Thursday, June 29, 2006

An Interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman

I had the honor recently of speaking via email with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of several books on plant-based nutrition, including Eat To Live and Disease-Proof Your Child, and host of the Disease-Proof Blog. Dr. Fuhrman emphasizes eating a healthy, vegan-friendly diet rich in nutrient-dense plant foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds. His work has been the inspiration behind my recent series of picnic posts, and following his nutrient-dense plan has helped me kick sugar addiction for the first time in my entire life.

Dr. Fuhrman, what advice would you give the vegan community? In what ways do most vegans fall short of nutritional excellence, and how can we improve?

Dr. Fuhrman:
Most vegans fall short in that they follow the same suboptimal and outmoded nutritional recommendations as omnivores, utilizing grains or white potatoes as the major source of calories in the diet and wind up eating a diet low in high phytochemical foods such as green vegetables and raw nuts and seeds. They do not understand that 90 calories from a pretzel or white potato does not have the nutrient richness of 90 calories from a kiwi or red kidney beans. Without the knowledge of nutrient density they are eating in the dark and not optimizing their longevity.

The second serious error of the vegan community is the heavy use of fake meat and cheese analogues usually made from soy and almost always high in salt. Besides the lack of nutrients and high levels of acrylamides in these highly processed foods, with continuation of the high salt diet hemorrhagic strokes are even more likely in a vegan than in a person on a heart-disease promoting diet rich in animal products. Consuming salted foods should not be taken lightly; it is a killer.

The third error common in the vegan community is the lack of concern for individual differences which may heighten nutritional requirements in some individuals, especially the elderly, which make it advisable to supplement when appropriate with Vitamin D, B12, Taurine, DHA, or iodine, for example, to assure that no one develops a medical condition as a result of sub-optimal nutritional intake. To better assure nutritional completeness I recommend to my patients my vegan multi Gentle Care Formula and my vegan DHA Purity, and then if not getting regular sunshine to also add a Vitamin D supplement. Many vegans think supplementing with B12 is enough to guarantee nutritional excellence for most people. Long-term nutritional deficiencies are not harmless. Omnivores develop deficiencies, too, and blood tests can be used to ascertain if deficiencies exist.

Many of my readers pack lunches for their children every day. What advice would you give parents on packing a healthy lunch?

Dr. Fuhrman:Make a great tasting nut-based salad dressing or sauce and then you can use that to stuff veggies or salad into a whole wheat pita. And remember kids who eat more fruit have dramatically lower cancer rates as adults, so always pack a few fresh fruits with lunch.

How should parents respond to the vast amounts of junk food offered to our kids when they go to school, parties, etc.? It seems my son gets offered cake, candy, and soda almost every place we go!

Dr. Fuhrman:There has to be time invested to discussing nutrition in the home. This is a serious matter. In my book, Disease-Proof Your Child, I review the science that reveals adult cancers are predominantly caused by what we ate in our childhood. When this information is passed along to our children, they can grasp the concept that what they choose to put in their mouth dictates their future wellness. Even young children can learn it is dangerous to eat these foods and why. Junk food is dangerous, we should fight it as strongly as we fight drug abuse and smoking. Maybe we should put tee shirts on our kids that say:

No Thank You to Drugs

No Thank You to Smoking

No Thank You to Junk Food

We value our future health!

Thank you, Dr. Fuhrman!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apricots & Magic Loaf

It was a little picnic just for mom today, while shmoo took an afternoon watercolors class at an art gallery near a park.

I packed my usual lunchtime green salad: romaine, leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery, sunflower seeds, apples, and raisins, with a small container of super sweet-tart pomegranate balsamic vinegar for dressing.

I also packed a wedge of my latest Magic Loaf creation; this one is made with lentils, amaranth, almonds, flax, nutritional yeast, and a touch of sage. I'm crazy for the flavor of teeny tiny amaranth, and it has enough binding power to really hold a loaf together (and did you know that amaranth has twice as much iron as wheat and is higher in protein and fiber?). Shmoo loved it, too, and ate two wedges at home before class, heated and covered in barbecue sauce.

For dessert, two ripe apricots stuffed with juicy golden raspberries (all hail the fruits of summer!).

Speaking of the Magical Loaf Studio, I finally got around to making a picture link in the sidebar that will take you right to it. Pretty nifty, huh? I've also updated the site with a few additional ingredients and instructions, thanks to several helpful comments I've received. One writer recommended uncooked polenta as a nice binder, another suggested using an 8x8 square baking pan for a crispier loaf (I tried it and agreed that the loaf had a drier, firmer texture and a nice crunchy top). I also cut down on the amount of liquid suggested, as my loaves never seem to require more than a tablespoon or two of liquid.

Verdict: I would give it 5 stars, but then I'm no picky shmoo. I sat in the shade by the river and watched teenagers jumping off the dock, and crazy people taking brisk walks in the 110ºF sunshine. I ate and knit (speaking of crazy, who knits when it's 110ºF outside?).

Meanwhile, shmoo created some fabulous works of art in watercolor class. This one is titled "Meteors".

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Veggie Heroes

Look, I'm a Veggie Hero! Duh dah dah!

Can a kale-eating action figure be far behind?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Apple Blossom Picnic

Welcome to the First Day of Summer! Once again this week shmoo and I packed our picnic basket and headed to the park, this time with a bright, clear sky over our heads!

In the top of our terrific tiffin I packed an apple blossom for shmoo and I to share: cut a fresh apple into wedges and arrange the slices like flower petals around a little mound of almond or cashew butter. Scoop up a bit of almond butter with every slice. I scattered some fresh local cherries on top (it's still cherry season here, and we're enjoying it while we can!).

Just for me I packed an enormous salad of mixed baby greens, spinach, cabbage, carrot, celery, cilantro, pecans, and slivered dates, with a container of Orange Cashew Dressing (scroll down to find the recipe). Tucked alongside the salad is a sliced raw zucchini to dip into some Wild Garden Hummus. This is our favorite hummus to pack for vacations, train rides, and camping trips, so I've been stocking up for summer. It doesn't require refrigeration until opened, contains no oil, and isn't spicy or garlicky, so even shmoo likes it.

For shmoo's hummus-dipping needs I packed one of the homemade bagels I made for my husband's Father's Day breakfast (Papa shmoo likes his bagels topped with pesto and sundried tomatoes).

Verdict: It was such a glorious day at the park! So glorious, in fact, that shmoo didn't want to stop playing long enough to eat, and didn't end up eating his fruit and bagel with hummus until we were in the car heading home. I, however, had no such qualms about eating my lunch, and chowed down heartily. I decided I like raw zucchini with hummus more than my usual cucumber. 5 stars.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just Eatin' in the Rain

As promised, I'm back with the first installment of our summer picnics! We're having a great, if somewhat damp, summer so far. Despite the rain, I decided to pack us up a picnic lunch this week and take it to the park. I used my spiffy new stainless steel food carrier to pack enough for the both of us.

For the past few weeks I've been following Dr. Fuhrman's nutrient dense "Eat To Live" program. For the picnic, I wanted to find a lunch that was both Fuhrman- and shmoo-friendly so we could share. The large food jar holds Creamy Asparagus Soup, while the top portion of the tiffin holds a mixed fruit salad (pineapple, banana, apple, and fresh local cherries), and the larger bottom portion holds a giant tossed salad (romaine, spinach, cabbage, garbanzos, carrot, raisins, and sunflower seeds) with, of course, some Asian Miracle Dressing for shmoo (yes, the little container has a lid, too).

And here it is all packed up and ready to go. I love the way everything fits together with a nifty handle and a stainless steel plate in the middle. I tucked everything in a picnic basket with water, napkins, utensils, and an umbrella.

Verdict: Even though the rain cancelled our planned play date, we still had such a good time! We visited the art gallery next to the park, played tennis in the rain, and walked by the river. I set up lunch in the gazebo next to the river. "Sometimes I like spending time with just you," shmoo said.

"Yes, it's nice sometimes," I replied.

"Yep, especially when there's lunch in a gazebo!" he said.

I served shmoo's salad on the plate with the dressing and most of the raisins. Next time I'll pack a sugar-free dressing for me, too. We both took turns eating the fruit and soup, and even with two of us it was more food than we could eat! Shmoo isn't used to salt-free dining, and wished the soup had salt, although I'm surprised to find that I'm not missing salt at all. 4 Fuhrman-Friendly stars.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fun Facts

  • Total Lunches: 149
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches: 4 (two planned, one because I was sick, and one due to Tuno)
  • Servings of Brussels Sprouts: 10
  • Shmoo's Favorite Lunch: Chinese New Year
  • Mom's Favorite Lunch: Fondue
  • Worst Lunch: Tuno #1
  • Number of days shmoo was sick: Shmoo was out one day with Pink Eye (eating right doesn't mean you don't have to wash your hands!!)

Springtime Sushi

The school year started with sushi and now it's ending with sushi. I filled shmoo's nori roll with sushi rice (maybe someday he'll let me go crazy and put some fillings in...) and packed it with a little container of soy sauce. Also on the side is fruit salad (banana, apple, orange, pineapple, and fresh local strawberries), blanched asparagus tossed with soy sauce and sesame seeds, and half a Thinkorganic! cherry nut bar.

Verdict: Sushi is surprisingly filling; two pieces and some asparagus were left over. 4 stars.

Wow, so this is it! I started the lunch box project with the idea of recording some vegan, kid-friendly lunch ideas. I wanted to prove to myself and others that veganism isn't about deprivation or packing a million peanut butter sandwiches. I wanted to have some fun and share some ideas, and thought there might be a few other vegan moms out there who would appreciate it. I had no idea Vegan Lunch Box would take off like it has. I've never stopped being amazed by it all!

Thank you to all of you who have visited, shared, and spread the word. I've loved reading all your emails and comments. It made my day every time I read about people being inspired to go veg, or eat more meat-free meals, or add more fruits and veggies to their kids' diets. One of my favorite comments was about a child inspired to eat their vegetables after looking at Vegan Lunch Box: "Look, I'm a shmoo!" Who could ask for more?

A lot of you are wondering what will happen now -- will I keep posting pictures of his lunches? I do have plans for some fun picnics and meals this summer, so you'll probably be seeing a few of them. I also plan to use the summer to finish the cookbook and get it off to a printer. I'll be posting periodic updates on the status of the book, and will probably start taking preorders later this summer.

But mostly I plan to enjoy some vacation time with my son, just hanging out and being a mom. We're leaning toward homeschooling or doing a part-time school next year, so I'm sorry to say I won't be coming back with daily lunch box posts next year. But by then the cookbook will be out, so everyone will be making their own fabulous vegan lunch boxes, right?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Little Shmoo's Top Five Countdown #1

"Hey, kid," I said, "for the last few days of school I want to make you your very favorite lunches again. What was the best lunch you had this year?"

Without missing a beat shmoo replied, "Chinese!"


"Yeah, with the green beans and the dumplings...and Twinkie Dogs!"

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I knew it was one of my personal favorites, but shmoo hadn't mentioned it again since the day I made it in celebration of Chinese New Year.

I relied on recipes and tips from Bryanna Clark Grogan's wonderful book Authentic Chinese Cuisineto put together shmoo's Number One: tofu Char Sui with rice, Chile Green Beans, and a steamed dumpling filled with sweet red bean paste. Above the dumpling is a Chinese gooseberry (aka kiwi fruit...isn't that funny, a fruit named after a bird twice!).

Verdict: This time around I made the dumplings from scratch using Bryanna's recipe for Bao Xian ("steamed savory filled buns") and a can of sweet red bean paste from the Asian market. My dumplings are certainly not as handsome as the ones I bought at the store, but they contain no trans-fats, which the storebought ones were loaded with ("trans-fat me once, shame on you, trans-fat me twice, shame on me").

I just loved reading all your guesses (especially eatpeaceplease's -- "Oh no, I hope #1 isn't Tuno!"). I suppose everyone is as surprised as I was, since no one guessed it right! Everything was eaten, with shmoo running through the kitchen stuffing extra squares of tofu and beans in his mouth before breakfast. 5 stars for Number 1. Thanks, Bryanna!

See you tomorrow with shmoo's last lunch box of the school year!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Little Shmoo's Top Five Countdown #2

The second thing out of shmoo's mouth when I asked him what his favorite lunches were was "...and the Twinkie Dogs!" So here they are, Yves veggie dogs baked inside a cornbread batter and packed with ketchup, baked potato chips, peas & carrots (I cut the carrot with my nifty new curvy cutter!), and an orange.

I first made Twinkie Dogs on March 7th; follow the link to get the recipe and find out how it's done.

Verdict: These have been some empty-looking lunch boxes! I found a couple wayward peas and orange rinds left. 5 stars for Number 2.

See you Monday with Number One! I've been having so much fun reading everyone's guesses! I think you'll all be as surprised as I was...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Little Shmoo's Top Five Countdown #3

Yes, it's the return of zaru soba coming in at number 3 on our countdown (ooh, I feel like a Lunch Box DJ!).

Zaru soba are chilled Japanese buckwheat noodles topped with a sprinkle of nori and served with a flavorful dipping sauce. This time they are appearing without their traditional sidekick, daikon radish, which shmoo didn't care for. But I did pack some edamame and one of my favorite fruit combos: fresh kiwi fruit mixed with fresh blueberries.

Verdict: I found just a few edamame and a broken pencil in the lunch box today. Shmoo was very happy with his soba. With his pencil, apparently not so much. 5 stars for Number 3.