Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Food Fight! - Overcoming The Social Stigma Of Going Veg

Being different isn't always easy and so goes the life of those who choose to be vegetarian or vegan. The choice of what one eats is very personal. Every single time one of us puts something in our mouth there's something deeply moving about this experience wether we realize it or not. Don't think this is the case? Try imagining going without your favorite foods for a month. Now imagine never being able to eat these foods for the rest of your life. Things just got a little more personal didn't they?

We've all grown up eating certain foods and developing certain tastes which have secretly molded our decision making process come each meal time. In America this may mean lunch served from a drive through window, a night out to your favorite seafood restaurant, or a plate full of meat and potatoes grilled to perfection during a backyard barbecue (this is how I grew up). So it's no wonder that if you decide to give this all up and adopt a diet consisting only of healthy, wholesome, plant-based foods things can quickly become a problem, especially in the social aspect of life.

Family, friends, and strangers alike will probably think you've gone off the deep end by making such drastic changes in your food selections. This happened to me and still happens from time to time even though I took the plunge over 3 years ago to this lifestyle. I'm here to tell you that you're not alone in your feelings of isolation and rejection if this is what's happened or is happening to you in your life. Nor are you destined to live a life of a veggie hermit because the rest of the world sees things differently than you. We all view and experience life differently. After all, it's what makes life so beautiful by providing us with uniquely different perspectives from our woven traditional ways. We can learn from these unique perspectives just as others can learn from us even when our differences are so personal and steadfast (like what we eat). Getting past these "Food Fights" is crucial in fostering loving, nurturing relationships for the rest of your life. My goal in this article is to share with you ways to make this easier so that you can enjoy all the benefits that come with your new food selections without sacrificing the social and loving aspects of your current and future relationships with the people you love most in life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healthy Eating While Abroad

by guest blogger Rob Toledo

So you’re completely prepared for your trip. Your bags are packed, passport ready, currency exchange complete… But you also happen to be someone who focuses on healthy eating. This can pose a bit of a problem while abroad, but here are some helpful tips before you hit the road.
Eating healthily while traveling abroad can present the same kind of challenges as eating at a restaurant at home. It’s just hard to know for sure how good a dish is for you when you don’t know how it was prepared. But there’s one big difference: in a foreign country, you might not have the language skills or knowledge of ingredients to be able to ask the questions you need to know, like, “Is this fried?” or, “Are these rice and beans made with meat products?”
Still, eating healthily abroad isn’t entirely out of the question, just as long as you get a little strategic.

Go vegetarian or vegan

Yes, this is probably the most difficult way to eat while traveling, especially since so many cultures view meat as a rare delicacy and a gift for visitors. But it’s very difficult to know where meat came from and how it was prepared. Better to stick to vegetables and whole grains whenever you can and avoid the risk of illness.

Know the most important lingo

Just like at home, the best way to determine whether or not a meal is healthy is to ask a lot of questions. What kind of vegetables does the dish have? Does it use brown or white rice? Look up key terms ahead of time, especially if you’re going to be eating vegetarian in a culture that’s heavily meat-based. In general, it’s best to stick to appetizers, which on a whole tend to be healthier and of smaller portions than main meals.

Get social

In some cultures, “vegetarian” can mean “there’s one carrot on the plate” or “we picked out the meat.” Even “salad” in Britain can mean something different than it does here; most often, a lowly shred of iceberg lettuce.Try reaching out to English-speaking locals on social media sites like Twitter ahead of time to run your phrasing past them. You can also enlist your tour guide or someone who works at your hostel or hotel to write out a more complete message to hand to the waiter.

Prepare your own food

Before you leave, look up staple crops in your destination country and research a few good recipes. This won’t prevent you from experiencing the culture if you seek out local recipes filled with vegetables and whole grains. In fact, browsing through farmer’s markets can give you a truly unique cultural experience. Fruit and vegetables are often available very cheaply and are a great way to keep your fiber intake high. However, if you’re going to be visiting a country with different sanitary habits than our own, go for thicker skinned veggies and fruit to avoid catching any local bugs.

Pack your own supplies

Before you leave home, go shopping for dried fruit, trail mix and energy bars made without hydrogenated oils. While none of these options are ideal as a long term strategy, they make a good tide over option when you’re in a bind. It’s also good to pack your favorite spices as an easy way to take that bland dish filled with random ingredients up to the next level.

Travel to healthy eating hubs

If you’re really set on healthy eating while abroad, travel to places known for their healthy cuisine. India and much of Southeast Asia can be a great option for vegetarians just as long as you stay away from heavy creams. And Greece is heaven for people who love their vegetables.

No matter where you go, healthy eating is possible, though do forgive yourself if you slip up once in awhile. After all, there’s no harm in embracing that local delicacy once in awhile, just as long as you stay healthy the rest of the time. When authentic local cuisine combines with healthy eating, there’s nothing quite like it.

Rob Toledo loves world travel. His ultimate goal is to have visited 100 countries in his lifetime. He recommends doing lots of research about a country before visiting, using a currency converter to avoid scams, and making sure to always have something a little healthier packed away in your bag to ensure the best healthy eating while abroad.

photo credit: Spieke (Wikimedia)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Calcium In Broccoli — Really?

by guest blogger Jody Perrecone

We have all heard the slogan – “Milk – it does the body good.”  But does it? A 12 year Harvard Study showed women who drank 3 glasses of milk a day had more bone fractures than those who drank very little milk. The National Dairy Council website,, states “the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognizes that moderate evidence shows that milk and milk products are linked to improved bone health.”  Moderate evidence?  A government report published in the journal, Pediatricsconcluded dairy products were “not necessarily the best way” to provide needed calcium. Because the body becomes more acidic when dairy products are consumed, it pulls calcium from the bones to neutralize the acid. Also hormones given to cows are found in its milk.
So what are good sources of calcium?  Surprisingly  broccoli, collard greens, kale, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, beans, legumes, figs, nuts, seeds, and fortified orange juice are better absorbed by the body than milk and other dairy products.  They also have a bonus of providing fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, folate, iron, and antioxidants.  Bone health can also be improved by not smoking, consuming less sodium, getting 15 minutes of sunlight a day, and exercise.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Balancing The Vegan And Athlete In You

by guest blogger Holly VicHammond

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to commit to a vegan lifestyle and also be an athlete. Most of the sports world subscribes to eating a substantial amount of protein as part of a training diet. Protein ensures peak physical condition, muscular repair after workouts and success in a given fitness-related endeavor. Though vegan meals might take a little more planning, it is possible to be a successful athlete who does not consume any animal products. Plant-based eaters simply have to rely on a bit more strategy. 
Whether an athlete chooses to be a vegan for personal, ethical or religious reasons, they will need to pay special attention to ensure they’re consuming the proper nutrients to fuel their workouts. Many successful athletes and famed fitness trainers, such as distance runner Scott Jurek, television fitness trainer Bob Harper, bodybuilder Mike Mahler and football player Ricky Williams, choose to live a vegan lifestyle. Clearly it is possible for athletes to eat vegan, thrive and achieve great success in their chosen sport.