Tag Archives: sugar

Vida Vegan What? Just Don’t Miss the Next One!

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Two years ago, by the time I learned about the first Vida Vegan Conference, it was already too late to sign up. I was living in Tokyo at the time–shortly after the “3-11” (Fukushima) disaster–and was feeling pretty uneasy.

I didn’t know how it would happen, but I was determined to make it to the next VVC bloggers conference, to be held 2 years later.

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Why Reading Food Labels Isn’t Enough

Friends and relatives often question “can you eat x or y” on your vegan diet? Many people can barely comprehend not eating meat and fish, let alone dairy products, eggs, and honey–of all things.

Fewer people understand what a vegan diet has to do with avoiding processed foods–such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, and sugar–or even vegetable oils.

These measures are the guidelines of a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet, such as that endorsed by Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet, and displayed in Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives cookbook, containing healthy vegan recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Julieanna Hever, and others.

Bottom line is, while many processed foods may be technically vegan or “accidentally vegan” as PETA refers to products with no animal-based ingredients, they are unlikely to be “accidentally healthy”.

And while you may relax your standards on a rare occasion–when dining out or visiting friends–you’ll surely feel better long-term by keeping tempting vegan junk foods out of your grocery cart, and out of your house.

When analyzing packaged foods, I often refer to nutritionist/dietitian Jeff Novick’s rules and guidelines for  telling the difference between a health food vs what’s really healthy for you:

Rule #1-Never believe anything on the front of the package…ever!

Rule #2-Always read the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredients List.

Novick gives guidelines for fat, sodium, white sugars and refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates–4 things commonly abused in the United States.

Fat

Daily fat requirement–in order to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency–is only 3 to 5%, while the typical American intake is 35%!

Calculate fat % by dividing calories from fat by the # of calories

Sodium

Daily sodium requirement is 500mg/day; aim for no more than 1 calorie: 1mg of sodium

Sugars

Novick says that–since the Nutrition Facts panel lists “total sugars” only–you cannot determine natural sugars (such as in fruit) versus added sugars. Therefore, refer to the ingredients listing in order to avoid all added sugars (at least, he says, sugars should not be among the first 3 to 5 ingredients)

Carbohydrates

The “Nutrition Facts” panel does not tell the reader anything interesting about carbohydrates, Novick says. Therefore, refer to the ingredients list, and SEEK OUT the desirable terms “whole” or “sprouted” and AVOID the words “wheat”,” white”, “durum”, “semolina”, “bleached”, “unbleached”, “artichoke” and “enriched flour”.

Fiber

Aim for products that carry >3g of fiber per 100 calories

To apply Novick’s technique, let’s take a package of Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thins stashed in a typical SAD household. The box touts “8g of whole grain per serving”, “made with real fruit”, “blueberry brown sugar”, and “natural flavor”.

Sounds so wholesome, someone might even mistake them for a “health food”! OK, I admit it: I finished off the bag, without thinking…

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A Vegan Diet Doesn’t Mean Skipping the Omelette Bar?

Years before becoming vegan, I used to love omelettes and especially the hotel omelette bars that can make even stressful business trips feel like a vacation-if only for a few brief moments.

But during my most recent stay at Waikiki’s Embassy Suites, the promotional copy on the room-key card was taunting me:

“How do you like your eggs? Free or complimentary? Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast every morning.”

Part of following a whole foods plant-based diet means resisting most of the food that’s out there, often “free” for the taking, such as the all-you-can eat breakfast buffets included with your hotel room.

Not that I miss eating eggs at all, but since becoming vegan I felt that by forgoing the omelette bar I was missing out on something I paid for. And who doesn’t appreciate the luxurious feeling of someone preparing something just the way you like it?

While on my high-protein kick in my 20s and early 30s, I would order 3-egg western omelettes. As I grew concerned with high cholesterol, I began to request the omelette chef discard a yolk, then 2, and eventually ordered egg-white omelettes–believing that was healthy–even though I still added lots of cheese.

Although I’ve cooked all varieties of eggless omelettes and other comfort foods at home, it wasn’t until the 2nd day of my most recent hotel stay it occurred to me to visit the omelette bar for a no-egg omelette. What could it hurt?

I helped myself to the vegetables–mushrooms, onions, chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, and lots of baby spinach–from beside the omelette station,  then brought some cubed tofu from the salad bar, and handed them to the omelette chef. Continue reading

Easiest Vegan Breakfast Recipe – Bircher Muesli

Bircher Muesli was a long-time breakfast treat, discovered in hotel breakfast buffets around Asia. While typically made with dairy products, such as milk, cream or yogurt, this vegan version uses soy milk and lemon juice. I can think of few breakfasts that are as easy, healthy or delicious!

Ingredients: (2 servings)

1/2 cup rolled oats or other whole-grain cereal

cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

1 tablespoon shredded coconut (or other dried fruit)

1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds (or other nuts/seeds)

1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 medium apple, unpeeled

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method:

Combine oats with soymilk in the evening (or several hours before you plan to eat) and place in refrigerator.

Prior to eating, add lemon juice and mix well (soymilk will thicken).

Cut apple into quarters, remove core, and grate with cheese grater.

Stir grated apple, fruits, nuts and seeds into oats.

Chew well to enjoy nutrition far exceeding processed breakfast cereals. Just try it, and see how good you feel! Continue reading

Craving a Wholesome Sweet? Try Halvah, the Ancient Candy

My mother used to buy halvah bars when I was young, believing it safe to keep the adult-tasting treats in the refrigerator–that was until I discovered just how delicious they were. After growing up and turning vegan, I rediscovered the wholesome snack.

Halvah of all varieties has been cherished all over the world for at least 3000 years, and is considered “food of the gods” by some accounts. The 2 main types are flour-based and nut-butter based. This sesame-based recipe is my favorite because it contains no animal products or sugar, instead using dates for sweetener. Note that many store bought halvah bars contain dairy products and eggs, so always check labels carefully.

I ground the sesame seeds into tahini without using any added oil, as per the original recipe. The food processor got very warm, and you may need to let it rest a while as you go. Unless you have a high-speed blender, you may prefer to purchase tahini instead of making it from scratch.

The recipe is quite flexible. You can adjust the number of dates you use depending on how sweet you like it (I used about 10 dates per 250g of sesame seeds), as well as stir in any kind of nuts and dried fruits you like. I added some tart dried cherries and vanilla syrup to a recent batch, and it came out tasting like a cherry pie!

While halvah is more nutritious than the typical candy bar, be aware it is far from low-calorie. According to the recipe’s author, it has 528 calories per 100g, and 70 percent of calories from fat. Portion control (and sharing) is advised, or you may devour the whole batch (1600 calories) before you know it.

Yet another reason to avoid added oils

Recently, in the course of looking for recipes using the natural sweetener and wonder food lucuma, I discovered one for butterscotch tahini bars containing tahini and coconut oil, a popular ingredient in raw vegan diets. Continue reading

Vegan Lemon Cake with “Wow”

A certain bakery makes a lemon cake with a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and softness. This undeniable “wow” factor is attested by their repeat customers, many who purchase lemon cakes as gifts.

Their secret lemon cake recipe took untold hours of development and tweaking. As you would expect, it contains lots of fresh lemons. Unfortunately, the cake is also loaded with eggs and butter and copious amount of sugar.

Putting aside sugar for later, my primary mission was to demonstrate it is possible to make a heavenly lemon cake “cruelty-free” (without eggs or dairy products). I assumed a pioneering vegan baker must surely have done it already…

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