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What’s a vegan mother to do? by Rene’ Steelman, VLCE

The major benefit of trying new things and exploring other “worlds”is meeting people and expanding your circle of friends. I sat down with one of these new friends to discuss our upcoming presentation. She went over what she was going to say, I went over what I was going to say and BAMMM…with in just a few minutes, before my smoothie even arrived, she was disagreeing with my view of how to eat a plant-based diet. This has happened to me twice now in just the last three weeks! To quote Mr. Rodney King, who was horrendously beaten in front of our eyes, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? . . . “(quote from The Quote Verifier). STOP BEATING ME UP, FELLOW VEGANS!!!!!

My quest to gain health has been a journey beginning about thirty years ago. I have been blessed by becoming an adult in the late sixties where eating clean and wholesome was beginning to be a trend. I had my fifth child in the mid-eighties and was hypnotically encouraged to follow “Sandy,” otherwise known as Olivia Newton John, right into a sweat band, shiny leotards and aerobics. I started running and unknowingly became a vegetarian. My quest to feed my flock and a very picky husband was daunting! “Where’s the ketchup?”my hot-dog-eating husband would ask. “ I threw it all away!”I would answer with pride and an upturned chin. “Why?”he would forlornly inquire, “Because, would you believe, it contains SUGAR!”Needless to say, I was replacing that bottle of sugar in just a few days. I was feeding five children and one big one, remember. The man loves hot dogs!

ketchup

Fortunately, I don’t give up easily and I have raised healthy and happy children who try to eat well and are now feeding their children hummus for a snack. I can honestly say, as a young mom, I ground my own wheat and made them whole-wheat pancakes for breakfast. Sometimes I put ice cream on their oatmeal because I read that that would combine the sugar and the milk, enticing children to eat their porridge! I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s a journey. [Read more...]

Is being vegan enough? by Kat Mendenhall, VLCE

A Reflection: “Being” vegan isn’t enough. It should serve a higher purpose.

is vegan enough

It’s barely 6 a.m. I’m awake, thanks to my dog who needs to pee and my cat who is patiently waiting on the dog to go pee so she can begin her morning purring for food. Now that the animals are happy, I examine what’s next on my agenda. Meditate, yoga stretching, sip tea, go for a run, make a smoothie, body brush, shower with body products that have no chemicals, put on my organic makeup and my eco-friendly clothing. Whew! I’m worn out getting my vegan self ready for my vegan day — but there’s more.

What about my homemade vegan meals? I’ll need a balance of grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit. Consider raw or no raw. I’ll want to avoid oil, too much salt and sugar, no faux meat; nothing processed, God forbid. In addition I’ll need to include a smoothie with super foods, fermented foods for a healthy gut, juicing for my cells, and let’s not forget to take pictures of the best-looking dishes!

In between, I’ll need to write a vegan blog, share some vegan news on my social media sites, work on marketing my vegan business, schedule a vegan meet-up, plan a vegan workshop, catch up on vegan reading, spend some creative time on a new vegan product line, all while questioning myself. Do I promote enough? Share enough? Do enough in the name of veganism? Or — even worse — are my vegan missionary efforts all in vain?

Wow, being vegan has become a bit religious, don’t you think? I just spent my whole day trying to be a vegan saint, a disciple of the V-word, pleasing some vegan gods that are armed and ready to attack at the slightest mishap in my plant-based “walk.” I feel that they’re judging my food choices, cooking style, and eating style. If I’m a good vegan girl, I can successfully secure a place in nutritional heaven. [Read more...]

“Welcome Home” by Julie Tuesday, VLCE

Hello.  I’m Julie and I’m not going to tell you exactly how long I’ve been a vegan.

You see, I believe that we are ALL born vegan and that we’ve strayed from our natural path for a variety of reasons. We were fed animal products by well-meaning family members so that we would grow “big and strong” — as if! And that message was reinforced as we were brainwashed by greedy corporations that lack a conscience.

If we are born vegan, then being vegan is not a sacrifice. It is my belief that being vegan is something that rings true within our spirits and bodies because it is already part of our inherent fabric. When people embrace this life (again), we are blessed with magnificent gifts and tools to help us change the world for the better.

By clinging to old forms and attitudes, some of which cause us to declare our vegan “tenureship” with everyone we meet (I was once the worst of them all) we act from a standpoint of weakness. We declare our veganism as if it’s some kind of badge of honor that signifies tremendous personal sacrifice.

Don’t get me wrong.  I, too, have found myself at the local diner at 3 a.m. with nothing but a boring vegetable plate or order of French fries for company while everyone else is enjoying all the things you wished you had in a vegan version – but that isn’t real sacrifice – inconvenience perhaps – but sacrifice? No.

Nevertheless, after my first decade as a vegan, I lapsed. I still didn’t wear animals, and I didn’t buy anything tested on animals or with animal products. I continued to sign petitions and protest and I donate. Oh — and I preached. And preached and preached, and yet there were many more times that I would like to admit that I ATE THEM. I ate my animal friends and I knew what I was doing. [Read more...]

Let’s Go V-E-G-A-N by Victoria Moran

One of the acronyms I sometimes use when I speak on this topic is V-E-G-A-N:

  • Validate your choices
  • Embody a health lifestyle
  • Get to know other vegans
  • Add more to your life and your diet than you subtract
  • Never forget the animals.

When you take these points to heart, you’ll have the internal ballast to stick to your convictions.

Victoria Moran

Validate your choice to be vegan (or journey veganward) by learning enough to satisfy yourself. That, in turn, should be enough to answer any questions others might ask. When you think about it, their questions are (or were) your questions.

Start with the ubiquitous protein query. Even longtime vegans remember when this was our primary concern: we’d been taught that protein came only in animal foods, or if plants had it at all, it’s “second class.” In fact, protein is found in all whole, plant foods. Eating a variety of vegetables, grains, and beans with no further thought to the matter is fully sufficient for most people. If someone needs a higher amount – a bodybuilder, a pregnant or nursing mom, or someone simply so entrenched in the high-protein philosophy that they believe they need extra – they can up their intake of beans and soy products, and include a scoop of protein powder derived from rice, peas, Brazil nuts, or some other plant source in their morning smoothie.

Embody a health lifestyle. It’s not fair that half the people think we’re going to keel over dead from malnutrition and the other half think we’re supposed superhuman specimens of strength, endurance, and beauty, with immune systems that could fight off anything. Uh, excuse me: vegans are people too. Many are interested in sports and athletics and look very fit. Others want to eat a very pure, very high-nutrient diet and they do tend to exhibit high-level health. Most of us just want to eat what we like and get to the gym when we get there and simply live our lives. Like I said, we’re people.

But because others are watching us, every vegan becomes an ambassador for this way of eating and living, whether we ask for it for not. Be yourself. Eat what you want to eat. Just keep in mind that the healthier, the more vibrant, and the more naturally energetic you are, the better it is for the spread of veganism. Do you have to look like the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue? Gosh, I hope not. But you don’t want to subsist on cupcakes and cronuts either.

Montclair Vegans

Get to know other vegans. It’s tough to do anything when you’re feeling all alone in the world. There was a time it was hard for any vegan to feel well connected because there were so few of us. When I researched my first book, Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, back in the 1980s, I went to the UK to meet and interview vegans, because there were so few in the U.S. at that time (and, of course, we were more spread out). These days, you may be the only vegan in your small town, but chances are there’s another one in the town up the highway, and dozens, if not hundreds, in the closest city. [Read more...]

How to Shop Vegan Online by Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE

Congratulations! You’re vegan! You’ve made the decision to adopt a compassionate, plant-based lifestyle. You’re getting a handle on food shopping in stores. You may have an idea of where to get your vegan clothing, beauty products and more. But, what about shopping for all of your needs online?

shop vegan online

Shopping online, known as e-commerce, is meant to be easy. There are parallels between how you shop in a physical store to how you shop from your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Online categories are like store aisles and departments. Their product lists are like shelves and clothing racks.  Well-designed e-commerce sites will provide a great deal of product information through text and media (images, videos, etc.) to help consumers make the best informed decisions without having to use all five senses.

You can choose to shop vegan businesses online, such as Alternative Outfitters, MooShoes or Vegan Cuts. They’re great and should be supported, especially for peace of mind while shopping. However, you don’t need to change where you shop, if you’re loyal to a particular business. Many top-named online retailers do carry vegan or veg-friendly goods.

Here some key things to check to help you confirm online if an item is vegan:

  1. Search terms like “vegan” and “cruelty-free” on shopping sites. Note: “cruelty-free” does not mean the same as “vegan,” but it can give you product lists to get you started.
  2. Identify logos such as the Vegan Action certification “heart” or The Vegan Society symbol. Note: Leaping Bunny  is another logo to recognize, but they will not confirm ingredients or materials as “vegan.” They only verify whether animal testing is used by the manufacturer.
  3. Read product descriptions, including nutritional facts, ingredients and materials.
  4. Read product/store reviews from other customers.
  5. Ask your fellow vegans about brands and products.

certified vegan

vegan shop

Now you have the tools to start on your online vegan shopping adventure, but like any savvy shopper, you also want to save money, right? Here are a few tips to set you on your way:

  1. Social media: Follow your favorite stores & brands to get exclusive deals, coupon codes and free stuff
  2. Email: Sign up for your favorite stores’ newsletters for email-only special offers
  3. Cash-back/coupon sites: Sites like RetailMeNot and Ebates list discounts and coupon codes for many popular sites. By signing up and using Ebates, you can earn a percentage back on your online purchases
  4. Loyalty programs: Sign up for your favorite store’s rewards program. You may earn points, credit and rewards by shopping online and in-store
  5. Comparison shopping: Shopzilla, Pricegrabber and Google Shopping will allow you to compare prices of products to find the best deal online
  6. Deal-of-the-Day sites: Groupon, LivingSocial and Woot are just a few. You can get deals for local businesses, but also shop for goods with huge markdowns online through these sites too

According to eMarketer, e-commerce accounted for 5.8% of $4.5 trillion in 2013 retail sales in the United States. It continues to have double-digit growth year-over-year. While the percentage may seem small, when you look at the numbers, it’s pretty huge and growing fast! What does that mean for the vegan shopper? It means greater accessibility to vegan items and convenience of not having to drive long distances, wait on a line or spending a fortune (especially during the holidays). Reference: eMarketer, April 10, 2014 Total US Retail Sales Top $4.5 Trillion in 2013, Outpace GDP Growth http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1010756

Happy Vegan Shopping!

Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCECarmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE is an e-commerce specialist and marketer, who just happens to be VEGAN! She’s a savvy social media enthusiast, blogger and co-host of the weekly #VeganFoodChat & #Luv4Social Twitter chats, She uses her voice to spread the messages of compassionate living and community building. Carmella lives in NYC with her husband Carlo (soon-to-be VLCE) and 2 cats, Connie & Mozzer. Want to learn more about Carmella? Her About.me page is quite telling!

 

Vegan lifestyle basics guide by Margo Morrill, VLCE

At the beginning of my plant based journey, food was my main focus. Always picking up vegan cookbooks, reading the labels at grocery stores, and of course asking servers “Are you sure they’re using olive oil and not butter?”  During those beginning months (who am I kidding? — I think it was a year or two!) the thought never dawned on me that this was just the tip of the iceberg. I guess I thought at the beginning veganism was about not eating animals until I had an ah-ha moment and realized I must change my entire lifestyle and not just my eating habits. I started watching and reading more about testing products on animals and the weird and inhumane animal ingredients they put in our beauty products and household cleaners.

I meet an awful lot of people who say they just don’t think they can take the plunge into veganism. My goal is to show them that we don’t have to lose any of our special loves, such as a terrific handbag or a high-end beauty product, leather-look pumps or jackets. We can live the same lifestyle we have at this very moment: all we have to do is veganize it! I have been buying, testing, and reviewing products for years, and here are just a few of every sort that I love most!

vegan lifestyle

1. Pacifica Natural Minerals – I will go nuts for some Pacifica products! They make some of the most lovely vegan makeup I have tried. They also have many other vegan products such as hair care, skincare, and candles.

2. Owl’s Brew – Owl’s Brew is a new product I have recently added to my arsenal for parties. This hand-crafted tea is actually a drink mixer! I’m completely obsessed! Don’t drink? No worries: it’s great over ice too.

3. Nicora Johns – Nicora Johns is a newcomer to the world of vegan shoes — handcrafted and lovely. [Read more...]

Redefining Masculinity by Matt Cunningham, VLCE

“Your wife isn’t here. Aren’t you going to order real food?”

“Does she (wife) let you have steak in the house?”

Being a man who works in sports, I used to hear questions like these often and still do on occasion. Most of my formative years playing hockey were spent consuming pre-game meals featuring chicken and fish and countless nights in steakhouses where the only serious dilemma was going for the 16 or 24-ounce cut. When my vegan journey was starting, I would deflect these comments and do whatever I could to avoid the inevitable questions about protein, the taste of tofu, and how I could survive without chicken wings, turkey at Thanksgiving, and steaks large enough to feed a small village.

My vegan lifestyle has evolved in ways I never anticipated, with questions about my values and how to live an authentic and compassionate life. With this comes another question: why is consuming the flesh of animals considered to be masculine?

This question demands examination in a larger sense related to how we define masculinity in our culture. The days are obviously long gone where a man has to physically hunt (and maybe help with the gathering) in order to provide for his family. And with the rising costs of animal products, dollars are stretched further to provide food and other resources.

Compassion is a word that is closely associated with the vegan lifestyle and, in this writer’s opinion, a guiding constituent of masculinity. Choosing the path of least resistance typically revolves around doingthe things we’ve always done, for no better reason than that they are the things we have always done. In a world with scarce resources, we cannot afford to keep traveling this narcissistic path of denial.

The slightest bit of awareness can do amazing things in nurturing compassion. Once we acknowledge how animals are brutally slaughtered for our food or clothes, it is imperative to begin making small changes. Whether it’s donating a leather coat to Goodwill, embracing Meatless Mondays, or making your next pair of dress shoes the near-suede variety,

photo[5]

the capacity to reject the status quo of masculinity can be liberating and inspiring. [Read more...]

How going vegan can make you more creative by Camille DeAngelis, VLCE

When I went vegan in April 2011, I began the most joyfully creative phase of my life so far. I’m a novelist, and I used to have frustrating “trough periods” in between books—but since that spring I’ve written three novels in three years and the ideas (great ideas!) keep on coming. So if a fellow artist talks about feeling blocked, I share my “vegan conversion” story and ask if they’ve ever considered a connection between diet and creative output.

There is significant scientific research to indicate that a diet heavy in animal protein contributes to plaque buildup in the brain—read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, if you haven’t already—but the psychological changes that occur after switching to a plant-based diet are much more immediate and recognizable. Here are some thoughts on how and why going vegan can make you more creative.

Curiosity

Like many new vegans, I got adventurous in the kitchen. How can I come up with vegan brownies that don’t taste like sidewalk chalk? Ooh, Brussels sprouts are AMAZING when roasted at 375º for 45 minutes with olive oil, salt and pepper! Nutritional yeast? Why not! Your food is alive, and you’re always tinkering with recipes to come up with something even more satisfying. This is just one way to stay mentally flexible—by seeing challenges as fun instead of frustrating, and playing “what if?” That renewed sense of curiosity, open mindedness, and innovation benefits all creative endeavor.

beet salad

Courage

You might be familiar with PETA’s classic adage: “Don’t look away.” It takes courage to watch undercover footage from slaughterhouses, hatcheries, and fur farms and resolve to change our actions and habits, even though our family and friends may initially react with derision or resentment. It would be so much easier to pretend we don’t see it, that the abuse, exploitation, and overwhelming cruelty aren’t really happening. Making life changes in accordance with our ethical beliefs is definitely risky, but all change entails risk. Now that I’ve taken those risks in my personal life I feel prepared (even eager!) to make creative choices that frighten me—and will yield much sweeter fruit.

Vulnerability

Anyone who’s watched Brené Brown’s popular TED talks knows that vulnerability isn’t something to be ashamed of. In any creative act—be it a three-course dinner or a 300-page novel—you are essentially saying, “Here is the best that is in me.” There’s always the possibility that someone will tell you your best isn’t good enough for them, but you are willing to take that risk—willing to hear that your vegan mac ‘n cheese doesn’t taste enough like “the real thing,” or that your short story didn’t blow them away—because withholding your creativity amounts to living in fear, and there are too many billions of sentient beings on this planet living in fear already!

mind map

Introspection and Cognitive Resonance [Read more...]

Spiritual Nourishment: How Your Spirit Impacts Your Eating & Eating Impacts Your Soul by Victoria Moran

We’ve all heard that eating “keeps body and soul together.” Evidence now suggests that our spiritual lives impact our relationship with food, and that the foods we eat can affect our spiritual sensibilities. 

Dine like a yogi

The ancient seers who developed yoga may have been the world’s first nutritionists. They looked for a diet that could contribute to health of body and peace and mind, and determined that aged, stale, overcooked foods led to lethargy and laziness, while caffeine, hot spices, and even an excess of animal protein created a level of stimulation that was antagonistic to spiritual pursuits.

They suggested instead a diet comprised primarily of fresh vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and “milk from healthy cows.” This is surprisingly close to today’s cutting-edge nutritional recommendations that call for eating five to ten servings daily of fresh fruits and vegetables, consuming grains in their minimally refined state (oatmeal, 100% whole-wheat bread and brown rice), and several times a week choosing plant sources of protein (garbanzos, lentils and soy products, such as edamame and tofu).

Moderation and mindfulness 

Add a yogic exercise program to your yogic diet, and you may find yourself eating more moderately. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that “mindful eating” is one of yoga’s welcome side effects. The study showed that students’ awareness of both why they were eating and when they’d had enough led to less weight gain over time, independent of calories burned doing yoga.

Head researcher Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., of the University of Washington School of Public Health says, “This ability to be calm and observant during physical discomfort [i.e., maintaining a difficult yoga posture] teaches how to maintain calm in other challenging situations, such as not eating more, even when the food tastes good and when you’re not hungry.”

For yogis and the rest of us, selecting fresh, colorful, whole foods may well improve both physical and spiritual health. “To best perceive and receive the Holy Spirit in us, it is important for our body, mind and soul to be as translucent and peaceful as possible,” says theologian Norris Chumley, Ph.D., author of The Joy of Weight Loss: A Spiritual Guide to Easy Fitness. “Choosing foods that are alive, full of energy, and harvested in a peaceful way nurtures our entire being. We feel fully alive, energetic and peaceful from eating in a healthy, conscious way.”

Invite your soul to dinner

Comfort Food from Peacefood Cafe, Upper West Side

Even in our busy lives, there are some easy ways to make mealtime a nourishing experience on every level. Try these: [Read more...]

What non-vegans want to know: how do you stay vegan? by Lynne Agnew, VLCE

Writing a guest post for a highly respected blog is an amazing opportunity I wanted to share with my non-vegan friends. I asked what they would like to know about and was surprised to hear a lot of really interesting questions. One that came up several times was how does a person stay vegan when they feel cravings for foods they enjoyed for many, many years?

Good question. There certainly isn’t one answer and if you Google it, there are over 44 million results. I decided not to read a single one of them and instead will write about what worked for me, and provide hints and suggestions that might help anyone trying to make the transition.

Read and Learn

There is so much free information on the Internet. Start exploring and reading articles. There are blogs, personal stories and references. Learn how unhealthy meat and dairy products are for you, and how animals are senselessly harmed in the process. It changed my attitude forever. Research books and borrow them from the library for free. They are a wonderful resource for this topic.

Go to a Super Salad Bar

I’m a little jealous of people who live near a Whole Foods store. They have the most incredible salad and prepared food bar. It’s the easiest way to taste new, unusual, and seasonal produce. If you want to re-create a recipe you really like – once again, look on the Web and YouTube. For those not close to a big city, salad bars on a smaller scale are great (Wegman’s in the northeast is my favorite).

Experiment with Substitutions [Read more...]