Monthly Archives: June 2016

Eat like every bite counts

My vegan journey has inspired me to start a new blog, in addition to making a fresh start in this one.

food-1283181_640A very important part of this journey has been watching any & every video on nutritionfacts.org (among many others, of course), and reading Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die, (link in the sidebar). The purpose of my new blog is to help you Eat Like Every Bite Counts. I make daily meal plans that help you ensure that you’re getting all the nutrition you need to be healthy by checking off every box of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen. It’s a list of 12 things, and the number of servings for each, that we should all get daily. There are 10 different food categories, plus drinks, plus exercise. In my new blog, Eat like every bite counts, I focus on the food, and leave you to manage your own drinks and exercise.

When I first started trying to incorporate all the different categories of food in the appropriate number of servings into my diet daily, I found it to be challenging, time-consuming, and a bit overwhelming in general. Trying to find 3 recipes per day that fit snugly into the Daily Dozen while incorporating a healthy variety of grains, fruits & vegetables is a bit like solving a Rubik’s cubecube-457549_640. At times, I would have strange pairings left over by the end of the day, like one serving of beans and one serving of nuts – not exactly what you’d normally want for a dessert, unless you have some vegan red bean (adzuki) ice cream lying around, in which case you’re right on track! My goals with Eat like every bite counts are to help you through the transition process with, hopefully, far less trouble than I had, and to make it easier, for those of you with little spare time, to manage the change for the benefit of your, and your family’s, health & well-being.

The blog is in its infancy, and there’s a lot of improvements I plan to make, but it will all take a little bit of time. I’ll be happy to receive suggestions and requests, as well!

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click image to visit Eat like every bite counts

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There’s milk in my dish detergent?! (vegan in a non-vegan world)

No whey!

ecover-20160602_133047I’d been using ecover for quite a while. It was a brand I’d discovered while living in Utrecht – eco-friendly, cruelty-free (or so they say), and I loved the chamomile-scented one. One day, about 6 months after becoming vegan, I was doing the dishes and…wat een verrassing/quelle surprise…I just happened look right at the spot on the bottle that says “melkwei/petit-lait” (Dutch/French for whey). I just hadn’t ever noticed it before, probably because it wasn’t important to me before. What possible motivation there could be for using any animal product whatsoever in dish detergent, I cannot say. But there it was. What a pity! (Just FYI – their Grapefruit & Green Tea and Lemon & Aloe Vera dish detergents are vegan – it’s only my favorite one that isn’t).

panic-1393619_640The point is this: you can’t change everything at once and, even if you could, you probably don’t know everything that has to be changed. So don’t freak out and don’t get down on yourself if you do something seemingly impossible like buy dish detergent with whey in it.

Baby steps

When I first went vegan I was switching from pescetarian, so I focused my energy on finding recipes without seafood, dairy and eggs, and how to use plant-based substitutes for them. For example, tofu can be excellent or disgusting – it depends on what you do to it, and I’ve made enough disgusting tofu at this point to be able to look at a recipe and know if I’m going to like it or not (most of the time) – but it can take a little while to get there. It’s worth taking that time and making that effort to focus on finding foods that you, and your family if you have one, will enjoy. It’s impossible to change every aspect of your consumer behavior at once, because you first have to do the research and figure out what to buy and what not to buy (which can sometimes be the hard part, e.g., non-vegan dish detergent!?). I started with food because it’s much more obvious, as long as you’re buying whole and minimally processed foods. Once you’re more comfortable with some of the dietary changes, then you can start to expand the circle.

crying-1299426_640But it depends also on your emotional reaction to having animal products still in your house. I encourage you to use what you’ve already got, rather than letting it go to waste, but you can also donate items containing animal products to family/friends/charity if it becomes upsetting to you to have it around. For myself, the longer I’m living in this lifestyle, the more it bothers me to have animals products in the house, especially food items. I’m the only vegan in my household right now and, though non-vegan foods are limited, every day that goes by with my own household still contributing to personal & planetary harm through the purchase of animal products I get a little more sad. But my partner is totally on board, and is working his way slowly but surely towards a vegan diet. It’s more complicated with his child, but that’s a story for another day.

Whether you’re a new vegan or you’re considering adopting a vegan lifestyle, you might think, from time to time, that this kind of change looks an awful lot like climbing Everest, but you won’t get overwhelmed if you do what I do when I’m running up a hill: don’t look up. I look right down at the pavement and pay attention to where my feet are falling. Before I know it, I’m there.

And always remember:

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”    ~ Confucius

Every bite counts: Parts 3 & 4.

Part 3. The People.

staples-2752_640Feeding the world is easy, and we don’t need Monsanto to do it. Did you know that there’s enough crop land in the United States alone to feed 10 billion people? One country could potentially feed the entire global population. So, why aren’t we? Because that only works if we’re not wasting our resources on animal agriculture in all its caloric inefficiency.

One acre of land can produce 40,000 lbs of potatoes, but only 250 lbs of meat.

One acre of legumes produces 10 times more protein than an acre devoted to animals raised for their meat.

70% of the grains produced in the U.S. go to feeding animals raised for food, instead of being grown for people. 80% of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses, but that food is exported to wealthier countries in order to feed animals that will be used for food. It doesn’t get more unjust than that. “Growing grain for feed instead of food may be humanity’s greatest evil yet.”

Artist: Lovis CorinthThose are all issues that you’ll hear every vegan raise. There is, I feel, a missed opportunity in the vegan movement – people that almost never get mentioned in the discussion on the human victims of this system: slaughterhouse employees. I start out with the assumption that most people who work in slaughterhouses do so because it’s the only, or one of the only, options open to them. This will be the topic of another post in the future. For the moment, suffice it to say that one of the first signs of psychopathy in children is harming animals, so why is it considered normal for someone to kill (certain) animals as an adult? Only because we don’t think about it. Society sweeps that bit under the carpet. Many slaughterhouse workers develop serious mental disorders, including PTSD, from the work that they do, and U.S. communities with slaughterhouses have 166% increase in arrests for rape compared to those without them. It is NOT normal.

The next time you buy a piece of meat, just take a moment to wonder who you paid to kill it for you and what kind of effect your demand for that piece of meat might be having on someone else’s mental health.

Part 4. The Animals.

sheep-451981_640To be honest, this is a much more important issue for me now than it was when I first decided to change to a vegan lifestyle. The environmental and health factors were enough. But, since I’m no longer emotionally invested in the ramifications of being a meat, dairy, & egg consumer, I’ve been able to mentally shine a light on those aspects of consuming animal products that were just too disturbing and painful for me to really evaluate while I was still participating in them. For anyone who has shut off that portion of your ability to deal rationally with the consequences of your actions – I get it!

Empathy is a difficult skill to develop and use because it requires that we open ourselves up to feeling pain and sorrow on behalf of others, and most of us have enough trouble dealing with our own suffering without adding to the burden. In this particular case, it also opens us up to feeling guilt, which is an unpleasant but necessary step on this path. Just remember, pain, physical or emotional, exists in order to help us avoid unhealthy behaviors.

It just doesn’t make sense that we love our dogs and cats like members of our own families, and recognize their individual personalities and their rights as living beings, while treating others as products. There’s some massive cognitive dissonance there, and it takes time to be able to confront that. If you haven’t yet watched anything like the documentary Earthlings, then whatever you imagine the treatment of these animals to be like, you can start by multiplying the horror by 10 to even get close. More than 2000 years ago, Pythagoras said,”For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love.”

In the end, I realized that living as a vegan is the only way for me to align my actions with my ethics.

Save yourself. Save the planet. Save the human race. Save the animals. Go vegan.

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