Optimistic Vegan

Vegan in Texas
April 5, 2011, 8:32 am
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Restaurants, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

When my dad and I went to Houston, Texas to see Jane Goodall we expected to have some difficulty finding vegan restaurants. Although we did have some difficulty and we relied heavily on Happy Cow, we survived!

As soon as we checked in to our hotel, we asked the hotel clerk  if there were any vegetarian places nearby. She said that her dad used to frequent the Hobbit Café and that he used to be a vegetarian. We then learned that the other clerk had tried to be vegetarian for a while, but ended up stopping. We didn’t expect to find anything promising, so that was good news! We did go to the Hobbit Café, and the food was great: Portabella Mushroom Fajitas. It was even voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” in Houston. We actually found this a little disconcerting because most of their menu contained meat products. It had a lot of character and it all worked out, but it was much different from the highest-rated vegetarian restaurant in good old Seattle.

In addition to the Hobbit Café we also went to a vegan Chinese buffet (decent, but not my favorite, but entirely vegan!) after going to the first few destinations listed at the Happy Cow–only to find out they no longer existed. We later found a Whole Foods Market and got some food for dinner.

Even though it was more difficult, I had a great time finding vegan food in Houston. I feel like if even Texas, popularly known mostly for its steak-devouring cowboys, is offering more vegan-friendly options then veganism must really be going somewhere!


Happy Cow is a website that has a list of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. There’s a great app for Android (and I’m assuming iPhone) that uses GPS to tell you the nearest veg restaurants.

*My preconceptions about Texas food come from what I’ve heard about Texas being more about cattle raising and eating beef than vegetarian food.


Gluten-Free Adventure
April 2, 2011, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Personal | Tags: , , ,

Today I decided to try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks to see if I see any change in the way I feel. There hasn’t been a whole lot of research about gluten and especially if not eating it is beneficial to those who don’t have Celiac disease, but I figured I might as well try! Also, look for a long overdue Jane Goodall post tomorrow!

If we look back at what our early ancestors ate we can see what our bodies evolved to eat. They mostly consumed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and small game when they could get it. Upon looking this up I came across the “paleolithic diet” which sounds very intriguing. The idea is that you model your diet after the diet of our ancestors because we are adapted to it. Anyway, we didn’t start consuming grains until relatively recently when farming came around (in the whole scheme of things). Our body hasn’t had as much time to adapt to eating grains as it has eating fruits.

Even if a gluten-free diet doesn’t actually have benefits, I’ll at least be giving up a lot of processed foods that I know aren’t healthy. I reached for one of the many Newman-O’s that my dad bought me, but sadly they have wheat. So no cookies, cake, pie, bread, calzones (on Calzone Wednesday!) but we’ll see how it turns out.

My amazing friend, Kristin, is gluten and lactose intolerant and just started being vegetarian! She will be my inspiration for my gluten free journey.

Good bye gluten, hello tons of veggies! I’m so glad that potatoes don’t have gluten, because I don’t think I could give them up. Phew!


I couldn’t think of any cute pictures related to gluten, so here’s a baby duck! Kaity and I saw duck rape for the first time yesterday, and it was so sad to see! But duck rape means baby ducks! (Some male ducks, such as mallards, do actually force penetration on the females. However, apparently female ducks are fighting back and have evolved long, twisted vaginas that can stop unwanted intercourse. You go girls! But someone has to make those baby ducks.)

Food Revolution
March 31, 2011, 8:21 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

We are living in an exciting time: we’re living in the middle of the Food Revolution. More and more people are examining their relationship to food and more and more people are finding themselves dissatisfied. Little by little we are changing our messed up food system.

A little while ago I started a Twitter so that I could stay more up to date with news, specifically vegnews. I love it and think it’s a great way to stay connected. I feel more up to date that I’ve ever felt, and I feel a community that I didn’t know existed before.

Just in the past couple of months:

  • Oprah’s show had a vegan special
  • Martha Stewart had a vegan special
  • An article in the Seattle Times about a vegan blogger
  • Seattle Vegfest
  • An article in Time about moral issues surrounding food
  • As well as many people in the spotlight who are becoming food conscious (my favorites: Olivia Wilde, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, Ellen DeGeneres)’

I don’t know about you guys, but this makes me really hopeful. I don’t think the problem is convincing people to care about the environment, worker and animal rights or the difficulties small farmers face, but letting them know. Recently it’s been talked about in the media and I think this is the first step.

I know I’m excited, and I love that it’s happening now. I believe we can revitalize our food system, we just need to keep up the good work!



Oprah’s Vegan Challenge
February 4, 2011, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , ,

For those of you who missed it, Oprah had a show described her challenge of going vegan for 1 week, including 378 of her staff members. How exciting is this?! I’m sure that Oprah’s influence will help change the image that vegetarian/vegan diets currently have. I haven’t watched the entire episode, but there are some segments available online.


I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but in 1998 a group of Texan beef producers filed a lawsuit against Oprah after she had a show that talked about BSE (mad-cow disease). After hearing about the dangers of it, she said, “I’ll never eat hamburger again.” Apparently this comment affected a lot of viewers and sales of meat products decreased. This group of Texan beef producers didn’t want Oprah saying anything bad about their products, so they sued her. Even though Oprah won (thank goodness, ever heard of the freedom of speech?) I think it scared her from talking about it any more. (Lawsuits take time and money!) So when I heard she was doing this vegan week I couldn’t believe it.

If her comment about hamburger can have such an influence, what do you think something like this can do? I don’t think all of those staffers are going to go vegan, nor do I think Oprah’s fans are. Although I do think that the seeds have been planted. This was a very positive picture of veganism, and I think that this was a great introduction to a lot of people, especially to those who’ve never heard the term before.

I’d like to point out a few things that were talked about on the show. Michael Pollan was one of the guest speakers, who I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, he does raise a lot of awareness and advocate for more conscious eaters, but I think he could be a little more optimistic. One of the things he said was (I’m paraphrasing) that this vegan challenge is a moral challenge, an ethical challenge, a challenge to tradition and that it could be viewed as an insult to your mother. I could say a lot about this, but the part where he said it was an insult to your mother I couldn’t handle it. I think he views veganism as giving up “great food” and saying no to a way of life. While this is true, you’re also giving up your support for the unnecessary suffering of animals, the environment, etc. Your mother should be proud that you’ve seen this connection and you’re willing to change your way of life to align with your values (I’m just assuming compassion and a rejection of cruelty are some of your values). He is seen as an authority figure for vegetarianism for those who don’t know about it and I think he could be using his influence in a more positive way. But anyway…He did talk about how 75% of our health care spending is linked to diet. This needs to change. AND he said that you shouldn’t eat meat if you aren’t willing to look at how it’s produced. I think this is a great idea. He knows how it’s produced but still eats it a couple times a week (but not from feed lots or industrial factory farms).

Last thing, sorry this has gotten so long! They got a chance to get into Cargill, the largest beef processor in North America (after being turned down by 20 others). Obviously I don’t know, but I suspect that they made sure everything was clean and smooth so they could get a better image for all of Oprah’s fans. But it was good for people to see nonetheless. At one point the investigator asked her “tour guide” what she would say if animal activists told her they didn’t support the consumption of animals. She  said that she would respect their opinion, but that they value the dignity of animals and that it’s the natural order to eat them. OKAY. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure how dignified it is to treat every animal like a piece of machinery, from birth to death. I missed that part somehow. And I’m not sure which part of it is “natural” either. Well then.

Well, if you’re reading this, you got through that whole thing! Thanks! And you should check out the vegan show. And you should become a conscious eater. And make me vegan brownies.

I’ll give you a picture of Oprah AND a cute animal, how’s that?


The Vegan Title
January 30, 2011, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure you’ve heard me rant about this before, but I think it needs to be reiterated. I hate the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian.” (I really feel like I’ve already talked about this, but I can’t find it!) It puts those people in a little box and they feel like they can’t move, they feel the need to define themselves, and other people don’t have as much “respect” if they aren’t completely in their box. Let me explain.

From what I’ve seen, most people don’t think they can be completely vegan/vegetarian so they don’t try at all. (Read my post titled Every Bit Goes a Long Way for more about that) This is why I hate the titles of vegan/vegetarian. It’s like you have to have the title to prove to others what your beliefs are or something. I think that we should care less about what other people think of us and stay true to ourselves and what we believe. If you think that factory farms are terrible and you feel you can give up red meat but never chicken, give up red meat! You might not be able to call yourself a “vegetarian” but at least you know you’re doing what you think is best by doing what you can.

A lot of new vegans/vegetarians get discouraged because they slip up/forget/take a break or whatever, and some even quit altogether. You have to cut yourself some slack! For the people my age, you’ve been eating meat for almost 2 decades! It’s not easy for everyone to make a lifestyle switch that quickly! If you slip up a couple of times, understand that you’re still making a difference.

So I think that you should stop caring about getting that title and instead do what you can.

Baby cow picture for you!

baby cow


More About Protein
December 8, 2010, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , ,

I discussed protein on a very basic level in a different blog post, Where do you get your protein?! which I suggest looking at first to get a good basis.

Essentially, protein is made up of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids and 8 of them need to be eaten (your body makes the other 14). Everything you eat is made up of amino acids. Carrots, spinach, pineapple, wheat, etc. Everything. The most common question vegetarians are asked is where they get their protein. Unfortunately, in our society, meat is equated with protein. I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly possible to get all of the protein you need just by eating a whole foods, plant based diet.

I just finished reading The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his son Thomas M. Campbell, and it reiterated over and over that the best diet for your health is a whole foods, plant based diet. My favorite aspect of this book is that it was written by a man who grew up as a farm boy believing in the “all American diet.” It was only through the research he did and evidence that he found that made him change his lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. Let me tell you, the results he found are astounding. He was able to show the distinct relationship between animal products and increased chances of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases and various bone, kidney, eye and brain diseases. If that isn’t enough evidence to convince someone that animal products are not the ideal diet, I don’t think anything could.

The book is called The China Study because he had the opportunity to do a massive comprehensive study on 65 rural Chinese counties. It worked particularly well in China because the people tend to be genetically similar and live in the same area for their entire lives. The results are astounding. (Read it!)

A large portion of his research was dedicated to protein. I’m going to give a brief overview of some of the things he discovered, but definitely read the book to get a more thorough picture. In his research about the way that protein affects cancer growth he discovered that the amount of protein in a diet directly affects how fast the cancer progresses. He was able to show that “a low-protein diet could override the cancer-causing effect of a very powerful carcinogen, aflatoxin” (Campbell 59). However, not all protein can have this effect on cancer growth. It turns out that casein (a milk protein) has the opposite effect than plant proteins do. Casein, in relation to plant proteins, speeds up the growth of cancer. He did an experiment involving rats that lasted 100 weeks to discover the affect of protein on cancer growth. All of the rats were fed the same level of the cancer carcinogen, aflatoxin, but some were fed the regular 20% level of casein (what average Americans eat in their diet), and then to others he fed a low-protein diet of 5% casein diet. At the end of the study almost all of the rats fed the 20% protein diet were dead from liver tumors but all of the animals administered the low-protein diet were “alive, active and thrifty, with sleek hair coats” (Campbell 61). This is astounding. A low-protein diet has the ability to slow or halt cancer growth.

I might blog more about the book later, but I don’t want to make this post too long! I just wanted to bring up the idea that protein isn’t as great as we are told it is.

Here it is!


Every Bit Goes a Long Way

Something I’m sure many of you have seen is the picture of a cow and a list of all of things we use her for with the tagline “There is no such thing as a vegan.” You may have seen the blog post that I put on my facebook wall (I didn’t write it, but it’s another that responded to the illustration). When I first saw the illustration I was a little upset, but there has been a lot of interesting response to it that I think it was a cool thing for people to see.

Oftentimes those who aren’t vegan try to find “flaws” with those who choose a vegan lifestyle or they’ll try to “catch” them being non vegan. I think that if they can prove that the vegan isn’t actually vegan then it justifies their choice to use animal products. Because if it’s impossible to be a vegan, then why bother changing your lifestyle? Something that Colleen Patrick-Goudreau often says in response to things like this is, “Don’t do anything because you can’t do everything. Do something.” I love this. Just because it might be impossible to be a complete vegan doesn’t mean I should disregard what I think is right. I try the best that I can to live my life as true to myself and that’s all I can ask of anyone else.

Something vegans hear a lot is that it would be impossible to go vegetarian because it’s too hard to give up chicken, or it’s too hard to go vegan because it’s too hard to give up cheese. So why don’t you give up everything but chicken? Or make the steps toward a vegan lifestyle by giving up everything but cheese? I think that in society today there is such an emphasis on labels that people don’t want to explain that they are almost vegan, with the exception of cheese. Anything you give up helps, and somewhere down the line someone is appreciating it!