I made a decision to eat "outside the norm" late in life. I was a conventional eater for the first 50 years.
I was introduced to "food as medicine" after 3 diagnoses of breast cancer between ages 36 and 50. I embraced the possibility of change, educated myself, and never looked back. I dropped animal products, refined sugar and flour, as well as processed food from my diet. I added in numerous fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. "Green", "Live" and "Chlorophyll" became my buzz words.
I was determined to not have another cancer grow in my body. I am still a work in progress. Cancer patients always are. I work daily at creating a healthier environment within. It is my way of saving the planet, being kind to animals, and saving myself at the same time. ***Find Vegan Nutrition information at the end of the article.
As the saying goes, "People who wait for changes to occur on the outside before they commit to making changes on the inside will never make any change at all."
My daughter, Jennifer became a vegetarian early in life, at age 14. Her changes were made for ethical reasons. She started the first PETA club in her HIgh School. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Jennifer made the connection between beloved pets and meat that we eat. She connected packaged beef, pork, poultry and seafood to the faces of cows, pigs, chickens and fish. She was having none of that.
As her mother, and the chief food preparer in our home, I found it difficult to choose food to feed her nutritionally. She ate what we ate, except for the meat. There were vegetarian hot dogs in 1994 and instant mashed potatoes, which were her favorite snacks. I was still eating a conventional diet at the time and found it hard to create nutrition filled favorites for her. We made our way through it, but I wish I had been given some options at the time that gave me confidence.
You might have a family member that has decided to make a change for one of the above reasons. They could be young, like my daughter, or older, like me. Indeed, there are very good reasons people have in choosing vegetarianism (eating no meat) and/or veganism (eating no meat, dairy products or eggs). Aside from the environmental and ecological arguments, it is a decision that for many is tied to cultural and religious beliefs. Allergies can play a part in this decision as well.
Teens who are trying to define themselves and formulate their own beliefs may want to back their newly-stated opinions with actions. Listen carefully to the person who has chosen this new change and ask questions to help understand the reason. Support them and don't take it personally. It is about them, not you.
Jennifer continues to be a voice for animals. She is a fervent spokeswoman for animal protection and the humane treatment of animals. She has chose the vegan lifestyle and it is serving her well.
So, when cooking for non-meat eaters, what do we feed them?
When a family member decides to make this type of change, teamwork is important. Meal-planning, grocery shopping and cooking all are affected. It can be daunting for a parent who knows how to cook a certain repertoire of meat-based meals to face the task of relearning a vegetarian selection.
You may consider "leaning-in" to the change. Institute a "Meatless Monday, or Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays"! After all, cutting out half the meat still makes a positive impact on animals, the environment and your own health.
Learn how to prepare more vegetarian dishes by modifying the ones with meat with some veggie "mock-meats" or perhaps sesame sprinkles instead. Get a couple of good vegetarian/vegan cookbooks and try a new recipe each week. Keep the ones that you like to create in your own collection of favorites for the entire family.
Asian food is great for everyone; just avoid fish and oyster sauce. Curries often are made with coconut milk with a lot of great vegetables and brown rice. Mexican food allows for many vegan options such as veggie tacos, guacamole, salsa and black bean soup. Italian food with its pasta and tomato and pesto sauces, pizzas that can be made vegetarian and risotto are great options. Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines are a "go to" in our house. Indian cuisine with rice, naan, garbanzo beans and spinach paneer is perfect.
It is so much easier now than it was in 1994. You can buy faux chicken, veggie burgers, vegan "meat balls," meatless-sausage and vegan hotdogs. You can learn to cook meat-substitutes with tofu, tempeh, and seitan (contains gluten). Seasonings are the key. Learn how to use them and you will satisfy the entire family.
A vegan diet is like any other type of diet. Variety is the key. Just as someone who eats a lot of fast food is not getting a balance of nutrients, the same can be said for someone who eats mostly rice and broccoli.
When you are invited out to dinner and people ask "What can I feed you?" suggest any of the above selections. Offer to bring a dish to share from your new selection of recipes.
When people speak of "vegan nutrition issues," they are usually speaking about the amount of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 found in the diet. Protein is easy; if you eat a varied diet with adequate amount of calories, you will probably take in enough protein. It has never been an issue for me. You do have to eat a variety of foods to take in enough protein and it is important for anyone making this type of change to be educated by a nutritional expert.
Use today's recipes to get started. They are easy and delicious. Check out the recipes in the other articles on my Blog and try one of those.
If you make this choice, be smart and keep yourself healthy. The world needs you to do that for yourself and for the animals.
Protein: Essential amino acids, found in proteins, are necessary for growth and repair of tissues and muscles, important formation and maintenance of a healthy immune system, etc. Animal proteins contain all essential amino acids. Plant proteins contain all of the essential amino acids but in different proportions than are found in animal proteins.
It was thought that you conscientiously had to combine plant foods, such as rice and beans or lentils and pasta, or order to guarantee the intake of complete proteins. We now know that as long as you eat lots of different foods each day, you will have the proper amino acid intake. Soy products have essential amino acids in proportions similar to those in animal proteins. If you have days when you know that you are just not going to be able to vary your diet, try to include some soy yogurt, edamame, tofu or tempeh.
Iron and Vitamin C: Iron and Vitamin C like each other. In fact, when you eat iron and Vitamin C containing foods, your body is able to absorb more iron than it would if Vitamin C wasn't around.
You can find Vitamin C in oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and their juices, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and chilies, mangos and papayas, and green veggies.
You can find Iron in lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, raisins and prunes, all kinds of greens (mustard, kale, beet, chard, spinach, etc.), blackstrap molasses, black beans, watermelon, garbanzo beans, seitan, tempeh, and iron-enriched cereals and grain products.
Calcium: Many of the foods that contain iron also contain calcium, including greens, vegetables (like broccoli and bok choy), black strap molasses, and tofu. Vegan milks can be fortified with calcium. The same goes for products made with vegan milks, like "cheeses" and frozen entrees. Nuts and seeds can be a modest source of calcium. Sneak in calcium wherever you can . Sesame seeds are very high in calcium. Make some milk from sesame seeds.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B 12 is important for red blood cell health. The daily requirement is very low and vegans can obtain Vitamin B12 from fortified products, such as some cold breakfast cereals and vegan milks. Be sure to read the labels! Nutritional yeast may be fortified with B12. It has a cheezy flavor. You can add it to cereal, smoothies, baking recipes, salad dressings, soups, veggie burgers, and stir-fries. I choose to supplement with 1000 mcg of methylcobolamine daily. You make and utilize less Vitamin B12 from food as you age.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, as well as in immune, nerve, and muscle function. In addition, it may play a role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and depression. Most children and adults (ages 1 to 70) need 600 IU of Vitamin D per day, though older adults need a bit more. You can get it from sitting, playing or working in the sun, (make sure you are wearing sunscreen), but also from fortified foods and supplements. Some foods that may contain Vitamin D are mushrooms, orange juice, cereals, alternative milks and yogurt, eggs, and cheese.
Unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats are considered to do less damage and may have some health benefits. Olive oil and olives, avocado, nuts and seeds all contain healthy fats. If choosing an unsaturated vegetable oil, my choices are sunflower, sesame and olive. These are shelf worthy. I also use flaxseed oil for cold use and it should be refrigerated. Your daily calories from fat should be less than 30 percent.
Humans require a certain amount of fat in their bodies to help with the metabolism of vitamins and minerals. We tend to overdue consumption of fat in this country. Try sauteing in a bit of vegetable broth or using avocado oil spray instead of stick margarine for cooking. Everything in moderation is the key.
Vegan diets can be inherently low fat, with the accent on grains, fruit, vegetables, beans and some soy products. (minimal processed soy) I actually have to look for ways to get fat into my diet.
Tofu is made from pressed soybeans. You can purchase fresh tofu, which needs refrigeration, or aseptically packaged tofu, which does not need refrigeration until the package is opened. I recommend fresh organic sprouted tofu. Tofu is already cooked, so you can take it out of the package and mix it with veggies and salsa or fruit and preserves. Tofu is relatively bland and will take on any flavor you give it. Firm tofu will hold it shape well. Cut it into cubes and toss it into salads, stir-fry or saute it, or bake it. Silken or soft tofu can be blended for sauces, soups, smoothies, and salad dressings. Remember to refrigerate tofu, as it is perishable. If you have a sensitivity to soy, you may want to eat sparingly or substitute avocado after cooking the veggies.
Mexican Tofu Scramble
14 oz. kidney beans
14 oz. plain firm tofu
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced or 1/2 bag frozen mixed peppers
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawd
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
bunch of fresh coriander or 1 teaspoon dried coriander
tortillas of choice
salt and pepper
Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook finely chopped onion, chipotle and garlic until soft and golden.
Add red pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes until soft.
In a separate bowl, mash the drained tofu to a scramble with a fork. Blend in turmeric and nutritional yeast.
Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Add them to the frying pan along with the drained corn.
Add the tofu and mix everything well. Cook on low until the mixture has warmed through. Season to taste.
Serve on a warm tortilla sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander leaves. If you don't have the fresh, add the dried coriander and mix gently.
Quick and Easy pizza
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor. Sometimes it is fortified with vitamin B12. This is a good source for vegans. Braggs makes a nutritional yeast which contains B12, as does Bob's Red Mill.
2 English muffins or Bagel halves
organic peanut butter or almond butter
chopped nuts or choice
chopped dried fruit of choice
fruit preserves of choice
Lightly toast the English muffins or the Bagel halves.
Spread with peanut butter or almond butter.
Spread fruit preserves on top.
Top with chopped nuts and dried fruits.
Add nutritional yeast on top if you wish.
Spread with dairy free creme cheese
Top with chopped tomatoes, red peppers and red onions.
Add grated non-dairy cheese on top.
frozen cashew or coconut milk ice "cream" of choice
fresh or thawed frozen fruit of choice
nutritional yeast (fortified with vitamin B12)
Layer the "ice cream" and other ingredients in glass and top with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
Notes: You can also mix some protein powder in with your ice "cream" as you are making your Sundae.