Read This Now: Vegan for Life

Have you read Vegan for Life yet? If not, you should move it to the top of your reading list. Whether you’re newly vegan (good for you!), a longtime vegan (keep it up!), or an aspiring vegan (you can do it!), the book will have something to offer you.

The book is a nutrition guide for vegans by vegan activists and registered dietitians Jack Norris and Ginny Messina. Both are well-regarded dietitians AND animal advocates, which makes their advice invaluable. Messina is coauthor of the ADA’s position paper of vegetarian and vegan diets, and Norris runs the website veganhealth.org as part of his work with Vegan Outreach. Their focus is on giving accurate, up-to-date nutrition information so people can feel confident going vegan and so they can stay vegan, too.

To begin with, the book is a solid guide to nutrition in general and vegan nutrition specifically. If you have no idea what you’re supposed to be eating, the book will guide you without overwhelming you. If you’ve been vegan awhile, it covers all those questions you’re tired of hearing about with straightforward answers you can repeat to your Aunt Gertrude at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Protein? Calcium? Soy? Vegan death flu? (just kidding)

Some of the answers might be a bit different from what you’d expect. Should vegans worry about protein? Say it with me, NO! Except, maybe we should worry just a teensy bit. Or rather, maybe we should make sure we’re eating our beans. If you’re including beans (or pistachios or quinoa) in your diet regularly, than you’re surely getting enough of the amino acid lysine, which can be a bit limited in other plant foods. If you don’t eat beans, pistachios or quinoa, you might need to keep a closer eye on your protein consumption.

There are some updates about other widely-repeated vegan nutrition advice, too. Calcium? We need just as much as a person eating the typical amount of meat an American eats. It’s not that we’re giving into lying, government-controlled vegan scaremongering. There’s just been more research into nutrition that means we have to adjust our views on what qualifies as a good diet. That’s how science works. When new information comes to light, we have to embrace it and adapt.

Beyond setting straight some outdated nutrition information, the book will put to rest most nutrition worries you might have. There’s advice on how to feed children,  how to be vegan in pregnancy, how to eat if you’re an athlete, how to eat vegan with special dietary concerns, how to eat vegan if you’re elderly, and how to go vegan in the first place. I love the simple recipe suggestions and meal plans. Because food doesn’t have to be complicated, right? There’s advice on how to stock a vegan pantry and how to cook vegan on a budget.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about vegan nutrition, the book is worth picking up. It uses very straightforward, easy-to-understand language, and I think every vegan advocate should have these basics straight. It’s important to give correct information so people stay healthy and stay vegan.

VegDocs

From the Adventures of Doodlegirl. Licensed under creative commons

It’s always tough finding a recommendation for a new doctor, and being vegan can make it a bit tougher. Will the doctor think you’re ruining your health just by avoiding animal products? Will she blame veganism each time you get a sniffle? Does he have any idea of what vegans actually eat?

There’s a new website out there that I’m really excited about that should help with this issue. VegDocs is the project of students at the Institute for Humane Education. The idea is that people recommend doctors who are veg-friendly. That can mean anything from a doctor that recommends a plant-based diet to just an ordinary doctor who is well informed about vegan nutrition and health.

The database is still pretty bare at this point, though Texas has the most doctors listed so far. If you like your physician, add their name to the list.

Plant-Based Diet Workshop

Broccoli by Daphne Cheng. Licensed under creative commons from Vegan Stock Photo

My biggest criticism of Forks Over Knives was that it didn’t address the how of switching to a plant-based diet. Well, if you’ve got a bit of money and a spare weekend, you can get some hands on training from some of the health professionals featured in the movie.

Rip Esselstyn, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and a whole host of other no-oil, plant-based diet folks will be hosting a weekend “immersion” with hands on information about what to eat, how to shop and cook, and how to deal with social situations. You’ll also get to taste lots of yummy foods that fit with the lifestyle at each meal.

Natala Constantine of Vegan Hope has described some of these immersions to me before, and they sound like an inspiring and informative experience. Previously, they’ve been limited to Whole Foods employees, but this one is open to the general public.

The immersion will be the weekend of August 26 to 28 in Marshall, Texas, which is just east of Louisiana in North Texas. The cost is $175 for one person or $300 for a couple. That includes meals for the weekend, but not accommodations. More details on their website.

Marshall, Texas, is mostly known for the easy drive over the border to Shreveport, Louisiana for some poker or slots. Just be warned that you’ll have to put up with lots of cigarette smoke and don’t expect to find any healthy food.

EDIT: In the comments, someone says there will be an immersion in Austin this September. I couldn’t find any details, but I’ll update if I find more information.

Chow Down Showing in El Paso

The Vegetarian Society of El Paso is screening Chow Down on July 8 at 7:30 at Chamizal. The movie is a documentary that looks at reversing heart disease with a vegan diet. Sound familiar? Like Forks Over Knives, Chow Down features Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, father of Austin plant celebrity Rip Esselstyn. I haven’t seen Chow Down yet, but the positive health effects of a plant-based diet are getting a lot of deserved attention lately.

Check out a trailer before, and see more trailers on the movie’s website.

If you’re not in El Paso, check out the video on Hulu, where the whole thing can be seen for free.

More Road Tripping through Texas

Here’s another great article about taking a meandering drive through Texas and hoping to catch some good, healthy eats. My heart broke a little for this couple. While they may have made the trip with full tummies and intact pant-sizes, they ended up eating Subway Veggie Delites when they were just minutes away from Green. Green which was recently voted both best healthy meal and second best dessert in San Antonio, a combination you don’t find often. And while I love having access to Whole Foods when I’m away from home, Loving Hut in Arlington would have been a better meal and closer to I-20, too!

Mr. Fuller, next time you pass through Texas drop me an email. There’s no need to resort to Subway.

Dr. Neil Barnard’s Texas Book Tour

I mentioned in the post about the Texas-themed PCRM menu that Dr. Neal Barnard would be touring Texas this summer. The dates were just released, and Dr. Barnard will be visiting lovely San Antonio, Austin, Southlake (DFW), and Houston, at the end of June and beginning of July. The San Antonio date requires preregistration, but all the others are first come, first serve.

Between the book tour, Texas-themed recipes, and PCRM’s recent call for people in DFW willing to give veganism a try, it looks like Dr. Barnard and PCRM have their eyes on Texas. It will be interesting to see what comes of that.

San Antonio, June 28, at Central Library
Austin, June 29, at North Lamar Whole Foods
Southlake (Dallas), June 30, at Southlake library
Houston, July 1, at Memorial Hermann Memorial* City Medical Center

More details here.

*What’s with the double Memorial, Houston?

New MyPlate Graphic–Vegan Style

Image from ChooseMyPlate.gov

The USDA released a new MyPlate graphic to replace the really confusing MyPyramid. I think the new plate is terrific. It’s a very simple design that easily translates to how people actually plate their food. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas and deemphasizes meat.

So what does a vegan plate of food look like when it conforms to these guidelines? Check out these meals culled from flickr:

Split pea and coconut milk soup with greens and millet. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Tofu asada taco by belinda. Licensed under creative commons
Orzo, kale, and marmalade tofu by jodigreen. Licensed under creative commons
Tofu and bok choy stir-fry with rice by Zlatko Unger. Licensed under creative commons
Nopales (cactus) tacos with beans and a side of veggies by digiyesica. Licensed under creative commons
Whole wheat bread, pistachios, Rancho Gordo beans, carrots, and sugar snap peas by District 47. Licensed under creative commons
Curry fried rice featuring vegetables, black beans, and black rice by Pabo76. Licensed under creative commons
Soup with noodles, tofu, and assorted vegetables by massdistraction. Licensed under creative commons
Sampson (bean) burger with a side of watermelon by quite peculiar. Licensed under creative commons
Seitan katsu rice bowl by muy yum. Licensed under creative commons
Seitan and veggie skewers with grilled corn by tofutti break. Licensed under creative commons
Squash scones, spicy tomato jam, hash browns, apples slices, and swiss chard by massdistraction. Licensed under creative commons
Apple slices, Tofurky breakfast sausage, garlic scapes and mushrooms, hash browns, and whole wheat toast by mass distraction. Licensed under creative commons
Mushroom and spinach tofu scramble, hash browns, and strawberries by Amy Groark. Licensed under creative commons
Oats with soy milk, cocoa nibs, raisins, cinnamon, and pecans by plasticdollhouse. Licensed under creative commons
***
Interested in learning about vegan nutrition? Check out the book Vegan for Life by registered dietitians Ginny Messina and Jack Norris, either of their blogs, or Vegan Health which Jack maintains.

Indus Valley Yoga and Retreat Center

Image by domestictimes. Licensed under creative commons

Did you know there is a vegetarian yoga retreat center in Conroe, Texas? Me neither!

Indus Valley Yoga and Retreat Center has a focus on the environment, with a composting toilet, reclaimed materials, gray water sprinkler system, and passive solar heating. Along with yoga workshops, Indus Valley also has vegetarian and vegan cooking classes. They even cook some of their food in a solar oven! Even better, the profits from their workshops pay for medical care for the dogs at the special needs dog sanctuary located on the property. Guests who are interested can interact with the dogs!

Retreats include three vegetarian/vegan meals and two snacks with vegetables grown right on the property or from nearby farms. Check out their calendar for upcoming retreats and workshops. And if you hurry, you can buy a groupon for a $27 vegetarian and vegan cooking class.

Forks Over Knives in San Antonio and a Review

First things first. Forks Over Knives has been so successful, that it’s opening in a lot of new cities. Including San Antonio. June 3 at Bijou at Crossroads Cinema.

***

I missed the premier of Forks Over Knives in Austin because I was sick. The irony! But I was better by the weekend, and excited the see the movie.

I had a few misgivings before I saw Forks Over Knives, but they ended up being mostly unwarranted. The movie shows a lot of evidence that eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes benefits health and so does reducing animal products. No shocker there. The USDA, the American Cancer Association, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (pdf) all recommend a plant-based diet.

The advantage of seeing Forks Over Knives is that it shows real life examples of people who have dramatically improved their health just by changing their diets. I know I’ve met many people like this in the vegan community. People whose type 2 diabetes or heart disease is now in remission. The documentary makes these stories tangible.

What I would have liked was a little more youth and health. I wanted to see young people adopting the diet before they got sick. I also would have liked to see more food preparation. My movie watching companion left the theater saying he was convinced he should eat a more plant-based diet, but couldn’t see himself actually cooking plant-based meals.

Overall, if you’re already up-to-date with the health benefits of a vegan diet, you probably won’t get much from this movie. But if you’re struggling with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, or have a family history of these diseases, it might just be eye opening.

21-Day Vegan Kickstart–Texas Style

Barbecue-Style Portobellos from PCRM

Have you heard of the PCRM 21 Day Vegan Kickstart? It’s a nutrition program run by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan health organization. The program courages people to switch to a healthy vegan diet. PCRM provides recipes, tips, and support for three weeks to anyone willing to take the challenge.

In June, the program is going Texan. Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the organization will be taking a book tour in Texas to promote his new book based on the kickstart program, 21 Day Weightloss Kickstart. (Presumably, “weightloss” sells more books than “vegan.”) Tour cities and dates haven’t been announced yet.

To promote the tour, PCRM has created a Texas-style 21 Day Vegan Kickstart, with recipes and a meal plan. They hit the holy trinity: chili, barbecue, and Tex-Mex. Ideally, I would have liked to see peaches instead of mango in the recipes. And maybe a baked chicken-fried portobello? And jambalaya for the Houston folks. I also think they missed an opportunity for some great baked breaded okra. What do you think of the recipes? Do they represent Texas at its healthiest?