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The Judgment-Free Vegan, by Kristy Draper, VLCE

I’m vegan. I love kale, quinoa, and legumes. I drink green smoothies and make my own peanut butter. My clothes are free from animals, with the exception of cute images of pigs and cows. My makeup and household products were not created with the use of animals or tested on animals. I embrace and embody the vegan lifestyle. Did I mention I am also overweight and sometimes shunned by fellow vegans?

Veganism is a relatively new term.  The founder of the American Vegan Society, Donald Watson, coined the term in 1944. Although this was never the intention of those early vegans whose motivations were entirely ethical, the word quickly became associated with being thin, fit, and healthy. I have seen dozens of marketing campaigns that swear if you go vegan that you will lose weight, be fit, get healthy, and look great! Yes, vegans generally do eat a healthy diet. Our foods are free of cholesterol and usually have fewer calories. But what does healthy mean and what happens when a person is vegan and still not thin? [Read more…]

Ten Easy and Cheap Cooking Hacks to Make Eating Vegan Simple, by Jennifer Gannett, VLCE

Sometimes you’re just busy. Or tired. Or you’re saving the world, training for a marathon, or being a mom, which is a little like saving the world and training for a marathon. Cooking shouldn’t be a burden. With these 10 hacks from real-life mom Jennifer Gannett, VLCE, you’ll start to love your time in the kitchen. Only thing: there’ll be a lot less of it. — VM
 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

1. Purchase the prepared or pre-chopped produce.

You know how it is. You see pre-chopped produce packages and you throw some shade in your mind about who on earth is really too lazy to cut up their own carrots, celery or onions, right? If you find yourself reaching for take out menus or processed foods because you are out of energy at the end of the day to prepare a meal and need to revert to something familiar, fast or easy, give yourself and your family a break. Although I am not typically a proponent of buying in the package what you can prepare more inexpensively at home, I want you to feel good about your meal! Sometimes these items can be helpful in a pinch, like when you are traveling, moving, working late on a project or have little ones. Try a few prepared produce options out and see if the time and energy you save in the decision making and chopping helps you to simplify your meals.

2. Purchase sauces and toppings from a favorite restaurant.

You like the flavors but not the entree’s price tag. Ask your favorite Indian place to sell you a container of that green chutney your family really enjoys. Get some extra salsas to go from Chipotle. You love the tahini sauce from that falafel store? They will to sell it to you! Bring it home and add it to your beans, grains, pasta or salad. For a fraction of the price, you get a flavor profile you love.

3. Lunch specials.

An oldie but goodie: get the cheaper lunch special and bring some home for another meal. Lunch specials tend to be lower cost than dinners, often for a similar amount of food. Bonus points for bringing your own reusable container.

4. Use a pressure cooker.

61FHFKGAD1L._AC_US160_You are likely hearing a lot about pressure cookers in the last few years — in part because of my friend JL Fields and her excellent classes and cookbook: Vegan Pressure Cooking: Delicious Grains, Beans, and One-Pot Meals in Seconds.  Once scary, newer electronic models are easy to use; their resurgence is not accidental. Save a lot of money and time by pouring some broth and lentils into your pressure cooker. Add frozen or prepared veggies, maybe a grain if you want. Cook. It is that simple, super-tasty and delightfully inexpensive.

5. Roast and bake.

This sometimes-lazy lady’s favorite is to roast up some veggies, sprinkled with spices and drizzled with oil, serve and watch disappear. Fun fact: you can roast veggies while simultaneously baking veggie burgers (store-bought or homemade). Roasted cauliflower, oven fries and veggie burgers are all popular foods that combine to make a healthy meal.

6.Utilize prepared grains/protein.

You have gotten the animals walked and fed, the kids their breakfast and made their lunches and managed to clean the kitchen while doing so, which leaves you all of 97 seconds to prepare your own lunch or be stuck with yet another slice of cheese-less pizza from the place two doors down from the office. You call on your pre-made rice or couscous, or pull some out of the freezer and microwave for 40 seconds. While it defrosts, you throw your salad greens, prepared marinated tofu or canned beans and some prepared veggies into your container, throw in some dressing and nuts, toss the rice on top, cover it and you are out the door with 20 seconds to spare. This is not a fictional scene. That batch of grains or package of seasoned, prepared seitan or tofu can make a difference.

7. Bulk cook or pre-prepare.

You don’t have to give up your entire Sunday to bulk cook. Little Pinterest-perfect mason jars of deliciousness parceled out for the week are great. However, you don’t have to be fancy: sometimes you can just double the amount of quinoa or beans that you are making and suddenly you’ve got another meal.

8. Cook with friends. IMG_3174

Identify ahead of time what you are making, who is responsible for specific ingredients and how you will transport finished items. Enjoy as a group or take home for the week ahead.

9. Stock your freezer.

Keep a ready supply of frozen veggies, grains and meals and snacks to grab when time and energy are at a premium. This is an unbelievably easy way of getting cheap and easy vegan meals into your tummy.

10. Use up your leftovers.

Yes, vegans are leaving a lighter environmental footprint but aren’t immune to the ongoing problem of food waste. Soups are a good choice and I learned a great trick from the wonderful book Raising Vegetarian Children  that you can puree a variety of leftovers together with a savory base and call it a spread, dip or pate!

BONUS

11. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!

As I tell my classes at MSVA, not every meal has to — or is going to — be perfect. Sometimes our bodies just need a little well-balanced fuel to keep us motoring. Don’t stress the easy choices, and embrace those moments when you have more to give.

Jennifer Gannett is a faculty member at Main Street Vegan Academy, a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, a cat socializer, dog lover, and busy mom, who works formally and informally to make the world a better place.

Health Markers—Weight Is Just One of Many, by Vicki Stevens, VLCE

Indulge with me in a bit of imagining. Before you stand two women—or men, your choice. In addition to being of the same gender, both share the same ethnicity, age and height. At a glance, both seem similar in appearance, except one is slim, while the other is overweight or even obese. Quick—which one is vegan?

Trick question. They’re both vegan!

Which one is healthier?

The slim one, obviously. Right?

Not necessarily.

Perhaps the overweight vegan has lost 100 pounds over the past several months through careful food choices and a dedication to consistent, strenuous exercise. Perhaps the slim vegan enjoys a fast metabolism and sedentary lifestyle, paying little attention to food quality. I personally know vegans in both categories.

We’re bombarded with the message that “overweight” is bad and “obese” is even worse. In her book What’s Wrong with Fat?, Abigail Saguy points out that these two terms inherently imply “medical problems.” And both are labels the Centers for Disease Control use for Body Mass Index ratings that rank above the “healthy” range (BMI is the ratio of a person’s weight to height). But here’s the thing. You can’t necessarily tell the state of a person’s health merely by guessing or even knowing their body fat percentage. While obesity is correlated with greater disease risk, it cannot be said to be causative. This means that, as a group, heavier people are more at risk than slimmer people of developing certain diseases such as diabetes and colon cancer. But it’s not proven that the weight itself causes the disease. The disease might be triggered by one or more lifestyle factors that also contribute to obesity.

There’s also the “obesity paradox” which describes protective powers associated with obesity in relation to certain conditions, such as heart failure and osteoporosis. Obese women have an increased or decreased risk of breast cancer dependent upon when in life they gained the weight, and whether they were obese prior to or after menopause.

Why does this matter? [Read more…]

Animals, Believers, Compassion, by Victoria Moran

It’s a new ABC: Animals, Believers, Compassion. I’ve long been perplexed at why so many people of faith, just about all faiths, strive to show compassion to their fellow humans but turn a blind eye to the animals they eat and wear. In both these ways, most “religious” or “spiritual” people are identical to most “secular” people.

Vegans hear the arguments: “Jesus ate fish.” “The cow is sacred and we’re supposed to consume her milk.” “The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, ate Halal meat.” And yet, at the heart of every faith, and at that unnamed place of connection where the “spiritual but not religious” find solace, we find the same stunning substance: love — boundless, blind, without condition or prejudice.

In the day-to-day world, it can be difficult to be a vegan and a person of faith. The difficulty doesn’t lie with the vegan and God; it’s between the vegan and God’s other children. Our presence makes non-vegans uncomfortable. Especially in a religious or spiritual setting, there’s an understanding that everybody is following the basic tenets: loving their neighbors, treating others as they’d wish to be treated, and doing okay on the Ten Commandments, certainly the one that says “Thou shalt not kill.” There’s the sense of “Morality-wise, we’ve got it covered.” Then along comes the vegan who, without saying a word, points out the obvious.

Filmmaker Thomas Wade Jackson noticed these disconnects when he was active in a church in New York City and saw people there go the extra mile to be kind and seek to do the will of God in their lives — until it was time for Sunday brunch. Then he noticed that even the pastors and chaplains and the leader of the choir were eating what was left of poor, dead animals, and their “byproducts,” leading to more poor, dead animals. No one questioned it, even though this particular Protestant church (Unity) was founded in the 1800s by two strict vegetarians.

CompProj logo

This led Thomas to think back to previous church experiences in his life, and he realized that he’d never met a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, at any religious institution. While he knew that some yogis were vegetarian in keeping with the tradition of ahimsa, many of those were strongly anti-vegan, singing the praises of milk, cheese, and ghee. He knew of the many dietary rules of Orthodox Judaism, including the one that doesn’t allow the consumption of meat and dairy at the same meal, or even prepared and served with the same utensils, acknowledging that the cow killed for beef is the same one whose baby’s milk humans also consume. He was also aware of kosher and halal slaughter, an attempt of ancient people to make the act of killing as humane as possible, and yet as he looked around the world in 2016, he was met with the fact that this is no longer antiquity. Why are religious people still making excuse for imprisoning and murdering God’s other creatures? If indeed a beneficent Creator is there to see a sparrow fall, what could God possibly think of a Tyson Chicken plant?

With all these questions swirling about in his mind, Jackson was determined to put his filmmaking skills to use in creating a documentary looking at vegans of all faiths: Roman Catholic to Native American, Jewish to Jain, Buddhist to Zoroastrian, and many points in between. Then he proposed to take some this footage to non-vegans of those same traditions and see if someone from within the fold could convince a fellow believer of the spiritual, as well as the moral and practical, necessity of going vegan. Thus, The Compassion Project was born. He brought me on as producer (that sounds very grand; it just means I know a lot of people and am willing to talk up projects I believe in), and already on board to participate are such vegan luminaries as Bruce Friedrich, Milton Mills, MD, and Will Tuttle, PhD (It’s Will who’s shown below, recent shots flanking an image of him as a young Zen Buddhist monk.)

Unknown-1 wt4Unknown-3

The Compassion Project is a labor of love, and I feel certain that, with some help of other vegans, Thomas Wade Jackson will pull this off. People have asked, “But why not atheists? We’re vegan, too.” Of course, and vegans with a fully secular worldview are doing incredible work in saving animals. Mr. Jackson is actually considering a future film called The Justice Project to look at atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists taking a stand for our fellow beings. But that’s another movie. This one is focused on a target audience, the 80 percent of Americans (85 percent of people worldwide) who claim to believe in some Higher Power. This is a ripe market. I’m envisioning screenings of this film — and lively debates afterwards — in church basements and yoga retreat houses and Jewish community centers all over everywhere.

In the meantime, those of us who do attend worship services — or yoga classes or 12 Step meetings — are usually the odd vegan out. It’s important, I think, that we stick to our convictions and maintain enough humility to know that many of the non-vegans we meet there are doing brave and laudable work too. I see these people use their vacation time for mission trips to work with the profoundly poor, or sacrifice their own comforts so that strangers can have some necessity they’d lacked. I can have admiration for them and gain inspiration from what they do. I can also offer them a bowl of vegan chili or a bag of vegan cookies. And I can strive to be healthy and let them know how I do it. I can go out of my way to help animals when it isn’t easy or convenient, and know that they’re noticing that, the way I notice that their Saturdays spent building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

And I can speak up and speak out, in a spiritual community just as I would anywhere else. Way back in the early 1980s when I was researching the college thesis that would become my first book, Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, I was hosted by a charming Catholic priest in Dublin. He told me that he’d be assigned to a church, stay for a year, and then give present his homily on animal rights. “After that, they move me somewhere else,” he said. “It used to bother me, never getting to stay in a parish after telling them about the animals, you see. But now I look at it differently: they send me so many places, I’m talking about animal rights all over Ireland.” Maybe that’s what we all get to do. And with enough talking — and living, shining, cooking, sharing, being — we’re going to change some people.

Hallelujah to that.

Unity On The River

Victoria Moran majored in religious studies and has written books about spirituality — Shelter for the Spirit, Creating a Charmed Life, Lit from Within — as well as Main Street Vegan and other vegan titles. She is producer of The Compassion Project, the in-the-works documentary  discussed here. To see clips from the film, and contribute to its making if you’re so inspired, please visit the film’s crowd-funding page — there are wonderful perks for contributions of every size. You can also “like” the film’s Facebook page  and follow on Twitter: @CompassionMovie.

 

Vegan Food Bars for Omnivores, by Michael Suchman, VLCE

As a vegan lifestyle coach and educator, I can talk to anyone about veganism from whatever angle I think they will be receptive to, whether animal rights, individual health or the environmental issues. However, I have learned that no matter how much information I share with people and how much they seem to absorb, more often than not they will reply with, “But I just couldn’t give up _______.” The takeaway from this for me is that, as long as people know they don’t need to give up any of their favorite foods, they will be more open to veganism.

An easy way to teach omnivores that they won’t miss anything by going vegan and that no special skill is required to cook vegan food is to set up a food bar. What is even better is that aside from a little prep work, you don’t have to do much cooking. The easiest foods to do this with, and ones that most people like, are pizza, tacos/fajitas, and ice cream.

To set up a pizza bar, all you need to do is get some store bought pizza crusts, sauce, and an assortment of toppings. In addition to vegetables, make sure you have plenty of vegan pepperoni, beefless crumbles and vegan sausage available. Of course, you will want a selection of vegan cheeses as well. Your friends will be surprised when they see all the vegan meats available. Let everyone make his or her own pizza, then all you have to do is toss them in the oven for a few minutes to cook. Leave the boxes/packages the vegan meats come in out for your guests to look at. Let them know you got them at your local grocery store. The more you can show how readily available vegan products are, the better the chances are that your friends will get them. [Read more…]

Fitness: It’s All in Your Head, by Danielle Legg, VLCE

January, the month where just about everyone decides that this is the year they’ll get fit. The year where everything will change if we just do this one thing. Every year, after a few weeks, we give up because we’re not seeing the results we want, and our life just isn’t changing quickly enough. That’s been every January for me for years, more years than I care to even sit with, or admit. THIS January was different though, because this year I had Beachbody, and I’d signed up to coach others, so I gave myself more reason to stay with it. I was so sore after only 2 days that throwing myself down the stairs felt like a better option than walking, but I didn’t quit because I was a coach now. I had to keep going, because how can I help others if I’m not helping myself? But the hard work wasn’t how sore I was, or working through that. It was the personal development.

January

In coaching, personal development is vital, you have to do it. It’s just like going vegan. You can’t just say “Okay cool, no more animal products,” and then stop learning. You’ve got to pick up books and fill your head with knowledge. That’s what getting fit has been for me. Within three days of starting this journey, I was starting to actually, finally, love myself as much as I love animals. I’ve wanted to love my body for as long as I can remember, but wanting it and actually feeling it are two completely different things. I’ve wanted to change something, or a million things, about my body since boys started picking on me in grade school. Years later when I couldn’t get my body to look a certain way, I started making fun of myself. Laughing feels better than crying, even if the jokes are mean and you’re the one making them. “Champs-fed thighs” and “Doughnut-fed breasts” I’d say as I laughed, and my whole body would jiggle as I giggled. Then I started learning. I realized that I hated my body not because of anything anyone said, maybe a little bit because of stupid “thin is pretty” ads you see on EVERY stupid magazine, but really, it was mostly me. So in January, I finally decided that it was time to love myself. Not just “want” it, but actually DO IT. [Read more…]

Make Your Audience the Hero: Tips for Creating Compelling Presentations, by Carol Morgan Cox, VLCE

Congratulations! Imagine you’re booked to give a presentation at your local VegFest, community event, library, or corporate workshop. You’re excited to share the benefits of veganism, from improved health and wellness to reduction in environmental destruction and non-harming of animals.

If this is your first time giving this presentation, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and nervous, wondering where to start and how to convey the information (without being preachy). If you’ve given similar presentations before, perhaps you didn’t get the results you had hoped, such as new clients or follow-ups.

The key to creating a compelling presentation that engages the audience is to understand where these people are in their vegan journey and to make them the hero in your presentation.

Superhero Costumes?

What do I mean by hero? Are you supposed to envision the audience dressed up in superhero costumes, as opposed to the oft-cited advice of visualizing them naked (which is just weird)?

Well, not quite.

The Hero’s Journey

If you’ve watched Star Wars or The Matrix or Hunger Games or Harry Potter, you’ve encountered Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey.

Through his research, Campbell discovered that all cultures on the planet, across time and space, have very similar stories and myths. They are how we as humans understand our world, relate to each other, and encode our values into our societies.

In the hero’s journey, the main character (the hero) faces internal and external problems, is confronted with an inciting incident that moves the hero from comfort to discomfort, with no turning back, in order to achieve a final transformation. Along the way, the hero encounters a mentor or guide who provides insights, information, and support.

Here’s the critical part: Your audience is the hero. You are the guide.

hero [Read more…]

Solace for the Vegan Soul, by Jackie Demeri Costello, VLCE

As vegans and people sensitive to the suffering of others regardless of species, we face a unique set of challenges to our sensibilities. A casual stroll through the grocery store, a shoe or clothing boutique, watching a TV show or movie, or even a family holiday gathering can bring stress, sadness, frustration, and a sense of aloneness in a world that is often oblivious to the pain inflicted on the animal kingdom to serve dietary and fashion preferences.

As a poetry therapy practitioner, I work with literature as an instrument of connection and expression. When selecting a poem or other literary piece, a practitioner seeks to find one that accurately mirrors their client’s feelings. There is something uniquely comforting about the power of the written word and its ability to heal our spirits, help us feel we are not alone, and affirm our heartfelt inclinations. Therefore, I was especially moved when I came across a beautiful passage in Milan Kundera’s, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, where the female protagonist watches the cows grazing in the pasture. Her thoughts, as she observes these guileless creatures, form a veritable animal rights manifesto. The essence of the message can be summed up in the following quotation from the novel, though reading the passage in its entirety is veggie soup for the vegan soul:

True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.

[Read more…]

Ayurveda, The Science of Long Life, by Victoria Moran

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian healing tradition still recognized by the World Health Organization. I learned about it in the mid-1990s and find it more appealing as time passes. It is, after all, the “science of long life.” Ayurveda grew up alongside yoga during India’s Golden Age. It dates back at least 3,000 years, and the oral tradition may be even older. The gist of it all is that we are natural beings and, when we maintain our connection to and cooperation with nature, we maintain health and vitality. Like its homeland, Ayurveda is not strictly vegetarian but is usually so. However, ghee (clarified butter), yogurt, and milk are among the dietary recommendations. A vegan like me with an interest in this simply goes with the motto: “Take what you like and leave the rest.” With this in place, there is a great deal to like.

The altar that greets diners at NYC's Ayurveda Cafe on the Upper West Side.

The altar that greets diners at NYC’s Ayurveda Cafe on the Upper West Side.

Certain Ayurvedic suggestions apply across the board; others are specific to one’s body type, or dosha. Some of the general recommendations are:

  • Be in bed by 10 and rise around 6 a.m. to take advantage of nature’s energies that will assist you in both falling asleep and awakening with energy for the day ahead
  • Upon arising, gently scrape your tongue with a silver or stainless steel tongue scraper to remove ama, metabolic debris, which has accumulated overnight on the tongue
  • Drink 8 to 10 ounces of warm or hot water with a bit of lemon juice or a few drops of edible lemon essential oil (such as Young Living) to encourage a morning bowel movement
  • Learn some classic yoga poses, as well as a few yogic breathing practices, and engage in these every day
  • Meditate daily, or even twice daily
  • Have a modest breakfast before 8:30 a.m.
  • Eat your biggest meal at high noon; this is when your agni, digestive fire, is hottest
  • Eat a light dinner at least three hours prior to your bedtime
  • Get all six tastes — sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, sour, and astringent — in both the midday and evening meal. If you’re unsure you’ve included all of them, use chutney as a condiment; it’s designed to have all six tastes.

It gets more specific when you learn that there are three doshas, or humors, and everyone is predominately one or two of these; a few people are tri-doshic, with almost identical amounts of each dosha. The pattern you were born with is perfect for you. What happens, however, is that we stress ourselves with the wrong food (or too much food), too little sleep (or sleeping at the wrong hours), too much work or exercise (or too little exercise), and emotional stresses of various kinds. This causes one of more dosas to increase within us, perhaps Vata, which is flighty and apt to rise in anyone, whether or not Vata predominates in a particular individual. This increase leads to imbalance and excessive or persistent imbalance leads to disease.

The best dosha quiz I know of is found at https://store.chopra.com/dosha-quiz, a Deepak Chopra website. (He is also the author of my favorite book on the subject, Perfect Health.) As a brief intro:

This lunch at Ayurveda Health Center, Alachua, Florida, looks like any healthy plant-based meal, but there's meaning behind it. It's a substantial meal, ideal for midday; the dal is spiced to calm flighty Vata dosha, the tempeh and mashed sweet potatoes to pacify irritable Pitta, and the salad to lighten and energize slow-moving Kapha.

This lunch at Ayurveda Health Center, Alachua, Florida, looks like any healthy plant-based meal, but there’s meaning behind it. It’s a substantial meal, ideal for midday; the dal is spiced to calm flighty Vata dosha, the tempeh and mashed sweet potatoes to pacify irritable Pitta, and the salad to lighten and energize slow-moving Kapha.

Vata people tend to be thin, active, and cold. When in balance, they’re creative and curious, when out of balance frightened, nervous, and “spaced out.” Vata ills include digestive and nervous disorders and osteoarthritis. A couple of iconic Vatas: Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

Pitta folks are apt to be mid-sized, muscular, and the ones in the room asking if someone can open a window. If Caucasian, they tend to have a ruddy complexion, and perhaps red or reddish hair. In balance, Pittas are strong, dependable, strategic quick-thinkers with unparalleled executive ability. Out of balance, they’re angry, rude, and opinionated, and they develop inflammation-based conditions from skin rashes to acid reflex and ulcers. A Pitta in the news: Donald Trump.

Kapha men and women tend to be a bit round and a little fleshy, although they lack the voracious appetite of an unbalanced Pitta or the tendency to snack mindlessly as would a Vata who’s trying to ground herself. Kaphas aren’t crazy about exercise and it’s hard for them to get going in the morning. (Ayurveda generally warns against caffeine, but allows coffee for Kaphas; they can use the boost.) Because Kapha is slow-moving energy, people in whom it predominates are slow to become ill, although an out-of-balance Kapha is prone to respiratory infections, with or without lung involvement, and to obesity-related disorders. Kept in balance, Kapha is apt to remain healthy — and generous, kind, and good-natured — well into old age. A Kapha you recognize: Dr. Deepak Chopra.

Spices aren't just delicious in Ayurvedic cuisine: they're healing. Favorites include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamom, and onion-y asafetida.

Spices aren’t just delicious in Ayurvedic cuisine: they’re healing. Favorites include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamom, and onion-y asafetida.

While good health practices are good for everyone, learning your dosha and how to tweak certain foods and habits can be very helpful. For example, Vata tends to be pretty stimulated already; caffeine can put her over the edge. And since she’s already cold, making that an iced coffee would push her even further out of balance. On the other hand, a warm, creamy herbal chai made with almond milk (in Ayurveda, almonds are a specific for Vata) would be very comforting.

Pitta is hot and excitable by nature; a spicy Mexican meal with a few shots of tequila isn’t going to be best for him. However, Pitta can try all the new Ben & Jerry’s vegan flavors and stay as balanced as can be. Kapha is the master of relaxation and will get it whenever he can. Therefore, Kappa needs a bike ride or a hike on Sunday, while jittery Vata or pissed-off Pita might do well with a meditation retreat or spa day.

One easy way to help keep your constitution in balance, without feeling that you have to come up with separate meals to accommodate other family members, is to sprinkle the appropriate spices on your food at the table, the way we traditionally add pepper and salt. Blends called churnas, formulated for each dosha, are available commercially. I order mine from Maharishi Ayurvedic Products in Iowa: www.mapi.com.

The basics: Basmati rice, chickpeas, veggies, spices -- the dark specks that look like pepper are actually black mustard seeds

The basics: Basmati rice, chickpeas, veggies, spices — the dark specks that look like pepper are actually black mustard seeds

Ayurveda is a lifetime study, but learning even the fundamentals can lead to improved health and an uplifted attitude. If you’re a health counselor or a vegan lifestyle coach, helping your client understand her body type and how to work with it can enable you to be of added value. In March of this year, I took an incredible weeklong training in Ayurveda at the Ayurveda Health Retreat, Alachua, Florida. In addition to learning a lot and meeting really great people, I felt a complete renewal, both physically and spiritually. I plan to return annually for panchakarma, the Ayurveda detoxification program (hint: it involves lots of massages and you don’t have to stop eating). It’s a boutique facility and because I was there, they made everything vegan for the week.

No Ayurvedic program is oil-free, however. The tradition calls for using oils — sesame and coconut are favorites — to bring out both the flavor and the healing properties of spices, and Ayurveda also teaches that for someone whose digestion isn’t strong enough to deal with raw or steamed greens or cabbage-family vegetables, cooking these in oil makes them more digestible. Ayurvedic food suggestions are also not generally compatible with all-raw diets. While Pitta people take well to cold smoothies, and Kaphas thrive on salads and crudités with dip, Vatas may want to confine these foods to summertime only, and in winter, even Pitta may feel the need for oatmeal, butternut squash soup, or rice and dal.

For me, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. When I follow the simple suggestions for overall health and the specifics for my type (I’m a Vata/Pitta), I feel better and can do more. And since I have a lot to do, I’m sticking with what enables me to do that.

Victoria Moran is the author of twelve books including Shelter for the SpiritYounger by the Day, and Fat, Broke & Lonely No More. She is the founder of Main Street Vegan Academy and has probably read Perfect Health fifteen times. She also recommends The Ayurvedic Vegan Cookbook, by Talya Lutzker, a terrific guide for eating Ayurvedically without having to translate out the ghee in every other recipe.

 

 

The Power of a Vegan Community, by Lita Dwight, VLCE

Nearly eight months ago I embarked on a journey with 12 other individuals determined to change the lives of animals by becoming vegan lifestyle coaches and educators (VLCE) through Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan Academy. Little did I know at the time, the power this group would have to exponentially impact my singular efforts to positively impact the lives of countless animals.

In 2014, I decided to start a corporate wellness practice rooted in a desire to help people make better nutritional choices. In that pursuit, it was an otherwise benign documentary about the experience of three individuals experimenting with a vegan diet called Vegucated that brought me to veganism. But it wasn’t the improvement in the participants’ vital signs, the joy they experienced losing weight, or even the fact that they were able to get off of their diabetes medications that moved me most it was the experience of a tiny nameless piglet being “processed” to enter the food industry under miserable conditions foreclosing the possibility of his (or her) ever experiencing what it truly would be like to live the life of a pig. It was at that moment that I internalized all of her pain and the pain of the millions of animals who experience a similar fate. And on that day, after watching Vegucated, I became a vegan.

Shortly after that epiphany, I decided to form a company that would help those transitioning from animal-based foods to a vegan diet by offering non-dairy equivalents of popular dairy foods such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. I had heard that dairy and, in particular, cheese, was one of the common obstacles for non-vegans who wish to make the switch. And so Bryt Life Foods was born, but given that I had no background whatsoever in the food industry, I knew I would need help.

With the intention of learning from others in the vegan community who were expressing veganism in their own unique ways, I signed up for MSVA and this decision would alter my vegan path forever. [Read more…]