Thursday, August 30, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

I thought my second post should perhaps start at the beginning - with breakfast!

In thinking about beginnings, I was brought back to the first few weeks of being vegan earlier this year. I feel that I should warn you about a few things if you do decide to try being vegan. Knowing these might help you make it over the three-week hump - that's about as long as you'll need before your body starts to actually enjoy being vegan.

First, you might get a bit of an upset stomach during the first week or two. Your body is likely not used to so many excellent foods, so it might rebel. This is totally normal and temporary.

Second, you might get increased acne. At least, I did! I have pretty much always had good skin - not many pimples, even in my teenage years. But when I chose to become vegan, all of a sudden I broke out a lot! It made me question my decision to eat this way... but luckily I stuck it out and after a couple of weeks the pimples were gone and I was back to even better skin than before! I figure it was my body detoxing out all of the nasty stuff I'd been putting into it. Some sites I've read warn that you might get pimples as a vegan from increasing your soy intake, but we ate about as much soy as we did before becoming vegan so I don't think that explains it for me.

Third, you will crave all of the old stuff you were eating. Try your best not to give in, but if you have to, eat a small amount. It's best not to eat it at all as this will help your body re-orient itself to enjoying vegan food faster. But, do what you need to do to stick with the program, even if it means "cheating" a little in the beginning. Eventually, you won't want to eat all of the meat, dairy, processed foods, etc. that you used to - you just need to get past the hardest part.

So, that's really what you need to be aware of at the beginning - it will take about three weeks to one month to really start enjoying being vegan. If you're committed, just give it time!

And now on to breakfast...

Before becoming vegan, I ate cereal and skim milk every morning. Truthfully, I eat almost the same thing now, although my cereals are healthier (granola, All Bran Buds), and I've switched the skim milk for almond milk (for a super yummy treat, try the Vanilla Almond Milk, or even better, Dark Chocolate Almond Milk - but limit these since they have way more sugar than the unsweetened variety). I do switch it up a bit too and sometimes eat oatmeal. I'm not a big fan of goopy, hot oatmeal, so I've had to develop my own way to eat it. And so we come to my first recipe! 

Vegan Olie's Daystarter Power Breakfast
Yield: 1 serving

Note: this is a make-ahead breakfast. You need to get it in the fridge the night before you eat it.

1/2 cup (125 ml) old-fashioned large-flake oats (not quick oats)
1 cup (250 ml) almond milk (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) dried goji berries
2 Tbsp (30 ml) hemp hearts

  1. Mix together the oats, almond milk, and goji berries in an appropriately-sized bowl. Note: you can always switch the goji berries for raisins if you can't find any or you run out.
  2. Cover bowl with saran wrap or an upside-down plate and place in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the almond milk to soften both the oats and berries to a nice eating consistency.
  3. Remove from refrigerator and add hemp hearts.
  4. Serve cold, or you could warm it up if you really wanted to, but I find it's yummiest cold. The oats still hold their shape when it's cold, so it's not too goopy.
And there you have it - an excellent vegan breakfast with lots of protein and other good nutrients. Plus, it's sweet, creamy, and satisfying.

Never tried almond milk, hemp hearts or goji berries? Well, here's what they look like:

Where can you buy them? I buy both the hemp hearts and almond milk at Costco, but I've seen them in most grocery stores too. These are actually fresh goji berries (I'm out of the dried ones). I buy the dried ones from a health food store called Galloway's. I've never seen the fresh ones being sold - these are from my mother-in-law's back yard.

And what makes this breakfast so rich in nutrients? Here is just a part of the nutrition in each of the ingredients (percents are based on a 2000 calorie/day diet). Keep in mind that these numbers are approximate, as they can vary based on when the items were harvested, where they were grown, etc.

  • Oats: 190 calories, 3 g fat, 8 g protein, 5 g fibre, 12% of your daily iron
  • Almond milk: 40 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g protein, 1 g fibre, 30% of your daily calcium
  • Goji berries: 45 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0.5 g protein, 1 g fibre, 70% of your daily Vitamin A, 5% of your daily iron
  • Hemp hearts: 110 calories, 9 g fat, 7 g protein, 2 g fibre, 20% of your daily iron (and a huge number of other vitamins and minerals)

So, overall you're looking at 385 calories, 16 g fat (all good, natural whole-plant fat), 16.5 g protein (the average person only needs about 50 g per day), 9 g fibre (that's almost half of what you need per day), 37% of your iron, 30% of your calcium, and 70% of your vitamin A. And, there are a ton of other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that you also find in these foods that all work together to make it a healthy, whole-food start to your day. Not bad for a simple four-ingredient breakfast!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adventures in Nutrition

Welcome to my brand new blog! I thought I'd start it out by telling you a little about myself and why I decided to create this blog. First, about me. I'm a Home Economics teacher; I teach high school students about nutrition, food preparation, and issues surrounding food. As such, I considered myself to be relatively knowledgeable about what "good" nutrition is. I was raised on the standard western diet - heavy on meat, dairy, and processed foods. I did go through periods of trying to eat "healthier" by choosing chicken breast over beef, skim milk over 2%, staying away from overly processed foods, etc., but I could never seem to get a handle on my weight. I've tried a bunch of diets, including Weight Watchers and LA Weight Loss. While I lost weight on both, I was never able to keep it off because those "diets" are all about controlling your calorie intake - once you go off them, you just start eating more and end up right back where you started! After giving birth to my son a few years ago, I found that I just couldn't lose weight. I had neither the time nor the energy to do it. I needed something new... I needed a complete lifestyle change that I could commit to for the rest of my life so that once I did lose the weight, I would keep it off for good.

And then one fateful day I decided to watch the documentary "Forks Over Knives." For those who haven't seen this film, it basically provides a very convincing argument for switching to a whole-foods plant-based diet. It's somewhat inspired by the book The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I was intrigued by the movie and decided to read The China Study to learn more. And wow, did I learn! I was so convinced by the book and the movie that I decided to suggest going vegan to my husband. Luckily, he agreed to give it a try!

Since I was very interested in learning more about this new diet we were embarking upon, I decided to also take a course that was advertised in the back of The China Study book. It was through eCornell (Cornell University's online continuing education branch),  and was sponsored by the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. So, after three two-week courses, I am now a proud holder of a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition. Check out more info on this program here - I highly recommend it!

So, it's now been about four months since we became vegan, and I am absolutely loving it! I have never felt better in my life. Weird aches and pains that I used to have are gone, my weight has started to drop (with the help of a killer boot camp program!), and I have more energy than I used to. I have learned to love plant foods in all of their gorgeous colours and delicious flavours! I decided that I better start telling people about how awesome this holistic lifestyle is... hence, this blog. I believe becoming vegan changed my life, and I believe it can change yours too.

I will try to post regularly with awesome recipes we have made, and I hope you will try making them too! I'll also be adding commentary from what I learned during my certificate courses to help you understand more about why whole-foods plant-based nutrition is the way to true health. Thanks for joining me on this culinary and health adventure...