Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vegetarian Diet Without Weight Gain

Question for Savvy Vegetarian: How can I eat the proper veg diet with out weight gain?


Vegetarians tend to be thinner, on average, particularly vegans, but the same principles of weight loss apply to a vegetarian diet, as to a non-vegetarian diet. There are quite a few variables, but there are lots of ways to eat a proper, nutritious vegetarian diet without weight gain.

First, some of the main variables:

1. Your lifestyle and activity level: If you're physically active, especially if you spend time in outdoor activity every day, you won't have as much problem with weight gain, whether or not you're vegetarian, because you'll be burning calories as you eat them. Exercise is an inescapable component of weight control.

2. Vegetarian or Vegan: Vegans tend to be leaner, as a balanced vegan diet tends to be higher in fiber and lower in calories, because of the absence of dairy and egg. For example, beans and whole grains are protein staples of a vegan diet, and the protein/fat/carb balance in those foods fall more into the recommended balance of 10 - 20% protein, 15 - 35% fat, and 50 - 70% carbohydrate per 100 calories. Tofu being the exception. Nuts and seeds are very high in fats, but a little goes a long way, and they are prime sources of vital nutrients.

3. Your physical characteristics and metabolism: If you tend to gain weight, and be a slow moving, earth mother type, then you need to eat accordingly, and not like your friend who eats everything, never exercises, and is a stick. Ayurveda is based on the principle of three basic constitutional types, plus seasonal and life cycle variations, which means that you're unique, just like everybody else, and should cater to your unique individual needs.

Ways to control your weight on a vegetarian diet:

1. Favor vegan sources of protein. That doesn't mean you have to go all vegan, just go easy on the high fat, low fiber foods.

2. Make every calorie count, nutritionally, with high quality, fresh, organic whole foods, and very little processed food or instant food - that way you control the contents of your diet.

3. Maintain 50 - 70% of your diet in carbs, to keep your metabolism and your blood sugar steady and avoid food cravings.

4. Get plenty of liquids, especially warm liquids, like teas, but very little soda, cold or sweet drinks. Favor high liquid, but nutrient dense foods, like soups, salads and fruits.

5. Exercise daily, consistently, with at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous excercise.

Dietary Don'ts:

1. Don't cut fats and carbs out of your diet. High protein diets of any kind are harmful. You still need a good protein/fat/carb balance. For more info on this topic, read the SV Article: Vegetarian Protein - Myth and Reality

2. Don't starve and binge, or adopt a punitive exercise routine that you can't maintain. Think long term, and be consistent. Have realistic expectations and goals. Size 4 may be unattainable, but last I heard, size 10 or even 12 was perfectly respectable.

3. Avoid extreme diets, like strict vegan, raw food, macrobiotic, or high protein, low carb diets. It's better to learn what your individual body needs, on a daily basis and go with that. Think sustainable.

4. Don't take diet pills, or other chemical or herbal weight loss aids. That goes right along with starving and binging.

5. Don't overeat - quit before you're full, don't snack, and eat light at night.

Here are some more thorough, detailed sources of information on a balanced vegetarian diet without weight gain:

1. The books 'Becoming Vegan', and 'The New Becoming Vegetarian', by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis - excellent and indispensible vegetarian nutrition primers - they cover the weight issue pretty well.

2. Anne Collins has a vegetarian weight loss diet support site, which seems sensible and reasonable, and costs $20 to join.

3. Ayurveda is an ancient system of preventative medicine from India, and there are some excellent guidelines for healthy eating and weight control. The MAPI site has some helpful suggestions - you don't have to buy the products.

Here's an article by Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf M.D., on ayurvedic weight loss. She's written several excellent ayurvedic books for women.

4. More SV Weight Loss Advice Letters:

Thanks so much for writing. Your question was short, but significant - I'm inspired to expand this letter into an article or report. I hope it has helped.

All the best, Judy Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Will A Vegetarian Diet Help With Weight Loss?

Question for Savvy Vegetarian:

I am 40, 5'4" and currently weigh 220lbs. I am concerned about my weight obviously for health reasons and I'd like to fit into a normal size pair of jeans in this life time. Additionally I'd like to be healthy enough to play in the yard occasionally with my 10 year old son. I'm considering a change to a vegetarian diet, but have some reservations about going full blown vegan. Also how do you go about committing to a vegetarian diet in a house full of meat eaters? I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to eat nothing but vegetarian meals for a week...I truly enjoyed them and thought then that I might give it a try...I'm also concerned about the expense involved...vegetarian vs. "regular" diets and the cost. - M.A.

Advice From Savvy Vegetarian:

Dear M.A.,

You bring up a number of issues in your letter - let's take a look at them one at a time.

Vegetarian diet and Weight Loss: It can be easier to lose weight on a vegetarian diet, but it's also easy to gain weight, depending on what you eat. If you substitute large helpings of cheese, eggs and soy products for meat, and otherwise don't change your diet, being vegetarian won't help. And if you can change to a healthier diet that has more whole grains and veggies, and less calories, and exercise more, and maintain that consistently, you'll tend to lose weight, whether or not you are vegetarian.

Full Blown Vegan: In spite of the ethical and health benefits of a vegan diet, and the fact that vegans do tend to be thinner, I agree it's a bit much for most people to go completely vegan right off the bat, or make any sudden full scale dietary changes. In my opinion, it's better to change your diet gradually.

Being vegetarian in a house full of meat eaters: That's not as much of a problem as the general unhealthiness of a meat based diet. It's not just that people eat meat, but that they eat far too much meat, and not nearly enough, or often any, of whole grains, veggies, fruit, and plant based protein. If you could change your family's diet in that respect, it would make your life easier. I've attached another report for you, Veg and NonVeg Eat Together - veg/nonveg cohabition is one of the major topics.

The Expense: Again, it isn't a question of vegetarian vs non-vegetarian. A nutritionally superior diet can be more expensive than one that isn't. For example, organic food costs more. Better quality anything tends to cost more. BUT, processed food (frozen, canned, packaged - pre-cooked food, and fast food, or restaurant meals) always costs more, whether vegetarian, organic or not. And costs you your health - you are what you eat, etc. In my experience, it costs less to make your own food from scratch, with fresh quality ingredients, as well as being more satisfying and nourishing on all levels. And you have complete control over what you eat, which makes dieting easier.

I'm not an expert on weight loss; there are many aspects to consider, and I don't know what might apply to you. Also, you've indicated that this isn't just a matter of a few extra pounds for you - it's a serious health issue. Please find a professional who can help you put together a diet and exercise program that will work for you to gradually lose weight, and control your weight over the long haul. Gaining cooperation and support from your family would be a big plus, and again, you might need help with that, as in counselling.

As you say, the important thing for you is to lose weight, get healthy and improve your physical fitness. Whether or not you go vegetarian in the process is up to you, but a lot of doctors and dieticians agree it's a good direction to take for weight management. For a detailed reference on plant based nutrition I recommend 'The New Becoming Vegetarian' by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis, also 'Becoming Vegan', by the same authors - they also talk about weight control on a vegetarian diet.

I wish you all the best in meeting this challenge, I'll be thinking of you, and I hope you'll let me know how you're doing.

Judy Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

11 Year Old Asks How To Go Vegetarian Successfully

Question for Savvy Vegetarian:

im only 11 and i am really wanting to be a vegetarian because i love animals and i hate the thought of them getting ate. my mom and all her friends are like no more steak no more corn beef hash no more...my mom accepts it but i dont think my dad will. how do i get everyone to accept this. P.S. I've tried this before but never succeeded how do i succeed this time. - l.h

Advice From Savvy Vegetarian:

Dear l.h.,

That you're 'only 11' means you have lots of time to become a vegetarian. It also means that you still have lots of growing to do, and you need to be sure you're getting all the good nutrition you need for your growing. And any step in the veggie direction is positive for you and the animals.

If you read the ten tips report, you'll see that I emphasize making the change gradually, because there's a lot of new things to learn, and you need time to adjust. Just as it takes years of training and learning to be a good musician, or athlete, it takes time to get the knowledge and skills to be a successful vegetarian.

Your parents are responsible for your health and well being, and worry about you, so you need to come up with some solid information for them that will reassure them that you're not just being wierd and harming yourself with your veggieness.

If you want your parents to take you seriously, then you need to show them that you're willing to be responsible about your diet, and learn and do things for yourself. For instance, you could start learning to cook and shop vegetarian, and make some things that they can eat too.

o get a couple of good books - one on vegetarian nutrition (I recommend 'The New Becoming Vegetarian' by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis'), and an easy vegetarian cookbook - I recommend Nava Atlas's Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and her website, In a Vegetarian Kitchen. Ask your parents to read the books and visit the site with you.

Gradually reduce the animal food in your diet, and try new vegetarian foods as much as you can. One thing I want to really stress - you can't be a healthy vegetarian, and live on fast food and junk food - for instance, going to McD's regularly and eating everything but the patty. Most of what you eat should be good for you - vegetarians eat vegetables (and grains, and beans, and nuts).

I've attached the SV report you requested on Vegetarian Nutrition, and also the report 10 Tips for Beginning Vegetarians - I think that one will be helpful for you too. Please let me know if you have any questions about all this.

All the best, Judy Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

Monday, January 16, 2006

Going Vegetarian With Four Year Old

Dad asks advice on vegetarian transition and nutrition with four year old.

Question For Savvy Vegetarian: My wife and I have both decided to change our lifestyle. Our main issue is our 4 year old son. We ate healthy before we decided to stop eating meat all together. I guess our concern now is will he be getting everything he needs and what to expect while were all adjusting. Any advice will be greatly apppreciated. - R.W.

Advice From Savvy Veg:

For the first part of your question - will he be getting everything he needs, the answer is yes, depending on several factors. You already have a healthy diet. If you are ovo-lacto vegetarians, if he has no food allergies or sensitivities, and if he's a 'good eater', he should easily get enough protein, Vit B12, and other essential nutrients.

If you are vegan, there's more of a challenge, and I recommend that you not jump straight into a vegan diet for your four year old. Those are all big ifs. Whatever the variables, if you don't already, I would consider giving him a kids daily vitamin. Rainbow Light makes an excellent chewable one.

For the second part of your question, what to expect while you're all adjusting, the answer is expect the transition to take much longer than you would think, and expect that there could be some going back and forth between veg and non-veg, for all of you. Don't expect your four year old to just get with the program and be happily vegetarian for the rest of his life. That could happen, in which case, congratulations on your saintly child!

My experience with four year olds is that they are distinctly individual, and have formed definite opinions about what they want to eat. Ultimately, it will be up to him whether he goes vegetarian for the rest of his life - don't make it an issue in your relationship.

Take it slow and easy introducing new foods. Make it fun, get him involved in food prep, shopping, meal planning, and encourage his cooperation by giving him choices and rewards. When it's easy and welcomed by him, introduce the concepts behind vegetarianism, being careful not to overwhelm or frighten him - think education, not indoctrination. (I know of one father who showed his young children pictures of slaughterhouses - it gave them nightmares for years)

Here's a few resources for you:

Nava Atlas, of Vegetarian Kitchen, has a lot of kid friendly info and recipes on her site, and several excellent family oriented vegetarian cookbooks.

Many of the Savvy Veg recipes are kid friendly. See the basic recipe section, particularly tofu and beans. We'll be adding salads in the next few days.

I've also attached another SV Report, 10 Tips for Beginning Vegetarians.

Find more vegetarian advice letters

Regardless of what I or anybody else thinks, you are responsible for your child and his upbringing, and must follow your own feelings and best judgement with regard to his diet. As with all parenting, there isn't really a map or a manual, except in your own hearts.

I hope this has helped. All the best to you and your family,
Judy Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

Friday, January 13, 2006

Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception, Noseweek

For anyone who hasn't heard of
Jeffrey M. Smith, he's a global leader in the fight against GMO's in our food supply. He wrote a best seller, Seeds of Deception, an expose of the GMO industry, which should be required reading everywhere.

Jeffrey Smith has been touring the world, tirelessly fighting GMO's, writing, lecturing, giving interviews, debating, etc. He's a true hero. Lately, he's been in South Africa, where South African investigative magazine Noseweek ran a five-page interview

Excerpt from the Noseweek Interview:

Noseweek: Scientists representing the biotech industry claim that GM foods have been extensively tested and are safe. They say that anti-GM campaigners like you are unscientific and base their arguments on emotion. Can you comment?

J M Smith: A recently published linguistic analysis of biotech advocates concludes what many of us have observed for years. Using unscientific, emotional, and even irrational arguments, GM proponents attack critics as unscientific, emotional and irrational. In reality, critics demand more science, not less. We demand facts, not PR hype.

From Jeffrey Smiths' newsletter,

Spilling the Beans:

J M Smith: Hans Lombard, a public relations consultant for the biotech industry, wrote a rebuttal to Noseweek that was pure industry spin. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to respond. Both his letter and a condensed version of mine were published side by side in their January issue. The magazine put my full response on its website.

(Here is) the text of Lombard’s letter, broken up so that I can respond to each accusation. As this is quite long, it will be sent in three parts over a few days. If you prefer to read the whole thing at once, it is posted at Seeds of Deception.

The shortened version that was published is available with graphics and photos.

Excerpt from Jeffrey Smiths rebuttal to Hans Lombard's letter:

Hans Lombard: GMO Food Safer Than Conventional: Allegations by Jeffrey Smith of 'dangers and health risks' to humans and animals posed by GMO food in the article: 'Rammed Down Our Throats, Noseweek, September 2005' are blatant lies. Shocking, misleading information with no substantiated scientific evidence.

What he failed to tell us is that his so-called 'best seller' book condemning GMO crops which he hawked around South Africa has not received the backing of any academy of science or medicine, any faculty of agriculture/science, or any agricultural research institute anywhere in the world.

J M Smith: Hans Lombard, a public relations man paid to 'hawk' GM foods around South Africa, provides a superb example of industry spin. He attacks so-called 'lies' and 'misleading information' using nonexistent safety tests that passed with flying colors, false attributions to national academies and unsupported safety claims. It is a pleasure to respond to these accusations.

'So-called' best seller without 'backing'... Seeds of Deception is the world’s bestselling book on GM foods and rated number one on the subject by the
Ecologist. It documents attempted bribes, fired and threatened scientists, hijacked regulatory agencies, cover-ups, rigged research, and the ways in which industry manipulation and political collusion got genetically modified (GM) foods approved. It also explains why the foods threaten our health.

Subscribe to Spilling the Beans

Order Seeds of Deception

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sustainable Agriculture Through Vegetarianism

Greetings from Savvy Veg,

We have lots of visitors, thanks to Editor Harlan Weikle shoving us out in the blogosphere, but nobody's asked for advice in a while. I like to think they're finding what they need in the indexed advice letters
Or maybe vegging isn't their thing.

Anyway, I took the time to write an article about something that's been on my mind - sustainable ag thru veggieness. Here's the intro:

If vegetarianism were common, agriculture would be effortlessly and automatically sustainable.

How? Most food grown would be organic and non-GMO, and much more food would be locally grown, rather than imported and trucked thousands of miles – those things tend to be important to vegetarians. Processed food would be reduced, because optimum vegetarian nutrition comes from whole foods in their natural state, and most vegetarians are interested in a healthy diet. So, much of the energy that goes into producing, packaging, warehousing and transporting processed food would be saved.

Vegetables and grains need much less land and water than animals, so it wouldn't be necessary to destroy rain forests or irrigate arid land, or create deserts with over pasturing. Perhaps just enough animals could be raised to satisfy the ovo-lacto vegetarians, and those few people who haven't quite made the vegetarian transition, but even they would consume far less meat, for the sake of their health.

Reading through various articles and books on sustainability, I've noticed that this concept isn't necessarily obvious to a lot of sustainable ag experts, mainly because they aren't vegetarian, and can't picture agriculture without lots of animals. They are reluctant to be associated with what they regard as a fringe group of cranks, eccentrics and wierdos. In other words, they can't think outside their meat-eating box.

Read Sustainable Agriculture Through Vegetarianism

Saturday, January 07, 2006

World Change

Feeling Philosophical About World Change This Evening:

Recently I've been raiding the alternative mags at the local library - disappointed they don't have e-magazine. Guess I'll have to break down and buy it. The reason for this sudden reading binge is to compile a list of prospective green sponsors for Savvy Veg and friends, although I couldn't help but read some articles too.

The ads and the articles taken together over the course of several days in Mother Jones, Utne Reader, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, Mothering, Vegetarian Times, Acres USA, Yoga Journal, Body and Soul etc. had quite an effect on me. (By the way, are you impressed we have all those magazines in our little library in Fairfield IA? I am!)

Anyway, in spite of all the **** that's happening all over the world, and living in a country that's a global disgrace, all these people who produce the magazines, write for them, read them, advertise in them, have a huge collective desire for a better world, and are all doing whatever they can as individuals to make it happen. And of course they all have websites!

There are the vegetarians, the homesteaders, the moms, the environmentalists, the alternative energy types, the sustainable builders, the activists, the organic farmers, the green manufacturers - bleeding heart liberal tree huggers, who don't care if their phones are tapped. In spite of the apparent trends, they have faith, they're cheerful, they persevere, and work, and find joy in the process. Sort of Mary Poppins by way of Monty Python!

But maybe you've heard that saying, where did it come from - the Upanishad's maybe - 'The World Is As You Are'. There's a huge upswelling of 'right action' in the world, which comes from - what? Growth of consciousness, epiphany, religious experience, natural law, evolution? Who knows! But thanks! We'll take it!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Watching As The World Vanishes

Re: Article by Roxana Robinson, Published on Sunday, January 1, 2006 by the Boston Globe, reprinted by Common Dreams

I subscribe to Common Dreams newsletter, and it's almost always grim and depressing, as in "Yes, our not-so-duly elected government is still lying like a sidewalk, trashing the environment, enslaving the third world, and we're still doing Iraq twenty ways to Sunday, and it's painful and let's wallow." I think I read it so I don't forget why we have to be idealistic, not cynical, and keep trying to make the world a better place.

I'm rewarded for my persistence by gems like Roxana Robinson's article. This thoughtful, far-seeing plea for action is about the disappearance of half the species on the planet by the year 2050, and how nobody did much to stop it, because it's always someone else's responsibility, or fault. As Ms Robinson says, "Maybe this was a place where the curves of ignorance, courage, and survival instinct intersected, to exclude the possibility of action." The point, I think, is that evolution is inevitable, but rarely voluntary.

At the start of the new year, we always resolve to reform, to fix things, such as the fact that we're 10 lbs overweight and really need to exercise more. This year, let's trim the fat from our lifestyles, exercise our consciences, and fix the
future. Why not!

Judy Kingsbury
Savvy Vegetarian

Read 'Watching As The World Vanishes'

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Make Tofu Appetizing Instead of Disgusting

Note: Things have been a little slow in the advice dept over the holidays - people are too busy practising peace on earth and goodwill toward men to worry about their diets or much else, so I've dipped into the archives for a recent advice letter. Happy Veggie New Year to you all! - Judy

Dear Savvy Vegetarian,

I have been an strict ovo-lacto for about 10 years now and have never been able to find a way to cook tofu with a pleasant consistancy. Not to be offensive and disgusting but whenever I make it, my husband (a meat-eater) and I joke that the texture is like brain-matter. Am I doing something wrong??? I have tried freezing and draining, but it has been a while since I have attempted and have forgetten tips I have researched previously. I have an 11 month old who I am very afraid is lactose intolerant and has a nut allergy so I would really love to learn how to cook tofu in a way that my whole family will be able to eat together. Thank you!! - P.S.

Advice From Savvy Veg:
Dear J.W.,

I think I can help you!

First, tofu shouldn't be frozen, then thawed and drained. That definitely contributes to the brain matter appearance. It makes it more like meat in texture, but also dry and tasteless. Plus, it's way more work than you need to do!

Here are a few simple things to do with tofu that your baby will probably like, and you too I hope:

The number one tofu tip is the fresher the better. The ideal is made today by your local tofu maker - it tastes wonderful! Failing that, favor organic, get some that isn't anywhere close to it's sell-by date, and use it quickly. Avoid the vacuum pack keep forever varieties.

If you need to use only part of a brick, drain, rinse, and submerge what's left in fresh water, store in a sealed container in the fridge for no more than a few days. Rinse again before using.

Small children will eat tofu straight up, raw, sliced, but since it's raw, it should at least be steamed, to kill bacteria, and prevent gas.

Use firm tofu for the following recipes. If it seems too soft, you can wrap in a dishtowel, and press it with a brick or pan of water, or something heavy to squeeze out excess water, just for 10 - 15 minutes.

Slice the firm tofu in 1/2 x 1" pieces, marinate for a few minutes in Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce, then fry both sides til crispy. Kids love this, and you can toss the pieces into pasta, rice, casseroles, stir fries etc.

For more adult tastes, add spices like ginger, cumin, etc to the marinade, OR use a spicy marinade, then stir fry with veggies OR add an Indian or Oriental spiced sauce. Serve with rice or noodles.

Cut tofu in 1/2" slices, or in 1" sticks or fingers, marinate and bake or broil, serve with a grain and vegetables or salad. If you want to get fancy, coat with fine dry bread or cracker crumbs first. Great with catsup!

Add raw sliced tofu to any veggie dish, or sauce. It'll soak up the flavors. It goes well with stir fried greens. Especially if you throw in a few spices, like cumin, turmeric, ginger, hing.

There's a few tofu recipes on Savvy Vegetarian. E.G., tofu burgers, which have been a weekly staple at our house for many years.

Tofu is so simple it almost doesn't require recipes, but still, we'll be adding more tofu recipes very soon! Regarding the nut allergy, babies generally don't tolerate nuts well until age 2 - 3 anyway. You may do better with nuts later on.

Let me know how it goes, and Happy Vegging

All the Best,
Judy Kingsbury, Savvy Veg