Happy Herbivore Blog

February 5, 2013

Herbie 101: Cooking, Baking, and Ingredients

We're back this week and we're talking about one of my favorite subjects: FOOD


Ideas or Thanksgiving and holiday meal choices in general! How to have it without the turkey!

See my post, Thanksgiving Meal Ideas.

Here is what I made last year.

Dinner ideas to replace the old staples (like meat)?

First things first; stop looking for meat on your plate. Come to love that vegetables, legumes, grains — THOSE are the meal. 

Ideas for school lunches served cold.

I can't recommend the meal plans enough — especially the family meal plan, which has kid-friendly recipes with lunch boxes in mind.

What group of foods are the essentials for everyday? Something for protein? Veggies and fruit? Grains?


Remember: ALL PLANT FOODS HAVE PROTEIN. You can eat nothing but potatoes all day long and still meet your protein needs. Don't worry about it. Any plant-based meal you eat has protein.

Next, don't worry too much about eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains every day. Make sure they're all incorporated in your overall diet, and make sure you are not focusing on one group more than the others. And, of course — the more greens, the better!

Snacks for out and about? Fruits, vegetables, steamed or baked potatoes, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds if you eat them. HH muffins are great on-the-go snacks too.

Ideas for fast-food eating when the whole family (including out-of-town grandparents) wants to go there for a meal?
See this post, How to Eat Healthy and Plant-Based (Vegan) On the Road in Fast Food and Chain Restaurants.

I don't want to have to just eat salads for lunch. What else is convenient for when you don't have a lot if time to eat?

Again, can't recommend the meal plans enough — they're perfect for the busy professional on the go-go-go.

When planning meals, what's the healthiest ratio of protein, veggies, and grains to follow?

At least half your plate should be vegetables, especially if you are looking to lose weight.



How do you know you're creating a 'well-balanced' meal? 

This is the beauty of eating a plant-based diet. Eating an array of whole plant foods means you don't have to worry about the details — your body does the math for you. 

Some years ago, nutritionists were saying vegans needed to combine foods (such as beans and rice) in order to obtain so-called complete proteins. This has long been abandoned by the nutrition community since we now know that's not true. The myths about having to combine foods to get the proper balance of nutrients has been long disproved, but like the protein myth, seems to carry on never the less. I won't get too scientific, but the short of it is: you don't have to eat beans and rice or nuts and grains or any combination at the same time. You just have to eat them, period. Not necessarily together. (Source

Food combining — how true and important is it?

As far as I can tell, there is no science supporting the notion of "food combining." (If someone has a link to a study, please send it to me). Yet I have a friend who swears it works. I tried it and didn't really notice any difference. My advice would be, if you are having stomach issues, you might want to try it, or just try food journaling in general. Maybe there is a combination of food your body doesn't like. For example, I can eat oranges. I can eat bananas. I cannot eat oranges and bananas together. Otherwise, just focus on eating whole plant foods. Your body does all the math for you.

Are there any foods that shouldn't be paired together?

No, unless you have anemia and are trying to correct it with diet. Then you'll want to avoid consuming calcium with iron.

Can you address all this hype about limiting carbs (even good ones) and increasing protein?

Limiting carbs is a recipe for disaster. Carbs are the preferred energy source of the body. Too much protein is also very taxing on the body (refer back to Herbies 101: Nutrition). If you take away carbs, the body has to turn to protein for energy (not it's preferred source) and in order to do so, the body becomes very, very sick. Carbs don't make us fat. The fat you eat is the fat you wear. I'm so ready for Atkins to go out of vogue. For more information, I recommend reading The Starch Solution.

I also struggle with being more tired than normal and feel better with more protein. I need protein ideas for breakfast that are fast and easy.

Well, protein is not a good energy source — if you feel tired, you likely need more complex carbs like whole grains or potatoes. Still, if you're looking for a protein-packed breakfast try a Tofu Scramble!

Quinoa, beans, and spinach are also good choices.

What other words that I might not recognize, like casein for example, do I watch out for in the event I buy a packaged product? (So I know what contains animal products.)

See this list.

Suggestions on eating out with family and friends?

See these posts:

"Dining Out"

"Eating out with Friends

"How to Eat Out Healthfully"

What is bad about milk? What is casein?

Casein is the protein found in milk. It's highly addictive and and biggest known carcinogen — it can turn cancer on. Milk is one of the worst animal products you can consume. I could talk about how deadly it is for days. Dairy is linked to all sorts of health issues, and besides, no one needs to be breast-feeding past infancy, especially on another species. 

For more information, read Dr. McDougall's article "When Friends Ask: "Why Don't You Drink Milk?"

and also Dr. Hyman's "Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at All Costs."

Do you consider things that "may contain traces of milk" as vegan? Even if milk is not in the ingredients?

Among my vegan friends, most of them will still consume a product that "may contain traces of milk" as long as the product itself does not contain milk. I have other vegan friends that are much more strict and if it "may contain traces," they will not consume it. I suppose it is a personal decision based on your interpretation of vegan.

Which miso to buy? What are the different colors?

Yellow is the miso I use. If you cannot find yellow, white or red should be an okay substitute. Do not use brown miso (it's gross).

For more information, see my post "What are the Different Colors of Miso."

We buy only organic and are vegan, but if you are on a budget, what are the implications of eating a vegan non-organic diet, which is sprayed with pesticides?

I can't afford to only eat organic and some of the places I have lived, organic was not an option at all. I'm still here. No third eyeball yet! 

My belief is a conventional apple is still a lot better than an organic potato chip. We all have to do the best we can within our own limits — financial, availability, etc. 

That said, most people recommend following the "dirty dozen" and "clean 15" rule. (Refer back to "Herbie 101 Series: Soy & GMO" for a list)


Whats wrong with egg whites?

According to Dr. McDougall, "A whole egg is 32% protein and the white of an egg is essentially 100% protein.  Infants, growing children, and adults need, at most, 5% of their calories from protein.  Therefore, eggs and egg products are 6 to 20 times more concentrated in protein than we need.  Excess protein places burdens on our body and especially on organs of metabolism, the liver and kidneys.  Animal proteins, and particularly those from egg whites, are high in the troublesome, sulfur-containing amino acids, such as methionine." For more information, see his article, "Eggs are for Easter,"

What can I use in non vegan recipes when they call for an egg?
See my vegan baking post — it includes egg substitutes. 

Is it ok to use Earth Balance as margarine ?

I follow the advice of Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. McDougall, and Jeff Novick MS RD — that oil is unhealthy and danagerous and should be avoided. Since Earth Balance (and all margarines) is made from oil, I do not recommend using it. For further reading, click the links attached to each name and also check out this post and this post at Engine 2.

Can veggie shreds be used as cheese?

You mean the brand? Not if you want to keep the meal plant-based or vegan. That brand contains dairy products. There are other brands of vegan cheese, like Daiya, though I do not recommend them because they are so processed and junky.

Why shouldn't we eat free-range eggs?

Eggs are loaded with harmful cholesterol and animal protein. See also the answer about egg whites, above. 

Nutritional yeast flakes vs. powder. Which is better to use in certain recipes and are ratios the same?

I've only ever come across the flakey kind of nutritional yeast and it's what I use exclusively.

For more information, see my post, "What is Nutritional Yeast?"

I read that we should consume no more than one cup of rice per week (and rinse it before cooking) because of arsenic. We eat a lot of instant brown rice. Should we cut back?

See this thread over at the McDougall forums.

I generally don't follow these kind of reports because I find if you dig deep enough you'll find the "study" was paid by someone who would benefit if people stopped buying that product OR you'll find the media is blowing it out of proportion to get your attention. This "news story" has been recirculated for a long time, and each report/study I've come across draws more and more red flags. Plus, the people in Asia eat rice as a main staple in their diet  far more rice than most of us eat, and how many reports of arsenic poisoning have been reported?

I did a quick Google of "arsenic" and "brown rice" to see if I could find what you were talking about — and the first study I came across said "studies report it MAY contain it" — and that was my first red flag. *MAY* usually means unlikely, and blowing it out of proportion. Still, I kept Googling.

I read another news story that said the testing was done on brown rice SYRUP, not actual rice... this confused me so I looked for another report, and that one said the studies were done on 60 rice products — rice PRODUCTS, not necessarily rice (i.e., rice cereal, rice cakes). The reason I have a problem with this is because how do we rule out the processing part as being the problem?

Still another article said higher levels were found in some brown rices, compared to white rices, which means white rice must also have it then, but that isn't being reported? Finally, another article said it was only found in rice PRODUCTS from certain areas. I buy my rice from South Carolina or California, and neither of these states were listed (Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) and with a lot of digging, it seemed to also be limited to one or two brands not all. The two brands were generic, i.e. Walmart brand, so I'm guessing it's actually the same company, whoever it is that supplies to all companies that sell generic rice under their label — and again, how do we know it's not this one company that is the problem?


Finally, with a little more Googling, I realized this same story ran several months ago. Another flag.

BUT to play "devil's advocate" and assume it is true, I read commentary from various experts which all said the same thing: If there is arsenic, the levels are very, very small and they pose no health risk and you can remove most of it by simply rinsing the rice pre-cooking, and then cooking with a little extra water in the pot, draining that off.  

If you're still nervous, try using different grains :) 

I just don't like the taste, texture, and smell of most of the plant-based foods/recipes. Any thoughts to help me succeed at being plant-based? 

Keep eating more and more plant-based meals. Your palate will change. I used to hate mushrooms; now I love them.

The population in India and China eat white rice correct? does it grow that way?


White rice is made from processing — there is no "white rice plant" You can't get white rice without "making" it.


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