Category Archives: Vegetarian Living

Disney’s new Plant-Based Dining Guide

Disney hummus dish

Like many of Disney’s food offerings, some of the vegan dishes are themed to match their location. This hummus dish served at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is called a “Felucian Garden Spread,” a reference to a planet covered in overgrown plants in the Star Wars universe.

Disney World is the iconic destination for family vacations, but the food available hasn’t always been the best for health, the animals or the planet.  Recognizing that parents are looking for more plant-based options for their families, Disney has recently launched a new online Plant-Based Dining Guide. They are in the process of adding over 400 new plant-based menu items to their parks and properties, starting with Disney World in Orlando, FL this October.

“Our plant-powered cuisine is made with plant foods like grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruit—and no animal meat, dairy, eggs, or honey,” the guide states. “Whether you are looking for savory snacks, a quick meal or a 3-course dining experience, you’ll find more plant-based options at Walt Disney World Resort than ever before.”

The guide—which advises guests to look for a leaf symbol to locate plant-based dishes—is divided into Disney World’s various properties, including theme park Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom Park, Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs, in addition to its boardwalk, water park, and hotels.

Even if you’re not vegan, the options look both plentiful and hunger-inducing. Some of the most enticing vegan dishes include Thai noodles or black bean chips with pineapple jalapeno hummus in Adventureland, a pineapple float in Aloha Isle, and plant-based meat substitutes like meatloaf in Liberty Square and a Southwest burger in Frontierland.

The online guide also notes which restaurants are quick service, table service, or available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It’s sure to be useful for families looking to enjoy their visit and not have to worry about finding good plant-based food to eat!

NY City Schools ban processed meat

Children eat healthy school lunchThere’s more good news from New York! New York City has the largest public school system in the country with a million students. We’ve written about several New York City public schools going all vegetarian.  Students, parents and teachers have been very happy at the results – they’re seeing healthier kids and better grades.

Building on that success, a few months ago the entire school system started a Meatless Mondays program. That’s Meatless Mondays for a million students, with the entire school district serving a fully vegetarian menu every Monday, starting this Fall.

In the latest news, New York is going forward with a citywide ban on processed meats in New York City schools. That means no more bologna, salami, pepperoni, or bacon on any day of the week. This is a good thing too. The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen placing it in the same category as cigarettes.

We’re impressed with the progress that New York City is making to help their kids be healthier. Come on Seattle! If New York City can do it, why can’t you?

Backpacking while vegan

Amanda and Doug backpacking - low res

I recently spent a weekend backpacking in the Mount Baker area. Backpacking differs from camping in that you have to carry everything you need for several miles, so you need to make sure your food is as lightweight as possible, doesn’t need refrigeration and is still reasonably balanced, nutritious and provides adequate calories for the exertion of hiking. I took some time planning the meals for our 2 night, 3 day trip.

We carried enough water for the first day, but relied on water from streams and lakes, suitably filtered and/or sterilized, for drinking and cooking the rest of the time. Some members of our group used a steri-pen which uses ultraviolet light to sterilize their water. We used a Platypus filtration unit that could finely filter 4 liters of water at a time, so there was no need to sterilize. It was good to have a selection of methods, since we found we had to trek quite a way from our campsite to find a good water source.

The range of commercial vegan foods suitable for backpacking is increasing rapidly.  Did you know that you can now select from 29 different packets of freeze-dried vegan meals at REI.com? Trader Joe’s has a great selection of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and raspberries, great for adding lightweight nutrition to your morning cereal, and even dried okra, a crunchy and nutritious snack.

However, I prefer to make most of my meals from scratch, even if it takes a little longer to prepare and to cook at the campsite, so I based my meals on what I had in the kitchen. I did order a container of dried soy milk powder which was useful to have with our breakfast cereal and in morning coffee.

To avoid refrigeration, it’s best to take grains you can quickly cook on a campstove. If you’re trying a new combination, I’d recommend that you experiment at home first, so that you get the flavoring mix right.

Grains that are quick and easy to cook:

  • Quinoa,
  • Couscous
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Quickcook rice (eg Uncle Ben’s boil-in-bag, )
  • Oatmeal (great for breakfast, but a bit of a hassle to clean the pot after!)
  • Pita pockets (to eat with a stew)
  • Dried potato flakes (not a grain, but a good source of extra calories to thicken a stew)

Protein sources:

  • Lentils (red lentils cook to a mush, green hold their shape) – 20 mins cook time
  • TVP – textured vegetable protein (meat-like consistency) – soak for 5 mins to rehydrate
  • Cashews, hazelnuts, pecan nuts

Here’s what I chose to take with us:

Breakfasts:

  • Morning 1: Quinoa with cinnamon, hazelnuts and dried blueberries – see recipe.
  • Morning 2: Oats with coconut and raisins, dried blueberries and raspberries, plus soy milk made from powder.
  • Tea or instant coffee

Backpacking lunch - low resLunch (we used leftover curried quinoa for one lunch): 

  • WASA rye crackers
  • Lilly’s shelf-stable hummus.
  • Primal Jerky strips
  • Go Macro bars
  • Dried mango

Mid-afternoon snack: Clif bar

Dinners:

  • Evening 1: Lentil stew with potatoes and carrots – see recipe
  • Evening 2: Curried Quinoa with cashews – see recipe
  • Chocolate and ginger biscotti, made by my friend Jan!
  • Tea

Additional snacks for emergencies:

  • Munkpack Flavored Oatmeal
  • Trail mix
  • Clif bars

The food worked out well. I carried a few additional snacks that fortunately weren’t needed, since it’s always advisable to have some additional food with you, just in case you get delayed and have to spend an extra day out in the wild.

The weather was very mixed, and we were glad to share a tarpaulin erected between trees to cook out of the rain, but all in all, our trip was a big success and we had some fabulous views when the clouds lifted!

 

 

How to switch to a plant-based diet

Untitled-1When I’m giving cooking classes, people often ask me what steps they should take to eliminate animal products, so here are some tips to help you get started.  You can choose your own pace of change – you can start with just one meal or you can jump right in. I encourage you to be willing to experiment and learn as you go. Enjoy the adventure!

Some initial steps to take to cut back on meat and fish:

  • Acquire a vegan cookbook, or find a website with interesting vegan recipes – vegetariantimes.com is a good place to start.
  • Find some new vegan recipes that sound appealing, and buy the ingredients.
  • Try replacing meat and fish with a plant-based alternative in some of your regular meals.
  • Look for vegan options on the menu at your favorite restaurant and try one next time you go.
  • Try a new restaurant – ethnic restaurants such as Mexican, Thai or Indian usually have plenty of good options to choose from.

Once you have a selection of about 10 delicious vegan meals you enjoy, you can rotate through them on a regular basis for the majority of your meals, adding new meals from time to time to increase the variety.

Plant Based foodsSteps to reduce other animal products in your diet:

  • Find one or more plant-based milks that you like and replace dairy milk with them.
  • Try some of the many plant-based yogurts and cheeses, and find some favorite brands.
  • If you’re a coffee drinker, find a non-dairy creamer that you like.
  • If you like eggs for breakfast, try a tofu scramble instead.
  • Explore the “natural” section of your regular grocery store if it has one, or explore a new grocery store near you that has a good selection of natural foods.
  • Check the ingredients of the packaged foods you commonly buy, and start to seek out vegan alternatives.

Speed of transition – How quickly to make the transition is really up to you.  If you’re ready to make the change right away, you can change your diet in just a few weeks. If you have a health concern you’re hoping to alleviate, remember that while a plant-based diet is helpful for several diseases it could take a few months to see significant results.  If you’re changing out of caring about the animals, you start saving them from the first bite.

On the other hand, if you feel like it’s the right thing to do, but you want to proceed at your own pace and just do the best you can, you could try one new meal or ingredient each week and assess how it goes over a year or so.

Consider other family members – If you have other family members to consider when making meals, you may want to have a family meeting to explain your wishes, and ask for their help in making your transition.  Get them on your team! It will be a lot easier for you if the refrigerator and the pantry are only stocked with healthy vegan foods for you to enjoy. If, however, others sharing your kitchen are not open to change, you’ll need to work out a plan based on who’s doing the shopping, who’s doing the cooking, and how much storage space you have available.  Offering to cook for others is a great way to introduce them to new recipes.

Amanda cooking feature 1.1

Amanda gives a cooking class

Learn to cook – It’s fun, healthier and more affordable than the alternatives. Using frozen precut vegetables and fruit, and jars of sauces for flavoring can save time and effort. If you’re not used to doing the cooking, consider choosing some individual frozen vegan meals you can easily microwave to get you started. 

Whatever path you choose is up to you. Don’t feel pressured by others to go slower or faster than you can handle. Vegetarians of Washington is here to help. You may find some of our books helpful in making the change. Say No to Meat answers many questions about why and how to make the transition. In Pursuit of Great Food – A plant-based shopping guide is handy to plan what to buy and choose the best brands and freshest foods. The Veg-Feasting Cookbook provides lots of recipes for every possible meal. If you’re based in the Seattle area, come to our monthly dining events and classes to get ideas and support for your transition, and don’t miss our annual Vegfest.

Fly the Vegan Skies

airline vegan meal

A vegan airline meal

Vegan options are showing up in a wide variety of places these days, from prisons to hospitals to public schools. Now a new initiative by the Vegan Society and Humane Society International seeks to make sure airlines have vegan meals available in commercial airliners.

While air travel is blamed for significant greenhouse gas emissions, meat is actually much worse. It’s also a culprit in other environmental problems. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at Oxford University, England.  “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Airlines serve an estimated one billion inflight meals every year, so actively encouraging passengers to choose plant-based options could help reduce the industry’s carbon emissions, while at the same addressing a number of other environmental problems caused by meat and other animal-derived foods.

If you fly long distance, be sure to order a vegan meal when you book your flight.  While you’re waiting for your flight at Seatac airport, why not check out the new restaurant “Floret” by Café Flora? The sister restaurant of our much beloved vegetarian restaurant Café Flora offers both sit down and grab-and-go food.

Upcoming “Cooking with Amanda” Classes

Amanda cooking feature 1.1Amanda Strombom, President of Vegetarians of Washington, gives regular cooking classes to support those interested in moving toward a plant-based diet and learning new ways of preparing food avoiding animal products. Each class focuses on a different aspect of going veggie, whether it’s on specific food groups, on a particular health topic, shopping or even holiday cooking.  Plenty of samples to taste are always provided. See the schedule below.

Classes will be held at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, 7pm unless otherwise noted. A nominal charge of $5 per class helps us cover the cost of the ingredients and materials. Shopping tours are free.

Wed May 8th       Save the Earth with a Plant-Based Diet!

One of the best things each of us can do to help take better care of the Earth is to change the food we eat away from animal products.  How does a plant-based diet help? We’ll talk about the damage animal agriculture causes to the soil, the water, the air and our climate.  Plus you can taste some delicious dishes and get recipes to help you make the switch.

Make a reservation

Wed June 12th– Where do you get your protein from?

The first question many people ask when they’re thinking about cutting out meat is about protein.  In this class we’ll discuss the benefits of the various plant-based sources of protein available and make some delicious dishes using both beans and meat alternatives.

Make a reservation

Wed July 10th      Avoiding cancer

We’ll talk about how a plant-based diet can help protect you against getting certain kinds of cancer, and which nutrients are particularly beneficial for fighting cancer.  We’ll make delicious dishes using a rainbow of different vegetables to give as many phytonutrients as possible.

Make a reservation

Wed Sept 4th      Cleaning out your arteries

Eggs are loaded with cholesterol which clogs up your arteries. We’ll talk about how cholesterol, present in all animal foods, impacts your health, particularly your arteries, and we’ll discuss alternatives you can use to eggs in various recipes. We’ll make some delicious egg-free recipes and even try the amazing Vegan Egg.

Wed Oct 2nd        Reducing pain with food

Several chronic painful conditions can be helped with a plant-based diet.  We’ll discuss how certain foods can help reduce inflammation and reduce pain.  Then we’ll make some tasty recipes with anti-inflammatory foods such as chia seeds, mushrooms, turmeric and walnuts.

Wed Nov 6th       Healthy Cooking for the Holidays 

We’ll talk about how to handle the many issues that come up at holiday times when cooking for or eating with your meat-eating family members, and discuss ideas for special vegan holiday dishes.  We’ll make some delicious dishes that all your guests can enjoy.

Wed Dec 4th        Shopping for Plant-Based Foods

We’ll meet at Fred Meyer, Bellevue, to tour the Natural Foods section, and learn about label reading, choosing fresh vegetables, and finding some new favorite foods. This class is free.

Wed Jan 8th         Losing weight, Defeating diabetes

We’ll talk about what foods are most helpful in losing those extra pounds, and how the same foods can also reduce your insulin resistance and treat Type II Diabetes.  We’ll make some really simple starter plant-based meals to get you started on a new way of eating for the New Year.

Wed Feb 5th        Ditching Dairy

Dairy products often contain surprising amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, and come from cows forced to give birth frequently.  We’ll talk about the many alternatives to dairy that are available these days, we’ll taste samples of some commercial products and make some simple cheese alternatives of our own.

Prince Harry’s baby to be vegan?

Meghan pregnant with Harry

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are expecting a baby in the near future, and it seems that Meghan, who eats a mostly plant-based diet herself although she is not a strict vegan, hopes to raise the baby as a vegan.  She has encouraged Prince Harry to reduce his consumption of animal products and eat more fruits and veggies, and to cut back on participating in some of the traditional hunting activities of the royal family.  Now we hear that the couple are discussing how best to raise their baby, and whether or not it can be a vegan child.

They would be in good company. Recent British-based research has found that one in 12 families in Britain are raising their kids as vegan, mainly for health reasons, since animal products in the diet are linked to a wide range of health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, while plant-based diets are linked to optimal health outcomes.  In addition, many people are starting to recognize that eating lower on the food chain by reducing animal products is much better for the environment, and it saves countless animals from suffering and death.

There’s plenty of evidence that raising a child vegan is a very wise thing to do. Here in the US, it is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”  All the evidence points to children who are raised vegetarian being much healthier than their meat-eating peers, and even gaining some specific advantages.  Children raised vegetarian are found on average to grow an inch taller and to have 5 more points on their IQ.

We hope that Meghan and Harry are able to set a good example for families throughout the world by raising their child vegan.

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