Gingerbread Granola (vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)

This weekend I began the very first of my holiday baking! I’m packing up boxes of Christmas gifts for our parents in Newfoundland and my best friend in Ottawa, and decided to sneak in some homemade granola!

I’ve had this Gingerbread Granola recipe in my pocket for a couple of years. My recipe testers have already tried it, as I was going to include the recipe in my newest cookbook. i opted to include a different recipe, and instead post this granola in time for you to enjoy for the holidays.

This vegan granola was a hit with my testers. It’s crunchy, flavorful, and yields some good clusters. It’s also made without added oil, and sweetened only with maple syrup and brown rice syrup. It’s perfect for Christmas and the holidays, and especially wonderful for gifting! Normally I use mason jars to gift granola, but for shipping back to family I packed in small ziploc bags and then into festive gift boxes. How do you package granola for gifts? Have any ideas to share?

I’m keeping this short and sweet today as I have a “Jingle Bell walk” to join at school and have to get these boxes in the mail! So, let’s wrap it up! (I’m fully of the puns today.)

I hope you enjoy the granola, and for more gingerbread love, check out my Chocolate Gem Gingerbread, Gingerbread Folks, and Gingery Cookies!

x Dreena

Gingerbread Granola - #vegan #glutenfree #oilfree by Dreena Burton

Gingerbread Granola

link to print/share recipe

Bring the beauty and aroma of freshly baked gingerbread into a granola that is perfect for breakfast, snacking – or for gifting during the holidays! Makes about 4 1/2 cups, depending on how ‘clustery’ you keep it!

3 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free for that option)
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans OR 1/4 cup hemp seeds (see note)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp cashew butter or almond butter
3 – 4 tbsp pure maple syrup (adjust to desired sweetness)
1/2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (optional, can omit, see note)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans or hemp seeds, spices and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, first combine the nut butter with the maple syrup and molasses, stirring to fully blend. Then, add the brown rice syrup, and vanilla to the maple/molasses mixture and stir through. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, and stir through until well combined. Transfer mixture to your lined baking sheet and spread out to evenly distribute. Bake for 27 – 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout baking to ensure the mixture browns evenly. Remove from oven, stir in dried fruit if using, and bake for just another 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven again. At this point the granola may not look completely dry. Do not overbake it, as it will dry more as it cools. Let cool completely, and then break up into clusters. Once cool, store in an airtight container. Eat straight, or with non-dairy milk or to top fresh fruit or non-dairy yogurt.

Nuts Note: Feel free to substitute 3-4 tbsp of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds in place of the nuts or hemp seeds.

Spice Note: For a more ‘everyday’ version of this granola, simply reduce/cut some of the spices. Omit the ginger, allspice, and cloves. Reduce the cinnamon to about 1 tsp, and you can also add a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg if you like. Also reduce the blackstrap molasses to about 1-2 teaspoons.

Dried fruit Note: I don’t always add dried fruit to granola, as I sometimes like the sweetness as is. So, you can choose to add some or not – and you can also try adding a few tablespoons of finely chopped crystallized ginger instead of cranberries or raisins! It will add a definite flavor kick!

photo credit: thanks to Nicole Axworthy

Protein-Rich Foods Kids Will Love: Today’s Parent

As parents raising children on a plant-based diet, the question of protein is always present. At first we question ourselves. After researching we come to understand how a whole-foods vegan diet provides ample protein, and are (usually!) at ease with the issue. Yet, the question remains, as we are often asked about protein by friends, family, and also new vegetarians and vegans.

12 Protein-Rich Foods Veg Kids Will Love - Plant-Powered Kitchen via Today's Parent

Other than recipe emails, protein for kids is the question I receive most from readers.

What are some protein-rich foods I cam give my kids? What are recipes kids will love? What foods do your kids like most, Dreena?

"Instant" Chocolate Chia Pudding

So, you will enjoy this special post that I’ve written for Today’s Parent:

Protein-Rich Foods Vegetarian Kids Will LOVE!

I’ve shared 12 kid-tested, mom-approved recipes in this piece – including a couple of new recipes!

Hempanana Smoothie

photo credit:

I ask that you please support this article. Comment on the post, and share it through your social media networks. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write this piece for Today’s Parent. We can encourage mainstream media to include more vegetarian lifestyle pieces through our support. So, please share this piece through facebook, pinterest, twitter, Google+, etc. Thank you!

Read on at Today’s Parent, and please share your thoughts here, as well as there. Enjoy!

p.s. Special thanks to Sarah Wise for cheerleading my work and helping make this article happen!

Other photos credit to Nicole Axworthy.

Momo Granola Bars: Matt Frazier’s No Meat Athlete

Momo Granola Bars from No Meat Athlete

In the last few years, there has been quite a spotlight on plant-based fitness. When I first became vegan, there was little talk of vegan athletes. Now, it’s very different. A plant-based diet is finally getting the recognition it deserves in the arena of fitness and athletic pursuits – as being the optimal diet to achieve optimal performance.

Matt Frazier is one of the people making great strides (literally!) to help educate people about plant-based nutrition as an athlete. I first discovered Matt’s very popular blog, No Meat Athlete, through Gena Hamshaw. Matt brings well-researched and referenced posts to his readers, with a balanced and approachable voice. His posts are educational and inspiring, often dispelling myths about the plant-based diet and also how it relates to athletic performance. Plus, Matt manages to sneak in the occasional entertaining post (that one’s a personal favorite).

No Meat Athlete

Matt has just published his first book, No Meat Athlete. As an ultramarathoner that “runs on plants”, Matt shares tips, recipes, motivational stories, and insights from his years of training and also transitioning to eating plant-based. This perspective will benefit vegetarians and vegans working towards fitness goals, and also athletes looking to clean their diets with a plant-based foundation.

No Meat Athlete is divided into two main sections:

Plant-Based Nutrition For Athletes – this section covers food and nutrition philosophy, how to get started on a plant-based diet, plant-based nutrition for sports, some tips for getting started in the kitchen, and recipes to fuel athletes and their families.

Running On Plants – this section focuses in on the aspect of running and training, how to begin to run, how to make it a habit, then moving into more advanced training tips, and finally Matt’s insights for training for racing.

While I’ve always valued exercising, I’ve never been a runner. You may not be either. But, you can reference this book for more than just how to train for races. If you are at all interested in maintaining a fitness routine on a plant-based diet, then I think you will find Matt’s wisdom and tips helpful – as well as motivational. I’ve always maintained a personal exercise routine and fitness (my fitness post is coming), and we have very active girls. Our two older daughters play rep hockey, so they are on the ice or training or most days of the week. This resource will be helpful for me not just in my own athletic commitments, but also for our girls.

Matt is also a parent, and notes in this book that his recipes are family-friendly and “workable in the real world”. I appreciate this, because most of us are not endurance athletes, and most of us are living busy lives with families and work commitments. Still, we can benefit from some of the knowledge gained by athletes like Matt, to improve our own levels of personal fitness, and to fuel ourselves – and our children. (This topic is particularly important to me, one day I will write about child athletics – how as a society we are merely ‘feeding’ our kids rather than ‘fueling’ them, and yet our nutrient-rich plant diet is often challenged.) Right now, time for a recipe!

When our girls are on those long jaunts for hockey games, I love to pack them a really nutrient-dense snack. When I saw these Momo Granola Bars, I knew I’d be trying them. Matt was kind enough to allow me to reprint this recipe for you to enjoy as well!

Momo Granola Bars from No Meat Athlete

MOMO GRANOLA BARS Link to RECIpage to print/share

This is a DIY energy bar with whole ingredients at its base. It has enough carbs for a pre-workout pick-me-up, enough protein for a post-workout recovery, and enough great flavors for a dessert or snack anytime. —Mo Ferris, Johnson & Wales–trained chef and vegetarian marathoner

2 cups (160 g) rolled oats

*1⁄2 cup (50 g) rough chopped roasted and salted almonds

1⁄4 cup (55 g) rough chopped pecans

*1⁄2 cup (84 g) flaxseed

1⁄4 cup (16 g) raw pumpkin seeds

3 tablespoons (23 g) hemp seeds

*1⁄2 cup (80 g) chopped dried cherries

2 small pinches kosher salt

1⁄3 cup (89 g) peanut butter

1⁄2 cup (172 g) brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350 ̊F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Spread oats, almonds, pecans, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Gently shake and stir the oat mixture after 5 minutes to avoid burning the top layer and allowing both sides of the nuts and oats to brown. Remove the mixture from oven and add to a large bowl, along with the cher- ries and salt. decrease oven temperature to 300 ̊F (150°C, or gas mark 2). In a small saucepan, melt the peanut butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. once the peanut butter is melted and slightly thinner, remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. mix thoroughly. In a separate small saucepan, add the brown rice syrup. over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. When the bubbles that form get big and meet in the middle, immediately remove from heat, pour over the oat mixture, and thoroughly mix. While still warm, pour the mixture out into the corner of a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. using wax paper, firmly press and spread mixture into the shape of a rectangle 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick (no gaps!). note: The mixture will most likely not fill the entire sheet. bake for 15 minutes or just until the edges begin to brown. Cool completely. Flip the rectangle out onto a cutting board and cut into 3 x 5 inch (7.5 x 13 cm) bars. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store in a large plastic bag. Yield: About 12 bars.

*My personal notes: I used raw almonds, and as I was out of flax seed, I replaced it with 1/3 cup of flax meal, and substituted a combination of raisins and dried cranberries for the dried cherries (though I think the dried cherries would be amazing)! Also, I cut some of these bars while cool and others after refrigerating. I got a much cleaner cut after refrigerating, just fyi.

These bars are really tasty. Not overly sweet, and very satisfying with a crunchy, chewy texture. Our whole family loved them!

Our eldest helped me with this photo, and while we were taking the pictures, a ladybug stopped by for a visit. We love ladybugs. They know a good thing in these bars. 😉


Thanks Matt for sharing this recipe with us, and for writing this book. I wish you much success with it!

Are you a runner or involved in other athletic pursuits? Has a whole-food plant-powered diet helped your athleticism? 

p.s. I’ve just added a new feature to my site. On the sidebar there is a spot for you to sign-up for my (NEW!) newsletter. I will be delivering special promotions and goodies in this newsletter. Go ahead and sign up already! Also be sure to join my plant-powered community on facebook – I share all kinds of wonderful there! 😀

am I vegan enough? am I eating healthy enough?

eat, drink, & BE vegan!

Are you vegan – enough?

Are you eating healthy – enough?

This topic has been brewing in my heart and mind for a while. After returning from Vida Vegan Con, I thought it was a good time to open up this discussion.

You see, before leaving for VVC, I had some trepidation. I’ve been vegan almost 20 years, and yet had never been to an event that signified and exemplified veganism in its entirety like VVC. As most of you know, I came to veganism through my health, and later learned and integrated the animal ethics rooted in the word and movement. Talking with some colleagues before VVC, I was concerned that I wasn’t “vegan enough”.

Recently someone asked me on twitter why I never use the word vegan in my tweets. I was quite surprised. While I know I use the terms plant-powered and plant-based in my work, my cookbooks all have the the word vegan in their titles. I always shop for vegan shoes, clothes, and cosmetics, and choose the same options for my family wherever possible. Yet, in that moment I felt I wasn’t vegan enough.

One morning at the VVC conference, I was working out at the hotel fitness room while listening to Our Hen House. Who should walk in? Jasmin Singer. There were only three people in this fitness room. I laughed at myself, that here I was listening to her podcast with Mariann – and there Jasmin was, a few feet away. Yet I felt completely awkward to interrupt and introduce myself. Perhaps because I felt most of us don’t want to be bothered with introductions while working out. Or, perhaps because I felt I fell short in my vegan-ness. That might sound silly, but truthfully I have much gratitude and respect for people like Jasmin and Mariann, Victoria Moran, Jonathan Balcombe, and Gene Baur. They are the educators about veganism at its core, covering a breadth of vegan living topics including, but not limited to, the vegan diet.

I focus my time where I know I’m most effective – creating recipes and sharing food inspiration. I try to keep abreast of current issues surrounding animal rights and vegan activism, but often fall behind. My work has always teetered between the vegan and plant-based realm, so I guess I have felt connected to both without being attached to one exclusively. Alas, my work is an expression and reflection of being a Libra!

Backtrack to twitter. Shortly after receiving the question about my vegan-ness, I receive another addressing a nutritional issue with my recipes. I’ve always thought my work was healthy, and it certainly has evolved through my books and years of recipe development. Yet in this moment I felt it was not healthy enough.

I realize some of this is social media, and we need to temper the feedback we get and remain grounded in what we do. Yet, after my VVC trip, I realized that I am not the only one that has these insecurities about vegan and health absolution. I talked to some other bloggers that were also concerned that didn’t feel educated and informed enough for the vegan community, and likewise bloggers that felt they were committing health crimes in the plant-based community.

Vegans that aren’t healthy enough. Plant-based people that aren’t vegan enough.

I returned from VVC invigorated and feeling renewed in my connections to veganism. Yet, I wondered if many of us in the community are having these thoughts (myself included), are we alienating those new to the plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle with notions of impossible perfection?

I’ve heard from many that eat plant-based but don’t want to identify with the word vegan for this very reason, because they are afraid they will be judged for not doing enough, not being vegan enough. And, I understand that, because the word encompasses far more than our diet. It is a life philosophy, a full belief system and change of consciousness. But if I sometimes feel not vegan enough… do you feel the same? Are you discouraged from making worthwhile changes in their lives and diets for fear of being judged that you aren’t entirely there?

I hope not.

But, let me return to the health component of eating vegan. Healthy vegan eating does matter in the long-term, because it is the only way to sustain and uplift the vegan movement. And, it matters even more when raising children. Yes, more. When you have children, those little lives become paramount in your life. Your compassion can extend to all living beings, but not at the expense of your own children. So, there is no point in discussing the welfare of pigs or chickens or dairy cows if a parent cannot believe that this way of eating can be optimally healthy for their child.

That in itself is entirely ironic when we look at the nutritional standards of the standard diet. But, as parents, we have believed that this is the cornerstone of health for our families – forever. As Dr. T. Colin Campbell writes in Whole:

Our society believes so passionately in the health value of milk and meat that it is hard for us to conceive that we might be wrong – that these foods might, in fact, be very unhealthy. It is too far outside of what we have been taught for decades for us to believe it easily, no matter how true it may be.

We have a lot of work ahead, to demonstrate to parents that a vegan or plant-based diet IS indeed healthy – the very understanding of healthy foods needs to change. Our food choices as a larger population will not change until we have a new definition of “healthy”, one that does not include meat and dairy.

Eating healthy is not about perfection, it's about practice!

So, we work to educate about the nutritional excellence of whole plant foods. Do our efforts communicate a standard of purity, leaving others to feel not healthy enough? We are so passionate about the nutritional beauty of our whole foods like beans and whole grains and leafy greens that we may very well communicate a message of perfectionism. There is no perfection in any diet. There is practice. If we are losing readers because of perceived notions of perfection, then we are failing our causes for improved health and animal welfare.

What also matters is helping people sustain this vegan lifestyle through beautiful, appetizing, sensory-pleasing – and healthy – vegan food. Not every food boasting a V is healthy! Doesn’t mean we cannot eat it, but it does mean we should know the difference. One of my personal food mantras is to focus on eating 90% whole and minimally processed foods. We have room for the treats, sure. Yet, we need to fuel and nourish our bodies for long-term connection and vitality with our vegan diet. I have noticed the more I eat lesser processed and whole plant foods… the more I want them! It might feel a chore at first to move away from the processed choices and make that big salad with beans and leafy greens and veggies for lunch. But not for long! Our bodies adapt and respond. The more we choose healthy foods – foods that ARE ingredients, not FULL of ingredients – the more we enjoy them, and the better we feel. We even begin to crave them.

Here’s what I realized after reflection on my week at VVC. It doesn’t matter that I am not the most educated about vegan activism. What matters is knowing that animal agriculture is warped and cruel. What matters is that eating animals is not necessary. What matters is choosing not to eat meat and dairy every meal of every day. And finally, what matters is helping to show others the same. 

Vegan food is my activism. My goal is to share whole-foods recipes that will excite you – treats included! And to share messages about real, clean foods to inspire you to grow and thrive in this beautiful diet. Not to be perfect. But to come to understand and love the vegan basics – beans, grains, veg, fruit, nuts and seeds, and greens. To show you how they are the heart of the vegan diet. Whether you come to that diet from an ethical place, or for health reasons.

Is it naive, idealistic, and simplistic to think there is a place we can connect and support one another? That we can find common ground and build on that foundation for the greater good of better human health and also animal welfare?

Probably so. Here’s the thing. My heart is in both places. So, I will continue to reach out to you from both perspectives, with optimism.

That is vegan enough for me. And healthy enough for me. How about you? 

Do you feel these dietary and ethical pressures? How do you resolve them? Please share your insights with others.

Reasons to Stop Eating Dairy

For 2013, why not do the one single thing that can have a huge impact on your health – DITCH dairy!

When I got dairy out of my diet, it made the biggest difference in how I felt.  At twenty my joints hurt, and my knees in particular were so stiff some days that it hurt to sit and stand.  My digestion was sluggish, and my body felt ‘slow’.  In my twenties.  That’s pretty darn young to feel slow and uncomfortable.  When I got dairy out of my diet, I felt profoundly better.  It didn’t happen overnight for me, because some things were hard to ‘ditch’ (like cheese).  As you will soon see, I later learned that was because of the highly addictive quality of cheese.  But, once the dairy products were gone for good – my body felt renewed.

I talk about dairy far more than any other animal ‘food’.  I think we consume so much of it without even realizing, and unlike meat products which we know we should reduce or eliminate… most of us truly believe that dairy is good for us.  I want to change that.  Last year I created a list of 12 reasons to dump the dairy, many very important issues summarized in one post.  I’ve updated it this year, and of course, added another VERY good reason, so here you have it folks…

13 Reasons to Ditch Dairy in 2013

13.  There have never been more – or better – dairy alternatives.  I became vegan almost 20 years ago.  Our alternatives for non-dairy milks were: bad-tasting soy milk and bad-tasting rice milk.  That was it.  Vegan cheeses?  Forget it!  Vegan ice creams?  Uh, if you want to call a rice-based icy concoction with a weird oily aftertaste ‘ice cream’, I guess it counts – I just never ate it.  And, that was a big deal for this ice-cream loving vegan!  Now?  You are spoiled, people! 😉  Have a look at just some of the dairy-free options available:

Milks: Coconut milks, Almond Milks, Rice Milks, Soy milks (always organic, please), Hemp, Flax, Oat, and blends like Almond-Coconut. Really – there isn’t ONE option in all of these that is at least as good as – or better than – cow milk?

photo credit:

Cheeses: Daiya shreds and Daiya wedges probably earn top spot here for commercial cheeses.  But, there are many more recipes available too.  Try my two vegan parmesan alternatives, my ‘Truffled Cashew Cheese’ (pictured below, from LTEV, and recipe coming soon).  And, have you seen Miyoko Schinner’s new Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook? WOW!

Truffled Cashew Cheese

Yogurts: Coconut yogurts and greek yogurts, Organic Soy, Almond.

Ice Creams:  Oh, you guys are lucky!  Coconut ice creams from Coconut Bliss (my FAVE!) and So Delicious, Rice ice creams by Good Karma, soy ice creams, and then many nut and seed based ice creams like almond creams, hemp, and cashew.  Or, make your own with my “Dreena Dazs” recipes!

Seriously, I haven’t even exhausted all the brands and options here – we are lucky to have so many delicious options – no excuses.

12.  Cancer Prevention.  Prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers have been linked to dairy consumption.  And, if you’ve read The China Study, you’re aware of the link between casein (the main protein in milk) and cancer.  If not, READ it!  Dr. T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and author of The China Study, says casein is one of the most significant cancer promoters ever discovered.  Think about how often children are pushed to eat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Childhood diets rich in dairy products are associated with cancer in adulthood.  For more, watch this video from Dr. Colin Campbell.

11.  Cheese is addictive.  That’s why it’s so darn hard to stop eating the stuff.  But, as you’ll learn in Julieanna’s brief video (and through this list), it’s best to kick the cheese (and dairy) habit.

reasons to stop eating dairy #vegan

10.  Osteoporosis.  Seems counterintuitive.  We’re supposed to drink milk to protect against osteoporosis, right?  So why do the countries that guzzle the most dairy have the highest osteoporosis rates?  We now know that it’s not just calcium intake, but absorption and loss.  When we eat diets high in animal protein (milk included), our bodies become acidic and calcium is drawn from our bones to neutralize that acidic environment – cheese is particularly acidic.  Ditch the dairy (and the meat) to help maintain a more alkaline state in your body.

9. Plant-Based Calcium.  Last year, the “Healthy Eating Plate” food guide pushed dairy off the plate, based on Harvard’s assessment that high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer, and also suggesting that foods like collards, bok choy, and baked beans are safer choices than dairy for obtaining calcium.  Speaking of calcium sources and absorption, did you know that kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk (90 grams per serving) and is also better absorbed by the body than dairy?  And that’s just ONE plant food you can eat.  Other plant-foods boosting calcium include: beans, nuts like almonds and seeds like sesame, broccoli, collards, whole-grains, and tofu.  (And if you think eating leafy greens is hard, I have a leafy-greens post coming up, stay tuned!)

reasons not to eat dairy #vegan


8. Heart Disease.  All that cheese and milk (and other dairy products) pack a wallop of cholesterol and saturated fat to one’s diet.  A low-fat plant-based diet has been shown not only to prevent heart disease, but also reverse it.  And, before you think low-fat dairy is okay, it has been linked not only to increases in allergies, but also type 1 (childhood-onset) diabetes.

7. Constipation.  Milk and cheese have no fiber.  (Neither does meat.)  Dairy is constipating for children.  Our children have never been constipated, yet I have heard parents talk about poo problems over and over.  And, grownups, if the kiddos get constipated from dairy, you will too (maybe you are right now).  There’s no need for laxatives.  Eat a plant-based diet (rich in whole foods), and you’ll poop easy.  There, I said it.

6. It stinks.  Okay, there is nothing scientifically or even ethically sound about this argument.  But, have you ever just smelled milk?  Put aside the fact that you’ve been drinking it since your wee years.  Take a glass and smell it.  It has a stink.  I guarantee that if you grew up drinking almond or coconut milk and you tasted COW milk, you would immediately say “peeU”!  It is what we are conditioned to drink, and cow milk is – well – stinky…  and, that’s even before it goes sour.

5. Antibiotics and hormones.  The mass production of milk requires cows being stressed to unnatural levels.  This stress results in mastitis in the cows, which requires antibiotics, which make their way into the milk in our markets.  As well, synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk.  Do you want to drink growth hormones and antibiotics?  Do you want your children to?  You may bypass this one point by choosing organic milk products – but that doesn’t change the composition of milk…

4. Saturated Fats, Cholesterol, and Hormones.  Skim milk is marketed for lower fat content, yet a 2011 Harvard study of 12,829 children showed that the milk sugar in skim milk may make you fatter than whole milk. And, all milk products (as with ALL animal products) contain cholesterol.  And, we have been sold the line that “organic” milk is the solution.  But as explained in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutritionjust because you pay more for the ‘organic’ label doesn’t mean you’re getting a safe, toin-free product. Milk products are inundated with steroids and hormones (both naturally occurring and production-induced… and microbiological contaminants (think bacteria, viruses, parasites and mycotoxins) can also find their way into your dairy products.

3. Animal cruelty.  Dairy production might be the most offensive and heinous of all animal farming.  Baby calves are pulled from their mothers at birth. Mother cows will bellow and search after being separated from their young. While female calves are slaughtered or kept alive to produce milk, male calves are taken, chained in tiny stalls and raised for veal. And, since is unprofitable to keep dairy cows alive once their milk production declines, they are usually killed at 5 to 6 years of age (though their normal life span exceeds 20).

2. Lactose Intolerance.  I would guess that if any of us were tested, we would be deemed ‘lactose intolerant’.  It is estimated that about 75 percent of the world’s population are ‘lactose intolerant’, and those that aren’t (primarily Caucasians) tolerate milk sugar because of an inherited genetic mutation.  That’s because the milk is meant for cows, not people…

1. It’s COW milk.  Again: milk. from. a. cow!  Why are we all drinking milk from a cow when we wouldn’t drink the milk from our lactating dog or cat… or milk from a horse, pig, or racoon?!

We are the ONLY species that drinks the milk of another species, consuming it long after weaning.  Would you go out into a field and suckle from a cow?!  I don’t think so.  Think about that connection.  Just think about it.

Have you already given up dairy?  If so, what have you noticed?  (Please share your experiences for other readers.)

If not, what is YOUR reason to dump dairy in 2013?

Feeding Vegan Children: A Plant-Powered Series

Most of you know that I don’t post many personal details about our children on my blog.  I’ve discussed it here.  I occasionally share photos (as with today’s post) that show them as part of our family, but without identifying their faces and features.  For the most part, I like to keep them anonymous so that they have their own life journeys apart from my blogging as an author.

Still, I AM a vegan mom of three strapping vegan girls!  And, I realize that this is a unique perspective as a vegan author and blogger, and that I have useful information and experiences to share.  I receive e-mails and comments daily about vegan parenting.  So I know you are searching for more information and insight – either as vegans moving into parenthood… or parents moving into veganhood!

Last week I was struck with the idea to do a series on feeding vegan children.  I should mention that I do share many family-friendly tips in my cookbooks, especially in Let Them Eat Vegan.  There is an entire section in the back of the book called “Powering the Vegan Family” and “The Plant-Powered Lunchbox”.  Plus, I sprinkle advice and tips all through the recipes.  But, after a brief discussion on facebook (as well as numerous e-mails these past few weeks), I decided it was time to consider a “Feeding Your Plant-Powered Children” series – here, on my blog.

If I start this series, I need information from YOU.  I need to know… what pieces of the puzzle you are missing, what stresses you, what is difficult, what is too time-consuming?  I’d like to have a “Feeding Vegan Kids Wish List” of sorts.  Tell me where you need help!  Is it recipes?  Day to day tips?  Meal planning and preparation ideas?  Social situation advice?  Help with ingredient groups (ex: nuts or beans)?  Lunch strategies?  Snack ideas?

Tell me – What information would YOU like to tap into from this vegan mom of three?

My intuition tells me I am on track with this idea.  I will run with this series if the response here is strong.  I am off to Summerfest this week, and will work on ideas once I return.  So, please comment if this is something you’d like.  And, equally important – please share this idea to recruit more feedback.  The buttons are above to share to pinterest, fb, etc, so get the word out – so I can get the word in!

Yes, Vegan Women DO Get Wrinkles

This past week I did a brief interview for, about vegan parenting.  With some of the controversy that arose with the “Vegan Is Love” book, I was asked a few questions.  They posted the piece yesterday.

Today I read this comment that was posted to the article. This person said:

“What I have noticed most with all the vegans I have met or seen (including the photo of the author of this article) is their skin always looks prematurely wrinkled, extremely thin or exceedingly pale, usually with dark undereye circles, probably from iron deficiency.”

Can I speak to this, folks?  I did leave a comment on the article, but really want to elaborate here.  That photo was taken as part of a family photo shoot just 2 or 3 weeks after our third baby was born. 3 WEEKS! Anyone that has had children knows that 3 weeks pospartum, you look and feel like crud. And, not only was our baby up about 5 times through the night (and had reflux), I had two other children to take care of during the day – and also had in-laws visiting at the time. So, forgive me if I have dark circles under my eyes and some age-appropriate wrinkles, I had a lot on my proverbial plate.  And, I was 39 at the time.

And, I had a few wrinkles. What 39 woman doesn’t? I don’t mean women in Hollywood. On that topic, when Jennifer Lopez was named “the most beautiful woman in the world” last year, I thought “wow, now 40 year old women have that standard to live up to“.

She doesn’t look 40 on this cover. I would like to see Jennifer without the special make-up and lighting and photoshop work.  I know she is still beautiful, because she IS a beautiful woman.  Here, however she looks more like a beautiful 28 year old than 40 year old.

I just need to say this because I’ve been “out there” for more than 10 years now.  I know that being a visible spokesperson for living vegan, and being a vegan mom, I will always be judged on my appearance – because my photos are on the internet.  It’s very hard, and like I said in my comment, I try to judge my health by how I feel.  And most days I feel pretty damn good.  Most days.  I am a mom of 3 with no extended family support, that is also running her own career without much assistance.  So, my days are full-on, and there are no vacations or weekends.

I work hard because I am passionate.  But, alas, I am 41, so I won’t look 30.  I think I look pretty good for my age, but also I feel very good for my age.  (Excepting these occasional judgemental comments, that is.)

As women, we are judged FAR more on our appearance than are men.  It is unfortunate that women take so much judgement for how they look – rather than being judged for what they contribute.

Finally, to address the issue of iron.  It is a gross misperception that vegans are anemic.  It has been shown that “iron deficiency anemia is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population“.  If you are eating foods like dark leafy greens (kale, collards, bok choy), beans and nuts and seeds and other varied whole foods, it is not at all difficult to obtain the iron you need on a vegan diet.

(p.s. I write this today not to seek compliments or reassurance – we all enjoy such positive feedback, but that is not my intention.  Rather, I want to speak to the unreasonable and unattainable expectations for women as they age – and the equally unfair judgements placed on vegans.)

Motherhood, Vegan Parenting, and “Imposing Your Beliefs on Your Children”

I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mom lately. Partly because our eldest is turning eleven this week, and I cannot believe she is growing so quickly (don’t all moms say that? It’s true). And, partly because this Pregnant Chicken piece brought me back to those ‘new mom’ emotions and experiences – again timely with our daughter’s birthday approaching.

Motherhood, Vegan Parenting, and "imposing" your beliefs on your children

And then today this Should Kids Go Vegan? article is circulating. There is a quote in the article, which brings back that tired assumption about vegan diets:

“The main problem I have with this book is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book,” Nicole German, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, writes on her blog. “It could easily scare a young child into eating vegan, and, without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished.”

Yes, I suppose without proper guidance a child eating vegan could become malnourished. But so could a child on a meat and dairy-centric diet. Or, that “well-rounded” SAD approach to eating. How much fibre are they getting on that diet? How much vitamin C? What about phytonutrients? And antioxidants?

Let’s flip that and talk about what most kids ARE getting a lot of on the standard diet. Cholesterol. Saturated animal fats. Refined sugars. Refined flours. Empty calories. Probably trans fats and artificial colors and flavorings. Wait, you say that they can also get the sugars, white foods, and artificial junk on a vegan diet. True. Except…

Most people eating vegan embody a certain consciousness about their food. They typically become attentive to the nutritional value of eating vegan. And even if they don’t personally, that typically changes when they have a child. Because when you have a child, everything changes. It’s not just about you anymore.  All of a sudden, there is a small, innocent, vulnerable baby looking up at you. That baby is completely dependent on YOU for their survival and growth… to make choices in their best interest, for their health and well-being. It is an awesome responsibility, one that I did not take lightly.

And, to move away from that one quote in the aforementioned article. I’ve often read, and heard people say: “Aren’t you imposing your beliefs on your children as a vegan?”

Yes. I am. Aren’t you imposing your beliefs as a meat-eater? Don’t we impose all our beliefs on our children, particularly in early, highly developmental years? From how much tv they watch, which songs they listen to, what school they attend, which activities they are in, what manners they display around the home and in social situations, whether they go to McD’s or some other nutrient-empty fast food joint. Don’t we all impose our beliefs as parents? At least in early years we do, until they gain more independence to make some of their own judgements and decisions. The only difference is which beliefs and values we are instilling, or imposing.

So, YES, I want to impose my beliefs in eating a whole-foods vegan diet on my children. After all, I chose it for myself out of health, why wouldn’t I want my children to similarly benefit? Of course I researched the suitability of a vegan diet for children once I became pregnant, and was prudent in making healthy food choices for them. And I continue to do so.

And you know what? Our three girls value real food. They love our meals, and have often thanked me at mealtimes saying “I am thankful mommy decided to eat vegan and feed us this healthy, yummy food”. I am not kidding. And my kids are not angels. (I’ll save that for another post.) 😉

But I am telling you, as a kid that grew up eating junk it took years to retrain my palate. Food habits – and preferences – start early. I started with whole-foods plant-powered diet, and am optimistic that our girls will continue on this health- and compassion-promoting diet. So teach ’em wisely, teach ’em early, I say.

What about you – are you a parent raising vegan children?  Or, were you raised eating vegan or vegetarian foods?  What is your take on this article and the notion of “imposing your vegan beliefs”?

Plant-Powered Foods: Hemp Seeds

We often hear the term “super food”, and often it seems it might be some food that is exotic and too expensive to use.  The term is used to label foods that are particularly nutrient-rich.  So, while some super foods might be more obscure, there are many that have become quite common – for instance leafy greens like kale and chard, chia seeds, quinoa, dark chocolate, and – hemp seeds.

I began experimenting with hemp seeds soon after they broke out in the Canadian market, around ten years ago.  I was writing my second cookbook, Vive le Vegan!, and began using hemp seeds in my recipes for that book.  I learned that hemp seeds are mighty little things, delivering: complete protein, essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals, an almost perfect balance of the essential fatty acids!

Fine with the stats.  But how do they taste?.. and what do they look like?  Hemp seeds resemble sesame seeds, but with a rounder shape, greenish tint, and with a much softer texture.  They taste somewhat like sunflower seeds, but with a slight earthier and sweeter flavor.  From hemp seeds, hemp nut butter can be made (just as almond butter is made from almonds).  The nut butter has a distinctive greenish color (from the chlorophyll), and again has a taste somewhat similar to sunflower seed butter.  Hemp oil, flour, and protein powders are also produced from the seeds.  I’m personally not a fan of the protein powder straight up, and haven’t experimented much with hemp flour.  While I have used (and like) hemp seed oil, I prefer consuming hemp in their whole seed form (or as nut butter), since the protein from the seeds is lost in oil form.

Hemp nut butter also makes a simple substitute in nut butter/jam sandwiches, and is particularly helpful for school lunches where nut and peanut allergies are present in schools (hemp has a very low allergenic risk).  Since hemp butter is not as naturally sweet as a nut butter like almond or cashew butter, try stirring a few shakes of cinnamon into your jar of hemp butter as well as a drizzle of maple syrup.  Then, it is already sweetened to add to sandwiches. While I use hemp nut butter occasionally (and also in recipes), I use hemp seeds quite regularly since they can be conveniently added to our daily foods.   Some of the simplest ways you can add hemp seeds directly to your foods include:

  • stir into non-dairy yogurt
  • add to cold cereals and granola
  • stir into warm oatmeal
  • add to batters for pancakes, muffins, quick breads, and even cookies!
  • sprinkle on salads and soups
  • blend into shakes and smoothies
  • toss into cooked grains and/or grain and bean salad mixes
AND, one of my other favorite ways to eat hemp seeds is in – “Spicoli Burgers“.  Have you tried these yet?  I think it’s time!  They’re easy to make, and a definite favorite with my readers.  Give them a try!

From "eat, drink & be vegan"

What is YOUR favorite way to eat hemp seeds?