What does a healthy vegan diet look like? Many people don't know what a healthy diet is, let alone a vegan one. I got talking with a neighbor at the grocery store recently. He invited me to join his tai chi classes, and talked about general health benefits. I took a chance and asked him if he knew of any local vegan communities. His response was dismissive. “When I was training at the gym, all the vegans fizzled out quick. A vegan diet doesn't work.”
He went on to admit that the small group (one person, actually) of vegans he had met was back in the 1970s, over 40 years previous. I ventured to mention all the top vegan body builders with videos on YouTube. “With the lack of educational resources on diet before the Internet, the vegan you met probably lived on pasta,” I commented. The neighbor was not impressed enough to inquire more, and proudly announced that he “eats everything.” Needless to say, the man soon excused himself and went on his way.
So, do we really want to know about healthy eating, or are we slowly poisoning ourselves?
According to the National Cancer Institute, Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. Sure, opinions vary when it comes to what healthy eating means. But little debate emerges about what is not healthy, and the American population does not seem to care. The following is an excerpt from an NCI study:
The majority of the population did not meet recommendations for all of the nutrient-rich food groups, except total grains and meat and beans. Concomitantly, overconsumption of energy from solid fats, added sugars, and alcoholic beverages (“empty calories”) was ubiquitous. Over 80% of persons age ≥ 71 y and over 90% of all other sex-age groups had intakes of empty calories that exceeded the discretionary calorie allowances. In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation's diet in crisis.
In the hype of vegan diets, do you know what a healthy vegan diet is? You may have the suspicion that vodka and potato chips are vegan but not exactly healthy. But what about the vegan burgers you can buy in the supermarket or the lentil soup?
Once upon a time I happily ate any kind of processed foods. When I chose to become vegan, I continued to look for quick, processed vegan options for meals. A healthy vegan diet does not rely on processed foods and alcohol. This means you buy fresh produce with few exceptions. Let's take a look at fresh produce:
Fresh vegetables and fruit
Whole grains and spices
Legumes and beans (dried, not canned)
Nuts and seeds
The above items are all fresh produce. Of course, we are subject to seasonal and regional harvests, so including frozen produce as part of a healthy vegan diet is fine. Note that we are not talking about heavily salted, seasoned or sweetened fruits and nuts, like pre-made energy bars. Some basics for your food pantry, ingredients that have a minimal amount of processing, are healthy choices to include, nevertheless. Here are a few good items to keep on hand:
Brown rice vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Canned vegetables and legumes are quite commonly found just about anywhere. It's a good idea to get into a regular habit of cooking with dried legumes rather than canned, mostly because the salt content and other additives found in canned food. However, canned legumes are still nutrient-rich and worth having in your cabinet.
The bad news is that the burgers and pre-made bean soups are all processed. So are all other kind of vegan/vegetarian meals and fake meat. The good news is that you can easily prepare meals yourself and freeze. How does a lentil-walnut burger with a paprika sauce sound or a meatloaf with glaze?
Not everything we prepare has to look like meals with meat and fish. Usually in the transition period it's nice to have something familiar to eat. Keep in mind that just because something says vegan on the package does not make it necessarily healthful for you. As you become more committed to a vegan lifestyle, you may not want so much meat alike food, which is only trying to trick your brain instead of transforming your thinking. We can cook delicious vegan meals, and it can be just as easy as opening a package of processed fake meat.
If you know nothing about cooking, let alone vegan cuisine, don't fret. It's a lot easier to do than many people think, and infinitely more healthful, no question. We all know that dark, leafy greens are rich in cancer-fighting goodness, for example. But due to the heavy lobbying and marketing of the meat and dairy industries, few Americans are aware that healthier alternatives, such as pulses – seeds of legumes that pull nitrogen from the air to create protein – are an important protein source globally. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that dry beans and peas are rich in fiber (20% of Daily Value) and a good source of protein (10% of Daily Value). They are also an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin.
In Dr. Michael Gregor's, book, How Not To Die, the author goes into detail about the best foods to include in a healthy vegan diet. Check out Gregor's Daily Dozen in this video below:
At any rate, we all inherently know when we are eating badly. It goes without saying that processed foods are addicting because of added sugars, salt, and saturated fats. If you want to live a long healthy life on a healthy vegan diet, make a concerted effort to cut the processed crap out of your daily food consumption.
When you want to eat a healthy vegan diet, it's important always to have that kind of food in your fridge. Vegan menu planning is necessary and a bit different than making an omnivore menu plan. In three easy steps, I show you how to do exactly that. Of course, there are also kind people out there, that will do it for you. Some are even free and some are paid. At the end of this post, I have included those websites I know of that offer a vegan menu plan made easy.
Let's start a vegan menu plan
The First Step is to decide which starch and protein you want to build your meals around. Starches are important because they make you feel full and gives you the most needed plant fibers. You want your meals to be both hearty and satisfying.
Good sources of plant-based proteins are legumes and beans, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and of course foods made from these ingredients. Good forms of starches are brown rice, beans, whole grain wheat or whole grain pasta, winter squash and potatoes, especially sweet potatoes.
The Second Step is the texture. Often meals with only one texture have a tendency to get bored fast. Not only boring meals but you will also not feel satisfied. When I talk texture I am talking about creamy, crunchy, smooth and firm. Whatever you decide to cook be sure to include at least two different textures per meal. An example: A regular green salad could transform into a hearty meal by adding firm baked tempeh, crunchy sesame seeds, creamy avocado, and smooth cashew dressing on top.
The Third Step is to upgrade the nutrient density. Which foods are nutrient dense? Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can add to your meals. Leafy greens are chard, collard greens, and kale. Cruciferous veggies are cabbage, broccoli, and radishes.
I chose Garbanzo beans / chickpeas as the starch / protein, then I thought about what to make of the beans. I love casseroles, so a garbanzo casserole it will be.
Next to think of is the texture, a casserole will be smooth if I put coconut milk in, I will need something crisp, so I will top with a few raw slices of onion. Serve with bread with avocado spread for the crunchiness.
To amplify the nutrient density I will serve, as a side boiled cauliflower.
So, I will serve a Garbanzo Bean Casserole, with vegetables, topped with slices of red onion & a slice of bread with avocado spread with nutritional yeast on the side.
Below an Italian Garbanzo Bean Casserole Recipe
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 large spaghetti squash, shredded
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (500 grams)
1 medium zucchini, sliced (approx.16 slices)
1/2 cup sliced Kalamata black olives (100 grams)
3 large white mushrooms, sliced
Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce:
1 can No-Salt tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (a handful)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 to 2 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon dried basil (for sprinkling on top)
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.
Microwave the spaghetti squash for 5 minutes or until you can easily cut it and fork out the strands. Prepare the remaining of the vegetables and set everything aside.
In a bowl mix all the sauce ingredients and give everything a good stir until smooth.
In an 8×8″ / 20×20 cm casserole dish, assemble the casserole: Layer the bottom with the squash, next layer chickpeas, then zucchini, olives, mushrooms, and finally the sauce. Top the casserole with nutritional yeast and an extra sprinkle of basil.
Put the casserole in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
If you want others to make the meals plans for you, here's some good news – there are plenty ‘out there'. Here are those I have tested myself, they are all vegan, clean eating, whole grain and plant based. In other words Healthy Vegan Menus.
#2 is Fork Over Knives price is $9.90 per month, you tailor your meal plans, it's the most comprehensive meal planner I have yet to see. Forks Meal Planner this works great on a mobile too.
#3 PCRM 21 day Vegan Kick-starter Kit – is free. You get an email from them every day with help, tips, and tricks at PCRM
#4 Eat This Much is your personal meal planner and you will need to sign up for an account, which is free. When you set up your profile page you choose if you want to gain weight, maintain or lose weight, your gender, personal measure etc. you can even choose which price level your food budget is. Very cool – you also choose if you want metric or imperial measures! get it at EatThisMuch
Chocolate a superfood? Yes, it is true! Dark chocolate which is high in cocoa solid, minimum 70%, is now recognized as having many qualities that are beneficial to our health. For many years, chocolate has been viewed as the ultimate comfort food and it has become one of the most popular foods in the world.
The question is, are there any health benefits to consuming dark chocolate? Yes, over-consumption of any food can have a bad effect on general health. Recent studies have shown that eating, in moderation, of dark chocolate has many health benefits. So eating about an ounce of dark chocolate every day is actually a good thing for your health!
The first question that you may ask is why dark chocolate, not milk chocolate? Because dark chocolate comes out in favor when it comes to nutritional benefit. Dark chocolate has more fiber and nutrients and fewer sugars and cholesterol.
• Lowers cholesterol. In studies, dark chocolate has proven to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). As we know, too much bad cholesterol is not good for us. These studies showed that dark chocolate provided health benefits when it comes to cholesterol.
• It’s good for the heart. Perhaps this is the most well-known reason. Dark chocolate contains nutrients that are known to help lower blood sugar and increase blood flow. Besides, anything that lowers cholesterol is good for the heart. Some factual studies have showed that dark chocolate can reduce cardiovascular death in men by up to 50%. These aren’t scientific studies, but as dark chocolate lowers cholesterol as well as lower blood pressure, these findings are significant.
• It boosts your skin. Dark chocolate contains lots of flavanols, which protect the skin against sun damage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can do without sun cream! But, it does mean that the flavanols will reduce the damage on the skin due to the sun. So, if you are planning a summer vacation, then you could start increasing your intake of dark chocolate a few weeks before your holiday. In general, dark chocolate has a positive effect on the skin.
• Can prevent diabetes. Insulin is a word associated with diabetes. Many studies have shown that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity. This means that dark chocolate can improve blood sugar levels. Because of its properties, it can be a part of a diabetic diet.
• It’s nutritious. There are many good reasons to chocolate. Of course, chocolate contains calories – up to 242 per 100 grams. This means that we should eat it in moderation. Yet, dark chocolate contains minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and manganese, zinc, potassium, and selenium. It is also a good source of fiber, containing about 11 grams.
• Good source of antioxidants. Dark chocolate also contains a good amount of antioxidants, which are great for promoting heart health. As well as decreasing the risk of infection, and fighting free radicals in the body. The cocoa tree is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. This means that its fruits – the cocoa pods also have antioxidant properties. Many studies have shown dark chocolate to have a higher amount of antioxidants than blueberries or Acai berries.
Although dark chocolate has a higher calorie, fat and saturated fat content than milk chocolate, its health benefits are much higher than milk chocolate. If you consider that dark chocolate has 22% more iron, four times more fiber, and 242 grams more theobromine (the alkaloid which reduces blood pressure) per half bar than milk chocolate, then the picture becomes clearer that dark chocolate has many health benefits.
It is also worth considering that dark chocolate has fewer carbs and half the sugar of milk chocolate. It’s easy to see why dark chocolate has many health benefits.
Dark chocolate is definitely the preferred flavor of chocolate when it comes to those midnight snacks or holiday treats. Just make sure you don’t overindulge!
Before you decide to use less salt, know that humans need salt. We need 1500 mg of sodium, or 3.8 grams of salt, to replace the amount lost daily on average through sweat and urination. Besides helping to maintain fluid balance and cardiovascular function, sodium and chloride ions also play an important role in the nervous system. So keep your salt intake at a healthy level.
Salt is also the most common ingredient used in cooking. It acts as a preservative, a way to counteract the sweetness of a dish. And it satisfies our taste buds because it enhances the flavor of food.
Almost everybody loves that extra pinch or tablespoon of salt, but, too much salt can lead to several diseases. High blood pressure being the most common.
Less salt, more herbs
If you need to or are choosing to decrease the amount of salt that goes into your food, consider using herbs as a taste replacement. You may already have these as a staple in your kitchen or in your herb garden.
Most of the food that we consume contains a fair amount of salt in them in their natural state. There isn’t a need to throw in some more.
One of the things people fail to realize is that eating healthy does not have to be misery. In fact, we all want flavor from our food. So, if that extra pinch of salt is important to you then take a look at the seven herbs below that can be used to replace salt.
Dill is a slightly sour herb that can be paired with other herbs/spices to create a one of a kind flavor for your meals.
Consider pairing dill with a sweeter herb such as thyme to achieve a nice balance of sweet and sour. Dill can be used in the form of a leaf or in a crushed/dried form, it all depends on what you prefer.
Chives are an age-old source of added flavor and it is used and grow worldwide. Chives add a hint of onion to your dish and they already have natural salt content within them.
Chives are perfect for potato soup, chili, or a vegetable stew. They are also great in small amounts, such as sprinkled on your potatoes.
Thyme is a great alternative to salt because it comes in several flavor varieties including lemon and orange. There is a slightly salty undertone to thyme, but you also get the bonus of added flavor.
Thyme has a slightly sweet flavor as well and is best used in combination with parsley, oregano, and rosemary.
Thyme blends nicely with roasted vegetables.
Mint is a common herb used that comes in a variety of strengths. You can choose a mint leaf that will give a slight kick or a mint leaf that will change up the entire flavor of your meal.
Mint also comes in several different flavor combinations. You can buy flavors like chocolate mint and orange mint in your local grocery store. These flavors work great in pasta, in baking, and in salads. Yet, Swiss mint is for desserts only as the taste is sweeter.
Oregano is an Italian spice that works best with pasta dishes or added onto the pizza! Due to the spice’s potency and spicy undertones, the herb is an excellent substitute for salt. For an added kick, combine oregano with basil and parsley.
Allspice is a common herb blend amongst several cultures. There is no real “flavor” of allspice; the herb tastes like a blend of juniper, nutmeg, peppercorn, and cinnamon. Yet, it actually comes from a dried berry four in Jamaica.
The variety of flavors that we taste with allspice makes it a great substitute for salt. Because it can add a unique flavor to your dishes and draw out the flavors of the dish itself.
Basil leaves are the most common herbs that are used for cooking in India. These leaves are pungent in taste and slightly sweet in nature. It is not just known for its medicinal benefits but also known as a salt alternatives.
Basil is a well-known ingredient in pestos, but it's also great in soups, stews, vegetable bakes and even desserts.
Less salt does not mean less flavor
There is no need to add loads of salt to your meals in to enhance the flavor or just get that salty kick you crave.
Also, fresh herbs tend to be more flavorful and luscious than dried varieties. Make sure and get fresh whenever you can or grown your own.
There are many herbs that can help you add unique flavors to your dishes and still keep the salty undertones you desire. Take some time to experiment with the herbs mentioned above and decide which flavor combination you like the most!
Should you wish to buy a combination of salt and herbs, then take a look at Herb Salts
If you are a beer drinker you already know about Guinness´ plan to go vegan in 2016. What is the buzz about? Guinness has been around for 256 years and it that time never felt the pressure from vegan, that is until now. Maybe it´s an Irish thing. The brand has decided it is time for an improvement, although they call it change. Great news for vegans either way.
Since the 19th century, Guinness has filtered out yeast from its signature stout with isinglass. A by-product of fish bladders. Most of the isinglass is removed before the beer hits the market. Guinness answered in several emails, that there are still leftovers in the finished product. You may want to check the answers at http://www.barnivore.com/beer/26/Guinness . This is the reason, Guinness is off-limits.
Yet, many of us vegans still love our Guinness. According to CNBC, online petitions have been circulating asking Guinness to change their filtration process. The brand has announced that, indeed, they are planning to open a new filtration plant in 2016. A plant will finally make our beer vegan-friendly. “Whilst isinglass is a very effective means of clarification, and has been used for many years, we expect to stop using it as the new filtration asset is introduced,” a spokesman told Ireland’s The Times.
Now if only we can petition Baileys to replace cream with coconut cream, finally we vegans can drink our favorite drinks. 🙂
Should you wish to check other beers for being vegan here´s a fine website dedicated to inform you about just that.
I'm having such an amazing odyssey this fall, then I just wanted to tell you about what I'm doing. I'm learning a lot about how to buy fruit from the locals on this tropical island where I am currently living.
This winter snowbird season 2015-16 I am spending on the Spanish island Tenerife. The weather is great! But the real reason I stay there is for the wine and fresh fruits and vegetables. I have been here for more than a month now. But I haven´t visited one of the outdoor farmers´ markets yet. It´s a bit embarrassing, as one of them is only 2 km from our house.
How to Buy Fresh Fruit: Go to the Farmers' Market
A Finnish couple who is staying in the same village as us told us about the local farmers' market. You can find loads of fresh produce from the local farmers. It's open every Saturday and Sunday. At the moment bananas, or plátanos as they are called here, are in season. In fact, it seems they are in season all year round. Must be this amazing climate.
My dear readers in more northern climates are moving into the winter season. From what many of you tell me, Saturday morning farmers' markets are quite popular through the winter. As the weather gets colder the weekend market moves inside.
Back here in Tenerife, mangos are nearing the end of their season. The end of November will be last harvest this season. My American friend in Hawaii told me she'd buy a big bag of them, chop them up into chunks, and then freeze them. She put them separately into serving size plastic bags and containers.
For the most part, I buy fresh whenever I can. I'm not a big fan of pre-frozen anything. That's just my personal preference. Nevertheless, frozen fruit – as long as you don't leave it in there forever – still holds nutrients and taste, a welcome addition to a smoothie.
Ask the farm experts for tips on how to buy fruit
When you go to the farmers' market, ask questions at the stands about recipes, and how to choose fruit to buy. Depending on the fruit, you may want to smell it, and see if it is hard or gives a little to your touch. Color may make a difference as well.
Cherimoyas, or Buddha fruits, are grown here.They are also called Ice cream fruit because they do taste like ice cream. I bet they are great in fruit salads, too.
Dragon fruit is the most exotic fruit I have ever tasted. They are commonly grown in private gardens. But if you are lucky, you can find them at farmers' markets, too.
Tomatoes here have a special, crisp and romantic flavor.The pineapple tomato is what I use when I make salsa. And last but not least is the…
Avocado. It also grows all year round. If you go to a fruteria (special fruit and veggie shop) you can always ask for “avocados to eat today” and the owner will have a few put away for you.
Well, I don't know what the chances are of you coming to lovely Tenerife. Wherever you are, you can make a similar list of local produce. If your region is challenged to find fresh, frozen is the next best thing. It lasts longer, and the nutrients last.