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Q: None of my family share the same views about not eating meat, dairy or eggs that I do. How do I spend the holidays with them when they will be cooking meat?
A: Bring your own food to eat and something that everyone can try. Something that is familiar and not intimidating. For example, for the 4th of July, I brought the low fat vegan potato salad from HHC, and no one missed a beat. My mom also brought my healthy, vegan baked beans from HHC and everyone raved about them. I also like to bring baked goods i.e. muffins or cake -- no one turns down cake!
(follow-up) But it bothers me that a poor animal had to die a painful death and is being cooked. How do I get over that and being around my family?
A: I know. I feel so sad to see so much death and so much sickness around my family (many are obese and have other crippling food-related illnesses). I used to not go until I realized it was an opportunity -- a chance for me to lead by example and educate. This mindset has made all the difference. Not only in my sanity, but it’s also rubbed off and some family members are now plant-based or, at the very least, are more educated and conscious of their choices and eat vegan and vegetarian meals sometimes.
Q: Now that I’m cooking from scratch, I've realized that I don't know what to look for when buying certain items at the grocery store (i.e. I don’t know how to tell if it’s ripe or not). Or I’ll see something interesting at the Farmer’s Market but I don’t know how to cook with it. Is there a guide anywhere?
A:WHfoods.com put out a book that is a guide like you’re describing, the website also has a lot of good information. For ideas for new foods, my best advice is to flip to the index of my cookbooks, or whatever cookbooks you own, and look up recipes that use that ingredient or google for a recipe i.e. "recipe for portobello mushroom.”
Q: I’m allergic to corn. Is there a substitute for cornstarch or corn meal?
A:You can use arrowroot instead of cornstarch. Most supermarkets carry it, but you’ll definitely find it at a health food store. There isn’t really a replacement for corn meal. If a recipe calls for 1-2 tbsp, you could probably just use another flour, but if corn meal is a main ingredient (in, say, cornbread) you’ll just have to skip the recipe.
Q: I’m trying to do vegan paleo. Why can’t I have grains? Is sugar really bad? Help!
A: Paleo is a vanity diet (the new Atkins) that might make people skinny by forcing their body into ketosis, but it won't improve their insides -- heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other food-related illnesses exist if you eat animal products. Last I checked, there are no any scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals that support the paleo diet and Anthropologists don’t agree that’s how our ancestors ate.
There is no basis not to eat whole grains or legumes aside from carb phobia. Both whole grains and legumes are very healthy and have been eaten by people for years. Some of the healthiest peoples on the planet eat lots of grains and legumes. Sugar and flour are scapegoats, not the problem. For more information, I highly recommend reading The Starch Solution.
I also wrote a post about a vegan paleo diet. I can't recommend the links to articles at the bottom enough -- several link to articles by doctors and other nutrition experts and the dangers and fallacies of paleo.
Side note: Everyone I know on “paleo” cheats like crazy which makes me think the diet is not realistic -- I never cheat or feel the urge to following my healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle.. Perhaps because I’m actually satisfied and eating the way our bodies were intended to? Just a thought.
Q: I am vegan for three weeks and have had some serious bloating problems. I have a hard, stiff and bloated tummy each night. What’s happening?
A: I’m sorry you’re having bloating issues - that’s no fun. See my post on flatulence.
Keep in mind that you just altered your diet pretty significantly, so your body will need some time to adjust :) and there are supplements and things you can do to help alleviate the bloat.