Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vegan 101 - Part 1

This blog post was just taking shape when I received a message from a Vegan Iowa reader seeking advice and resources to get started with her lifestyle change. The timing could not have been more perfect! Her questions helped to shape some of the information included in this post

Are there any local resources or people to consult with when changing your diet?
Balance! Don't lose your balance and keep at it!

Where do I start? This three-part, Vegan 101 guide is a compilation of information, tips, tools and resources to help make the transition to living vegan a little easier. This particular blog post will focus on nutrition.

I’m including a disclaimer here to say that I am not a professional nutritionist. My primary goal, in sharing the information and resources below, is for you as a reader to seek out professional advice on nutrition. However, I have read extensively on nutrition and have improved my own personal nutrition immensely by taking steps to increase nutrient dense foods in my diet.

The reader who emailed me expressed she was feeling sluggish and had a lack of energy. This is a common side effect of making a dramatic change to what your body is using to fuel itself. Think detox! Your body is ridding itself of the chemicals, hormones and antibiotics ingested when eating factory-farmed meats and drinking homogenized milk. This sometimes lasts a few weeks, and it is really easy to fall back to eating these products to relieve the sluggish feeling. As your body is detoxing, fight back by pumping yourself full of nutrient dense foods like spinach, sweet potatoes, flax seed, chia seed, bananas, cocoa, and blueberries. It might help to add a little extra vegan protein powder to a smoothie to help give you a boost in the morning.

One of the ways to make sure your body is getting the primary nutrients it needs is to keep a food diary. There are a few food diaries you can use as apps on your phone. I use My Net Diary. This tool tracks the protein, fiber and vitamin rich foods your body needs, and gives you a status update on what you have consumed. In this way you know from the beginning whether or not you are consuming enough protein, etc.

Food Diary Apps:
My Net Diary (free download on an iPhone)

There are tons of misconceptions about being vegan. There are ways to make sure you are getting your B12 intake, Iron, Omegas, etc. Personally, I love root vegetables like organic carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. One of the natural sources of B12 is in the soil where they vegetables spend their time growing. When I had my B12 tested last it was higher than most people who are NOT vegan! My doctor and I were both a little surprised.

So as you sort through information and begin to change your diet, here are some local resources and books that you might find helpful:

Burt Family Food Services – Iowa City/Cedar Rapids
Just getting started on a vegan diet and trying to figure out what to eat? Look to Chef David Burt, former owner of the Red Avocado in Iowa City, for fabulous food! Nutritional counseling is available by appointment. Burt Family Food Services specializes in weekly meal plans, available in single and double portion sizes. 

Some of the most amazing vegan food you will ever eat will be available at your fingertips each week. Chef Dave uses nutrient dense foods and balances out grains, greens and proteins in his meals. If you are new to being vegan, this is a great way to SEE wholesome vegan meals and what types of foods go well together. I have a meat-eating friend who chooses the weekly meal plans as a way to simply add healthy food to his diet. This very affordable option is just $40 for single portion sizes or $80 for a double portion.

Chef Dave also teaches vegan-cooking classes at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, and at New Pioneer Co-op in Coralville. I took the Vegetarian Sushi class a few years ago and it was a lot of fun!

Fork in the Road – Des Moines
Sheree Clark provides one on one nutritional counseling as well as group led classes for people looking to change their lifestyle. Sheree is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. With the knowledge of what makes your body tick, Sheree has been providing educational presentations to the community for years. Her classes are fabulous and I highly recommend the juices and smoothies class for anyone just getting started.

Visit a Farmer’s Market
Look for vendors who use organic or traditional growing methods. There are some vendors who are not certified organic because of the long, expensive, tedious process of becoming USDA Certified. Fresh organic produce really does make a difference.

Join a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups thrive on YOU! A CSA is the perfect way to get the seasons best farm fresh produce on a weekly basis.

Local Harvest has a complete listing of Farmers Markets, CSA’s and much more. You can search by your specific city or region.

Dr. Jason Bradley, ND, DC, DABAAHP, FLTCHP, MA
Dr. Jason Bradley practices out of Washington Street Wellness Center in downtown Iowa City. Visit Dr. Bradley to look at your body’s nutritional balance and make sure you are getting what your body needs to be healthy and active. He has experience in working with patients who are vegan, raw vegan, gluten free, etc.

Dr. Bradley is the first person I have worked with who actually HELPED me through stress and anxiety in a natural way. After some blood tests, I discovered my Cortisol hormone was highly elevated, and that my Vitamin D levels were well below what is considered the “low range.” These two nutritional levels being so far off balance in my body, were likely the main reasons I was experiencing anxiety and depression. After one month of adrenal support and Vitamin D, I felt an amazing shift in my energy and everyday mood.

Dr. Jason Bradley
General Practice Traditional Naturopathy
Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement and Balancing
Acute and Chronic Pain Management
Certified First Line Therapy Provider
Board Certified, American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine
DNP Candidate, Excelsior/ Frontier School of Nursing Medicine, Community Family Practice (May 2013)
American Society for Nutrition - Professional Member
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists - Professional Member
American College of Lifestyle Medicine - Professional Member
American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine - Professional Member
Institute for Functional Medicine - Professional Member
ACA Council on Nutrition - Professional Member
Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine - Professional member

From My Book Shelf:
Thrive and Thrive Foods, Brendan Brazier
These books have great information on combating stress, dealing with adrenal fatigue, and identifying nutrient dense foods for your body. Brendan has developed some great recipes and tips for Vegan athletes. The information is helpful whether you are athletic or not.

Vegan With a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz
This is my favorite cookbook of all time. As proof, my favorite recipe pages are covered with food.

The Completed Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize it! Foolproof methods for transforming any dish into a delicious new Vegan favorite, Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman

Look for more information coming soon!
~ Vegan 101 - Part 2: Stock Your Vegan Kitchen
~ Vegan 101 - Part 3: Recommended Vegan Websites and Other Tools