Meet our little Squid!

IMG_1983You’ll have to forgive my blogging absence- I have a very good excuse! On November 19, 2012 at 10:26am my husband and I welcomed our little boy, Cedric, into the world. Weighing in at almost 9 lbs, all of the fears voiced by others about veganism causing our baby to fail to thrive were put to rest. By the time he left the hospital he had regained his birth weight (babies will lose weight immediately after birth and then regain it slowly) and by the time he was one month old he was weighing in at nearly 11 lbs! He is the healthiest, happiest little boy I could ever wish for. Continue reading “Meet our little Squid!”

Iron Superfood: Blackstrap Molasses!

You may not know this, but during pregnancy the amount of blood in your body increases to almost 50% more than usual! As more blood is made, more hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells) is needed, and iron is absolutely essential for this purpose. Iron deficiency, or anemia, is not uncommon during pregnancy, whether you are vegan or an omnivore.

While I supplement my iron through my daily prenatal vitamin (as recommended by my doctor), I also like to make sure that I’m eating plenty of iron-rich foods to keep little Squid and myself happy and healthy. One of the surprising foods that have entered my life, thanks to this pregnancy, is blackstrap molasses!

Blackstrap molasses is the dark liquid byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. It is a concentrated byproduct of sugar and, therefore, it has a very, very intense taste! I find that people tend to either love the smoky, bittersweet taste implicit in dishes like baked beans and gingerbread, or (like me) they find it too intense to handle. I was a self-confessed molasses hater at first but, with advice from books like “Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide” I decided that it’s health benefits were just too numerous to pass up. A meager 2 teaspoons a day provides you with 13.3% of your daily recommended value for iron AND 11.8% of your daily recommended value of calcium! Hot damn!

Well, of course, I jumped face-first into Team Molasses, adding it to my cereal, cookies, pancakes, coffee, you name it! Hell, I even tried eating it straight off the spoon! I. Do. Not. Recommend. This.

Instead, try starting by stirring it into your oatmeal (it tastes like Fall!) or adding it to warm non-dairy milk for a yummy chai-like steamer. Or, if you’re feeling very feisty, try this incredible gingerbread smoothie! The name alone makes it worth it 😉

Any other favorite ways of enjoying molasses out there? I’m definitely open for suggestions!

Week 33

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33 weeks!

Today little Squid and I are officially 33 weeks along! According to Babycenter (an absolutely reliable source, I assure you) he should be approximately the size of a pineapple, or 4 pounds. Little do they know that according to the ultrasound he’s already passed that milestone and is heading into 5 pound territory! It is absolutely amazing to me how time has seemed to creep by at a snails pace all these months only to start zooming by now! I have so much to do before our little guy arrives!!! Step one is figuring out what to do with 4 pounds of pineapple…

This brings us to our tip of the day! If you’re like me, you’re endlessly frustrated by the wastefulness of cutting pineapple fresh. What in the world are you supposed to do with that chewy, tough core that seems to make up way too much of your delicious pineapply bounty?

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned along the way:

1. Cut the core into chunks and put them in the freezer. When you reach to make yourself a glass of water (or 10, of you’re pregnant) try throwing a couple of pineapple cubes in there instead of ice cubes! Absolutely delicious and a great way to shake up your daily requirement of water.

2. Throw that beauty into a marinade! Add some pressed tofu and you have yourself a fantastic feast!

3. Pineapple core is a great addition to smoothies! Pair with coconut milk and a frozen banana and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in the tropics. Trust me.

So now that we know what to do with the core the question is what to do with the rest of the pineapple? What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy this most magical fruit?

VeganMoFo!!!

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Well, ladies and gentlemen, after years of missing the deadline I have finally managed to sign up for VeganMoFo! For those who don’t know what it is, I have committed to writing 5 blog posts (pertaining to vegan food) each week for the entire month of October. Since I am in the midst of my last trimester I thought I would focus my theme on vegan pregnancy. Go figure, right?

This is the plan:

Mondays: Baby bump pics/preggo posts

Tuesdays: Calcium-rich foods

Wednesdays: Iron-rich foods

Thursdays: Protein-rich foods

Fridays: Meal-planning (or possibly Blog-Planning)

Saturdays: Freezer meals

Sundays: REST!

The reason I chose to focus on specific nutrients (something I usually oppose) is that those three seem to be the ones people are most concerned about when it comes to a healthy vegan pregnancy. I’m no dietician (so please don’t sue me) but I do want to point out some sources (and recipes!) that can help pregnant women, vegan or not, meet their daily requirement. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be, but it does take a bit of conscious effort (as all good things should). I’m also using this as an excuse to stock my freezer before little Squid’s arrival. Something I’ve desperately been meaning to do but simply haven’t found time for.

So that’s the plan! I’m a little nervous, it’s a big commitment, but I’m also completely stoked. I hope you’ll follow along!

My Favorite Pregnancy Books

Whenever I take on a new project (and pregnancy can definitely be considered a project in my eyes) I like to  be as prepared as possible. So when I found out that I was having a baby I made it my mission to find every article, blog, and book devoted to vegan pregnancy (or sometimes just mentioning it) and read them all before my first prenatal appointment. Well that didn’t happen (obviously) but I did find some great books out there. Check it out!

1. “The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book”

If you’re looking for one comprehensive book to cover all of your vegan pregnancy questions this is the one to get! From tips on nutrition, guides on what to expect in each trimester, help on throwing a vegan baby shower, and delicious, easy recipes, this is my go-to book whenever I need advice or a little maternal support 😉

2. “Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven”

I love all the Skinny Bitch books and this is no exception. Sometimes in life (and pregnancy) you need a little love and sometimes you need a swift kick in the pants. This book provides the latter beautifully. I love the dark humor that runs through this book and how easy the authors make the material to understand. My only complaint is that, as someone who has read the other Skinny Bitch books, I felt like I’ve heard a lot of this before. It’s a disclaimer that they give often in this series but by the time you’re on your third, or fourth, Skinny Bitch book it really does start to get redundant. Personally, I don’t think I’d pay full price for it, but at Amazon’s prices it is definitely worth owning a copy.

3. “Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide”

The book packs quite a punch for such a little package! Great tips on vegan nutrition (I try to eat blackstrap molasses every day now), endlessly accessible material, and containing what could be the cutest set of baby bump pictures ever! Not only do I want to read and re-read this book, but I think I want the author to be my best friend! Alongside Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, of course. Think of the dinner parties!!!

4. “Becoming Vegan”

OK, so this one isn’t exclusively about vegan pregnancy but it has a whole section devoted to it! Surely that  warrants (another) mention, right? In all seriousness, whether you are really into the science behind nutrition or you just want to cut the shit and figure out exactly what you need to be a healthy vegan mama, this is the book for you! Pregnant or not, this book should be on every good vegan’s bookshelf.

Alright, I showed you mine now you show me yours! Any other great books out there I should know about?

My Vegan Journey (Part 3)

My husband and I have now been vegan for over 3 years and I can safely say that I think we’ve got the hang of it! Now I’m just waiting for one of us to decide to go raw 😉 I’m telling you, lifestyle changes are like tattoos- you can’t just get one!

A few books that helped me on my way (I love reading lists!) are:

1. “The Vegan Table” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (amazing go-to cookbook) 2. “Vegan with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (another amazing go-to cookbook) 3. “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis (my go-to book for nutritional advice) 4. “Dominion” by Matthew Scully (for those wanting a Christian perspective on veganism) 5. “Vegan Freak” by Bob and Jenna Torres (for a slightly more political and thoroughly enjoyable read).

There are many, many more but this should get you started!

I should note that when we decided to start thinking about having a family the first thing I did was get bloodwork done. If you are thinking about getting pregnant I cannot state the importance of this enough! Going into this pregnancy knowing that I had no vitamin deficiencies and, in fact, had beautiful vitamin stores for my baby to pull from meant that it was easy to sweep away the fear (or accusation) that veganism might be hurting my baby. Years of veganism meant that I had become well-read on sources of B12, folic acid, calcium, protein, and any other vitamin or mineral that people might throw at you. I am not a dietician, doctor, or anyone who can actually offer professional advice, but I cannot recommend “Becoming Vegan” enough for exactly that reason! You don’t have to be a doctor to do this right- you just have to have a basic understanding of what your body needs to function at its highest potential. This is something everyone should know! Definitely give this book a hard look.

I’d love to say that I changed my life in some dramatic way in preparation for pregnancy but the truth is that if you’re living a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly and eating nutrient-dense food, there really isn’t a lot of preparation needed. I would recommend weaning yourself off caffeine at an early stage (trust me on this one!) and trying to eliminate as much processed food from your diet as possible, but I’d recommend that even if you weren’t trying to get pregnant. Isn’t it amazing that we do so much harm to ourselves without a second thought but the moment a baby comes into the picture we suddenly turn around? Talk to me about Dr. Pepper some time, I dare you 🙂

Tune in next time for a list of my favorite pregnancy books! Most of them are devoted entirely to vegan pregnancy! The times they are a changin’, my friends…

My Vegan Journey (Part 2)

I was vegetarian (straight!) for 3 years before the discussion of veganism ever came up. I’m one of those people that needs time to settle into a routine and feel like I have the hang of things before moving onto another stage and I think I was just at that point when my husband came home with an announcement. He had decided to go vegan. “Have fun!”, I replied. Have I mentioned how amazing I’m not at times? I will, don’t worry.

I actually felt a bit irate, to be honest. Did he have any idea what I had sacrificed to be vegetarian?! What else did he want from me? I already gave up beef jerky and pot roast, for God’s sake! I was happily existing on my egg and cheese sandwiches every day, if I gave that up what would be left? It was like with that one proclamation I had gone back to square one. So I didn’t join him on the journey. He went about his days, as he does, living according to his own set of values and being healthy and vegan without me. It infuriated me. I felt judged even though he told me he supported my views, and I felt guilty every time I ate something in front of him. Something about veganism felt so…smug. So morally superior. I would never go vegan, I swore, and I would just wait for my husband to come to his senses.

We did this song and dance for about a month when one day I had an epiphany. It came in the form of a brilliant podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (one of my all-time favorite people!) and it discussed the best techniques for vegans to employ when it comes to living with, and loving, non-vegans. She talked about aggressiveness from non-vegans (“you can take my cheese from my cold, dead hands”) and how to reassure people that your personal choices are not meant to be an assault on their lifestyle. I felt so guilty at the end of this podcast and it dawned on me that the only thing angering me about my husband’s new lifestyle was just that- guilt. I knew I was doing the wrong thing by not going vegan, I knew the facts, but I was willfully pushing them away in order to not upset my daily life. That was the day I became a vegan.

I know that this might be a little personal, or a little political, for some people but I feel like I need to explain something very important that I realized throughout my own journey: this path is not necessarily the easiest one to follow. I know people, a lot of people, who would disagree or declare me heretical for stating this, but for some of us this is a conscious choice that we live by day-by-day and it does not come naturally or easily. I still crave animal products- I just don’t eat them. I still hesitate when offered my old comfort foods (oh omelettes, why?!)- but I decline. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about living your truth day-to-day, in the best way you can. I can honestly say that this is one of the most important steps I have ever taken in my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I think it’s necessary to note that that doesn’t mean it was always easy. What’s second-nature now was tortuously awkward at first and if you’re one of those people that struggle with the transition, like me, then I want to help you find all of the shortcuts and information that would have made my life sooo much simpler at the beginning!

Veganism, and vegan pregnancy, doesn’t have to be hard. It can be really, really, simple, but it will always be work. Everything worth having comes from hard work. Sorry, are my midwestern roots showing?

Onward into veganism!!!

My Vegan Journey (Part 1)

I feel like I should start from the beginning (not “in the beginning” but definitely pre-pregnancy) since this journey didn’t really start with my pregnancy. It actually started long ago when I met a beautiful young woman named Dana while working at Olive Garden (don’t judge me, we all have bills). I had tried going vegetarian multiple times before but had always “failed” due to my lack of knowledge about the options that were available to me. You see, when I went vegetarian I didn’t like vegetables (unless they were potatoes, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers or peppers) and I had never touched tofu, tempeh, or whole grains. I was like so many people that enjoyed a standard American diet so when I went vegetarian all I saw was loss.

When I met Dana she was a vegetarian, a very knowledgeable one, I might add, and essentially she took me under her wing as I worked to find the courage to give up what I had known of food and embrace change. I know it sounds dramatic but for me it was. Food, as you’ll soon learn about me, is a central part of who I am. It brings me happiness, like so many people, and it makes me feel rooted to where I come from as a human being. When you only see what you can never have again then you begin to obsess about the idea of losing yourself, your family, your friends, and the traditions that made you who you are today. Despite my reservations, I boldly walked into my home one day and declared to my newly-wed husband that we were now vegetarians. Without thought he responded “I guess I’d better throw out the chicken.” And that was that. Have I mentioned how amazing he is? I will, don’t worry.

It turns out that Dana was going vegan at the same time that I was going vegetarian (an unthinkable thing at the time, I assure you!)  so we went shopping together and she graciously introduced me to all of the amazing things that would become staples in my life, like Quorn (why aren’t you vegan?!) and the cookbook “Vegan With A Vengeance”. She also cleaned out her freezer of all her non-vegan food and threw them into my open arms, which I still appreciate to this day 😉 She probably doesn’t even know this but getting to know her and her awesome (soon-to-be) husband  and seeing their dedication would inspire me to make the leap into veganism. Well that, and my husband’s resilience, but we’ll save that for the next post…