The 9 Easiest and Eco-friendly Gifts for Wannabe Vegans

You may think that it will be difficult to find an appropriate gift for anyone on your list that is a wannabe vegan. Luckily, for you, I have come up with a brilliant plan that is easy and eco-friendly; eBooks can be downloaded, sent as a gift and read on an electronic device like a Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, Blackberry, PC or Mac.

Here are my top picks for the Wannabe Vegan in your life. They cover my three favorite topics of health, spirit and environment:

Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
by Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

This is a gripping, personal book by a recovered cosmetics addict with a great factual range on the impact of an unregulated group of companies, which have chemicalized the commercialization of beauty. This book should be read by women and men who have trusted, for too long, the companies whose products get inside their bodies and their minds, to the detriment of their health. Governments should require pre-market testing for safety. Ms. Malkan provides them with the evidence to finally act on behalf of consumers. – Ralph Nader

World Peace Diet
by Will Tuttle, PhD, speaker, educator, author, and musician
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Food is our most intimate and telling connection both with the living natural order and our cultural heritage. By eating the plants and animals of our earth, we literally incorporate them. The World Peace Diet presents the outlines of a more empowering understanding of our world, based on a comprehension of the far-reaching implications of our food choices and the worldview those choices reflect and mandate. The author offers a set of universal principles for all people of conscience, from any religious tradition, that they can follow to reconnect with what we are eating, what was required to get it on our plate, and what happens after it leaves our plates.

Animal Factory
by David Kirby, Journalist
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

In this thoroughly researched book, Kirby follows three families and communities whose lives are utterly changed by immense neighboring animal farms. These facilities, known as “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs, confine thousands of pigs, dairy cattle, and poultry in small spaces, often under stressful conditions, and generate enormous volumes of fecal and biological waste as well as other toxins. Animal Factory is an important book about our American food system gone terribly wrong—and the people who are fighting to restore sustainable farming practices and safe natural resources.

The China Study
by Thomas M. Kimble
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Referred to as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” by The New York Times, this study examines more than 350 variables of health and nutrition with surveys from 6,500 adults in more than 2,500 counties across China and Taiwan, and conclusively demonstrates the link between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. While revealing that proper nutrition can have a dramatic effect on reducing and reversing these ailments as well as curbing obesity, this text calls into question the practices of many of the current dietary programs, such as the Atkins diet, that are widely popular in the West. The politics of nutrition and the impact of special interest groups in the creation and dissemination of public information are also discussed.

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism
by Melanie Joy, PhD
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

One of the most thought-provoking books in decades. The realization that we’ve been conditioned throughout our entire lives to think and act a certain way toward animals, and that we’ve been so disconnected from ourselves and our fellow beings, gives us a chance to make our choices freely. – Heather Mills

Institutionalized, socially sanctioned violence on an unprecedented scale causes the needless suffering of billions of animals every year. In her groundbreaking book, Melanie Joy shakes up the completely arbitrary thinking that enables people to, at the same time, treat some animals as friends and look the other way while others are ruthlessly exploited as commodities. – Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary

From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture
by Gary Holthaus
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Gary Holthaus demonstrates how outside economic, governmental, legal, and business developments play an increasingly influential, if not controlling, role in every farmer’s life. The swift approval of genetically modified crops by the federal government, the formation of huge agricultural conglomerates, and the devastating environmental effects of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are just a few issues buffeting family farms. From the Farm to the Table explores farmers’ experiences to offer a deeper understanding of how we can create sustainable and vibrant land-based communities by adhering to fundamental agrarian values.

Never Be Sick Again: Health is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It
by Raymond Francis
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Health doesn’t happen by chance, but by choice, and you can take steps now to ensure that you will live free of the diseases that plague our society. A life-threatening medical condition led Ray Francis, a chemist and graduate of MIT, to formulate a revolutionary theory of health and disease: there is only one disease, only two causes of disease, and six pathways to health and disease. His findings and astounding recovery supported his conclusion that almost all diseases can be both prevented and reversed. This remarkable book is health in one lesson. It cuts through the confusion, demystifies disease and gives you answers to these questions: What is health? What is disease? Why do people get sick? How can disease be prevented? How can it be reversed? Through provocative case studies and cutting-edge scientific research, you will learn an entirely new way to look at health and disease. It is an approach that is easy to understand, yet so powerful that you may, indeed, never have to be sick again.

The Animal Manifesto: Six Reason for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint
by Marc Bekoff, PhD
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Following the premises that animals both feel and convey emotion, are capable of actions that are motivated by compassion, and exhibit attitudes of kindness and empathy, preeminent ethologist and prolific author Bekoff comprehensively posits that the time has come for humans to return the favor. Just as environmental activists advocate reducing one’s carbon footprint in order to live more responsibly, Bekoff argues that expanding one’s compassion footprint, that is, treating animals more humanely, can have equally beneficial consequences. Supporting current scientific research with a wide range of anecdotal evidence, Bekoff outlines six guiding principles designed to increase awareness of the deplorable conditions animals experience across a broad spectrum of activities. From food production to circus acts, drug testing to wildlife encroachment, animals have long been considered objects to be manipulated for the express pleasure and benefit of humans. Unabashedly speaking on their behalf, Bekoff presents impassioned reasons why, and explicit ways in which, such destructive behaviors should stop. – Carol Haggas

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter
by Peter Singer and Jim Mason
Kindle (compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC and Mac)

Less concerned with what people choose to eat per se, Singer and Mason make a case for how people’s everyday food choices affect others’ lives. They describe in vivid detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost savings occur at the expense of animals raised for profit and for product. Using Wal-Mart as an example, they lay out how huge retailers wield enormous power over prices and compel those far up the chain of food production and distribution to make unhelpful decisions. They hold up for admiration a Kansas family that has turned vegan so as not to participate in this particular destructive cycle of animal and human exploitation. They also thoughtfully and critically examine the ethical pros and cons of eating meat in any form. Urban dwellers far removed from the source of the foods they eat will find Singer and Mason’s descriptions of food production more disturbing and violent than the quiet, attractive, plastic-wrapped displays in the local supermarket’s pristine meat case. – Mark Knoblauch

Do you have any thoughts and/or suggestions for Wannabe Vegan gifts this season? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

Is There Grace in Your Gratefulness?

As a wannabe vegan, I am confronted with a lot of things I have taken for granted in the past. Almost every decision I am making requires more evaluation and understanding about where I stand on issues: What am I willing to compromise on? How steadfast am I in my convictions? How do I ‘really’ feel about something? I appreciate the opportunities to better understand myself and those around me. But I have to admit I still struggle.

One issue that has been at the forefront of my mind lately is gratitude. Mostly because of Thanksgiving and my desire to shift my opinion about it. I no longer want to be the cranky relative who begrudgingly attends out of guilt. I want to be happy, enjoy myself and appreciate the kindness and love that is experienced when you are with family and friends. So, I have been on a mission to understand what gratitude is for me and how I can be more grateful.

I know that on a spiritual level, I feel very good when I recognize, acknowledge and am sincerely grateful for the beauty, people and experiences in my life. The issue that sometimes hinders me is how to do it. I get caught up in the appropriate way to write a Thank You card or whether or not I should keep a Gratitude Journal or if I should publicly or privately thank someone. I get distracted from the original intention of ‘being’ grateful by ‘doing’ grateful. So I dug a bit deeper to find the root of what this is about in hopes that it would help me overcome this hurdle.

As I was reading blogs, articles and quotes about gratitude, I had a thought. Where did this word ‘grateful’ even come from? What did it originally  mean anyway? Maybe we all have it mixed up with some other word that really means being cranky! Now that would be ironic wouldn’t it!? I digress . . . What I found was that grateful comes from the Latin word “gratia” which means “grace” or “thanks” and the English root “ful(l)” meaning “full of” or “with.”

The idea that by being grateful, you are being graceful, really struck a chord in me. When I think of grace I think of serenity, elegance and peace. I don’t think of how I can attain it or how others may have been blessed by it, it just ‘is.’ It is in those moments of full connection to everything around you. In those moments of awareness of how everything is absolutely perfect. Moments of no judgment; just acceptance and recognition. That is why it feels so special – because you know it is truth realized.

Those moments are flowing and freely experienced. They are not contrived or forced. And they certainly are not bound by the definition of what is appropriate or not appropriate in certain social situations. Can this also be true for gratefulness? I think so. I think it might make things a heck of a lot easier for people like me who tend to over-think things, try too hard and in the end do not take action because of the fear they are not doing it correctly.

So I’m going to shift things a bit this week. I am going to connect to the grace of what is and be content with my desire to be grateful. I hope you join me and we can all experience the beauty and perfection of what surrounds us and truly enjoy a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Does this resonate with you? Do you have any thoughts and/or suggestions? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

Image courtesy of Embroidery Library.

Help the Hens in Battery Cages by Replacing Your Eggs

According to the American Egg Board, the U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs per year. That enormous amount is being produced by the more than 325 million egg laying hens confined in battery cages (small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses). Those shockingly high figures only represent 10% of worldwide egg production. Of course, this kind of massive production is in response to demand. Fortunately, demand is something we all have control over when making food choices for ourselves and our families.

My food choices became much easier for me a few years ago when I realized that I was eating an embryo of another animal when I was eating an egg. I distinctly remember the moment when I cracked an egg to discover 2 yolks and immediately had the image of twins in my mind. I realized that each egg I had eaten could have been a living thing if the natural course of events would not have been interrupted by an industry who knew I would buy what they were selling. Anyone else have the Incredible Edible Egg tune in their head right now?

So if you are disturbed by my last post and do not want to contribute to the suffering of animals, a seemingly small yet amazingly effective change you can make is to reduce or eliminate eggs from your diet. To make this a simple and easy decision, I wanted to give you some wannabe vegan options that are readily available, much healthier and guilt-free.

Each one of the following is equivalent to one egg:

  • 1/4 cup plain silken or soft organic tofu ( non-organic is made from GM soy)
  • 1 organic banana (assuming the flavor goes well with the rest of the ingredients)
  • 1/4 cup organic applesauce or pureed prunes (you may want to add 1/2 tsp baking powder to offset the heaviness of the fruit)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground organic flax seed in 3 Tbsp. water (my personal favorite for baking)

If you are looking to replace egg whites in a recipe:

  1. 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

There are also a lot of pre-made egg replacements you can buy at the grocery but I avoid using them. They have a lot of what I consider unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients because they need to be preserved in order to be shipped and sit on store shelves. It doesn’t make sense to me to replace something unhealthy with something potentially even more unhealthy because of convenience.

So, please take some small steps in the direction of compassion by using less or no eggs in your diet. I, along with all of the future hens who will be saved because of the reduction in demand, will be forever grateful.

If you want to learn more about hens in factory farms, please visit:

If you would like to see more statistics about egg production and consumption, the USDA website has very up-to-date reports and tables you can download.

Let me know if you have any thoughts and/or suggestions about egg production or using egg replacements in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

How are Poultry Farms Affecting the Environment?

I had read sections of books about factory farming of poultry in the U.S., knew that it sounded awful, but I really didn’t feel like I knew the details. What I have discovered in this past week is very disturbing. I have written this post so that you can get a glimpse into what is going on. I am hoping that if you haven’t already, this may prompt you to stop buying and eating poultry all together. If you are already a vegetarian or vegan, I am hoping that it will provide the information you need to inform others who may still be buying and consuming poultry products.

First, poultry is defined as a category of domesticated birds kept by humans for the purpose of collecting their eggs, or killing them for their meat and/or feathers. This include chickens, turkeys, ducks, quails and pheasants. If the definition isn’t enough to turn your stomach, the way in which the process has evolved will.

As the need for eggs and meat have grown over the years, poultry companies have turned to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations aka ‘factory farming’ of the poultry in order to reduce costs and increase production. According to the National Chicken Council, more than 99% of the poultry consumed by humans are produced on these factory farms.

Now, at first, this may seem like a reasonable reaction aka ‘supply and demand’ but we are not talking about widgets here – we are talking about living creatures who are being confined in horrendous environments, workers being exposed to horrific amounts of chemicals and land being polluted by waste products.

All of this is going on in multiple areas of the United States and in most cases, the only people who knew about how it was changing the environment were the ones directly affected. But, I believe it has gone past that point; we are all affected by the environmental hazards being created by these massive poultry farms.

Although the conditions in these factory farms for the animals and the humans is a topic that should be discussed, I will postpone discussion of it in order to focus on the environmental aspects in this post.

Let’s look at a specific example of what these farms are doing to the land and the environment.

More than 600 million chickens a year are raised in the Delamarva Peninsula near the Chesapeake Bay. The chickens produce more manure than a city of four million people but instead of being handled like human waste, it is spread on fields. Poultry manure is extremely high in ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus – all considered serious potential pollutants. Half of the poultry manure that is spread on fields washes into the rivers and streams or gets into the groundwater. This means that toxic waste is going into the underground aquifers used for human drinking water and into natural bodies of water where it collects and wreaks havoc on the fragile ecosystems.

Ammonia is toxic to aquatic life and reduces the level of oxygen. Too much ammonia and other forms of nitrogen can lead to fish kills, reduced biodiversity, and growth of toxic organisms. These affects have been clearly seen in the Chesapeake Bay ‘dead zones.’ Some of these stretch for 100 miles down the central portion of the bay.

Poultry operations produce more excess nitrogen (meaning they cannot use the manure as fertilizer) than other animal producers because poultry  manure contains more nitrogen and poultry operations typically have a much smaller land area over which to spread manure. Nitrogen oxides, produced by the breaking down of manure contributes to accumulation of greenhouse gases. They also play an important role in the atmospheric reactions that create smog and acid rain.

If excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen are added to bodies of water, algae and aquatic plants can be produced in large quantities. When these algae die, bacteria decompose them, and use up oxygen. When this happens, oxygen concentrations can drop too low for fish to breathe, leading to fish kills, and the premature ‘aging’ of a lake.

Unfortunately, this is happening all over the US. In places like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, New Jersey, and Missouri whole communities are being adversely affected by the poultry factory farms. In some areas the odor around these factory farms is so toxic and harsh, people living nearby cannot breathe without gagging or coughing. Some people become nauseated, experience stomach cramps and diarrhea and develop sores on their mouths. The foul smell also attracts rats and flies which can sometimes overtake large areas near the factory farms including residences and small family farms.

As a wannabe vegan, there have been times I have been tempted to eat chicken (one of my favorites used to be Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwiches!) but this has solidified my resolve to never eat chicken or any other kind of poultry again. Not just for the sake of my health, but for the well being of all of those families that are being infected and affected by the pollution from these facilities. Please join me in learning as much as you can about what is happening and doing all you can to stop the practices that are ruining the environment we live in.

Let me know if you have any thoughts and/or suggestions about eating too much protein in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

For more information, please visit:

What happens when you eat too much protein?

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I would elaborate on what can happen to your body when you consume too much protein.

If you take in more protein than your body needs:

  1. you are also taking in more nitrogen so your kidneys have to work overtime to expel the extra urea and ketones through your urine. The additional strain over a long period of time may cause kidney disease.
  2. you are more prone to being dehydrated and mineral deficient (mostly calcium) since the process of expelling the extra protein leaches these from your system. This may lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones.
  3. you are more likely to development food allergies because the stress on your digestive system to rid itself of the extra protein can make you more susceptible
  4. by consuming animal protein, you are more prone to obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer because of the high cholesterol, natural carcinogens and absence of fiber in meat and dairy products. Processed meat ‘foods’ are the worst.

Symptoms of too much protein include:

  1. Headaches
  2. Body aches
  3. Mucous production when you eat
  4. Food allergies
  5. Bone and tooth decay
  6. Arthritis (high uric acid levels eat away at the cartilage in joints)

So what should everyone do to make sure they are getting enough, but not too much protein? First, get a good mix of proteins by eating a variety of foods. Eat a diverse and balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, bean, nuts, and whole grains to give your body what it needs. Second, exercise and drink lots of water. This will help your kidneys flush waste out of your system more effectively. Third, make sure you are getting enough calcium. Good, whole food sources of calcium are sesame seeds, spinach, and collard greens.

Balance is what is all about. So with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, be sure to remember to be gentle with your body and eat in moderation so that you will be healthy enough to be grateful in the coming year.

Let me know if you have any thoughts and/or suggestions about eating too much protein in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

Why is everyone asking me about protein?

Since I have started telling people about becoming a wannabe vegan, I have noticed that the first question out of most people’s mouths is, “How do you get enough protein?” I am perplexed by this question because I never considered protein to be the end-all and be-all of what I choose to eat. I think maybe it is because I tend to ignore all of the meat and dairy commercials that tout themselves as the perfect food because they contain so much protein. That, along with the fact that I am healthy and energetic tells me that a vegan diet is giving my body what it needs.

But, in the interest of being well informed I decided to do a little investigation into protein. I was hoping it would give me a clear response to that common question that will inspire others to learn more about protein too and how they can make sure they are making a balanced and informed decision about what they eat. I also hoped to provide you with a response you may wish to use when you are asked that question in the future.

A Collagen Protein

So, let’s start with the basics. Protein is a catch-all term to describe the combination of amino acids in our bodies that create tissue. The amino acids are ‘building blocks’ that combine to produce different things like organs, skin, muscle and nails. Each one is unique but all are essential to good health. Our bodies can produce some of these amino acids on its own but some must be obtained through our diet. These are known as ‘essential amino acids’ and we need about 50 grams a day.

To be more accurate, the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight or about 10% of your total calories. This is for normal, healthy people who do not have special circumstances to consider, like pregnant women, athletes, etc. Do the calculation for yourself to be sure what you need and then adjust if necessary.

Most sources I reviewed said that it is quite easy to get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein through a varied diet of veggies, legumes and grains. Some vegan sources of exceptional amounts of protein are tempeh, seitan, soybeans, lentils, spinach and kale. Flax seed, hemp seed and spirulina are also good sources of protein that are easily worked into any diet by using them in smoothies or salad dressings. But I was still curious why everyone was making such a big deal about the whole thing. Is being protein deficient a real cause for concern?

According to the experts, it is VERY rare to be protein deficient in the US since we have numerous sources of healthy food and protein. (An exception would be someone purposely depriving themselves of all food because of an eating disorder.) If you are concerned that it may be an issue, common signs that you may not be getting enough protein are apathy, swollen legs, distended belly and flaky skin. These are caused by your body using its muscle mass as its source of protein which can start a vicious cycle of malnutrition.

Yummy Lentil Soup

But I think what more people should be worried about is getting too MUCH protein. If more than 30% of your total calories are protein you could be doing more harm than good. Your body cannot store excess protein so it must metabolize it. In order to do this, it must take calcium and water from your body. This stresses your kidneys and can cause calcium deficiency and dehydration. Unfortunately, getting too much protein is very easy to do when you are following the Standard American Diet (SAD). This combined with the fact that most meat sources also have high amounts of saturated fat make them a less than ideal food choice for someone trying to be healthy.

So, when someone asks you, “Aren’t you concerned about getting enough protein?” you can say, “No, not really. Vegetables are a great source and I make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes beans, nuts and seeds – all of which contain a lot of protein – so I’m not worried at all.” and before the pause is too long, add in, “Aren’t you worried about getting too much protein?” and see where that takes the conversation.

Let me know how using this response works out for you and if you have any other suggestions in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

If you would like to calculate exactly how much protein you need, please go to The Protein Calculator.

If you would like to see a listing of foods and their protein content, you can download the USDA listing (in pdf format). If you go to the USDA website, there are a multitude of other nutritional resources and information.

2 Easy Vegan Recipes to Bring to Your Thanksgiving Celebration

In my previous post, I mentioned that I would be bringing a couple of vegan dishes to Thanksgiving. After some careful consideration, I have decided on the following recipes that are easy, vegan and perfect for Thanksgiving. I hope it gives you some inspiration to bring some yummy dishes to your celebration.

CRANBERRY CHUTNEY (via In a Vegetarian Kitchen)
Makes 8 servings

Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup peeled, diced apple
  • 1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup, to taste

Directions

Place all the ingredients except the agave nectar in a deep saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat with the lid slightly ajar for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Add agave nectar to taste and simmer uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes until thick. Let the chutney cool to room temperature, then store in a sterilized jar, tightly covered but not sealed. Refrigerate until needed. Before serving, bring to room temperature.

I am going to make this beforehand and put it in some jars so that they are easily transportable (we’re driving ~600 miles). I might even make some really nice labels and put some ribbons around it so that it will be a nice looking gift.

The second dish I will bring is a Mediterranean Kale Salad. I first discovered this amazing recipe by Jennifer Cornbleet on YouTube and have made variations of it numerous times.

MEDITERRANEAN KALE SALAD (via LearnRawFood.com)
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large kale leaves
  • 2 cups red, raw, sweet peppers
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I have also used flaxseed oil for a nuttier taste)
  • juice from a whole lemon
  • 24 almonds or pine nuts chopped or slivered
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 24 jumbo sliced black or kalamata olives

Directions

De-vein the kale, then roll up 2 kale leaves at a time and slice thinly to make thin, long strips. Place in a bowl with olive oil, salt and lemon juice, and dig in your (clean) hands and massage the kale in the liquids. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Lasts for 3 days refrigerated, tastes better if left to marinate for a little bit.

Jennifer has done an incredible video showing how to make the salad. Check it out below:

Let me know if you try these out and what you think of them. I would also love to hear any other suggestions you might have for tasty vegan Thanksgiving recipes in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.