Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Food Pyramid for Vegans

My sister Susan has been doing a little research on the structure of a vegan diet. She sent the following post to me. Thank you Susan!

I love to share information about my vegan lifestyle. But I am often asked if I'm getting enough protein and calcium. I know that the plant kingdom provides excellent sources for both, but how much ? . . . and in what ? I was not interested in counting the grams of protein in everything I ate, so I began searching for an easy to apply formula that would help me maximize the nutritional value of my diet.

I found what I was looking for in a cookbook -- 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson. She had reprinted the New Four Food Groups developed in 1991 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is a no-cholesterol, low-fat plan that supplies all of an average adult's daily nutritional requirements and fiber; with the addition of a good source of vitamin B-12, such as fortified cereals or vitamin supplements.

I have been applying this plan and feel great!

FRUIT:3 or more servings/day

1 medium piece of fruit
1/2 cup cooked fruit
4 ounces juice

LEGUMES:2 or more servings/day

1 cup cooked beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, baked and refried beans
4 ounces tofu, tempeh or texturized vegetable protein
8 ounces soymilk

WHOLE GRAINS:5 or more servings/day

1/2 cup rice, corn, millet, barley and bulgur wheat or pasta
1 ounce dry cereal (hot or cold)
1 tortilla or 1 slice bread

VEGETABLES:5 or more servings/day

1 cup raw vegetables
1/2 cup cooked vegetables

Note: The image above was found at animalsuffering.com

Monday, December 21, 2009


This time of year can be crazy (I know I'm going nuts), and when my Uncle Gene sent me his latest article I thought the timing was perfect. Consider it a present, I do. Now, my Uncle Gene...

“These problems are intractable.” So spoke a former Congressional Budget Manager at a conference sponsored by the Petersen Foundation and aired on C-Span. “Intractable” means “difficult to deal with or solve.” The conference targeted the growing national deficit, with special attention paid to the ever-increasing costs of medical care.
After studying the finances of health care, my good friend and colleague Ed Greenberg concluded: “So I fear that the problem is unsolvable.”
The question then is, how do you deal with intractable, unsolvable problems? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Do you let them gnaw away at your innards? Or do you “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?” If you let intractable problems get to you, they can destroy your sense of well-being, your health, and your sanity.
It is not like intractable problems are new to the human race. They have always been around, and somehow, solutions have always occurred. In the meantime, there are long established spiritual and psychological techniques devised to help us cross the bridges of intractable problems. The one I want to mention is some form of meditation technique, recently popularized by various medical practitioners. (Since it seems that the medical profession is the source of some of our predicaments, it is fitting that the medical professionals should help us find the way out!) Meditation, in one form or another, has been practiced for thousands of years, for reasons religious, philosophical, healthful, and simply as an exercise in developing humanity.


What is meditation, and how do you practice it? Meditation is essentially a calming and quieting experience, a turning off of the noise and distraction of everyday, and attentiveness to what is basic and elementary. The simplest form of meditation is to find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and spend ten minutes paying attention to your breath. (Dr. Weil says there is no medical prescription more important than re-learning how to breathe!) When we are bothered, we tend to breathe shallowly. We can go days without paying attention to our breathing, or being aware of how shallow it has become.

Simply counting your breath can bring your attention back to this basic physiological function. Controlling your breath is the next step: breathe in for ten seconds, hold your breath for five, and then breathe out slowly and calmly, focusing your attention on the act of breathing.

That is the basis of meditation. You can do it many ways, but focusing on your breathing is the way to begin. You may make it a religious experience by incorporating appropriate imagery. It can be an aesthetic experience by meditating on the sunset or on the moon, or whatever natural phenomenon has a special appeal to you. It can be a calming and relaxing experience through the recitation of some “mantra,” some phrase that has particular significance for you.

Dr. Herbert Benson has documented that the regular practice of meditation lowers blood pressure. Dr. Dean Ornish claims that regular meditation reduces the risk of sudden heart attack. Dr. Weil maintains that meditation boosts the effectiveness of the immune system. Perhaps it does these because it brings us back to our basic self, puts us in touch with the roots of our consciousness, and helps establish a calm and tranquil center at the heart of our activity.

Among philosophers, Socrates had his meditative trances from which he could not be awakened. Plotinus had his transformative experiences of solitude, of being “alone with the Alone.” Thomas Aquinas was so transformed by his meditations that all he had written seemed like so much straw. Asian traditions offer parallel examples: Thich Nhat Hanh, perhaps the greatest living teacher of Buddhism, recommends the simple formula: Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. His books, Peace is Every Step, and Interbeing, can be great helps along the path to successful meditation.

By setting aside 10 minutes every day, you will open a new window on your own self-awareness, gain control over your breathing and your life, and come to sense your participation in the mystery of existence. The problems that seemed so intractable will be much less menacing.

Your material being is part of the matter of the universe, your thinking is part of the web of thought that covers the universe, and your existing is a participation in that wonder of all wonders, the capacity to stand outside nothingness. By setting aside time for meditation, you will be better prepared to be a contributor to the on-going-ness of existence.

The best cure for an encounter with problems that seem intractable is to set aside ten minutes of uninterruptible quiet time, when you center yourself, find your proper place in the non-everyday world, and encounter reality, and not just the appearances of things. The paradox of this experience is that, by setting aside a time for meditation, you will actually have more time to do things, and find greater delight in the doing of them…. even taking on the problems that appear intractable!

Hummus in a Hurry

It was Friday night. I had just walked in from a really long work week only to have to get ready for two holiday parties that night. I needed to bring something to both and time was not on my side. So I went into my refrigerator and threw together a dip lickety-split. Guess what… it was good! Best of all... it was quick, easy and with little to clean up.

Hummus in a Hurry

5 oz. of your favorite store bought hummus
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Fresh lemon juice

Put the beans into a food processor and process until finely minced. Add 5 ounces of your favorite hummus and blend. Squeeze a little lemon juice into the mixture and stir. Serve with chips or veggies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Six Month Anniversary

Beyond lowering my cholesterol, I’m not sure what my expectations were six months ago when I started this diet. I try to remember just what I felt like in comparison to how I feel today. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I look a little healthier. These questions I can’t answer, but I do know that I’ve changed more than my total cholesterol number. I’ve lost weight, I feel better... lighter, and I take better care of myself. There are times when it’s still a struggle, but I’ve found a balance. I’ve gotten use to preparing two dinner menus, eating salads without dressing on them when I’m out, and I’ve accepted the fact that I will make exceptions on an occasion without feeling like a failure. This lifestyle is important to me, but not at the expense of missing out on special moments... like sharing a conversation with my mom over a glass of wine and potato chips. Moments like that are few and far between. In all of this, I’ve developed perspective. I want to be able to go out to dinner, travel and socialize; so occasionally I make exceptions. I look at it as a lifestyle for a lifetime, and when I have the opportunity to sit at the kitchen table with my mother sipping a glass of wine, I’ll take it… with delight.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oatmeal Banana Smoothie

I need to eat more oatmeal, but truthfully, I’m not fond of it. In fact, I hate it. I think it tastes like paste. So I am always looking for ways to sneak it into my diet. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious. Healthful additions could be 1 Tbsp. of wheat germ or ground flax seed.

Oatmeal Banana Smoothie

5 minutes

1 C. low-fat soy milk (I prefer chocolate)
½ C. uncooked oatmeal
1 banana
1 C. ice cubes

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and mix on high for one minute or until combined and smooth.

Note: The image above was found at videojug.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The End of Overeating?

Once again, my Uncle Gene...

I had been reading several books on nutrition this week, when two of the authors I was busy reading showed up on the Charlie Rose shows. David Kessler, M.D., is the author of a new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Dr. Kessler was puzzled as to why he persistently regained the weight he had so often struggled to lose. Then it dawned on him: he was eating in response to the endless advertisements that promised not just satisfaction, but delight, from eating what Agribusiness wanted Americans to eat: diets high in fat, sugar, and salt. While that may seem to be crediting advertising with powers it does not possess, there is evidence that we do respond to the advertisements we see and hear, and overeating can become a compensation for the satisfactions we are not getting elsewhere in our lives.

To the question, Why do we eat so much? Dr. Kessler suggests that we are biologically programmed to eat more than we need at any one sitting, precisely because our ancestors needed to overeat, to make up for the times when starvation would be narrowly avoided. Long ago, lipidologists determined that our bodies were inclined to store fat when it was available, to be consumed when needed. Problem is, the times of starvation seldom occur anymore.

Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, rings some serious alarm bells about the way our food is produced and processed. As he says: “People don’t know how their food is produced. A level of industrialization has taken over our food supply, with disastrous consequences. Ground beef, for example, is now a dangerous product. In a slaughterhouse that kills 400 animals an hour, there’s no way of keeping manure out of the end product. The hamburger meat you buy may have come from 50 different animals, and the odds are there will be harmful bacteria in it.” (70,000 Americans are taken ill each year from E-coli bacteria, and 7,000 will have long-term health consequences.)

Pollan is an optimist about how we will deal with these problems. He thinks we can solve the long-term challenge of providing healthy food for the planet’s 9 billion people by the year 2050. We begin by improving our everyday eating habits. Small changes over time will have dramatic impacts. When he turns to the health care spending debate, he writes that three-fourths of health care costs are related to treating diseases that derive from the way we eat. One-third of Americans are obese, and almost half of them are diabetic. The costs of treating Type II Diabetes exceed $500,000 over a lifetime. (Medicare spending on Diabetes is $113 billion dollars today; in twenty years, it will be over $270 billion in today’s dollars.)

Pollan is in the forefront of what is called “The Good Food Movement,” which begins by encouraging people to grow some of their own food, to buy what is locally grown, and to decrease meat consumption. (Americans average 9 ounces of meat a day.) Pollan belittles our fascination with “processed” foods, the foods that have so many ingredients listed you wonder what it is you are really eating, and he suggests: “Don’t eat what your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food.” Pollan says his book can be summarized in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Dr. Kessler might add, don’t spend a lot of time watching the TV commercials that try to convince you that all your troubles will end if you just eat a certain food, or, for that matter, that some pill can compensate for your overindulgence. Kessler and Pollan are right: we may be on the cusp of a revolution in the way we eat, with long term consequences for us, the planet, and the generations that will come after us…