Transitioning to Vegan One Step at a Time

stepping stones

Take it one step at a time.

An acquaintance asked me the other day, “Don’t you miss eating normal food? I could never eat such a restrictive diet,” her expression filled with a mix of indignation and curiosity.

We all have our different reasons for why we eat what we eat. Some of us use food as a way to find comfort (fresh baked cookies to cure the blues), while others luxuriate in the physical pleasure of experiencing exotic flavors and textures. There are those that focus on what they can’t eat in order to avoid an allergic reaction or lose those unwanted extra pounds. Food choices are emotional decisions, a way to fill the void when we are feeling lonely or insecure, or as a reward to celebrate an accomplishment.

Just like all the different ways we choose what we eat, there are many ways to be vegan. The interpretations range in extremes from advocating animal rights, to eating imitation meat and dairy replacers in order to hold onto the familiar, to the exclusion of all but raw organic whole foods. For me, being vegan is about consciously choosing what I eat, focusing on foods rich in nutrients that will support my body and its healing process. Read More

Healing inflammation with food

Your diet plays a critical role in helping your body to heal.

Your diet plays a critical role in helping your body heal.

Inflammation is part of our body’s natural immune response, the first line of defense in protecting our bodies from invading organisms that enter our system through wounds or by contact with viruses and bacteria. Inflammation tends to attack the weakest organ system first, depending on genetics and/or pre-existing health conditions.

When inflammation gets out of control and does not heal, it creates a constant irritant that can result in different types of health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and polymyalgia rheumatic, are also associated with chronic inflammation. In addition, inflammation can damage the body’s immune system as it continues to mistakenly initiate an inflammatory response even when there is no apparent need, such as in asthma, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is not surprising that, according to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “Inflammation has long been associated with the development of cancer.”

Fortunately, there is something we can do to reduce inflammation and help support our body’s healing process that does not require expensive drugs or surgery. Read More

Being Vegan at College: Customizing the Dining Commons Menu

By Angela Parnay

For many people, the daily feast at the UC Davis dining commons is an adventure. In addition to food staples like pasta, pizza, and burgers, there are at least two ethnic dishes on the menu, and theme nights are scheduled about once a month. The menu varies, not just weekly, but monthly as well. In 2014, UC Davis was ranked #18 among US colleges for best food by The Daily Meal.

However, my diet was slightly less varied and my experience less positive. Yes, the Blue Onion meal station always offered a vegan dish, and there was always salad and an Aggie Veggie Burger. Much of the produce was grown locally and dishes were cooked in-house, both of which I support wholeheartedly. My disapproval lies not with the number of options or the quality of ingredients, but with the final products.

Roasted vegetables glistened with oil and left puddles on the plates. The Veggie Burgers, though flavorful, had an odd chewy texture. Special vegan pasta dishes would often be presented – but made with egg noodles. There were multitudes of labeling errors as well – does their balsamic vinaigrette really have egg in it only half of the time? One time, I went to the pasta bar, the day’s most appealing option, and puzzled over the bowls of sauce. Apparently one was plain marinara, but they all looked identical! When I asked which was vegan, I was told both options were the same: filled with ground beef.

Needless to say, after my first year, I moved to an apartment with a kitchen.

However, despite these unfortunate mistakes, I always managed to find something to eat. How? By mixing and matching items from various stations.

For example, my personal favorite: bean and veggie tacos. This was only available on weekends at brunch, because some ingredients were offered as “breakfast” foods and others as “lunch” foods. Soft flour tortillas came from the breakfast burrito station, pinto beans from the soup station, stir fried vegetables and rice from the pasta station, and salsa from the salad bar. I then scooped all of the scavenged goodies into the tortillas and dug in.

Another winner was a burger salad. My friends and I would grab a black bean burger or an Aggie Veggie burger and build a salad with greens, carrots, bell peppers tomatoes, olives, and scoops of mild salsa to top. We would then chop the burger into bits and sprinkle it over the salad. Admittedly, black bean burgers far surpassed Aggie Veggie burgers in both flavor and consistency, and sometimes the salad bar would lack vital ingredients like olives. Still, this dish was a tasty and reliable backup.

My final advice: be creative with the options available. What may seem like a boring menu has the potential for a culinary masterpiece, or at least something satisfying to get you through the day.

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Angela Parnay is a second-year student at UC Davis and is happy to report that she no longer depends on the menu selection offered at the dining commons. Between her heavy school load and working in an on-campus computer lab, she enjoys creating her own vegan meals.

Groceries on counter

The Power of the Consumer: YOU

Did you know that you hold Consumer Power, the power to change how foods are being produced and what foods are available in the stores?

Think about it… whenever you go to the grocery store and make a purchase you are sending a message to the company selling that product, all of the businesses that helped produce it (manufacturers and suppliers) and the store, that you like this product. You are casting your vote, “Yes, I want more”. Read More

non gmo project

Why “No” to GMO

GMO is one of those acronyms everyone recognizes, but few people understand what it really means and why we should be concerned about eating them.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. An example regarding our food supply; GMO crops are those plants that scientists have changed their genetic makeup so they can withstand direct applications of herbicides and/or produce insecticides in order to control invasive weeds and insects that threaten certain crops.

Supporters for GMO crops claim that genetically engineered plants are the way of the future. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations the potential benefits of GMO plant foods are:

  • Better resistance to pests
  • Require the use of less pesticides
  • More nutritious
  • Higher crop yields
  • Longer shelf life
  • Cheaper to produce

On the surface it all sounds great, a win-win for agriculture, society and the environment. However, many concerns continue to surface. It can be difficult to find the facts when there have been so few scientific studies providing hard evidence proving its safety and widely conflicting opinions. As we await more studies to bring clarity, we must consider what little we know so far: Read More

What does “organic” actually mean?

Welcome to Plant-based4Health! We are excited about the launch of our new website, a “go-to place” for vegan resources and recipes. Join us as we share successes and challenges of being vegan and discuss important information about the food we eat and how it relates to our health.

One of the important ways to live healthier is to choose organic foods when possible. What does “organic” actually mean? According to the USDA, “Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use.”

There are several different ways companies boast that their products contain organic contents. But be careful, the seals can be misleading, making it important to understand the meaning behind the different labels. Read More