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Does Canada Want its Citizens to go Vegan?

Canada is revising its Food Guide Guide in preparation for release in early 2018.  The Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives groups have been entirely eliminated and instead replaced by guiding principles for healthy eating based on the most recent peer-reviewed evidence.

I’ve seen many articles purporting that this new guide is encouraging Canadians to adopt a vegan diet. This is not exactly true, though it is true that milk and meat now belong to a general protein group that is made up largely of plant-based sources of protein.

This is definitely big news! Never in the history of the Canadian Food Guide has Health Canada steered Canadians towards choosing plant-based foods above all else, even touting their health and environmental benefits. Plant-based proteins are given precedence over traditional forms of protein such as meat, seafood, and dairy, and this has not come without its fair share of critics.

The best part is that you have a say in all this. Canada has opened up their draft guide to feedback and suggestions from the public, and it’s imperative we let them know that we want the focus on plant-based foods to stay put. I’ll outline how you can contribute later in this post, so keep reading to find out.

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Where do You Get Your Protein?

My fellow vegans and vegetarians know where I’m going with this. Raise your hand if anyone’s ever asked you where you get your protein! 🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽 I’m guessing there are quite a few raised hands out there. This question often stems from concern or curiosity, but also from a deep misunderstanding of what protein actually is, and how much of it is required to maintain health.

We have been conditioned to think that quality protein can only been found in animal sources but this is simply not the case. Plants are an excellent source of protein and one who does not eat meat is not deprived of essential nutrients.

I’m going to break down some facts about protein so we can all gain a better understanding of what protein actually is, how much of it we need to stay healthy, the role it plays in the body, why we’ve been made to care so much about it, and the foods in which there is an abundance of quality protein. By the end of this post I think it will become clear that protein is last on the list of things a vegan has to worry about.

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The Best Vegan Chili

Chili is pretty much a staple dish in every household. I tend to make chili when I don’t have a ton of fresh produce lying around and I want to make use of what’s in my cupboards. One of the challenges when making vegan chili is recreating that hearty, meaty flavour, and achieving a texture similar to chewy pieces of ground beef. The flavour was no big deal; I just used ingredients packed with lots of umami like vegan Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and tomato paste. For the chewy meaty bits I used textured vegetable protein or TVP. TVP is made from soy beans which are mashed, baked, and dehydrated, and need to be reconstituted before being used for cooking. Once rehydrated they become chewy little flavour sponges that are a welcome addition to any dish. I mean anything. That’s why I always keep a few bags of the Bob’s Red Mill brand in my pantry.

This chili is among the best I’ve ever had (If I do say so myself). It’s sweet and spicy and filling, with a wonderfully dynamic flavour that will definitely keep you wanting more. It is perfect served with a warm chunk of vegan cornbread, over rice, or eaten all on its own like a hearty stew. You’re going to love it.

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A Week in the Life – Eat Your Veggies!

I have not been having a good week diet-wise. My husband was away at a conference for three days, and I’ve discovered I can really only bring myself to cook when we’re sitting down to eat together; otherwise, I can subsist on very little and am completely unmotivated to cook an actual meal. I definitely didn’t meet my nutritional requirements this week. I also cheated a little on my sugar intake: my grandmother requested my now-famous Mexican chocolate snickerdoodles, so I whipped her up a batch and I struggled internally for hours until finally scarfing one down and then feeling supremely guilty afterwards. And then I had a Diet Coke at the movies (plus popcorn that maybe had butter), and I ate half a party-size pizza, and I had supremely delicious, greasy quinoa onion rings with chipotle mayo, and I had an enormous bowl of poutine. Very few vegetables made an appearance in my week, so I tried to make up for it last night by eating about 3 pounds of broccoli, and let’s just say today I’m paying for my overcompensation. So basically I’m not impressed with myself, but my life’s motto is, “Never a mistake, always a lesson,” and that’s what I’m going to view this week as – a valuable lesson in eating your veggies, and not all in one sitting, otherwise your stomach will seek vengeance.

Last week I mentioned I was developing a recipe for sugar-free almond-cocoa crisps. It’s still in the testing phase because ideally I would use a dehydrator to achieve the crispy texture I’m craving, but since I don’t have one I baked them in the oven for eight hours on the lowest heat possible, which you can imagine is not exactly energy efficient. Once I’ve perfected them I will share the recipe.

I also mentioned that I was researching material for a post on protein. This is currently in the works but is taking longer than anticipated because I really want to get it right. Too often I read posts by vegans that feature misleading or outright incorrect information, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes. I generally aim to research both sides of any issue and avoid limiting myself to materials that affirm my preexisting beliefs. While this practice usually yields more well-rounded and accurate conclusions, it takes double the amount of time, but time I think is well worth the effort. I appreciate your patience and promise I will have something for you soon!

And now, please read on to learn what horrible things I’ve been eating this week. I promise you’ll feel much better about what you ate this week.

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A Week in the Life – Spreading the Message

I began my A Week in the Life series with a lot of preamble about conscious consumerism and the impact our choices have on the environment and on those around us. I spoke of our tendency to remain purposely disillusioned about the food on our plates and the clothes on our backs. I challenged everyone to be more aware.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the message of sustainability this week as I finally watched Cowspiracy and the new, related documentary, What the Health. I’ve also been doing quite a bit of research for an upcoming post on protein, which people often think is the most elusive dietary requirement (spoiler: it’s not). There is so much information readily available, but not everyone chooses to seek it out.

Veganism as a means to sustainability, environmental stability, and optimal health is something I’m truly passionate about, yet I feel caught in a struggle between quietly adopting new personal practices, and spreading the message about what I’m doing and why it’s beneficial. No one wants to be that person who aggressively promotes their own agendas. You may have heard the joke, “An atheist, a vegan, and a Crossfitter walk into a bar. I know because they told everyone.” Vegans are generally viewed as annoying, and they can be. I can be. I don’t want to be, of course, but I’m also uncomfortable if I don’t voice my opinions when appropriate. This is, in part, why I started this blog, and why I launched my Facebook page to share research and articles. I strongly believe that people cannot be forced to change, but that people must want to change, and will be more inclined to do so if they are surrounded by positive examples of change.

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Golden Zucchini Fritters

I don’t know why, but the word fritter has always rubbed me the wrong way. I think it conjures memories of some cold, soggy, congealed fritters I had when I was younger. They’re usually either too eggy or too greasy or too soggy.

I’m really selling you guys on these fritters, aren’t I? Bear with me here.

I had a lot of zucchini in the fridge that wasn’t looking too happy, and normally when that happens I would bake up some chocolate zucchini bread, but that wasn’t an option this time since I’m trying to cure my addiction to refined sugar. A sugar-free zucchini bread recipe is for another day. Anyway, I thought I’d revisit my nemesis fritters, as it would be an easy way to use up those zucchini. And thus, this vegan fritter recipe was born. They’re pretty perfect and may have changed my mind on the fritter front. If you’re not a fan of fritters either, I think these will make you feel differently too.

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A Week in the Life – Smoothie Overload

First of all, I just want to apologize for this post being a little later than its usual Sunday evening. I’ve been busy trying out some new recipes and perfecting my iPhone photography skills (they’re still not great) so I haven’t gotten around to posting this week’s food log. I had great success with my recipes for Summer Vegetable Israeli Couscous and Gloriously Meaty Tempeh Balls. I also made some crazy Italian sausages for a friend’s barbecue, along with a killer potato salad from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbooks. Seriously, you guys need to check out her recipes because she is the reigning queen of indulgent vegan cooking.

This week marks the third week of the #6spoonsinjune challenge, whereby I try to limit my added sugar intake to just 6 teaspoons or 24 grams per day. I’m proud to say I haven’t exceeded this limit, yet my sugar cravings remain. My mind continues to be occupied by visions of Ben&Jerry’s PB&Cookies non-dairy ice-cream on an almost constant basis. But I’ve held strong. I’ve instead been curbing my cravings with smoothies, which is essentially my only exposure to fruit (until I discovered melon salad with lime juice later in the week) and sugar outside of my mandatory Starbucks soy lattes for which they regrettably use sweetened soy milk. Anyway, keep on reading to see how many smoothies I’ve been drinking and how little I’ve really been eating because I legit get lost in my own head and totally forget.

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Gloriously Meaty Tempeh Balls

My comfort food is a hot-off-the-pan, melty, gooey, crispy, greasy, grilled cheese sandwich. French fries are pretty good at assuaging my pain too. As are ice-cream (cookie-dough, please), chocolate-chip cookies, and mac’n’cheese. For some people, solace can be found in a heaping plate of Nonna’s spaghetti, smothered in slow-simmered sugo and topped with gloriously meaty meat balls. This recipe is for those people.

One of the most difficult things about adopting a vegan lifestyle is figuring out how to authentically create your favourite foods, the ones that bring you joy, that are always there for you no matter what. No one should have to give up the foods they love. What would be the point of life? I want everyone to be able to enjoy a giant plate of cheesy nachos and stuff their faces with sticky chocolate cake. Being vegan does not mean you will miss out on anything, and it has become my mission to prove that to as many people as I can.

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Summer Vegetable Israeli Couscous with King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops”

Way in the back of the top shelf in my kitchen cupboard, I found a Bulk Barn bag of Israeli couscous. Sometimes also called pearl couscous, Israeli couscous is nothing like its fluffy, small-grained cousin that most people are used to. It’s essentially little balls of pasta that have a delightfully firm and chewy texture. Couscous is the perfect medium through which to showcase the diverse nature of vegetables, making them the true stars of the dish. I don’t like vegetables (But you’re vegan! Yes, I know, I know), so I’m always experimenting with ways of cooking them that don’t make me push them around my plate like a kid being forced to eat broccoli.

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A Week in the Life – 6 Spoons in June

I’m addicted to sugar. Sugar addiction is real, as real as an addiction to cigarettes or cocaine, and it effects your brain by tripping off the same pleasure centres. That Sugar Film has launched the 6 Spoons in June campaign to challenge its followers to limit their sugar intake to just 6 teaspoons (added or refined sugar) per day, or about 24g. I’ve always been pretty certain that I’m completely and totally addicted to sugar, and by embarking on this challenge this week, I’ve confirmed it. After just one day of no refined sugar, I began experiencing headaches, irritability, and severe cravings for cookies and ice-cream. I want ice-cream right now. I allowed myself fruit, and as much as I despise it, it became my saviour when my sugar cravings hit their peak. This challenge has also motivated me to pay closer attention to ingredient labels on packaged foods. Sugar is hiding everywhere, in the form of organic evaporated cane juice and organic brown rice syrup. It is hiding in your salt and vinegar chips, your whole-wheat sandwich bread, and in your low-fat vegetable crackers.

This week has been challenging, but I got through it, and I’m eager to make even better food choices next week. Towards the end of the week you’ll notice that I’ve done a lot of snacking, and that is because I hiked over 20km through the Bruce Peninsula and I desperately needed the energy. I am extremely out of shape, so my body is really aching, and I can’t even eat a stack of cookies to ease the pain in my sore muscles. Sigh. Anyway, read on to see what delicious food I’ve been eating this week!

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