Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top Vegetarian and Vegan Blogs

It's been brought to my attention that someone has taken the time to compile the Top 75 Vegetarian and Vegan Blogs! And I'm honored to have this one included in the list :-). It appears on a web site about pharmacy technician certification programs.

The author, Ashley M. Jones, even grouped them in the categories Cooking & Recipes, News & Politics, Health & Nutrition, Animal Rights, Lifestyle, Beauty and Fashion, Thinking-of-Becoming Veg, and Family.

You can be sure I have bookmarked this site and will be returning again and again. What a fantastic resource. THANK YOU ASHLEY!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3-Cheese Vegan Pasta and Vegan Orange Chicken

This is a pile of vegan, soy free cheese by Daiya Foods.

Tonight I made a dinner that is about as kid-friendly as it gets. I made orange "chicken" and penne and "cheese" with salad and cubed cantaloupe. Ben said "Mommy, your kitchen is just like the inside of a restaurant." And he didn't mean how my kitchen (which was last updated in 1954) looks, but the food. I'm not sure I've ever seen him eat so much at one sitting. What is more gratifying than watching your child devour your homemade cooking? Now I get why traditional [enter ethnicity/religion here] moms are known for their insistence to "Eat, Eat, EAT!!"

DISCLAIMER: This is not a good example of a health-supporting meal. I mean it won't kill you, and nutritionally it beats McD's by leaps and bounds, but do keep in mind that ideally, a healthful vegan dinner should contain fewer processed foods and more whole foods. For this reason, this meal was served with a huge salad and a cantaloupe. Anyway, this was just one of those nights, a night sandwiched between a one featuring homemade bean-and-collard greens soup and another featuring something equally wholesome tomorrow night.

Unfortunately the camera didn't make an appearance so you'll have to picture it in your mind. However I do remember how I prepared everything so I'm happy to share.

3-"Cheese" Vegan Pasta (serves 4)

Boil pasta in sufficient water in a large pot. While pasta is boiling, get the other ingredients ready. You'll want to work fast and while the pasta is still very hot.

When pasta is done, drain the water (do not rinse) and return to the pot immediately; put the pot back on the stove over low-to-medium heat. Add the margarine and stir constantly until margarine is melted. Add the Chreese, Daiya, and nutritional yeast and stir until the Daiya is completely melted. Slowly add the milk until it's at the desired consistency.

I SWEAR this tastes like the real thing.


Orange "Chicken" with Broccoli (serves 2 hungry appetites or 4 small appetites)
  • 1 package Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chick'n Strips
  • 3/4 lb broccoli florets
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Orange Sauce and Glaze (available at Asian stores and in the Asian section of large supermarkets)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cold water
(note: If you don't want to use the jarred sauce, which, admittedly, has corn syrup and other similarly undesirable ingredients, try using the zest of 1 orange, plus its juice, an option that is likely acceptable in flavor, and certainly superior nutritionally. But if you're like me, maybe you think it's OK to use these products once in a great while.)

Take out the Chick'n Strips so they start to thaw.

Lightly steam the broccoli (a quick way: find 2 matching soup bowls. Put the florets into one bowl with a couple tablespoons water. Cover with other bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes. If you're uncomfortable with a microwave, steam the old-fashioned way on the stove).

Put the sauce ingredients into a large (2-cup liquid) measuring cup and stir with a little wire whisk or fork.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the Chick'n strips (it's OK if they're still frozen). Stir fry until heated through. Add the sauce. Heat until thickened. Add broccoli, toss to coat. Serve.

(This would certainly go better with a pile of brown rice than with my mac and cheese but hey I had a 4-year-old in mind.)

If you make either of these... let me know how it turned out!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Americans' food habits ... and national healthcare

You've seen the Nutrition Facts labels on foods -- they give you the nutrition info per serving of that food, and they also provide a Percent Daily Value, which is based on a 2000-calorie (or "average") diet. In other words, this number represents the contribution (expressed as a percent) of that nutrient to a diet providing 2000 calories. The number 2000 was agreed upon by FDA nutrition scientists who came up with the newest nutrition facts label.

Maybe at one time, 2000 was the average number of calories consumed by American adults. No longer. According to recent research, the average American consumes over 3,500 calories a day. I found a fantastic interactive diagram that illustrates caloric intake of various populations around the globe. (You'll need Flash installed to use it.) This illustration shows the percentage of calories contributed from each food group among different nations. You will notice that Americans consume the most calories, and that Americans get almost 40% of their calories from fats and sugars. Intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and root veggies (all together), only account for 10 percent of total calories. TEN percent! Another 23% come from grains (white flour is the base of a huge proportion of what Americans eat), and 24% from animal products. No wonder 2/3 of Americans are overweight and diseases of excess are at an all-time high.

Compare US sources of food calories to that of other countries. We consume the most fat, sugar, and animal products, while consuming the least plant-based foods, of all countries represented.

And our healthcare crisis overshadows that of any other country.

Do you think these two facts are related?

Whether you support or reject universal healthcare, I have a question for you. What about personal accountability? While there's been widespread debate over the national healthcare plan, much of it revolves around whether or not the government should offer an affordable plan to everyone, and what should and should not be available to people. But looking at the problem a bit differently, why do we have this crisis in the first place? Why are premiums so high, and why is everyone in the red?

For many years, healthy people were the majority of the insured and sick folks were the exception. All of the insurance premium money went into a pool that provided medical services and pharmaceuticals for unexpected illnesses and illness of older age. Nowadays, insurance companies are having a harder and harder time affording to insure people because so much more money is being spent on preventable disease management and drugs, and the affected are getting younger and younger. Now, the majority of the insured need more money in treatment than their premiums cost. And the shrinking source of that money? Premiums from healthy people who take care of themselves.

Which, I feel, points to accountability. Are people who eat themselves into a heart attack or gastric bypass surgery entitled to full coverage of these procedures? People choose unhealthy lifestyles knowing full well the risks. Sure, smokers' premiums are a bit higher, and some insurance plans charge more for high BMI (measure of obesity). But this does not begin to cover the cost of all the drugs, illness, and treatment resulting from lifestyle-related diseases.

In my opinion, if more people actually took care of themselves by eating less overall, incorporating more plants and less junk, and exercising, our healthcare crisis wouldn't be so dire.

I'm interested in hearing others' views on this.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vegetarian moms less likely to have kids with diabetes

Pardon my absence; switching over to a new computer has taken over as priority lately. I'm happy to return to regular postings with a report of this recent study, which looked at vegetable consumption in 6,000 Swedish pregnant women and, 5 years later, risk of diabetes in their child. It turns out that the higher the vegetable consumption during pregnancy, the lower the risk of type 1 diabetes in the child. The vegetable link, while strong, may not reveal the whole story, warn the researchers. Something else about the women's lifestyles could also be at play.

This study reminds me of another way that vegans are protected against type 1 diabetes; some research has suggested a link between dairy consumption and increased type 1 diabetes risk. For example, this study from 2000 (click to see the full-text version of it) from the journal Diabetes declares, "our results provide support for the hypothesis that high consumption of cow’s milk during childhood can be diabetogenic in siblings of children with type 1 diabetes." Another study published in the same journal in 1993 found a link between early exposure to dairy milk and diabetes risk.

At this point, no one knows conclusively what causes susceptibility to type 1 diabetes, but it looks like a plant-based diet, at least in part, plays a role in reducing risk.