by Heather Borders
My name is Heather and along with my husband Lee, we have been on a plant-based diet since August 2011. Our journey began as we tried to lower Lee’s ever-rising cholesterol. It had always been well into the 200’s during our twenties and we were frustrated when extreme exercise did not help in a significant way. By our mid-thirties, Lee’s total cholesterol was 311 and his triglycerides were 305. He wasn’t overweight and was very physically active, so needless to say we were stumped. Adamantly opposed to medicine, we searched for other ways to lower Lee’s cholesterol.
After a few internet searches, I learned that our liver makes all the cholesterol we need and dietary cholesterol, found in food, can increase total blood cholesterol levels. It turns out that plant food contains no cholesterol and all animal foods have some amount of cholesterol. I stumbled upon the community of researchers and clinicians that provided the data to support the benefit a whole foods, plant- based diet can have on our health. I never thought that veganism would be necessary, or a reason to switch would be for one other than animal ethics. However, my husband and I were on board for what we thought would be a 6 week experiment.
After six weeks, my 5’10” husband went from 170 pounds to 155 pounds, and his total cholesterol went from 311 to 232, and triglycerides from 305 to 103. A year later he was down closer to 200 and has maintained the same weight. After 1.5 years, my total cholesterol also improved from 233 to 179! We are obviously a work in progress, however forever changed by what we have learned in such a short amount of time. We are also so grateful to have found out about the significance of a plant-based diet before we became a statistic. No more waiting for the other shoe to drop or worrying if our genetics have any say in our health!
One of the more difficult aspects of transitioning to a plant-based diet is finding places to eat! In a partnership with The Girls Gone Green
, VegHealthyJax is a community initiative that was created to make it possible and convenient to eat healthy while dining out in Northeast Florida. We were awarded a $1,000 grant from the Pollination Project
towards promotional efforts to help market the local restaurants that agree to offer healthy, plant-based meals. If you are interested in being an active member of this initiative, please join VegHealthyJax on www.meetup.com
As you may have seen in previous No Meat March emails, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that promotes preventative medicine, especially through good nutrition. Food for Life is a PCRM program that offers cancer, diabetes, weight management, and kids classes that focus on the lifesaving effects of healthful eating. Each class includes information about how certain foods and nutrients work to promote health, along with cooking demonstrations of simple and nutritious recipes that can be recreated easily at home. There are over 100 Food For Life instructors across the U.S. and I’m very excited to have been chosen as the instructor for the Jacksonville, FL area. You can keep up with future classes on Facebook by liking ‘Food for Life Jax’ and can check out my bio here
by Heather Olsen, Healthy Eating Specialist
Being an advocate for all things green and leafy is a new thing for me! I was born and raised in Wisconsin, land of all things cheese, and grew up eating the Standard American Diet (or S.A.D.) as did all of my friends. I subsisted on diet soda, candy, processed snack foods and desserts, fast food, dairy in all its forms, and meat at least twice a day. Not surprisingly, I was overweight/obese my entire life. I haven’t eaten land animals in over 12 years but I continued to eat cheese and small amounts of dairy. In fact, when I removed the meat from my plate I replaced it with cheese! I learned firsthand that vegetarian fare isn’t necessarily healthy.
I have been with Whole Foods Market for 6 years now, and I am amazed at all I have learned about healthy eating. When I started I was working as the cake decorator, my sweet tooth took over as I rode the roller coaster of sugar addiction tasting my way through the pastry case. I rationalized: “how can I sell these cakes, cookies, pastries and breads to customers if I haven’t tried them?” You may not be surprised to hear that I gained 30 pounds in 6 short months of eating this way. When I moved to Jacksonville in 2008 to help open the store and joined the marketing team, I swapped cheesecake for fresh strawberries and I haven’t looked back since.
I have been maintaining a 65+ pound weight loss for four years and counting, and I am happy at a “normal” weight without counting calories or stressing over every bite. I went from a bona-fide couch potato that dreaded having to run laps in gym class to completing a couch-to-5K program in 2009. I have so much more energy eating healthy that I have continued running – I finished 3 marathons and 6 half marathons to date – and I love how I feel.
What worked for me was the concept of baby steps: I would take a healthy eating nugget that I learned at work and incorporate it into my life. After a few days I felt a difference in my energy level, my quality of sleep, and my mood. My skin became clearer, and my hair and nails became stronger. These changes motivated me to keep it up and to try more and more positive habits. The number one most important change I made to my way of eating was to enjoy fresh fruit instead of processed sweets, and learning how to make ice cream at home using bananas changed my life – really! Here is a decadent, vegan, super easy recipe for Banana Nice Cream: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/banana-nice-cream
, and a creamy-tart Raspberry Nice Cream: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/raspberry-nice-cream
. Get your blender motors revving!
As the Healthy Eating Specialist for Whole Foods Market – Jacksonville, I am honored to play a role in changing the way my fellow Team Members and customers eat. I truly believe that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach (sharing tasty and satisfying food), and healthy plant-strong meals are the most direct path to a longer and more joyful life. We have the power to increase our quality of life and our health through what we choose to put on our plate. The more colorful the food, the better! Remember that old saying, “eat the colors of the rainbow every day”? Plants are where all the good stuff is – the micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. In fact, Plant-Strong is one of the four pillars of healthy eating in Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating education program: Whole Foods, Plant-Strong, Healthy Fats, and Nutrient Dense.
You can learn more about Health Starts Here, and of course enjoy healthy vegan recipes, by signing up for events at the store: cooking classes, supper clubs, store tours, 28-day challenges, individual consultations, and more! Visit our online calendar of events at: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/events?store=6583
You have a lot to be proud of! Take a moment to reflect on the positive changes you are experiencing as you choose to eat plant-strong, and pat yourself on the back for making healthier choices. My hope is that this experience is the beginning of a new way of life for you. Good nutrition is the foundation of your health, and it’s truly amazing what your body can do when you choose to enjoy whole, nutrient dense foods. Keep up the great work, and I hope to see you at healthy eating events at Whole Foods Market!
About Heather Olsen
Heather Olsen is the Healthy Eating & Green Mission Specialist for Whole Foods Market – Jacksonville, and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach.
Heather facilitates cooking classes, store tours, recipe demonstrations, 28-day challenges, and presentations for groups of all ages, and in addition provides healthy eating consultations to individuals.
Heather has worked for Whole Foods Market for 6 years and she enjoys educating others about the company’s Core Values, in particular healthy eating education and caring about our communities and environment.
As a mom, I can relate to the challenges of feeding kids. They can be so particular and finicky! As a vegan mom, I can share some tips for getting healthy foods into your child. First and foremost - smoothies! Oh smoothies are a mom's best friend. Kids love 'em. I start with bananas as the base, adding strawberry and blueberry usually. Here is where you get creative -- I throw in avocados, frozen broccoli, almond butter, kale, chia seeds, and filtered water or almond milk -- depending on what concoction I'm going for. Boom, there you have a few servings of fruits and veggies in one glass.
"Smoothies are a mom's best friend. Kids love 'em."
My son is a huge fan of oatmeal. He pretty much requests it every day. Cooking old fashioned rolled oats is so much easier than you might imagine. I put a cup of oats in a pot with three cups of water -- the good ole 1 to 3 ratio. It boils for about 3-5 minutes, while stirring so it doesn't stick. Then I turn down the temperature to low and let the oats absorb the water. I toss in a cut up banana, a small handful of dried cranberries, sliced almonds/ walnut pieces, and a couple splashes of pure maple syrup. Voila: a warm filling start to the day.
Lunch is usually very simple. My son loves peanut butter and jelly or almond butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, kale chips, apple slices, hummus and chips. We often eat leftovers for lunch, and sometimes we get creative. The other day, we hadn't made our trip to the grocery store, so I perused the pantry to see what I could throw together. I made some organic alphabet pasta, and whipped up a cashew/nutritional yeast cream sauce (something similar to this: Vegan Mac and No Cheese
) - from the heart, with no recipe. I added some edamame and basil, and we had a delicious lunch.
Another favorite around our house is "quesadillas" minus the cheese. We make black bean and sweet potato quesadillas on the regular. Serve with guacamole, and you've got a pretty balanced nutritious meal. Smoky white bean quesadillas (vegweb.com
) are a hit as well, and another way to sneak in some spinach and tomatoes. We eat butternut squash ravioli a lot, too. You can find these in the frozen section at Native Sun and Whole Foods. We almost always make a big delicious salad with green lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cranberries, and nuts. As long as my son gets a bite with cranberries, he loves salad! Ok, love might be a strong word there. Black bean burgers, lentil soup, falafel, and pesto pasta all make weekly appearances on our dinner table, as well.
Juicing your own fruits and veggies and making kale chips are fabulous ways to add greens and nutrients to your child's diet, too. Many children instinctively do not like meat. If you offer them delicious alternatives and not fried convenience foods, they will quickly come to love and request these healthy options. Check out vegfamily.com
and lunchboxbunch.com for more information and recipes. Enjoy!
Enter to win a 3-month subscription to Conscious Box
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What? You haven't heard of Conscious Box? It's an amazing way to discover the best natural products on the planet and you can win a three month supply of eco-goodness.
Conscious Box is dedicated to introducing you to the most ethical, sustainable, and honest businesses that create the purest products available. They scour the marketplace to find those that stand above the rest. Talk about an exciting opportunity to discover even more while on your No Meat March journey.
Here's How To Win:
All you have to do is submit a picture of you or others holding a sign saying, "I'm doing No Meat March for/to __________," and fill in the blank with your reason for participating in the challenge. You will then be entered to win. Deadline to enter is Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Submit your picture by clicking here
After, you've submitted your picture make sure to check out all the cool things going on with Conscious Box and help spread the word:
- Head to ConsciousBox.com and create a profile! This is totally free!
- Head to Facebook.com/ConsciousBox and like their page! Leave a comment about our blog and what you think of our site! They just may give us a shout out if enough people say something.
- Share their page with your friends!
On a side note, here is another great deal just in case you don't win the grand prize. Enjoy 50% OFF any Conscious Box subscription, but you have to act fast!!! Only the first 100 people who sign up will qualify, after that the promotion expires. Type in the code: GOCONSCIOUS at checkout.
Conscious Box has never done an offer this good!!!
Lastly, make sure you sign up for March's Spring Renewal Conscious Box by the deadline of March 6th!
Eating on-the-go and being vegan/vegetarian is getting easier every day, especially if you think outside of the box. Chain restaurants such as Chipotle, Moe's, Mellow Mushroom, and Panera have multiple options. At Chipotle you can get the veggie bowl, taco or burrito filled with black beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, corn and guacamole. Mellow Mushroom is super veg-friendly, offering vegan pizza, hummus, tempeh/tofu hoagies, and more. At Panera, they offer the Mediterranean veggie sandwich (hold the feta if you're vegan) and a cup of veggie or black bean soup.
Native Sun is a great option for prepared organic foods. Check out their deli case, salad bar (San Jose locale), hot bar (Baymeadows locale) and sandwich boards for the veg goods such as portabella sandwiches, red lentil cakes, vegan Bahn mi, and so much more!
Ethnic food is always a great option. Hala Cafe (several locations) and Mandaloun on Baymeadows offer hummus, tabouli, veg grape leaves, lentil soup, and spinach pie. Masala Indian Restaurant on San Jose Blvd. has Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), Chana masala (spicy chickpeas), samosas (peas and potatoes in a fried pastry shell), and pakora (battered and fried veggies) which are all spicy and delish!
Jason's Deli on Southside is becoming more organic and veg-friendly. Create your own hummus and veggie sandwich or choose from the loaded salad bar. California Pizza Kitchen is a nice spot at St. John's Town Center for a little slower lunch or dinner date. They have smashed pea soup, white corn guacamole, tuscan hummus, and an eggplant pizza and broccoli pasta dish that can be made vegan.
Extra tip: For the times you're out and about and hunger strikes, keep a bag of trail mix, a banana, or granola bars to munch on. The more people become veg and request alternative food choices, the more effortless it will become for all of us to eat well. Keep asking for what you want- healthy, happy food!
Those who know me well know that I have a sweet tooth. After consuming a meal with any type of sugar, or carbohydrates, I am known to sneeze approximately three times - in a row. My father also does this, and his father did as well. My mother used to say it was a pleasure response, but after years of doing it and paying attention to what I ate when I sneezed, I surmised the cause was carbohydrates. Carbs, how I love you.
In a quest to reduce calories and hopefully lose weight, I developed a sordid love affair with an evil substance known as aspartame, and her name is Equal. (queue scary noises) Equal was my best friend. When I needed a blonde and sweet coffee, she was there for me. Three of her to be exact. Her little blue packages fit so nicely in my purse for those silly restaurants not willing to put it on their tables. When I wanted to have a sweet glass of mango iced tea, Equal was right along there with me. Her delicate crystals cascading into the amber colored fluid, commingling with the ice cubes. I used so much Equal there were times I would need to extract some from the workplace until I had a chance to get to the store.
There are so many reasons not to use artificial sweeteners like Equal and her twisted sister, Splenda. The first reason is the word: artificial. Don't even get me started on their distant cousin - Sweet n Low. These are simply chemical concoctions that have no nutritional value and fool you into thinking you need something sweeter than sugar actually is. Not to mention these chemicals undergo a great deal of animal testing before released to the market. That reason alone should be enough to stop using these products.
I am currently in Equal detox and have replaced my three-a-day addiction of the little blue packets with a delicious, natural and organic syrup known as agave nectar. Agave can be used in so many ways, in coffee, tea, on pancakes, in granola and even to glaze roasted carrots. If you want to give a dish or dessert a caramel (which contains milk) or butterscotch type taste, try using brown rice syrup.
Some of you may be on the stevia band-wagon, and there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you are actually using stevia. There are some products out there that purport themselves as stevia, but they aren't really pure stevia. One in particular comes in a green and white packet and is manufactured by Coca-Cola and Cargill. If you dig stevia, use her straight, raw or organic. Stevia in The Raw tastes pretty darn fine in my mango iced tea.
Not long ago, I learned that regular old sugar was not vegan! The type of sugar you probably have in your pantry is actually processed using animal bones. This is part of the refining process for cane sugars. Once I learned this, I never bought those dixie crystals again. Whole Foods sells a vegan sugar that comes in a plastic zip lock bag. When I started using it, I noticed I did not require so much of it in a recipe. It also smells fabulous when you open the bag. I never noticed that sugar had a 'smell' but it does. If you cannot obtain a product that specifically states it's vegan, you are always better off choosing an organic option over the standard bag of sugar.
This is a recipe I created by combining two different pancake recipes from the cookbook Vegan Planet. I made the recipe years ago, but ever since then my husband has perfected it. He wakes up on Sunday mornings with our son, and together they make a big batch of blueberry-banana pancakes for all of us to enjoy. We refrigerate the remaining pancakes, and reheat them in the toaster for multiple breakfasts during the week.
This recipe is for 10-15 pancakes because it lasts us all week. You can half the recipe for a smaller batch.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbl. of organic sugar
2 Tbl. baking powder
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 1/2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup blueberries
dash of vanilla
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the wet ingredients.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
Cook on medium heat (this is the ONLY time we use a non-stick skillet)
When bubbles come through and they are golden brown, they're ready!
Top with Earth Balance buttery spread and maple syrup.
by Jolie Levene
A Season for Change
When I was a kid, I was required to drink milk with dinner. Sometimes it would be in a white milk glass mug so I would try to fool my Dad into thinking it was already gone, so I could have a sip of his Pepsi. My Dad never fell for my trick and told me to finish my milk. Then there was the food on my plate. There was usually a tough, brown piece of meat that I was expected to eat. I remember it having little taste and was very tough. The only logical way in my mind to eat this was to smother it in ketchup. Also on my plate was a smattering of vegetables, usually from a can. Peas or spinach. Both naturally tasted salty and I liked that.
As a teenager, I worked at a grocery store and became exposed to all kinds of foods, and not all of them good for me. The store usually smelled of freshly fried chicken and french bread. I regularly visited the bakery to get cookies, and often took snacks home to enjoy, things my Mother would not buy. I remember feasting on a bowl of ranch dip and potato chips thinking it was probably one of the yummiest things I'd ever eaten.
A few years later I had had enough of living under my parents roof, and rented my own apartment. The freezer was not frost-free and was so full of ice I could not pack it with groceries or get the ones out that I already had in there. In my newly found freedom, I relished the fact I could buy any sweetened cereal I wanted, so I had several boxes on hand. Dinners often consisted of cereal and milk. On nights that cereal would not do, I walked to the local sushi joint.
Living on my own, I tried all kinds of foods, things my Mother never would have served. I developed a serious love affair with Mexican food. And Chinese food. And pizza, pepperoni of course. I used to snicker when ordering an "eight inch Italian" at a local sub shop, stuffed with processed meats like salami. I loved it all. There was a tiny voice in the back of my mind telling me, "you probably should not eat meat, you love animals" but I quickly thought of something else and ignored that voice.
Fast forward several years later and I'm in a great relationship with a wonderful person. One day we took a trip to the bookstore and I was perusing the diet book section, looking for that next quick fix that would forever solve my weight problem. I stumbled across a book called, "Skinny Bitch." At home I was on the couch, loving the funny way this book was written, telling me "if you want to lose weight, you need to exercise you lazy shit" I laughed and enjoyed the honest no holds barred way the writer wrote the book. Then I got to the chapter about animals.
I was totally unprepared to read this chapter and to this day I believe this book has forever changed my life. The book told of the incredible cruel ways animals are treated and eventually killed, just to end up on our plates. I was especially moved by how pigs are treated. It told of how pigs are beaten with heavy pipes to submission, how workers cruelly abuse the animals. Workers find amusement and pleasure by slicing off their snouts, ears and tails while still alive and laugh when they respond in screaming pain. It made me mad. It made me feel ashamed to be a human being, and it made me cry. I looked up and told my partner, "I don't think we can eat meat anymore."
This is just my story. There are so many reasons you should consider taking the No Meat March challenge. Not only will you be doing good things for your health, and the animals, but there are tremendous effects on the environment. Enormous amounts of water, electricity and food is used to raise animals for their eventual slaughter just to end up on a dinner plate. More meat is consumed than ever before because of "improvements" that have been made in the meat industry. These improvements include the use of antibiotics and hormones. These chemicals become part of the animal, and eventually part of the humans that eat the animals. It's no wonder that so many kids are developing sexually at earlier and earlier ages. I was one of those kids. It was terribly painful and embarrassing to go through. When we get sick, people take antibiotics that sometimes don't help because of all the antibiotics that are already in the foods we eat. So we wonder why we are needing stronger and stronger antibiotics to fight off infection. You hear of people getting food poisoning, from things like salmonella and e coli. This bacteria is from feces that make it into the food supply. And it's not just the feces from one cow, it's from many. In an effort to 'clean' the meat before it is displayed at the store in a pretty package, it is dipped into toxic chemicals like ammonia. Do you want to eat ammonia? Chicken feed is often laced with arsenic. We are feeding unnatural foods to animals to make them fatter so is it any wonder that we are a nation struggling with obesity?
Giving up meat for an entire month may seem extreme, but think of it as a challenge. You will be amazed how much better you will feel, how much less you spend at the grocery store and how easy it really is. Don't be like me and ignore that little voice for years, take action now to forever change your life and make a difference in the world and the earth we are leaving for those of tomorrow.
by Jolie Levene
I love spring, it might be my favorite season. Spring means open windows, gardening, blossoming flowers and trees, and open-toed sandals. Spring is a time of renewal. What better way to renew yourself than to make a change in your eating habits that will literally change your life and the lives of so many animals. Take the No Meat March challenge!
Make the commitment to eliminate meat from your diet for one month, which is only four weeks, a mere 31 days. You can do it! You will be amazed at how much better you will feel removing meat from your diet. Check your cholesterol before and after the challenge and check the numbers for yourself. Not only will you be doing something good for your health, you will be doing good for the environment. Bringing meat to your dinner table takes an enormous amount of resources and has a huge carbon footprint.
While you're doing the challenge, you'll notice that you will be spending less money at the grocery store, and the garbage can in the kitchen won't smell! If you need meal ideas check this website for easy, satisfying meals that will make you wonder why you didn't do this sooner. You might even decide to become a vegetarian full-time.
If you're already vegetarian, try going vegan. I used to think I could never give up cheese, and then I did. It's been months since I've had cheese and I don't miss it. I'm having so much fun learning how to cook all sorts of vegan dishes, that I've never given a second thought to cheese. I've even had a rockin' pizza at home and also in an area restaurant that is 100% vegan and is AWESOME.
You can enjoy unbelievably good vegan desserts that are just as good as any other dessert you've had. I know because I have baked them. For example, I've made chocolate frosted brownies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and a 'cream cheese' frosted carrot cake. I have always had a sweet tooth and I would not be able to be vegan if this weren't true. Keep checking our website for the recipes on these scrumptious slices of deliciousness.
I've lived in Jacksonville my whole life, and I only recently started going to the Farmers Market on Beaver Street. It's now one of my favorite places to go. You can get massive amounts of fresh produce for cheap! I just picked up a bag the size of a pillow case full of spinach for only $4. Perfect for making green smoothies, and also cooking. You'd end up spending $40 for the same amount of spinach at the neighborhood grocery store.
We are here to support you through this challenge and we applaud you for taking the first step!