Generally the first question I’m asked when I tell people I am vegan is “where do you get your protein?”

I suppose this is a valid question but protein is available in foods other then meat such as leafy greens, quinoa, hemp seeds, almonds, legumes, sprouts and of course plant-based protein powders!

I was really excited to receive Sunwarrior Chocolate and Vanilla Protein Powder to sample.

Sunwarrior is a fermented brown rice protein powder.  Raw brown rice is germinated to increase its bioactivity and break down the carbohydrates leaving it at 83% protein.  It is cultured with probiotics so it is easy on the digestive system and therefore easily digestible.  Sunwarrior is also processed below 90F to ensure all enzymes are intact.

It contains all 9 essential amino acids and other non-essential amino acids and has the highest Net Protein Utilization score (the amount of amino acids converted to proteins to the amount of amino acids supplied) of any vegetable based protein and the highest ratio of amino acids converted to proteins (amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules.)

Sunwarrior is said to be allergen-free, as well as gluten-free and straight up vegan! While Sunwarrior is not Certified Organic, they use non-GMO foods and are in the process of obtaining organic certification.

What I love most about Sunwarrior is the taste.  Seriously this stuff tastes so smooth without leaving a chalky or unpleasant aftertaste that so many veg proteins have.  I know that it is of the highest quality and one bag lasts me awhile.

Price – approximately $60-65 a bag (lasts about 30-45 days if consuming 1 scoop per day)

Availability – in select health food stores and from RawNutrition.ca

My favourite ways to enjoy Sunwarrior is in a smoothie or protein pudding.

References

Buckwheat looks like a grain, cooks like a grain and tastes like a grain but is actually a seed from the rhubarb family.  An anti-grain if you will.

These little seeds are a wonderful food for those with gluten intolerance and sensitivity  and on a grain-free diet because they are gluten-free and available in whole form, as noodles (Buckwheat Soba) and as a flour.

Buckwheat is high in protein; a 1/2 cup contains almost 6g and 8 essential amino acids including tryptophan, which helps to promote sleep.1

Soaking buckwheat overnight in filtered water converts its complex carbohydrates into simple sugars which the body can burn more efficiently than as starch.2

DSC01073

My favourite way to eat buckwheat is for breakfast!  I honestly love waking up and making my raw buckwheat breakfast.  It is healthy, filling and gives me fuel I need to start my day.

Facts about buckwheat:

  • Contain a group of phytonutrients called flavonoids, specifically rutin, quercetin and kaempferol which are antioxidants that help protect cells against the effects of free radicals.3
  • Kasha is the name for roasted buckwheat which has a stronger, nuttier flavour then raw buckwheat.
  • Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.4
  • Buckwheat is high in vitamins B and E and minerals calcium and manganese.5

Recipes using buckwheat:

References

1. Mateljan, George.  The World’s Healthiest Foods.  Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007. p688.

2. Brazier, Brendan.  Whole Foods To Thrive.  Toronto: Penguin, 2011. p107.

3. Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007. p688.

4. Murray, Michael.  The Encyclopedia Of Healing Foods.  New York: Atria, 2005. p346.

5. Brazier, Brendan. Whole Foods To Thrive. Toronto: Penguin, 2011. p107.

A vegan ragging on a vegan product? 

Truth.

When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet I had no idea what I was doing nutritionally speaking.  As a young, moderately hip twenty-something I wanted to prepare meals for friends while still abiding by my belief of compassion for animals.

Enter Yves Veggie Cuisine Original Veggie Ground Round.  It seemed perfect enough at first – it had protein, it was easy to make and it allowed me to cook veggie tacos that looked like real tacos for the non-vegetarians in my life.

The more I learned about nutrition the less Ground Round appealed to me.  And thankfully now, I have learned to be creative AND healthy when preparing meals.

The ingredients list is as follows:

Water, soy protein product, wheat protein product, onions, natural flavour, canola oil, salt, guar gum, evaporated cane juice, malt extract, caramel colour, spices, yeast extract, vitamins and minerals (thiamine hydrochloride, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, calcium pantothenate, reduced iron, zinc oxide, wheat starch). Contains soy and wheat. May contain eggs.

The breakdown…

Soy Protein Product – Soy is very controversial.  Many studies conducted have said soy is good, many have said the opposite.  That is for another post.  However, whether soy is good or bad what it should not be is genetically-modified.  While Ground Round is said to be GMO-free, it is not Certified Organic.  Soy is also a common allergen.  *As of the publication of this post, I have emailed Hain Celestial twice asking if they can confirm their soy is GMO-free, I have yet to hear back.

Wheat Protein Product – Wheat protein product is also known as gluten.  This is highly allergenic and can provoke sensitivities in some people.  This helps give the Ground Round its chewy texture.

Canola Oil – According to the Canola Council of Canada’s website, 80% of all canola grown in Western Canada has been genetically-modified to be herbicide-resistant.  I was unable to find information on Yves website discussing if their canola oil is fact GMO-free.

Caramel Colour – Is a food colouring agent made by heating a solution of various sugars, often together with ammonium compounds, acids or alkalis.The Centre For Science In The Public Interest also puts caramel colouring on their avoid list.  As stated by the USDA here, caramel colour is part of a class of exempted colour additives  as it is derived from naturals sources and therefore are not required to be declared by name on labels but may be declared as colourings or colour added.  However, because the natural source of where this caramel colouring is derived from is not mentioned, it could be anything and is not stated as being GMO-free.

Since giving up soy-based products a few years ago (with the exception of some desserts here and there) I have discovered a love to preparing health, whole food vegan meals that everyone can enjoy and be satisfied with.  And now if I make veggie tacos I skip the faux-meat filling in favour of ground walnuts and spices (which provide the same texture.)

References

1. “Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives.” Center For Science In The Public Interest. 2011. 17 Sep 11. <http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#caramel>

Sylvester Stallone, I loved you in Rambo, the Expendables and of course, Rocky.

You, at 65 remain one of Hollywood’s most charming, funny and physically fit actors and one of my personal favourites.

Until I came across this…

Stallone brand Protein Pudding.  Ugh. 

I get it, Sly I do.  You’re ripped, you want to help guys get ripped too but seriously?  Couldn’t you have just come out with a workout DVD or something?

The ingredients list is scarier then your role in Cobra.  No offense.

Milk Chocolate Ingredients: Water, calcium caseinate (a milk derivative), soy protein isolate, cocoa (processed with alkali), soybean oil, sodium chloride, dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, dextrose, tricalcium phosphate, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

Sorry, Sly, but I think you’re better at acting then at food preparation.  It’s cool, we all have our strengths right?

So I created a protein pudding that is easy, tasty and with whole-food ingredients you can pronounce.  It would make a perfect pre or post-workout meal.

Stallone-Styles Choco-Cado Protein Pudding

Ingredients

1 avocado
1 scoop Sunwarrior Chocolate Protein Powder
1 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp water or non-dairy milk
pinch of cinnamon

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.
2. Chill in refrigerator for 30 mins and serve.

 

Featured on Diets, Desserts & Dogs Wellness Weekend

It’s no secret that I love bars.  Maybe it’s because some (definitely not all) bars are a great alternative to junk food and make excellent travel snacks for girls on the go, like me.

Let’s be clear here.  Not all bars are created equal.  Many, whose brands shall remain nameless (but perhaps might end up on Busted) are just junk disguised as health food.  Knowing the difference between crap and wholesome ingredients is a skill everyone should have!

When a box of Pure Organics Bars showed up at my house, I was eager to give them a try.

Like with any packaged food I pick up, the first thing I do is flip over the product and look at the ingredients list.  I knew things were going to be okay when I recognized every, single ingredient listed and saw the words vegan and gluten-free.  And many of the flavours are raw!

Pure bars were developed by Veronica Bosgraaf, after her young daughter became vegetarian.  She wanted a healthy snack for her child that was void of preservatives, fillers, processed sugars and animal-products.  And thus, Pure bars were born.

Cost – approximately $2.25 per bar

Availability – contact company for store listing near you

I taste-tested each one and dare I say I enjoyed them as much as Larabar? Rich in taste, chewy and full of texture, Pure bars would be great as snacks for children or the ultimate travel food.  There are a variety of delicious flavours to enjoy:

Apple Cinnamon – A perfect combination of apples and cinnamon.  Not overly sweet and has a rich cinnamon taste.  This would be the perfect 3pm snack to satisfy sweet cravings without doing damage. 

Cherry Cashew – More cherry then cashew which was perfectly ok with me, this bar was sweet without giving me a toothache.

Superfruit Nutty – This one was a bit too sweet, even for me and my giant sweet tooth.  A little bit on the overly-sticky side I would probably avoid this one too.

Wild Blueberry – My second favourite, I love the Wild Blueberry bar.  Pure uses actual organic wild blueberries which is pretty awesome.  Not overly sweet, would be great for kids.

Peanut Raisin Crunch – I would probably not purchase this variety because I try to avoid peanut butter.  This flavour has peanuts, peanut flour and peanut butter all which can be highly allergenic.  The Peanut Raisin Crunch bar is also not raw.  I do like the addition of raisins though and it has a nice sweet and salty flavour.

Chocolate Walnut – Hands down my favourite flavour.  Decadent chocolate with dates and walnuts makes this taste like a raw brownie.

Pure Bars also boast plenty of fiber and protein to slow down the absorption of sugar.  Pick some up and try them out!

When the kind folks at Vega sent me a copy of Thrive Foods, the newest book by Brendan Brazier, I was beyond thrilled.  I mean, me and Brendan?  We could be BFF’s we have that much in common – we’re both vegan, we’re both Canadian, we’re both sporty and we both love making energy bars out of dates.

And more then anything we love our food whole and pure!

Having read and loved Brazier’s two other books, The Thrive Diet and Thrive Fitness I had high expectations of Thrive Foods.  Part informative book and part recipe book, it did not disappoint.

The opening chapters of the book discuss the basics of nutrition.  Information that everyone should, but does not necessarily know.  Filled with important facts and scientific back-up, Thrive Foods is informative without being preachy and is written in a way that everyone can understand.

There are a few sections dedicated to the environmental impact of our foods.  This sort of thing fascinates me, for example according to Thrive Foods, “if everyone in the US stopped eating beef for one year, that would be like not driving a distance equivalent to 9,007,489 to the moon.”  Um, way to blow my mind!

And the best part…200 plant-based, whole food recipes by Brazier and some of the best vegan restaurants and chefs in the world such as Tal Ronnen, Thrive Juice Bar and Candle 79!  I was beyond thrilled to see recipes from some of my favourite restaurants in Toronto, such as Live Organic Food Bar and Fresh.

One of the tastiest recipes I tested was the Zucchini Pasta with Chunky Tomato Sauce.  The pasta sauce was fantastic and any opportunity I can get to use my spiralizer I will take.

Zucchini Pasta with Chunky Tomato Sauce
recipe from Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp sea salt
20 sundried tomatoes, soak in warm water until soft (about 30 min)
1/2 cup tomato soak water
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium clove garlic
2 heaping tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp hemp oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chopped Brazil nuts
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Trim the ends of the zucchini.  Using a hand-held vegetables peeler (or spiralizer), carefully strip the zucchini, layer by layer into noodle-like pieces and gather into a colander (for best results, discard the watery center section that holds the seeds)
2. Toss squash strips with 1 tsp of sea salt and place the colander over a large bowl to catch excess moisture.  Let rest of 30 minutes.
3. After 30 minutes, wash the squash thoroughly with warm water to remove any excess salt, and let drain for 5 more minutes.
4. In a food processor, blend together the sundried tomatoes, 1/2 cup soak water, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, raisins, hemp oil and 1/2 tsp of sea salt into a chunky paste.
5. Add the nuts and pulse a few times to chop the nuts finely (but do not blend)
6. Toss the sauce with the zucchini strips and sauté over medium-low heat to 1-2 minutes to warm through. 

Variation – Skip the sauté step and serve room temperature as a delicious raw dish.

A fantastic meal from a fantastic book!  The addition of the raisins to the pasta sauce was my favourite part.  It gave the thick sauce just a hint of sweetness. 

You can order your copy here, I definitely recommend having this book in your collection!

To find out more about Brendan Brazier and Team Vega, check out their website and say in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

*Note to Canadian readers – Thrive Foods is the same book as Whole Foods To Thrive

A few of my guidelines for a healthy life are – to have a restful sleep, drink plenty of water, try not to stress the small stuff and eat lots of fresh greens.

One of the best greens out there is one that we often throw away – beet greens!

Beet greens contain chlorophyll which allow the plant to absorb sunshine and photosynthesize – the basis for sustaining the life of all plants.  Chlorophyll acts as an amazing detoxifier to the human body.

More facts about beet greens –

  • Beet greens are a rich source of potassium, which is an essential mineral to help regulate the body’s balance of fluid.  It is essential for many metabolic processes, proper muscle function and maintaining normal blood pressure.1
  • They have a high ability to absorb oxygen radicals (a marker of their antioxidant capacity.)2
  • The calcium levels of beet tops is 7 times higher than that of beet root.3
  • Are a source of vitamin B6 which is needed in the body to release energy in forms that the cells can use.  Vitamin B6 is also necessary for proper function of the nervous system, immune system and the manufacturing of red blood cells.4

Here are a few delicious recipes for beet greens –

References

  1. “Beets.”  Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario.  Website 2010.  14 Sep 11.  <http://www.freshvegetablesontario.com/index.php?action=display&cat=3&v=6>
  2. Mateljan, George.  The World’s Healthiest Foods.  Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007. p251.
  3. Boutenko, Victoria.  Green For Life.  Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010.  p27.
  4. “Beets.” Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario. Website 2010. 14 Sep 11. <http://www.freshvegetablesontario.com/index.php?action=display&cat=3&v=6>

I spent the weekend at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair aka Vegan Christmas.  It was perhaps one of the best few days I have ever had, between visiting some of my favourite people and sampling delicious treats, it was just what I needed to remind me of why I do what I do and live the life I lead.

The weekend started with me working with some amazing ladies and brands; Two Girls Cooking

and Girlnola

I sipped on coconut water and enjoyed a beautiful Sunday afternoon with one of my besties and fellow Holistic Nutritionist, Miranda:

We caught Lisa and Nicole’s raw vegan ice cream demo.  These ladies made three gorgeous blizzard style soft serves; strawberry cheesecake (recipe below), cookie dough and chocolate mint:

And I picked up some sweet swag from some of my favourite brands including; Two Girls Cooking, Girlnola, Marni Wasserman, Kindfood and Shasha Co.

What a fantastic time!  Seeing all my amazing friends renewed my spirit and joy for veganism, health, and a compassionate lifestyle.

Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzard
recipe by Lisa Pitman and Nicole Axworthy

Ingredients

Strawberry Swirl
1 cup strawberries, hulled
1 tsp lemon zest
2 large Medjool dates, pitted
2 ts[ coconut oil

Crust
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pecans
pinch of sea salt
4 large Medjool dates, pitted

Soft Serve
2 bananas, peeled and frozen
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

Strawberry Swirl
1. In a food processor, combine the strawberries, zest and dates.  Process until smooth
2. Add coconut oil and process until well combined
3. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes

Crust
1. In a food processor, pulse the almonds, pecans and sea salt into a fine meal. 
2. Add the dates and pulse until well combined

Soft Serve
1. In a blender or food processor, blend the bananas until a creamy, ice cream consistency is achieved.
2. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.
3. Divide the soft serve between four bowls.  Add 1/4 cup of strawberry swirl and 2 tbsp of crust.  Swirl the mixture gently with a spoon.

Holy Crap is right!

This cereal is not just good, it’s great; super healthy, Canadian and has a great story behind the name – Holy Crap and its creators were featured on the reality show Dragon’s Den!

With a hearty, superfood-infused ingredient list consisting of organic chia, organic hulled hemp hearts, organic buckwheat, organic cranberries, organic raisins, organic apple bits, organic cinnamon.

Price – approx. $13.50

Availability – Holy Crap’s website and health food stores around Canada (check website for locations)

What I love about Holy Crap Dragons’ Blend is that the ingredients are high-quality, organic, raw and have a great taste when combined.  Just like a regular cereal, all you need to do is add your favourite non-dairy milk and leave for 5-10 minutes to let the chia seeds absorb the liquid.

I got about a weeks worth of breakfasts (and maybe a dinner!) out of this bag.  Holy Crap cereals are a great product to take when travelling, easy to pack and easy to prepare. 

The only negative about the product is the cost is slightly high for a small bag, however it’s totally worth it.

Learn more about the benefits of chia seeds here.

Dulse, arame, kombu, wakame, kelp.

What the heck are these you ask?

Sea vegetables aka seaweed!

You might be familiar with sea vegetables if you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant for sushi.  There are some rolls that are wrapped in nori, one of the most common seaweeds.

Seaweeds are algae; chlorophyll-containing organisms.1   In my research there seems to be some debate whether algae are considered plants or not, either way algae are fascinating.

There are three types of seaweed: red, green and brown.

Red Green Brown
Nori Sea lettuce Arame
Dulse   Kombu
Source for carrageenan   Kelp
Source for
agar-agar
  Wakame

*Note – this list is not exhaustive

Many seaweeds contain a fibre molecule called algin which has the possibility of attracting heavy metals in the digestive tract then taking them out of the body’s system.2

Sea vegetables are one of the best sources of natural iodine.  Humans need iodine, without it the body cannot synthesize thyroid hormones.3  I would much prefer to obtain my minerals through natural sources such as seaweed then from iodized table salt which has been chemically treated.

Here are some great recipes featuring a variety of sea vegetables –

Arame, Shiitake and Pea Risotto
Cucumber Wakame Salad
Sun Seed Nori Rolls
Wakame, Kale and Avocado Salad with Japanese Dressing

Make sure to purchase organic seaweed to reduce the risk of contamination.  (As of right now, I have not been able to find a reliable source that discusses the effect on seaweed from the Fukushima nuclear crisis.)

For more information on sea vegetables, check out this guide from Whole Foods.

References

1.  Guiry, Michael.  “What Are Seaweeds?”  The Seaweed Site: information on marine algae.  2011.  National University Of Ireland, Galway.  5 Sep 11.  <http://www.seaweed.ie/algae/seaweeds.html>

2. Haas, Elson M.  Staying Healthy With Nutrition.  Berkeley:  Celestial Arts, 2006.

3. Mateljan, George.  The World’s Healthiest Foods.  Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007.

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