Happy Herbivore Blog

Inspiration Interview: Kate (part 2)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

Last time we talked to Kate about how she defeated her debilitating condition by diet alone (even when her doctors put no credence in the vegan diet as a cure!).  Now she's back to talk to us about vegan mommyhood, dating as a single vegan and making mixed-diet families work. 

HH: You are a mom to two adorable vegan boys. Tell us about them.

Kate: My boys are 4 1/2 and 2 3/4 right now. They have both been raised vegan since birth. My boys are smart, active and happy, just like any other kids. Both boys are huge for their age - in the 90th percentile for height and weight (although they are not fat, just solid). 

Have you noticed any differences between your boys and their peers?

I would say my boys are pretty typical for their ages. Perhaps they have more energy (which is not necessarily an asset at times!). I think my oldest has a little more muscle mass, and less fat on his body than his peers, but that also has to do with the fact that neither boy watches TV. My younger son is still stocky - he is transitioning from a toddler to a little boy. 

What do you do about social situations and daycare?

I bring food and snacks from home to their daycare. I was concerned that they would feel socially awkward because they had to eat different foods, but a lot of kids these days have special diets due to allergies. 

How do you talk to them about veganism? Any good books?

They are aware that we are vegan, and that most people are not. William (the eldest) asks me all the time about who eats cows, and why. He likes to point to the meat in the grocery store and ask me about it. I talk to them both about the fact that I think eating meat isn't the healthiest choice, and how we like the animals and don't want to hurt them for our food. When Will was smaller, his favorite excuse for not eating something was that "it had cow in it." But I try to stress that everyone is different, and that other people make choices for themselves and their kids. All parents try their best.

As for books, my favorite is Herb the Vegetarian Dragon. There is one book we have called And That's Why We Don't Eat Meat which goes into the horror of factory farming, but I think it is upsetting for little kids so I don't read it to them.

What are some of the boys' favorite vegan dishes?

I would say the most popular meal at my house is risotto. They also love pasta and pizza (thank God for daiya!). We eat tofu scramble fairly frequently, polenta, etc. Actually, one of their favorite treats is getting Indian food. Will absolutely loves salads and will try almost anything. My younger son is just starting to come out of the stage where he refuses to eat anything that looked funny - which, to a 2 yr old is everything but bread and bananas. Their diet isn't as varied as I'd like it to be, but I am working on reintroducing things like lentils that used to be staples. 

In the first part of this interview, we learned that your doctors were not (and still aren't!) supportive of your vegan diet. What about the boys' pediatrician? 

Their pediatrician is supportive -- he has seen them grow and prosper. Unlike my doctors, the boys' pediatrician has always been completely open minded and accepting. 

What about the boys' father? Is he supportive?

My ex-husband is also vegan. He feels much better being a vegan than he ever did eating a traditional diet. Like me, he too believes it is the best diet for our boys.. which is saying something. His mom's favorite cook is Paula Dean so you can imagine the food my ex-husband grew up on!

You're also single, or well you were -- until you met your wonderful boyfriend. Many single vegans are unsure how to bring their veganism up or if they they should even bother dating a non-vegan. Any advice?

Don't jinx my relationship Lindsay! No, seriously, when my ex-husband and I split, I started dating again. I didn't focus on dietary choices as a major criteria. It is much more important to me that a partner is smart, kind and has a good sense of humor than what he feed himself. That being said, when I joined match.com I put "vegan" in my profile to let people who could not deal with that weed themselves out.

What about your boyfriend. Is he vegan? 

I remember my first date with Chris (hard to believe it was almost a year ago!). He is allergic to wheat and joked that there was no way he could be vegan because the overlap between our diets was almost non-existant. (FYI, Chris and Kate both follow a gluten-free/wheat-free vegan diet now).

Chris didn't eat a lot of meat, but he loved cheese. When I started cooking for him, his eyes opened to the possibilities of food beyond meat and cheese. The variety in his diet went up considerably. He is also a good cook in his own right, so he would prepare dishes similar to what I served on nights we weren't together. 

Three weeks after we started dating, he went vegan on his own accord. He says he feels a lot better being vegan - and that is the motivation for his choice. He also likes the freedom to eat until he is full without worrying about gaining weight. His mom also has Type II diabetes, so he encourages her to incorporate vegan meals into her diet. 

You also dated other non-vegans who, unlike Chris, did not adopt a vegan diet. Any advice for people finding themselves dating an omnivore or vegetarian?

I think a vegan and a non-vegan can be happy together as long as they treat each other with love and respect, but it is not easy. I believe in a live and let live attitude - I am confident in my decision to be vegan, and I don't judge other people for their own choices. That being said, I don't think I would like meat in my house.

This is a tricky issue for me because while Chris is vegan, his kids (ages 14, 12 and 9) are not. If at some point we want to live together, we are going to have to figure out what our household is going to look like. I don't think he would be comfortable limiting his kids to only vegan fare.

Top 10: Old Recipes

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

I continually feel pressured to create new recipes for happyherbivore.com. I know that I shouldn't, but I do. And although the unforgiving heat turns me into a slacker every summer (it's just too hot to cook!) this summer I've felt especially guilty about not creating more recipes...

Truth is, I've had little time to do much of anything. Between finishing up the final touches on my upcoming cookbook and working on all of the upcoming Happy Herbivore projects (Herbisport's e-books and the Healthy Living online courses--coming soon!) I haven't had much breathing room.

In a grief-stricken panic, I confided in a friend about how guilty I was feeling. She said to me, "Lindsay, there are more than 100 recipes on happyherbivore.com! There is plenty of content for your fans and supporters to enjoy, don't feel so guilty for being busy!"

This is true, I thought. Happy Herbivore is about to turn three years old (I can't believe it!) and there have been some damn delicious recipes in those three years. Often I feel the old recipes get overlooked or forgotten -- even by me! So here are my top 10 oldie-but-goodie recipes...

I'll be back in the kitchen soon enough, but in the meantime, give these recipes a try if you haven't experienced them already!

  1. Blueberry Crisp
  2. Chickpea Tacos
  3. Low Fat Nachos (there is a totally fat-free version in my cookbook!)
  4. Mock Meatloaf
  5. Southwestern Zucchini Pie
  6. Chana Palak Masala
  7. Vegetarian Delight
  8. Veggie Biscuit Pot Pie (as featured on the Huffington Post!)
  9. Yam Falafels
  10. Carrot Cake Cupcakes

And how do you know these oldies are still goodies? FOUR of them will be making an appearance in my upcoming cookbook! (not counting the nachos!)

Can you guess which ones?

Inspiration Interview: Kate (part 1)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

Today's inspirational interviewee, Kate, comes to us from Boston and shares with us how she defeated her debilitating condition with diet alone. In part 2 (next week) we'll also talk to Kate about vegan mommyhood, dating and making families with mixed diets work.

HH: First, the million dollar question. How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?

 Kate: I have been vegan since March 2004. I went vegan shortly after I'd been released from the hospital for serious digestive pain and, er, issues. 

Do you mind telling us about the issues and what led to your hospitalization?

I was diagnosed with IBS (the constipation sub-type) and in pain for years. I was on at least two different prescription medications and various laxatives. My GI doctors (that's plural!) did nothing other than order intrusive tests and monitor my medication. One actually told me it was "normal" to drink an entire bottle of Milk of Magnesia a day, every day. 

What about diet? Was there any discussion on the foods you were eating or possible allergies and intolerances that may have been causing your digestive distress?

There was absolutely no discussion or concern by my GI doctors about what I was eating because I was eating what the medical community considers a "healthy" omnivore diet at the time. At the beginning of my doctor saga, my primary physician did mention in passing that I might consider giving up dairy, but he said it in a manner that made me think he didn't believe its effectiveness, so I never tried. No doctor that I ever met with gave much credence to diet as a way to alleviate pain or problems, which in retrospect is amazing to me. Doctors, especially GI doctors, should focus on nutrition, allergies and intolerances as these things can lead to all of the problems people deal with on a daily basis.

Although you suffered with pain and digestive issues for years, you ultimately experienced a breaking point that finally led to relief. Tell us about that.

After months of pain and no improvement, I was referred to a specialist who ordered a barium swallow test, which ultimately resulted in a visit to the emergency room. At the time, none of my doctors warned me that barium was extremely constipating, and because I was also on a nerve deadening medication for pain management (the medication made it so Kate wouldn't feel intense pain all the time), I didn't receive the distress calls from my digestive system until I was in severe, unbearable pain. The pain was so intense that I was crying uncontrollably, moaning and fighting off the urge to scream. Basically, I had a charley horse in my bowels for nine hours. 

What happened once you were in the ER and later admitted to the hospital?

An X-ray revealed that I had about three weeks of food stuck in my intestines and my bowels were spasming. I spent the night getting enemas and being pumped full of laxatives. 

What was your prognosis?

No one, even the GI specialists, could offer any solution other than more tests and more medication. I left the hospital disgusted with the medical profession and desperate for an alternative solution. 

How did you hear about a vegan diet being a cure for IBS?

After my release I read Dr. Neal Barnard's book, Breaking the Food Seduction, and by the end of the book, I was vegan.

Did you experience any relief?

I saw results pretty much immediately. As it turns out, my IBS was not just the result of not being able to digest certain foods; dairy was the biggest culprit for me. When I went vegan, I was able to digest the foods I was eating. In the first week, I was off all my medications and I finally had no pain. Eating a plant-based diet was, and continues to be, a tremendous relief. I'm finally free of digestive pain and discomfort. 

What did all the doctors say when veganism 'cured' your IBS?

When I mentioned I went vegan during a follow-up appointment with my GI specialists, and that my condition had greatly improved as a result, they scoffed at me.

Have you experienced any other changes since adopting a plant-based diet?

My ex-husband (also a vegan) lost 20 lbs. I didn't lose much weight, but I find my weight is stable even when my activity level fluctuates. I have also learned to trust food. When I was an omni, I was convinced that if I ate until I was full, I would end up fat. Mostly because that is what eating animal laden fare does. Most unprocessed vegan foods lack the brain cues that lead to overindulging - they are good for your body, and non-addictive.

Now that you have pinpointed dairy as the culprit, why stay vegan?

People always ask me why I don't start reintroducing some of the things back into my diet that I used to eat because I can't possibly be allergic to them all, but I have no interest in messing around with a good thing. Plus, now that I don't eat meat, I find myself very sensitive to animal issues. I am happy that the healthiest way to eat is also the most ethical. No one has to die for my dinner. Now that is what I call a perk!

You also recently found out you have a wheat sensitivity. A lot of people think being a gluten-free vegan is impossible. How do you make it work?

What is really hard as a gluten-free vegan (or "gluvee" as my co-workers have coined me) is going out to eat. You also don't really have pre-packed food choices as a GF vegan. Other than that, I don't feel very limited. I have always liked to cook, which is essential. There are several cookbooks out there. (Kate recommends the Flying Apron cookbook). GF baking is hard, I usually have to make a recipe a few times before it comes out right, but once you get the hang of it, you can make pretty much anything. Start small and don't give up.

One other thing about being a GF vegan is you'll probably need to take a B12 supplements. Most wheat flours, cereals, etc are enriched with B12 but GF fours aren't.

For those with tummy troubles or IBS, do you think a plant-based diet can help them?

Absolutely. I definitely believe a vegan diet can help anyone with digestive issues. It was amazing to me how my body could go from non-functional to working perfectly -- by itself -- when I changed the food I was putting into it. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense -- I have learned to appreciate what my body is telling me. I listen to it for cues for my overall health.

Thanks Kate! Join us next week when we talk to Kate about being a mom to two adorable vegan boys, dating as a single vegan lady and making a mixed diet family work!