Archive for May, 2007

eric

National Vegetarian Week

Our friends across the big pond are celebrating their 15th annual National Vegetarian Week, next week, May 21-27th.  The event is organized by The Vegetarian Society, the world’s oldest vegetarian society, formed in 1847.  The goal of National Vegetarian Week is to raise awareness to the food, lifestyle and health benefits of the vegetarian diet. 

This year the event will also focus on the environmental benefits to going vegetarian.  This is a hot topic right now and it’s clear that a veg diet significantly reduces our impact on the planet. 

Local events are scheduled throughout the UK next week, be sure to check out the website to find things going on in your area.  For us here in the U.S. I’m not aware of any organized events, but what better time to give vegetarianism a try on your own?  Theoretically, you could consolidate the next seven weeks of veg-one-day-a-week into one week.  Just an idea! ;)

NVW

eric

Veg Travel

So you’ve put in your time at the workplace and the boss man (or woman) is going to let you take some of that well earned vacation you have been saving.  You pack your bags, book a flight, buy some sunscreen and you’re outta there.  But…what are you going to do about your veg day once you arrive at your destination?  I’ve compiled a list of links that will help you find many of the resources you may need during your travels.  I will add these to the wannaveg.com/resources page.

Vegetarian Phrases-  These are some common phrases in over 60 languages to help you communicate that you’re a vegetarian.

Restaurant and Health Food-  Our friends at Happycow.net have an excellent resource for vegetarians on the move.  The restaurant locater also allows people to post reviews and recommendations.   I have personally used this site for my travels in the U.S. and Western/Central Europe.  It is an indispensable tool.

Airline Food- This site has tons of information on vegetarian food in-flight.  It also has detailed information on each airline’s policies and guidelines.  As a personal tip, it’s usually best to bring your own, especially for short trips.

Hotel Chains-  A list of hotel chains that "get it."

Veg Guide-  This is a guide to help you plan your travels.  For example, be flexible…if you’re a strict vegan, Mongolia will be more difficult for you than London.

Veg Database- This site covers accommodations, shopping, people and everything in between.

Carbon Offsets-  That flight you just took across the U.S. dumped 1,900lbs of CO2 and used 100 gallons of fuel.  That’s for your seat alone!  You can buy alternative energy credits to offset your travels.

Do you have any more?  Let us know about them and I will add them to the list.

eric

Food is the devil!

snack wellRemember a few years ago when Nabisco introduced the "SnackWells" line of cookies?  They were touted as low-fat, no guilt treats and they flew off the shelves!  At the time no one was really paying attention to the fact that they had almost double the calories (from sugar) as their higher fat cookie peers.  That was the low-fat fad of the American diet.  Then Dr. Heart Disease, er um, Atkins came around and said don’t eat sugar, we should only eat meat and for gods sake, don’t eat fruits and limit your vegetable intake.  People tried that, lost weight but found it difficult to maintain a high protein diet.  The last remaining Atkins hold-outs fell off the wagon a year or so ago.  Off to the next fad….

As an aside, being a vegetarian, I have never really encountered a situation or restaurant where I haven’t been able to eat something…during the Atkins craze, my diet was much more flexible than the meat and cheese people.  When we would go out to lunch, I found that I was pretty much able to go anywhere to eat, whilst the Atkins folks had few choices.   For example, have you seen an "Atkins Pizza"?  It’s all the meat toppings and cheese in a box.  Delicious.

Tom Philpott over at grist.org has a good article on all these food phobias.  Back in the 1970’s everyone freaked out about butter and switched to margarine, the little partially-hydrogenated "butter spread" that turned out to be worse for us than eating butter itself.  His point is that everything taken in moderation is the way to go.  I agree wholehearted and believe this also applies to meat, and going veg one day a week can help moderate its consumption.  There is no need for such extreme swings in our diets.  When it comes to eating…common sense tends to be the best diet.

Carlo Petrini, the author of "Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food System Should Be Good Clean and Fair", made his first stop on his U.S. tour in Portland, OR on May 8th.  There he gave a speech on industrialized agriculture, inexpensive food, obesity and skyrocketing health costs are destructive practices that must be dealt with.  I recently wrote about his impending tour here.

A couple of interesting points from his speech included his view on on food "elitists" and the practicality of slow food in the modern world.

People who support Slow Food are not elitists, Petrini said. People have criticized the movement, saying its members and followers want to turn back the clock and that they "are not living in the real world." He disagrees.

The increasing numbers of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture networks and a growing ecological movement shows the Slow Food Nation revolution is well underway in the United States.

Read the whole article at Capital Press

eric

Suicide Food

While researching today’s post, I came across this odd blog that depicts animals as though they want to be eaten.  However, after I thought about it, I concluded that the actual blog was not odd, but the contents of it are.  Throughout our lives we are inundated with advertising, marketing and commercials.  After awhile you become numb to it and quit paying attention.  This is exactly what the suicide food blog is trying to call attention to.  How often have you driven by a BBQ place to see a pig on the sign holding a knife and a fork….as though it’s going to eat itself?   One of the signs on suicide food shows pigs running and jumping into a meat grinder on a neon sign, inferring "self-made sausages".

This is not an animal rights website, that’s not my intent.  I also completely understand that people will most likely never stop eating meat….but depicting animals as if they choose to be eaten, now that’s just weird.

It’s not far from the truth!  Researchers predict that if poor countries switched to organic farming methods, they may be able to produce as much or more food than they do currently.  The benefit really shows when the farmers no longer need to depend on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds, thus making it cheaper to farm.   Additionally, farmers would be able to have their crops organically certified, and that would demand a premium on the export market. 

Of course one of the other key benefits to organic farming is its reduced footprint on the environment.  With all kinds of studies showing that the poor will be hardest hit by climate change, it makes sense for poor nations to adopt a more natural way of growing food.  Although, we in industrialized nations need to get with the program faster than poor countries (we produce way more nasty stuff than they do). 

Read the story at the Yahoo News

image credit: WorldBank.org

eric

Diabetes Diet

After spending a combined total of 20 of the last 72 hours on an airplane (or at the airport), I’ve had some time to catch up on some reading.  While not all of it was veg related, I was able to pick out a few good topics to write about this week for the site.  A couple of stories on Type-2 diabetes and how vegetarian and vegan diets can help reduce this disease caught my attention for a couple of reasons…. With such an epidemic of obesity and diet related problems occurring in adults and children throughout the Western world, I thought this topic would be good to focus on this week.  In addition, diabetes personally hits close to home for me, as my father was diagnosed with it about two years ago, and I believe, he is starting to feel its effects.  Simple colds and ‘bugs’ are hanging around a lot longer than they did before he was diagnosed, and I fear that the symptoms are only going to get worse if he doesn’t change the way he eats and starts an exercise program. 

Reliance on diabetes medication is widespread and unfortunately, it seems that many people use the medication as a substitute for changing their lives with a good diet and proper exercise.  The ‘magic’ pills initially helps to stabilize blood sugar, but diabetics quickly become dependent on it, and the pills eventually loses their effect.  These pills are essentially the gateway drugs into more potent concoctions of medicines and insulin, but, in many cases, type-2 Diabetes is preventable and manageable if current and potential patients will turn over a new leaf and modify their diets and lifestyle.    

Recently, a study was done that demonstrated that a low-fat vegan diet based on ADA guidelines improved glycemic and lipid controls in patients with Type-2 diabetes. from WebMD

Researchers have found that a low-fat vegan diet may help type 2 diabetes patients to better manage their disease. In a study published in DiabetesCare, 43% of people with type 2 diabetes who followed a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks reduced the need to take diabetes medications. That’s compared to only 26% who adhered to the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

On average, the vegan group also lost more weight and lowered levels of bad cholesterol. Because people with diabetes are more prone to heart disease, eating with heart health in mind matters as much as blood sugar control.

So…why don’t people diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes immediately change their lifestyles after leaving their doctor’s office?  Whether it is going vegetarian one day a week or full-time or cutting out the fast food, it seems like a lifestyle change should be the real “silver bullet” first step for anyone diagnosed.  But as we know, the answer is never that simple, and change takes education, dedication and vigilance.  I also think that things like initial denial and an unwillingness to break old habits leads to a complacency that is satisfied by the medicine alone.  In truth, it is more than likely a healthy combination of diet, exercise and medical care are needed to manage this disease. 

To bring this back to wannaveg and the mission I have set out to accomplish, I believe that vegetarian lifestyles (even once or twice a week) may still be viewed by some as a counterculture lifestyle (e.g. dirty hippies) instead of what we are- a group of people interested in healthy living that also appreciate the many peripherally benefits to the diet.  From global warming to diabetes, heart disease and weight management, it is my hope that studies like this, recent articles and more websites like wannaveg will bring to light that change is not impossible and that the benefits can be dramatic and life changing! 

I am out of town today, so I decided to put up an article from the past.  The weather looks to be pretty nice around the country….good weekend to visit the farmer’s market.  Have a great weekend, talk to you on Monday!

This article covers five areas that make farmers markets so cool.  Farmer’s markets are making a difference in the way we are eating and are growing in popularity all the time.  This is an excellent trend and I hope it continues.

1.  Freshness
2.  Variety
3.  Organic
4.  Creativity
5.  Cost

Farmer’s Markets, offering fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, nuts, honey, herbs and jams, are becoming more prevalent and increasingly popular in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Cities gladly cordon off designated blocks one morning a week or a month to give residents access to locally grown produce and to stimulate commerce. The Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York City is legendary for bringing the farm to the urbanites and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in Southern California has been called the “crown jewel” of such markets by Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons.

These street markets are changing the way you eat. Farmer’s Markets are influential in food freshness, variety, nutrients, creativity and cost. Here’s how: continue here at Associated Content

There are some purists out there that frown on eating "fake" meat.  I am not one of them.  I don’t eat a lot of it, but every once in awhile I really enjoy a veggie hot dog or hamburger.  This past weekend we went to a charity event that had Yves hot dogs and I must say that they tasted delicious.  With the summer BBQ season on the way, these would make a great companion to take along to your next outdoor feast.  Just a little warning, you probably won’t be taking any home afterward. :)

Since the introduction of these fake meats, the vegetarian’s life has gotten much easier, especially in social situations like BBQ’s.  Fake meats also help people who want to ‘ween’ themselves off of the real thing and move to a more vegetarian lifestyle without having to give up foods they enjoy.  Non-vegetarians benefit from these products by substituting them in many dishes they prepare.  Fake meat is generally lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than its meat counterpart.  When served in spaghetti sauce, casseroles, stews, tacos, etc, most people would have difficulty telling a difference between it and the real thing.

Veg food manufacturers have nearly perfected the art of feat (fake meat, as I like to call it).  The consistency, seasoning and texture of these products are pretty close to the real thing, and they are ever improving.  Restaurants are now starting to offer more and more of this food as a substitute for meat in their dishes.  Vegetarian specific restaurants drawing in as many non-vegetarians as they do vegetarians by offering a diverse menu, much of which can be based on fake meat. 

Here is a list of some of my favorites.  Let us know what yours are!

Veggie Burgers - Dr. Praeger’s or TJ brand tofu burgers.  These can also be ground up to make a ground beef substitute. (can be found at T.J.’s)

Veggie Sausage- Tofurky (can be found at T.J.’s and most supermarkets)

Veggie Hotdogs- Quorn (can be found at most supermarkets)

Veggie Corn Dogs- Morningstar (can be found at most supermarkets)

Veggie Chicken- Quorn Products (can be found at most supermarkets)

Veggie Chorizo- Soyrizo (can be found at most supermarkets)

Veggie Meatballs- Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs (T.J.’s )

Veggie Ground Beef- Morningstar Farms Crumbles (can be found at most supermarkets)

Veggie Hotdogs- Yves Jumbo Dogs (can be found at most supermarkets)

For more information on this topic, check out this story from the Orlando Sentinel

It is refreshing to see studies being performed on ethical consumerism.  Having this information shows us how effective we are at getting the word out and getting us to think about what we’re buying…food or product.  This report is a little dated as it refers to 2005 numbers, but I am confident that the trend has continued upward.  A few figures that had a significant upswing were Organics at 30.5%, Fair Trade at 38.3% and Sustainable Fish at a huge 54.5%.  Another interesting note was that Food Boycotts increased by 17.7%

The value of UK ethical consumerism last year exceeded the sales of ‘over-the-counter’ beer and cigarettes, according to the Co-operative Bank’s annual Ethical Consumerism Report.

The Report, which acts as a barometer of ethical spending in the UK, shows that in 2005 UK ethical consumerism was worth £29.3 billion, for the first time overtaking the retail market for tobacco and alcohol which stood at £28.0 billion.

…Spending on ethical food which includes organic products, Fairtrade goods and free-range eggs was up 18 per cent from £4.6 billion to £5.4 billion. Green home expenditure, which incorporates energy-efficient electrical appliances, green mortgage repayments, small renewables (such as micro-wind turbines) and green energy was up from £3.8 billion to £4.1 billion.

read the whole report here

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