It’s hard to believe it’s March already. We are no longer in January, but it’s never too late to keep working on those New Year’s resolutions. Of the resolutions Americans make, a survey from CBS News shows losing weight or improving their health tops the list.
Some people like to start a goal at the beginning of something — like Jan. 1, or the famous “I’ll start the diet on Monday” (yes, I use this phrase almost every weekend). For many, today’s another beginning: the first day of Lent. If you’ve fallen off the wagon on any of those 2022 resolutions, you can give it another try again starting today. You may have heard that it takes 40 days to form a habit. What better time to give the eating healthier resolution another try than now?
If you are just starting your journey on a plant based or vegan diet, you can take baby steps. Don’t think about long term, just start small and set a goal for Lent. You can start with doing Meatless Mondays and/or Fridays, or do the whole week, or commit to going vegetarian for 40 days, and after you can begin to reduce your dairy and egg consumption. Or if you really like a challenge, go all in and start 40 days of a vegan diet today.
There are a couple of documentaries I’d like to recommend. One is “The Game Changers,” which is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. If the first thing you think when someone says they are vegetarian or vegan is “where do you get your protein?” you might want to watch this film. This film features vegan athletes, from a national cycling champion to bodybuilders, NFL players and more, who are all thriving on a plant-based diet.
Patrik Baboumian is one of the strongest people on the planet and holds the record for the heaviest yoke carried over 10 meters, successfully carrying 1,224 pounds. He achieved this with a vegan diet. In the documentary you can see how he eats a lot of food, and we are not talking about just green leaves and fruit. He eats vegan hamburgers, vegan pizza, etc. He was asked “How can you be as strong as an ox without eating meat?” His answer: “Have you ever seen an ox eat meat?”.
The documentary also shows other health benefits of plant-based diets, such as how inflammation decreases considerably when animal products are avoided. Dotsie Bausch, an eight-time U.S. national cycling champion, talks about the improvement in her performance and recovery time in comparison with younger team members, crediting her plant-based diet.
Since we are starting Lent, I also want to mention “A Prayer for Compassion,” a documentary that strives to inspire and encourage those already on a religious or spiritual path, to expand their compassion and make choices in alignment with their values. The film is available on Amazon Prime.
The documentary takes you on a journey showing how a plant-based diet aligns across different religions and belief systems, ranging from Christianity (Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Friends (Quakers), Seventh Day Adventism, Unity, etc.), Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, the Native American tradition, Unitarian Universalism and the “spiritual but not religious” point of view. After all, all of these religions and beliefs have something in common: compassion. The documentary will give you a lot to think about and I’ll leave you with one thought here: “Each of us has to ask ourselves a spiritual question: which side do I want to tell my grandkids I was on. Was I on the side of mercy and compassion or was I on the blind side that helped to perpetuate suffering?”
The film features Dr. Milton Mills. I have had the opportunity to hear him speak on a couple of occasions and I can always learn something new from him. Even if you don’t watch “A Prayer for Compassion,” I would encourage you to watch one of his videos on YouTube.
Looking at everything that’s going on in the world makes some people think on what to do, to make this world a little better. We might not have the power or control to change a lot of things but we do have the power and control to change what we eat, and with that we are making this world either a little better or a little worse. Eating a plant-based diet will save animals’ lives; if you are curious about how many, just google “vegetarian calculator.” Also by not consuming animal products you are consuming fewer resources. It takes 2.5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. Imagine all the more people that grain would feed globally.
If you are worried about how fast the rainforest around the world, especially the Amazon is being destroyed, you would stop eating meat. Cows grazing is the number one motive for ramping up deforestation. We need to remind ourselves that what we eat affects the whole world and not only ourselves.
The hard part is to make the decision that you want to move toward a vegan diet. After that, you’ll find all kinds of different and new products coming out every month. You can check Vegnews.com for the latest vegan news around the world. For restaurants offering vegan options try HappyCow.net, or if you just want to go to a restaurant and order without worrying if it’s vegan or not go to Trumpet Blossom Cafe in Iowa City.
Let today be your beginning, the day you start your journey to a more compassionate and healthier way of eating. The one regret I hear most from vegans is that they didn’t start sooner. To help get you started, here are a couple of simple recipes adapted from “The Game Changers” website that you’ll enjoy.
SIMPLE BAKED TOFU
Tofu is very simple to use. This recipe is very versatile since you can add different spices and herbs to use in sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc.
- 1 Block tofu, extra firm
- 3 tablespoons tamari, soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (for less salt use 1T light soy sauce, 2 T vinegar – rice or balsamic, 2 T liquid smoke
- 1-3 teaspoon onion granules or other spices of choice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1. To bake the tofu, preheat oven to 375 F
2. Press the tofu gently between paper towels by hand to allow the excess moisture to be released from it. This will cut down on baking time. Cut the block into 8-10 slices.
3. On a plate, mix the marinade ingredients. Place the tofu slabs on the plate, then turn them over to coat both sides. Spray a sheet pan with spray oil or line with parchment paper.
4. Place the slabs on lightly oiled sheet pan, or parchment, sprinkle with onion granules, or other spices if using. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Remove and allow to cool.
Note: You can use an air fryer or nuwave, instead of the oven. I used the nuwave.
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 8 cups water or veg broth – Better than Bouillon is good
- 1½ pounds white potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4½ cups)
- 2 medium carrots, sliced (about 1½ cups)
- 1½ cups dry/uncooked brown lentils, rinsed
- 3 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 cups chopped green cabbage
- Additions for extra flavor: 2 T tomato paste, 1 T lemon juice, 1 T liquid smoke
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of water in a soup pot over medium-high heat. When the water starts to sputter, add the onion and cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, adding a little extra water as needed.
2. Add the 8 cups water or veg broth, potatoes, carrots, lentils, celery, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic and cumin and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the cabbage, then cover and cook for 10 minutes more, or until the lentils are tender. Season to taste with tomato paste, lemon juice and liquid smoke.
For any questions or comments, please email us at [email protected] Visit our website at VeganEasternIowa.org for more information. You can also join our group on Facebook and Meetup.
Maria Mendizabal has been vegetarian for 14 years and vegan for five. She is from Guatemala and lives in Marion. She is president of the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa’s Board of Directors.