Vegan Diets Support Healthy Pregnancy

Yesterday’s headlines about diet and birth defects caused some completely unsubstantiated claims about vegan diets. The news stories were based on research published in the journal Pediatrics, showing that there is a greater risk of birth defects in babies born to women with low blood levels of vitamin B12.

Some journalists saw this as an opportunity to discredit vegan diets—despite the fact that the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” never appeared in the Pediatrics article! The subjects in this study were women living in Ireland at a time when fortified foods were not widely available in that country. There was no indication that any of these women were vegetarian.

Those whose eat plant-based diets do need to supplement their intake with vitamin B12, either from supplements ... Read More >

Just For Fun—Eat Like a Japanese Vegetarian

Japanese researchers have just published a food guide for vegetarians living in Japan and also for those in the United States who wish to follow a more traditional Japanese eating pattern.

This meal planning tool differs from western vegetarian food guides in some important ways. With both health and traditional Asian eating patterns in mind, it places vegetables—not grains—at the center of the diet and the base of the pyramid.

Despite the fact that dairy foods are a relatively new habit to Japanese culture, the guide is aimed at lacto-ovo vegetarians and (surprisingly) specifies 3 servings of dairy foods per day, although serving sizes are only half what American food guides typically recommend.

If you’d like to add a little variety to your ... Read More >

For Healthy Meals, Shop the Center of the Grocery Store

One of the newest “nutrition education” groups to hit the web is The Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition (NRFC). Funded by twelve commodity groups, including the National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen’s Association, the group’s focus is on encouraging people to eat more nutrient-rich foods.

Not surprising, the foods being touted through its education materials and recipes are those produced by its members. (The members do include a number of commodity groups devoted to plant foods. But it’s an odd assortment, suggesting that groups are included based only on their willingness to pay a membership fee.)

The main tip that the NRFC gives for smart shopping is to “shop the perimeter of the grocery store.” In fact, based on their Supermarket Map, you ... Read More >

Feed Your Daughters Well

It still isn’t clear that what we eat as adults will impact our risk for cancer. But there is lots of evidence that what girls eat—especially during puberty—can affect their risk of getting breast cancer in adulthood. The theory is that certain compounds in food impact breast tissue as that tissue is developing, either conferring lifelong protection against cancer or raising risk for cancer.

I wrote several months ago about soyfood consumption during the teen years and how it can protect against breast cancer in adulthood. More recently, Harvard researchers looked at the effect of red meat consumption during adolescence. They asked more than 40,000 women what they ate in high school, and then followed their health over the next seven years. Those who ... Read More >

Being Vegetarian: The Thing You Can’t Give Up

When it comes to going vegetarian or vegan, the whole idea of perfectionism—of never eating dairy again and never eating meat—is among the biggest obstacles for people. I saw this first hand for the first time many years ago when I was teaching a class on vegetarian cooking. One student told me that she loved the idea of going vegetarian but she just couldn’t contemplate it, because she couldn’t give up her favorite food—a Reuben Sandwich.

I asked her how often she had a Reuben, and she said “Oh—maybe 4 or 5 times a year.” I suggested that maybe she would like to try being a vegetarian with the exception of 4 or 5 Reuben sandwiches every year. It had never occurred to her! ... Read More >

The Frugal Vegan

Beans and rice are cheap, but, for many of us, vegan diets aren’t. Tofu, veggie burgers and soymilk are important staples in some veggie households, and they are often—or usually—much more expensive than their animal-derived counterparts.

But with a little bit of planning, you can cut costs in your veggie kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

Get back to basics: Whatever happened to beans and rice, anyway? They are still the best foods on earth—always good for you, good for the environment, easy on the pocketbook.

Take the condiment approach with meat substitutes: Progressive dietitians have long advised that meat should be treated as a condiment in healthy diets. No more big slabs of beef on the plate—but rather, small amounts of meat should be ... Read More >

Eating for the Earth:Locavore or Vegan?

Voltaire said that the best (or the perfect) is the enemy of the good. And when it comes to diet, there is a definite risk that setting standards of perfection will paralyze us into inaction. On the flip side, it’s not great to let a few good choices make us so complacent that we don’t seek to do more.

A good example of this in the world of dietetics occurred when Americans got cholesterol savvy and started trading in beef for white meat such as chicken. That was a moderate improvement in eating habits that let people feel good about their diets—but by itself, it doesn’t make a diet “heart healthy.”

More recently, I’m seeing examples of this in regard to diet and ... Read More >

World’s Best Peanut Butter Cookies—and Yes, They Are Vegan

I made these cookies for a fundraiser last night and, as always, was a little worried about the texture. It’s tricky to get vegan cookies to be tender, (and these are definitely crisp, not soft) but several people told me that they were the best peanut butter cookies they had ever tasted! (And one of them was my friend Phyllis, who is pretty much the most inspired baker in the history of the world.)

I used Adams brand peanut butter—the only PB I use for anything. It’s the closest thing to homemade, and it wasn’t involved in the recent recall. I buy mine at Costco in 5-pound tubs.

Admittedly, these cookies are no great nutritional bargain. They are mostly fat, sugar and white ... Read More >

Great Vegan Bean Cuisine

The absolute best meal I’ve ever had was a platter of chickpeas and fresh tomato sauce; it had simmered all day on the open hearth of a restaurant in Sicily, and—along with a little pasta, escarole, and Chianti, of course—created a meal that could never be rivaled by even the most expensive cut of meat!

Other wonderful bean-based delicacies: garlic-infused Cuban black beans, spicy Indian lentil curry, or lemony chick pea hummus from the Middle East. Beans are world class cuisine!

I always keep a good supply of canned beans on hand for fast meals. But they have become expensive lately, and they also have a higher glycemic index than those you cook from scratch. And cooking your own dried beans is easy.

... Read More >

Beans for Vegetarians and Other Smart Eaters

Beans for Vegetarians and Other Smart Eaters

I’ve got beans on the brain. I’ve been thinking about them a lot because—like everyone else—I’m trying to cut back on expenses. But even in the best of financial times, beans are nearly always on my menu. I love and adore them. Here is what’s so great about beans:

  • They are central to all kinds of exotic and exciting world cuisine, so beans lend themselves to fun recipes.
  • They are gorgeous! Lentils and black beans may not be all that exciting, but look around for some of the “boutique beans” like Christmas limas, Calypsos, and Black Valentines. They are kitchen art!
  • They’re plant foods, so of course, eating more beans (and, therefore, less meat) is good for the environment. But beans are even better ... Read More >