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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2007 Issue

Going from "Junk-Food" Vegan
to Health Food Vegan
by Jennifer Van Alstine

I have always loved preparing and eating good food. Ten years ago when I first changed from meat eating to vegetarianism, I began exploring new and different ways of cooking. Some five years later I became vegan and once again searched for still other ways to prepare food.

These days I find it easy to be a vegan. The many choices of prepared vegetarian and vegan foods almost equal the choices available for meat-consumers. Walk through any health food store and look in the frozen food section to see an almost endless array of frozen “faux-meat” products. Until recently I have relied heavily on faux meat products in preparing meals, so doing consuming large amounts of soy and wheat gluten. In many ways, I considered myself a “junk-food” vegan.

Now as my body changes with the advancing years, I am again examining my food choices with an emphasis on improving my overall health. Sure, I could continue to shop for and prepare faux meat foods -- or I could try to resist the temptation and most of the time prepare healthier meals using fresh foods

Back to the Basics

I have gone back to the basics, and so doing have asked myself, “What foods are most beneficial to eat regularly?” I am also looking at foods I should eliminate or cut back on.

Choosing carbohydrates. Choosing high-quality carbohydrates and eating the right kinds of food along with the carbohydrates is important for a healthy vegan diet. The major natural sources of carbohydrates are grains, beans and root vegetables.

Whole grains are good sources of B-vitamins, fiber, and minerals and are the staple of many diets worldwide. Grains keep their vitamins within them for long periods, until hulled, roasted, or ground. Quinoa and amaranth in particular also have high protein content. On the other hand, breads other than those with freshly ground flour, should be consumed sparingly because of the extra processing and fermenting process that lessens the amount of vitamins and nutrients available from the grains.

Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and yams are less sugary than other potatoes. Carrots, beets, turnips, and Jerusalem artichoke have high starch content and can replace grains as the main carbohydrate for a meal.

Beans also are largely starch and can take the place of grains or roots as the carbohydrate for a meal. Although it is a bean, soy is an exception and falls into its own category of high protein food.

Putting it All Together

Grains should be the foundation for every meal, and this change has been one of the changes I have made in my diet. I have grains for breakfast, grains at lunch and grains for dinner.

For breakfast, I usually eat oatmeal. Sometimes I mix the oatmeal with amaranth, millet, or buckwheat. Of course, I add berries or other fruit and ground seeds, along with a supplemental oil such as flax or evening primrose. It is easy to sneak in the fruit, seeds, and oils at breakfast, and it is so good for my digestive system.

For lunch, I usually eat something left over from dinner the night before.

For dinner, I start with brown rice and mix in another grain such as quinoa. I think of how I want to season the rice and the meal with the recommended spices and herbs. I begin by deciding if I will use a garlic, onion, or ginger base. Then I use fresh vegetables and some form of protein such as beans, tempeh, or tofu. I also again mix in the seeds and supplemental oils with my dinner. Eating this way has so many benefits for me. Not only does dinner (and lunch the next day) taste so good, but it is exactly what my body wants and needs. Oh yes, and I also include a salad with each dinner, where I can sneak in more fresh garlic and essential oils in my homemade salad dressings.

Getting basic entails using more spices, herbs, and oils than I had previously been accustomed to. I buy a little at a time. But once my kitchen is fully stocked, it is easy to prepare meals from fresh high-quality foods.

Spice it Up

If you are interested in following along with me, here is how I began. My kitchen is always stocked with fresh garlic, onions, and ginger.

Next, essential spices include sea salt (in moderation) which is vital to the flavor and absorption of foods; curry which contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, cumin, black/chili pepper or paprika, which ‘wake up’ your digestive tract; and sweet spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, which add flavor and other health benefits to most meals.

Following this, herbs that are high in antioxidants and digestive stimulants include basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

Lastly, oils for cooking include olive, sesame, coconut, peanut, or other nut oils. Other oils to include as supplements are flaxseed, borage, evening primrose, and hempseed.

Although these healthy basics seem simple to me now, it it took me many years to arrive at this point of awareness. Of course, I will always have moments of weakness when a veggie burger and fries is the simpler and more convenient choice for dinner. However, for my overall health, I prefer my food choices to be the basics: whole grains, beans/soy, fresh vegetables, essential oils, seeds (or nuts). I feel healthier, have actually lost some weight, and my body thanks me for it.

Go on to The Great American Meat-Out
Return to Winter 2007 Issue

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