“Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account.” ~ Unknown
You may or may not know this, but our whole family is vegan. Yep. Mom, Dad and kids freed animals from our stomachs a few years back, and it really wasn’t hard at all.
Once the rest of the world comes along with us, dining out choices will vastly improve as well. In fact, they already are.
The world is waking up. An increased environmental awareness, a growing human population, and conservation concerns worldwide are beginning to dictate more sustainable dietary choices. (Hint: It’s never been meat and dairy and eggs.)
I may not be a nutrition expert, but I can attest to the fact that we are all healthy, happy and thriving without animals on our plates. Here are a few tips that may help you too.
~ Shannon @ DirtNKids Blog
1. Nutrition 101…Know It
Dust off the memory of the old college chemistry days. About those danged calories:
In = Out –> Maintain Mass (Optimal)
In > Out –> Gain Mass (Store)
In < Out –> Lose Mass (Starve)
Calories – (kilocalories) energy-producing potential units, our ‘fuel’
Empty calories – fuel only in the form of simple sugars, with no dietary fiber to slow down absorption
Protein (4 cal/g) – amino chain required for cellular development
Carbohydrate (4 cal/g) – sugars required for cellular development
Fat (9 cal/g)- fat chains required for cellular development, more than double the calories of protein and carbohydrate
Vitamins and Minerals – more than 50 required in varied and necessary amounts (some are synthesized)
Cholesterol – necessary for hormone synthesis (your body makes all it needs…no additional is required!)
Water – the lubricator of cells, transporter of wastes, etc., and essential for optimal health
Whole foods = fruits and vegetables that look like they’re supposed to that including leaves, stems, grains, seeds, tree nuts, and legumes.
Processed foods, minimal = external energy (appliance, heating, coagulating) is required in making the end product, but the ingredients are typically ‘whole’ (nut milks, hummus, nutri-yeast, salsa and sauces, breads, soups)
Processed foods, highly = external energy inputs are required and ingredients are individually processed as well (chips, cakes and cookies, oils, protein powders, ingredients with unrecognizable chemical names)
Our Protein-Carb-Fat Ratio
(roughly, as a % of Total Calories)
2. Offer A Buffet To Your Body
Variety is key — eat like you would at a buffet, sampling a little bit of everything on the menu. Try not to eat the same old thing, day in, day out. This will ensure your cells at the micro-level can pick from the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals offered up. You don’t have to get it all every day, just be sensible about it. If it makes you feel better, consult a certified nutrition expert.
(No, I’m not one.)
What Our Typical Food Plate
(Heavy On The Green Stuff!)
3. Do As Your Mom Says…Eat Your Veggies
Depending upon where you live, there may be a limitless supply of edible plants right where you are. Eat as ‘close to the ground’ as you can with regularity and variety and you will get everything you need for optimal health without worry.
Eat the color wheel to ensure the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals are ingested. There are trillions of cells in your body that depend upon your choices.
You can be vegan and only eat chips and sodas and vegan processed food and never eating a vegetable. But if you think you can stay healthy eating that way, think again. Don’t be that vegan.
4. Animals Are Plant-Fueled…Always Have Been
Vegans not getting enough protein or having to mix-and-match amino acids (to form a ‘whole’ protein) is probably the single biggest concern of non-vegans making the switch. Most of us — including my family — were non-vegans for a long time before becoming vegan.
The vegan protein deficiency is a myth. People die of protein deficiency every day: it’s called starving. Eating a diet rich in a variety of whole foods will never leave you deficient. Protein doesn’t just come from animal flesh, plants (fruits, veggies, leaves) have plenty of protein, too.
Just where is it you think herbivores get all their protein? Hm.
5. Supplement Vitamin B-12
Cobalamin is one of those important micro-nutrients that is not found in a 100% plant-based diet. Herbivores get this vital nutrient from eating the bacteria within the soil that is attached to the grasses and roots of the plants they eat. (We don’t eat that way.) Protect your nerves. Supplement 2.4 micro grams per day in the form of a supplement pill or chewable. Your future, aging self will thank you for it.
6. Get The Flax, Jack
Flax seed is the plant-based answer to a vegan’s Omega-3 fatty acid requirement. It’s best to buy them whole as seeds, then grind as required to keep flour from going rancid before. Sprinkle some in your hot cereal, bake it into breads and griddle cake batter, or load into muffins. Alternately, a handful of walnuts as a snack will give you the same benefit.
There is absolutely no need to steal your Omega-3’s from living, sentient beings (fish) or as (farmed fish oil) supplements.
“Wherever flax seed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.
I could not agree more.
7. You Are What You
Those pearly enamels in your mouth are by far the best food processors and high speed blenders money can’t buy. Chewing your food slowly into a paste before swallowing will not only help with nutrient absorption but also reduce the gas and bloating that results from ‘wolfing’ food.
All you need is your mouth and (maybe) a knife for cutting or peeling vegetables, and a pot for cooking. There is absolutely no need for expensive appliances in your kitchen.
Chewing slowly makes you enjoy your food again, not just be an addict to it. Your digestive tract will love all the nice fiber that whole fruits and veggies provide, and your brain will eventually get with the program and start rewarding you for your new healthy habit, even making you salivate at the mere thought of a plate of fresh, steamed greens. It takes time to change life-long habits, so be patient with yourself.
(‘Taste’ is trained in the brain! You too can train your brain to crave broccoli.)
Still doubt we’re built for plants?
8. Local, Seasonal And Organic Is Best
Nutrients are held at their highest value the sooner a vegetable is picked ripe. Every edible plant has its own time and place in which to grow — latitude and soil being everything for maximum nutrient content. Supporting your local farmer is not only good for your community, it eliminates long fuel-burning transports, and you can know intimately how he treats his soil or whether he uses synthetic pesticides and herbicides. ‘Organic’ is the label that ensures a plant is grown without synthetic pesticides.
Consider the grocery store tomato, grown 2,000 miles away in its unnatural climate. If bought in December, it was most probably picked green in a different latitude or force-grown in a greenhouse, reddened up with ethylene gas in its shipping crate. Not only will it not taste the same, but it’s nutritional value will not be equivalent to a backyard-grown, seasonal fruit.
9. Nature’s Prepped, Pre-Packaged Food
Apples come in their own convenient packaging. So do bananas, berries, nuts, leaves, seeds…just about everything. It’s not necessary to know how to cook, keep strange ingredients in your pantry, or have a big file of recipes to choose from. Most of what you’ll eat is ready to be eaten as nature intended — raw!
If you’re buying food in boxes or bags more than buying fresh, you might spend more time reading the labels to avoid animal products hidden as big, tricky words in the ingredients. Why not just save time and just eat fresh?
If you like to cook and spend time in the kitchen, there are plenty of on-line vegan recipe sources like Vegan Outreach to help get you going.
Label Reading SUCKS.
10. Vegan Never Means Deprivation!
Any diet that tells you, You can’t eat this, You can’t eat that will not be a sustainable one in the long run. Deprivation alone has killed many-a fad diet.
Being vegan is not about ‘can’t’ so much as it is ‘won’t’ in terms of food and life choices. People following a certain diet regimen can’t eat certain things, but vegans won’t exploit others…period. It’s the very baseline for compassion and conservation.
But there are plenty of yummy vegan food options out there to keep you from getting bored. Really.
When you’re already eating your veggies as a general habit, then a little cake won’t hurt a thing. (And you’re taste bud will never know the difference.)