A Giveaway Update (More Time, More Magazines!)

Good news! I recently learned that I can open up my magazine subscription giveaway to other periodicals, in addition to Vegetarian Times! Therefore, you can enter to win my giveaway for any of these magazines.

In the event you're not in the mood to scroll, here are some that may interest you:

I've also decided to extend the deadline of my giveaway, to give more folks a chance to win. Therefore my new deadline for selecting 9 random winners will be 12/26 at 2 p.m. PT.

Enter to win by leaving a comment here.

Holiday Giveaway: A Subscription To 'Vegetarian Times'

Happy Christmakwanzakah!

Love,
Me (The worst blogger of 2012)

I could blame the radio silence blog on living on a farm with shotty internet. I could blame moving six times (four of which being from one coast to another) within the year. I may even go as far to blame writer's block. But the reality is, I just haven't been inspired to blog. I don't have the same fuel to be as active on social media as I once did. Once upon a time, I was known for blogging effectively...I even taught others how to do it. Here's to hoping none of my former students follow my example, eh? So here's to hoping Santa doesn't determine who's on the naughty or nice list based on frequency of blogging.

Now that I'm living more of an online life, aka not working in the fields ten hours a day, I'll strive to do better. Heck, even updating once a month would be an improvement from once every six months. So be please be patient with me as I get back into the groove.

And what better way to get back into things then channeling the season of giving and hooking some of you up with a free, digital, year-long subscription to Vegetarian Times the magazine of your choice (full choice list here). There are a ton of great periodicals to choose from, but these would likely be my top two: 

 

And if you're already blessed with a subscription to these, then check out this handy list of other mags I think you may dig.

So good! So, so good! Interested? You should be. Plus, in a digi format, your inner-nomad/feng shui-self doesn't have to balk at what to do with one more thing to recycle (or pack around). Oh, and also, this could mark the end of you flipping through the newest copy in the store, covertly taking pictures of tasty recipes on your phone, so you don't have to buy the whole magazine. Wait, you don't do that? No, of course not. Me neither.

Here's what you do to enter:

Comment on this post, indicating which magazine you'd like, along with your email address. And if you like, I'd love to know your take on:

  • a post or subject that you'd like to see me write about here on the blog in the future, or
  • your favorite vegetarian/vegan holiday dish(es)!

And on 12/23 12/26** at 2 p.m. PT, I will randomly select 9 winners. Until then! 

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What vegetarians need to know about fat

Jillian MichaelsThis morning I was listening to Jillian Michaels Podcast and one caller asked Jillian a great question that I think plagues most: should we be avoiding fat? Is fat the enemy?

Fat was given a bad name in the 90's and it's still recovering from the unfair rap it received then. Since so many wonderful foods that are staples in vegan and vegetarian diets are high in fat, I rarely give regard to how much fat I eat. Meanwhile, my friends and family's eyes often bulge to the size of cantaloupes when I start chomping on almonds or see me plop in a dollop of coconut oil to melt in a pan, as they timidly ask, 'Doesn't that have a lot of fat in it?'

Truth is folks, yes, some of the foods I eat are really high in fat. But that's not a bad thing. I've often struggled with explaining why that is, and upon listening to this podcast, thought Jillian had some great answers. Here's what she had to say:
 
  • Calories make you fat. Fat doesn't make you fat. Calories are a unit of energy, and when you do not use that energy then it gets stored as body fat. So, no matter what you're eating -- a sugar calorie, a protein calorie -- if it doesn't get burned then it gets stored as fat.
     
  • We need healthy fats. Fats are a main source of nutrients and fuel for our bodies. So when you look at the three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbs, we need healthy sources of fat (which are vegetarian and vegan staples like almonds, olive oil, avocados). These fats are necessary for all kinds of different bodily functions, from actually supporting heart health to supplying you with more energy, to boosting immunity, insulating your brain, etc. We need good fats in our diet.
     
  • Saturated fat is not the enemy. Many current studies suggest that we need a certain amount of saturated fat in our diet. It was once believed that saturated fat was linked to heart disease, high cholesterol, but more of the current research shows that it's actually that diets high in sugar, simple carbohydrates are what's elevating heart disease and cholesterol. Our bodies produce cholesterol, so even if you're not ingesting cholesterol, you can produce cholesterol. So that's when genetics come into play when it comes to heart health. We do want certain amounts of good cholesterol as well. So, it's easy to get confused because when you eat an egg, yes, it has cholesterol in it, but it also has good cholesterol in it which ultimately helps to lower bad cholesterol. So don't worry about fats that are natural.
     
  • Unnatural fat is the enemy. Unnatural fats are things like hydrogenated oils and trans fats, those are the bad guys. These are man made fats where a hydrogen atom is added to the fat, which makes it a preservative so it won't decompose on the shelf. When you ingest these fats they don't decompose on the shelf, nor will they in the body. Just think, if a Twinkie can last seven years on a shelf, what do you think that does in your body? It just sits there! And in terms of unnatural fat, It doesn't take much to do harm, if just 3% of your calorie allowance are trans fatty acids then you're upping your risk of heart disease by 23%. So these are the kinds of fats you never want to eat.
     
  • It's all about balance. When eating fats, the most important thing is to be mindful of the quantity of fat you eat. Calories make you fat, so it's key to understand that fat has more calories. For example, one gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories, meanwhile one gram of fat has 9 calories. So, if you eat too much of anything, too many calories are going to make you fat. So look at things as a whole; count calories, not fat grams.

Take-away point

Don't be afraid of fat. Not only do our bodies need it to function, but fatty foods can be downright delicious! There are a ton of natural foods that are rich in fat, but have so many other health benefits that you'd be foolish to avoid them. To boot, if you're a vegetarian or a vegan, some of our protein staples, like dairy, nuts, seeds and avocados, all are high in fat, but avoiding fat can result in malnutrition (can block vitamin absorption), constipation and the like. 

Bottom line: whether you're vegetarian, vegan, raw or omnivorous, don't worry about any fat that is unnatural. 

Going veg for your New Year's resolution? Part 1: 3 must-try recipes

There's no surprise that many New Year's resolutions include becoming healthier. Gyms are more packed than any other time of the year; spinning classes are filled with new faces, and treadmills are lined from wall-to-wall with folks sweating away those holiday pounds.

women on the treadmill

As we've heard time and time again though, becoming healthy isn't just about exercise, it's also about what we eat. Given the abundance of fabulous articles about how eliminating meat (see Mark Bittman's "No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem"), even on a part-time basis, does the body good, it's no wonder that many health resolvers are testing the waters of vegetarianism to purify their bodies.

I'm all for helping people eat vegetarian, whether it's part-time or full-time, which is why a recent email from a friend has inspired me to share my main tips about transitioning to a vegetarian diet over the next few weeks. 

Today, I want to share my top three vegetarian recipes that are absolute crowd pleasers, and can also be made with any budget:

1. Shurbat Addes (Syrian Red Lentil Soup): this is a soup that will convince anyone you're a culinary whiz even though it's jaw-droppingly easy. Seriously! It's rare to find a recipe that's this easy and this tasty, and considering it only requires five ingredients, you have no excuse to not go invade your pantry right now and eat it within the hour.

Serve it with a green salad and you've got yourself a balance meal. The recipe requires a mortar and pestle to grind the spices, but if you don't already have one, then one can easily be found secondhand, or at Ikea for under $10. I got mine at Sur La Table for $15. Bonus points: this soup is easy to make and ready to eat in 40 minutes.

 

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Top 5 recipes from Heidi Swanson's 'Super Natural Every Day'

For my 25th birthday, I bought myself two cookbooks: Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking and Heidi Swanson's newly released Super Natural Every Day.

Cover of Super Natural Every DayI don't think I could have made two better purchases. Both cookbooks are fabulous, but Heidi's book is the one I've found myself cooking out of more thus far. In case you're unfamiliar, Heidi is the master behind 101 Cookbooks, and has previously published two cookbooks (Super Natural Cooking and Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen). She has an excellent flare for creating healthy vegetarian recipes that are delicious, satisfying and nutritious. Heidi's recipes routinely hit the spot, and for this very reason she has readily become one of my favorite, and most trusted, cooks.

When it comes to vegetarian food, Heidi knows what she's doing.

I discovered Heidi and her blog a year or two ago, but began to visit it religiously since vowing to cut down on my sugar intake and cook more whole, natural foods. Most of my previously favored food blogs showcase scrumptious food, but their recipes are far too rich, and far too sweet for me to cook from anymore (Deb from Smitten Kitchen, I love you dearly, but am talking to you). Sure, recipes can be adjusted, and from time to time I'm happy to make healthy tweaks, but it's also nice to cook a recipe from top to bottom knowing it came out exactly as it was intended.

I'm a recipe girl. Many cooks are brilliant at making up recipes from scratch, or improvising here and there because they have good instincts on what goes well with what. I'm not one of those cooks.

Given my desire to stop tweaking previously loved recipes into somewhat healthy ones, I have found Heidi's third cookbook, Super Natural Every Day -- or "SNED" so I endearingly refer to it -- to routinely please my palate and my waistline. At this point I've cooked 2/3 of the recipes in SNED, a rarity for me since most cookbooks I cook from are rented from the library, so I usually only cook 2-5 recipes from them at the very most.

While it was hard to choose, here are my top five favorite recipes from SNED:

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Sassy answers to commonly asked questions about vegetarianism

I appreciate a recent post that Megan Rascal wrote for vegansaurus! discussing easy answers to commonly asked questions about veganism. While there are a few questions specific to veganism, most of Megan's questions are also asked of vegetarians.

While I've seen these types of posts before, there's something about that vegansaurus! sass that made me want to share these with you.

Here are a few of Megan's responses that I particularly liked:

2. But cheese is gooooooood.

I didn’t give up cheese because I don’t like the taste (and the addictive casein high!), I gave it up because I morally object to the way it’s made. Did you know that male calves are taken away from their moms the day they’re born so they can be sold for veal? You know, because their mom’s milk is for humans, not for their baby. I like cheese but I don’t think it’s worth it.

REMEMBER: It’s not about the taste. (Ashley: this also works for meat and eggs)
 

3. Animals eat each other, why shouldn’t we?

Animals do a lot of stuff we don’t do—my neighbor’s dog eats its own shit. Humans are thoughtful, reflective beings and we can make choices in a way most animals can’t. Except lots of animals, including gorillas, who are badass natural vegans and way better than us.

REMEMBER: Humans have choices.
 

7. I tried to be vegan and I got really sick.

That’s weird because usually a vegan diet is healthier than a non-vegan diet. If nutrition was a problem, you could always read more about how to become a healthy vegan and try again! I could help! If you want to talk to someone more professional than me (please note: I wear flip flops in winter and usually have food on my hair, face, and shirt), find a vegan-friendly nutritionist or dietitian!

REMEMBER: Any diet can be unhealthy.


If you want to read Megan's full list then go to vegansaurus! for the rundown.

Risks and replacements of red meat

A fork-full of steakOne of the most often repeated reasons people tell me they could never go vegetarian is because they love the taste of meat too much.

After growing up on the Oregon coast - consuming seafood like it was growing out of style - and eating venison year round, I salute this argument, but no longer find it valid. Once you stop eating meat, you stop craving it and instead start craving vegetarian food.

There's something about red meat that raises hair on the back of our necks. It could be because every other minute the argument changes on whether or not it's good for us (pro and con); it could be the frequent E. coli outbreaks that would sooner have me craving starvation than ground beef. Some resources go as far as stating those who eat red meat are likely to have other unhealthy habits. Whether you choose to eliminate red meat entirely, or to simply scale back, it's important to recap why.


Health

In Jane Brody's New York Times article, "Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat," she discusses an extensive decade-long study by the National Cancer Institute, which reported the following health risks come into play for those who eat red meat:

  • Increased mortality risk

The increase in mortality risk tied to the higher levels of meat consumption was described as “modest,” ranging from about 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. But the number of excess deaths that could be attributed to high meat consumption is quite large given the size of the American population.

...the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats, according to estimates prepared by Dr. Barry Popkin, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report.

  • Cholesterol / High Blood Pressure / Heart Disease
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My one year anniversary as a vegetarian

Marilyn Monroe blowing out one birthday candle atop her cake

Four hundred days and forty pounds ago, I became a vegetarian.

After a full year of not eating animal meat, I must say that I've never felt better. I recently got a full check-up, including extensive blood tests and learned that I was in top shape. My protein, iron, b-vitamins and the rest were all happily in check. Well, everything minus a vitamin-d deficiency, that's only natural when you live in a place like Seattle.

Thinking back, becoming a vegetarian wasn't as hard as I originally thought it would be. I would go through phases where I would try out vegetarianism, but it never stuck longer than a week or so because I had no clue on how to sustain a healthy vegetarian diet and couldn't imagine a life without unagi sushi rolls or hot dogs at a baseball game. Then one Sunday afternoon, after lamenting to a vegetarian friend about feeling unhealthy, he suggested I consider vegetarianism. My roommate at the time had Peter Singer's The Ethics of What We Eat in his bookshelf, which complimented this suggestion, so I picked it up and read it cover-to-cover that same afternoon. That was one of many books/videos I devoured in a few weeks time--ranging in topic from Indian cookbooks to basic nutrients that every diet needs.

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Food pyramid for vegetarians

According to Frankie Avalon Wolfe, of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Vegetarian, here is a mock-up of the lacto ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian that consumes dairy and eggs) food pyramid, which follows the ADA guidelines:

Now that you’ve seen a visual for lacto ovo vegetarians, let’s talk about the necessary servings needed per day for a healthy and balanced diet:

  • Oils, sweets, alcohol: use very sparingly
  • Eggs: up to 3-4 per week
    • Example serving: 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • Dairy: up to 3 servings
    • Example serving: I cup milk; 1 cup yogurt; 1 ½ oz cheese (Wolfe suggests using skim or low-fat dairy, I opt for full fat)
  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, meat alternatives (like tofu): 2 – 3 servings
    • Example serving: 4 oz tofu or tempeh; ½ cup cooked beans; 8 oz soy milk; 2 tbsp nut butter
  • Vegetables: 4+ servings
    • Example serving: 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • Fruits: 3+ servings
    • Example serving: 1 piece fresh fruit; ¾ cup fruit juice
  • Whole grains & pasta: 6+ servings
    • Example serving: 1 oz ready-to-eat cereal; 1 cup dry cereal; 1 slice of bread; ½ bagel, bun or muffin; ½ cup cooked pasta or grain

Six steps to going meatless

Before becoming vegetarian, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the large amount of research and consideration I had to do before switching to vegetarianism.

Truth is, the first few times I wanted to become vegetarian, I gave it a very temporary shot, but was discouraged by how daunting the transition felt. In fear I wouldn't know how to get enough protein (and other essential nutrients), give up some of my favorite foods and how to stand up to friends and family, I readily buckled under pressure and returned to my meat eating ways.
 

Meat market in Athens, Greece


Now that I have been vegetarian for roughly six months, I feel like I have gotten a solid handle on some of the do's and don'ts of transitioning to vegetarianism. If you ask me, the secret sauce to successfully becoming vegetarian was to stop thinking about the switch as a huge, intimidating transition into a positive thing broken into baby steps.

Over at MyRecipes.com, Anne Cain wrote a lovely list for new vegetarians on, 6 First Steps to Going Meatless. While I dug the list as a whole, not all steps were applicable to me as I quit eating meat cold turkey instead of transitioning into it.

After the jump, see my modified list of Cain's.

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