Better Latte Than Never

I drink a latte every day… a large one. Sometimes I make it at home; sometimes I buy it, but I never miss a day. It is a guilty pleasure and easily one of my favorite parts of the day.

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Because lattes are made with espresso (and steamed milk–soy or coconut milk for me), they have a lot of caffeine. I never drank coffee before my affection for morning lattes and I don’t drink a lot of soda or other caffeinated beverages.

I gave up lattes over the weekend; this is my 3rd day free from caffeine (other than a cup of black tea) and boy am I feeling the withdrawal. My head has been pounding the last two days and I have been pretty surly (good thing I am on vacation so only Nicole has to put up with me–she is a real trooper, not taking anything personally and being supportive–I couldn’t ask for a better support system). I have quit lattes before so I know the headache will only last another day or two and I will be happier once I get through it.

So… if you love something and it doesn’t hurt anybody else, why give it up? For me, I am giving up my morning addiction for two reasons:

  1. I can’t get along the same without it. My caffeine headache is proof enough I have become reliant on my morning treat. That means I am no longer the one in control of my life–the caffeine is now dictating my behavior and actions. That is unacceptable.

  2. It is not contributing anything to me. I enjoy the morning sugar bomb and the little energy kick it pretends to deliver (I had the same energy before I started drinking espresso; it has only replaced what was already there). Overall, though, it is just liquid calories that do more to make me fat and lazy than to give me extra zip. Why would I want to keep doing that?

I might still enjoy a latte as a rare treat after I know I am the one making the decisions again, but for now, it’s good-bye to the morning sugar rush and getting my body and mind back in alignment.

It was a good run, lattes, but I have better things to do now. Sorry about your luck.

Dessert Is Not Just For Dessert!

I love sweets and I love having dessert every night. The only problem is, stupid dessert makes me fat!

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What I remembered today is dessert does not have to be an overloaded sugar-bomb. A great way to finish a meal this time of year is with some fresh, sweet corn-on-the-cob. If made right, sweet corn is truly a sweet treat without any butter, salt, or dressing. Delicious!

Thanks to our Vitamix, Nicole and I also enjoy an ice cream treat made entirely out of bananas. Google “Banana Whip”. If you have a powerful blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec) it is 100% worth your time to try this amazing favorite dessert of mine that is… almost healthy!

In other words, think outside the box if you love sweet treats but are trying to keep your weight in check. A fresh fruit salad, banana whip, sweet corn, or even a green smoothie with some beets thrown in can rock your sweet tooth without wreaking havoc on your belly.

BUT… if vegan cheesecake is available, all bets are off. Just saying.

 

Ruling Your Food

As a minimalist and vegan, I like to keep things simple, so here are my rules for eating right…

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1. Do not eat anything that does not want to be eaten. You could rephrase this as “Don’t eat anything that feels pain” if you like, but the overall point is to avoid causing suffering. Most vegans make this distinction by not eating anything that has a central nervous system (the clearest indicator that something can feel and respond to pain). Put even more simply, “Don’t eat or wear animals”.

2. If it has more than five ingredients, do not eat it. It is an arbitrary number, but once you pass three to five ingredients, you almost certainly are eating junk mass-produced processed “foodstuff”. Bread requires nothing more than “(Whole Wheat) Flour, water, yeast, salt”. Think about that the next time you pick up a popular brand and scan the ingredient list.

3. Do not eat any ingredient you can not pronounce (or is not immediately obvious what it is by name alone). Monodiglyci-what? High Fructose Corn Syrup? Is that different than regular corn syrup? If you know what “high fructose” or other common lab ingredient names mean, it is probably because a scientist explained it to a reporter who wrote an article about it that you read once. There are so many (intentionally) obscure names for ingredients, either because they come from a lab or because marketers know you would never eat something if you knew what it actually was. “Cochineal”, for example, is that nice purple-red dye that colors many candies (like Nerds)… and is derived from the crushed shells of the insect by the same name, also sometimes called “Carmine”. Would you feed your kids a handful of crushed beetles? Would you eat them if you knew what they were?

4. If an ingredient has more than 3 syllables, don’t eat it. Pretty much the same rationale as rules #2 and 3. If it takes longer to read the list of ingredients than it does to eat the food, then this is probably a highly processed nightmare. In fact, you can really break down my rules 2, 3, and 4 into one easy rule: “Eat Simply.”

5. Leave something on the plate. This is the rule I admittedly struggle most with, but I overeat sometimes simply because I was taught to always “clean my plate”. However, if I cook when I am really hungry, or anytime I go to a restaurant, I always have more than I need on my plate. If you are eating at a restaurant, challenge yourself to always take something home. Most single restaurant meals are plenty for two people or two single meals.

 

One of my favorite food-books is Michael Pollan‘s “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual“, which offers up many easy rules to help us navigate the complex multitude of food and food-like products in the world. One of my favorite examples is “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”. Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete shared his “Rules for Navigating Vegan Life in a Non-Vegan World” which reminded me I have several rules for eating, as well. Hope they help you eat right, feel right, and live right!

 

 

How Do Vegans Get Enough Vitamins?

When I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle, one of the first concerns I read about was vegans not getting enough vitamins–protein, B-12, iron, etc… There are many variations of the “How do you get your protein?” question.

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Let me put the basic fears to rest first: there is not a single vitamin, mineral, or nutrient that comes from an animal source that can not also be derived from a plant source.

Even if my vegan diet made me a little deficient in one vitamin or another, is this really a concern for non-vegans? When I ate meat and cheese, I ate basically the same foods day in and day out. My diet was as predictable as snow in Alaska. For me, I had meat and cheese at every meal. Breakfast: sausage and eggs, cream cheese bagel (or a sausage McMuffin with Cheese). Lunch: Hamburger with cheese, and fries (or a couple Double Decker supremes). Dinner: Steak and cheesy mashed potatoes (or pizza). If I had greens, they were always the same greens: iceberg or Romaine lettuce, spinach, green beans, and maybe parsley.

As a vegan, my diet has expanded far beyond my old eating habits. I have found more diversity and pleasure in food than I ever thought possible. Now, I eat things I never would have considered trying on my former diet. Breakfast: fruit smoothie with flax seed, cashews, and raw oats with Agave nectar. Lunch: Grilled tofu and avocado with brown rice. Dinner: Kale or Arugula with orzo, heirloom tomatoes, and nutritional yeast flakes.

Those foods and many others would never have made it into my former diet. The way I ate before, I would never have heard of things like Lychee, Quinoa, or Chia seeds. I ate burgers, steak, and kabobs–that was pretty much as exotic as it got.

Vegans listen with wry cynicism when curious mono-food culture friends suddenly become arm-chair nutrition experts.

I understand when someone asks, “How do you get your protein?” they have probably never asked themselves the same question. Most non-vegans believe protein comes from beef, which is not a very good protein source. Spinach has more protein than steak.  I think when someone asks about protein or feigns concern over vitamins, it is not really because they are interested in becoming vegan (which is fine; I probably did not ask them to). I think it is more because people are fearful of what veganism stands for and are interested in defending their NOT being vegan. “How do you get your protein?” is another way of asking, “How can I keep eating what I want and have no guilt about it? How can I get away with it? How can I keep doing what I want to do instead of what is being presented as a better choice?”.

It is okay. Vegans are used to it; we usually think it is humorous.

Instead of reacting from fear and defensiveness, though, just remember if you decide to live a vegan lifestyle and it turns out being vegan is just not for you, or you really do become deficient in a vitamin that you have probably never checked to find out if you are deficient in already… well, it is not like losing an arm. You can go back to being non-vegan anytime and catch up on all the steak and cheese you missed.

For me, I make the choice to be (or stay) vegan each time I eat. The beauty of being vegan is that it IS a choice, and each meal, I am choosing my health and choosing not to cause pain and suffering to my fellow animals. It is a choice to stand for me, for my values. I love it; I love that I get to choose standing for ME every time I eat. If I were suddenly to become deficient in a vitamin or decided I could not live this way, though, I could always just go to McDonald’s.

The fact is, if I went back to my former eating habits, I would be getting a lot fewer vitamins and much less variety in my diet than I do as a vegan. I wouldn’t enjoy all the great new foods and tasty ways to create exotic meals that I have found. I wouldn’t enjoy the weight I lost, the alertness I gained, or the peaceful living that comes with my vegan lifestyle. To me, it is a no-brainer. Being vegan is a powerful choice and one I am happy to make at each (happy) meal.