Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are you REALLY an animal-lover?

Would you say that you love animals? I've always called myself an animal lover. I even loved eating them. I especially loved cold, thick-cut roast beef, seasoned simply with salt. Juicy burgers, spicy pepperoni, salty ham salad . . . yum! Sure, if I took a minute to consider what I was consuming, I felt bad ... for a minute ... and then ate them anyway. I would justify this by telling myself that "chickens are stupid" (seriously!) and that I needed the complete protein that beef provides. Well, guess what the most complete protein for us humans is? According to T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study it's human flesh. Yep, you read it right - HUMAN FLESH. Its protein has just the right amount of the amino acids that we need. Since most of us aren't cannibalistic, we get the next "best" protein by eating other animals. (More on the differences between animal and plant proteins coming soon to a blog read by YOU.)

I had heard that animals are treated badly at slaughter, but I didn't know the details and really did not want to know. That all changed in August of 2008. I decided that it was time to take responsibility for what I was eating and looked into it. I started with Skinny Bitch. (See Skinny Bitch, Why yes, thank you! posted on 2/24 by Vegetarian Vixen) Wham! Those skinny bitches tell it like it is! I laughed out loud and sobbed like an over-tired toddler while reading that book. Don't read the chapter titled You Are What You Eat before bed unless you want to cry yourself to sleep. Do read the chapter titled Pooping if you need a laugh. Authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are great about giving all sorts of resources for further learning. They list numerous books, magazines, cookbooks, restaurant guides, informational websites, merchandise websites and food websites. They also list their favorite vegan products. Their writing style and language are not for everyone, but still, their book was my launching pad.

My next step was to follow the bitches' advice and order the vegetarian starter kit at http://www.goveg.com/. It's nothing more than a publication with vegetarian information such as recipes, testimonials from famous vegetarians, and the story of a downed cow, abused and destined slaughter, but it was convincing and inspiring. I began getting emails from PETA and forced myself to watch their videos of horrific, sadistic treatment of pigs, rabbits, and turkeys. The images that those videos painfully seared into my mind are enough to make me never eat flesh again. I also checked out some of the websites, especially the recipe-focused ones! I read one of their recommended books, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating (great book, review also coming soon). I'm currently reading The China Study, THE most comprehesive scientific study ever done on the correlation between diet and disease. I truly believe that every single health professional has an obligation to read this book and that everybody else should, too. But wait, this is supposed to be about the animals, right? Well, I'm also reading Mad Cowboy, written by Howard Lyman, fourth generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher turned vegan. Finally, I try to get a few pages in each week of Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin, Ph.D, an animal scientist and autistic woman who sees the world the way animals see it and has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She focuses on more humane handling of these animals, making the path to their inevitible gruesome end less stressful and horrifying for them.

I still call myself an animal lover, but I also know that I am a hypocrite. Although I have severely cut the amount of dairy that I consume, I still eat some vegetarian cheese (see Diver or Incher), and some organic cream, cream cheese, and sour cream, but they are less and less appealing all the time. I never EVER thought I'd say that. I also eat eggs, but I buy them fresh, from one of my students, and the chickens are happy, relatively free and are never killed for food or any other reason. I don't know what happens to the cows who (yes "who", not "that") supply the milk for the cheese and cream that eat, but it can't end well for them, and for that I have much guilt. Some day . . .

If you think you're an animal lover, you owe it to the animals that you're eating to find out what they endure while being turned into your food. There is no shortage of information. If you have an hour and a half, you could start with the documentarty Earthlings linked on this site or read any of our "Rave Reads" or other books listed in this post. Seriously, what's stopping you?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ahisma - noun, Sanskrit
~a Buddhist and Hindu doctrine expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and urging the avoidance of all types of harm and violence
~Roughly translated, ahisma is the principle of noninjury to living beings. It can be interpreted as "dynamic harmlessness." The practice of ahisma includes avoiding specific foods and products, being considerate of the lives of humans and animals and actively participating in beneficial action.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seitan...in MY kitchen?

Seitan: (n) A chewy, protein-rich food made from wheat gluten and used as a meat substitute. Although it is made from wheat, seitan has little in common with flour or bread. Also called “wheat meat”, “wheat gluten” or simply “gluten”, seitan becomes surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked, making it a popular meat substitute. Seitan is also high in protein, making it a popular protein source for vegetarians. Asian restaurants often use seitan as a vegetarian mock meat, and seitan is also the base for several commercially available products such as Tofurky deli slices. Prepared seitan can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores.

Chopped up into bits and lightly heated, it can be coated with your favorite BBQ sauce or even "Manwich" for a mock sloppy joe. It can be used in spaghetti sauce, with taco seasoning for tacos or burritos or pressed together for seitan burgers. The texture may take some getting used to, but it does an amazing job of taking on the flavors of some favorite "meat" based meals!

BBQ...Seitan Style
1 package of seitan
BBQ sauce (use as much as you like)
1/4 cup diced onions
1/4 cup of shredded carrot
1 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves of diced garlic

Heat the olive oil in a pan; add onions and carrots and garlic, saute until soft. Add seitan and saute until hot. Add your favorite barbecue sauce and heat until the sauce is hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve on buns. Savor with a side of creamy coleslaw and pickles. Yumm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fat...Part 2

Good fat??

The first thing to understand about fats is that the essential fatty acids they contain are truly essential. They are the "active ingredient" in every bodily process you can name, including:

*brain cell function and nervous system activity
*hormones and intra-cellular messengers
*glandular function and immune system operation
*hemoglobin oxygen-transport system
*cell wall function:
*passing oxygen into the cell
*passing nutrients into the cell
*keeping foreign bodies out of the cell
*digestive-tract operation
*assimilating nutrients
*blocking out allergens

In short, the essential fatty acids (contained mostly in polyunsaturated oils) are the most important nutrients there are -- more important than vitamins, minerals, or even proteins. Because, without them, there is no life. They are the substance and foundation of life energy. Partially hydrogenated oils will not only kill you in the long term by producing diseases like multiple sclerosis and allergies that lead to arthritis, but in the meantime they will make you fat!

Partially-Hydrogenated=Totally Nasty

What's Wrong with Hydrogenation?

Unlike butter or virgin coconut oil, hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. A trans fat is an otherwise normal fatty acid that has been "transmogrified", by high-heat processing of a free oil. The fatty acids can be double-linked, cross-linked, bond-shifted, twisted, or messed up in a variety of other ways. In short, trans fats are poisons, just like arsenic or cyanide. They interfere with the metabolic processes of life by taking the place of a natural substance that performs a critical function. And that is the definition of a poison. Your body has no defense against them, because they never even existed in our two billion years of evolution -- so we've never had the need or the opportunity to evolve a defense against them.

But the worst part is that in the last stages of oil processing (or "refining"), the oil is literally steam distilled to remove its odor. So it doesn't smell. But a hydrogenated oil is much worse than rancid butter. So if it did smell, it would smell worse than the most rancid butter you've ever seen. So the next time you see "partially hydrogenated oil" on a label, think "rancid butter". Partially hydrogenated oils make you gain weight the same way that saturated fats do - by making you consume even more fat to get the the essential fatty acids you need. But partially hydrogenated fats are even worse. Not only do they produce disease over they long term, but they interfere with the body's ability to ingest and utilize the good fats!

Walking down supermarket aisles in America, you find product after product with partially hydrogenated oil--often in products you would never expect. But why not? After all, it's cheaper than butter. And it's not illegal. Yet. When you eat out, restaurant breads and fried foods are loaded with stuff. If you are consuming lots of saturated fats, you really have no choice but to become fat, because saturated fats contain only small quantities of the polyunsaturated fats that contain the essential fatty acids you need. The key to being thin, then, is to consume foods containing large amounts of polyunsaturated oils. (Those foods include fish, olives, nuts, and egg yolks.) Over the long term, those foods remove your sense of hunger.

Avoiding Hydrogenation

When you start reading food labels, it is astonishing how many products you will find that contain partially hydrogenated oils. The more labels you read, the more astonished you will be at the variety and number of places that this insidious little killer shows up. Do read the labels. Do recoil in disgust, and do throw the product back on the shelf -- or throw it on the floor, where it belongs. Even better, you could fry with coconut oil -- which consists of medium chain fatty acids that contain 2/3's the calories of long-chain saturated fats. They're also metabolized differently, so they're burned for energy instead of being stored as fat. And if that's not enough, 50% of coconut oil consists of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that's anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungus, and anti-yeast.

What You Can Do

For starters, read food labels and avoid anything that contains the words "hydrogenated". That means partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils, or anything of that kind (and mono-diglycerides, as well). A new FDA regulation took effect in 2006 that requires manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on their product labels. Much as I would like to tell you that you can simply look for "0% trans fats" on the label, it would be useless for you to do so. The FDA wanted to put the words, "Warning: Trans fats may be dangerous to your health" on the labels--the same warning that first appeared on cigarettes--but the industry wouldn't let them. And the way the labeling law works, the product can contain a significant percentage of trans fat, and still claim "0%". Simply put, the labeling law is nearly useless.

When you see a food that contains partially hydrogenated oils (especially if it claims to be healthy), put it back on the shelf upside down and backwards. Sometimes it's impossible to put things back upside down, so at least put them on the shelf backwards. If you are saying to yourself, "hmmm, I've been wondering about trans fats... good, that's a start. In this world of pollution, Genetically Modified Food, and stress, do yourself a favor and start reading labels and find out exactly what you're putting in your body! Here's to your good health!

For more information on trans fats check out these informational websites:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Get the Lowdown on that Naughty Word...FAT!

So much is written about fat. Being fat, feeling fat, full of fat, fat ass...What is it about fat that consumes our every thought? Besides the fact that we want to look our best, we need to be concerned about the types of fat that are going in to our bodies so that we also feel our best. Do we need fat to survive? Here's a closer look at this most hated word!

The Good...

* Fats are vital to your health. They transport oxygen to every cell in your body, and they are the basis for every hormone, brain, and nervous system function. *Sources of good fats come from nuts, seeds, egg yolks, fish, olives and unrefined oils. *Fats are the chemically active part of your cell membranes. Without them, nothing works. *All fats are a mixture. The good fats contain small amounts of bad fat, and the bad fats contain small amounts of good fat.
The Bad...

*With the wrong fats, you eat up to 6 times more in order to get the right fats. *The issue is not how much fat you consume, it's how much of the good fat you consume, and how much of the bad. *The right fats protect you from cancer. The wrong fats allow it, in part because they compromise the integrity of the cell membrane.
The Ugly...

*The bad fats result from high-heat commercial processing. They include trans fats, cross-linked fatty acids, double-bond shifted fatty acids, and dozens of other compounds that do not occur in nature. *Sources of bad fats include refined oils, partially hydrogenated oils, shortening, and commercially deep-fried foods. *Because vegetable oil is chemically active, it is harmed the most by heat.

How to get the good fats in...Dip bread in unrefined oil. Use with vinegar for a salad dressing. Add to soup just before serving. You don't want to cook with unrefined oils because they smoke really quickly. For cooking, use butter, coconut oil, and other naturally saturated oils that aren't harmed by heat. Butter, in particular, is a short-chain saturated fat that your body burns easily. Here's to your "good" fat self.

To find more enlightening information on fat, where it comes from and what they do to it before it's put into our food, please visit www.treelight.com/health

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review... Comet Cafe in Milwaukee

Comet Cafe
1947 N Farwell Ave

Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 273-7677

This was a solo test drive that I undertook this weekend. My boyfriend is in charge of dog/house-sitting in Bay View, so I finally got to dine at Comet Cafe which I've been itching to try for the last 3 months. My anticipation and excitement to eat there was certainly justified. It was late by the time we finally made it so my hunger was intense.

First Impression:
The very first thought that crossed my mind when entering was that this place was hopping! It was a pleasant, busy commotion, and was filled with people of all ages and walks of life. The second thing that came to my mind was that Madison should be filled with places like this, but it doesn't have anything that even comes close. I wish that State Street was filled with independently owned sandwich/bar/coffee shops. However, it's filled with Starbucks, KFC, Taco Bell, Chin's and many other chains in addition to the few independent restaurants. Comet Cafe has a unique, no fuss, no muss atmosphere. There are many choices of micro brews as well as wines, with lots of local ingredients and brews to the Wisconsin area. It is a member of OUR MILWAUKEE, a local business alliance whose goal is keep Milwaukee unique. They succeed very well in doing just that!

After barely perusing the menu, I decided on the Vegan Gyro for $8. Since giving up meat, a gyro is the one thing I have been consistently craving. (I just always had to envision the poor little lamb being killed for my selfish taste buds to put that desire at bay.) However, I was so pleasantly surprised by the amazingly spiced seitan slices, cucumber dip, lettuce, onion and tomato on flat bread. My boyfriend even seemed surprised at how good it tasted (he's a meat-eater). I ordered the seasoned fries as my side, and while they were pretty good, they were way too seasoned for me. I love my salt, but it was a bit much for my tastes. I think because we were kind of late diners, I might have gotten what was left on the bottom. I'll definitely give them another try some other day.

Ryan ordered the Mac 'n Cheese with Chili for $10, which as a very pleasant surprise, was vegetarian. The chili was meatless. Though I've been trying to cut back on my cheese consumption, my sampling of it made me think, delicious and wonderful comfort food of gooey goodness. The chili definitely helped perk up the taste and give it some zip.

We shared a bottle of New Glarus Raspberry Tart beer and that was our after dinner dessert. I cannot wait to revisit and try more from their menu. The salads, sandwiches and comfort food dishes looked so enticing! I was so happy to see many of the things I often crave as vegetarian or vegan options such as: Vegan Ribs, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Meatless Meatloaf, Vegan Salisbury Steak, BLT and many more! Though I didn't order dessert, they have a wide selection of vegan pies and cakes available for all you sweet-toothed diners out there.

~ a happy, upbeat, community restaurant. Its motto of "Slow Food," is very refreshing in the fast food world we live in. It could be described as very chic but with a homey spin. Lots of intimate booths and tables, both bar side and restaurant side, fill the space. It's also filled with unique art and photography, and the lighting and friendliness from everyone definitely makes you want to stay for drinks at the bar. Since I'll soon be moving to Milwaukee, I have to say, I'm very excited at the prospect of numerous Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant options that are unique to the city. Madison should take note! Great prices, great homemade comfort food with local ingredients and products when possible can't be beat. Highly recommended, it is a place I will definitely visit again and again!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Meat...It's what's NOT for dinner!

Here are a few reasons for you to reconsider what or who you are putting on your dinner table...

A vegetarian diet promotes healthier, longer life. Medical studies demonstrating the health advantages of a meatless diet are numerous and convincing. People who eat mostly plant-based foods cut their risk for just about every disease imaginable, from cancer to constipation.

Going animal-free helps maintain a healthy weight.
The fact remains: vegetarians on the whole are thinner than those around them. In fact, vegans (who eat no animal products) are an average of 20 pounds lighter than meat eaters who consume the same number of calories! That's because vegan diets are generally low in fat and high in fiber.

Vegetarianism is good for the environment.
For anyone concerned about disappearing rain forests, dwindling fossil fuels, or vanishing wildlife species, vegetarianism is a logical choice. Producing plant foods strains the earth's resources far less than producing animal products.

A vegetarian lifestyle is more humane.
More than 4 billion farm animals are slaughtered for food every year in the United States. That's a lot of needless killing. And without going into gory details, it's fair to say that the lives and deaths of most animals raised for meat, milk, and egg production are anything but pleasant.

Is there a down side?

By now you may be wondering, "Does vegetarianism have any drawbacks?" After several decades on a meatless diet, playwright George Bernard Shaw claimed (tongue in cheek) to have found one. "I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough, and I am trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beefsteak would finish me, but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. This is the only disadvantage to vegetarianism."

Gather information, read books, magazines, talk to other people about these issues and make choices that make you feel good not only for you and your health, but for all of the animals that are sacrificed every day for your meals. Just think about it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hot-Diggity Dog!

If you wouldn't sit down to dinner and eat this furry little friend, then why, oh why, would you sit down at to a lovely sports game and scarf 2-4 non-puppy hot dogs? Please, don't eat dogs. Also, do not eat pigs, turkeys, cows or chickens either! Do you have any idea what you are actually eating when you put that rolled up meat stick into your mouth? I'm not judging or blaming (too much anyway) since I used to be there with you. I used to love my juicy hot dog at a Brewer's game smothered in deliciously spicy stadium sauce, onions, ketchup and mustard. However, I have changed my ways and seen the light!

Standard ingredients in your hot nasty meat stick:
  • Turkey, beef, pork, chicken or a combo of all - animal hater!
  • Egg products - most definitely not from cage free chickens!
  • Semi-solid products from raw skeletal muscle from livestock or poultry - oh yum!
  • No more than 15% of byproducts such as hearts, kidneys, livers - 1% would be a lot, but 15%! Now that's just NASTY!
  • Most likely bones, crushed, mashed and pulverized - for what? a little crunch?
  • Cereal fillers - just to help keep it all together and give it texture?
  • Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM) - mmmm... sounds so natural!
  • Array of seasonings - does this include fecal matter for spice?
I haven't even mentioned the amount of fat (mostly saturated) you are digesting as you down dog after dog. You are consuming anywhere from 10-20 grams of pure fat per fat link! That's more than 20% of your daily value. I have to say, at any given Wisconsin sports game, I don't notice many people who stop after one hot dog. Stop hating your arteries and all internal organs! They want to work for you! Not against you! Though the hot dog may appear appetizing and lovely in a nicely rolled link covered in casing which is then removed for your dining satisfaction, think about what it would look like if it weren't processed over and over and over again! Imagine the hearts, kidneys and livers, of god knows what, sitting there in a bun. Think about the poor little piggy who became your lunch! If you truly cannot resist the temptation of a link on a bun, please try to fool your children, boyfriends, girlfriends, family and friends and serve Smart Dogs. Add your favorite hot dog toppings and you will be doing your heart a huge favor! You may end up enjoying it more than your regular meat stick! Plus, this way you don't have to worry about ingesting the leftover parts of slaughtered animals.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Oh my! These vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are surprisingly delicious! They are moist, chewy, and good for you!!! The recipe came to me via the February, 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Make them, and eat without guilt! I guarantee that you will not miss the eggs, butter, white flour or white sugar. One main ingredient is walnuts. The walnuts (which are ground into a walnut butter) are packed with more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. They lower triglycerides and reduce plaque formation. They also support brain function on a number of levels including boosting mood. There are compelling studies linking the consumption of omega-3's to low rates of depression! Walnuts may also be a great tool for weight management. A palm-full eaten before meals help alleviate hunger. They are full of fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese (an important trace mineral that's essential for growth, reproduction, wound-healing, peak brain function, and the proper metabolism of sugars, insulin, and cholesterol).

The "Doctrine of Signatures" is a concept in herbalism that's been around for centuries and is based on the idea that God marked everything He created with a sign (signature). The signature is an indication of the item's purpose. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, since the walnut looks just like a human brain, its purpose is to support that organ! (From The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S) The cookies are also made with oats and oat flower. Don't get me started! You all know oats are good for you!! Okay, just a short list of the benefits of oats: Immune health, cholesterol reduction, anti-inflammatory properties, they're heart healthy and high in protein and fiber . . .

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (or 10 1/2 ounces vegan bittersweet chocolate, chopped)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.
  2. Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil in a stream with the food processor running, and blend for 2 - 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down the sides of the food processor occasionally. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Whisk together brown sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. (Watch this, as when it starts to boil it can quickly boil over.) Pour brown sugar mixture over the ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.
  4. Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.
  5. Shape cookie dough into 1 1/2 to 2 inch balls (I used a spring-type ice cream scoop, and I used 2 different sizes, varying the baking time), and place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Now the original recipe calls for flattening the cookies with a glass dipped in water. I forgot with the first batch that went into the oven, and they turned out just fine with a lovely cracked top to the cookie. They did take a little longer than the recipe called for when I made them this way.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool three minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  7. Enjoy with a tall glass of rice or soy milk!

Diver or Incher?

Are you the type to dive right in or do you prefer to get into the water one inch at a time? I'm definitely an incher in life, when it comes to swimming and everything else. I need time, sometimes lots of it, to get used to new ideas. Sometimes I take so long that the ideas aren't even new anymore by the time I am immersed. It took me seven years to get engaged, another two to get married, and four after that to have a kid. I've even had this very blog entry in the works for several weeks. Come on already!!!

I became "vegetarian" for the first time in the early 1980's because I loved animals. Being a vegetarian simply means not eating meat, right? That's what I thought. That first foray into vegetarianism lasted a few weeks. A few years later, I did exactly the same thing. The third try didn't last much longer, but I was sure proud to order my egg McMuffin sans Canadian bacon. Woo hoo! This is my fourth and, without a shadow of a doubt, final time. This time I know vegetarianism is so much more than not eating meat. I know that it means giving up candy corn, rice krispie treats (though Sara's Sweets makes a great vegan marshmallow), and conversation hearts. They all have gelatin. Who would have thought? It bothers me to no end that I need to decode ingredients like gelatin and rennet . . . an innocuous-sounding ingredient in cheese. I now read all ingredient lists. Cheese, most of it, is not vegetarian (see It's Not Me, It's You, posted by Tomato Tartlet). Though my ultimate goal is to give up all dairy, for the time being I am only eating animal rennet-free cheese, and not much of it, either. If you have trouble finding vegetarian cheese in your grocery store, check out Artisan Pantry. I just ordered vegetarian Parmesan today (some of which will be used to make Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna), but they have several other varieties from cheddars to mozzarella to Mascarpone. Even though I'm eating vegetarian cheese, my guilt still overwhelms me at times, because although little calves don't lose their lives for this cheese, their mothers ultimately will, and years before their time! A cow can live up to twenty years, but a dairy cow's average life span is four years. FOUR YEARS. She is worked to exhaustion and an early death, and ends up in fast food burgers.

I digress. That's another thing I do, in addition to inching along. However you choose to tread the path to a healthier, more environmentally friendly and more compassionate way of eating is your choice. Inch along, making slow and steady changes, or plunge right in! Just do it.

"Natural" Flavoring

Natural flavoring,
it must be good for me, right?

It's natural for goodness sake... Take a gander at the labels of some of your favorite snack foods. You might see the innocent sounding ingredient "natural flavoring" nestled in between the seemingly endless number of components in one food item. Let's take McDonald's french fries for example. If you have the displeasure of having to go to this restaurant for some reason, you may choose to order the french fries...harmless right? McDonald's followed the lead of many other fast food franchises a few years ago and started frying their potato sticks in pure vegetable oil. Well, there may also be a "natural flavor" in the french fries that you didn't know about. The McDonald's Corporation will not reveal the exact origin of the natural flavor added to its fries. In response to inquiries from Vegetarian Journal, however, McDonald's did acknowledge that its fries derive some of their characteristic flavor from "an animal source." Beef is the probable source, although other meats cannot be ruled out. In France, for example, fries are sometimes cooked in duck fat or horse tallow.

The Vegetarian Legal Action Network recently petitioned the FDA to issue new labeling requirements for foods that contain natural flavors. The group wants food processors to list the basic origins of flavors on their labels. At the moment, vegetarians often have no way of knowing whether a flavor additive contains beef, pork, poultry, shellfish, or some other animal source. One of the most widely used color additives -- whose presence is often hidden by the phrase "color added" -- violates a number of religious dietary restrictions, may cause allergic reactions in susceptible people, and comes from an unusual source. Cochineal extract (also known as carmine or carminic acid) is made from the desiccated bodies of female Dactylopius Coccus Costa, a small insect harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. The bug feeds on red cactus berries, and color from the berries accumulates in the females and their unhatched larvae. The insects are collected, dried, and ground into a pigment. It takes about 70,000 of them to produce a pound of carmine, which is used to make processed foods look pink, red, or purple. Dannon strawberry yogurt gets its color from carmine, and so do many frozen fruit bars, candies, and fruit fillings, and Ocean Spray pink-grapefruit juice drink.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Soda: The Great Debate

Remember when the great debate was Pepsi or Coke?

Well, now that debate is a little different. Ugh, soda, how I used to (and sometimes still do) love you! Soda, is it truly Liquid Satan as the Skinny Bitches say? Or is it a Heavenly Sent gift from above? I often feel both ways simultaneously. I have an extreme love/hate relationship with soda, specifically diet soda.

As a previous 2-6 can a day soda guzzler, I went nearly 3 full months cold turkey. I truly was an addict going through withdrawls, which was very frightening and concerning to me. When I read the ingredients in soda (diet or regular) I know it can't be good for me since I cannot naturally find those ingredients in a grocery store or even pronounce some of them. I also know that since I was highly addicted and felt anxious if I went too long without one, that it cannot be good for me.

However, on the flip side, I know when I taste that bubbly carbonated mess of ingredients, something in me calms down. I am like an alcoholic, just with straight soda instead of the alcohol. I cannot just have one once and awhile. I slip up and get back into a daily routine. I'm still currently fighting my desire to have one at this very moment as I sit down to type this.

At this present time, I've created a set of rules that surround soda. Am I an addict justifying a weakness of desire? Here are my rules:

  1. Absolutely no more than one soda a week, including mixed drinks if I go out.
  2. I may have a soda if I am going to be driving in the car longer than 2 hours.
  3. I only have diet soda (which has never been a problem for me, I hate regular soda).
  4. If I find myself binging and losing control, I must go on a minimum of a month detox from it.
  5. Drink it through a straw whenever possible so as not to stain my teeth.
Am I alone in this? Is there anyone else out there struggling with this very same battle? Am I weak and just attempting to sugar coat a serious addiction? Who knows? The only thing that I do know for sure is that this is a process. A long, slow, wonderful and terrible process. Just in case you want to do a little research of your own on soda, here are some links to the new great debate. There aren't a whole lot of articles out there that tell you to go ahead and guzzle diet soda down as much as you want... There's probably good reason for that.

For the love of __________?

I think at this time of year I seriously struggle with seasonal depression. I get crabby with my students, moodier, edgier and I'm just itching for sunshine and green plants and grass. When I find myself struggling I have a major tendency to overindulge in lots of 'naughty' food (think deep fried, greasy, more ingredients than you can pronounce, fatty, etc).

Normally, I would just blame it on PMS or give it some other lame excuse. However, I am slowly learning that at this time of year (not spring, not winter, just a slushy, messy gross nasty in-between time that is rarely warm in Wisconsin) every year, I feel the same way. I want to get away with my boyfriend for spring break, but it still feels far away. I want to lose weight to get away for spring break and look decent (by my standards not society's) in a swim suit. I want to feel more in touch with my body.

Well, I'm back to stress eating and overindulging right now. However, I'm finding that with not eating meat, my indulgences are slightly less severe. My binge eating isn't on things that cause my arteries to swell shut or curse me. Yes, I still find myself eating the last chip of the bag wondering how that happened and where the entire bag went, BUT it's happening less frequently and I'm finding I have a little more self-control than I used to.

In general, I'm eating less processed food than before (though certainly not completely out of my diet yet). When I'm dying for a greasy burger that's quick and easy, I have a meatless black bean patty. My favorite being Gardenburger's Black Bean Chipotle burgers. That variety and 4 others are all vegan. I also loved Moringstar's Buffalo Wing Veggie Wings. That's one thing that I often crave, but have to quickly remind myself of the grossly maltreated chickens as well as the disgusting genetically modified and growth hormones I'd be ingesting.

What it comes down to for me, is being thankful that slowly, very very slowly, I'm transitioning from being 'that girl' (or guy) who just shovels food into her mouth without thinking about it or even stopping to figure out if I'm truly hungry. So yes, I am still a binger at times. Most definitely.

I've become more conscious of cheese products and am trying to slowly wean myself from dairy. Though I really have to tell you, growing up in Wisconsin and being able to give up cheese is definitely a huge undertaking, especially when your mother and grandparents were dairy farmers themselves. However, if T. Colin Campbell can give it all up and show us the light, I can slowly bring myself to get there, right? I won't completely promise that right now, but I will say I'm working on it.

Everyday I need to remind myself of the following:
I am doing this for the love animals, ALL animals.
I am doing this for the love of the planet.
I am doing this for the love of my health.
I am doing this for the love of feeling more in control of my food binges.
I am doing this for the love of setting what I feel is a good example.
I am doing this for the love of really really really good food that is cruelty free.

So, figure out what you love, and go for it! Take baby steps and try to get there with us. Don't follow this guy's lead.