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Plant Protein

Adequate protein consumption is something most vegans are concerned with at one time or another. Food combining was once thought to be essential in getting proper protein through a vegan diet. It used to be believed that all amino acids had to be eaten at the same time to form complete proteins. We now know that incomplete proteins can be stored in the body for many days to be combined with other incomplete proteins. As long as all essential amino acids are in the diet, it doesn’t matter if the proteins are complete or incomplete.

That being said, I know my body  functions much better when I’m getting protein at every meal. I also lift weights in an effort to gain muscle mass, and I know that protein is required for muscle building. (Watch out, Serena Williams. I’m trying to grow thighs that will rival yours.) The main reason I like getting protein with each meal/snack, though, is that it satiates me and allows me to go longer between meals without feeling like a ravenous beast.

I’m aiming for around 70 grams of protein a day, which is based on the following calculation:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm

Use 0.8 if you’re pretty sedentary, 1.8 if you’re training for a marathon or working out on that level. I’m going to use 1.0, since I’m by no means sedentary, meaning I have a job that requires physical energy and I also lift weights several times a week, but I’m not running for miles and miles, either.

So, my weight of 125 lb (give or take 5 lbs, depending on the time of year and the amount of available sweets within my reach) divided by 2.2 = approx. 57 kg.

57 kg x 1.0 = 57 gm

Let’s take a look at what plant-based foods I can eat to get the protein my body requires.

Tempeh    31gm per cup
Soybeans (cooked)    30gm per cup
Tofu (firm)    8-15gm per 4oz.
Lentils    15gm per cup
Quinoa    11gm per cup
Soymilk    10gm per cup
Peas (cooked)    9gm per cup
Peanut butter    8gm per 2 T
Chickpeas, Kidney Beans, White Beans    6-8gm per 1/2 c.
Spaghetti (cooked)    7gm per cup
Spinach (cooked)    6gm per cup
Sunflower seeds    5gm per 2 T
Oatmeal    5g per 1/2 c.
Brown Rice    5gm per cup
Broccoli    5gm per cup
Baked Potato    4gm per 6 oz.
Whole grain bread    5gm/2 slices
Cashews    5gm per 1/2 c.

I’ve also found an edible rice protein powder that I ingest within 30 minutes of my workouts. It contains 12 grams of protein per serving.

Pretty simple! Here’s what a sample day might look like:

Post workout:

Protein powder (12 gm)

Breakfast:

oatmeal (5 gm), soymilk (10gm)

Lunch:

bread (5gm) with peanut butter (8gm)

Dinner:

tofu (10 gm), brown rice (5 gm), spinach (6gm)

That’s 61 grams of protein, not including the protein found in other veggies I’ll eat with my meals and snacks.

Even if one doesn’t want to give up meat entirely, it’s nice to know there’s some healthy protein alternatives in plants foods.

(For a great article on food combining and vegan protein needs, see The Savvy Vegetarian.)

Factory Farming

I’m about to make a huge confession. I’m not a pet fan. You know how single guys get when they’re around new babies? Like, “Don’t you want to hold the baby?” and they recoil in horror? Or, if you left them in the same room alone with a baby, they’d avoid all contact and just pretend it wasn’t there? Yeah, that’s me with your dog. Indifferent, unless it gets too close.

You know those emails you forward me with the cats saying funny things while falling into fish tanks or the monkey lying harmoniously on the tiger’s head? I delete these as soon as my brain registers what’s going on, and then I internally debate whether or not to block your IP address from every computer in my home.

My lack of animal love has made me able to make statements like, “I love cows, they are so yummy!” and “I’d eat a live chicken, that’s how hungry I am!” (I know, you animal lovers are now deleting me from your stuff…hang in there, I’ve got a point, and you might like me a little bit once I make it)

So all this being said, I choose not to own a dog, or a ferret, or a cat. (Wait, we’ve got a cat, but she’s different.) I’ve got kids to take care of, and I just don’t want the added responsibility of a pet, and really, I don’t understand human/animal relationships, even though I’ve heard endless stories about how a dog comforted a depressed old man, or something along those lines.

When I decided to try the vegan challenge for a month, I’m sure it was assumed that I did this for animals. This assumption is absolutely correct. Though I don’t get the whole dog whisperer thing, I also don’t understand how we can treat animals like we do in our country and why in the world this mistreatment doesn’t get more attention. I understand we’ve got starving children and folks without health insurance and kids going off to foreign countries for war, but this is still an issue that’s important in our nation, and the lack of coverage on it startles me. What would happen if Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann dedicated an entire week to the mistreatment of factory farmed animals? (I just love putting those two in the same sentence)

I first heard about factory farming and the horrific conditions that chickens, pigs, and cattle endure several years back, and it was enough to make me think about it for a while but slowly disassociate the meat on my plate with the squealing pig crammed into a cage it’s entire life. It’s amazing how one can desensitize oneself sometimes.

I was awakened again to the realities of animal abuse when I watched the documentary, “Food, Inc.” this past summer. While this film hits on many issues such as genetic engineering, foodborne illness, and obesity, it was the conditions that the animals endure that struck a nerve with me.

Here’s a clip from Food, Inc. that shows how the chickens we buy in the grocery store are raised.

Dairy cows have a life that brings tears to my eyes.

This link from the Humane Association has a wealth of information on dairy cow treatment. (Mastitis is extremely painful for mamas, whether human or not)

While I’m not a card-carrying member of PETA, in that I’m not against eating meat altogether, I don’t think there’s any excuse for us to be treating animals the way we do in this country. Of course, the primary reason for this is mass production (money), but surely there’s a better way than torturing animals, which is really what’s going on here?

So what can we do to make a difference? Well, we could all give up meat and dairy from factory farms, but I don’t foresee that happening any time soon on such a large scale that it would effect productivity (my husband is sitting beside me as I type this, destroying a burger, though I’m happy to add that we know the source and the cow was raised humanely).

I think the first thing we can all do is to educate ourselves further on this issue, since education is always the first step toward change. I’ve listed some books under “Booklove” that can help, and I encourage you to watch Food, Inc.

The next step after learning the realities of what’s happening is to decide what’s right for us, and what we feel lead to do as individuals to help these suffering animals. Maybe you wanna go all out and give it all up at once? If that’s too drastic at this point, perhaps you can encourage your family to go meatless/dairyless for a meal or two each week?

Please visit this site for more information about factory farming and what you can do to help.

I’m two weeks into my vegan adventure, and I’ve learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share with others. Let me preface this by saying that I had no doubt that vegan junk food was unhealthy for me, but, being up for the challenge, I indulged in the name of science. You’re welcome.

Last week I felt like crap. Tired, a bit achy, irritable (yes, sounds familiar to some of you, but this was to the extreme). I thought back on what I’d eaten in the days leading up to this, and, while it was dairy-and meat-free, it was hardly what one would call a “healthy diet.” Barely any greens, zero fruit, heavy on the simple carbs and fake meat stuff. I also discovered that I was now consuming high quantities of Omega 6, in the form of oils. And here I thought earthy-sounding oils like soybean and sunflower were helping me out! On the contrary, high intakes of these oils can cause an imbalance in your Omega 3’s and 6’s, and we want these to live in harmony in our bodies. Too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can cause all sorts of bad things to happen due to inflammation, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and auto-immune disease (which I see a lot of in my line of work).

So how am I getting so much Omega 6? Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal is the bomb. And contains cottonseed oil (see??? Doesn’t that ingredient sound all innocent?). Stacy’s Tuscan Herb Pita Chips. Come on, it’s Pita bread! Unfortunately, it also contains Sunflower oil. My snack list could go on and on, but the one thing they all have in common is high amounts of Omega 6.

Now, let me say that Omega 6 isn’t necessarily the bad guy. We all need some in our bodies (though not in the form of the processed crap I’ve been inhaling). The key is to get it in quality forms, and to also balance it out with Omega 3’s. Omega 3 is beneficial in many ways: it helps with memory, learning, and mood & behavior (depression, Schizophrenia, bipolar, ADHD). If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard that it’s been added to baby formula in the form of DHA. This is because it helps with the brain development of children.

Enter what could be viewed as the difficult part of a vegan diet. There’s a lot of science behind this, and though I loooove to talk nerd as much as the next guy, I’m going to simplify this as much as possible.

Some sources of Omega 3 go straight to ya…these are found in cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel. Other sources (vegetarian) like walnuts and flaxseeds require the body to convert it to usable Omega 3. Some people’s bodies seem to be great at this, while others struggle due to unknown reasons (though some speculate that getting too much Omega 6 can actually interfere with Omega 3 absorption…dang!)

So what’s a gal to do? Well, I’m going to be very conscious of my snack-attack times, and plan for them instead of just heading straight to the Teddy Grahams. I’m also going to increase my consumption of healthy Omega 3s in the forms of wheat germ and flaxseed oil. We’ll see how the next two weeks go as far as energy level and mood.

The Savvy Vegetarian
was a great source of info, as was Heather Eisen, a dietitian and all around brilliant gal who lives in the NYC area.

When one thinks of a raw food diet, images of lettuce, juicing machines, and Skeletor-looking Zen-ed out Moby-ish folks come to mind. At least, to my mind. Who knew raw food was not only healthy for you, but freaking fantastic to taste?

Raw food is defined as unprocessed and uncooked plant foods. Nothing is cooked above 116 degrees F. Anything above this temperature is believed to destroy the enzymes and “life force” of the food.

Some benefits of a raw food diet include weight loss, better skin appearance, increased  energy, and improved digestion (makes sense since you’re eating veggies, no?).

So, what does a raw foodist eat? ( I found the following list here.)

Unprocessed, preferably organic, whole foods such as:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dried fruit
  • Seaweed
  • Unprocessed organic or natural foods
  • Freshly juiced fruit and vegetables
  • Purified water
  • Young coconut milk

Yeah, that doesn’t sound too appetizing to me, either. Luckily, there are people out there who know how to combine all these foods to make something actually edible and filling.

Pure Food and Wine in New York City is a raw food lover’s heaven on earth. It’s also a bit of a Paradise for the rest of us.

My dinner companions and I crashed the place sans reservations on a Tuesday evening but our stunningly good looks and glowing personalities got us seated right away. Actually, we lucked out that someone had just canceled.

We started out with sushi rolls, an iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing, and a “Salad of Mache, Summer Berries, and Fennel with Truffle Framboise Vinaigrette.” ( I just sat here for three full minutes trying to put this salad in my own words, but it’s impossible.) Now, don’t forget that this place doesn’t serve dairy or meat. So how in the world did we get blue cheese? Cashew butter and some type of blue algae. It tasted dead-up like some homemade authentic blue cheese dressing. Crazy!

We moved on to the entrees of lasagna made with zucchini, basil pistachio pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, three different pizzettes/mini pizzas ( spinach pesto arugula, margherita, and crimini and kalamata with summer truffle) and enchiladas with pumpkin seeds and raw cacao mole. All of them were incredible, and I loved that satisfied-but-not-stuffed feeling I get when I’m eating some place that doesn’t serve ridiculously huge portions. I realize I could just stop eating before I get to that super-full point, but it seems to be in my genetic make-up to lick a plate clean. Can’t help it.

Dessert was chocolate mousse covered with a dark chocolate ganache and creme freche. There were  little fresh blueberries, and then blueberry ice cream…yum. Insanely delicious.

Sorry no photos, but it was dark in the place and when I mentioned turning on the flash, I got a look of disapproval shot from both sides of the table. Do check out the menu, though, as it is a good representation of what the food actually looks like. Unlike, you know, how most places front that their food’s gonna be all pretty and it turns out looking so different you think for a moment you ordered the wrong thing. Yeah, this place isn’t like that.

I was treated to this meal out, so I don’t have the costs, but looking at the menu, I’d say this is one of those very special occasion places. Good thing I was considered VIP.

At this point, I’d say a strictly raw food diet is not something I’m interested in, but I’d love to learn more about it and hear from those who have experienced it or are living it. Please feel free to comment or email me with any thoughts on this.

At least twenty people (ok, four) said this same line to me: “You’re going to New York and you’re not eating meat or cheese?!” Well, folks, I did it, and it was fabulous.

I packed a couple of PB&J sandwiches for the plane, which is becoming one of my favorite foods in the world, along with a selection of vegan energy-type bars that I’d picked up at Whole Foods the night before. Gag.

My buddy Damien was my tour guide/dinner date the first night I was there, and he wisely picked out a veggie Thai restaurant called Pukk. This food made me so happy I danced in my seat. And knocked over a chair. No joke.

First up was Oriental Chive Dumplings,

and, per the sweet server’s insistence (she basically ordered certain items for me, like the brown rice instead of white rice, since it’s “healthier.” Good thing she was so nice, since I don’t normally let anyone come between me and my food selections), some delicious Spinach Toast.

After a bowl of creamy mushroomy Coconut Tofu Soup,

we ordered entrees of Duck Basil (not real duck! It’s all vegan, but without that weird vegan/fake meat taste!)

and some seriously-spicy-but-oh-so-delicious crispy-fried mushrooms in a panang curry sauce with steamed broccoli. Dang.

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as not really a dessert person, but I’ve found that without alcohol, you gotta have some other sort of grand finale. Enter chocolate mousse.

I almost forked Damien’s hand when he tried to snatch up on it, but he got the not-so-subtle message and let me polish this off.

This meal was crazy delicious, and incredibly cheap (like, $42, including tea for both of us) and might be the best vegan meal I’ve ever had. I say “might” because my dinner the second night at Pure Food and Wine, a raw food joint, was so good it made me wanna slap someone. More on that one tomorrow…

(Photo courtesy of American Chronicle)

In the CNN.com article titled, “As Children Starve, World Struggles for Solution” (Nov. 18, 2008), Paul Roberts, author of the book The End of Food states,’ “Every time an American bites down on a steak or hamburger, they’re contributing to global hunger,” Roberts says. As other countries become more affluent, they’re copying our meat-heavy diet. The problem: It takes so much grain and other resources to produce meat, he says. ‘If the rest of the world were to eat like we do, the planet would collapse,” Roberts says.’ ”

In his piece titled, “Feast or Famine: Meat Production and World Hunger” Mark Hawthorne states, “The USDA and the United Nations state that using an acre of land to raise cattle yields 20 pounds of usable protein. If soybeans were grown instead, that same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein. Animal agriculture also wastes valuable water resources. Population biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich note that a pound of wheat can be grown with 60 gallons of water, whereas a pound of meat requires 2,500 to 6,000 gallons.”

The article goes on to quote Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC as saying, “People go hungry because much of arable land is used to grow feed grain for animals rather than people.” He offers as one example the Ethiopian famine of 1984, which was fueled by the meat industry. “While people starved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for European livestock,” he says. “Millions of acres of land in the developing world are used for this purpose. Tragically, 80 percent of the world´s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent.”

All of this startles me awake and makes me uncomfortably aware of my contribution to the issue of world hunger. While I’m deciding between a BK Broiler or a Big Mac, my choice to eat meat or animal by-products is effecting mothers and their children in countries across the globe. I’ve read that 13% of the world’s population is starving, or not eating enough to maintain life.

I am ashamed to admit that my heart had grown somewhat callous to the thought of hunger. My entire life, I’ve been bombarded with images of malnourished mothers holding crying babies, or expressionless children with their distended bellies staring blankly into the camera.It’s been easy for me to wonder who was going to help these children, yet ignoring the thought of my lifestyle contributing in any way to their plight.

This month will be a time of learning all I can about how my food choices effect others, and I will pray that God leads me in my education of this human rights issue.

I’m a stalker

Tonight I was browsing the vegan section at Border’s and noticed a woman holding a vegan cookbook. Because I’m nosy and talkative, I struck up a conversation with her and we ended up chatting for about 15 minutes. She told me she went vegan last January after reading the bestseller Skinny Bitch. She had suffered from GI problems and is now healthy, happy, and best of all, seriously GLOWING. I mean, I couldn’t stop staring at this woman’s skin! I even got all creepy stalkerish and mentioned it to her, and she said her aesthetician (facial lady) couldn’t believe how much her skin has improved since she’s been meat- and dairy-free. What a great testament to this healthy diet! Okay, and I wasn’t going to mention weight, but girl looked good so I had to ask…she lost 18 lbs in the first 5 weeks. Woot! She was also a wealth of information about different books she’s read, and graciously gave me her info so I could hit her up with any questions I might have. Moral of the story, kids–don’t be afraid to talk to strangers and ask them about their weight within the first five minutes.

Today I had Ezekiel bread with peanut butter for breakfast, a fake meat barbecue sandwich for lunch (I’m not bothering linking it, because you don’t wanna try it. Trust me.) and this yummy lasagna that I made for dinner. It makes lots, so I’ll be having it for one of my meals for the next couple of days, I’m sure.