UPDATED: February 24, 2015 (originally written in 2013)
It's that time of year again - Natural Products Expo West starts on March 7th! This business trade show is an amazing place for professionals in the health field to meet eachother, discover new products and introduce others to them. Attendees are bombarded with free food all day long, namely energy bars, chocolate, sweet drinks and bagged snacks. Unfortunately this wonderful experience often leaves to upset stomaches due to weird food combinations and cravings for nutritious, sit-down meals. Though the area around the Anaheim Convention Center doesn't offer much in the way of healthy restaurants I've pulled together a list of places that offer whole plant-based meals, which will satisty both vegans and omnivores.
I found out by chance that today is National Peanut Butter Lover's Day! I'm sure every day is a national celebration for some random ingredient, but none the less I felt inspired to write about this one because I happen to be a peanut butter lover. Funny enough, this is something that I struggled with up until September 2012. Why? Because I knew peanut butter wasn't the healthiest food. I realized one day that very few healthy vegan recipes call for peanut butter and wondered why, since it's just blended organic nuts (I haven't had the sugary or salty variety in years). Then I figured it out.
A few months ago VegNews magazine approached me about writing an article about spring greening cleaning the home with tips on how to avoid and kick out nasty toxins. I was thrilled to contribute to their environemtal issue (entitled "Are We Screwed?") and learned a ton from researching the piece (I can reassure you, we are not screwed). This 'zine hit mailboxes a few days ago and should be in newstands now or quite soon so be sure to grab a copy! Here are a few of the simple ways to detox your home for better health (read the full lowdown in the article!):
In April 2012 I received a Facebook message from a guy named Alex. He said he was a fan on my videos (even bought a birthday present because of my recommendation) and offered some advice on getting more views, so he immediately caught my attention (ha!). I was extremely impressed with his YouTube knowledge and thus it was no surprise to discover that he had a very popular channel...actually, channels. We've kept in touch ever since and to this day Alex sends me tips when he feels inspired - I owe a lot of my most successful video features to him! The least I could do to thank him was to feature him here and as you'll see he's a very cool "doctor" (you'll get my reference upon reading further).
I am so honored to be chosen as Eco-Vegan Gal's Viewer of the Month! My name is Alex Charak. I'm an actor/writer/YouTuber in New York City. I produce web content for youtube.com/drcoolsex and youtube.com/chronicgamergirl. I first stumbled across Whitney when I curiously searched Atlas Cafe NYC on YouTube. Even though I lived across the street and ate there everyday, I wondered if there was any video of it online. The first thing I saw was EvG's review. I watched some other videos, subscribed, and now follow closely on Facebook. Eco-Vegan Gal helps me to make smart, environmentally conscious purchases and to discover new, delicious food options.
When I was growing up, I didn't get much exposure to veganism. My parents ate meat and I did as well. Then, when I was sixteen, I saw "Super Size Me" and it changed my life. I cut out the fast food completely. But as I explored healthy eating online, I saw those awful PETA videos of chickens being hammered, cows being sliced open and all those other videos make you want to throw up. Once I saw what was happening, I had to stop eating meat. At eighteen, I went vegetarian, and, at nineteen, vegan. I felt morally at ease and healthier physically.
My parents have slightly high cholesterol genetically and I still do as well. It's something I have to watch and being vegan helps me combat that. Of course being vegan doesn't mean being healthy. I can't eat vegan peanut butter chocolate cake from Atlas everyday and stay fit (even with my five floor walk up apartment). Now that I moved into a building with an elevator, I have to watch my diet even more so. I'm about to bulk up in muscle and drop fat like crazy for a role in a new web series called "Alligator Man" about a superhero who is half alligator and…yes, half man. Thanks to some EvG blog posts, I've seen that it is possible to do in a healthy, vegan way.
For anyone who needs a quick defense of veganism, I like going to this Albert Einstein quote: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." People some times don't understand veganism, but they sure do admire Einstein. Or toss a topical one at them with Abraham Lincoln: "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." If it that doesn't get them off your case, try this Mahatma Gandhi: "To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being." They'll get real quiet because no one likes to badmouth Gandhi.
Alex's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: I like a lot of the videos. Especially the vlogs and reviews. My favorite video is the first one I've ever seen. Atlas review:
I met Carlye through the Eco-Vegan Gal community years ago, and I've always felt an extremely positive energy from her, a light you could say. So it was no surprise to me when I heard that she wrote a book entitled Glow to share her beautiful story of weight loss via the plant-based diet. I didn't have to read a page to know that I wanted this publication to be read for the January EvG Book Club, which proved to be a great decision as soon as I began the first chapter. Carlye has a talent for making everyone she talks with feel like they've known her for years and this openess makes her an incredible advocate for the vegan lifestyle and all the joy it can bring.
What a perfect person to have as my first Viewer of the Month in 2013! I'll let Carlye tell you more about herself in her own words:
I was born, just like everyone else, with a clean slate and potential. But, by the age of five I was already addicted to McDonald’s and stuffing down cinnamon rolls that were bigger than my head. My true self became lost and was stifled by all of the sugar, cheese, meat, and dairy products. My mind was swimming, literally, in filth and poison, but how was I to know? I ate like most kids in the U.S.
At nine years old I was put on my first diet and my seemingly never ending foray in the diet world had begun. Being decades younger than everyone in my Weight Watchers meetings was not nearly as horrifying as being teased and ridiculed on a daily basis by the obnoxious boys at my school. Fast forward fifteen years and meet “big me.” Correction, I don’t mean big, I mean huge. Morbidly obese. I had gained 150 pounds as well as a hefty dose of Type II diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, plantar fasciitis, plantar neuroma, severe allergies, and daily headaches.
One day, while waddling down the book aisle at Target, I stumbled upon Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. It seemed innocuous enough so I tossed it in my cart amongst the ice cream, frozen chicken, and steaks. Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever buy dairy and meat again.
As I sat my wide load on the couch and started reading Skinny Bitch I found myself laughing out loud. My husband was going about his business but as he passed through the living room and heard me giggling he stopped and asked me to share the source of my newly-acquired happiness. After several recitations he finally sat down beside me and said, “Okay, you’re going to have to start over.” Together we took turns and proceeded to read the entire book aloud until we forced ourselves to go to sleep that night. We woke up the next morning, quickly finished reading the book, and immediately cleared our kitchen of all animal products. Overnight vegans, we have never looked back.
Immediately I dove in, head first, into studying every piece of research I could find. I knew what was ruining our health, but I wanted to know even more about the process and tools for healing. I discovered superfoods that aid weight loss but, most importantly, aid the body’s detoxification process. Many people who lose significant amounts of weight require surgery to remove excess skin that hangs from the body. I experimented and found a host of other nutritional tools that make the skin more youthful and able to snap back after being distended for so many years.
How can anyone ever fully express the magnificent amount of gratitude they have for a person, entity, or piece of information that literally saved their life? Learning about the truth behind our food and what really happens before the steak hits the plate turned my world upside down and yet I finally feel like I am right-side up. I lost 150 pounds and reversed all of the diseases and disorders from which I suffered without medication. I haven’t even had a cold in over four years. My husband lost almost as much weight as I did and reversed Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I celebrate these victories every day, but what I celebrate even more is the peace and happiness I feel knowing that I am finally making a difference, every day, one bite at a time. I had to change my diet to save my life, but knowing that as I save myself I’m also saving the lives of innocent, sentient animals along with the planet itself compelled me to share my story.
I wrote the book, Glow: a story of love, cake and what life’s like 150 pounds later, in an effort to make a difference in the lives of all living things. Glow is a guide for losing weight and reversing disease, but it is also a love story filled with inspiration and humor that covers many topics, such as how to use superfoods to boost the body’s healing power, the importance of choosing organic food, avoiding GMOs, and visualization.
I am so grateful for the enthusiastic reception that Glow has received in just a few weeks since its release. People with chronic pain and conditions have been writing reviews and sending me heartwarming, astounding messages telling me that they have not only lost weight, but also found themselves free of the pain that had plagued them on a daily basis for years past. Food is infinitely powerful. The food that we choose to eat is either energizing us and building us to become the people that we were meant to be, or it is killing us. To discount the impact of nutrition on our lives is a grave error and one that many people make. The time has come for healing. As we heal ourselves we will save the animals and the planet that we all share. To me, this is the ultimate trifecta.
My favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video is "Journal/Inspiration: The Importance Of Following Your Bliss". Learning to trust myself and my instincts while following my bliss has been challenging at times. Taking the unknown road can be scary at first. How wonderful that we can find someone like Whitney who takes the time to cheer us on in our endeavors. Through Eco-Vegan Gal, Whitney puts out so much incredible content. She goes above and beyond by telling viewers about everything from eco-friendly battery usage to contact lenses. What makes Whitney stand out even more is her honesty and relevance. I love knowing that if I need great advice or info, all I have to do is check with Eco-Vegan Gal!
Carlye and Glow online:
This list of Valentine’s tips appeared in my inbox from a site called Queendom.com - these ideas are so sweet and simple I had to share.
· Forget the dozen roses. Buy one, wrapped with a ribbon. (I add: **make sure it is organic, locally grown and fair-trade!**)
· Show up at your partner's workplace and whisk him or her away for (a healthy) lunch.
· Place a love note in your partner’s lunch bag or on the bathroom mirror.
· Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine, and drive out to a place where you can see the stars. (better yet, bike, walk or take public transportation!)
· Slow dance in your living room. (or get silly and dance to a fun, old school song!)
· Meet at a local hang-out and pretend you’re two strangers flirting with each other.
· Build a little bonfire in your backyard and make chocolate (vegan) Smores.
· Get tango or salsa lessons together.
And remember, V-Day doesn't have to be about being in a relationship - celebrate it with your friends, family, animal companions and/or yourself! I explored the importance of this (and following your heart) in this video with Charles from RawYouth.org:
Well, it's beyond December 21, 2012 and we're still here: phew! Admit it - you knew we'd be safe all along (I know I did). As silly as the fear of the end of the world seems in hindsight, I'm grateful for the awareness it brought me. I felt inspired to really look deep inside and examine my life, and find all the opportunities I had to grow. These feelings are often reserved for New Years, so it's as if like we got a head start on our resolutions and intentions for 2013!
What a great way to use up all those lingering candy canes - would be a lovely treat for New Years Eve! I found an organic, corn syrup-free variety at Whole Foods and they were perfect for this! The recipe results in a sweet, decadent, salty and crunchy dessert that will delight children and adults alike.
It's free of gluten and soy, and it can be relatively low in sugar if you use a ultra dark chocolate, a raw chocolate and/or one sweetened with stevia or xylitol. It can also be low in salt if you use salt-free tortilla chips and even low in oil and nut-free if you leave out the coconut oil.
"Since the beginning of time, humans have shown innate ability to take something good and make it way better. This action has improved the lives of generations."
The statement above (from the Way Better Snacks website) reminded me that we have the capacity to make a big change for the better at any moment, especially when we work together. I write this a day after the tragedy in Connecticut, which took the lives of many innocent children and adults. This event left the whole country, if not the world, in a state of shock and sadness, in a period of time that is meant for joy and celebration amongst family and friends. I've picked up two major points from conversations online and in person: people are ready to do something to prevent tragedy and they're making it a priority to cherish their loved ones. But I wonder, why does it take tragedy to come to these realizations?
I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the best recipes I've ever made. Unfortunately I can't take all the credit because Jason Wrobel is mostly responsible for this creation, which probably explains why it tastes so darn good.
Imagine the crunch of an amazingly flavorful sweet potato chip paired with a creamy, salty, buttery squash dip and the sweet tarty taste of pomegranate seeds. This is a dish that will knock the socks off you and anyone you serve it to, so I highly recommend you take it to a party to impress anyone who snags a bite before they fly off the plate. Jason and I created this right after Thanksgiving and think that it makes a perfect holiday hors d'oeuvre, but it's great at any point in fall, winter or early spring. Heck, you might even crave it in the summer!
As usual, it's gluten and soy-free but it contains oil (coconut) and a tad of salt - you can omit the latter two if you'd like (perhaps with veggie broth), just don't count on it being as flavorful. This is a super easy and simple recipe, but it will take 45 minutes to an hour to finish due to oven time.