Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Twizzlers and Starbucks

I don't know how disappointed many of you were when you found out the Muslims weren't lying about there being pork in many chewy candies. Pork is against their religion and it's against our diet. I was heart broken and disgusted to find out that gelatin was made from pork junk a little while back (ignorance was bliss).

So naturally I avoided all chewy sweets including licorice. BUT! I found out last night that Twizzlers are in fact gelatin free!!!!! They do contain glycerin which can be derived from plants, animals or synthetically. The PETA does list Twizzlers as a vegan candy so we can all assume it is animal product free. Click Here for PETA's list of vegan sweets.

And I'm pretty sure you heard about Starbucks buggy situation with their strawberry flavoured drinks. If not here's a quick review.

Starbucks has been using cochineal extract. It comes from a type of red bug that's dried and ground up to use for colouring. Not vegan at all, and kinda gross. Of course it's great that Starbucks opted for a more natural way to colour their strawberry products. But bugs?

Thankfully, after the stir it's caused, Starbucks has announced that they are using tomato extract instead.


What a nice compromise. Still natural but not buggy.

So drink on my green friends.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Big "C"

And I mean the "c" as in calcium.


I think this is the word of my....lifetime? I swear it's all I hear.

"Oh my gosh. You don't drink milk? Your bones are gonna turn to dust!"

Aaaaand I resist the urge to roll my eyes and possibly stick out my tongue in a childishly petulant manner.

Everyone these days (everyone as in women) seem to be so preoccupied with getting enough calcium so when they get older, there bones don't crumble away. Remember when I mentioned the dreaded misconceptions that are fed to us day in and day out? Well this is one of them. Dairy will not guarantee healthy bones and teeth. I grew up with lots of dairy yet I have problems with my teeth.

The simple truth is: this paranoia is only getting the milk people paid and is not making healthy strong bones. Best example of how we don't need dairy. In Africa and Asia, dairy intake is extremely low, in some places unheard of. North America and Europe consume the most dairy compared to the rest of the world. Who do you think has higher rates of osteoporosis? If you guessed North America and Europe you're right.

Osteoporosis is virtually non existent in most parts of the world where dairy consumption is very low. So, you do the math.

Now I don't discount the need for calcium. It is an important part of our daily nutrition, but just like every other health fad, in the end, we all find out too much is just as bad as nothing at all.

Being pregnant definitely asks for more diligence when it comes to calcium. What ever you don't take in, the baby will suck it out of you until it needs no more, possibly leaving you with not enough.

Great ways to increase your calcium intake the green way.

  • Eat lots of dark greens. They are a great source of plant based calcium.
  • Drink calcium fortified beverages such as soy, rice, almond, or coconut milk. Be careful with soy milk. A lot of processed and pre-prepared foods have a lot of soy product in them. Too much soy isn't good for the thyroid. My fave alternative is rice milk for hot or warm uses. Coconut and and almond milk I find are better when left cold. Variety is good. I always have one of each in my fridge. If you don't like the taste of these milks, try them in vanilla, it makes a world of a difference but still allows the milk to be versatile.
  • Avoid!!! Caffeine. A lot of people are worried about putting calcium into their body, when they really should be worried about keeping it in. Caffeine is the worst for making your blood acidic. So to balance your pH levels, your body will actually leach the calcium from your bones. So now, you have that coffee you had in the morning and the baby taking calcium from you. Talk about a double whammy for your bones. Avoid chocolate (reduce it at least, who can avoid it while pregnant?), cut down/eliminate your coffee and caffeinated teas intake, and stop drinking pop (soda) such as Coke and Pepsi. There's really nothing good in there for you. Gingerale is your best friend if you can't let go of the bubbly. If you rely on coffee to get you going, try other natural alternatives such as; eating an apple in the morning, washing your face with an invigorating face wash, lukewarm showers, eating a proper breakfast, or going to bed earlier and waking up earlier to give yourself enough time to work your way out of bed.  
  • Find a natural (non synthetic), plant based supplement. Natural food stores should carry this in their supplement section. I use a German brand called Salus by Salus-Haus. They have many good, natural products. I use their Calcium Magnesium, with Zinc and Vitamin D Liquid Formula. It tastes OK. It looks gross but it's sweet as it's derived mostly from fruit extracts. It can be a little pricey (where I get it from, a 500ml bottle costs around $47.00 at 30ml dose/day) but it's worth it. It's as close as you can get to actually getting the calcium from real foods, just more efficiently. And it's Kosher too!!
I find that these four ways to get your calcium is more than enough. I meet my daily required intake values, and maybe even more on some days. If you decide to take a supplement, don't use it to replace eating real food. Supplements are meant to help fill in what's missing, not replace it. Also, always take it with food, your body will absorb the supplements better that way.

***Remember, always consult your primary care provide and/or a nutritionist before taking any supplements other than ones that are specifically made for pregnancy. I am not a nutritionist or doctor. This is what I do based on the information from my own personal research and the information my nutritionist and midwife have given me. Every one is different. I put the ideas out there so you can ask the questions.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Obstetrician/Doctor vs. Midwife: From A Vegan's Point of View

Now I'm not sure how it is in other provinces, but in Ontario, midwives are covered by OHIP. Which is nice because it gives moms-to-be options.

The Doctor

Before I say anything, doctors these days are generally more open minded about the holistic approach to health. I find where you live can largely impact just how many doctors think this way. Keep in mind I don't live in a rural area but definitely don't live in a city like Vancouver or Toronto.

My first prenatal appointment was with a nurse practitioner at my clinic and it was a train wreck. I had just had my pregnancy confirmed earlier that week and was still excited and some what in disbelief, that I was actually pregnant. I cried, I laughed and I cried some more when I found out. Not knowing how everything worked, I walked through the first few steps laid in front of me by my clinic.

They booked me in for my prenatal appointment after confirming the pregnancy. I went to that appointment and was asked a gazillion questions about family history and my lifestyle. I was handed a bunch of requisitions that weren't quite explained to me and handed over a couple vials of my blood.

It all seemed so...clinical. It didn't feel like the most amazing thing in my life was happening to me. It felt more like I had a disease that needed to be monitored instead. What was worse, the nurse threw this obscene statistic in my face that 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage! So now, I was giving my blood for God knows what tests and I was an emotional wreck because this woman put it in my head, that keeping this baby was a fifty/fifty chance.

I was around seven and half weeks pregnant when this happened, and the next few weeks after were probably the darkest weeks in my life. I feared every cramp and would check my panties for spotting every few hours. Looking back, that woman must have been one bitter b**** to say something like that to me.

Some may say she may have felt she was just doing her job but I made it clear that I WANTED this baby. The stress I went through from the fear in no way benefited me. What's worse, what she said wasn't even completely true. The statistic included unknown and chemical pregnancies, pregnancies in women over forty, etc. This number included every situation possible; situations that didn't apply to me. This is something I didn't know then and would have been nice to be included with the number she whipped at me.

*Side Note* Don't rely on Google too much for answers. People are motivated to share the stories with bad endings, not good ones. So you'll find a lot of what went wrong rather than right. Avoid the stress and always ask your doctor or midwife if you have any concerns. It'll save you the heart ache and worry. Stressing yourself is bad for you and your baby so avoid it!

The Midwife

Around two weeks after that nightmare appointment and about a week after finding out there was another option, I decided to start hunting for a midwife. Most clinics were booked in my city for my due date (reassuring but also frustrating). I had called the last option that was half an hour outside of town and I got the same answer, "We can put you on a waiting list."

I gave up and decided I would stick with the bitter nurse practitioner and wait and hope. An hour later, I got a call back from my last hope and was told they could, and would take me. I was nervous about switching but I felt it in my bones that I would regret it if I didn't.

My first appointment was night and day compared to my previous experience. The clinic was comfortable and no where near as clinical. The rooms where you meet with the midwife were set up almost like a living room. The first thing that was given to me was a folder filled with information on midwifery, pregnancy, and support numbers. I was walked through their philosophy and any tests I hadn't taken at that point were explained to me and thoroughly discussed with me so that I could understand what they were for. What was great was that I was told, that in the end, I was the ultimate decision maker.

Nothing is rushed, every one gets to know you and you get to know them. What I loved most is that I was told that "Pregnancy is a state of health." Sounds a lot less like the disease I was starting to feel I had after my first experience.

Bonus: You can't just page or call up your doctor when you have a concern. With a midwife, you have your midwife and the midwives in the clinic there to speak to you whenever you have a question or concern. I have my midwife's pager number. Do you have your doctor's?

In the End

My experience with the nurse practitioner may be an isolated case as I'm sure there are lots of doctors who are more personable and have better people skills. Still, midwives devote their health care profession to pregnancy and child birth. My advice is to give them both a try. As a "Pescatarian," I find they are more open to holistic medicine (midwifery is a holistic alternative in itself after all).
When I explained my dietary choices to the nurse she sort of just rolled her eyes, sighed and said she would have to set me up with a nutritionist. When I explained it to my midwife, she understood and stressed the importance of monitoring my diet. Two completely different attitudes. One being more supportive, the other more skeptical and exasperated with my choice. At my midwife clinic, I am respected as a decision maker and not just another patient who knows nothing. And I must say, it's kinda nice.

My advice is to give both a chance to see what's best for you. Just be careful, you can't see both at the same time. At least in Ontario, OHIP will only cover one primary care provider.

Prego Vegan Pleasures: Chocolate

This weeks great find!

IKEA's Dark Chocolate 70% (Choklad Mork 70%)

I'm always trying to find great treats to help satisfy my sweet tooth. Since becoming pregnant, my sugar "needs" have increased. I'm not one for candies and sweets but I can't seem to get enough of them. It's hard to find treats that don't have eggs, dairy, and/or gellatin.

When it comes to chocolate, I've never been picky or particular. That changes when you can't have dairy anymore. You're basically stuck with dark chocolates and even then a lot of them contain dairy. The one's that don't can be chalky and bitter. I found that IKEA's 70% dark chocolate is dairy free! 

***NOTE*** I don't go by "May Contain" If i did it would be impossible to find anything pre-prepared, and company's use this to cover their butts because other products that do contain these allergens are prepared in the same facility. 

What's nice too about this chocolate is that it has few ingredients. It doesn't have a bunch of things that you can't pronounce or have no idea what it is. 

Ingredients: Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin), Natural Vanilla Flavour.

Give it a try. It's not as bitter as other chocolates and is my new go to for chocolate. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I'm Vegan and Choose to Stay Vegan

First I wanted to clarify how vegan I am. It's hard to say what category I fall into because I'm not quite vegetarian either. Some will call me a pescatarian (yes that word doesn't exist so maybe when it's put in the dictionary I'll get some credit), and some will say I'm none of the above. I don't eat land animals or their products such as dairy, eggs, broth, etc. but I do eat fish.

And this is why.

I read the book The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I would recommend to anyone who is or isn't vegan. This book changed my life. Her arguments aren't only for the animals but for your health and the environment. I wouldn't even call it an argumentative book. Not once does she say "you should become vegan because..." Silverstone neatly presents the facts for you to interpret on your own. It's not just another celebrity book. She put a lot of effort, thought and care into it because it is a cause/topic she is passionate about.

The book unveils the misconceptions about meat and meat products. It is hard to have to turn around and try to believe that everything you learned in school, about the damned food groups, and everything your parents taught you was not quite true. The scary truth about meat and meat products is overwhelming. I've even had arguments with my husband about it because he believed milk and meat is good for you. Why? Because it just is. Meaning it's just what we were conditioned to know. Every time some one asks me "Why?" and I start off with, "Well do you know what milk does to you?" I get shut down. I'm told they don't want to hear about it or what ever I learned is not true. No one wants to hear the truth or to challenge what they thought was true their whole lives.

So back to why I still eat fish? Well that's because there really isn't anything bad about it. The only downside to eating seafood in general is the high cholesterol found in some species and the high amounts of mercury (our fault, not the fish) they contain. If you include farmed fish then the high amounts of antibiotics is something to think about as well.

By choosing to still eat fish, I've mostly eliminated canned and farmed fish. I don't eat it often, maybe once a week or every two weeks. Sometimes I'll go much longer than that. There are times when I'll eat it more often because of the holidays but it's something that's been reduced in my diet along with the elimination of all other living things and their products.

Why do this?

I like animals, but I don't love them enough to not eat them. I love chicken and I miss it everyday. I do this for my health. I'm asthmatic and suffer from mild depression. Through the book, and testimonials, I learned that a lot of health problems decrease or are eliminated by taking on a vegan diet. Here's my testimonial.

I became vegan-ish (took that term, which she uses for her husband, from Kathy Freston who wrote the Veganist) on January 1st 2010. It was my New Year's resolution. About two months into it, I saw a dramatic improvement with my asthma. I took absolutely no medication and my asthma was controlled. By the end of February, I had enough energy and motivation to start exercising on top of my new diet. By the end of May, I had gone from 190 lbs to 145 lbs. I was a lot happier, felt lighter, and most of all healthier all around.

When spring time hit, I had to start taking my asthma medication again as it was triggered by my allergies. By August, I got discouraged and went back to a regular diet. That was the biggest mistake of my life. I felt heavy and sluggish. I didn't realize it until then, that even though my asthma had come back, it was no where near as bad as it could have been. Not even two weeks after returning to my previous diet, I went from using just my controller medication to using my quick relief medication at least one to three times a day as well. Once I returned to my "Vegan-ish" diet, my asthma was back to being under control. When snow fell and and allergy season was over, I didn't have to take any medication at all again.

Why I choose to stay Vegan....ish?

For two reasons. 

One: After only a half a year being on the diet, going back was harsh on my body. It hit me hard. I was sick, my digestive system was thrown off, and my health went from great to terrible. It put my body through a terrible shock even though I eased myself back into a regular diet slowly.

Two: I'd rather put extra work into getting calcium, iron, and protein than to do it the easy way and have to take loads of asthma medication. By being vegan-ish, I'm decreasing the amount of medication going into my body hence, lowering the amount my baby is being exposed to. What's worse, medication or my diet? You tell me.

So for everyone who continues to question or doubt me, think twice before being closed minded. I do what I feel is best and I'm doing it with the guidance of health care professionals. Meat and dairy isn't everything. They may have some good in them but they have a lot more bad.

Everything Changes

I am almost 19 weeks weeks pregnant and I decided to do this blog about my vegan pregnancy. So far, I won't lie, I'm not doing too well with keeping track of what I eat and making sure I'm getting enough of everything. Which is important enough if you eat a regular diet let alone a vegan diet.

My nausea, heartburn, and miraculous taste bud revolution all are contributing to the hard time I'm having. I love broccoli and now the sight of it makes me green (pun intended), even tea gives me heartburn, when I eat I get sick, and when I don't eat I STILL get sick. So as excited as I was to have the freedom to eat as much as I wanted and what ever I wanted, I was sad to find out I don't like food very much right now.

I want to go back over the first bit of my pregnancy over the next little while to catch up to where I am now. I'll share tips and the things I learned to stay vegan safely during your pregnancy because it truly is a scary thing. All the things doctors throw into your face about calcium, iron, and protein doesn't help. My philosophy is, if this diet can sustain me and keep me healthy (healthier than when I'm not vegan), than I'm sure it can sustain the little one too.

I will say it is probably easier (maybe safer, I'm not a doctor or nutritionist) to drop the vegan thing while you're pregnant but for those who continue, I'm sure you all have good reasons. As I have mine.