I made my decision and I’m confessing it to you.

Happy September everyone!

It’s still plenty hot here in New Mexico and even farther north in Denver, Colorado where we were last weekend. But there is something in the air that says autumn is almost here.

There’s something about the shade of green on the trees. They’ve lost that fresh green look and the green is slightly darker, the leaves slightly shrinking from the long hot and very dry summer. Change is in the air!

My Ever Evolving Food Philosophy and a Stunning Statistic

And I’ve changed up my cooking the past several weeks actually. I have been experimenting with a totally vegan menu bypassing all seafood which I had still been enjoying before on occasion. I have been reading up on the status of our ocean fish and the ocean itself and decided I cannot support the fishing industry any more.

What really got to me was learning that only about 10% of our big ocean fish are left. If true, that means 90% gone! That is a stunning statistic!  (Ref: Worm B. Barbier ED, Beaumont N, et al. Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science. 2006 Nov 3;314 (5800): 787-90.) Hat off to Dr. John MacDougall for pointing this out to me in his book, The Starch Solution.

I started paying attention to how much fish is on menus, how much fish people are eating as an alternative to other animal meat. I saw one cooking show on PBS where a single New York restaurant was purchasing 5 million pounds of fish a year. WOW!

I also have read–and I’m sure you’ve heard about this too–that radiation from Japan has made its effect on the Pacific all the way to our United States west coast. Tests show a level of radiation in fish and shellfish that was not previously there. That makes me very sad indeed.

In the Gulf, the 2010 oil spill was called the worst spill in U.S. history.  After initial clean up efforts, the effect of that spill on Gulf sea life and people working and living on the Gulf Coast has been disastrous and long-lasting. I have avoided seafood from the Gulf Coast ever since.

I also question the quality of fish and seafood from the Far East, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and from fish farms.  According to World Wide Fund for Nature, more than 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based activities that cause oil spills, fertilizers and toxic chemical runoff and the discharge of untreated sewage.

Too Many Fish in the Sea?

I used to consider that the oceans are so very vast (true).  I was taught the earth is 75% covered with water (true). I thought, there are (like the song says) TOO MANY FISH IN THE SEA. I thought that yes, some may not be safe to eat but surely there are others that are. After all, doesn’t my Whole Foods store watch out for quality for me? Don’t they rate the quality of their seafood for me? Doesn’t the fish sold in my local Co-Op look quite clean and fresh?

When I read about our beautiful oceans and the losses we have sustained there I cannot pretend it has nothing to do with me and that me and my family are not really putting much of a dent in the fish population. And me and my family will probably not get sick from eating the fish.  And it’s not me that eats the beef and chicken and pigs who come from  huge agribusiness that pollutes the environment and causes more greenhouse gases than automobiles. Not me. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Maybe there are still some spots where the fish are not polluted. That would be good news, but what about those fishing industries driven by all the demanding consumers who want to eat those fish up too?

Expanding My Viewpoint

I have a deep love of the ocean.  Always have. Always will. I made my decision and I’m confessing it to you.  I’m not the sappy “save the ____” type. (It’s totally fine with me if you are.) But I am a citizen of Earth just like you and I cannot justify to myself supporting this status quo. (And yes, I do feel emotional about the ocean.)

This change is not just some dietary adjustment. This change is an expansion of my own care about the living things on earth and in the ocean and my own care about our planet. I am liking this about myself.

Share Some Good News, Please

I’m sticking to my decision but I invite you to share some good news, if you have it, about our oceans and the life they sustain.

 

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Are You a “Meat and Potatoes” Type of Vegan?

I seem to be a “Meat and Potatoes” type of vegan!

I want to talk about a concept that is emerging in my own universe lately. The concept is “concentrated foods.” By that I mean, foods that are extremely nutrient dense and  packed with a large amount of macronutrients in a relatively small portion.  (Macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats)

I bring this up because despite eating very healthfully for nearly forty years—mostly vegan but a few of those years not so much—I have always struggled with my weight. It was because of this that as a young girl I began seeking to understand how the body works and what foods were best for it. I have written many times about those journeys so I won’t do that again here.

Suffice it to say that I learned a lot, became much more healthy as years went by, strengthened my immune system, found out how to use foods as medicine and overall became much more in control of things.

But darn it! It is still so very easy for me to put on too much weight!  I know many people who do not eat a Standard American Diet and who try their best to choose healthier more nutritious foods and even some who are vegetarians, vegans or macrobiotic who, like me, still struggle with this problem.

So I started looking at the broad sketch of how I have approached food and spotted something very interesting. No matter what I was eating, what  program I was following, or dietary lifestyle I was living including all the years I was macrobiotic I have always gone for the dense, concentrated foods and eaten too much of them. That worked fine when I was a young, busy nursing mother with two other toddlers to chase after but that’s the only time that worked for me.

Mochi

Mochi (Photo credit: Nikki_Bees)

There are gradients of how concentrated foods can be. It’s just common sense.  For example:

  • Peanut butter – concentrated fat and some protein. Easy to slather a heap of this stuff onto each cracker, rice cake or slice of bread.
  • “Healthy” breads. Not knocking them, No Sireee. But have you weighed some of these lately? They can be concentrated, condensed slices, can’t they? A vegan Triple-Decker Club sandwich made with this bread could sink a ship!
  • Brown rice mochi – very concentrated whole grains (sticky, sweet brown rice mashed down into a concentrated form and then often fried.) But how many of those do you need at one time? Especially in an Udon Noodle Soup with Tofu Broth?
  • Almonds. Innocent, wonderful Almonds. A great snack! But you’re not running a marathon or working the farm each day, exactly how many of those do you need for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
  • Rice and beans – probably about in the middle of the scale. But the whole-grains-and-beans thing can indeed be overdone if it isn’t balanced with veggies and other necessary dietary components.
  • Vegetables – mostly light. But watch this—do you head for the winter squashes, potatoes and the heavier vegetables more than the leafy greens?
  • Oils – yup, they’re concentrated aren’t they? How many olives does it take to make a tablespoon of olive oil, I wonder? (Estimates are 20-40 olives depending on their type and size.) How many sesame seeds to make that teaspoon of toasted sesame oil that I love to cook my mochi in?
  • Fruits – mostly pretty light but what’s the difference between say a banana and an apple or between grapes and dried fruit? Dried fruit is concentrated and pack a lot in a small portion. That’s why it is so easy to overeat them.
  • Some of those avocado-based mousses I’ve been making—Do I eat the same size slice of that as I would an apple pie? Hmmmm, I think not!

Please, please, please! I am not saying any of these foods are bad or shouldn’t be eaten.

My point is simply this:  Even if virtually all the food you eat is organic, plant-based very nutritious and good for you, you can still eat too much of the concentrated foods and too little of the lighter ones. That’s all I’m saying. That is what I’m looking at.

Why do you think the bloggers posting all the casseroles, rich desserts and thick hearty soups and stews are so popular? Because that’s what we like and that’s what we probably all overindulge in if we’re honest with ourselves. Okay, I’ll cut you a break. I’ll say, “If I’m honest with myself!” I love these recipes and try out many of them at home. But if they use dense or nutrient-concentrated foods, it is so easy for me to over do it.

When I’m not paying attention, I go for the concentrated food and skimp on the lighter ones. I can so easily fall into being the “meat and potatoes” type in the world of vegan food.

It all has to do with the question of balance. I learned how to eat a balanced diet but it seems that over the years with changes in my body and my age and other things, I’ve lost my balance and now I know I need to find it again.

I don’t know why this is exactly—this indulgence in concentrated foods. I have heard and read many explanations that I don’t find all that helpful or workable. Do we really have to be semi-experts in hormones? I don’t think so. I could just as well say it’s “The American Way” as an explanation.  I just know that I’ve spotted for myself a major underlying concept about how I have chosen to eat all my life no matter what the cuisine was.

This is a concept I can work with. This is a good beginning.

So for now, my own decision has been to eat at least 50-60% vegetables daily. That is a guideline I have set up for myself and I’m not saying that is what you need or what you should do.

And, I’m going to follow up with many more posts showing recipes and how-to’s for vegetables. Let’s see what I come up with!!!

In the meantime I would really love to know what your experiences are with this. I’d like to know:

1) What do you see as being an ideal way for you—as an individual—to eat and is it easy for you to be that? (i.e. be vegetarian, be vegan, be omnivorous, etc.)

2) Do you follow some kind of diet or weight-loss plan or do you “wing it?”

3) Are you successful with what you do?

4) What exactly are your successful actions?

5) If you have a “downfall,” what is it?

6) Do you encounter a similar problem of overindulging in the more dense, concentrated foods and skimping on the lighter ones?

7) What would you like to know or learn most about including a bigger percentage of actual vegetables in your daily diet?

8) What vegetables would you like to have more recipes or preparation ideas for?

Ms. Vegan Manners

Hello Sweet Readers!

Let me introduce myself! I am publicly  known as Ms Vegan Manners but my full name is Vivienne De La Choux. You, Sweet Readers, may call me Vivi! (In case you aren’t sure about that, let me ease your discomfort by explaining you would pronounce that “vee vee.”)

VIVI

Today I’d like to talk to you about the awkward situation in which we find our desire to impart our vegan wisdom on another for whom we care is met with resistance, rebuttal and downright rudeness.

Firstly may I say, Sweet Readers, that the subject of how one eats and what food one chooses can very quickly become controversial and even political. You might consider this before deciding to tell your co-workers, dear friends and family that they are incorrect in their food choices. My oh my! That can become a heated argument faster than you can say, “tofutti!”

Think for a moment about all the scuttlebutt surrounding GMO’s, animal rights, local organic vs factory farming! As you certainly well know, food—being a core component of staying alive—is a subject that is much protected and defended by vested interests. Is your beloved “student” really ready to hear that corn on the cob is probably not a good idea unless it’s organic? Or that cheapest possible price for their weekly groceries is not necessarily the most economical in the long run?

And besides, we all know what an emotional subject food can be and it can be a medical subject as well. So many of us are turning to food choices and dietary education so we might remain healthy and active in our lives. And bless them, there are those who are successfully recovering from serious illness by changing their eating  habits.

And then there are the weight-loss diets. Let’s not even go there! Do Not, Sweet Readers, Do Not open the door to the topic of diet at your next luncheon or business brunch where there may be Paleos and McDougall enthusiasts together in the same room!

The answer to all these dilemmas lies in simply having good manners and setting a good example. By this I mean, in your personal relations and social interchanges, you consider the viewpoint and feelings of the other person as well as helpfully and politely assert your own when the time is right.

Accentuate the positive, as they say!

Most of the time, when people learn you are vegan, they have questions and you sometimes find you are answering the same questions over and over again. Realize, Sweet Readers, that the questioners are mainly curious probably because they have already heard elsewhere or realized themselves that their own eating habits are sorely lacking or possibly harmful to them.

This is the time when you should assume the best about these questions and try to answer them in the best way possible. What is obvious and common knowledge to you, may not be for the innocent questioner. Don’t take these questions as an invalidation of your lifestyle.

GORILLA

Here are a few more tips about discussing your vegan eating habits:

1. You are not required to entertain snide comments from anyone about the type of food you eat.  Just smile and walk away or if you must converse with this person, try changing the subject. Letting yourself be pulled into an argument with such people will only pull you down.

2. When going to social functions where there may not be many good food choices for you, eat ahead of time.  After all, Sweet Readers, aren’t we in much better moods when we’re well-fed? You will be less likely to feel un-accommodated if you are not starving. Instead, enjoy the party and make new friends! This is not the right time to let your host or hostess know that the food they are serving their guests is unhealthy, not supportive of environmental well-being or wrought with evil intentions to kill off the pet cow.

3. When hosting guests yourself, be thoughtful in your menu planning. Either ask someone else to bring non-vegan food if you yourself will not prepare it, or choose some dishes that could be very satisfying for anyone whether they are vegan or not.  And this brings me to the next point which is very important . . .

4. For goodness sake learn to cook! There are thousands of cookbooks and blogs such as this one centered upon vegan and whole foods cooking and there are even a couple of television cooking shows you can watch. The more you invest in learning how to prepare tasty food, the better off you and your friends and family will be. A wise cooking teacher once said to me that the most delicious food in the world will also be the most healthy.

Just remember, Sweet Readers, good manners will take you very far in whatever you are seeking to do and a very good teacher is one who not only has good manners her/his self but who also teaches others to be mannerly as well.

[Prompted by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt which asks: What Makes a Teacher Great?]

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