Happy Herbivore Blog

Vegans for Health are still Vegans.

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

A few weeks ago when I posted about my vegan diet, many of you left comments here and via twitter saying my story echoed your own journey -- that you too went vegan for health or vanity, but the reasons you continue to be vegan are varied (animal rights, humanity, environmental welfare, to name a few). It was refreshing to hear I wasn't alone... and perhaps because I took a selfish road to my own veganism, I've never cared what path anyone else took to get there.

And because the vegan community is so small, it saddens me any time I see lines drawn in the sand -- vegans claiming others are not "vegan enough" or attacking them for their choices. I, myself, have been the victim of countless attacks, especially on twitter. (Let me take this moment to say thank you to all of you who stood by me and offered support during these episodes).

I will never understand their motivations. I'm already vegan, can't they funnel that energy into something more productive? But that's not the point of this post.

Just as the vegan community was starting to heal from the ex-vegan manifestos (claiming vegan diets made them sick) a number of vegans took to twitter and their blogs to berate anyone who is a "vegan for health" and go so far as to suggest you're doing a disservice to veganism if you "convert" people based on health claims rather than animal rights.

It takes a lot to twist my panties, but my panties were twisting in fury! 

In the four years I've been vegan (happy veganniversay to me--it was a few days ago!) I had zero 'converts' when I preached animal rights. In those early months I was a vegangelical -- totally obnoxious about my veganism and animal rights, but after no one converted, and many friendships became strained, I backed off. I decided veganism would just be something I could keep in my pocket and feel good about -- my own warm fuzzy, the rest be damned... and then, something interesting happened.

By being compassionately quiet, by simply leading by example, my friends and family started becoming more interested and asked questions about veganism. Knowing that (unfortunately) most people are not moved by animal rights, I talked about the health benefits, and like magic, one by one, the majority of my friends and family members went vegan, vegetarian or adopted a semi-vegetarian diet. 

We need to look no further than my recent interview of the Brunks (or my sister, Courtney) to see how much omnivores appreciate vegan friends who don't judge them, but also how being an example, can bring about a great change in others. 

Going back to my original point: Any road that leads to someone eating less meat is a good one in my book. Whatever someones motivations are to eat vegan or more vegan meals, we ALL still benefit.Every meatless meal matters.

The big "problem" these veg*ns have with "vegans for health" or vegans using "health benefits" to draw people toward veganism is this notion that if the "convert" doesn't lose weight, they don't get healthier, etc. they will drop their veganism like hot cakes. 

Let me be the shining example that is not true. While my veganism has helped me lose weight, feel better and generally live better -- it wasn't a total solution to all my mortal woes. I still have persistant acne, severe menstrual cramps and migraines -- I had hoped veganism would take care of these "issues" for me, and it didn't, but yet here I remain...because although my veganism started from a selfish perspective, it morphed into something greater, which I think is true for a lot of people. 

Many of us come to veganism for one reason, but then find ourselves caring about the other reasons once we get here. Scott, for example, was a vegetarian for environmental reasons -- but as a vegan, he champions the health benefits--which isn't something that he cared about initially. Of course, we are also both moved by the plight of farm animals.

and for the record, "converting" people based on compassion and animal rights, as these veg*ns suggest, is no more a guarantee someone will stick with veganism. In fact, the ex-vegans who created such a stir, were all vegans strictly for animal rights--- they were abolitionists vegans. One of them even attacked me, just months ago, for not being vegan enough.

So I hope with this rather long post, I've made a point: that we should remember that we are all on the same side of the fence and the greatest lesson veganism can teach anyone is compassion...compassion for everyone.

This is my promise to you: happyherbivore.com (and the Facebook page) will always be a safe space, where anyone can feel welcomed and not judged.

Vegan Christmas Menus

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Holiday

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Vegan Christmas (Holiday) Menus [delayed posting--I had Internet troubles on Tuesday]

In case you missed all my online blabbering: I was hired by a hotel in St. Maarten to create vegan menus for all four of their restaurants and yesterday was my first day in the kitchen!

All I have to say about that is: Top Chef? Hells Kitchen? Child's play! Try working in a busy kitchen when you don't speak the language!

But in all seriousness, I had a great time. It felt like I was cooking on steroids (and if I keep this up, I'm going to have to take steroids to be able to pick up the industrial-sized pots and pans!), but I enjoyed it. Plus the Executive Chef is amazing and I love cooking with him, even if we can't communicate beyond head shakes and grunts.

Anyway, I created a lovely Celery Root Soup (pretty much my HH recipe, but with added Cajun seasonings, smoked paprika and fresh parsley garnish); a wild mushroom ravioli with sun-dried tomato cashew cream sauce and I recycled the carrot soup recipe from my cookbook by using fresh ginger and a splash of citrus (you can see the recipe now using Amazons "look inside" feature).

Then, just as I was just about to leave, the Director of Food & Bev tells me that a certain (mega!) A List vegetarian celebrity is coming to the hotel. I nearly screamed---a celebrity is going to eat MY FOOD?!

But it gets better: The hotel also wanted me to create a special Holiday (Christmas) menu for the celebrity and his/her family.

I'm preparing an A List celebrities Christmas dinner?

(I'm still slapping myself in the face---surely this is all a dream!) I can't believe it!

[Wednesday update: I met with the entourage yesterday (on Tuesday) and I'm getting to make all sorts of neat foods, plus vegan chocolate cake as requested by the celeb's kid! I like this kid already!]

Anyway, these were the possible menus I presented to the celebrity client's entourage... I hope you can draw some holiday inspiration from it!

  • acorn squash & apple soup (starter)
  • chestnut bisque (starter)
  • curried sweet potato bisque (starter)
  • pumpkin sage ravioli in a light cashew cream sauce
  • barbecued pomegranate tofu w. garlic greens and potatoes
  • "meatloaf" w. wild rice stuffing + green beans
  • miniature green bean casserole
  • butternut squash risotto
  • acorn squash stuffed w. cranberries, pecans and grains
  • pecan-crusted seitan w. asparagus and mashed sweet potatoes
  • maple-glazed vegetables over grains (kids option)
  • miniature winter vegetable pot pie (kids option)

If you need help developing any of these recipes or have a question about one of the menu ideas --- please leave a comment.

[Image credit]

Vegan Paleo Diet

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

My review of the Four Hour Body sparked an interesting discussion about the Paleo diet on Twitter and Facebook--particularly about whether vegans can follow this diet (and I believe they can).

As a disclaimer, I am not supporting or encouraging the Paleo diet (even in a vegan form), but I wanted to provide information for individuals, who after doing their own research, have decided a vegan-paleo diet is best for them.

The Paleo diet, if you are unfamiliar, is an approach to eating that follows the presumed diet of "cavemen" (pre-agriculture). On this "diet" meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, roots and nuts are allowed (Paleo foods) but all grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils are not allowed. In short, the Paleo diet is essentially the newest form of Atkins--it is a high protein, low carb diet that causes ketosis

Proponents of the diet claim that cavemen didn't have disease because of this "diet" (thereby suggesting it should be followed to prevent and reverse modern diseases and illnesses) -- but this claim is quite controversial amongst nutritionists and anthropologists alike, many of whom disagree with it sharply, not only because there isn't enough evidence to truly determine how cavemen ate, but because it's widely accepted academically that cavemen were free from disease due to their societal structure and not the macronutrient characteristics of their diet. If anything, historial data suggests the near opposite: that humans are naturally vegetarian and people eating vegetarian, Mediterranean and Asian diets (which are primarily plant-based, high in grain, low in meat) have less disease and greater longevity... but I digress. 

Can you be vegan and follow the Paleo diet?

In theory, yes. Most raw foodists and fruitarians (80/10/10 diet) are inadvertently following a "Paleo" diet. [My good friend Ricki, also essentially follows a paleo-vegan diet as part of her ACD Diet regimen.]

In preparation for this article I did a lot of research--I read 100s of boards, forums and "paleo-community" webpages. Not surprising, any time someone asked if they could be vegan or vegetarian and follow paleo, the masses replied with their mundane protein paranoia, (for which I wanted to upload this image): 

(I'm truly amazed at how many people think protein is only found in eggs and meat!!). 

There was also a huge misconception that all vegetarians relied heavily on soybeans for their protein---which the paleo followers were quick to point out: soy is off-limits... but here is something interesting to consider regarding that:

Through the forums I realized, rather quickly, that the majority of paleo-omnivores "cheat." Most of them still use oil (lots of oil!) and many more still consume dairy products (sometimes raw dairy, but mostly pasteurized) and quinoa. I also found several small groups of omni-paleos who were regularly eating legumes! So, perhaps true paleo isn't possible for anyone? Or perhaps this suggests you can be vegan-paleo and "cheat" with legumes and quinoa like everyone else if you want to...

Perhaps what I found most interesting, though, was that a huge and widely-admired omnivore-paleo "caveman" named Grok went raw paleo-vegan as an experiment this summer and along the way, decided to stay with it! As of his last video post a few days ago, Grok is still vegan (he's a fruitarian, actually) and a super triathlete! 

With all that being said (phew!) Here are some resources for those of you who showed an interest in vegan-paleo:

Life and Beyond: Go Vegan Paleo by Maria Rainier
CrossFit: Vegan-Paleo Forum(best forum I found on the topic)
EliotBurdett: He tried vegan-paleo for 30 days (conclusion)
Paleo Vegan Recipes
Diet, Dessert & Dogs (Ricki's website--many vegan paleo recipes)

Lastly, I'm curious to hear YOUR thoughts--about Paleo and diets that eschew grains, fruitarianism and any hodgepodge in between. 

I'm sure we can all agree that a healthy diet is one that focuses on whole, natural foods--but where and at what point do we draw line?


UPDATE: (12/29/10 via CNN) Study: Neanderthals cooked, ate vegetables

UPDATE: (10/27/11 via NPR)The Paleo-Diet: Not the Way to a Healthy Future written by a biological archeologist

Also there is this post reflecting on Paleo by Jeff Novick, MS RD

A great, in-depth article by Dr. McDougall The Paleo Diet Is Uncivilized (And Unhealthy and Untrue)