For many of us, if we're not careful, as we age the pounds can sneak up; and then we are stuck facing the dreaded 'Middle Age Spread'.
Even five pounds per year adds up over 10 years, and the health implications of weight gain are many: an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer, not to mention the added stress on the joints, especially knees caused by carrying around that extra weight. A new study shows that for each pound we lose it takes 4 pounds of pressure off the knee joints.
Weight gain is not a mysterious thing; if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight and if you burn more calories than you take in you lose weight. To gain one pound we have to take in 3500 calories more than we burn off.
The most calorie dense food is fat, that means that per gram, fats have the most calories of any food. Each tablespoon of oil packs in 120 calories. Initially this may not sound like a lot, but if you were to add 1 tablespoon of oil to your diet per day, this extra 120 calories would add up to 12.5 pounds in one year, OR 25 pounds in 2 years. That's 100 extra pounds of pressure on the knee joints in just 2 years!
The good news is that small changes on a daily basis can really add up. One of the easiest and most painless ways to cut out the calories, is to start with the oil in your sauté pan. We have been programmed to reach for the oil every time we sauté or fry anything. Be it olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, butter or coconut oil, they all contain 120 calories per tablespoon, and we can easily consume several tablespoons per week on our sautéd veggies.
For your convenience I have compiled a list of 10 substitutions you can reach for instead of oil when frying or sautéing. Wether you're cooking onions, veggies, or tofu, the oil in your sauté pan can easily be substituted with one of these 10 healthier replacements, and in many cases they add even more flavour to your food than the oil would! You may have to add a bit more of your replacement liquid as it evaporates, so keep it handy as your food is cooking.
2) vegetable broth
5) cooking sherry
6) Mirin or Chinese cooking wine
7) soy sauce or tamari
8) vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (Traditional worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. You can find vegetarian versions, but you can also make your own.)
9) apple juice
10) pineapple juice
Another tool that is indispensable when it comes to oil free cooking is a good non-stick pan. It helps keep food from sticking and makes for quicker clean up, so it's definitely worth the investment. With a good non-stick pan you can even forgo fat when making your Sunday morning pancakes. I now fry my pancakes in a dry pan and save countless calories! Same goes for veggie burgers!
I guarantee you won't miss that added fat in your meals.
We all have them, things we must do and things we should do. The 'shoulds' haunt us when we sit down to have a cup of tea. They wake us in the night and keep us tossing and turning. They keep us rushing from task to task to cross one more item off of our to do lists.
This weekend I escaped from my 'shoulds' for four full days with nothing to do but soak up the sunshine at the cottage. Pure heaven.
I did only the things I wanted to do and being far from home, I let go of my 'shoulds'. I breathed, I ate, I slept and I walked. I stayed in my pyjamas well past noon and I didn't make my bed. There were days that I didn't even comb my hair!
I listened to the water lapping against the shore and the wind rustle the leaves, and the loons call in the night. I watched the wild flowers dance in the wind and the sun sparkle on the ripples of the lake and the dragonflies land on the dock. And gradually, in the absence of 'shoulds' things began to shift.
The waves in my mind began to quiet and all those things that seemed so darned important could wait. With all the 'shoulds' removed, only the really important things, the 'big rocks' were left, and I could see more clearly.
Without all the 'shoulds', resentments melted away. It no longer seemed so irritating that someone never put the dishes in the dishwasher, or that I always had to pick up after so and so. Without these resentments. I was left only with the gratitude.
This gratitude grew in my heart. I felt love, a huge bursting love for those close to me and even those not so close to me. Their little quirks made me smile.
In the garden down by the dock there is a sign. It says 'love grows here'. And that is just what happened. In the absence of 'shoulds' love grows. In the absence of 'shoulds' perspectives shift. The fog clears and you are left with only the big rocks.
So let this be a gentle reminder; we all need to take the occasional vacation from 'shoulds', where there is nowhere to go and nothing to do and no one to look after but ourselves. We must take time to be quiet and listen to what's inside, to pay attention to the little gifts of nature that we overlook, and to recharge our spiritual batteries. We must not feel guilty or selfish because taking this time makes us better parents, better friends and better people.
I wish you all a day without 'shoulds'!!
Three years ago yesterday is when I took the vegan plunge. I timed it to coincide with my return from a Labor Day trip to Quebec City. I thought I needed one last holiday before committing to this new lifestyle challenge. And that is exactly what I thought it would be..... a challenge.
Prior to this I ate cheese almost everyday. I LOVED cheese. I was scared to even imagine a life without it. Many of my go to meals and comfort foods were full of dairy. I had gotten into a habit of having yogurt with fruit and granola for breakfast every morning. I knew that it was easy to find vegetarian meals in restaurants since I had been 'vegetarian' for years prior to this, but vegan? What was I going to eat? And how would my friends and family react? I didn't know one person who was a vegan back then. Not one. How would Christmas dinner be? What would my kids say? How would my boyfriend deal with this?
It was big decision, but after educating myself and doing my research, nothing else really sat well with me anymore. I could no longer turn a blind eye to the potential effects of meat, eggs and dairy on my health, and the health of my family. That is what motivated me. I wasn't sick. I didn't have high blood pressure or diabetes or high cholesterol.... yet, but knowing what I knew then, I knew things had to change. I did not want to accept that heart disease, cancer and diabetes were a natural and normal part of aging. I felt and still feel that I have the tools to prevent a life that includes these degenerative diseases. I believe that when we make the right choices, we have the possibility to live vibrantly and actively to ages beyond 100 even!
So how have things changed for me in the past 3 years? I think of this as a health evolution and an awakening. "When we know better, we do better." First I stopped eating all animal products. In this day and age it is easy enough to find vegan substitutions for butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, etc. And initially I relied heavily on these things, especially for my kids, who were less than enthusiastic about this change, and appearing different from their peers.
Then I started cooking my own EVERYTHING! I started collecting recipe books, and yes, it has become a bit of an obsession for me, but that's a whole other addiction story! I was amazed how EASY it was to make vegan muffins, cookies, granola, pancakes, etc. And no one could tell the difference. So why did everything have dairy and eggs in it?? WHY?? Then I learned to make my own plant-based sausages, burgers, cream cheese, etc, etc, etc.....
Turns out it really wasn't the big challenge I thought it was going to be. I didn't even miss the cheese that much at all... I found it was more the creamy texture that I missed, and that was easy enough to find. Guacamole became my new best friend!!
And then... I started to get angry. Why did it take me until my 40's to hear that dairy was a cancer promoter? Why is the dairy industry educating our children about nutrition? Why did dairy have it's own food group? Why does everyone think that they won't get enough protein without eating animal products? Why were these myths being perpetuated in our society? Why did doctors prescribe drugs instead of teaching people to eat well? Who was responsible? Why were profits more important than our children's health?
My anger only fuelled my commitment. Someone had to get this information into the hands of the people! People had a right to know this stuff! And so I cooked. And I shared my cooking with people. And I tried new recipes. And I cooked for more people. And I organized Forks Over Knives movie nights and I fed more people.... and people started to ask questions! So I answered their questions, I started to blog, I started to teach people to look at things differently and share recipes and teach them to cook in a new way.
In my interactions with people, I have noticed that there are different categories of people when it comes to their thoughts on a plant based lifestyle.
There are the veg-opposers, those that proclaim themselves proudly to be carnivores at the first mention of a meat-less life. These people don't want to hear anything that contradicts their beliefs. They don't want to try anything different. They are comfortable with what they know. And that's fine.
There are the veg-curious; those that make their health a priority and want to learn all they can. These people are curious, open to information and ask questions. They love to see that healthy food and delicious food can be one and the same. They will try whatever you feed them, and often ask for recipes!
And then there are the veg-supporters. Often vegetarian and vegan themselves, some can be very radical and vociferous about their beliefs. And that's ok. I have learned that this group is very active and supportive. They form groups, associations, start pot-lucks, organize bake sales, raise money for animals, start rescue farms and volunteer their time for the cause.
I'm not trying to say one group is better than another.... we are all entitled to our beliefs. I'm just saying this to explain how becoming a vegan changes how people relate to you. Relationships change when your diet changes. Especially with those in the first group. These people can be very uncomfortable with your changes. They can be loud and defensive about their own beliefs. Unfortunately some people very close to me are in this first group, which has made things a bit challenging on some occasions, especially during the holidays. But I am meeting more and more people in the second two categories. And I have learned to stay quiet with the people in the first group. With time everyone gets used to your choices and it becomes a non-issue. And people can and do change categories!
One of the most unexpected changes that I have noticed in the past 3 years has been an increased sense of peace from living in harmony with my values. I don't think I was previously aware of any inner conflict, but my early choices of vegetarianism and my career path in ecotoxicology, indicate that these values have always been a part of me. I do believe my choices benefit the planet and the economy as well as my health, and this has made me even more committed to my plant-based lifestyle.
I just read something today that said "We make our choices, and then our choices make us." This rings so true for me. We are what we eat, physically and energetically. This may sound hokey, but I believe that when we eat an animal, we are eating the energy of that animal's existence. If it was mistreated and scared and sad, we absorb that energy. And with the amount of depression, anxiety and anger in people today... we could use a little less of that type of energy. I think this contributes to my feeling of inner peace.
Despite some challenges, mostly with relationships and family dynamics, I feel that this choice I made 3 years ago has made me happier, healthier, and closer to the person I am meant to be. It has resulted in the birth of Zengarry, through which I have met so many wonderful, amazing, generous people. I love watching the ripples of my actions travel out into the world, and join with the waves of the growth of compassion and consciousness. I thank each of you for being a part of my journey and for listening.
I would love to hear about your experiences with dietary changes in the comments below. Do you have any tips for people transitioning to a plant-based diet??
I'm very excited to have a guest blogger for you today. Sarah is one of the most optimistic people I know. I first met her at a movie night - potluck I hosted in the spring. We watched the Forks Over Knives Extended Interviews and she arrived with a friend of hers that had taken our Plant Based Immersion Program. She was eager to learn all she could about nutrition and diet, as she and her three young daughters were all dealing with colitis.
My first thought was "Wow, she deals with all this on a daily basis and yet, she still has a smile on her face!" Since then I have gotten to know her more, and I am continually inspired by her love for life and her family and her generous spirit.
One of the foods that Sarah has found to affect her own issues with colitis is dairy. So she tries to avoid it. At one of our first meetings she spoke to me of dairy and I suggested she write a guest blog..... which she has done. I am thrilled to share it with you.
Dairy – a product which is heavily marketed today; in schools, media, on billboards, television commercials, and in Canada’s Food Guide for healthy eating. We are bombarded, several times a day, with the idea that dairy provides calcium, builds strong bones and teeth, and we can’t be healthy without it. It has even been suggested that cow’s milk helps you to lose weight! These well marketed myths are slowly being exposed, and every day there are more people and their families eliminating dairy from their diets. This can be an extremely daunting task, especially at first, since dairy and its by-products seem to be in everything! The most commonly known names of dairy are products like; milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.. However; there are many other names that the general public would never even dream of! Just some of dairy’s hidden names include; casein, galactose, ghee, hydrolysates, lactalbumin, nisin preparation, quark, recaldent, rennet, simplesse, and whey.
Whey, in particular, is one that is found in the most surprising of products. Whey is a naturally addictive substance, as it contains glutamate – the main ingredient in Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). The most common reactions to MSG are; triggered insulin and adrenalin response, promotion of fat storage, and food cravings. Those responses are what cause you to feel hungry again not long after eating at a fast food restaurant or a Chinese buffet. It’s also why some of us crave potato chips and other MSG containing foods, even though we're not hungry. Knowing this, food production companies add whey to their products in order to addict the consumer. Addicted consumers become repeat customers, which leads to higher sales volumes, lower production costs, and therefore higher profit margins for the company. Some products containing whey that may surprise you are; peanuts, no-butter popcorn, flavored potato chips, chewing gum, cereal, granola bars, bread, crackers, ‘non-Dairy’ products such as cheeses, and vegetarian ‘meats.’ Many fast food restaurants even add whey to their French fries, onion rings, and other products. Whey is also added to most non-fat and low fat foods.
To avoid dairy and its by-products, be diligent in reading the ingredients list of all packaged foods, do your research on restaurants, and prepare most of your own food at home. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but with practice you will no longer need to read most food labels to know what does, and doesn’t, contain dairy products.
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