. And that has been rectified).

Tomorrow I will post my eats for my final day of this challenge. On Friday I’ll recap the reality of what my personal struggles were this month. And this question will also be addressed on Friday: Are you going to continue eating vegan after the challenge?

Have you learned many new things this month (vegan-related or not)? What are your thoughts about the vast amount of products that contain animal ingredients? What are some things that you do in your daily life to decrease your carbon footprint by a notch or two?

Don’t forget to please give me more suggestions for the 21 Foods List! I’ll make some choices of what to add over the next week before finalizing the list.

h1

Day 29 of the Vegan Challenge

September 29, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– A few raspberries and 1 slice multigrain toast with 3 beanballs mashed across it, plus a few drops of hot sauce

– 1 apple with 2 tbsp PB2

– Chocolate milkshake with 1 frozen banana, 1 cup unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze, 1/2 tbsp each of wheat germ, flaxseed meal, and chocolate protein powder, handful each of kale and Swiss chard, 1/2 scoop calcium powder, and 1 tbsp PB2

– Salad with Swiss chard, carrots, tomato, asparagus, green pepper, broccoli sprouts, hemp seeds, soy nuts, 2 crumbled beanballs, and hummus

– Leftover chickpea curry with basmati rice and 2 apples

– 1 small slice homemade whole wheat toast with 1/2 tbsp almond butter, plus a few more beanballs

Only one day left after today for the Vegan Challenge! The time flies by when you’re having fun.

h1

Strategies to solve sleeping issues

September 28, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– A few raspberries (pre-breakfast breakfast. Whenever I go out for breakfast I always need something small to hold me over until we get to the restaurant)

– 1/2 plate of tofu scramble with a multigrain tortilla, kale, salsa, and a little bit of vegan sour cream at Fresh Cafe- this was excellent! I was wary about tofu because it was the first time I ever ordered tofu on my own. Normally I just have a taste of someone else’s (besides the Tofurky I’ve been eating, of course). But the marinade was really good and I enjoyed this immensely. I also had a taste of the mother dear’s freshly squeezed orange juice at the cafe.

– The other 1/2 of my tofu scramble with a handful of raspberries and 1/2 red pear. I’d intended on saving my leftovers for today’s breakfast, but it was so tasty that I decided to just finish it in the afternoon.

– Chickpea curry with basmati rice and roti bread at Charisma restaurant

Strategies to solve sleeping issues: the association between calcium and sleep

On Thursday afternoon, I spent about two hours talking to a nutritionist, Nicole Choptain. We got along famously; our health philosophies couldn’t be more similar! It was wonderful to sit down and have a really good chat with someone as equally passionate about health as myself. The first part of our session was so that we could assess my personal nutrition habits and needs and the second part of it was for me to interview her for my Living Well column.

A lengthy discussion led to our determination of a number of things for my personal nutrition plan. After we talked about how I feel from eating certain foods and the way that they affect my body, we agreed that the best course of action to take is to decrease the fats in my diet and increase the proteins. I run very well off of a higher ratio of carbohydrates, but a main problem of mine is that I’m not getting enough balance throughout the day of proteins. I might be eating once every couple hours, but it’s mostly carbs and fats and very little proteins. Now, I’m working on including protein more frequently throughout the day.

We also looked at calcium intake and the association between a lack of calcium and poor sleeping habits. I have struggled with sleep deprivation and nightmares my whole life. Nicole believes that it could be metabolic. As soon as she suggested that, the light bulb went off- of course! I always say that between nutrition and fitness we can balance just about everything and improve our health in all aspects of life, yet I neglected to put that belief into practice when it came to my sleeping habits.

To combat an inability to fall asleep (as well as problems with staying asleep and not waking up frequently throughout the night), Nicole recommended calcium loading. Consuming 600-800 mg of calcium (300 mg is roughly the same amount in a cup of milk; adults should have about 1200 mg of calcium per day) right before sleeping can help the body to relax and get a better sleep.

I am, for the most part, opposed to taking supplements. However, Nicole introduced me to calcium in powdered form: the only thing in this powder is calcium and magnesium, and one scoop is equal to 300mg of calcium needs. It’s a relief to find powdered supplements that are very reasonably priced without a whole host of additives! Of course, if we’re going to go the calcium loading route, we still have to make sure that we don’t wind up exceeded our intake of calcium to toxicity levels.*

She also had the idea of having a small snack about 1 1/2 hours before going to bed: specifically, a complex carb with a small amount of protein (such as a slice of whole wheat bread with some almond butter). The effects of this are that the serotonin levels in the body will balance out and help to regulate sleep. The protein in this little snack is necessary because although our bodies can run on carbs for a very long time, at some point our blood sugar is going to drop. This also might be why I have sleeping issues; if I eat at night, it tends to be something heavier on carbs (fruit or popcorn, for example). My body is going without protein for too long.

A few more things that can help with sleeping better is deep breathing and drinking tea. I have started to implement these small changes and am finding them to be very successful. I have just been taking a half scoop of calcium powder at night because I want to build myself up to a couple scoops. This is partly so that my body can get used to it and partly so that my taste buds can get used to it. The calcium powder is tasteless but there’s also a noticeable difference when it’s mixed in the water… the way that tap water is different from well water, for example. But that, as well as the deep breathing right before falling asleep, is working wonders.

This is years of having terrible sleeps, starting to turn around in one weekend. Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be food! How has changing your nutrition habits affected another part of your wellbeing?

*Edited to add: Dr. J sent me this link about how calcium levels predict prostate cancer in men– I’ve also known of people who got kidney stones from having too much calcium in their system. As always, too much of anything is not a good thing! That’s why we should always talk to a dietician or a doctor or do plenty of research on our own before taking any kind of supplement. If you’re not sure, feel free to send me an email; I’m not a licensed professional, but I’m sure I can either put you in touch with someone who can help you out or else I can do a little research for you. I enjoy the nutrition research.

h1

Day 27 of the Vegan Challenge

September 27, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1/2 red pear and 1 tbsp PB2

– 2 slices banana French toast topped with fresh raspberries and 1 tsp almond butter (I used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze instead of soy milk, omitted the maple syrup and vegetable oil spray, increased the amount of cinnamon, and added a small handful of kale plus a tablespoon of green pea flour and a few drops of vanilla extract to the mixture before throwing it all in the blender. The result was slightly greenish bread with green flecks on it, but it was delicious and really filling).

– A few handfuls leftover air-popped popcorn, about a dozen pistachios, a few soy nuts, and some hummus with mushrooms/asparagus/cucumber slices

– 1 apple with 2 tbsp PB2

– Small bowl of homemade granola mixed with puffed wheat and topped with unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, 1/2 banana, and a sprinkle of chocolate protein powder (more about the protein powder to come in a future post) as well as some raspberries and a few more pistachios

– Dinner at Delicious Vegetarian Restaurant: consomme soup and three kinds of vegetables in curry over brown rice.

– 1 glass red wine

My friends Brian, Jarred, and Will took me out for a birthday dinner, even though none of them are even close to being vegetarian, let alone vegan (and Delicious Vegetarian Restaurant is an all-vegan restaurant!). It was very sweet. When I picked them up they were all at Brian’s house and sang me “Happy Birthday” as soon as I opened the door and they presented me with a “vegan man”- squash and peppers and carrots and mushrooms held together with toothpicks in the shape of a person complete with eyes and nose and mouth and hair- with a candle sticking out of his spaghetti squash head for me to blow out. They figured that because I’m vegan, I can’t really eat cake, but that it’s fun to blow out the candle. So I got my candle in a pile of vegetables. I adore supportive friends.

h1

Day 26 of the Vegan Challenge

September 26, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1/2 apple and 1 slice multigrain toast with a beanball turned into a spread and smeared on top (this was surprisingly really tasty)

– Sandwich with 2 slices multigrain bread, 2 tsp PB2, 1/2 banana, and applesauce. I wanted something in the sandwich besides peanut butter and banana slices, but wasn’t in the mood for something as sweet as jam or agave nectar, so I figured I’d give applesauce a try. I loved it.

– Mushrooms with hummus and 1 apple

– 3 stalks of asparagus with 3 oven-roasted Torfuky slices and a smear of mustard, plus some grapes

– Hummus wrap (hummus and veggies stuffed in a pita) and a slice of vegan chocolate cheesecake at the Mondragon Cafe. This place is famous in Winnipeg for its all-vegan fare, but somehow I’d never been before! It was really good. I was happy to have some belated birthday cheesecake, too (which, admittedly, tasted no different from regular cheesecake. Very satisfying!)

– 4 pistachios, a bowl of air-popped popcorn and some water with calcium powder*mixed in. I ate a normal-sized bowl of popcorn, less than 200 calories worth. I’m proud that I packed away the leftovers in a container to save for another day rather than just eating it all because it’s there. I borrowed-without-planning-on-returning my mother dear’s air popper since mine is busted 🙂

A few things I learned yesterday:

1. Applesauce makes for a good sandwich spread;

2. Beans on toast are tasty as long as they’re all mashed up and mixed with spices so that they don’t *really* resemble beans;

3. If I *think* that I’m craving something sweet, that craving can usually be satisfied with some extra protein (hence the Tofurky slices when I really wanted almond butter. The Tofurky, I’ve found, really hits the spot);

4. Cheesecake doesn’t need to have cheese in it to be amazingly delicious;

5. I actually do like pistachios; and

6. If I add nothing to my popcorn, and if I eat it slowly and mindfully, I can in fact control the portion size.

Have a great weekend!

*I shall write more about the calcium powder next week, but for now we’ll just leave it at this: it was recommended to me when I spoke to a nutritionist on Thursday and I have confidence that my body will reap many benefits from it.

h1

The 21 Foods List

September 25, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1 apple with 2 tbsp PB2 and 1 slice multigrain bread with a little bit of almond butter and raspberry jam

– Veggie medley parfait (carrots, asparagus, tomato, cucumber, green pepper) and about a cup of grapes

– 1 calzone

– Handful of raw chickpeas and some mushrooms with hummus (the raw chickpeas are what happen when I’m hungry and am in the process of making hummus. Yummy!)

– 2 small bowls of cereal (mixture of puffed wheat with homemade granola, topped with unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, a banana, and 1/2 apple)

– 2 glasses Yellow Tail Cab Sauv, 1 vodka shot, and 1 1/2 vodka-cranberries. It’s fun when the bartender gives you free drinks for your birthday. I think I’ll start saying it’s my birthday every night. (Kidding. Sort of. :D)

Make it from scratch

When I found out that Lori had created a 30 Foods List for her 30th birthday of all the food she wants to make from scratch before her 31st birthday, I immediately wanted to jump on that bandwagon and do the same. Now that I have turned 21, I present to you…

The 21 Foods List!

These are 21 foods that I will make from scratch before my 22nd birthday:

1. Perogies

2. Pasta (spaghetti/linguine style… the noodles themselves, that is. I have mastered the art of boiling pasta!)

3. Cinnamon buns (without breadmaker help)

4. Jam

5. Marshmallows

6. Gnocchi (again, the actual making of the dough and filling, not the act of boiling the pasta)

7. Baked donuts

8. Graham crackers

9. Cheesecake

10. Bagels

11. Pickles

12. English Muffins

13. Canning something. I’m thinking tomatoes?

14. Roasting a turkey. Preferably with all the fixings.

15. Nut butter

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

Yes. Many of these are foods not typically thought of as “healthy” (marshmallows and donuts, oh my!). And they are also mostly of the bread variety (what can I say; I like bread). But that’s okay, because part of this little challenge is going to be trying to healthify some of these foods! Hence why the donuts, for example, will be baked. It’s going to be a healthy and delicious cooking spree around here for the next year. Making food from scratch is so much fun! I’ve made tortillas, ice cream, butter, different kinds of dressings/sauces/condiments, beef jerky and other dehydrated foods, all sorts of baked goods including bread and granola bars, and yogurt cheese, but there are so many more things out there to experiment with and enjoy. I’m looking forward to this year of food-making.

Here’s where you come in: As you can see, there are a few empty spaces in my list. I’ll be writing about my experiences with making all of these foods here on the blog, so I’d love it if you all help me to decide what should be added to the list. Lend your voice: what are some things that you have always wanted to try making? Leave them in the comments and I’ll pick a few and add them to my list! If you have tons of suggestions, we can always knock a couple off of my pre-made list. Or just make the list a wee bit longer. I’m flexible!

h1

Legal everywhere

September 24, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1/3 cup oats, 2/3 cup vanilla unsweetened Almond Breeze, 1 banana, 1 tbsp PB2, sprinkle cinnamon, and 1/2 apple

– Sandwich with 3 slices tofurky, apple slices, veggies, and mustard on whole wheat bread

– Salad with Swiss chard, tomato, asparagus, cucumber, cauliflower, and carrots; 1 apple with 2 tbsp PB2

– Brown rice with chickpeas, edemame, and a beanball

– Cauliflower with hummus, some grapes/cantaloupe, and 1/2 apple with 3 tbsp PB2

– 1 small sweet potato, sliced and baked in the oven, and served with homemade ketchup, as well as a slice of gingerbread with a smidgen of icing

Today is my 21st birthday! I’m seeing a fantastic band (Two Hours Traffic) tonight. I think I’ll be properly celebrating with cake in October when the vegan challenge is over and I can eat cheesecake. Depending on my mood, I just might whip up a vegan cake today, though! We’ll see.

*Edited to add: Everyone listen to CBC Radio 3 from 9am-1pm CST today; my sister is co-hosting the show!!

h1

Organizations support a variety of nutrition plans

September 23, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1 sliced apple, a few grapes, and 1 raisin scone with a little smear of almond butter

– 1 piece multigrain bread, toasted, then topped with hummus, tomato slices, and cheezy sauce, and broiled in the toaster oven. This was heavenly! I love toast but have been having difficulties in figuring out vegan toppings besides nut butters. I was going to try black beans on toast, but I tasted one black bean and it tasted awful, so that idea got scratched. I was very pleased with this hummus/tomato/cheezy sauce concoction of mine, though!

– Cauliflower with hummus

– Veggie and hummus sandwich from Soma Cafe (I had my doubts if the bread was vegan, but people behind the counter said it was vegan so I’ll believe them!) and 1 apple

– 1 calzone with chocolate milkshake (1 cup unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze, 1 frozen banana, spoonful each of flax/wheat germ/PB2, kale, and cinnamon)

– Some grapes and more cauliflower with hummus (hummus is the new nut butter in terms of my obsessions, apparently)

What does the gym mean to you?

Head over to Living Rhetorically today to partake in a discussion about the gym!

More on Vitamin B12

The American Dietetic Association issued a paper this summer to support vegetarian diets. The ADA said that “well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all ages of the life cycle” (emphasis my own). In the paper, it details a number of nutrients and backs up its position with hard evidence.

This paper states that “No unfortified plant food contains any significant amount of active vitamin B12” (1269). All of the B vitamins are water-soluble, so that means that when we consume too many of them, the excess generally is simply flushed out of our bodies. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body; that’s why all of that vitamin A (a fat-soluble vitamin) from the excessive amounts of carrots I ate a while back was causing my skin to turn orange. It was a sign of toxicity.

There are some good things and some bad things about vitamin B12 being water-soluble. The good is that it is unlikely we will overdose on the vitamin, because the excess is flushed out. The bad is that we need to always replenish our stores of vitamin B12, because it doesn’t stay in the body. My friend was recently telling me how he was vegan for about five years before he developed symptoms such as fatigue and weakness and went to a doctor. After a few tests, it was determined that he was severely deficient in vitamin B12. The doctors gave him vitamin B12 injections on a regular basis and he found that his energy returned almost immediately after receiving the injections (he is now vegetarian rather than vegan and has no problems with fatigue, weakness, or other deficiency symptoms).

I have been unable to find a reputable source which states exactly how long vitamin B12 stays in our system for, but in one way that isn’t really so relevant: the point is that we need to consume vitamin B12 on a regular basis if we want our minds and bodies to function. Most resources seem to agree that 2mg/day of vitamin B12 is a good amount. Like all vitamins, consuming smaller amounts at regular intervals is going to be best absorbed into your body than having one large amount across lengthy, sporadic intervals.

I find it very interesting that the ADA is now encouraging vegetarian diets. My initial reaction to reading their paper was that perhaps it was endorsed by a vegetarian society, but it appears that, although there are certainly affiliations with some vegetarian organizations, this paper was respectably produced by the ADA on its own. A vegetarian food guide has been created by Dietitians of Canada as well. Although, like we talked about on Monday, there is some stigma with regards to vegetarianism, it looks as though these national health organizations are doing their best to accommodate for people on a wide range of diets.

h1

Day 22 of the Vegan Challenge

September 22, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– A couple handfuls of grapes and a chocolate milkshake (1 frozen banana, 1 cup unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze, 1 tbsp PB2, 1 tbsp flaxseed meal, 1 tbsp wheat germ, sprinkle of cinnamon, and a couple handfuls of kale)

– 1/3 gRAWnola bar (from the Farmer’s Market) and 1 raisin scone smeared with jam

– 2 falafel balls and 3 yam fries with hummus

– Carrot sticks and chopped cauliflower; grapes with apple slices and cantaloupe

– Sandwich with 2 slices multigrain sandwich, 3 Tofurky oven-roasted deli slices, mustard, Swiss chard, tomato, and green pepper. This was yummy. I think I might be starting to like mustard.

– 1/2 cup brown rice with edemame and chickpeas

Cammy asked me if I think that part of my nut butter addiction is because PB2 has sugar in it. I definitely do think that the sugar/salt in PB2 is addicting! Interestingly, although I could eat half a jar of PB2 in one sitting, I don’t feel the same addiction to FitNutz, even though it too has about the same amount of sugar and salt. They are both delicious, but sometimes I feel as though I can’t control my PB2 cravings, whereas that never seems to happen with FitNutz. So yes, I think that the sugar/salt combo has an effect on my body,

However, I do not think that PB2 is the source of my obsesseion with nuts and nut butters. I had it long before PB2 came along. I guess each of us has our own “needs” when it comes to food- I often have major apple cravings as well, for example; I see that as a sign that my body needs certain nutrients from apples more than another person might. That’s my interpretation of it, anyway! And, of course, when we get in the habit of eating a certain food, we gravitate towards it and can’t seem to get enough.

So with the nuts/nut butters, I’m going to try taking a few days “off” from eating any at all every week. I think it’s healthy to take a break a couple times a week.

h1

The stigmatized vegan

September 21, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– Bowl of cantaloupe, apple slices, grapes, and 1/3 banana

– 3 oatmeal raisin scones with a small amount of almond butter and jam. For the scones, I subbed part of the whole wheat pastry flour for flaxseed meal, wheat germ, and 1 tbsp of FitNutz Pro. I also used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze in place of the soymilk and added 1 tsp cinnamon (and the raisins). They were excellent.

– 3 beanballs wrapped in nori, some mushrooms with hummus, and a salad (romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower, carrot, and hummus)

– 2 1/2 slices gingerbread with icing and peanut butter

– Some almonds and grapes (maybe a couple tbsp of each?), and 2 tbsp PB2 with raisins

– A couple handfuls of Guiltless Gourmet blue corn tortilla chips, a couple falafel balls, and some yam fries

– 1 barbecued Tofurky frank with homemade ketchup, 1/2 beer, a few tomato slices, and 1 barbecued cob of corn

Yesterday was a tough day- I really had the munchies but was having a lot of difficulty being satisfied (as you can tell!). This resulted in me eating far too much and by the end of the day just feeling over-stuffed… though I found that the falafel, chips, and Tofurky really hit the spot, strangely enough. This was the first time in the past few weeks that, although I wasn’t craving meat, I still felt dissatisfied with what I was eating. Mentally, I don’t seem to have any issues with being vegan, but I think that physically my body is starting to wonder where the animal products are. Either that, or being cooped up indoors with studying was making me go stir-crazy and munching out of habit…

Vegetarianism, veganism, and the stigma attached to them

A month(ish) ago, I would have been the first to openly state that I don’t believe veganism is a very healthy way to eat. In fact, looking back at previous posts, I’m sure that I made my position on veganism explicit. I’ve learned a thing or two from eating vegan and doing research, and now I understand that there’s a whole lot more to it than I thought- which is what we always will find when we do a little digging! But I’m shocked at the real animosity that exists between people with different diets.

There was recently an upsetting situation at VeggieGirl’s blog, when she was “accused” of posting photos with meat in them; the commenter slandered her for it and said some rude and hurtful things toward her about displaying photos of murder etc. For the record, these pictures were of meals. Regular meals on a plate. Our dear VeggieGirl is, after all, a food blogger!

Even though she had to deal with the uncalled-for cruelty of the commenter, VeggieGirl handled it beautifully in a follow-up post in which she made it clear that food is nourishment and something to be enjoyed, and no one has any right to judge anyone else based on their food choices.

We all have our own opinions as to what way of eating is a “good” way to eat. Most of you know my personal nutrition philosophy of eating real food and trying to avoid or limit processed food (or rather, *replace it* with the real stuff), but you can read more of that on the sidebar (and, er, please ignore the above tortilla chips/Tofurky etc… well, eating real food is what I strive for; I don’t pretend it’s something I always manage to achieve ;)). I very strongly believe in it, and am wary of diets that are very high or low in any one particular nutrient or of diets that promote processed foods and supplements, but that’s just me. If other people really want to try any of those kinds of diets, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’d urge them to do a lot of research to learn more to determine if it is a safe way to eat, but I think it’s also very important to not assume our expertise on the matter.

Me? I was wrong about veganism. I’m full of energy. I’m able to maintain my weight. I’m not lacking in nutrients. I’m not hungry or weak or ill. At this point I’m prepared to say that eating a mostly (key word!) vegan diet as a rule could quite possibly be one of the healthiest diets, in terms of our own physical health, environmental health, and financial health too.

Most people who, upon hearing I was going vegan for a month, immediately said “Oh but that’s not healthy, you need animals to survive”, probably haven’t done a great deal of research on the subject.* Some became downright hostile and said that they dislike people who eat this way “because they adopt a holier-than-thou attitude”. I think that’s a pretty big leap to make, and an unfair, discriminatory one at that. I don’t believe it’s a valid argument at all.

I recently found a passage from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential to be absolutely appalling:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

The assumptions he makes are insulting and hurtful, no matter what your diet is like. There are countless reasons for why any of us eat in any particular fashion; there are ways to be healthy and unhealthy for any kind of diet, and every individual has his or her own needs with the way their body reacts to certain foods. There are so many things that are rude, hostile, nonsensical, and just plain wrong with Bourdain’s passage** that I am going to hand over a proper analysis of it to Living Rhetorically in the Real World in the future.

Hearing about how VeggieGirl was treated by another vegan, and hearing omnivores railing against vegans, is very disheartening. Why is there so much stigma? Why is there so much judgment?

I can’t help but think that everyone would have much healthier physical bodies and much healthier body image if we got rid of that stigma.

Questions are good. We learn by asking questions. Asking why one person eats that way and someone else eats a different way can broaden our perspectives and help our whole selves to become healthier. That kind of healthy curiosity is good for us all, especially because it will reduce the likelihood of making judgments and jumping to conclusions. If we find ourselves making assertive judgments on a certain nutrition plan, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to delve into some research on that topic.

Have your thoughts and opinions changed on a particular subject recently after doing more research and learning more about it?

*Yes, I do agree that we need animals to survive. On a number of levels. Hence my earlier statement about eating a mostly vegan diet.

**I’ve read about three pages of Bourdain’s book, so there’s always a chance here that I’ve completely misinterpreted his words. Maybe he has a really warped sense of humour and didn’t intend for the passage to read as it does. But I’m not very impressed with it as it stands alone.

Edited to add: Check out Westwood’s post, Pretty in Plastic, for an interesting discussion on the ethics of plastic surgery!