Want to eat healthier but hate to cook? We know the feeling. That’s why we reached out to healthy living educator and vegan chef Leslie Durso. Whether you eat (local, grass-fed) meat or not, everyone can benefit from putting more veggies on their plates. Below, Leslie shares her advice for making healthier meals that are also quick and easy.
What is the hardest part about eating healthy? Most people will answer: the amount of time it takes to cook or they can’t cook. My answer for the latter is that everyone can cook! If you want to be a good cook then you will! You just need some instruction, patience, and a little guidance. Most of that can come from following some good recipes at the beginning. The answer to the first is a little more complicated. Yes, cooking healthy food from scratch takes longer than heating up nutrient-less microwavable meals or eating out. My answer for you is: find a couple hours one day a week to cook. In those few hours, make things that can live in your refrigerator for a week or can easily be frozen and stored longer. This way when you get home from a long day, or have 2 minutes to make breakfast a healthy option will be sitting right in your refrigerator. Not to mention, you will save a lot of that hard-earned money! Here are a list of things to keep in your fridge and freezer:
Veggie Burgers—You can pack so much more protein and vitamins in these when you make them from scratch. They are super easy to make and kids can help, too.
Sauces—Most sauces freeze really well. I recommend freezing them in single serving amounts so you don’t have to defrost a gallon of tomato sauce for one person.
Cooked Rice—Need a cup of rice for a recipe or rice to go with a quick veggie sauté? Boom.
Soup—Freeze in plastic freezer bags; reheating is a cinch!
Cookie Dough—First of all, who doesn’t want cookie dough ready in their freezers at all times?? My tip is to roll the dough in balls, then freeze in a bag so you can make individual cookies without having to chop from a cookie dough block.
Smoothies—You are probably saying, “What?” but yes, portion out a homemade smoothie into freezer bags in individual portions. When you are in a rush in the morning and don’t have too much time, throw a block of frozen smoothie in your blender with a little bit of liquid and there you have a super way to start your day.
Salad Dressing—When you make salad dressing from scratch you are cutting out all the preservatives and sugars they put in the packaged stuff.
Salad—Love salad, but think it takes forever to chop everything up? Pre chop loads of ingredients that you might like in your salad and store them in the fridge (this includes washing, drying and tearing the lettuce). When you need a quick lunch you won’t have to head to the vending machine.
Quinoa—Having precooked quinoa in your fridge (or freezer) is great because you can top your salad with it, you can put some sautéed veggies on top of it or mid week you can make a quick quinoa salad with the veggies you have chopped for your green salad along with some dressing. Quinoa is loaded with protein and can help you stay full when you are on-the-go.
Fruit Salad—It makes a great healthy snack and when it starts to get soft mid week, make a smoothie out of them!
Iced Tea—Don’t reach for a soda! Have a nice pitcher of green iced tea handy to give you a caffeine boost, but also deliver a cupful of super vitamin rich nutrients.
Please note that all items listed above should be kept in air tight containers to maximize their freshness.
Being an Italian vegan, there are certain dishes and sauces that I had to recreate. Here are what I call the “Italian Mother Sauces”: Lemon & Spinach Pesto, Cauliflower Alfredo, and Traditional Marinara. All three sauces freeze beautifully and you can pop them out and have them defrosted before you pasta has even boiled.
Lemon & Spinach Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves of garlic
about 2 cups of basil leaves
about 2 cups of spinach
1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
You’ll place the basil and spinach in the food processor topped with the garlic and nuts. Pulse a few times to break them down a bit. Add in the zest from the lemon and all the lemon juice. Pulse again and then drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto is smooth. Cook your pasta to al dente, drain and return to the pot. Add the pesto right on top and stir to coat the noodles. Serve immediately.
1 large head of cauliflower
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp. vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
Cut off any bottom leaves of the cauliflower and cut out the toughest part of the core. Then break the cauliflower down into florets. Boil them with the vegetable broth uncovered until the cauliflower is very soft and tender. About 15 minutes.
While the cauliflower is cooking, heat a large frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic with the Earth Balance and olive oil until soft.
When both are done, using a slotted spoon, remove all the cauliflower from the broth and place in a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup of the cooking broth, all the contents of the frying pan, the nutmeg and salt. Puree on high until very smooth, 3-4 minutes. Add a little more broth at a time if it needs to be thinned. Add pepper to taste.
Serve with fettuccine and serve warm.
OPTIONS: Drizzle the finished fettuccine Alfredo with some truffle oil for something really special! Add red chili flakes to kick up the heat on your pasta! Or sauté asparagus, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, or any other veggies you like and add on top!
What you’ll need:
1 medium onion, diced
2 28oz. can of whole san marzano tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onion in some olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft. Add in the can of tomatoes, stir and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon break up the tomatoes. Add the garlic and simmer another few minutes. Stir in the basil and serve over pasta, polenta, quinoa, etc.
—Leslie Durso has walked the plant-based talk since the age of eight. After establishing herself as a private chef in NYC and Hollywood, Leslie began hosting cooking segments on television and healthy-living content online. Determined to inspire beneficial life-long eating habits for everyone, she has appeared on The Food Network, The Discovery Channel, The Hallmark Channel, Everyday Health, and Mother Nature Network, and has written for MindBodyGreen, VegNews, CNN.com, Redbook, Glamour, Maxim, and dozens more, evangelizing the benefits of a mindful lifestyle, delivered with her trademark blend of sunshiney sophistication and girl-next-door relatability. She currently broadcasts her farm-fresh recipes and warmhearted sensibilities to an extensive audience spanning more than 130 countries via LeslieDurso.com.
On behalf of Green America, I attended General Mills’ annual shareholder meeting this morning. Green America holds a handful of shares so that we can have a voice as shareholders.
The topic of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) dominated the discussion, with Green America allies and me asking several questions about General Mills’ continued defense of GMOs in the face of growing public opposition. While Ken Powell repeated last year’s rhetoric that GMOs have been proven safe by several international organizations and that General Mills supports national labeling of non-GMO products (as opposed to those with GMOs), many shareholders in the audience were on a different page. Numerous individual shareholders voiced their concerns about GMOs and called for sustainable and safe ingredients. As one shareholder put it, General Mills should “keep an open mind, please” about not using GMO ingredients.
In addition to GMOs being a topic during the Q&A portion of the meeting, there was also a shareholder resolution to eliminate GMOs from General Mills’ products brought forth by As You Sow and supported by Harriet Crosby, great granddaughter of one of the co-founders of General Mills. Though the resolution won’t earn a majority of votes (as is often the case) and all votes are not in yet, the preliminary votes in favor of the resolution amount to shares worth $682 million.
Continuing Green America’s GMO Inside campaign’s request for General Mills to verify original Cheerios as non-GMO with a third-party, we asked Ken Powell directly why they are not doing so. Powell replied that if they say it’s non-GMO, then it is. What about removing GMOs from the other varieties of Cheerios? Powell answered that oats, the only main ingredient in original Cheerios, is not genetically engineered so that’s why they were able to make original Cheerios non-GMO (though at the time, General Mills stated that it was a huge undertaking). They won’t even bother trying to remove GMOs from the other varieties.
General Mills did speak to their efforts to reduce energy usage, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions as well as their work with suppliers to develop more sustainable agricultural practices. We look forward to seeing the results of these efforts. I encouraged General Mills to include the reduction of pesticides (as well as the removal of GMOs) as a key component of improving sustainability.
The acquisition of Annie’s was also mentioned, with General Mills acknowledging the company meets consumer demand for natural and organic products and will further help General Mills’ other organic/natural lines. General Mills also admitted that it is their organic lines that are growing most rapidly, which again raises the question of why they don’t increase the use of organics across their brands.
So the conversation for more sustainable, less toxic, truly natural products continues.
- Shireen Karimi, Green America staff
Growing up in a dairy state, I regularly saw farms with black and white dairy cows grazing in the fields on the way to my grandparents’ house. While I never was fond of the manure smell, I loved seeing the large, calm beasts nibbling on greens and relaxing in the sun. Throughout the years, I learned more and more about the meat and dairy industries and the ugly truth of factory farming, which isn’t like my childhood farm scene at all. I easily stopped eating meat early on, but dairy was a bit harder to let go of.
In my family’s country, yogurt plays a daily role in their meals. So yogurt was a large part of my diet as well. I even made my own, of course from milk from a local dairy farm, which delivered to my house in glass bottles. However, I couldn’t ignore the idea of cows continually impregnated to keep producing milk, their udders regularly hooked up to machinery, and their babies taken away at birth so that humans could drink the milk meant for them. These reasons, along with the fact that dairy contributes to inflammation and congestion in the body, finally pushed me to cut dairy out of my diet.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure about trying it yourself, don’t worry. I have gone through multiple iterations with varying degrees of rigidness over the years. Keep in mind you don’t have to stop all dairy products at once. You can start with just one item (for example milk) and see how it goes. Or decide you’ll give them all up in your daily life but be open to the occasional dairy treat with family or friends. I believe you could have better long-term success if you strive for a particular diet most of the time but are forgiving instead of rigid.
Pay attention to how you feel when you don’t eat dairy and then how you feel when you do. I’ve noticed that if I do have dairy for a special occasion (e.g. family holiday), I am noticeably congested the next day. If you don’t feel compelled to be dairy-free for the cows or the environment, you might feel reinforcement to do it for yourself.
The easiest way to remove something from your life is to replace it with something better, right? So here are some of the ways I’ve replaced dairy in my food.
I love coconut oil and use it for everything. I cook with it, bake desserts with it, and put it on popcorn. Coconut oil withstands a higher cooking temperature than olive oil and is a healthy fat. You don’t have to worry about it being genetically engineered like typical vegetable oil which is usually canola and cottonseed oils. And it doesn’t come from cows pumped with antibiotics and eating feed from genetically engineered crops doused with toxic pesticides and herbicides.
On popcorn, I also use flax or hemp oil to get omega 3.
If you don’t want the coconut flavor in your dessert or dish, you can use sunflower oil or grape seed oil as neither has much flavor. Also, because the oils aren’t solid like butter, your desserts should be a little moister.
This one is easy. Instead of cow milk, you can use any of the many nondairy milks available – almond, coconut, rice, soy, hemp, flax, oat. However, for a savory soup, make sure you don’t buy a vanilla flavored variety. Some other things to keep in mind (I’ll just briefly touch on since they are beyond the scope of this article): almost all of the soy in the US is genetically engineered so make sure you buy organic or with the Non-GMO Project verification. Also, some people avoid soy because vegan and vegetarian diets are often overloaded with it and because of its phytoestrogens. In addition, carrageenan is in many of the nondairy milks, and some experts warn against consuming it. As for flavor, rice milk is a little more watery, and coconut milk beverage doesn’t taste like the canned coconut milk. I personally like the texture and taste of almond milk. Hemp milk is good too but more expensive.
Milk – Cereal, Baking, etc
Any nondairy milk that you like can replace cow milk. See Cream Soups above for more info. Vanilla varieties work well with cereal and some baked items, though you might want to check the label and make sure it doesn’t have lots of extra sugar.
Vegetables and Dip
For that quick appetizer, snack, or potluck dish, don’t buy the premade dips with sour cream and/or cheese. Buy hummus or make your own tahini dip to mimic the richness and fattiness of the dairy dips. See my recipe below.
Cheese in Sandwiches/Wraps
Use avocado for healthy richness. For those who don’t like avocado (apparently they exist) or for a slightly less expensive option, make a tahini spread. See my recipe below. (This tahini spread is really versatile.)
You can make “cheesy” broccoli, cauliflower, etc. with your own vegan cheese sauce. You can also make a vegan alfredo sauce. See recipes below.
Coconut ice cream is a fantastic replacement for dairy ice cream. It is very creamy and rich, and there are many flavors available without artificial and genetically engineered ingredients (corn syrup and sugar from sugar beets) like many dairy ice creams have. The only downside is the price. Rice and soy ice cream exist as well but are not as similar in my opinion.
Disclaimer: I don’t actually measure when I prepare food so these are estimates. Feel free to adapt.
Tahini Spread/Dip/Salad Dressing
½ cup tahini
¼+ cup apple cider vinegar (could also use red wine vinegar or balsamic)
¼+ cup lemon juice
Dried herbs of your choice – tarragon, parsley, oregano, basil
White or black pepper
Few squirts of flax or hemp oil for omega 3
Water to thin
Blend all ingredients, ideally with an immersion blender. A fork doesn’t work as well to fully blend the tahini with the liquid. If the mix is too thick and won’t blend, add a little bit of water or more lemon juice or vinegar. Make it as thick or runny as you want for a spread or dip.
This same base can we used for a salad dressing. Just add water, lemon juice, or vinegar.
Cream of Broccoli Soup
My mom doesn’t like broccoli, but she loves this soup.
1 onion or 1 bundle of green onion or 1 leek
3-5 cloves of garlic (depending on preference)
Pound of broccoli, both stalk and florets chopped and separated
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
3-4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
vegetable broth (2 cups of liquid or 2 teaspoons of powder. I like Seitenbacher because it doesn’t have palm oil, which is often unsustainably grown)
2 tablespoons tahini – when done
1-2 tablespoon olive oil – when done
2 cups almond milk – when done
white or black pepper
- Fry the onion in coconut oil or oil of your preference. Add garlic and fry.
- Add broccoli stalk, celery, and carrot. Add vegetable broth liquid or water mixed with broth powder to barely cover vegetables. Add salt and pepper.
- Simmer until almost tender but still a little hard, about 10-15 minutes depending on how big chunks are.
- Add broccoli florets and cook a little longer until florets are bright green. Overcooking will turn broccoli dark green/brown.
- Add tahini, olive oil, almond milk and blend. An immersion blender right in the pot is the easiest, but you can use any regular blender or food processor.
Vegan “Cheese” Sauce
1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos, tamari, or soy sauce
2 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
½ – 1 Tbsp lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (optional)
Optional seasonings depending on what you’re putting it on:
water, if desired
Blend until smooth.
2 Cups Cashews, Soaked
¼ Cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or Nama Shoyu to taste
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 – 2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
2/3 Cup Water
Pinch Sea Salt
Blend until smooth.
It’s not often at Green America that we highlight members of the 1% as an example to follow, but recent action by the Rockefeller family now serves as a model for many Americans. The Rockefellers have instructed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to divest its holdings of fossil fuels, joining a growing list of foundations that are taking this stand against irresponsible fossil-fuel polluters. Since the family’s wealth — much of which is now in charities — was made from Standard Oil (now Exxon), the move is particularly meaningful.
The divestment decision comes after years of the Rockefellers engaging with Exxon and trying to encourage the company to be more sustainable, without much success (for 10 years Green America and its members also put direct pressure on Exxon). Exxon and the other major fossil fuel multinationals have made it clear that they plan to pursue a strategy of increasing the production of fossil fuels for decades. That means increased drilling in fragile ecosystems, with the inevitable major spills on land and seas. That means more fracking and more tar sands fields. It also means pumping way more carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet to levels it hasn’t experienced in millions of years, creating massive disruptions to civilization as we know it, and speeding the extinction of thousands of species.
You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to take part. Here’s four steps to take action with your money:
- Divest from climate polluters and reinvest in clean energy.
Green America’s Fossil Free Investment campaign has the most complete resources available.
- Break up with your megabank.
Megabanks continue to invest billions in coal and other fossil fuels, even after pledging to go carbon free. Green America’s Break Up With Your Megabank Campaign has all the resources you need to move your money to banks and credit unions that invest in local communities and green companies.
- Take the Divest/Invest Pledge.
The Divest/Invest coalition is asking people to take their pledge to divest to demonstrate the growing numbers of individual investors who are saying no to fossil fuels in their portfolios.
- Share this information widely.
Encourage family, friends, your house of worship, school, etc. to divest their money from fossil fuels as well. The faster the movement grows, the more pressure there will be on polluters.
The People’s Climate March – 400,000 strong – demonstrated that Americans are willing to take action for climate change and are not going to wait for Washington or all Street to take action. We can all take action with our money for the climate. In the 1980’s the divestment movement made a huge impact on ending Apartheid in South Africa. Now, it’s our turn to divest our money from fossil fuels and invest in the clean energy economy we need.
Take action today!
Some iFans may have called out of work last week in an effort to snag a new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which went on sale last Friday. Sales of these devices topped 10 million last weekend–higher than the first weekend sales of the iPhone 5 last year.
There is no question that demand for the new iPhones is strong, but some analysts have pointed out that these high sales figures are not an indicator of demand, but supply. With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus selling out at locations around the world, its clear Apple is limited by how much it can supply, and how quickly.
Apple shareholders may be excited about the frenzy generated by the release of the iPhone 6, but workers experience this frenzy differently. A spike in demand for these phones puts greater pressure on Apple’s supplier factories and the estimated 1.5 million workers who work in them, either making parts or assembling the phones.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Foxconn, one of Apple’s final assembly partners, has been operating roughly 100 production lines around the clock in Zhengzhou. “We have been churning out 140,000 iPhone 6 Plus and 400,000 iPhone 6 every day, the highest daily output ever, but the volume is still not enough to meet the preorders,” said a person familiar with the matter.
“The challenge is to manufacture two complicated new iPhones on a large scale at the same time because Foxconn is the sole assembler of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus [and assembles a majority of the 4.7 inch iPhone 6.]”
While Apple boasts profit margins as high as 69%, as was the case with the iPhone 5s, Foxconn’s profit margin is closer to 1.5%, according to Bloomberg. Apple expects high volume, high quality, and high Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards of its suppliers, however, not in equal measure. When these expectations come into direct conflict, the CSR policies most likely lose out. This is especially common during times of peak demand, when workers are found to be working excessive overtime, well beyond legal limits. This can also take the form of mandatory overtime, as we found at Catcher, another Apple supplier.
Consumers who didn’t snag a phone last weekend can expect to wait several weeks or months for a new iPhone. We encourage Apple to allow its suppliers the time they need to meet this demand, without compromising working conditions. With worldwide demand well over 10 million units, its clear that consumers of these devices won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
As iPhone 6 workers labor around the clock, you can support them by pushing Apple to take action to improve conditions for workers. You can also share “9 Reasons Not to Rush your Next Smartphone Upgrade” with your friends.
New York City’s famed Candle Cafe and its sister restaurants—Candle Cafe West and Candle 79—helped prove to the country that vegan food can be delicious, upscale, and gourmet. These pioneering green restaurants have also been members of of Green America’s Green Business Network® for nearly two decades. Below, our former editorial intern Sierra Schellenberg tells their amazing story.
On Friday the 13th, 1993, New York City natives Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson flouted the 13th’s reputation for bad luck and won the lottery. Their $53,000 prize was small by lottery standards, but it was enough for the couple to launch their dream—what was likely the country’s first upscale organic and vegan restaurant, the Candle Cafe. At the time, vegan food was pretty much synonymous with “tasteless” and “boring” in many people’s minds, but Potenza and Pierson again managed to fly in the face of expectation.
Determined to prove that vegan food should be known as “delicious” and “high class,” they began serving local, organic, and seasonal vegan gourmet cuisine that soon won an eager following on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pierson, who had served as the in-house nutritionist of the couple’s pre-lottery juice bar and health food shop, Healthy Candle, says that when she and Potenza discovered the health benefits of a vegan diet, it became their passion in life to share it with others—primarily by making it look and taste as good as non-vegan cuisine.
“When I felt the impact of good food on my body, mind, and spirit, I got inspired. I learned that a vegan diet has such a profound effect on people’s health and the environment. This really created the lifestyle choice for me, and I ended up turning it into my full-time passion and career,” she told Planet Green.
Two years after Candle Cafe opened its doors, New York food critique Eric Asimov gave the restaurant a boost when he gave it a favorable review, calling its grilled tempeh and portobello burger “pleasantly savory” and its French toast “excellent.” Business started to pick up as word spread, and
by 2003, Potenza and Pierson had launched Candle 79, a more upscale cousin of Candle Cafe.
“This sort of thing had never been done. Nowhere in the US was there a restaurant solely dedicated to fine, gourmet vegan food,” says Mark Doskow, executive director of the Candle restaurants. The trailblazing has paid off for Potenza and Pierson, who have seen so much demand for their food that they opened up a third restaurant called Candle Cafe West about a year ago.
Health-conscious celebrities have been vocally singing the cafe’s praises almost since the beginning. Radio talk host Howard Stern has been known to order Candle Cafe takeout while on the air. Actress Alicia Silverstone appeared on local NYC talk show LX New York to teach the city how to
make Candle 79’s Seitan Piccata in 2009 to celebrate the release of her vegan nutrition book The Kind Diet. And actor David Duchovny told The Gothamist in 2013 that while he isn’t actually vegan, Candle Cafe and Candle Cafe West are two of his favorite restaurants.
Candle chefs have also been featured on The Today Show and Good Morning America. And Candle 79 was the first vegan restaurant to be reviewed
by famed New York Times food critic Frank Bruni, who wrote in 2008, “I, like most of my restaurant-critic kin, haven’t given vegan cuisine its due. Candle 79, which has prospered for five years without benefit of major reviews, showed me the light.”
In addition to serving vegan and mostly organic and locally sourced food, the Candle franchise has a firm commitment to keeping GMOs (genetically modified organisms) out of its restaurants. Pierson and Potenza pursue greenness down to the very last detail. It is company policy to use recycled materials, eco-friendly décor, energy-saving equipment, and nontoxic cleaning supplies in the restaurant and offices. The company also invests in wind power to offset its environmental impacts.
For the folks at the Candle restaurants, the increased interest in vegan dining is more than just another food trend. “Not only is veganism better for us and the planet, but veganism can hold its own as a genre of cuisine,” says Doskow. “When I was a kid, you’d go out for Chinese food. Now I think people go out and want vegan food. All of us at the Candle restaurants look forward to moving the process along and being on the forefront.”
The Candle restaurants are located in New York City, but if you want a taste of Candle Cafe at home, check out the Candle Cafe Cookbook and the Candle 79 Cookbook, as well as the upcoming Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe. For a delicious recipe from the Candle Cafe Cookbook for Tofu Scramble with Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Fries, check out the Epicurious website. And watch for the Winter 2014 Green American, coming in late November, which will feature tips and recipes from Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe.
“All animals are equal,” Orwell’s pigs proclaim in the novel Animal Farm, “but some animals are more equal than others.”
I’ve always loved this quote and the round-about ways the pigs describe their own special status. But lately while researching the myriad problems around beef, I’ve thought about this quote again and again. Meats are often seen as interchangeable when we talk about their place in our diets. Eating animals can be seen as equally problematic from a humane standpoint. Similarly, we often don’t differentiate between meats with the labels we use for one another — “vegetarians,” “vegans,” and “meat eaters.” But the more I read, the more it became apparent that from an environmental standpoint, meats are not equally damaging.
Chances are you’re aware that beef is bad for the environment –if you’ve kept up with our blog series on the subject or read the lead article of our last magazine issue, you’ll know that beef has a disproportionately large impact on our water, climate and even our own health.
But a study conducted by Gideon Eshel, Alon Shepon, Tamar Makov and Ron Milo published earlier this summer quantifies this disproportionate impact in a way that knocked me out of my socks. The study notes that while there’s a general understanding that meat has a higher environmental cost than plants, there isn’t a lot of information comparing the different types of meats on the same standards. The study authors sought to remedy that lack of comparative data.
They found that “beef production requires 28, 11, 5, and 6 times more land, irrigation water, GHG and Nr, respectively than the average of the other livestock categories.” Let’s take a look at that fact in a more visual format. The study authors were kind enough to send me the numbers behind their summary graphs. I’ve reproduced them here (without standard deviation included).
Here’s the resources used by various meats and plants.
The study authors note that beef – the least efficient on all four counts – is the second most popular animal category in the average US diet “accounting for 7% of all consumed calories.”
So what’s the solution? In an interview with us Denis Hays, the author of Cowed, explains that while he admires vegetarians and vegans, his first priority is to convince meat eaters to reduce the amount of beef they eat. “If we can persuade those people to reduce their consumption from 1.6 pounds of bad beef every week to, say, one-half pound of good, healthy beef from the right sources, the benefits for human health and the environment will be profound.”
And Dr. Alon Shepon, one of the authors of the study agrees about the potential impact of curbing beef consumption. “Beef’s inefficiency in GHG, water, land and fertilization towers over all other” categories, he told us. “Exchanging beef with other animal products including other sources of meat reduce the environmental impacts associated with food production.”
So for all you vegetarians and vegans — keep up the good work, and consider focusing on beef if you talk to your friends or family about meat consumption. For you meat eaters who want to make a difference, the “low hanging fruit” in your diet is beef — reduce that and make a world of difference.
If you’d like a more personalized analysis of your diet, take our food-print quiz to find out how you can make your diet even more climate-friendly and how you compare to other Americans.
by Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D
A quick Google search of “vegan athletes” generates over 3.8 million hits, up 2 million since spring of this year. The New York Times alone has over 800 stories related to the phrase, a two-thirds increase since just a few months ago. My suspicions have been confirmed—more and more people are adopting vegan diets to support improved athletic performance, and the concept has intrigued others.
Professional vegan athletes are hardly a rarity—from triathletes, ultra-runners, tennis players, and even mixed martial arts fighters. Do they do it because they are animal rights activists? Proponents for what’s best for the environment? Well, maybe those are some side benefits. But these athletes are first and foremost professionals; they get paid to win. Not being the fastest or the strongest is out of the question. And they have tapped into gold when they can find a way of eating that gives them that extra edge beyond their competitors.
Why Vegan Diets Are Effective for Athletes
There are a few possible reasons why vegan diets and people who eat them benefit in athletic performance.
- 1. Higher in Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for activity. There’s no way around that fact. Carbohydrates that you consume are broken down into glucose for immediate use or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glycogen is that all-important material that the body uses during endurance sports. Much of the goal of training is to maximize the amount of glycogen you can store and then use for your event. And what does a well-rounded vegan diet look like? It’s loaded with high-carbohydrates foods—fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. On average, a meat eater consumes less than 50 percent of his or her diet from carbs, a vegetarian about 50 to 55 percent, and a vegan around 50 to 65 percent.
- Heart Healthy
It probably seems pretty obvious that a healthy heart can benefit physical performance, especially for the athlete that intends to exercise throughout life. A vegan diet, naturally cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and high in fiber, helps support this most essential muscle. People who avoid animal products also have lower blood pressure and less heart disease!
- More Health Conscious
Research has shown that people who follow vegan diets also consume more fiber, antioxidants, less fat, and zero cholesterol. Statistically, vegans also tend to be more educated, consume less alcohol, and watch less television! All of this lends to ideal conditions for refining athletic performance.
- Better Digestion
Fiber, which is only found in plants, helps aid with digestion, thus making those who consume it literally feel, well, lighter! Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Once consumed, it passes through your long digestive track mimicking tiny scrub brushes and speeding up overall digestion. No one wants to run a race while carrying several meals and snacks in their gut! Fiber keeps food moving and your gut clean.
- Rapid Recovery
Some athletes have suggested that consuming a healthful vegan diet speeds recovery time. If you recover faster, you train more, thus getting an edge over your competitors. While different reasons for this have been proposed, it may be as simple as plants are extremely nutrient-dense, providing plenty of antioxidants and phytochemicals to support healing.
Exercise and vegan eating have their own respective benefits. Being active boosts your psychological well-being, your immune system, bone mass, and strength and balance, while decreasing your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. Vegan diets reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Together, these two powerful lifestyle choices can make a super fit being.
Most importantly, vegan diets are not just for professionals! Adopting a healthful, plant-based diet—full of fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains—may be the best tip you can get for finding the energy and motivation to get off the couch and see what you are capable of doing.
Try not to jump, pedal, swim, or run when you feel this good!
Dunford M. Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals. 4th Edition. American Dietetic Association.
Mangels R, et al. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Third Edition.
Jacobs KA, et al. Int J Sport Nutrition. 1999;9:92-115.
—Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting preventive medicine, especially better nutrition, and higher standards in research. She is also an avid runner and vegRUN.org coach.
Are you an athlete who eats less meat or a vegetarian or vegan diet? What differences have you noticed in your performance since adopting a plant-based lifestyle?
by Hans Bauman
Don’t get me wrong: I used to love a juicy steak as much as the next guy. But when my wife and I realized the impact our diets were having on the environment, we decided to stay away from Costco meat counter with its bulk-size offerings of cheap beef.
Climate impact was a big initial motivator. The fact that it takes so much water and feed to produce beef, compounded with the high carbon impact of the cow’s waste, means that I couldn’t call myself an environmentalist unless we stopped buying beef.
So over the past decade, my wife and I shifted our family from being weekly omnivores to a diet that contains lots of local vegetables, sustainable fish, and regional poultry and eggs. As a special treat a couple times a year, we’ll splurge big and buy local, grass-fed beef or lamb at the farmer’s market. Our three kids are on board, and I’m amazed we don’t have to argue about it as a family.
The industrial nature of food production means that the lovely slabs of meat at the grocery store were shrink wrapped in an industrial warehouse that completely disconnects us from the animal. I think it’s important that you understand what you’re eating. Beef comes from a once-living animal called a cow! Once you really consider what goes into a hamburger—and share it with your kids!—that used-to-be-my-favorite McDonald’s Quarter Pounder becomes a LOT less appealing.
We talk about these food concerns with the kids, including why we try to eat local produce as well. They realize now that a steak is an extra-special treat and that at certain times of the year there are going to be lots of greens or no tomatoes. Sure, my wife and I get complaints from the kids sometimes, but we also find that, as the Rolling Stones say, “you can’t always get what you want” isn’t a bad message in life.
When making pasta sauce, ground turkey works as a great beef substitute. We often make burritos, and if you’ve got some good stuff to put in there (avocado, fried spinach, or maybe fried zucchini), you really don’t need to add meat. Veggie pizza is a crowd pleaser and, of course, pasta with cheese and a side or two of vegetables is a meal any kid will scarf down.
As a culture, we Americans eat too much high-impact meat. I know that entirely cutting out meat would be even better for the planet, but I feel good knowing that even our less-radical approach is lessening our impact on the world. And by instilling these values into my kids, we’re building these values into the next generation of eaters.
There are lots of resources to help either scare you into eaten less meat (the film “Food, Inc.” really opened my eyes) or to help you make more sustainable choices:
• Check out the upcoming issue of the Green American on why it’s important to eat less (or no) beef in particular, as well as less meat overall. Select articles are available here.
• Forks Over Knives is another eye-opening film that’s also available on Netflix.
• The Moosewood restaurants offer plenty of delicious, family-friendly vegetarian recipes on their site, and they’ve published several excellent cookbooks as well.
• The Vegan Mom is a great blog for families who want to eat vegan sometimes or transition to a plant-based diet all of the time—in a way that won’t make your kids clamor for Burger King.
• Don’t forget the Anything Vegan sisters, who love to help families transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Even if you don’t opt for vegan nutritional consulting packages from this member of Green America’s Green Business Network, you can find plenty of terrific recipes on their site and social media. See their blog entry from last week, and look for an article featuring them in the upcoming Green American.
—Hans Bauman is technology director at Green America.
What are your favorite resources for eating less (or no) meat with kids?
Jasmine Simon and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld are two sisters who discovered through personal experience the joys and health and environmental benefits of eating vegan. As vegan chefs and certified plant-based nutritionists, the sisters know all sorts of tricks to get the most flavor out of your vegan dishes and get your family on board with plant-based eating. Through their business, Anything Vegan, they offer vegan nutrition consulting (remote and in-person), vegan personal chef home-delivery services, vegan cooking classes, vegan catering, and wellness planning. They are also popular speakers, including at the Green Festivals®.
Marji and Jasmine graciously agreed to let Green America reproduce an excerpt from their free e-book, 10 Sneaky Ways to Veganize Your Family’s Plate, below. To get the full e-book, sign up for their newsletter at AnythingVegan.com.
And read more about Marji and Jasmine’s journey to embracing a plant-based lifestyle and tips for making the vegan transition simple and joyful in the upcoming Fall 2014 Green American.
Is trying to get your family to eat healthy like pulling teeth? Do your kids hate vegetables? Does your man think a vegetable is a garnish? Is your woman’s idea of eating healthy getting a beef burger without the fries?
You have now been recruited by the Anything Vegan Espionage Society. You now have 4 secret tips to make your undercover operation a success. Let’s get started.
1) Keep Your Secrets. As an AV Operative You Must Keep the Confidentiality of the Mission. Keep a low profile on your vegan changes. Don’t talk about how the food is healthy or how they have to eat healthy food. That can be a turnoff. Don’t force the subject or you will meet resistance and fail! So instead of dragging them kicking and screaming into the dining room, just do it.
There is a common rule of vegan infiltration that must be followed: Say Nothing! The best way to overcome stubborn objections is not to tell them that you are making healthy decisions for their plates. That’s right—keep your secrets. If you tell them ahead of time, their preconceived ideas of what tastes good and what tastes weird will override their taste buds. Did you ever think you were drinking orange juice but gagged when you discovered it was grape juice in the cup? There was nothing wrong with the grape juice, but your brain already decided what it “should” taste like. Any deviation from preconceived ideas may be perceived as “tasting bad”. So don’t let them know you’ve changed anything. If they notice something is different, simply say “Thank you, I think I’m becoming a better cook. Glad you noticed.”
2) Create an Illusion. Find foods that they already love and quietly substitute animal ingredients with vegan foods. In our full e-book (get it free by signing up for our newsletter), we give you recipes that show you how to begin doing this. But use your imagination to figure out what you can use in place of meat, eggs, dairy, and bad sugars. You should become familiar with the many meat, dairy, and egg substitutes that are in most local supermarkets now in the frozen aisles or by the fresh fruits and vegetable aisles. They are even in Walmart and Target now! These are good transition foods. The truth is that for you to be a vegan, you don’t need a lot of money for great food. But until your knowledge and skills get you to the point of making your own vegan substitutes, there are plenty on the market to choose from. This is a great time to become a vegan. Most of the food substitutes presented may cost a little more per pound, but you will eat a lot less of these than you do of meat and dairy to feel satisfied and full. As you become more comfortable creating more grain-, fruit-, and vegetable-based meals, you will use less and less of these processed foods, and may eliminate them all together as well. But for now, relax, have fun and enjoy the process.
Use egg substitutes in your baking and cooking. There are plenty of egg substitutes available for baking or preparing a dish that calls for eggs. Ener-G Egg Replacer is a reliable egg substitute for use in baking. It is available at health food stores and most grocery stores.
Tofu is great for egg substitutions in recipes that call for a lot of eggs, like quiches or custards. To replace one egg in a recipe, purée 1/4 cup soft tofu. It is important to keep in mind that although tofu doesn’t fluff up like eggs, it does create a texture that is perfect for “eggy” dishes. Tofu is also a great substitute for eggs in eggless egg salad and breakfast scrambles.
In desserts and sweet, baked goods, try substituting one banana or 1/4 cup applesauce for each egg called for in a recipe for sweet, baked desserts. These will add some flavor to the recipe, so make sure bananas or apples are compatible with the other flavors in the dessert. (thanks to Peta.org for this concise egg-sub info).
Make pizzas with vegan pepperoni by Lightlife instead of pork.
Use vege-ground crumble instead of ground beef in your lasagna.
Replace the dairy cheese in your mac-n-cheese with Anything Vegan’s O’So Cheesy alternatives.
Use vegan chik’n patties instead of chicken. Season it with the seasonings you normally use for chicken, then fry or bake it. Dress it up the same way as you would do with a chicken patty. They even make chicken nuggets.
So, roll up those sleeves, and get going… What’re you waiting for!? Have fun!
Check out our upcoming cookbook for lots more specific guidance and transition recipes.
3) Outwit Their Taste Buds. Introduce new fruits, grains, or vegetables, but cook them with the same seasonings you’ve always used. Start small by substituting rice or soy milk for cow’s milk, vegan butter for dairy butter, delicious Anything Vegan cheese alternatives for dairy cheese, etc. as suggested in tip # 2. Start using more and more fresh grain, fruit, and vegetable ingredients.
People cannot break habits without replacing them with new habits. What you want to do is create new habits by purposely creating meals using lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and for drinking, lots of plain water. We believe that as people know better, they do better, but only within a community, with support, and understanding. This is where you come in. As you work on changing family habits, there are things you can do each day to make it easier.
Drink plenty of water daily. Replacing soda with water can help you drop up to 50 pounds. Think before you drink – what are we putting into our body? Water refreshes and replenishes your cells, brain, skin, hair, and everything else. This is an instant energy pick-me-up too. And you won’t crave as much junk.
Eat a nutritious breakfast to avoid feeling ravenous—you can then better control snacking and lunch choices.
Eat healthy snacks often throughout the day—nuts, fruits, raw vegetables. These things cut up and carried around in little baggies keeps our cravings down for the junk food.
Reduce your sweet tooth by eating less and less un-natural sugar. In a short time you will get the same “sugar-satisfaction” without the processed sugar.
Eat only until you are no longer hungry—not to Thanksgiving full. Train your family by preparing small portions of food at each sitting. You can always get seconds if you really want to but wait 15 minutes before taking that second plate to give your brain time to register what you just ate to see if you really want more. This is a good time to catch up on each other’s day.
Be guilt-free if you occasionally deviate from your new eating habits. Give yourself a break already! The world beats us up enough—don’t do it to yourself, too. If you eat the occasional cookie with egg ,don’t make a federal case out of it. And the same goes for how you treat your family. The key is for everyone to keep doing better in your goals each day without making yourself feel bad about what you don’t do at this time. Good feelings and congratulating yourself for what you do right will encourage you and them to continue and to want to do more. And this is the most important thing.
4) TAKE ACTION NOW! They’ll never know they are eating healthy vegan meals. Here a delicious, easy vegan recipe to get you started.
Family Dinner: Vege-Crumble Spinach Lasagna
The tofu “ricotta” has a wonderful creamy texture and boasts all the familiarity of the traditional lasagna that most of us grew up with. Paired with the veg-crumble instead of ground meat, this is a family favorite. For more cheesiness, add O’So Cheesy vegan cheese to each layer.
INGREDIENTS 1/2 to 1 pound (225 to 455 g) lasagna noodles 2 packages (10 ounces each) fresh chopped spinach 1 package (16 ounces) firm tofu (not silken) ½ cup nutritional yeast 1 tablespoon raw turbinado sugar, agave nectar or other natural sweetener (optional) 1/4 cup nondairy milk (such as rice, oat, soy, almond, or hazelnut), (add more if needed) 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 peeled garlic cloves 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced 1 teaspoon vege-salt or sea salt (or to taste) 4 to 6 cups tomato or pasta sauce of your choice (be sure there is no meat added) 4 garlic cloves, minced “crumble seasoning mix” (½ teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil or oregano) 1 package of vege-ground crumble or vege- saugage.
DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; (180 degrees C, or gas mark 4).
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions or use “no-boil” lasagna noodles. Drain and set aside. Wash fresh spinach in cold water and drain. Place tofu, sweetener (if using), milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil, nutritional yeast, salt and half of the garlic into a blender or food processor and blend until like a cottage cheese consistency. The tofu “ricotta” should be creamy but still have body. Transfer to large-size bowl, and stir in spinach. Add salt little by little until it’s just right for your taste. In a medium sized skillet heat oil. Add vege ground crumble, onions, the rest of the garlic, and “crumble seasoning mix”. Sauté until browned. Cover bottom of 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles (use about one-third of noodles). Follow with half the tofu filling then a thin layer of ground crumble. Repeat in the same order, using half the remaining tomato sauce and noodles, and all remaining tofu filling, fresh spinach, and ground crumble. End with remaining noodles, covered by remaining tomato sauce. Drizzle O’So Cheesy cheese over the top or use a vege shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 55 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving to be sure it sets nicely and holds its shape when cut.
—Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld and Jasmine Simon
What are your favorite tips for veganizing your family’s meals?