Cooking…something I have always done, experimented with, been passionate about, and somehow, been considered an expert in, since I am a Registered Dietitian. Thrown into writing recipes for books, blogs, and interviews and performing cooking demos in videos, on television, and web shows, I have lovingly accepted and eagerly approached these opportunities. Yet, I have always professed the fact that “I am not a chef” with the same intention of warning my audience that I am not technically trained in this profession.
Well, from hereon forward, I will no longer be able to cling to my untrained practices, as I am actually enrolled in Rouxbe Online Plant-Based Professional Certification Course in cooking starting May 15th. Not only am I thrilled to hone my culinary skills, I am able to offer a 50% discount for someone to join me in my class! Click here to learn more about the course and to sign up…)
One of the toughest challenges for people when trying to eat a whole food, plant-based diet is giving up cheese. That is because it is so addictive! Here, the Vegan RD, Ginny Messina, offers four tips for ditching it, and she is also giving away a copy of her latest book, Never Too Late to Go Vegan, coauthored with authoress superstars, Carol Adams and Patti Breitman. To enter to win a FREE copy, see below…
4 Tips for Giving Up Cheese
It’s never too late to go vegan! When Carol Adams, Patti Breitman and I were writing our book for vegans over 50, we heard from scores of people who had gone vegan later in life. They were loving the benefits of their diet, but many admitted that there were challenges in giving up lifelong habits.
One of those challenges for many people is giving up cheese. For many of us, cheese is associated with childhood comfort food—mac ‘n cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches. And in adulthood, platters of cheese and crackers sit at center stage at many parties.
But while giving up the familiar texture, flavor and cozy memories of cheese might seem daunting, there are some simple tips that can ease your way toward a flavorful and happy cheese-free diet.
Discover Umami. Dubbed “the 5th taste” (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter and sour), umami is a savory aspect of certain foods that was discovered in Japan more than one hundred years ago. Aged cheeses are often high in umami. Fortunately, so are many plant foods. These include nutritional yeast, dried mushrooms, olives, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, ume plum vinegar, miso, sea vegetables, and balsamic vinegar. Roasting and caramelizing also bring out the umami in vegetables. When you add these ingredients to recipes, you’ll likely find that you miss the cheese much less.
Think outside the cheesy box. What can you have instead of cheese? Try pasta or pizza tossed with caramelized vegetables instead of cheese. If you’re making a veggie wrap, skip the melted cheese and use hummus, tapenade or vegan pesto instead. Guacamole on bean burritos or tostados is a healthy alternative to cheese that keeps the flavor authentic and satisfying.
Remember why cheese is off the menu. Nobody wants to dwell on the plight of cows and their calves on dairy farms. But sometimes, when you remind yourself of where cheese comes from, it becomes pretty easy to skip it. And since most of us end up replacing the cheese with healthy plant ingredients, packed with fiber and phytochemicals, we benefit our own health while making a more compassionate choice.
Try vegan cheeses. The commercial vegan cheese market is taking off and these products keep getting better and better. But you can also make your own. A growing number of cookbooks and websites offer wonderful vegan cheeses made from creamy ingredients like soaked cashews and silken tofu blended with umami-rich ingredients. Plug “vegan cheese recipe” into google and you’ll come up with easy ideas for cheese spreads and dips.
This cheese dip from Never Too Late to Go Vegan can be made in just minutes. Serve it at your next party, book club meeting, or pot luck. Nobody will miss the cheese!
1 cup raw cashews (use 2 cups if you want a spreadable cheese rather than a dip)
1 4-ounce jar red pimientos
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Process the cashews in a food processor or blender until powdery. Add the rest of the ingredients and process together until very smooth. Chill. Serve with whole grain crackers or raw vegetables.
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD
Ginny is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in public health. She is the co-author of three books on vegan nutrition, Vegan for Life, Vegan for Her, and Never Too Late to Go Vegan and has also co-authored a textbook for health professionals The Dietitians’ Guide to Vegetarian Diets. She writes about a variety of issues related to health and vegan activism on her blog TheVeganRD and speaks about vegan nutrition at scientific events for health professionals as well as events for the public.
Ginny was a dietetics instructor at Central Michigan University and a dietitian for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. When she isn’t working on projects related to nutrition, she volunteers for her local animal shelter and works with programs to promote spay and neuter. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her husband and an ever-changing population of rescued cats.
Time to address the paleo diet, as it is one of the biggest dangers to what most vegans deem perilous: the persistent torture and slaughter of billions of animals a year and destruction of our planet. Yet, people who try the paleo diet seemingly do well initially health-wise, which makes it appear all the more appealing. But the truth is that people may thrive merely because they are switching from the standard western processed diet to one that includes more whole foods. The diet promotes healthy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and they also cut out dairy and processed foods, which are all health-promoting choices. The major issue is the irresponsible emphasis on meat, meat, and more meat. Further, we have no long-term data on people eating this way, although the evidence on the risks of eating animal products is well-substantiated.
Here are the top arguments against this diet fad:
Because there were multiple types of diets prevalent during the Paleolithic era (depending on location and food availability), great leaps of assumption have been made to suggest eating a meat-rich diet occurred at all. Many anthropologists suggest this argument is flawed. Two primary reasons for this include the fact that carbohydrates, found primarily in plant foods, are the preferred fuel for the brain and body and plant food availability was much more stable, accessible, and consistent, whereas animals were not.
Even if the original paleo diet hypothetically looked as it is currently described, there are no health parameters that are comparable to our current culture to make it relevant to us now. Factors including lifespan (they lived to approximately 30 years of age), activity level, access to medical care, and overall food intake (they ate wild plant foods and animals, unlike what we have available to us today) are critical to consider when determining long-term health assessment.
According to some anthropological experts, humans have not adapted physiologically, anatomically, or genetically to consume meat, especially in large doses. For example, the long length of our digestive tracts and type of teeth suggest a need to base our diets on whole plant foods.
People thrive with whole grains and legumes, which are excluded on the modern paleo diet. Whole grains and legumes provide fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that are crucial for satiety and to meet nutrient requirements. Animal products contain zero fiber or phytochemicals, two of the most important nutrients for optimal health.
Grass-fed or organic animal products still contain hefty doses of health-damaging saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, naturally occurring hormones like insulin-like growth factor 1 and heme iron, which promotes cancer growth.
In order to sustain a large portion of the world on a paleo diet, we would need the resources of 2 Earths.
Eating a large portion of calories from organ meats, grass-fed, and organic meats is extremely expensive and challenging. Compare organic beef, which costs $5.25 per pound to beans, which cost about $1.99 per pound, dried, which makes about 8 cups cooked and can serve at least 8 people.
Eating animals contributes to the unnecessary horrific cruelty and animal suffering of billions of animals a year. We absolutely do not need animal products to survive. All nutrients from animal products can be found in plants, but better packaged. The only exception to this is vitamin B12, which the animals get from microorganisms in dirt.
Do you love to cook, cook professionally and/or just love spending time in the kitchen? Do you want to take your love for food and health to the next level? I want to take this opportunity share some exciting news with you about the future of how we cook and eat, and invite you to indulge in an amazing opportunity for our community and plant lovers everywhere.
I am thrilled to let you know about something amazing that is happening in the plant-based community. Rouxbe Cooking School has just launched their new Plant-Based Professional Certification Course.
Lead by world-renowned plant-based Chef Chad Sarno, who is now the VP of Plant-Based Education and Wellness for the company, this course is unlike anything else available online. Chad has brought his unique culinary style to a vast array of projects throughout his career before joining Rouxbe Online Culinary School as VP of Plant-Based Education. Spanning from the launch of a boutique plant-based restaurant brand throughout Europe in Istanbul, London and Munich, to the development of innovative health and wellness initiatives as culinary media spokesperson for Whole Foods Market’s global healthy eating program, Chad’s mission of health inspired plant-based eating has reached all corners of the globe. Chad has been contributing chef to numerous recipe books as well as featured in many national publications. He has been a guest on dozens of morning shows and food-focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen. In 2012, Chad has teamed up with best selling author, Kris Carr to write the New York Times Best Seller, Crazy Sexy Kitchen.
With over 100+ hours of online learning and chef-supported assessments and activities, it teaches foundational to advanced techniques in whole food and plant-based cooking. It covers the full spectrum of fully vegan cooking from cooked to raw, comfort to therapeutic, and even offers instruction on wellness related issues such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, gluten free technique no-oil and no-salt adaptations. This professional course will have it all, and allow you to be able to walk away with a certification to use in your own life or practice. It will give you the tools you need to be able to successfully cook plant-based foods well, and to teach that to others.
I wanted to be sure that you, as a part of my community, have an opportunity to pre-enroll in this course. It is a game-changer for plant-based education and will help power a new generation of chefs, home cooks and practitioners who see wellness and health as essential parts of their culinary style.
If you’re interested in learning more about enrolling for the plant-based certification course,
Dr. Sherry Pagoto grabbed my attention on twitter with her wisdom, knowledge, and inspiring wit. Perhaps my favorite hook is her fabulous #plankaday revolution campaign, which has inspired me to commit to planking at least once a day for a year…and sometimes once an hour (#plankanhour), which she and her colleague, Mike, and also the fun Plank Police, will support, encourage, and even participate along with you, if you ask!
Dr. Sherry Pagoto is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Her expertise is in health, nutrition, fitness, weight management, depression, stress, cancer prevention, and type 2 diabetes.
She and her colleague, Bradley M. Appelhans, recently published a critical and compelling article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (one of the top, most respected peer-reviewed journals) calling for an to the diet debates. The argument is that the public is being exposed to mixed messages about weight loss because of the inability of the science to reach conclusive solutions. And that the research perpetuates and supports fad diets, not at all beneficial to our growing obesity epidemic. I recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Pagoto where the real solutions lie and she has some fascinating, logical, and helpful answers…here is our interview:
JH: Your JAMA article states: “Progress in obesity management will require greater understanding of the biological, behavioral, and environmental factors associated with adherence to lifestyle changes including both diet and physical activity.” How do you propose we best address these avenues? Does the research show ideal strategies that are most efficacious when dealing with these issues?
SP: We really need more research on these factors. Some research suggests that unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyle and weight gain can change our brains such that we crave unhealthy foods more and have poorer self-control. If this is the case, then diets that are highly restrictive may be a bad prescription. Exercise has been shown to improve self-control (by impacting the areas in the brain that control our impulses), but is typically only thought of as a way to burn calories. Interventions should leverage exercise as a means to increase self-control. In terms of environmental factors, research shows that self-control is only a factor when we are confronted with temptations. This points to strategies that help people remove tempting foods from the home and workplace. A third factor is social support. Our social circles may be reinforcing unhealthy habits and be a major cause of setbacks. Helping people identify how their social interactions may be undermining their health may be very important to long-term success.
JH: Thank you for addressing the macronutrient distribution obsession. It may be the first time I have seen it addressed in such a scholarly forum and I am excited to address it! You stated that adherence is number one. Please elaborate on this issue and how the research seems to simply dispute its significance.
SP: There have been a lot of studies trying to figure out the best diet formula by comparing different macronutrient composition diets to one another, but when you look at systematic reviews of all of this research, no single diet comes out on top. There really is no reason to believe that one diet will work for all. Promoting one diet for all is likely to be counterproductive to the people who aren’t likely to be very adherent to that diet. The best diet for any one person is the one they are most likely to stick to. When I work with patients I have them focus on keeping their diet composition fairly intact and just reducing quantity, eating frequently to avoid periods of intense hunger, and slowly working in healthy substitutes. I use a quantity first, quality second approach to diet change. People don’t seem to last long when their entire diet is overhauled—they end up missing their old foods and then quitting.
JH: You have successfully turned fitness into fun and inspiration with your #plankaday campaign (which I have joyfully latched onto). How can we extend the necessity of overcoming sedentary lifestyle to the mass public who has accidentally and unnoticeably slipped into it?
SP: I love using social media to promote physical fitness because it makes it so fun. I didn’t plan on #plankaday taking off, it just started as something a friend and I were doing for ourselves. Over time so many people hopped on the bandwagon, we built it up to include the @plankpolice and @plankadaynation. I think fun social challenges in the workplace are particularly important since that is where many of us log our sedentary hours. Would love to see exercise breaks during primetime TV too! Perhaps we can coax companies into turning their commercials into fun exercise breaks!
JH: One of your interests lies in translating research into practice and that is where most practitioners (and people) get stuck. Please offer us any tips you have learned in inspiring behavioral changes that will enhance weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
SP: One of my pet peeves about research (and I’m a researcher!) is that studies often exclude people who are most likely to need help. For example, as a clinician I noticed that there were no weight loss studies for people with depression, even though at least 1/3 of my patients had depression. These patients didn’t do as well with evidence-based programs and I didn’t know what to do for them. I have now made that a big focus of my research. Often patients have psychological or medical conditions that affect their ability to benefit from standard programs. For these patients I look into the research pertaining to their other condition and see if I can come up with ways to address both conditions. I think we need to take a “whole patient” approach, not just treating their weight issues, but trying to understand the psychological and medical context of their weight issue.
JH: What are the top 3 things people can do to find their ideal diet and lifestyle plan that they will adhere to?
1. Start by just trying to eat less of your current diet. The best way to do this is with a weight loss mobile app like MyNetDiary, MyFitnessPal, or Lose it. Once you have done a good job of reducing quantity, then focus on quality (high fiber, lean protein, fruits and veggies, etc)
2. With exercise, start very small. Focus on consistency first. Then duration. Then intensity. This means try to exercise on as many days as you can (consistency) but for very short periods of time (even just 5 minutes!). Once you have consistency, increase your duration very slowly. Then finally you can work on increasing the intensity. A big mistake people make is kicking off their exercise regimen at high frequency, duration and intensity and then they poop out because it was too much, too soon.
3. Be sure to change your shopping habits such that foods that you tend to overeat no longer end up on the list. I don’t believe in forbidden foods, but I do believe that some foods should be forbidden from your home. For example, if ice cream is your weakness, don’t keep it in the house. Make a trip out to get a single serving if you really feel like it, because keeping it in the fridge is the recipe for eating it way more than you’d like. A healthy lifestyle requires a healthy home!
Dr. Richard Oppenlander is a sustainability consultant, researcher, and author whose award winning book, Comfortably Unawarehas been endorsed as a must-read by Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Dr. Neal Barnard, among others. Dr. Oppenlander is a much sought after lecturer on the topic of food choice and how it relates to sustainability, all within the framework of fresh perspectives and critical insights. He also serves as an advisor to world hunger projects in developing countries and with municipalities in the U.S. Dr. Oppenlander has spent 40 years studying the effects food choices have on our planet and on us. He started anorganic plant based food production company, operates an animal rescue sanctuary (with his wife Jill), and is the founder and president of the non-profit organization, Inspire Awareness Now. Dr. Oppenlander has written a new, groundbreaking book titled, “Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work”, which has just been released and is now available. Visit the Comfortably Unaware website for more.
***To win a FREE copy of this must-read, world-shifting book, see below (after the excerpt)***
Here is an excerpt from this brand new, must-read book on the Health-Risk Tax:
The demand to eat animal products contributes heavily to global warming and global depletion, and in doing so, it affects everyone on earth. In the U.S. and other developed countries, eating animals is one of the most significant risk factors found in nearly all of the most common diseases. It is, therefore, heavily implicated in rising health care costs, health insurance premiums, foods prices, and even labor costs for businesses. Those who eat animals are driving up all these costs while driving down productivity.
More than $3 trillion dollars were spent on health care in 2012 ($2.83 trillion in 2009, growing at 6 percent per year) in the U.S.
Of that, minimally $130 billion dollars spent were due to dietary choices related to livestock. I believe this figure is quite conservative and could be as high as $350 billion due to eating animals, because this is how some of the $3 trillion was spent:
These figures are truly staggering and are for just one single year. They also do not reflect loss of productivity. For obesity alone, it is estimated that the annual cost of the workdays missed is $30 billion, with employers losing, on average, $3,800 per year for a single obese person.
These are not just figures or statistics to me; they’re patterns that tell a story about what we choose to eat as a society and what happens to us afterwards—the stark and very real consequences. Eating animal products increases risks of contracting diseases that contribute to all of these health care costs. Eating plants, on the other hand, will take you in the other direction, protecting you from developing these diseases. All of this should be factored into our national health insurance plan and the premiums and taxes we pay. I often pose the question “Why should I pay for what everyone else decides to eat?”
My health care costs for the past forty years have been zero. I’ve never taken one aspirin, ibuprofen, or antibiotic. I’ve certainly prescribed quite a few medications over the years, but I have not taken any medications of any type. I have been at the same weight since I was sixteen years old. Thus far, I have not missed one day’s work for the past forty years from being ill, and I’m certainly not special at all. It’s because of what I eat.
Even with suggestions or new guidelines for eating healthier food, most people don’t comply. With an average diet of 2,000 calories per day, one should eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day (relative to age, physical activity, and gender). However, 94 percent of the U.S. population does not consume this minimum target.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a thirty-four-nation grouping of advanced economies, the average person in the U.S. spent $8,433 (public and private spending) on health care in 2011.
On average, an obese person spends $5,500 more on medical costs than a person of average weight in one year. In 2011, 36 percent of all adults in the U.S. were considered obese, and by 2018, it is estimated that will increase to 43 percent.
It is estimated that eating purely plant-based foods provides the following protective benefits, as compared to individuals eating the average amount of meat:
• 50 percent less risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)
• 40 percent less risk of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic, lung)
• 70 percent less likelihood of adult onset diabetes
• 50 percent less likelihood of developing hypertension
As an example of what effect a purely plant-based diet would have on health care costs, let’s look for a moment at hypertension. Worldwide, $500 billion was spent on hypertension in 2011—twice that amount if indirect costs are included. A 50 percent less risk factor in developing hypertension, simply by a change in food choice (elimination of all animal products from the diet), would save billions of dollars as well as improving the lives of millions.
If additional money is needed to help reduce our national debt (implemented along with a reduction in federal spending) as well as a way to increase revenues in Washington, it can be obtained from eco- and health-risk taxes.
Developing strategies in drafting, voting into action, and implementation would require increased awareness and a much more serious and progressive approach to policy reform.
A 10 percent idle or empty calorie food tax has been studied and proposed, which would apply to soft drinks and eventually other highly processed unhealthy foods. This level of taxation is far too lenient for animal products, however. Although many more factors could apply, a surcharge of 320 percent on all meat and dairy products could be justified as the beginning point for a health-risk tax, given the increased risk percentages for animal products versus plant-based foods, as they relate to the four most common and costly chronic diseases and five most common cancers. A 320 percent health care tax on just beef products (which is only one-quarter of all meat eaten per person in terms of pounds) would yield $2 trillion per year, or $10 trillion in just five years. Additional revenues could be generated by way of an eco-tax, likely to be significantly higher than the 320 percent health-risk tax, if proper values are applied to resource use.
Let’s look at how this could be applied.
U.S. national debt exceeded $16 trillion in September 2012 ($11 trillion public debt and $5 trillion intragovernmental debt), which is very concerning on a number of levels. Fully two-thirds of that debt is owed to the U.S. government by American investors, the Social Security trust fund, and pension plans for civil service workers and military personnel—the debt is owed by us. Even though China is the largest foreign owner of U.S. debt, it holds less than 8 percent of the money borrowed by the U.S. over the years. Nevertheless, the national debt has been increasing an average of $4.89 billion per day since September 2007.
Taxing meat and other animal products with a health-risk tax and eco-tax (in addition to controlled government spending) would accomplish the following regarding economics and our national debt:
• Decrease health care costs by way of dietary measures
• Increase national wellness/productivity (reduce obesity, diabetes, CHD, and other chronic diseases)
• Increase revenues to help offset the national deficit (national health insurance, Social Security, new Farm Bill, etc.)
Of course, these benefits would be in addition to the many others that a transition to purely plant-based foods would provide, such as decreasing the production of unhealthy foods, increasing economic viability of small farms that produce organic plant-based foods, and decreasing all aspects of global depletion, including rampant pollution and our national contribution to global climate change.
Many of you have loved Chef AJ’s oil-free Hail to the Kale salad dressing as much as I have. Here is a lighter version that retains the flavor, but lowers the calories and the total fat on this new episode of The Chef and The Dietitian:
1 cup water
4 TB. lime juice with zest
2 cloves garlic
1 oz. ginger
2 TB. low-sodium tamari or raw coconut aminos
6 TB. almond butter
1 can or box cannellini beans
In a blender, place all ingredients and blend on high until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately over salad, baked potatoes, cooked vegetables, or whole grains. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.