Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My 5 Step Program

Society as a whole has a problem with change. We don’t like instability. What we fail to recognize is how extremely flexible our lives are. Yes, there are a lot of things that are out of your control; but why not control the things that are entirely under your power? We choose to be stuck where we are. We choose to reject change because it is inconvenient and frankly, a pain in the ass. Do you think I liked being Vegan at first? Nope, not really. That all changed when I started to see the benefits. If I can sacrifice a small portion of my life to work for something that not only benefits me, but the rest of society as well, then sign me up. The reality we live in is socially constructed. In other words, Veganism is not the norm and it's us that is keeping it that way. It’s inconsistent and it’s challenging but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We accept what we are told and refuse to question what we are taught. Does that mean we just sit back and accept the way things are? 

If you're willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something that saves one animal, 45 pounds of grain, 1,000 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forest, and 20 pounds of CO2 EVERY SINGLE DAY... then join the herbivores.
Step 1: Welcome
"I want to be an herbivore!" Yay, welcome to the team. You have to want to do it or this will end very badly. The first step is a trial period. Start playing with it. Substitute chicken for tofu. Substitute real cheese for vegan cheese. It's the same as everything else in life: It's only as fun as you make it.  
Step 2: Meatless
It's time to break-up with meat. It's been holding you back for far too long. This part is a major process within itself. You can't simply cut out meat in one swift move. If so, everyone would do it. Will-power is a powerful thing my friends. Try cutting out red meat and cutting back on poultry and seafood. Eventually (and this will take some time) you will see how simple this is. There are so many options if you just give it a chance. 
Step 3: Milk
This one should be the easiest. Replace your cow secretions with a happier and healthier alternative.  For more information on milk read the post before this.
Step 4: Cheese, Eggs & Hidden Monsters
You have to read the packaging!? Oh no, whatever will you do! Why is this such an extreme concept? I always laugh at this because why am I the ridiculous one? We trust these major companies so easily. Do you know what sodium benzoate is? What about sodium nitrate? These are both additives in your everyday packaged foods and meats that have been linked to a few different types of cancer. It's not like you only get one body or anything... but that's fine do as you please. Eggs are obvious. Almost any common baked good requires eggs. Fun tip: Coconut oil can be used to replace eggs. Cheese is a little harder. They do make cheese replicas... let's just say they aren't the best thing in the world.
Step 5: Keep Track
At first it may be difficult to track your iron, B-12, and protein levels. It sounds kind of exhausting, right? Good thing it's the 21st century. Online nutrient trackers and counter apps are your friend. Use them. I used My Fitness Pal, which you can download in the app store, for the first month. After that, I no longer needed it. 

Everything was impossible until someone else did it. Right now it may seem like there is no way you can do this. That's completely fine! It's not like I did it overnight. I've been at it for 4 years and still struggle sometimes. One thing I will promise is that you will not regret it. If you follow what I am saying and stay strong, I guarantee success. 

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let's Get Dirty: Part II

Since my Let's Get Dirty post is still my highest viewed page (because you all apparently have dirty minds), I figured we'd branch off of that one for today. Instead of covering the topic of GMOs, let's jump over to the dairy industry. More specifically, let's talk about milk. Milk has been a staple in almost every household for decades. Maybe back then it was different, but times have changed. Milk and milk production are definitely not the same thing they used to be. That being said, let's get dirty.

Photo Credit: PlantPoweredKitchen.com
Inspections, Sanitation & Early Mortality
Let's start of with the FDA, shall we? The Food & Drug Administration inspects dairy factories about once every ten years. A lot can change in ten years. It was only seven years ago that the first iPhone came out; now look at us. Not only this, the process of producing milk is insane. Years ago, when the production of milk wasn't so industrialized, milk was considered a necessity. The main issue now is that it's not the same milk they had back then. Homogenizing changes the chemical balance of milk making it more acidic. Milk isn't just milk anymore. It's a concoction of bioengineered hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. On top of this, female dairy cows are slaughtered roughly five years into their lives. Once they can no longer produce milk they are deemed "useless" and are sentenced to death.
Dairy & Osteoporosis
Yup. You've been highly misinformed. Those milk commercials that talk about "Calcium to build strong bones" are full of s*it. Instead it plays a main role in calcium loss and bone depletion! It has the opposite effect of how it's been advertised or has little effect at all. I've tried to give milk the benefit of the doubt and have found very little studies proving the advantages of it on bone strength. Click here to learn more. Also, remember the "Got Milk?" campaigns? Well they had a major lawsuit against them for promoting this made up "milk builds strong bones" slogan. Moral of the story: Don't trust everything you hear on television.
Making the Change
With all the alternatives out there, I'm not quite understanding the problem. Most of the responses I've seen have to do with something along the lines of not liking the taste and it being too expensive. Ok, yes, it is a little bit more expensive than regular milk. But you can make homemade nut milks for less than a dollar. You can't make dairy milk... well you can but it might be kind of a challenge. A 32 oz container of Silk Almond Milk is only $1.97 at Walmart. As for the taste... Come on! There are plenty of options. You are bound to like at least one of them. Soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk, etc. There are very few negatives with the other non-dairy alternatives. There is the soy controversy, but if you are afraid of that there are countless alternatives. 

Let me just say this:
Milk is used by a mother cow to turn her calf into a giant full-grown cow. Now what exactly possessed humans to think that it was a smart idea to drink something that is intended for that purpose? I don't need to be a giant cow... nor do I want to be one. I just can't wrap my head around this logic.

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner

More Info & Sources:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Death by Cosmetics

Being a Vegan doesn't end at the tip of your fork; it extends to all aspects of life. Veganism, from what I have seen, appears to some as an "overly radical" movement. I understand that some campaigns may make it appear this way, but it is most definitely not an overly radical movement. It's the choice to treat everyone, including animals, with respect and care. What is so wrong with not wanting to hurt any living being? If you are reading this, please recognize that no one is telling you what you can and cannot purchase. But this is a Vegan blog and you are here to read about Veganism. So without further delay, let's jump into cosmetics. Animal testing is one of the major modern issues that is highly overlooked. A common misconception is that the testing only occurs with rats and rabbits as test subjects. While this is true, it doesn't end there. Testing extends to other animals such as cats, dogs, primates, mice, etc. Imagine your household pet being tortured so someone can fix their stubby eyelashes. What I will never understand about the outside perspective is where people draw the line. Why is it ok for someone to kill a cow... but not a dog? You wouldn't eat your dog; am I right? But that's different I suppose... I've listed a few companies below and whether or not they fall into the cruelty-free category.
Test On Animals:

Maybe she's born with it; maybe she killed a bunch of animals to fix the wrinkle on her forehead.
M.A.C (Sorry ladies)
Neutrogena ("Natural" my ass)
Benefit Cosmetics
Clinique/ Estee Lauder

Do Not Test On Animals and Are Entirely Vegan:
Highly recommended
Everyday Minerals
Tarte Cosmetics (offers a Vegan line)
Emani Minerals
Pumpkin & Poppy
Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (which I highly recommend)
The All Natural Face
If you haven't heard of some of these, I highly suggest you check them out.

You can find a full list of "cruelty-free" products on the PETA website
So how do you avoid products tested on animals? PETA offers an online gadget that allows you to type in the company of concern and responds with a simple "yes" or "no" answer. This is where I got most of this information.
(If you're looking for more information) This one is a little less graphic than most of the videos I've found. If you're really up for some disgusting truth, here you go. P.S. that one is not for the weak stomached. I had to stop 34 seconds in. I try to shop entirely Vegan and Cruelty-Free so I completely understand that this is not easy. Windex tests on animals. How the hell do you avoid Windex!? All I'm asking is that you try. Cosmetic companies are the easiest start I could think of. It may seem small, but what happens to these companies when no one is buying their products?
Disclaimer: All information found on these brands is from the  PETA website.

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not test subjects.
Jasmine Millner

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Breakfast Smoothies

Sometimes it can be a challenge trying to pack all your necessary nutrients in one day. That's the beauty of smoothies. There's no simpler way and these require very little effort. Each one of these smoothies has been personalized to fit into a one-serving blender (such as a magic bullet or a nutribullet). If you are making these for more than one person or a full- size blender, simple double the recipe.

The Infamous Power Green Smoothie
I was sort of infamous for these in High School (hence where the name comes from). I always made, or bought, one and brought it to school when I didn't have time for breakfast in the morning. It's simple and gets you an ample amount of protein, iron, and fiber. It's a perfect way to start off the day... even though sometimes you think you're drinking grass.

1 cup kale (dun dun dunnn)
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup unsweetened Vegan milk of choice
1 medium frozen banana
1/4 cup pineapple
1/4 cup mixed frozen berries
1 tbsp spirulina powder (don't worry, the pineapple covers the taste)
Courtesy of the magnificent Hyland Slade.
Blend&Serve :)

The best thing about smoothies is how easily you can make them your own. My friend, Hyland, used a similar recipe in her green smoothies but simply added different fruits.
You can find more of her work on her Instagram @hylandslade

Post-Workout Smoothie
This one's for all you gym junkies out there. After a solid morning workout, it is vital that you replace the nutrients you've lost. This prevents muscle loss and muscle damage. Not only does this one reboot your system, it tastes like it shouldn't be healthy.

1/3 cup all natural peanut butter
1 medium frozen banana
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cacao powder
1/2 cup Almond/Hemp/Coconut milk
1 tbsp chia seeds (my savior)
A pinch of stevia or another low calorie sweetener
I usually top this one with raw cacao nibs and cinnamon.

Ode to Pumpkin pt. 2
I've saved the best for last. Since Pumpkin Spice Lattes are not Vegan, I'll settle for a pumpkin smoothie. This one is usually my treat smoothie. If I eat well and take care of my body all week, I reward myself with this one on Saturday mornings.

1 cup Almond/Hemp/Coconut milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (you can find this in the baking aisle)
1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 medium banana
nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice
2/3 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Top with soy whipped cream and pumpkin seeds

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner :)

P.S. Let me know if you try any of these in the comments below.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Six Month Mark

Man, time flies. I've been at this for 6 months now but it feels like I've just started. I remember the first day I went Vegan. I said, and I quote, "I'm just going to try it for a month and see what happens." I had found something online about a one month "Vegan Cleanse." I'm into all of those weird "cleanse" things so I didn't really think anything of it. Then August 1st came and I didn't want to go back. I had worked so hard that entire month that it seemed counterproductive to give it up. I said "One more month and then I'l go back when I get to college." Well here we are, six months later, and I'm still going strong. It's crazy for me because it's not even something I think about anymore. There is no part of me that wants to go back. There is no part of me that wants to give up. This is just an update on what's changed for me so far.

This is the most significant change. I am seriously just a giant ball of energy. It's actually quite terrible because where there is energy, it's obvious when there is a lack thereof. When I don't get enough iron and protein in a day, I can tell. I feel weak and will usually have problems getting out of bed the next day. It's only happened a handful of times when I didn't get enough iron the day before. I just eat something with iron/protein in it as soon as I wake up. It's an easy fix. When I do get it right though, it's insane. I have so much natural energy, which is odd for me since I'm a coffee addict. I'm definitely less sluggish and never really get tired. All of the fruits and vegetables I eat directly turn into raw energy. Having this much energy definitely comes in handy when you have 8 am classes.
My Skin
I'm not one to brag, but my skin is awesome now. In high school I used to have so many issues with my skin and I've finally found the cure. Who needs Proactive when you can go Vegan? After going Vegan, I realized that I was allergic to dairy products so it was making my skin even worse. Throughout the last six months, I've barely had any problems. I'm no dermatologist, but the only explanation I have for this is cutting out animal products.
I was so worried about going to college as a Vegan. I thought it was going to be nearly impossible to survive as a broke college student, surrounded by people who eat normally. I'm not going to lie, it's hard. My friends are always hosting the 2 am pizza sessions and late night ice cream runs. There's only so much will-power a person can have. I've cheated 5 times and every time I put a tally in my notebook, just to keep track. I feel like my mini cheats, strangely enough, help me stay Vegan. That one slice of pizza I had in the first month of school is not going to ruin everything I've worked so hard for. I'd say 5 out of 186 days is pretty decent. Since I've been at school, I've only met one other Vegan. We actually have a Vegan Club, called Food For Thought, on campus but I've never made it to any of the meetings. That's one of my goals for this upcoming semester.
What I've Learned
The main thing I learned is that I don't have to survive on grass. As Veganism gets more popular, more and more companies are developing replacements for average foods. I can still eat all of the same things I ate before. But, to be honest, I don't even want to. I don't need to replace all of the foods I used to eat because I've found so many better options. I like eating raw organic food. I don't need to have fake cheese and tofu all the time. While it's nice to have that stuff once in a while, I would much rather just eat plants. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.

Veganism is not nearly as easy as I expected. Being a Vegetarian is more widely accepted in comparison to being a Vegan. When I went Vegetarian, it was easier to find replacements. People understand that you don't need meat to survive. But cutting out eggs, milk, gelatin, food colorings, etc; It sounds insane to some. It sounds unnecessary and pointless. It's difficult to explain to other people that have grown up on all of this. How do you tell people to change something they've been doing for years? That is the only difficult part: getting people to accept this. In all, I am way happier than I was 6 months ago. I have way more energy and am naturally healthier. Strangely enough, I want to say life is easier. Honestly, I couldn't imagine going back to the way things were before.

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner :)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Challenge

New Year's  is the perfect opportunity to set goals and make changes. At least 50% of the people I have talked to mentioned something about "losing weight" and "getting in shape." That's great; good for you, but that's not very specific. If you're striving for a healthier lifestyle in 2015, what better way than choosing a lifestyle clinically proven to improve your overall health? I don't expect anyone to become a Vegan overnight; but just this one time, I dare you to try it. I always get comments about how difficult this must be or, my personal favorite, the "Good for you, but I couldn't do it." Well you'll never know if you don't try! If you're looking to lower your cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of diabetes, and lower your blood pressure; give one (or more if you're feeling extra adventurous) of these options a try.
Veganuary is an online pledge to go Vegan for the entire month of January. Instead of listening to what i have to say, why don't you try it for yourself? This is only 31 days of your life. If you hate it, then you can at least say you know what you're talking about. The Veganuary website gives you information on Veganism, refutation of common myths, and over 200 recipes. Even if January ends and you no longer want this lifestyle, at least you can say you tried! I understand that one month is a huge commitment, but it doesn't have to be torture. Think of it as a challenge... I am daring you. I'm at the six month mark right now and I have to say; this wasn't easy. Month one was by far the hardest. Veganuary is the perfect opportunity to improve your health and educate yourself on the power of a plant-based diet. Sign up and take the pledge. It takes little to no time and I promise it will change your life. Here's the website link if you want to check it out: http://www.veganuary.com Go ahead and click on it. The blog will still be here when you're done. 
Meatless Monday
If you aren't ready for a huge commitment, this one is simple. The name is self explanatory but it's the simple agreement to give up meat one day per week. That's not so bad, right? It may not seem like much, but you have to look at it from a bigger perspective. If seven people give up meat for one day a week, that's the equivalent of one person giving up meat for a whole week. Now think about that for 52 weeks. Maybe after awhile you'll be able to move up to two or three days a week. Then, eventually, entirely Vegetarian. If you don't like the idea of having this set plan, at least try to cut back some. Make it a plan to make a meat&dairy free meal at least once a week.
Cut Out Red Meat
Red meat, out of all meats, is the biggest contributor to air and water pollution (not to mention you're basically eating a heart attack). If you aren't ready to cut out all meat, you should consider cutting out beef, lamb, and pork. Eating red meat has proven to harden the blood vessels and significantly increase the risk for heart disease. You aren't just saving the planet, you are saving yourself. I always recommend this as the first step to those looking for a healthier diet. Help the animals, help the planet, and help yourself.
If You Absolutely Can't...
At least pledge to buy local, cruelty-free meat. Cruelty-free simply means that these animals weren't tortured in the process. This one shouldn't be a problem for any of you since you still get to eat meat. Most local health food stores sell locally raised meat. When you buy cruelty-free meats, you are not only helping your body but lowering pollution rates, reducing the prevalence of animal cruelty, and stimulating your own economy as well. We all have to make some sacrifices for the greater good. This one may seem small, but it has a massive impact.

Even if you don't take any of my advice for the New Year, at least set some of your own goals. Now is the perfect time to work for that thing you've always wanted. Now is the time to change your life and be the person you've always wanted to be. So set some goals and make a plan to stick to them. Write out step by step what you want and how exactly you will get it. Make 2015 your year because life is too short to be anything less than what you want.

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner
P.S. Happy New Year & let me know if you try any of these!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Post-Holiday Hangover

The holidays are by far the most challenging time of the year for Vegans. Between the pressure from family members and overwhelming amounts of stress, you can see why this is a common time for people to quit. This post isn't solely directed at Vegans; It's for Non-Vegans too. During this time of the year, it is so easy to let yourself slip into unhealthy habits such as overeating and lack of exercise. So if you're feeling those post-holiday blues, here are a couple tricks on how to get back to your awesome and healthy self.

Ok, don't freak out. This is an entire day of absolutely nothing but tea. When the human body is overloaded with food, it requires more energy to digest and store it all. Unless you are actually preparing for a famine(which I'm sorry if you are...),  you don't need an excessive amount of extra storage. This detox seems to be the most efficient and the quickest fix. Since the digestive process requires a lot of energy, a one-day tea-tox simply allows your digestive system to relax a little bit. By allowing this process to take a break, you are allowing your body to heal and repair what has been damaged. More energy can be distributed to the other systems of the body such as the immune system. Another positive is that tea-toxes generally reduce your appetite as well. Since we are bound to overeat during the holidays, this is beneficial in terms of maintaining appropriate portions. This one, for me, is just like pushing a "restart" button. I always wake up after a tea-tox and feel like a brand new person. One of the downsides to this cleanse is its timing. I suggest doing a cleanse on a day where you have nothing to do because it's easy to get tired and agitated. Sunday is usually my go to day. Also, let me note that there is a difference between a fast and starvation. When done correctly, a fast is very beneficial. Be careful not to over do it.
During a tea-tox I generally drink anywhere from 8 to 12 teas. All teas aren't created equal in this cleanse so it is important to pick the right ones. When choosing my tea, I usually lean towards one containing senna in the ingredients. The Senna Plant is known for it's detoxifying and curative properties. Too much senna can be a problem as well so I generally drink only one or two cups containing it. Other than that I drink a lot of mint and ginger teas. I'll list below some recommendations:

  1. Yogi Soothing Mint Get Regular ($5)
  2. Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move ($4)
  3. Now Foods Senna Tea ($4)

The Infamous Juice Cleanse
No one ever wants to do this. I have yet to hear a single person get excited for a juice cleanse. For me, this one is the most difficult. When doing a juice cleanse, you drink solely homemade, or certain store-bought, juice for anywhere from 3 to 7 days. When I say "juice", I am not referring to store-bought apple or orange juice. I mean a juice blend of vegetables and fruits that cover your daily nutrient need (I will be posting some of my favorite juice recipes sometime in the near future). During the holiday season we are constantly exposed to saturated fats, pesticides and refined carbs. These toxic foods weaken the digestive system making it more susceptible to damage. By juicing, you are giving your intestines, stomach, and liver time to repair themselves and prevent future harm. Since not everyone has enough time to prepare freshly made juices, I suggest going to your local juice bar. If you don't have one, there are pressed juices in your local grocery market. My favorite pressed juices are:

  1. Evolution Juices
  2. Boathouse Juices
  3. Blueprint Juices (Whole Foods Market)
  4. Naked Juices

Fruit&Veggie Cleanse
This one's my absolute favorite. The other cleanses may be short term, but they require a lot of will-power and discipline that, sometimes, I just don't have. A simple fruit and vegetable cleanse consists of only raw, organic fruit and veggies for a specific period of time. Just like in a juice cleanse, the purpose of this cleanse is to rid the body of harmful toxins and allow your body to restore itself. This is exactly why I recommend solely organic food for this cleanse. It just seems counterproductive to ingest more pesticides when the purpose of this is to eliminate them. When doing this detox, I plug all of my food into a counter app to track my nutrient intake (I personally recommend MyFitnessPal). This helps aid in preventing the desire to overeat or cheat. This one is longer than the tea-tox and the juice cleanse, but I find that it has a much higher success rate. My average F&V cleanse lasts for roughly 7-14 days but it is entirely dependent on how I'm feeling. Now before I get questions about protein, this is exactly why I plug it into the counter. If I have treat 12 lbs of spinach, so be it. Specific liver and digestive cleansers consist of apples, spinach, turmeric, beets, and carrots. I try to incorporate these as much as possible. This one doesn't have to be boring and torturous so make sure to switch it up.

Don't let yourself crash after this holiday season. It's perfectly ok to fall of the wagon every once in a while, so long as you get back on it. Cleansing helps kickstart your healthy lifestyle and creates a positive mindset. After all, a positive mindset is the key to all of this. What better way to restart your lifestyle than literally restarting your entire system? There are plenty of easy and efficient ways to do this without breaking your budget so long as you do it correctly. Before I forget, here's my disclaimer: I am not a doctor/dietitian nor am I a master in the art of cleansing. This is just what works for me.

Always Remember:
Animals are friends, not food.
Jasmine Millner :)