Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dietary Guidelines and Food Politics

Warning. This post is political. While it is very different from previous posts, and may seem like I’m abandoning the mission of hosting a plant-based nutrition website. However, as Mark Bittman makes clear, to write or blog about food, is inherently a political act. Therefore I hope you’ll forgive me for such transgressions and continue reading.

2104 was a big year for food politics if you paid attention. Multiple battles over GMO labeling laws brought new urgency and illumination to the issue – although most of those battles didn’t go quiet as well as one would hope! There was a ban against growing GMOs in Maui, soda taxes gained headlines and were passed overwhelmingly in Berkeley, gestation crates turned critical eyes toward New Jersey, and food writer Michael Pollan made a public statement in support for a national food policy!

However there are still many battles to fight – and many of them in the not-to-far-off future.

As some of you may know, the Federal Dietary Food Guidelines are currently under review. These guidelines are reviewed every five years, and have taken form in the past as the Food Pyramid and more recently MyPlate. 

When the panel of experts on nutrition and health announced that they were considering taking the environmental toll of food production into consideration for the new guidelines, there was outrage by certain food industries.

No, Big Broccoli didn’t throw a fit! But organizations like the American Meat Institute (AMI), National Beef Association, and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) among others, have issued statements basically arguing that the expert nutritionists selected to participate in the panel do not have the expertise required to take environmental questions into consideration. Borrowing from the NRA’s playbook, these lobbyist groups announced that they plan to grade Congresspeople on their votes regarding food issues.

This matters because, unfortunately, it roughly costs each of those members of Congress $7 million dollars to run a campaign and win office. While the $100 or so I donate to progressive candidates every election cycle makes me feel good, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the money spent by businesses and trade groups. According to David Robinson Simon, animal food industry spends more than $100 million paying lobbyists every year! This is a sad but important lesson in American Democracy.

In one study, members of the House of Representatives who received money from the dairy industry were almost twice as likely to vote for dairy price supports as those who received no money from them. While it is illegal to “buy” votes, it is completely legal to vote for a bill your constituents donors want. Furthermore, when a Congressperson votes against their donor’s wishes, those donors often abandon the lawmaker in their next campaign. Money, as they say, talks.

How does all of this relate back to the Dietary Guidelines? Well shortly after the new Republican controlled Congress took session, they did the unthinkable… They passed a bill! Feeling pressure from groups like AMI and IDFA, lawmakers from both parties came together and attached a list of "congressional directives" to a massive spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate. One of those directives expresses "concern" that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee "is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors" into their recommendations. The Congressional directives then issued a statement telling the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines.

The question, then, remains, why are these industries so insistent that environmental factors be excluded from the Dietary Guidelines?

It’s because animal foods have a huge carbon footprint. While the numbers vary, it has been estimated that between 14 – 40% of total carbon emissions is attributable to the livestock industry. The 2006 United Nations report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, claimed that animal agriculture makes up 18% of all greenhouse gases. Even this comparably conservative estimate accounts for more than all modes of transportation combined. That’s right. The volume of emissions created by the production of animal foods is greater than those created by operating cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, and ships!

As such, any inclusion of emissions would force the new dietary guidelines to recommend a decrease in the consumption of animal products. As NYU professor Marion Nestle explains, while it is clear that Americans could benefit greatly by reducing animal and highly-processed food products in favor of more fresh fruits and vegetables, in the past, Animal lobbyist have been able to argue over language in the past, rather than saying eat less meat, eat “lean meat.” These types of arguments and compromises have a long history. Going back to the George McGovern report of 1977 – the very first Dietary Guidelines – declared that “most all of the health problems underlying the leading causes of death in the United States could be modified by improvements in diet.” The report blamed the increase in consumption of rich animal foods increasing saturated fat and an increase in added sugars.  It also specifically recommended decreasing meat consumption as the best way to decrease saturated fat intake.

As one of the authors of that original report later accounted, the meat, milk, egg, salt, and sugar producers were all very upset. The National Dairy Industry actually suggested that the food industry should be involved in creating the guidelines.

When the final report finally came out, almost all of this language had been removed. Specifically, the recommendation to decrease meat consumption was altered to read, “choose meats, poultry and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake.” Do you see what happened there? The recommendation went from a negative, “consume less” to a positive “choose meat…”

Even this wasn’t enough. In the end, the nutrition committee was disbanded and folded into the functions of the Agriculture Committee – the committee that is responsible for protecting producers rather than consumers. 

However, much of Big Agricultures power over the Guidelines will diminish if the committee begins considering the environmental footprint of the food. As Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor, and member of the panel, told the rest of the committee, "in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact."

Now, perhaps you are thinking, “big deal, I ignored the food pyramid, I’ve ignored My Plate, and I’m going to ignore the next set of regulations too.” Well, you’re probably not alone. Most Americans don’t pay much attention to the Federal Dietary Guidelines; however, these guidelines do play a large role in helping to decide which industries are subsidized, and perhaps more importantly, they serve as the guiding principle for federal feeding programs, including school lunches, foods legible for purchase with food stamps, and federal prisons. Such an update to the guidelines could mean that thousands if not millions of Americans would consume less animal products.

Unfortunately, it seems that this fight has already been lost. After a draft was released earlier this month, which included the recommendation to consume less meat, the USDA bent to the pressure of Congress and their masters, and have declared that the environmental impact of food will not be considered when creating the new guidelines.

These types of issues are vital to improving the health of our nation. Being healthy involves knowing what is in your food, where it comes from, and how it is made. These should be rights – not privileges. We must continue to demand that politicians are being held accountable to us, the people, rather than to Corporations. As Lincoln famously once said, " Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

 Further Reading:

Brendan Brazier, Thrive Foods Da Capo Press, 2011.

Dan Charles, “Congress to Nutritionists: Don’t Talk About the Environment.” NPR December 15, 2014.  

David Robinson Simon, Meatonomics Conari Press, 2013.

Richard Oppenlander, Comfrotably Unaware: Global Depleation and Food Responsibility Langdon St. Press, 2011.

Richard Oppenlander, Food Choice and Sustainablity, Langdon St. Press, 2012.

Roberto A. Ferdman, “The Meat Industry’s Worst Nightmare Might Soon Become a Realtiy.” Washington Post January 7, 2015.

T. Colin Campbell, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition BenBella Books, 2013.

United Nations. Livestock's Long Shadow FAO Rome, 2006.

United States. Congress. Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. “Dietary Goals for the United States” Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1977.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Resolutions, and New Ways to make them stick

Last month, friend and BYOL contributor, Sid Garza-Hillman, laid down some excellent advice on how to approach the holiday season. Since it’s now January 1, I want to build on his post with some thoughts about how to create realistic New Year’s goals and what is needed to stick to them.

First, I’d like to point out that New Year’s resolutions are completely arbitrary. If there is something you’d like to achieve, don’t wait - just start. Start today. It’s the most powerful first step you can take.

That said, I would argue that most New Year resolutions are set with little thought or planning about how to achieve them, and then, they are abandoned even more quickly then it took to set them. Just take a quick look in the window of any gym in January, and then again at the end of February to see what I mean.

It seems to me, there are two main problems at play here.

First, many people don’t know how to set realistic goals. While goals like, “I’m going to eat better,” or “I’m going to go to the gym more,” sound great, in reality, they’re not actually goals, but rather, they’re ideals. Ideals are statements which are too vague, and leave a person without a clear action plan towards actually achieving their desired end. An ideal can be a great end place for where you will be if you achieve your actual goals, but first we need to find and set those concrete standards. Naturally, before setting any goal, we should first reflect on what we really want to achieve. Then create simple steps that can help you walk your way to success.

If you really want to “eat better” think about ways you can do this. Perhaps your first step should be as simple as committing yourself to eating one serving (or one extra serving) of fruit/vegetables every single day for one month. The point is, you first need a realistic understanding of where you currently are, and then you need to find a way to actively work on achieving your goal (of eating better). For most people, going from zero to ten isn’t achievable, so be realistic. You need to be able to walk a mile before you can run a marathon.

The second issue is one of willpower. We often assume that to achieve our goal (especially goals where one resolves to be healthier and fitter) we need a certain amount of willpower. One needs to exercise their willpower to drag themselves out of bed and force themselves to the gym. Then we call upon that same strength when challenged later in the day with decisions about which foods to eat.

Part of the problem is, that every decision we make uses some of our brain’s energy. After a long day, many of us experience a mental fatigue where our willpower has essentially been exhausted. As a result, we begin to react more impulsively. At this point, you are far more likely to abandon your once quixotic resolutions. This is why at the end of a long day, a person is far more likely to skip their workout or binge eat on unhealthy foods.

As an example, one study took two groups of children. The first group spent one hour having fun and playing outside. The second group spent the hour performing challenging math problems. Then each group was placed in a room containing a table with a plate of cookies on it. The children were told the cookies were not for them, and were promised a reward if they didn't touch the plate. I’m guessing you know where this is going. The group that was more relaxed had less trouble resisting the tasty, tempting treats.

Your willpower works the same way.

When we exhaust our mental reserves, we lose our ability to resist temptation, even when we know we would be happier if we did. If, or more accurately, when we fail, we often self-flagellate, and then make excuses about our inability to achieve our goals. This often leaves us feeling even worse than before we even set the goal.

Instead of following this all-to-common path of abandoning your resolutions, try these two simple steps for maintaining your willpower.

Similar to the muscles of athletes, stress and mental taxation (ie: decision making) burn glucose. Mental fog is the result of depleting your brain’s glucose stores. Often, when this happens, the brain begins to crave sugary treats. Just as athletes need to take in fuel to continue exercising, having a healthy snack - like a banana, or an apple - can help replace the needed sugars your brain is craving. Before caving in and having a piece of cake that you might later regret (which will only increase your stress and further reduce your willpower), try eating something healthy first. It might be exactly what you need.

Another great strategy for helping to clear your brain and resetting your willpower is to take a short timeout when feeling overwhelmed or even just fatigued. While exercising itself can tax your willpower and be a cause of stress, by taking a few minutes to get up and walk around your home or office (or better yet getting out and walking around the block) can help you reset some of your mental prowess. It doesn't have to be high intensity, but you should aim to raise your heart rate, at least slightly.

By combining these couple of tips, you can set yourself up for a far more successful 2015! But remember, even when you stumble, the important thing is to learn from those occasions, not to be too hard or critical of yourself, and to keep going forward with new resolve.

Here is to a wonderful 2015.

Also, I’d like to add that BYOL Nutrition & Wellness Counseling is now open. There is a 10% off deal on all programs for the month of January. Visit here or contact me at for more information.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

‘Tis the Season…to treat yourself well! By Sid Garza-Hillman

Another holiday season is upon us, and for many of us who pay comparatively close attention to the food we put in our bodies, this can mean increased temptation, frustration, and even regret (hence the huge amount of New Years’ healthy eating resolutions!). Most holidays in general are food-centered, and Fall/Winter holidays are no exception. Big meals with family and friends can be the highlights of this time of year.

Problems can sometimes arise when you are faced with multiple possibilities to OVEReat and/or eat foods you’d rather not. As a result, larger concepts than food come into play during this time of year, like restriction, discipline, and wellness, which I’d like to weigh in on.

Restriction. People often mistake decisions to eat healthier and/or more ethically/environmentally as restrictive. I devoted an entire podcast episode to this entitled “Making the Trade.” In it I argue that you are not in fact giving up anything when you decide to pay closer attention to what you put in your body, but are trading certain foods for feeling better. I give you cheese, you give me more energy and less allergies. When sitting with friends and family at a table that contains foods you don’t want to eat (not CAN’T eat, but won’t eat—there’s a very real difference), keep this in mind. The choices you are making affect your life long after the meal. Eating without regret or guilt means feeling better about your life—less stress, healthier body and mind, get it?

Discipline. In my practice I advocate for making small steps to greater health and happiness. The reason why most diets and quick-fix plans fail is because they move us too quickly ahead in behavior change. They are ‘all or nothing’ approaches that simply set us up for failure. The ‘beating ourselves into submission’ (e.g. by sticking to a diet and missing out on a holiday meal, and then running ourselves into the ground in spin class the next day to somehow ‘undo’ the damage) reality of these ‘plans’ generally leads to burnout, unhappiness, and often to binge or emotional eating later down the line. Easing your way into behaviors by incorporating small manageable steps allows you to be in control of the speed with which you improve your life, and puts you in a place of self-care and self-support. This means making it OK to enjoy meals that aren’t necessarily the physically healthiest, but give us great joy.

Wellness. I believe that we are all designed to be healthy and happy, and that in that state we are in balance with the world and ourselves. However, in the modern world we are bombarded with a huge amount of activities (e.g. big holiday meals) and foods that create great imbalance in us. The very foods that are the least healthy, least ethical, and least environmentally friendly are the most accessible, cheapest, and ubiquitous on holiday meal tables. Also, the least healthy foods for our bodies (I call them light-box foods) get us the most high, and it can be super hard to avoid these when they’re right in front of us. This fact can create conflict because, frankly, the temptation can be so great.


As you head into the holidays, remember this… your level of health and happiness is determined by what you do MOST OF THE TIME (I refer to this as your MOTT), meaning that a meal here or there isn’t going to make much of a long-term difference one way or another. Be crystal clear with yourself about why you are making the choices you make, and about the person you want to be. Most people I’ve coached don’t want to be restrictive, militant people—they want to be the kind of people that have a feast with friends and family now and then because that makes them feel good and happy too. If eating a certain food sacrifices an ethical decision you’ve made, then certainly it’ll make you feel better to NOT eat that food, but, again, that’s neither restriction nor discipline, but a choice that makes you feel good.

Holidays at their core are about celebration, and I think it can be super fun to indulge a bit here and there without guilt, regret, or shame. Lastly, remember that food is just ONE part of holidays. Time with family and friends creates incredible memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Taking the pressure off yourself food-wise (i.e. not being stressed about food, and not devoting a ton of mental energy to it) means more energy devoted to time spent with the people you love.  

Sid Garza-Hillman, the Small Step Advocate™, is the author of “Approaching the Natural: A Health Manifesto,” and host of the popular Approaching the Natural Podcast with listeners in over 80 countries. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Philosophy, and for over a decade after college, worked as a musician and actor with a growing interest in nutrition. Sid is now a Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach. He works with private clients all over the country, helping them take control of their lives through his private practice. He is also the Nutritionist and Programs Director at the Wellness Center at the Stanford Inn, North America’s only vegan eco-resort (

Sid’s Website:
Approaching the Natural Podcast:
Sid on Twitter/Instagram: @sidgarzahillman
YouTube Channel: Sid Garza-Hillman

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Chocolate! Whole Wheat Scones and Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Blondies

My families Thanksgiving started and ended with chocolate (and believe it or not, for some it was the healthiest food they ate all day!) Days like this are a rarity for me; however, with these two healthy recipes, I envision them occurring more frequently. 

Just in time for my annual holiday dessert post, I started experimenting with a chocolate chip blondie. After a few attempts (thanks to my co-workers for the constructive feedback!) I think it finally figured it out. The result is a healthy, gluten and nut free blondie bar that will bring a smile to the face of even the pickiest eaters.

Around the same time, I was also trying to create a whole-food whole wheat chocolate chip cookie. When testing a recipe, I forgot to add the sweetener and what came out was a miserable excuse for a cookie. However when flipping through one of my mother's cookbooks that I purchased for her two years ago when she first went vegan, I found an interesting scone recipe. I decided to combine the two recipes and the result is an amazing recipe for a delicious and healthy breakfast scone. With the perfect amount of sweetness and chocolate, these turned out even better than I expected, and surprisingly quick and simple to make.

So how can one start and end their day with chocolate and still claim they ate healthy? Chocolate in it’s purest form is known as cacao, and this was a prized food by early the Mayan empire, and continues to be held in high regard even today. Cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available (not to be confused with cocoa which is roasted more processed and as a result, less healthy). In a comparison ORAC test (a test which measure the antioxidant activity of foods,) cacao was found to have more than fifteen times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries! On top of this, cacao provides an excellent supply of minerals including magnesium, which may help relax muscles and reduce cramping. The American Heart Association has determined that cocoa and cacao powder can be consumed without hesitation.

In another study, the high polyphenol content found in dark chocolate was seen to help reduce oxidative stress during and after prolong exercise. In a Yale conducted controlled crossover study, they found that while the sugar and fat in most chocolate isn't healthy, the cocoa powder helps make up for it when consumed in moderation.

Because chocolate is loved all over the world, there has been a great deal of nutrition research done on it. One interesting study examined the flavan-3-ol monomers, oligomers, and polymers in commonly consumed chocolate products. Not surprisingly, cacao is the gold standard, but other forms of dark chocolate and cocoa still maintain much of the healthful properties found in it's purer form. Dark chocolate bars however were still found to be highly beneficial, although the percent of cacao is important. The higher percent of cacao, the healthier it was found to be. I typically purchase a chocolate bar between 70 and 80% cacao for baking. Such a high cacao content typically means the bar is lower in added sugars than other bars and gives a beautiful and complex taste.

Finally, that same study found that the addition of milk to chocolate blocks the absorption of the phytonutients of cocoa and concluded that the consumption of milk chocolate comes with all of the fat and sugar with very few of the benefits to off set them.

As a reminder, whenever possible, source fair trade, slave free chocolate. Slavery, particularly child slavery, is still practiced in the cacao fields of western Africa. Check the Food Empowerment Project for a helpful list of slave-free chocolates. 

Chocolate Chip and Walnut Whole Wheat Scones
Makes between 8 – 9 scones

1 ½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 very rip banana*
1/4 - 1/2 cup plant based milk or water
1/2 bar of good quality chocolate –chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup walnuts - chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

* - if you do not have a ripened banana, put the banana (still in the skin) in the oven on 300 for 10-15 minutes until the skin is starting to turn black. Let cool, once peeled, you will have a ready to use ripened banana!

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is heating up, add the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Once mixed, add the banana and the maple syrup. Simultaneously mash the banana and mix the ingredients. Now add the milk. Start by adding ¼ cup and add more as needed. The mix should become a thick dough. Once well-mixed, add the chopped chocolate and the walnuts and lightly mixed.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon large balls of dough onto the baking sheet and place into the oven. (I like to add salt crystals to top of the scones at this point for aesthetics) Let the scones bake for 10 – 12 minutes. The scones should start to brown and feel slightly firm to the touch. Test to make sure the middle is cooked with a toothpick.

Once done, set the scones to the side for 20 minutes to let cool.

Enjoy while still warm. They pair very well with fruit and mate

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Blondies
Makes 12 – 14 blondies

1 Can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 scant cup of old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons flax seed
1 very rip banana
1/2 bar of good quality chocolate –chopped
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or sweetener of choice
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a food processor add all of the ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth (you can also use a hand held immersion blender.)

Fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. The batter should be very thick

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. (The batter may stick to your spatula, so I like to spray my spatula with nonstick cooking spray first.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown. The batter may look underdone, but you don't want them to dry out!

Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Once cool, cut into squares.

G. Davison, R. Callister, et. all. “The Effect of Acute Pre-Exercise Dark Chocolate Consumption on plasma antioxidant status, oxidative stress and immunoendocrine responses to prolonged exercise.” European Journal of Nutrition. 58: 2012, 69-79.

Z. Faridi, et. all. “Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: A randomized controlled crossover trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88: 2008. 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The TCS New York City Marathon and Two Delicious Smoothies

The New York City Marathon has finally been ticked off my to-do list. My love affair with this particular race started when I first moved to the city for graduate school. At the time, I was only running sporadically – anyone who has ever entered into a graduate program for history can attest to the fact that there isn’t much time left for anything else. However, I began stalking the race. I read about it, watched it, cheered for it, I dreamed about it while sleeping, and daydreamed about it - particularly on my countless runs through Central Park. So when the opportunity finally presented itself for me to partake in the greatest marathon in the world, I jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, 2014 was a tough year for me. It started with a surgery on the back of my knee to remove a bone spur. While preparing for a half ironman, I started having intense pain in my hip. As it turns out, I had a small tear in the cartilage of my left hip. By the time my hip was ready for running, there was only 7 weeks until the New York Marathon.

Despite everything, including record strength winds, I was feeling good when I finally toed the line on race day. The cannon went off. I felt the boom deep down in my stomach and I finally started to realize what I was undertaking.    

For anyone who has ever run in New York, the marathon is a special experience. For me, it was particularly emotional as this city is my home. The thousands of spectators cheering were amazing (it was great hearing countless people scream “Go Vegan!” as I ran by – my little form of activism!) The race went well, although looking back, I should have run the first half a little more conservatively. Either way, I’m proud of the accomplishment and grateful for my body. I am now taking an extended break from endurance training during which I will focus on new and exciting happenings in my life. I also want to thank everyone. The love and support I received was overwhelming.

During my training, I developed two different smoothies, both of which are not only nutrient dense, but also delicious. While I used these to help fuel my workouts and to recover from my long runs, they also make a great start to any morning, and I've also made the the Chocolate Cinn-a-bun smoothie for dessert on occasion as well!


The Long Run Red Beet Smoothie:
1 medium beet (raw or roasted)
1 handful raw pecans (1/6 cup) (for a nut free version, add more oats)
½ cup spinach
1 ripe pear
¼ cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp flax seed
1 medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp cacao powder
½ tsp maca powder
1 cup plant-milk or water
1 handful of ice

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Top with shredded coconut and cacao nibs

Chocolate Cinn-a-bun Smoothie:
1 large frozen banana
¼ cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp almond butter or 1 handful raw almonds
2 medjool dates
2 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth. 

I hope you all have a very happy and plant-based Thanksgiving. 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Plant POWER: by Nava Atlas Giveaway and Chickpea and Kale Sandwhich Spread

Perhaps one of the best known vegetarian and vegan cookbook authors, Nava Atlas, released the stunning new cookbook, Plant POWER. Containing more than 150 new and inspiring recipes, Plant POWER is much more than your average vegan cookbook. It’s a primer and guide for regaining your health and vitality from the food at the end of your fork. The subtitle, Transform your Kitchen, Plate, and Life, sets high standards for what follows, and remarkably, this book delivers all it promises. 

As some long-time readers will recall, I reviewed and loved Ms. Atlas’s last cookbook, Wild About Greens and I’m happy to report that Plant POWER supersedes it's predecessor. From the moment it arrived, I knew I was holding something special. In fact, it has become my go-to recommended book for anyone interested in learning more about plant-based diets or healthy cooking.

Besides the 150 + recipes, Nava Atlas has dedicated nearly half of the book to introducing readers to different aspects of plant-based diets. This section touches on the health, environmental and animal rights reasons for eating a plant-based diet, as well as includes tips on how to live a plant powered life. The book includes over 70 stunning and full color photos (my only complaint about Wild About Greens) and most recipes include variations so you can easily make the recipe fit any preferred eating style (I was particularly impress to see she included substitutions for recipes with oil).

I often say that eating a healthy, whole food vegan diet is becoming easier than ever. Plant POWER practically takes the challenge out of meal-planning and I can say with conviction that there is something for everyone contained within these pages.

The recipes focus on simple and healthy foods made with real, fresh, and easy to find ingredients. Most are prepped, cooked, and ready to be served in thirty minutes. Because of all of these successes, I guarantee that Plant POWER will not be spending too much time on my bookshelf, as I will be referencing it frequently for inspiration and new tips.

Chickpea and Kale Sandwich Spread (From Nava Atlas’ Plant POWER)

I served the spread open-faced style with chopped purple cabbage and tomatoes on top of toasted, sprouted bread. It was absolutely delicious, and only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

Serves 3 to 4

2 medium kale leaves, rinsed well (or a handful of baby spinach or arugula)
1 medium carrot, cut into chunks
2 cups cooked or 1 can of chickpeas (drained)2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise or tahini (I did tahini)
2 teaspoons mustard
1-2 scallons, green parts only (optional)
¼ cup fresh parsley or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Green Sprouts (optional)


Combine the kale and carrot in a food processor or multi-speed high powered blender and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the remaining ingredients and pulse again until the chickpeas are evenly chopped and everything is nicely blended – don’t overprocess.

Serve as is, or cover and refrigerate until needed.


Now for the part you have been waiting for. I am happy to announce Nava Atlas has agreed to send a copy of her new book to one lucky reader! Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). Second, you must be a subscriber to BYOL. There are a few ways to win. First, leave a comment on this blog post about why you think this book will be useful. You can also like BYOL on Facebook, or follow BYOL on Twitter. You can get points by liking and following Nava Atlas on Facebook or Twitter as well. Finally, share this on your social media by tagging both BYOL and Nava Atlas in your post. The contest will end on Friday, November 28th at 12:00 a.m. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.