Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

If you'd like to view previous questions Jo has answered, visit the Ask Jo! Archives.

A Vegan Plan for Weight Loss

question.gif - 1.4 KI am trying to lose weight. I have been vegan for three months and have lost about three pounds since then. I'm discouraged but not giving up. The diet has helped a lot in regards to my blood sugars and hypoglycemic episodes, but not in weight loss. HELP!

All the books that I've read give recipes etc., but I need a more specific meal plan with exact food amounts. Most vegetarian meal plans call for cheese, yogurt & milk. Do you think you could send me a specific meal plan or tell me of someone who can?

answer.gif - 1.3 K
A vegan diet is just one part of a vegan lifestyle (see my essay "Vegan Living: The Path of Compassion") and was not designed to be a weight loss program. Recently, a number of physicians and healthcare practitioners have come to recognize the inherent healthful benefits of a totally plant-based diet and are actively promoting it for healing, recovery and prevention of illness and disease.

Although, in general, vegans and vegetarians tend to be healthier and thinner, and many find it easier to maintain their ideal weight, there is no magic tool for knocking off the pounds. It is a myth (albeit, a hard one to eradicate) that all vegans and vegetarians are skinny. Poor lifestyle and dietary habits can proliferate among vegans and vegetarians as readily as they do among meat eaters. (You can still be a vegan on a diet of greasy potato chips, peanuts and nondairy ice cream!)

Research continually points to a low-fat, well-balanced diet which includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole, unrefined grains, combined with regular daily exercise, as the sole coalescing force behind achieving and maintaining ideal weight. A good diet and exercise plan work in synergy and do not provide the same health-supporting benefits independent of each other. In addition, diet alone is frequently insufficient for achieving long-term weight loss. Therefore, in addition to evaluating what you are eating, take a look at what you are (or are not) doing.

Some physicians who promote a whole foods, plant-based diet do not feel that the quantity of food is the primary issue in weight loss, but rather the kind of food that one consumes. For the vast majority of people, there is no need to put any limits on fruit and vegetable intake. In fact, most healthcare practitioners and dieticians encourage significantly higher consumption of these foods than most people currently consume. Whole, unprocessed grains and legumes (peas, beans and lentils) can also be eaten with little restriction by most people. These unrefined, natural whole foods are packed with flavor and nutrition while containing virtually no fat and few calories.

Where problems start occurring is when processed and refined foods are introduced into the diet. These foods tend to contain high amounts of fat (including harmful trans-fatty acids), large amounts of sodium (according to a recent study, 90% of all dietary sodium comes from processed foods!) which is not only unhealthful but causes water retention and bloating, and little to no fiber which adds bulk that protects our colon while filling us up, not out. Therefore, when planning meals, it is important to take into consideration not only what you need to add to your diet, but also what you need to eliminate.

Oftentimes, people eat "unconsciously." In other words, people eat while doing other things (such as watching television, driving, sitting at the computer) and are unaware of how much food they are putting in their mouths. Typically, "unconscious eaters" are munching on processed snack foods, cakes, cookies, soda pop or candy. Analyze your eating and snacking habits to see where you might be adding unnecessary fat and calories to your diet and displacing more wholesome foods. To do this, keep a food diary and keep track of everything (yes, EVERYthing) you eat over the course of several weeks. Weigh or measure the food so you know with precision what quantities to write down. Include beverages, snacks, cooking and salad oils, and even condiments. You may be very surprised to discover what foods your diet is centered around and what other foods you've consumed very little of. This will help guide you with regard to which foods need to be increased in your diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) and which should be drastically reduced or eliminated (refined and processed baked goods, margarine, oils, chips, cookies, etc.).

My book Vegan Vittles contains a concise but thorough overview of vegan nutrition written by Suzanne Havala, RD, a widely respected authority on vegan and vegetarian diets. I also included a number of meal plans to help get people started on the vegan way of eating. In addition, my cookbooks provide the number of servings for each recipe and supply nutritional information so you know exactly how much fat and how many calories you are ingesting. Remember, the number of fat grams and calories per meal are less significant than the overall amount of fat and calories you consume throughout the day. Once again, a food diary will help you keep track of all that you are eating so you can become more conscious of how to plan your meals.

If you have other weight-related concerns or health problems, be sure to consult your physician or healthcare practitioner before starting a rigorous change in diet and exercise. If you need more in-depth information relating to your individual nutritional requirements, contact a registered dietician who is familiar with vegan diets. This way she or he can tailor your diet and meal plans to meet your own special needs.

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