Happy Herbivore Blog

Herbie of the Week: Tita

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

I'm starting a new column here on Happy Herbivore: once a week I want to showcase YOU, my wonderful Herbies and your amazing stories! This week's guest is Tita!

Two weeks ago, Tita sent me this simple 1-line email "A new vegan due to coronary artery stent!" I wrote back that I hoped she was feeling better and she replied that not only was she feeling great, she was back to running 5 days a week again! I knew right that I had to interview her. 

Tell us about your history prior to adopting a plant-based diet:

I've been a runner for 38 years, five days a week, an hour a day. My cholesterol was perfect with high HDLs, low LDL, low triglycerides. I had moderate hypertension and a family history of cardiac disease. 

In May of last year, I was running and felt out of breath with chest tightness which I attributed to yoga the day before. Two more episodes later I went to the doctor for testing which revealed a blockage. I had an 85% occluded LAD coronary artery which required stent placement. 

A few months after the placement I started experiencing shortness of breath again when I climbed stairs and noticed I also had less stamina during my runs. I went back to the Doctor for more testing which revealed the stent had reclogged and I would need another stent. I ultimately had a second stent placed directly inside the original.

What was your initial reaction when you received the news about needing stents?

I was stunned and in disbelief that I would have coronary artery disease. I was told that if it hadn't been for my regular running, good diet, etc. I would have shown signs and symptoms long before I was 68 due to my family history.

How did you get turned on to a plant-based diet?

My primary physician told me about the book: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn MD (this is the book behind Bill Clinton's change to a vegan diet). I decided to give nonfat vegan a chance to see if I might improve my chances of preventing another occlusion. Stents are just like bandaids. Sooner or later you need another stent or another procedure like bypass if its serious enough.

What kind of dietary changes did you make?

The rules in the book are simple: you can not eat anything with a mother or a face (no meat, poultry or fish, no dairy, no oil, no nuts, no avocados). That is quite a tall order by I was determined to change my health. 

It's been six weeks and I've followed the rules but occasionally did have some fish (we went to Mexico for 10 days), I use Pam for my nonstick pan and I occasionally use a tiny amount of sliced almonds or other nuts sprinkled on food but these are my only departures; no meat, no dairy; no oil, butter, eggs. 

Now the big question: How do you feel?

I can honestly say that I've never felt better! I have regained my stamina, have no shortness of breath and am back to running 5 days a week, one hour a day -- at 6am! I'm due back to the Doctor in December and I'm curious to see how my new diet has impacted my cholesterol (even though it was perfect in the first place). I have to take Lipitor 40 mg a day, and this may be continued regardless of my cholesterol levels, but I'm going to ask my Doctor if its still necessary. 

How has your dietary change affected your family and home life?

It is a challenge everyday to make meals satisfying and interesting while still pleasing my husband's normal diet, but I've always enjoyed cooking for myself and my family so this is just another challenge. I miss egg whites, cheese and olive oil. I don't miss meat products. It takes longer now to shop for food but that may be because I'm busy looking for some of the suggested replacement items. I got a bag of nutritional yeast, for example, and am starting to use that. It has a delicious yeasty odor and flavor. 

 How did you find happyherbivore.com? 

I'm really delighted with Happy Herbivore! If you google search you can find plenty of vegan websites but the key to my particular need is "no fat" vegan. It's easy to make vegan food with fatty items like oil or vegan butter, the real challenge is not having any fat. This website was a good find and I ordered The Happy Herbivore Cookbook too. It's great. I am trying new recipes everyday and sharing them with my family and friends. They are simply amazed that I have adopted these principles so easily and without looking or feeling deprived. 

Any other surprise benefits resulting from your new diet and lifestyle?

A pleasant surprise..... I have lost a few pounds. After the first stent I thought I may as well eat whatever I wanted since my good diet apparently didn't prevent me from having coronary artery disease. I went through this huge "pity party for one" and of course put on a few pounds. 

Now I'm happy to report those extra pounds are gone which is good for my heart. The extra pounds add extra stress to the heart and it made it much more difficult to do my daily runs.

Do any of your friends follow a plant-based diet?

I have a high school friend that I saw for our 50th High School reunion recently. She lives in Hawaii and is also on a vegan diet (not a zero fat one like mine, but vegan). I told her about happyherbivore.com and now we try recipes together, share recipes -- it's fun to share this experience with someone else even if they don't live nearby.

My daughters are really impressed. My husband is impressed. My mother is 89 and impressed. So, thank you for your terrific blog, recipes and encouragement. If nothing else this has been a new challenge and experience for me.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Can "eating healthy" and "budget" coexist in the same sentence? Yes! 

While there is no denying that some healthy foods can be pricey, it's possible to eat well (and save!) on a budget with a little leg work, smart shopping and planning.

A little more than a year ago I did a poverty awareness challenge where I had to eat for a week on $15 - in New York City.

Sure I wasn't going to win any gourmet awards with the foods I was eating, but it was healthful, full of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and I was satisfied with the diversity and my meals. 

Cooking a pot of lentils for dinner might not be the sexiest option, but it's healthy, affordable and cheap. It also only takes a little extra work. You can throw a big pot of lentils together on the weekend and repurpose them all week long. Beans are also super affordable. You can buy a bag of dried beans for $1.00 and it will last for many, many meals. Store brand brown rice is also dirt cheap.

When it comes to produce: head to the freezer. At my local grocery store, you can buy 10 bags of frozen store brand vegetables for $10 and the bags are quite generous in size. You're also free to mix and match so you can get peas, corn, bell pepers, stir-fry veggies and so on. Frozen vegetables were my lifesaver on my $15 challenge and I find if you add them at the end of cooking, just to warm them up enough from their frozen state, they stay crisp and feel like fresh. 

If you really hate frozen, you can still find deals in the produce section. This week my store was selling 10 bell peppers for $10 or a bag of apples (10-12 apple) for $2.50. Those were both cheap options, along with bags of potatoes and leftover pumpkins that were practically free.

Another secret is to shop in the "ethnic section"-- you'll find spices are much cheaper on that isle (compared to the baking isle) and even things like dry beans and rice might be cheaper. It's an isle you never want to miss!

On that note, even better is an ethnic market. You'll be amazed at the savings you can find. I used to frequent this Indian market in Los Angeles where I could get a bag of lentils the size of a pillow case for $5! Spices were also really cheap there and rice too. At an Asian market in NYC I once found 10 tofu's for $3! 

Another way to save? Bulk. Bulk bins are a bargain and buying in bulk online (such as bulkfoods.com) or from a bulk store like Costco can be a deal. A friend of mine got a 5lb bag of quinoa at Costco for $5... which is about how much I paid for a tiny box of quinoa. 

Other tips:

1. Shop around. While visiting one store may be convenient, if you live in a place where you can visit several stores you should shop around. You can price items, look at sales, and figure out where to get your staples at the cheapest price.

2. Decipher between “staples” and “convenient.” I always thought canned beans were staples, when really they’re more convenient for me.

3. Try cooking 1 day a week.

4. Don’t let anything go to waste! You can recycle and repurpose anything -- even vegetable scraps (vegetable trimmings make great vegetable stock).

5. Try HH's meal plans. I've shaved $20/wk off our shopping list by sticking to my own plans!

A word about spices: I've choked looking at the prices of spices in supermarkets -- steer clear. I nearly died when I saw the price tag for dried basil at my mom's supermarket. It was almost $3 higher than what I paid for organic basil at Whole Foods Market (a place she insisted was too expensive to shop at). Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes have great deals on spices. Target also has spices at a reasonable price and many of them carry my favorite brand, Badia. 

You can also buy spices online from stores such as Penzeys or even Amazon. My friends over at Swanson have organic spices and herbs (and at a low price) and after some begging, they agreed to give you guys a discount! Click here for 15% off their spices

Lastly, skip over anything that involves individual packaging of any kind. You can get a big, giant tub of oats for the same price as a box of 6 packets of instant oatmeal. Take the few extra minutes to measure out portions of your oatmeal and save!

Have a thrifty tip? share it!

Public Life (I Refuse to be Vanilla)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

Lately I've been saying "I will no longer apologize for who I am or who I am not."

It all started with coming to a realization that I needed to stop trying to shove a square peg in a round hole, and instead, go find a square hole. But now it's extending to my entire life. I am who I am. Let me explain.

If you've ever tried to friend request me on Facebook, chances are you got a message (that I personally send to everyone) saying while I appreciate the friend request (it means a lot to me!) I don't accept requests from people I don't know in real life so as to protect the privacy of my friends and family.

While I have happily leaped into the public light -- my family and friends have not. I often struggle and grapple with this. My sister has gone to places and been instantly recognized as "The Happy Herbivores Sister" and while she likes it, it sometimes bothers me because my sister will never be a ghost again. True, I jumped in to the public light and gave up my privacy -- but she didn't. It just happened to her.

But none of this is really my point with this blog post, I'm just explaining why I don't accept friend requests on Facebook -- Facebook changes its privacy settings with the tide and since the default is to overshare rather than privatize, I'm trying to be proactive and allow those around me to have as much privacy as they can.

That said, I am an open book and always have been. 

I refuse to be one person behind closed doors and then a second person in front of the camera or in front of my fans. 

I refuse to be "Lindsay Nixon" and "Happy Herbivore" because Lindsay Nixon IS Happy Herbivore.

It's exhausting being one person, I can't imagine trying to be two people. Plus I have real moral issues with people who do that.

As such, I've always been open about how I vote, what religious philosophy I subscribe to, and so on. And while I don't accept friend requests, I do allow my entire profile to be visible, including my status updates.

I've been told to hide it -- to stay mellow yellow and vanilla so I appeal to everyone -- but that just seems wrong to me. 

So I tweet, share, "like" and post about anything -- no topic is off limits. I'm completely unfiltered and uncensored on my personal page and twitter account. I've always seen my both place as a space where I'm free express myself and I do. 

Anyway, over the past few weeks I've said things or shared things that were met with comments or replies along the lines of "and to think... I liked your cookbook but I'm not following you anymore."

My initial response was -- what do my recipes have to do with how I feel about Obama?

I guess I see it -- I just rattled on how I am Lindsay Nixon AND the Happy Herbivore, after all -- but then again I own books and CDs by artists who have different opinions than me (unfortunately, ALL of my favorite authors do not follow a plant-based diet and I'm pretty sure that's true of all my favorite musicians as well). I also have certain actors and actresses I really like and a lot of them eat, pray and vote differently than me. 

I know that not everyone is going to agree with me on everything but I don't want to stop being me just so I please everyone. I don't want to be a public figure that's not herself.

I have always been opinionated, political, outspoken and open. I can't change that about me - I won't. 

It's taken a lot of years to truly love myself, and accept myself for who I am. I spent a lot of years trying to be someone I wasn't and trying to get people to like me or be the kind of person I thought they would like and all that did was make ME unhappy. I was unhappy because I wasn't myself. 

If I've learned anything in life its that you have to be yourself. All I can be is me. All you can be is you. and we're all beautiful and perfect in our own way.

If the way I vote or pray or think offends you, I'm sorry. If it means you're not going to support me or follow me or buy my books anymore, okay (though I'm kind of sad because you'll miss out on some really great recipes!) Isn't variety of the spice of life?

I know I'm taking a huge HUGE risk writing this blog post on the cusp of my new book coming out -- but that's just it. I'm not in it to win it. I don't do what I do for the fame, glory or money. I do it because I'm passionate and I want to show how easy it is to eat healthy -- how delicious, approachable and affordable this way of life can be. 

So maybe that's why I'm comfortable being strawberry instead of vanilla. It's not a popularity contest for me. I'm totally humbled by my success -- and while I attribute my success to you Herbies, I have to remind myself that it was being myself that got me here.

I can't change one thing about me because it's the sum of all my parts that make me who I am. If I lose one part of myself, I lose myself. I have to be me. 

I have to be me.