Friday, October 15, 2010

Recipe : Bean & Rice Gumbo

Oh my goodness. This was pure awesomeness. I used to make something similar with sausage, chicken, and shrimp, but I didn't even miss those things! This was so simple to make and very filling. I love recipes where I often have a majority of the ingredients on hand and this is another one of those. As usual, lots of yummy leftovers. :) I made mine fairly flavorful so I will likely mix a small amount in with lots of brown rice for the baby to try tomorrow. I followed a recipe from Dr. McDougall's Quick and Easy Cookbook, but tweaked it a bit:

Bean & Rice Gumbo

  • 1 cup brown rice (dry)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tablespoons creole seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 16 oz bag frozen okra
Creole Seasoning


This makes quite a bit, so you'll have some to save for later.
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
Cook the rice separately (2 cups water to 1 cup rice, for about 45 min.) and set aside. I'd start cooking the rest when the rice has about 25 min. or so left.

Place the onion, pepper, celery, and garlic in a large pot with 1/2 c of the broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining broth + 1 cup water, the beans, and seasonings (you can adjust the seasonings to be as spicy as you'd like so keep tasting until you get it how you'd like it).

Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add the frozen okra and lightly boil for an additional 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daily Menu

Someone asked if I would post a typical day's or week's menu.

I fall somewhat in the middle of meal planner. I'm not anal about it, but I do like to shop with some recipes in mind. I generally hit Whole Foods on Saturday or Sunday and then again in the middle of the week, usually Wednesday because they have free music in the mornings for kids. So I just browse through my cookbooks and online sources and pick out a couple recipes I want to try, along with some tried and true recipes and staples. I make sure I have all the ingredients I need and then depending on how my day is going I will make certain things.

One big thing for me is leftovers. I always cook plenty of leftovers (which is possibly why I am really drawn to soups, casseroles, pasta and rice salads, etc) so that I have healthy & yummy meals stocked in my fridge. It's not uncommon that I eat leftovers for breakfast and lunch (not the same leftover).

Anyway, some staples that we usually always keep in our house (99% of these things we buy organic):
grains (brown rice, 100% whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, quinoa, millet, barley, whole wheat couscous, etc)
steel cut oats
unsweetened applesauce
rice milk
hemp milk
dry and canned beans in various kinds
tons of different spices
jarred fat free spaghetti sauce (WF makes an organic FF one that is great!)
Morning O's (WF 'cheerios')
fresh fruits and veggies (just depends on what looks good that day or what is in season. I always have onions and potatoes, both Yukon Gold and sweet)
frozen corn
frozen peas
frozen mixed veggies
frozen okra
frozen broccoli
frozen Ezekiel bread
Dr. Preagger's spinach littles (these are NOT vegan b/c they have egg white in them, but they are one of the only veggies my 14 month old will often eat, so I pick my battles. They are very simple ingredients (spinach, potatoes, egg whites, spices) and I have been trying to make my own that he'll eat with no success so far. Still workin' on that!)

-okay, so those are our big staples. More things get added to the list, depending on what I plan to make that week, but it's a start. many of these things we don't have to buy every time we're at WF.

So, now that you know I make large quantities for leftovers, a typical day is pretty easy.

It's rare that I drink something other than water, so I'm not going to comment on drinks for every meal.

Typical Day for Me:

Breakfast: freshly made steel cut oats (just can't do them leftover). I make 1/2 c (dry) and then I eat most of them. I add a dollop of applesauce, cinnamon and about 10 dried cherries.

Lunch: leftovers. Right now, I am eating leftover veggie korma with brown rice. However, I also had lentil and kale soup to choose from, and this quinoa/pea salad I had made the other night. If I don't have any leftovers (rare) or nothing sounds good, I will make a baked potato (or a couple if they're tiny) with some steamed broccoli and seasonings. I always keep cooked brown rice in my fridge so that makes any easy meal with some veggies added as well.

Snacks: a small amount of another leftover, brown rice cakes, fresh fruit, etc. A good treat is a rice milk smoothie made with that and fruit.

Dinner: a recipe that I make. I have some staples I make a couple times a week (the tostados, veggie and lentil stew, pasta with tomato sauce and salad, etc) If I really don't feel like cooking or something I will just have some leftovers or have my husband cook something he's picked out for the week.

Our 14 month old is a little more picky. Sometimes he loves things I make (lentil and veggie stew is usually a hit, but sometimes not!) His typical day:

-bottle (yes, he still gets bottles and I don't care. Breastfeeding was traumatically and violently taken away from him at 6 months and I won't take his bottles away, now that he finally likes them, until he's ready) 5-7 oz. hemp milk.
-a few morning o's here and there while hanging out
-a small bowl of steel cut oats with cinnamon and applesauce
-sometimes he'll have some berries or banana in the morning or some later for a snack

Snacks throughout the day: fruit (he loves berries and really love matchstick sliced apples right now), brown rice cakes, Barbara's vegan cereal bars, O's, organic graham crackers, something yummy I've made like those pumpkin muffins.

He really likes this brown rice/quinoa mix we buy, but I try not to give him a ton b/c it has added oils, but he loves it. or
brown rice pasta with spaghetti sauce (a favorite) and/or
hummus spread on rice cake pieces or
PB&J sandwich and ww bread (he's not a huge fan of this)
sometimes he will eat some steamed broccoli

Another hemp milk bottle at midday nap time

either what we're having or
spinach bites or
some of the lunch options - it just depends on what we have, what is made, what he ate for lunch
more pasta

another bottle with bed. He drinks water, only, in a sippy cup throughout the day and I'd guess he drinks about 10-16 oz of water.

So that's about it. I pretty much offer the baby whatever we are eating usually. Sometimes he likes it and sometimes not, but there are always healthy back ups for him.

Recipe: Vegetable Korma

I love Indian Food. I never thought I did, and there are certain tastes I don't care for, but I do now! My husband and I used to go to this great little Indian buffet near my midwife when I was pregnant I became seriously addicted. Of course, it's filled with meat and dairy. It's pretty far away so my husband found this recipe for chicken korma which I LOVED when he made it. I was really missing this dish, not because of the chicken but because of the flavor. So why not make it with veggies instead of chicken. With a few substitutions here and there, I now have a fabulous (and simple!) vegetable korma recipe that tastes just like my husband's original.

Vegetable Korma


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • one bag (16 oz) frozen okra, steamed just a bit
  • one bag frozen broccoli, steamed just a bit
  • one can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, or to taste
  • 6-7 oz rice milk (or your milk sub. of choice)

Saute the chopped onions on a medium-high heat until the onions are soft and slightly brown. To do this without oil, just add a little water as needed to keep from sticking/burning during the process. I add a small amount, wait for them to start getting brown, then add a tiny bit more, and keep that process going until they are "fried" enough for my liking. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes. Add the salt, turmeric and ground cumin.

Turn up the heat and further cook for another 1 minute. If things start to stick too much, add a little of the water here. Then add your lightly steamed vegetables and chick peas. It is very crucial that the spices are mixed within the pan at this point and stirred to ensure that the veggies and beans cook with texture and flavor. Add water after stirring the veggies/beans into the spices. Turn down the heat slightly and stir in the garam masala and rice milk. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Adapted from The Food Network

This will totally be a weekly occurrence at our house. I love this recipe and I generally have every single one of the ingredients on hand at all times. You could also sub different veggies and whatnot.

Biggest Loser - Bob's Vegan Meal

Do you watch this show? It's so mainstream so I'm sure many of you reading (you know, all 2 of you :) ) have watched it at some point.

I used to be a huge fan of the show. I mean, it is pretty cool seeing people so obese totally change their lives (sometimes!) I've always loved Bob, one of the trainers. He just seems like a cool person, laid back, but motivating, a little on the eco friendly/green side which appeals to the tiny hippie in me, and let's face it, the guy does yoga with his trainees! Pretty sweet.

One thing I've always disliked about the show are the product pushes. It would be one thing if they were for truly healthy products, but things like processed ground turkey? SUGAR FREE gum? Are you kidding me? The sugar free gum really pissed me off because I can't believe anyone in the health industry could actually push that kind of crap. (Artificial sweeteners are bad, very bad for you, my friend!)

Anyway, on last night's episode Bob invited some of the contestants over to his own home for a vegan meal! He explained that this is how he eats all the time and that their entire meal was cooked without any sort of animal product. No meat, no butter, no dairy, etc.

And you know what??? It sure looked better than a damn turkey sandwich from Subway!!! It was beautiful. Colorful. NUTRITIONALLY LOADED. Did anyone ever stop to think that, sure eating makes us full, but we eat to gain our nutrients? Did you know they're not supposed to come from a little pill that scientists are now saying may not even deliver the nutrients stated on that bottle? They are supposed to come from a colorful, variety of plant-based foods.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the meal and be impressed that it was that healthy and that good. One woman went on to say that she often orders a $5 pizza for her and her 2 kids a few times a week. Bob said he couldn't compete with $5 pizzas, but then explained how cheap rice and beans are. For $5 worth of rice and beans (and maybe add in a little fresh or frozen veggies) you could make SO. MUCH. FOOD. And it would cost less in the long run b/c of your health.

That is what I hope to show here. Eating a plant-based diet (vegan) doesn't have to be boring and without flavor. I hope to share some of our favorite recipes around here, especially things that we used to make with animal products but don't anymore and taste just as good! I have one coming up later today...

Here is a link to more about Bob and his vegan diet!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why No Oil? Isn't it healthy?!

"My question to you is, why oil?

Due to very effective marketing and advertising, we have become convinced that oil is not only a food, but a health food. This is crazy. To be a food, something must be able to support healthy life and be of some benefit.

Oil is a highly refined processed and extracted food "product". It has no protein or essential amino acids (which we need), it has no carbohydrates, or sugars (which we need), it has no fiber (which we need), it has no minerals (which we need) and has virtually no vitamins (which we need) except for a small amount of Vit E and some phytosterols.

But, on the other hand, it is pure fat and the most calorie dense food on the planet. While all oils have a mixture of mono, poly and saturated fat, most oils are very low in the essential fat omega 3 (which some of us may need more of), very high in the omega 6 (which most of us need to lower) and most oils also have high ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 (which most all of us need to lower).

So, basically you are getting lots of calories (oils has almost 2.5 x more calorie per TB than sugar). lots of omega 6s, some saturated fat (depending on the oil) and virtually no nutrients.

The definition of a junk food is a food that is high in calories (and/or fat, sugar, salt) and has little if any nutrient value at all.

IMHO (and by definition), Oil, is more of a junk food than sugar. And, I hope that in a few years, we will all come to understand it and see it, as such." - Jeff Novick, MS, RD

Recipe : Tostados

Okay, so there are some nights, after hanging out with my almost 14 month old all day, that the thought of cooking sounds less than appealing. This is my super satisfying way to feel like I'm eating tacos.

What you need:
-organic corn tortillas (mostly everything in my recipes will be organic because that's how we roll, but I stress this in these. I always stick to organic corn!) (I get them at Whole Foods).
-fat free re-fried beans (I try to limit canned products b/c of BPA, but I haven't experimented much with creating my own yet)
-various toppings (salsa, fresh tomatoes, fresh onions, olives (if I am allowing myself a some fat), etc).

All you do is bake the tortillas at 350 degrees while warming up the beans on the stove. The tortillas are done when they are no longer soft, but harder (and sometimes curled up around the edges) like taco shells. Spread each one with beans and top with your favorite toppings! If you are open to adding a little more fat to your diet than I am right now, you can top with avocado, olives, and non dairy, non soy cheese - YUMMY!

Recipe : Mexican Pinto Beans & Brown Rice

I add some veggies to this (broccoli or okra usually) on the side and it's a great meal! This has a ton of flavor and quite a bit of heat depending on how much chipotle peppers are used. A really quick and easy recipe if you have leftover brown rice too!

Mexican Pinto Beans & Brown Rice

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB chili powder
1 med onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 C COOKED brown rice
4 C canned pinto beans (or cooked from dried), drained and well rinsed
1 1/2 -2 C veggie stock
3 TB chipotle peppers,chopped, plus some of the sauce
2 TB tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt

1. Heat a little water or broth over medium heat and add spices until fragrant.

2. Add chopped onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook a few min,. more.

3. Add cooked rice and rinsed beans, stock, chipotles, tomato paste and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 min. Serve Hot.

Adapted from : Eating Clean

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe : Lentil Soup with Kale


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, grated or chopped
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and discarded, leaves torn
In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in a little water or broth, adding more to prevent major sticking until soft.

Add mushrooms, potato, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and the tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock and 2 cups of water, turn the heat up to high and bring up to a bubble. Add the lentils and the kale, stir until the kale wilts in then turn the heat down to medium and simmer 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Serve.

Adapted from Rachael Ray

Recipe : Pumpkin Muffins

This morning I had a play date scheduled at our house for some of the mamas in my "green moms group". I knew I wanted to make something healthy in general, something I could snack on if I really wanted to as a treat, and something kid friendly. That in itself is quite the feat, no make it vegan and I had some searching ahead of me.

I wanted something simple.I have quite a few vegan cookbooks, but I wanted REALLY simple.

I ended up going with this recipe:

Pumpkin Muffins

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c sugar (I wanted to substitute this with another form of natural sweetener, but I am just learning about those, been doing either real white sugar or nothing for years, so I just went with it).
1 T baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
15 ounces pumpkin, canned -- 1 can
1/4 c water
1/4 c raisins

Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixer, then add the wet ingredients, then raisins. Put into a muffin pan bake 375 degrees about 25 min.

Makes 12 muffins.

Adapted From:
"Fat Free & Easy Cookbook"

They passed the husband test. They past the mommy play date test. Passed the baby test. And I have to say, they're not too bad at all! The only thing in them that I am not crazy about is the sugar so I plan to find a better option for that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Recipe : Lentil & Veggie Stew

This is one of my favorite recipes to make.
It's easy
It's cheap
It makes a ton of leftovers to eat throughout the week on brown rice, a top a baked potato, etc.
Oh, and it's YUMMY!

Lentil and Veggie Stew

1 c chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots peeled and chopped (I always throw in quite a few more since my son really digs the carrots in this and not much anywhere else)
3 parsnips peeled and chopped
6-8 brussels sprouts (tough ends removed, chopped) I do a lot more of these too, like the whole bag
4 fist size potatoes, peeled and chopped (I've used Yukon and red or white sweet potatoes - both great)
1tsp cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger (I always omit this)
1/2 tsp allspice (I omit this too since I never have it...I just add a little more of the other spices)
4 cup veggie broth
1 cup green/brown lentils
2 tsp salt
3 bay leaves

1. Heat a little broth over medium heat. Add all chopped veggies and cook for about 5-10 minutes.

2. Add all spices (except salt) and continue cooking, just until fragrant.

3. Reduce heat and add veggie broth, lentils, salt, and bay leaves.

4. cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 45-60 min. Stew is done when lentils are cooked.

5. Serve over brown rice or as is.

adapted from: Eating Clean

Dairy Products and 10 False Promises

False Promise #1: Milk Builds Strong Bones

If you ask people why they drink milk, they'll tell you it's for the calcium. Milk has lots of calcium and its supporters have "milked" that point for all it's worth. One of your first clues that cow's milk is not ideal for bone health comes from comparison of the calcium content of the two kinds of milk (shown above). Cow's milk has more than four times the calcium content as human breast milk. If this exaggerated amount of calcium is not required during our greatest time of growth – babies double in weight in six months – then why should a concentration of calcium ideal for calves be required when we stop growing bones as adults? Without a doubt growing the hefty skeleton of a cow takes much more calcium than growing relatively small human bones.

Billions of people worldwide do not consume milk after weaning and they grow normal adult skeletons.7 For example, Bantu women in Africa consume no dairy products at all, and take in only about 250 to 400 mg of calcium each day through vegetable sources8 (about half the recommended daily intake in the U.S.). These women typically have ten children each and breast-feed each one for about 10 months. Yet despite a diet with no dairy products and the tremendous calcium drain of pregnancy and breast-feeding, osteoporosis is virtually unknown among these women.8 When rural African women migrate to cities or move to Western counties and adopt rich, high-calcium diets, osteoporosis becomes common.9 You will soon understand this is because their new diet becomes very high in animal protein.10

The world picture fails to support benefits claimed by the dairy industry. Countries that have the highest traditional consumption of dairy products (United States, Sweden, Israel, Finland, and the United Kingdom) also have the highest rates of osteoporosis-related hip fractures.11 Places in the world with a traditionally low intake of dairy - Hong Kong, Singapore, countries in rural Africa - have the lowest incidence of osteoporosis.

If calcium is the key and milk is such a great source, why are there still 10 million Americans with osteoporosis? Long-standing recommendations to increase calcium intakes have had little or no effect on the prevalence of osteoporosis or fractures in the United States.7

Worldwide, the incidence of osteoporosis correlates directly and strongly with animal protein intake. The highly acidic nature of animal protein is the major cause of bone loss.10 (You can read more about this at in the February 2003 McDougall Newsletter in the article, “Fish is not health food.”)

False Promise #2: Research Supports Dairy’s Benefits

In September of 2000, two researchers compiled a review of the 57 studies on dairy products and bone health which had been published in the scientific literature since 1985. This review was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.12 Not surprisingly, most of this research was financed by the dairy industry. The researchers reported that 53 percent of the studies showed no benefit from dairy. Then they excluded studies with weak evidence or poor techniques, which eliminated more than half of the studies. Of the 21 remaining studies, 57 percent again showed no benefit from dairy, and another 14 percent found that dairy products actually weaken bones. Think about that – this means that 71 percent of the scientifically sound research did not support the bone building benefits of dairy products and some showed actual harm.

Randomized controlled studies compare an experimental group with a control group and are considered the most valid form of scientific research. Of the seven randomized controlled studies which have been completed on the effects of dairy products on bone health, six were financed by the dairy industry. Only one looked at the benefits of fluid milk on the health of the women most likely to benefit: postmenopausal women.13 At the conclusion of this study, the women in the experimental group, fed three eight-ounce glasses of skim milk daily for a year, were still losing more calcium from their bodies than they were absorbing (they were in negative calcium balance). Even though they consumed more than 1400 mg of calcium daily they still lost twice as much bone as the women in the control group, who were not getting the supplemental milk. Yet the industry continues to proclaim its pro-milk message from every rooftop.

False Promise #3: Dairy Foods Make Meeting Calcium Recommendations Easy

Recommended intakes of calcium to prevent osteoporosis are now so high that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make up practical diets that meet these recommendations.7 The National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference and The National Osteoporosis Foundation support a calcium intake of 1,500 milligrams per day for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen, and for adults 65 years or older. Assuming 300-400 mg of calcium comes from starches, vegetables, fruits, eggs, poultry, fish, and meats,4 then 1,200 mg would have to be obtained from dairy products daily. An average postmenopausal sedentary woman consumes 1500 calories a day. The amount of dairy required to meet her recommended calcium needs would be:4

* 6 ounces Cheddar cheese (which is 74% fat). This would mean that 46% of the calories in her diet must be from cheese; or

* One quart (32 ounces) of whole milk (which is 50% fat) which would mean 40% of her diet is from milk; or

* One quart (32 ounces) of non-fat milk (which is 3% fat) which would mean 23% of her diet would be non-fat milk.

The dairy industry is happy about these grand recommendations, but consuming that much cow's milk product daily would replace too many other more filling (satisfying) and nutritious foods, and be unhealthy.

False Promise #4: We Require 1500 mg of Calcium a Day

Our requirements for calcium are far less than recommended. Scientific research demonstrates people need as little as 150 to 200 mg/day, even when pregnant or lactating.14

Consider the great variation in calcium intakes and recommendation:

Minimum Requirement Based on Research

150-200 mg

Calcium Intake for Underdeveloped Countries

300-500 mg

Calcium Intake for Average American 500-600 mg
World Health Organization Recommendation 400-500 mg
USA Food and Nutrition Board 1000- 1300 mg
A National Institutes of Health 1000-1500 mg

Why the large variation in figures for calcium intakes and recommendations? The simple answer is the amount of calcium in the foods you eat has little effect on the quantity of calcium that is eventually taken into the body and on the health of your bones.15

Your intestine will always absorb sufficient calcium to meet your needs from the foods you eat. On a diet low in calcium, the efficiency of mineral absorption is increased, and the intestine takes in more calcium. On a high-calcium diet, more calcium is left in the intestine to be excreted, unused, in the feces.16 The intestine is so “smart” about calcium that it never fails to meet the body’s needs. If you look over the last hundred years of scientific and nutritional literature you will find there is no evidence that dietary calcium deficiency occurs in humans, even though most people in the world don't drink milk after weaning – because of custom, lactose intolerance, or simply because milk is not generally available in their part of the world. 7,14, 17-20 This means there is no such disease as “dietary calcium deficiency” – think again if your mind drifts to osteoporosis – remember, populations with the lowest calcium intakes have the strongest bones; the least osteoporosis, worldwide.11

False Promise #5: Milk is the Best Food for Bones

The truth is, milk is not the only source of calcium and it is not the best source of calcium. Consider that the original source of calcium is the ground. Calcium, and other minerals, are dissolved in watery solutions and absorbed by the roots of plants. These minerals are then incorporated in the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of the plants. Humans can get plenty of calcium the same way it gets into cow's milk; from the plant foods they eat.

Inappropriate concern about calcium intake may divert attention and resources from more important nutritional issues. Calcium isn't the only nutrient that affects bone health. Studies have shown that potassium and magnesium may be even more critical in preventing bone loss, and that beta-carotene, phosphorus, and fiber play important roles as well.21,22 Plants are excellent sources of these nutrients. Milk provides no beta-carotene and no dietary fiber.4 Most important, bone health can be more about what you don't eat than what you do eat. Certain foods and substances – like animal proteins, cigarettes, soft drinks, caffeine, and salt – all affect your body's ability to absorb and use calcium vs. the loss of calcium from the body. 23,24

False Promise #6: Milk is Necessary for vitamin D

Some people will point out milk's vitamin D content as evidence of its critical place in a healthy diet. Well, that's a fabrication, too. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin; it's a hormone that the body produces in reaction to sunlight. And it isn't present naturally in milk – it's added as a supplement at the dairy processing factory. This addition was supposedly done to prevent rickets, a painful, deforming bone condition that is caused by vitamin D deficiency. But rickets is really caused by limited exposure to sunlight, and the body levels of vitamin D are only slightly affected by dietary sources.25,26 The amount of sunlight we get during the summer holidays is reflected in our vitamin D levels all year long. More than 90% of the vitamin D in the body is produced by sunlight. Exposing the face and arms for as little as 15 minutes 3 times a week provides adequate amounts of vitamin D. However, this activity is modified by the use of sunscreens and by skin pigmentation.27 So nearly everyone gets enough vitamin D every day just through normal activities – we don't need to drink milk to get it. Plus, vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it is stored in our body fat for long periods of time – and most importantly, for periods of low sun exposure in the winter months.

Myth #7: Milk Cures Hypertension

A grant from the National Dairy Council supported a large review of the influence of dietary (dairy products) and nondietary (supplements) calcium supplementation on blood pressure and came to the conclusion “that calcium supplementation leads to a small reduction in systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure.”28 Of the 67 studies published, 47 proved eligible for review. The actual decrease in blood pressure was paltry: Decreases of 1.44 mmHg systolic and 0.84 mmHg diastolic. The mechanism causing this almost undetectable reduction in blood pressure from consuming calcium is unknown.

By comparison, our results from the McDougall residential center show a 23/14 mmHg decrease in blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (150/90 mmHg or greater) in less than 10 days; and almost all of these people were taken off all of their blood pressure medication during the 10 days.

False Promise #8: Milk Prevents Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States and other places where people eat the Western diet. There is general agreement in the scientific community that this form of cancer is due to the high-meat, high-fat, low-dietary fiber, low-vegetable diet that people eat.29,30 However, among those unfortunate people who eat this unhealthy diet, those who have a higher calcium intake also have a lower risk of colon cancer. The reason for this may be that calcium in the colon binds and neutralizes cancer-causing substances, such as fats and bile acids, which are produced by the Western diet.31

The recommendation to increase your calcium intake, rather than change to a healthy diet, makes good economic sense for the dairy and calcium supplement industry. However, as a sensible person, you would come to the conclusion that stopping the cause of colon cancer – the Western diet – should be the focus of your attention.

False Promise #9: Low-fat Dairy Products are Health Food

Low-fat or skim milk and dairy products are widely consumed today, but in some ways they may be even more of a health hazard than the high-fat versions. The process of skimming the fat from the milk increases the relative proportions of protein and lactose.

Making Low-fat Milk

When the fat is removed from whole milk to make low-fat and skim milk the relative amounts of proteins and carbohydrates (sugars) are increased.4

Whole Low-fat Skim
Fat 49% 31% 2%
Protein 21% 28% 41%
CHO 30% 41% 57%

CHO = carbohydrate = lactose = milk sugar

Protein causes calcium loss10,11 and is the #1 source of food allergies in people; and the milk sugar (lactose) results in lactose intolerance (diarrhea, stomach cramps and gas). Although skim milk may have less fat, it is still devoid of fiber; and contains insufficient amounts of vitamins, like C and niacin, and minerals, like iron, to meet the human body's needs.4

False Promise #10: Milk Is As Pure White As Fresh Fallen Snow

Milk may be white but it is far from pure. Unfortunately, some of that white comes from white blood cells – commonly referred to as “pus cells” – which are cells produced by the cow's immune system to fight off infections, especially those of bacterial origin, such as mastitis. The dairy industry calls these somatic cells and refers to their presence as the somatic cell count (SCC). The SCC is the number of (mostly) white blood cells per milliliter (cells/ml) of milk. (There are 20 drops per milliliter; 30 milliliters to an ounce)

Beginning July 1, 1993, the SCC level in milk must be less than 750,000 SCC to comply with the State and Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.32 This means one 8 ounce glass of milk (240 milliliters) can contain 180 million white blood cells and still be fine for you to drink and feed to your family. In a recent study of milk sold in New York State the average SCC was 363,000 cells/ml.33 These white blood cells were produced by the cow to fight off the 24,400 bacteria/ml found in this milk.

I realize this is a disgusting way to end this article, but I must prepare you for next month’s article concerning the health risks you take for yourself and your family by consuming dairy products, such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, type-I diabetes, food allergies, and the potential for infections with AIDS and leukemia viruses found in almost all vats of milk in the United States.


What About Calcium!?

One of the first questions concerned family and friends ask when they learn you have become vegan and now avoid all animal products, including dairy products is, “Where do you get your calcium?” Begin your dialog with them by assuming that the questioners have sincere interests in expanding their knowledge about good nutrition—rather than just them trying to prove your diet is deficient, and to justify their daily eating of Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream and French brie ripened to perfection with a bottle of deliciously dry white wine.

Misinformation Is Promoted for Profits

We have all grown up educated about proper nutrition by the food industries, and the leader in “diet schooling” is the dairy industry. You might remember, at the center of these instructional campaigns has been “a teaching cow:” In my youth, living in the Mid-west, I learned about the importance of “milk for building strong bones” from Elsie, the cow. Lani Moo took over my eduction on “never out growing my need for milk” when I moved to Hawaii as a young doctor in the early 70s. In the mid 80s we settled in Northern California where Clo, the cow, provided dairy-friendly advice from billboards lining Highway 101. These cows are innocent participants in the enormous marketing efforts to sell products to correct a non-existent problem: dietary calcium deficiency.

One nutrient stands out as especially abundant in dairy foods: calcium. You might expect marketers to exploit this feature to sell cow’s milk to customers. To do this they had to create the fear that without their products, uniquely concentrated in calcium, people will develop disease—in this case fragile bones. In the USA, the variety of dairy industries combine into a greater than a $50 billion-a-year business, which raises and spends $206.5 million dollars annually to spread the myth that dairy foods are not only a healthy choice, but are also essential to avoid becoming sick.1 They write, “To meet calcium recommendations, increased consumption of calcium-rich foods such as milk and other dairy foods, often is necessary. Unfortunately, few Americans consume sufficient calcium, thereby increasing their risk for major chronic diseases such as osteoporosis.”2 And their fear mongering is working: Today, the average person consumes more than 593 pounds of dairy products annually, compared to 522 pounds in 1983.3

Calcium Is a Mineral Found in the Ground

Ask first, where does calcium come from? I mean originally? The source of all calcium is the soils of the earth. Animals do not eat ground—so how do they obtain this essential mineral? Plants absorb this basic element, present in watery solutions, through their roots, and then incorporate it into their various tissues—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Animals then eat the plant parts to obtain calcium and all other essential minerals. Acting as the sole conduit, plants are loaded with minerals, in amounts sufficient to grow the skeletons of the largest animals that walk the earth, like the elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, horse, and cow. Since these massive bones can be formed from the raw materials of plants, you can assume there is sufficient calcium in vegetable foods to grow the relatively small bones of a human being. Current observations and human history prove this: Most people who have ever walked this earth have grown their normal-sized adult skeletons without the aid of milk (other than mother’s milk during the first two years of life) and without concentrated calcium pill supplements.

Calcium Is a Necessary Nutrient

Calcium is essential for all living organisms—microbes, plants, and animals. The average adult body contains approximately 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of calcium. This represents the most abundant mineral in the human body and bones serve as an important storage depot for this calcium—99% of it is found in the skeleton in the form of calcium phosphate salts. In mammals, calcium plays a crucial role in processes ranging from the formation of the skeleton to the regulation of nervous tissue and blood vessel function. Calcium balance is maintained by the actions of three organ systems—gastrointestinal tract, bone, and kidney.

These three organs are precise and efficient at regulating the amount of calcium in our bodies. If our diet is relatively low in calcium, then the cells of the intestinal tract will act more vigorously and absorb a higher percentage of the calcium from the food. At the same time, the kidneys will act to conserve the body’s calcium. On the other hand, if we follow the messages of the calcium industries and begin consuming glassfuls of milk or handsful of supplements then the intestinal cells will act with their innate intelligence to block out the entrance of most of this concentrated calcium, and the kidneys will simultaneously eliminate any excess. If this were not the case, then the influx of excess calcium would by necessity be deposited in the soft tissues of the body—heart, kidneys, muscles, skin—and we would become sick and could die. Clearly, the body has many integrated mechanisms to assure that the proper balance of essential minerals is maintained—regardless of the choices we may make at the fast food window.

Human Calcium Needs Are Surprisingly Low

A recent study of Inuit (Eskimo) children found their diet, consisting largely of meat (which has almost no calcium), provided about 120 mg of calcium daily, but because of their physiologic adaptations these children were found to be healthy.4 As long ago as 1978 Paterson wrote in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, “Many official bodies give advice on desirable intakes of calcium but no clear evidence of a calcium deficiency disease in otherwise normal people has ever been given. In Western countries the usual calcium intake is of the order of 800-1000 mg/day; in many developing countries figures of 300-500 mg/day are found. There is no evidence that people with such a low intake have any problems with bones or teeth. It seems likely that normal people can adapt to have a normal calcium balance on calcium intakes as low as 150-200 mg/day and that this adaptation is sufficient even in pregnancy and lactation. Inappropriate concern about calcium intake may divert attention and resources from more important nutritional problems.”5 And that is exactly what the talented marketing people in the dairy industry have done with the help of friendly government officials in the USDA: they have placed the spotlight on the nutrient, calcium, which is easily obtained in sufficient amounts from almost any diet—and at the same time, taken the beam of truth off of the fat, cholesterol, and contamination—the life-threatening components of dairy foods. One of the ways this has been done is by sensationalizing rare cases of calcium deficiency in children on bizarre diets.


OMG WHERE do you get you protein?

Why is everyone obsessed with protein? Are we, as a country, so nutritionally dumb-ed down that we believe anything a diet book (with absolutely no real medical research backing it) or a doctor (that died of heart related issues!) says about protein?

This is problem the number one "concern" I receive when I tell people that not only I am following a plant based diet, but my 13 month old son is as well.

Here are some interesting things from

Please visit the link above for more info and some really interesting charts as well!

Plants--the Original Sources of Protein and Amino Acids

Proteins are made from chains of 20 different amino acids that connect together in varying sequences—similar to how all the words in a dictionary are made from the same 26 letters. Plants (and microorganisms) can synthesize all of the individual amino acids that are used to build proteins, but animals cannot. There are 8 amino acids that people cannot make and thus, these must be obtained from our diets—they are referred to as “essential.”

After we eat our foods, stomach acids and intestinal enzymes digest the proteins into individual amino acids. These components are then absorbed through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. After entering the body’s cells, these amino acids are reassembled into proteins. Proteins function as structural materials which build the scaffoldings that maintain cell shapes, enzymes which catalyze biochemical reactions, and hormones which signal messages between cells—to name only a few of their vital roles.

Since plants are made up of structurally sound cells with enzymes and hormones, they are by nature rich sources of proteins. In fact, so rich are plants that they can meet the protein needs of the earth’s largest animals: elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows. You would be correct to deduce that the protein needs of relatively small humans can easily be met by plants.

People Require Very Little Protein

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein. This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day. This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables. For example, rice alone would provide 71 grams of highly useable protein and white potatoes would provide 64 grams of protein.8

Our greatest time of growth—thus, the time of our greatest need for protein—is during our first 2 years of life—we double in size. At this vigorous developmental stage our ideal food is human milk, which is 5% protein. Compare this need to food choices that should be made as adults—when we are not growing. Rice is 8% protein, corn 11%, oatmeal 15%, and beans 27%.8 Thus protein deficiency is impossible when calorie needs are met by eating unprocessed starches and vegetables.

The healthy active lives of hundreds of millions of people laboring in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America on diets with less than half the amount of protein eaten by Americans and Europeans prove that the popular understanding of our protein needs is seriously flawed.

You Don’t Need Beans or to “Combine” Your Foods

Many investigators have measured the capacity of plant foods to satisfy protein needs. Their findings show that children and adults thrive on diets based on single or combined starches, and grow healthy and strong.10 Furthermore, no improvement has been found from mixing plant foods or supplementing them with amino acid mixtures to make the combined amino acid pattern look more like that of flesh, milk, or eggs. In fact, supplementing a food with an amino acid in order to conform to a contrived reference standard can create amino acid imbalances. For example, young children fed diets based on wheat or corn and supplemented with the amino acids tryptophan and methionine in order to conform to the standard requirements set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) developed negative responses in terms of nitrogen balance (the body's utilization of protein).10

People who are worried about getting sufficient protein will sometimes ask me if they can still follow the McDougall Diet if they do not like beans. From the chart above, you will notice that any single starch or vegetable will provide in excess of our needs for total protein and essential amino acids—thus there is no reason to rely on beans or make any efforts to food combine different plant foods to improve on Nature’s own marvelous creations.

Potatoes Alone Suffice

Many populations, for example people in rural Poland and Russia at the turn of the 19th century, have lived in very good health doing extremely hard work with the white potato serving as their primary source of nutrition. One landmark experiment carried out in 1925 on two healthy adults, a man 25 years old and a woman 28 years old had them live on a diet primarily of white potatoes for 6 months. (A few additional items of little nutritional value except for empty calories—pure fats, a few fruits, coffee, and tea—were added to their diet.)11 The report stated, “They did not tire of the uniform potato diet and there was no craving for change.” Even though they were both physically active (especially the man) they were described as, “…in good health on a diet in which the nitrogen (protein) was practically solely derived from the potato.”

The potato is such a great source of nutrition that it can supply all of the essential protein and amino acids for young children in times of food shortage. Eleven Peruvian children, ages 8 months to 35 months, recovering from malnutrition, were fed diets where all of the protein and 75% of the calories came from potatoes. (Soybean-cottonseed oils and pure simple sugars, neither of which contains protein, vitamins, or minerals, provided some of the extra calories.)12 Researchers found that this simple potato diet provided all the protein and essential amino acids to meet the needs of growing and small children.

Excess Protein Causes Diseases of Over-nutrition

Unlike fat, protein cannot be stored. When it is consumed in excess of our needs, protein is broken down mostly by the liver, and partly by the kidneys and muscles. Consumption in excess of our needs overworks the liver and kidneys, and can cause accumulation of toxic protein byproducts.

Proteins are made of amino acids, and are, therefore, acidic by nature. Animal proteins are abundant in sulfur-containing amino acids which break down into very powerful sulfuric acid. These kinds of amino acids are abundant in hard cheese, red meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, and their acids must be neutralized by buffers found in the bones. The bones dissolve to release the buffering materials; eventually resulting in a condition of weakened bones, known as osteoporosis. Released bone materials often settle and coalesce in the kidney system, causing kidney stones. Fruits and vegetables are largely alkaline, preserving bone health and preventing kidney stones.13 (A more detailed discussion of the health consequences from excess protein is found in my January 2004 newsletter article: Protein Overload.)

Diseases of over-nutrition are directly connected to planet health, too. Recommendations to eat animal foods for protein have resulted in an environmental catastrophe. Livestock produces 18% of the greenhouse gases; these food-animals occupy 26 percent of the ice-free surface of the Earth and 33 percent of the total arable land is used to produce their food. One telling tragedy is they account for the deforestation of 70 percent of Amazon rainforests, which act as the “lungs of the Earth.”14 (A more detailed discussion of the environmental damage from livestock is found in my December 2006 newsletter article: An Inconvenient Truth: We Are Eating Our Planet To Death.)


I started this blog because I used to have a blog for our baby (at almost 14 months I guess he's really more of a toddler now, especially since he likes to run everywhere!) that I don't keep up anymore, but I missed writing about our lives.

I have always been passionate about food and diet. Partly out of necessity (um why can't I be one of those women who can eat complete garbage and be a stick?) and partly out of pure passion for food issues, cooking, recipes, and research.

You probably won't be able to find a diet I haven't researched, tried, or read about or a diet book I haven't read through or owned.

But that all changed at the end of last summer when I could not stay away from books by real doctors, citing real research studies, promoting a lower fat, plant based diet. Yes, that means no animal products. Yes, that brings up the scary term, "vegan". Yes, we are raising our baby on no animal products. Yes, he's perfectly healthy and thriving. It's kind of amazing what the body can do with real food, real fuel, and things we're meant to eat.

Anyway, most recently, after I completed all of the books by doctors (Dr. McDougall, Dr. Furhman, Dr. Barnard, etc.) I went to the source; The China Study. I am not that far into it (um, I have a house to keep, a baby to raise, and a photography business to run!) but I am excited to share my thoughts on it as I go.

Also, you should know that there are few different views on the plant based diet. Each of the above doctors (and more) agree on 99% of the issues, and differ on just a few things. For example, Dr. Furhman (Eat To Live) believes in mostly raw food and little grains. Dr. Barnard (Breaking the Food Seduction) believes in a lot of soy products and pasta over potatoes. Dr. McDougall (who I have been a big fan of for many years and even followed his diet briefly in college) believes in a starch based (no, not doughnuts, but whole grains, etc) diet with a few servings of fruit a day, many veggies, a little beans, and very little soy. As a carb lover, I do best on McDougall's diet because I don't feel deprived at all. You mean I gave up meat, fish, dairy, fat? So what? I can eat POTATOES!!!!

Freedom. It feels like freedom.

So anyway, I will bring you along for our journey as we learn to live this way for our health (more on that), share recipes we love, and share important and helpful articles & links. Oh and you might just get some day to day things about life in general as well.