Tag Archives: protein powder

Vegan = Healthy?

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Something that has recently been brought to my attention is the misconception that vegan = healthy. One of my friends told me the other day that I’m the healthiest person she knows because I’m vegan, but this got me to thinking, and I realized that veganism does not necessarily mean healthy at all. For some reason, veganism is a very scary thing for people to think about, and they automatically jump to the conclusion that we only eat salads and maybe some nuts and berries that we gather from the forest. Along with this assumption also comes the idea that because we only eat salads, nuts, and berries, we are clearly the healthiest people. However, let’s consider the following list of food items:

  • Oreos
  • Cashew Cheesecake
  • French Fries
  • Garden Burger
  • Vegan Mac n Cheese
  • Sorbet

What do all of these foods have in common? Two things: they are both vegan and also unhealthy to consume regularly. Being vegan is not some insta-health solution. While it does encourage the consumption of natural foods over processed foods more than an omnivore diet, there are clearly many things, both processed or natural and homemade, that are still unhealthy.

What does this mean for me? Up to this point, I have been exploring the vegan diet and lifestyle, trying to figure out what works for me and how I can weave it into my sometimes crazy college life. It has been about two months now, and I am starting to feel pretty darn comfortable with being vegan. The next step is to go back and refocus on health and fitness through my diet, this time only powered by plants rather than by meats and dairy.

Right before going vegan, as I have mentioned before in other posts, I was about a month and a half into a clean eating diet plan that was set up for me by a nutritionist. I had a very specific diet consisting of extremely clean proteins like egg whites and lots and lots of chicken breast, ground turkey, and protein shakes (3 per day!). These proteins were paired with complex starchy carbs, veggies, and some occasional almonds for snack. Absolutely zero sugar was involved besides the fructose from 1/2 cup of blueberries in my morning oatmeal. It was a very difficult diet to stay on, and it became extremely boring because I couldn’t get very creative with my food and make new dishes. But the important parts of the diet were the absence of processed sugar (even a very low fruit intake), the high levels of protein, the complex carbs, and the portion control. Now, I have by no means just been wildly stuffing my face with vegan junk food for the past two months, but I also haven’t made the health factor the most important consideration when choosing foods. Now that I am feeling more comfortable with vegan eating, I think it is time to reevaluate the principles of my old clean diet and turn it into a less strict, more creative, yet still effective, vegan version.

Moral of this story: don’t take veganism as an obvious pathway to better health. Your health is still on you and what you choose to fuel your body with. A healthy, clean diet, especially a vegan one, can give you more energy, help you sleep better, and just make you feel better in general! Who wouldn’t want that?

After all of this health talk, if you happen to be looking for a vegan protein powder, I’ve finally decided that my favorite is Garden of Life’s RAW Protein in vanilla. I tried the VegaSport chocolate flavor for a while, but it has this weird, saltyish taste in it that I cannot stand, even when blended with bananas and blueberries and peanut butter and all other good things. The vanilla RAW powder has a more gritty texture, but the flavor is a lot more mild and easily blends with other yumminess.

If you have no idea how you could incorporate protein powder into your day, here are some ideas:

  • Mix into a bowl of oatmeal along with sliced banana and/or blueberries (LOVE this!)
  • Protein smoothie (my favorite is cashew milk+banana+blueberries+PB2+protein powder)
  • Mix into coffee…? (some people say it’s good but I haven’t had good results)
  • Protein pancakes (thousands of recipes online)
  • Chia seed and protein powder pudding (protein powder, nut milk, and chia seeds, leave it in the fridge until it gets gelatinous; saw this on Pinterest)
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Triumphs and Failures

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Let’s start with the failure first: Protein Oatmeal

This morning I woke up ready for a hot bowl of oatmeal. I haven’t had oatmeal for a week or so, and I was really excited for a warm, hearty breakfast this morning. I also really wanted to try my latest food experiment: adding protein powder to oatmeal. Before I was vegan, when I was eating clean, I had oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast so that I could get both protein and carbs in my meal. So I figured, wouldn’t it be great if I could slip some protein into my morning oatmeal? Then I could maintain that nice carb-protein balance for breakfast without eating eggs or whipping up a tofu scramble all the time. Unfortunately, the experiment was a dud. I used the RAW brand of vanilla protein powder (which I LOOOVE in smoothies, thanks Auntie Katherine for hooking me up with it), and I just dumped in a scoop right after adding my oats to the pot of boiling water. I also added 1/2c of frozen blueberries and a handful of cashews. I thought that since the protein powder is so good mixed in smoothies, it should be fine in oatmeal too. Nope. The powder didn’t really dissolve well and therefore made the whole thing really gritty. Also, the flavor was kind of chalky and almost bitter unless I got a blueberry in each bite. I wonder if this flavor problem is a product of cooking the protein, since normally it is meant to be consumed in cold water/smoothies. The whole thing could have been improved with some agave I bet, but I really hate adding sugars into my food when I should just tough it out and accept a less sweet taste. If you do decide to try adding protein to oatmeal, try it with maple syrup or agave! (and let me know how it turns out, or if a different protein brand worked better).

On a different front, I did have an exciting vegan success today: Vegan Cream Cheese!!

Audrey and I have been craving bagels lately, and with every good bagel comes some schmearing of cream cheese. This becomes an obvious predicament for vegans, so Audrey sucked it up and bought us some bagels (from Trader Joe’s) and vegan cream cheese (from Whole Foods) so we could satisfy our craving at last. The cream cheese she bought was the plain kind from Go Veggie. And it was surprisingly delicious! We had tried a vegan cheddar cheese the other day by the same company and it was awful. My friend Bridger, who also tried it, described it as being in a junk yard with a bunch of tires, starving, and having to eat the tires as a last resort. Not good. However, the cream cheese from Go Veggie was a triumph today. In fact, having a toasty, crunchy bagel with a salty schmear of creamy goodness was probably the highlight of my day. (Shocking, I know, that a breakfast food was my high point today). Next up: making my own cashew cream cheese! From what I’ve seen, most recipes are pretty simple and college-dorm-kitchen-friendly. I cannot wait to try it!

P.S. Here is a picture of my breakfast from Sunday, my last meal of my fabulous, gluttonous weekend with my parents. We went to the Blue Plate Diner, which was PACKED. They serve both nonvegan and vegan foods, and it seems like they are pretty well known for both varieties. I got the vegan pancakes and added banana and coconut. Dad got the tofu breakfast burrito. Mom got the tofu scramble, which was cooked in a soy-saucy asian style that I must try at home.

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