Making an Informed Transition to Veganism



Image courtesy of Virginia Messina, MPH, RD: www.theveganrd.com
A 2011 Harris survey, conducted by the Vegetarian Resource Group, indicated that about 5 percent of the US population–nearly 16 million people–identified as vegetarian (about half of them identified as vegan). A third of the respondents said that they make an effort to eat vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time, which suggests that over 30% of Americans eat meatless meals regularly–on top of the folks who already identify as vegetarian or vegan.
My guess is that, in the time since this study was published, a lot more people have chosen to explore plant-based diets. Rising concerns about the environmental cost of meat, coupled with widespread interest in the health benefits of meatless diets and more awareness about the cruelties of animal farming, have made this possible, and it’s a really exciting trend. As the number of flexitarian, vegetarian, and vegan eaters rises, so too does the need for solid information about plant-based diets and how to healthfully transition toward them.
One Client’s Story
I recently began working with a new client who has been vegan for nearly a decade. She’s young, strong, and in good health, but recently she started to experience some strange numbness and tingling in her big toes, as well as occasional loss of sensation in her right hand. She also started to feel lightheaded when she stood up quickly, which at first she attributed to her naturally low blood pressure. As other symptoms emerged, though, it started to concern her.
My client wasn’t sure of the cause of these symptoms, but she wanted to rule out any potential dietary issues, so she talked to her doctor. Her doctor suggested more protein, but my client’s intuition was that low protein wasn’t the source of her strange numbness and tingling. She requested a blood panel with that included some key vitamins, minerals, and hormones.
We began speaking before her blood work came back, but I immediately asked about B12 and Vitamin D supplementation–had she been taking both regularly? (I ask all of my vegan clients this question as we get started.) As it turns out, my client had been taking neither. When I asked why, she said she simply didn’t know that they were necessary. She admitted that her eating habits had been a little erratic and imbalanced lately, as she recovered from a death in her family and an otherwise stressful year. But until the numbness started, she had thought that her diet supplied everything she needed. It came as a shock to her to hear that B12 supplementation is an important part of the vegan lifestyle.
As it turns out, my client’s B12 levels were normal when the blood work came back. Her vitamin D, though, was critically low: her doctor said it was the lowest she’d seen in 35 years of clinical practice. Everything else was normal. My client is now supplementing with Vitamin D under her physician’s care, and she’s working with me to create a more balanced and well-planned diet. Because she’s busy and under a lot of stress, we’re focusing on easy meal planning, batch cooking, and simple strategies for balancing macronutrients within each meal.
A few things became clear as my client and I chatted about her story. The first is how earnestly she cares about her health and about being vegan. She hadn’t skipped the B12 supplement out of negligence or carelessness; she really didn’t have it on her radar as a point of concern. It was also clear that the experience had left her feeling shaken, bewildered, and more than a little ashamed. “I’ve read vegan cookbooks, taken cooking classes and workshops, and worked in vegan restaurants, constantly chatting with customers and employees,” she told me. “How did this slip through the cracks?”
Why Vegan Nutrition Guidance Can Be Hard to Find
I can understand my client’s shock; any brush with a health scare can leave us feeling deeply vulnerable and shaken. But I’m doing my best to help her dispel the guilt and the shame she’s feeling, because her experience isn’t uncommon, and it’s not her fault. A lot of people transition to veganism without having a clear sense of what supplements and nutrients should be on their radar.
The sheer number of people I’ve spoken to who express confusion about vegan nutrition suggests to me that this isn’t an issue of personal responsibility or failure. Rather, it reflects the scarcity of credible nutrition information in the media, particularly with regard to plant-based diets. Many blogs, books, and online resources have inspiring things to say about going vegan, but they don’t necessarily mention key nutrients and considerations. Meanwhile, myths and misconceptions surrounding the safety of vegan diets persist, so prospective vegans are often trapped in between alarmist naysaying on the one hand, and a lack of guidance on the other.
Because there’s an overwhelming perception that vegan diets are difficult and unsustainable, vegan advocates spend a lot of time assuring people that the diet is easy to adopt and maintain. I don’t know about you, but I hate hearing comments like “I could never be vegan–it’s just too hard.” I want to point out how easy it is to make a pot of rice and beans, or extol the virtues of today’s most awesome store-bought vegan products, from yogurt to milk to plant meat. I want to emphasize that, after a little learning curve, the diet can feel abundant, satisfying, and–believe it or not–simple.
Most of all, I want to make clear that veganism doesn’t have to be weird or fringe or costly. It can feature simple, easily accessible ingredients and familiar flavor profiles. In the intro to Food52 Vegan, I wrote that “at its heart, vegan food is just food,” and I meant it.
But is it just food? Is going vegan as easy as eating plants, or is there a little more consideration involved?
Truthfully, I think it’s the latter. Veganism certainly doesn’t have to be difficult, and going vegan doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it’s not an insignificant choice, either. Any major dietary change demands some consideration and planning, and veganism is no exception. When you take all animal products out of your diet, it’s important to think carefully about how you’ll source some of the nutrients–like B12, iron, and calcium–that you might be losing along with them. If you eliminate a bunch of foods without expanding your diet to include new ones, you may find yourself with a diminished version the same diet you were eating before. I think this is often what’s going on with so-called “carbitarians”: meat, poultry, and fish have been eliminated, but their place hasn’t yet been filled with new ingredients, like beans, whole grains, and soy foods. Instead, the space gets filled with what’s familiar, like pasta and bread.
The enthusiastic first-person accounts of plant-based that are filtered through social media don’t always address these issues or realities. Instead, they focus on the glowing skin, the abundant energy, and the improved digestion. And you know what? I don’t blame them. A lot of people feel so darn great in the first few months or even years of eating vegan that it’s difficult to imagine how the diet could be anything other than a panacea. When I first went vegan, my energy skyrocketed and my digestion improved considerably. I didn’t exactly conclude that the diet was a cure-all, but I wasn’t far off. It wasn’t until I spent considerable time reading cookbooks and websites that key nutrients (like B12) popped up on my radar. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for being vegan, but it did make me think harder about how I’d source my nutrients and sustain the lifestyle long-term.
Another problem is that many vegan resources emphasize what’s being eliminated, rather than focusing on what needs to be included. They stress the negative health consequences of meat and dairy, and they point out the superiority of plant foods. Be that as it may, meat and dairy–no matter how undesirable or cruelly produced–contain key nutrients, like calcium, protein, iron, and zinc. When we remove them from our diets, we need to find new ways of sourcing those nutrients. Plant foods can certainly offer us what we need–along with a wealth of healthful phytonutrients and the assurance that our food choices haven’t directly contributed to animal death or suffering. Still, we may need a little guidance as we figure out how to mix and match plant ingredients in service of a well-rounded, nutritionally complete diet.
Finally, it’s important to remember that a lot of what’s written about plant-based eating isn’t actually written by vegans, let alone vegan health professionals, and it isn’t always written for prospective vegans so much as people who are trying to reduce meat consumption or eat more plants. Flexitarians and part time vegans don’t necessarily need to give this kind of careful consideration to how their diets are changing, because reduction is a less significant shift than elimination. Folks who intend to abstain from animal products for life, though, may need some specialized guidance.
Making Vegan Nutrition Resources More Accessible
Ironically, my client’s recent experience wasn’t necessarily related to her veganism. Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly commonplace in the general US population, vegans and omnivores included. Even people who eat animal products typically get most of their vitamin D through fortified foods, and sunlight exposure is also a critical factor.
Had she not found out about the vitamin D deficiency, though, my client might have gone another several years before learning the importance of B12, or being asked to consider whether she was carefully sourcing nutrients like iron or calcium. For her, this experience was a wake up call, an opportunity to think harder about the vegan lifestyle she had taken for granted because she felt so good and enjoyed the food so much. Her story illustrates that even committed, well-informed vegans can miss out on important health information as they make the transition.
This shouldn’t be the case. Vegans need to work together to make sure that credible nutrition resources make it to the front and center of our outreach and messaging. Of course we should continue to destigmatize and normalize the lifestyle, making clear that veganism is a sustainable, accessible, healthful, and delicious choice. But we should also be honest about the fact that it’s a significant dietary change, and it demands a little research and planning. Most of us grew up eating omnivorous diets, which means that we’re familiar with that nutritional framework. Veganism is a different framework–a wonderful and healthful framework, if you ask me, but as with any paradigm shift, there’s some adjustment involved.
Fortunately, we already have a ton of wonderful vegan nutrition information at our fingertips. Here’s a list of my favorite sources of evidence-based, reliable vegan health information:
My Favorite Vegan Nutrition Resources
Websites
The Vegan RD
Vegan Health
Jack Norris, RD
Vegetarian Resource Group (VGR, an incredible site)
Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group
Vegan Society Nutrition and Health
Books
Becoming Vegan
Becoming Vegan: Express Edition
The Plant Powered Diet
Vegan for Life
Vegan for Her
If you, a friend, or a family member is shifting to a plant-based diet, I can’t recommend these websites and books highly enough. They’ll give you a clear, honest picture of what you need to be aware of–and many of them also include links to recipes or other lifestyle resources.
My friend Ginny Messina also features some great resources on her website, including vegan nutrition primers, a food guide for vegans (pictured at the top of this post), and an extremely useful powerpoint entitled the 7 Habits of Happy, Healthy Vegans.
If you’re curious about particular nutrients to be mindful of during your vegan transition, I recommend reading up on the following:
●Iron
●Calcium
●Protein
●Vitamin B12
●Vitamin D
●DHA (a type of essential fatty acid)
All of the resources I’ve mentioned can help to guide you. And of course, if you’re considering any major dietary shift, it’s helpful to chat with your primary care physician. If you don’t feel that your physician is supportive or knowledgeable enough to address your questions, try reaching out to a vegan dietitian or healthcare practitioner who can offer you additional support.
Going vegan doesn’t have to be hard. But it can feel very hard indeed–not to mention isolating–if you happen to find yourself with unanswered questions. I hope this post and the resources I’m highlighting can help you to feel more confident and empowered as you explore and deepen your plant-based diet. Most of all, I hope that they’ll help you to nourish yourself mindfully, so that you can spend your time enjoying the healthfulness and compassionate perspective that veganism has to offer.
xo
The post Making an Informed Transition to Veganism appeared first on The Full Helping.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations



Happy Tuesday, friends! As always, I enjoyed reading your insights into the weekend reading links.
Last summer, I published a post called 15 Simple, Affordable, and Protein Rich Combinations of Plant Foods. The goal was to break down protein requirements and recommendations using real food examples. Many of us have read about the recommended daily allowances for major nutrients, but it can be tough to translate that information into real life advice that matches our daily eating patterns.
Today, as a follow up, I want to offer you 15 simple, affordable, and calcium rich vegan food combinations—and in the future, I’d love to continue the series with other nutrients as well.
Calcium is one of the more important nutrients for vegans to have on their radars, for reasons I’ll expand on in a moment. Most vegans have a general sense of what the best plant-based sources of calcium are (leafy greens and crucifers), but even so, it can helpful to parse through some of the details.
Why Bone Health Matters to Me
I was in my early twenties, recovering from my last anorexia relapse, when a bone scan indicated that I had osteopenia, or low bone density. Mine was so low, in fact, that the diagnosis had nearly been one of osteoporosis. My endocrinologist explained that, under an x-ray, that my bones looked like those of a woman at least twice my age.
There’s a moment like this, I think, in the life cycle of any eating disorder. It’s the moment when you realize that the experience hasn’t merely been a set of abstract rules or an elaborate game you were playing with yourself. There had been many telltale health warning signs along the way—seeing stars when I stood up too quickly, the absent periods, the constant cold. But this was my wakeup call.
Luckily for me, the body forgives. It can be a challenge to compensate for bone density that was lost in the teens and twenties, since these are the formative decades for bone building. Significant losses in these years can put a person at higher risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis later in life. Still, one can work to build or maintain bone strength at any point in the life cycle, and I’ve spent the decade since my osteopenia diagnosis paying close attention to calcium in my diet and bone health overall. It’s something I become more and more vigilant about as I get older, since I know that preserving bone density is an important part of healthy aging.
Women and Bone Health
While I have special reason to be vigilant about my bones because of personal history, bone health is a topic of concern for all women at every stage of the life cycle. Both men and women develop osteopenia and osteoporosis, but hormonal flux, longer life span, lower average calcium intakes, and having lower bone bone mass in the first place make women more susceptible.
As I said, the teens and twenties are the most critical years for forming strong bones (which is why eating disorders in young adults can have such serious consequences). About 40% of bone mass is built during adolescence, and by the late twenties and early thirties, peak bone mass is achieved [1]. Bone losses begin in the mid or late thirties and continue in the forties and fifties; for women, changes in estrogen levels after menopause can cause sharp declines, since estrogen helps to regulate bone turnover [2, 3]. A woman can work to maintain her bone density throughout the years by paying attention to calcium and vitamin D intake, staying active, eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol [4].
Bone Building Nutrients and Vegan Diets
Calcium, along with Vitamin D, is the major nutrient associated with strong bone health. Vegan diets deliver calcium through dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, some legumes, and fortified foods. A well planned, nutritionally adequate, and varied vegan diet will meet a person’s calcium needs, and in fact, we absorb the calcium in greens better than we do the calcium in cow’s milk [5].
Still, it’s important for vegans to get clear and evidence-based information about calcium and how best to source it within a plant-based diet. Some research has suggested that vegans are at a higher risk of bone fracture than non-vegans [6, 7]. A close look at the studies, though, suggests that the higher fracture risk probably wasn’t due to veganism, per se (i.e., the absence of animal foods), but rather the fact that the individuals studied weren’t getting enough calcium their diets overall.
In other words, vegans don’t have to be at greater risk for bone thinning or fractures. But they may, for various reasons, skimp on calcium in their diets, which will make them as susceptible to low bone density as anyone consuming a low calcium diet would be. Vegan diets aren’t associated with a higher fracture risk if the amount of calcium consumed is adequate. [8]
Why Some Vegans Might Not Get Enough Calcium
Why would vegans get less calcium than omnivores? One factor might be the circulation of certain misconceptions about calcium and bone health within the vegan community. The most notable of these is the idea that vegans have special protection against bone loss because our diets are more alkaline than standard American diets. Some older studies suggested that more acid-forming diets could lead to bone resorption (loss of calcium from the bone matrix), but the latest research doesn’t draw the same conclusions. Instead, it suggests that the relative acidity or alkalinity of one’s diet has an insignificant impact on bone health [9]. Eating an alkaline diet is no guarantee of bone protection.
Meanwhile, many vegans believe that protein is acid-forming, and therefore bad for bone health, when in fact the opposite is true: protein seems to have a protective effect on the bone matrix [10, 11, 12, 13]. Ensuring adequate protein in the diet is an important part of eating for strong and healthy bones.
In my work, I see that some vegans don’t have a clear sense of what the best vegan sources of calcium are. For example, many new clients assure me that they’re getting enough calcium because they’re eating a lot of salad and baby spinach. But salad greens and spinach actually aren’t very good calcium sources, and spinach in particular is high in oxalates, which can block the absorption of calcium in food.

The leafy greens that deliver the most calcium include collards, mustard and turnip greens, kale, and bok choy. These greens might sneak into salads, but they often don’t. In order to maximize calcium intake, it’s important for plant based eaters to get a wide array of leafy greens and crucifers in their diets.
Some vegans also seem to be a little squeamish about the idea of eating fortified foods, like fortified non-dairy milk, orange juice, tofu, or cereal. One reason might be that we spend so much time defending our diets against uninformed criticism that we don’t like the idea of having to rely on nutrient sources that aren’t a “natural” part of the plant kingdom.

But vegans shouldn’t feel any special pressure to avoid fortified food. Fortification plays an important role in many peoples’ diets—vegans and omnivores alike. Most people get Vitamin D through fortification; cow’s milk is fortified with it, just the way plant milk is. Most whole grain products and cereal foods are fortified with folate, which helps to protect against neural tube defects.
Fortified foods exist in order to offer us a little extra insurance when it comes to healthful eating. We don’t need them in order to be healthy, but there’s no reason to avoid them if they’ll help to make nutrient acquisition easier. (This is especially true for parents who are feeding picky eaters.) One or two servings of fortified foods daily can go a very long way in helping a person to meet his or her calcium needs, and these foods also typically include Vitamin D.
Speaking of that, Vitamin D goes hand-in-hand with calcium in helping to maintain bone mass. Recently, I wrote a blog post inspired by the story of a client who hadn’t had Vitamin D on her radar, and found out about its importance the hard way—by learning she was deficient. This is a really common scenario nowadays, and not only among vegans. Vitamin D is activated by sunlight exposure, which many of us lack due to lifestyle or climate. Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary for folks who can’t ensure adequate sunlight or who have lot absorption of the vitamin. But fortified foods can definitely serve as one source of Vitamin D in the diet.
How to Get Enough Calcium in a Vegan Diet
So, what’s the best way for vegans to ensure that their diets are working in favor of good bone health?
First, it’s good to be aware of the recommended daily allowance. The latest recommendation is 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily for women aged 19-50 and 1,200 milligrams daily for women over 50. The RDA for growing kids and teens (ages 9-18) is 1,300 milligrams daily. [14] This recommendation is offered under the assumption that we’ll absorb about 30% of the calcium we consume in food (about 300 milligrams daily).
That’s how much calcium you should be aiming for in your diet. But what’s the best way to source it? Whenever I share a recommended dietary allowance with a client, I’m sure to explain the recommendation through food, because the numbers in and of themselves can feel a little empty.
Best Vegan Sources of Calcium
Let’s start by looking at the best plant-based calcium sources. I’m listing them in descending order of calcium density, and I’m giving both the milligrams calcium per serving, and also how far each food takes you toward 100% of your RDA. Keep in mind that some estimates vary for these foods (especially for different brands of calcium fortified foods), so the actual calcium content might be a little higher or lower.
1. Fortified almond, soy, or rice milk, 8 ounces: 300-500mg (30-50%)
2. Fortified orange juice, 8 ounces: 350 mg (35%)
3. Collard greens, cooked, 1 cup: 270 mg (27%)
4. Fortified breakfast cereal, 1 cup dry: 250-1000 mg (25-100%)
5. Turnip greens, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 200 mg (20%)
6. Mustard greens, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 160 mg (16%)
7. Bok choy, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 150 mg (15%)
8. Tempeh, 4 ounces: 120 mg (12%)
9. Tahini, 2 tablespoons: 120 mg (12%)
10. Dried figs, 1/2 cup: 120 mg (12%)
11. Extra Firm Tofu, 3 ounces: 100 mg – 150 mg (10-15%)
12. Oats, instant, 1 serving: 100 mg (10%)
13. Kale, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 100 mg (10%)
14. Shelled edamame, steamed, 1 cup: 100 mg (10%)
15. Silken tofu, 3 ounces: 80 mg (8%)
16. Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon: 80 mg (8%)
17. Almond butter, 2 tablespoons: 80 mg (8%)
18. Almonds, 1 ounce: 80 mg (8%)
19. Orange, 1 cup sections: 70 mg (7%)
20. Navy beans, cooked, ½ cup: 65 mg (6.5%)
21. Broccoli, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 60 mg (6%)
22. Pinto beans, cooked, ½ cup: 50 mg (5%)
What about calcium supplements? For certain individuals, a low dose supplement might be necessary or helpful in meeting calcium requirements. Still, most dietitians agree that food sources are best for calcium, and recent research has called into question whether or not calcium supplementation might pose risks to heart health. It’s best to meet the RDA through food if you can.
15 Simple, Affordable, and Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations
Now you know what some of the best individual food sources are. But we meet our requirements for a certain nutrient by eating real meals—which is to say, mixing and matching different foods throughout the course of each day.
So, here are 15 simple, affordable, calcium-rich combinations of plant food—and for each, a couple suggestions on how you could prepare them in your kitchen!

Pinto beans (5%) + collard greens (27%) = 32% RDA
Simmer the beans and greens in a simple soup or stew. Or, try combining these ingredients into an easy skillet dinner.

Dried figs (12%) + almonds (8%) = 20% RDA
You can enjoy these two as a snack, paired together on top of oatmeal or porridge, or processed into a homemade raw snack bar!

Tempeh (12%) + mustard greens (16%) = 28%
Combine these two in an easy skillet dinner and serve it over some brown rice. Or, make an open faced tempeh sandwich, top it with mustard greens, and smother it with some sort of delicious sauce.

Navy beans (6.5%) + turnip greens (20%) = 26.5%
Create a soup with navy beans, greens, and garlicky broth. Or, try making a navy bean hummus, then using it to top a delicious green and grain bowl.

Tofu (15%) + broccoli (6%) = 21%
Make an easy dinner stir fry, create a bowl meal (sort of like this one), or create a tofu scramble with broccoli florets for breakfast.

Edamame (10%) + bok choy (15%) = 25%
Make a nutritious soba noodle salad, featuring shelled edamame and chopped bok choy. Or, make a miso broth and load it up with greens and edamame.

Fortified non-dairy milk (45%) + almond butter (8%) = 53%
Pair these together in a smoothie, or combine them in a bowl of creamy overnight oats.

Fortified cereal (25%) + fortified non-dairy milk (45%) = 70%
A quick and easy breakfast!

Tofu (15%) + fortified orange juice (35%) = 50%
Combine silken tofu and fortified orange juice in a smoothie or dressing. Or, try having a glass or half glass of fortified orange juice with a tofu scramble breakfast. (NB: whole fruits are a healthier choice than fruit juices, but if calcium acquisition in diet is proving to be a major challenge, the benefits of a glass of OJ might compensate for the fact that it’s less ideal than fresh fruit.)

Greens (20%) + tahini (8%) = 28%
Make a big kale salad and smother it in tahini dressing. Or, try making a green and grain skillet dish, then topping it with homemade tahini sauce. Not inspired yet? Then simply combine these two in bowls, bowls, and more bowls.

Tempeh (12%) + tahini (12%) = 24%
To start, you can make a super tasty lunch sandwich with tempeh bacon and tahini sauce. Or you can whip up a tempeh breakfast scramble with tahini drizzle. If all else fails, try a batch of tempeh lunch salad with tahini in the sauce.

Almond butter (8%) + edamame (10%) + broccoli (6%) = 24%
Create an edamame and broccoli stir fry, then top it all with a rich almond butter sauce. Or, try throwing together a fresh broccoli and edamame salad, then savor it along with some almond butter and toast.

Tofu (15%) + almond butter (8%) + orange slices (7%) = 30%
Enjoy a tofu scramble with a creamy almond butter sauce, and serve it for breakfast with a cup of orange slices. Or, make an almond butter and orange dressing, then serve it over a tofu salad or stir fry. If all else fails, make a simple morning smoothie with silken tofu, almond butter, fresh orange slices, and fortified non-dairy milk.

Dried Figs (12%) + Tahini (12%) = 24%
Figs and tahini can be combined in a super creamy and delicious smoothie (perhaps with some banana and non-dairy milk).

Kale (10%) + Almonds (8%) + Edamame (10%) = 28%
You can make a batch of kale and almond pesto, then serve it over pasta, rice, or another grain dish studded with edamame (or stick some edamame in the pesto itself!). You can also make a grilled or raw kale salad and top it with edamame and crushed almonds. Or, try making a kale and edamame stir fry with rice or soba noodles, and then sprinkling it with chopped tamari almonds.
Of course, there are many other ways to enjoy calcium rich plant foods—these are just a few of my favorite suggestions. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing a very simple green and legume dish that provides over 30% of your RDA of calcium in one single serving.
Putting it All Together
Even if you know have a strong sense of vegan calcium sources and how to cook with them, it can be helpful to keep a couple of general tips and considerations—including factors that influence absorption—in mind. Here are a few general guidelines to help you protect your bones through diet and lifestyle.
Eat a wide array of dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.
This one doesn’t need much explanation!
Consider fortified, non-dairy milk as a regular calcium source.
I love making homemade almond milk (and other nut milks). But these creamy blends don’t deliver a calcium content that’s in any way comparable to what one gets from a cup of fortified, non-dairy milk. I recommend saving homemade nut milk as a treat (something to warm up and sip after dinner or with tea), and using fortified milks for everyday use, such as morning cereal or porridge, smoothies, and so on.
It’s also worth noting that not all non-dairy milk is fortified with a significant amount of calcium; some brands contain only about 10%. It’s ideal to aim for a brand that contains 35-45% of the RDA. My current favorites are Califia Farms and Silk Almond for almond milk, and Silk and Westsoy Organic Plus for soy milk. The same goes for tofu: if you can find a brand that’s calcium-set, it’s probably a better nutritional investment than one that isn’t.
Think about absorption.
Various factors can influence how much calcium we actually absorb from the foods we eat. Spinach and Swiss chard contain some calcium, but they’re also high in oxalates, which means that the calcium won’t be readily absorbed. Caffeine may have a small impact on calcium absorption, but research suggests that, if a person is consuming enough calcium overall, the effects are likely to be negligible [15].
Vitamin K, which can be obtained through leafy greens like spinach, parsley, kale, and broccoli, also plays a role in maintaining healthy bones [16], though research doesn’t suggest that supplementation isn’t necessary (at least not for bone health).
Eat a varied, balanced diet.
As important as calcium and Vitamin D are, they’re not the whole story when it comes to bone health. Evidence suggests that antioxidant-rich foods can help to protect the bone matrix, which is great news for vegans, since varied plant-based diets tend to be very rich in phytonutrients. Protein also has a protective effect, so it’s a wise idea to make sure that your diet contains plenty of legumes and protein-rich foods. One study of plant-based eaters suggested that merely one serving of meat replacements daily, as well as higher consumption of legumes, offered significant protection for bones [17]. If you’d like some tips on protein-rich food combos, you can revisit this post.
Bone protection goes beyond diet alone.
Weight bearing exercise and activities that strengthen balance are an important part of keeping bones strong and protecting us against falls and accidents as we age. Stay active, and try to vary your physical movement in a way that allows you to focus both on strength and on balance through high- and low-impact exercise.
Learning More
If you’d like to read more about veganism and bone health, there are a ton of great resources from RDs right here on the web.
Start by reading Ginny Messina’s vegan calcium primer, then check out her posts on vegan diets for healthy bones (which includes good information on absorption) and her post on protein and bone health, which helps to clarify the acid/alkaline hypothesis and its resulting confusion.
Jack Norris has a very comprehensive post on calcium and Vitamin D in vegan diets on his website.
Reed Mangels has a great article on calcium in the vegan diet available at the Vegetarian Resource Group’s website.
Sharon Palmer recently wrote a comprehensive post about vegans and bone health. It features links to research as well as quotations from Ginny, Reed, Ginger Hultin, and Matt Ruscigno.
These links all feature citations that will allow you to do further research on your own, if you wish to.
Nutrient acquisition can feel complicated when you start to consider all of the nuts and bolts. But hopefully this post can help to make the sourcing of calcium in your plant-based diet feel simple and realistic.
If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to see more like it, please let me know! I’d love to hear what nutrition topics or nutrient considerations are on your minds. And I can’t wait to circle back on Thursday with an easy, delicious, and calcium-rich recipe 🙂
xo
1. Reinagel, M. Osteoporosis prevention through the lifespan: challenges and opportunities to build or maintain strong bones. Food & Nutrition Magazine. 2016, May/June: 16-17.
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3. Riggs, BL. The mechanisms of estrogen regulation of bone resorption. J Clin Invest 2000 Nov 15; 106 (10): 1203–1204.
4. Weaver, CM, Gordon, CM, Janz, KF, Kalkwarf, HJ, Lappe, JM, Lewis, R, O’Karma, M, Wallace, TC, Zemel, BS.The National Osteoporosis Foundation’s position statement on peak bone mass development and lifestyle factors: a systematic review and implementation recommendations. Osteoporos Int 2016 Apr;27(4):1281-386.
5. Weaver CM, Plawecki KL. Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59:1238S-1241S.
6. Appleby P1, Roddam A, Allen N, Key T. Comparative fracture risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians in EPIC-Oxford. Eur J Clin Nutr 2007 Dec;61(12):1400-6.
7. Thorpe, DL, Knutsen, SF, Beeson, WL, Rajaram, S, Fraser, GE. Effects of meat consumption and vegetarian diet on risk of wrist fracture over 25 years in a cohort of peri- and postmenopausal women. Public Health Nutr 2008;11:564–72.
8. Mangels, R. Bone nutrients for vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr 2014 100: 469S-475S
9. Fenton, TR, Lyon, AW, Eliasziw, M, Tough, SC, Hanley, DA. Meta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balance. J Bone Miner Res 2009;24:1835–40.
10. Munger RG, Cerhan JR, Chiu BC. Prospective study of dietary protein intake and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:147-52.
11. Promislow JH, Goodman-Gruen D, Slymen DJ, Barrett-Connor E. Protein consumption and bone mineral density in the elderly : the Rancho Bernardo Study. Am J Epidemiol 2002;155:636-44.
12. Devine A, Dick IM, Islam AF, Dhaliwal SS, Prince RL. Protein consumption is an important predictor of lower limb bone mass in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81:1423-8.
13. Hannan MT, Tucker, KL, Dawson-Hughes B, Cupples LA, Felson DT, Kiel DP. Effect of Dietary Protein on Bone Loss in Elderly Men and Women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2000; (15)12:2504-2512.
14. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. 2011. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
15. Rafferty, K, Heaney, RP. Nutrient effects on the calcium economy: emphasizing the potassium controversy. J Nutr. 2008 Jan;138(1):166S-171S.
16. Weber, P. Vitamin K and bone health. Nutrition. 2001 Oct;17(10):880-7.
17. Lousuebsakul-Matthews V, Thorpe DL, Knutsen R, Beeson WL, Fraser GE, Knutsen SF. Legumes and meat analogues consumption are associated with hip fracture risk independently of meat intake among Caucasian men and women: the Adventist Health Study-2. Public Health Nutr. 2013 Oct 8:1-11.
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Menu Plan Monday: Black bean and corn burgers, kale and quinoa stuffed sweet potato skins, and more



It has been a very long time since I created a Menu Plan Monday post! This is partly because time got constricted during my finals, and partly because my meal planning, such as it is, has been a little erratic for the past few weeks.
Cookbook recipe testing doesn’t lend itself to an organized weekly meal plan. Whereas I usually do one, well-planned grocery haul per week, these days I find myself making frantic runs (occasionally still clad in an apron) to the store every couple of days, searching out ingredients that I’ve forgotten to pick up for this or that kitchen trial. And while it’s my regular habit to create a varied and balanced plan for my weekly dinners, I’ve been doing a lot more spontaneous planning to accommodate recipe testing for the book, the blog, and freelance work.
It’s all a fun adventure, but I miss routine and regularity–and I miss sharing these posts. For the next few months, my plan is to plan when I can, but not stress too much if I have to wing it or give into the chaos of cookbook testing. I’ll continue Menu Plan Monday posts through the summer, even if they’re not weekly, and I’ll reassess my blog schedule again in the fall. Hopefully I can keep up with these posts, because they definitely help me to stay organized!

This week’s plan features a couple of my summery favorites, and it also features my savory chickpea oat balls. I know I just made these last week, but they were so good and helped to create so many tasty lunch bowls that I’m making them again in a couple days. (They’re particularly good in a lunch bowl with chickpeas and roasted cauliflower–just sayin’.)

Today, before I headed off to my MNT lecture, I had one of my leftover kale and quinoa stuffed sweet potato skins from supper last night. It’s a mighty simple recipe without any fancy flavorings, but boy, do I love it. And I love that I have a leftover potato for tomorrow’s lunch, too.

Other menu items this week include my quinoa with garlic roasted cherry tomatoes and chickpeas, which I made for the first time last summer and instantly fell in love with, and my black bean and corn burgers, which are one of Steven’s favorite recipes. Here’s the lineup.
Staples:
●Chickpeas
●Creamy roasted beet hummus
●Quinoa
●Black beans
Menu Plan:
Sunday: Kale and quinoa stuffed sweet potato skins
Monday: Quinoa with garlic roasted cherry tomatoes and chickpeas | Roasted asparagus
Tuesday: Dinner out
Wednesday: Savory Mediterranean chickpea oat balls with pasta and marinara sauce | Fresh green salad
Thursday: Chickpea oat ball leftovers
Friday: Cookbook recipe testing
Saturday: Easy vegan black bean and corn burgers | Summery salad with corn, cucumbers, and my balsamic tahini dressing

And that’s it! A week of low stress cooking that also gives me a little space to test new things. As always, I welcome you to ask any questions about meal planning and food prep that you might have–and please feel to share your tips and organization strategies, too! I’m always happy to hear how other folks keep their culinary routines going.
Happy Monday,
xo

The post Menu Plan Monday: Black bean and corn burgers, kale and quinoa stuffed sweet potato skins, and more appeared first on The Full Helping.

6 Delegation Examples that you can Follow



As useful as delegation is, this idea isn’t the easiest to fully understand. But to become a successful leader, you must be able to delegate effectively.

If you’re confused about how to apply delegation in your work environment, you should look at some examples.

The best way to understand this idea is to observe a real-life scenario. So, if you have access to another department in your organization or another organization that implements delegation, be sure to check them out.

If not, the following delegation examples will give you as close as possible of an idea to real-life situations.

Go through these examples to clarify your confusion so that you can implement delegation in the best form!
1. Developing Strategies
Strategies are an important part of every business. No matter what the niche of the project is, smart strategies are vital.((Chartered Management Institute: Developing Strategy))

With that being said, it is not a piece of cake to design successful strategies. It is a process of extensive research, analysis, and creativity. Meanwhile, you also have to keep in mind the vision of the organization and the allocated budget.

If your project is on designing marketing strategies, it isn’t as simple as forwarding the task to the advertising department of your organization.

For a campaign, you will have to delegate to extreme ends. Firstly, you have to come up with an advertising motive.

Do you want more sales or do you want only aim to build your brand image? An advertising executive will do the research in this regard to figure out what your organization needs the most.

With this information in mind, a copywriter will come up with taglines, scripts, jingles, and other written content. What will go on the screen, what is written as a social media caption, what is spoken, etc. are all this person’s job.

Another subordinate will be a person with good contacts – somebody who can work as a lobbyist. This person will approach media platforms, influencers, and other relevant third parties to negotiate deals.

Similarly, you also have to delegate to someone the designing of the visuals. Billboards, social media posters, video advertisements, and all other forms require a photographer, graphic designer, editor, and illustrator. You can either get one person to do the job or, if possible, delegate to individual experts.

With all these people, a budget expert will have to work along. This person will make sure that the allocated resources are used effectively. Simultaneously, you or a PR manager will keep checking in to confirm that none of the elements go against ethics, violate the organization’s vision, or cause a backlash.
2. Full Delegation
Repetitive and recurring jobs in an organization are fully delegated.

What this means is that the leader adopts level 5 delegation. At this level, once the task is delegated, the subordinates are not required to come back regularly to get their progress checked. The leaders have minimal interference whereas the subordinates are given maximum authority.((Inc: The 5 Levels of Delegation You Need to Know to Lead Well))

In a scenario like this one, effective delegation every step of the way is extremely important to ensure a good result.

So, if your organization sells a particular product, it is highly likely that you conduct market surveys quite often. These surveys give you an insight into what’s going on in the heads of the consumer. These surveys also let you know whether the consumers are happy with the product or if they expect more.

Similarly, such surveys are also great sources for figuring out the best marketing methods. You ask consumers where they found out about you and this way, you know where to allocate most of the budget in the next marketing campaign.

Let’s assume that you’ve been conducting research this way for many years now. So, it is safe for you to let a research team do another survey.

You communicate that your goal is to find out how to improve the product and the deadline for the task is 2 weeks. They can design the survey questions, choose the platform, and collect information their own way. After 2 weeks, the team will come to your office with the final results.
3. Delegating Half of a Task
Generally, it is a major no-no to delegate half a task. So let’s first clarify what this means.

Most jobs have various aspects. As an example, consider a certain project that requires mathematical skills as well as technological expertise. If these two aspects are so closely related that they overlap, delegation is useless.

In a scenario like this, it is required that the output from both the mathematical and technological work is coherent and similar. That isn’t quite possible with delegation.

On the other hand, some projects are extensive. Such jobs can be easily divided into parts that aren’t co-related or can be easily fulfilled separately. Delegating a part of such tasks while keeping the rest for yourself is totally okay.

A delegation example of half a task is when hiring new employees. Your organization posted about a free vacancy online, and thousands of people responded with their CVs. You as a leader or manager just don’t have the time to go through each one but at the same time, you want to look through all the options.

You delegate the job of looking through CVs to shortlist them to a few senior employees. You communicate the shortlisting factors and qualities so that the subordinates select the right people.

Usually, important decisions like hiring new personnel should never be delegated to maintain honesty and fairness. However, in cases when you are overloaded with work or when it is too time-consuming, you can delegate half of it.

Some steps you can take to ensure a fair output is to hide out the names on the CVs. This will give you the peace of mind that the subordinates will only shortlist applicants based on their skills and experience.

Most importantly, the final decision still remains in your hand. So, you’re not losing any authority at all.
4. Outdoor Delegation
Managers and leaders generally do not have the time to take care of work things outside of the office. This is where outdoor delegation comes to the rescue.

This delegation example is most useful in the case of collaborations. If you’re planning on working side by side with another company, use delegation to its full potential.

Most of the initial discussions can be done through email so you can communicate your agenda first hand. But when the other party wants to meet regularly for check-ins on the project, send your best negotiators.

They can discuss all the details of the project – the reasoning behind each element suggested changes, etc. You can receive the brief with the details of the discussion to make the final decision without having to spend hours and hours on the commute and in meetings.
5. Intervention
This delegation example is the complete opposite of full delegation. For when you’re short on time but the task at hand is highly important, intervention is the way to go.

It is level 1 delegation where the subordinates do the work but you can check in now and then to keep them on the track you want. It is also most useful with new employees who aren’t as skilled or experienced yet.

You can use intervention when designing a new product. Ask your creative designer to come up with ideas and meet you every week to get approvals.

This way you’re not risking a whole lot of time wasted on designing something you might not even like. At the same time, you haven’t taken on the full responsibility of sitting down with the creative designer to produce what you want.
6. Creative Delegation
Projects that require innovation should always be delegated.

The simple logic behind it is that when more people are involved, there is a higher chance of coming up with something unique since it is a mixture of every individual’s thought process.

In case a manager wants to plan an office party for the 25th anniversary of the organization, it can be done in two ways. Either the manager can make the entire plan and ask everyone else to execute it, or the manager can ask everyone to pitch in their ideas.

Both these are forms of creative delegation. However, the level of authority varies. This allows you to decide depending on the environment of your office and the nature of the project.
Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that delegation is no rocket science, But at the same time, you have to follow some technicalities to ensure success.

These delegation examples may not fit in your work-life exactly. Try to find similarities and improvise the rest. It is totally up to you to get creative with how you delegate as long as it’s working for you.

So, put these examples to use in your real-life from today to make your life as a management leader way easier!
More Tips on Delegation

Delegation of Authority: The Complete Guide for Effective Leaders
What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?
The Delights of Delegation: Why Going it Alone Doesn’t Work

34.



It’s that time again.
For those of you who just started reading my blog, these annual birthday posts are a tradition that started when I turned 30. I originally intended for them to help me meditate on and find meaning in each year, but the posts are usually more inquisitive than expository.
How to talk about this year? It has been a strange one. In many ways, the last twelve months have afforded me more stability than any other year I’ve written about in a birthday post so far. First I was in DC, slogging through my post-bacc and anxiously waiting to learn whether or not I’d go to medical school. My 32nd birthday was all about grappling with the end of my post-bacc chapter and reformulating my vision for the road ahead. Last year, I was settling into life with Steven back home in New York, and I had just committed to my RD program at Columbia.
This year I started grad school, all the while working to grow this blog, my nutrition counseling, and my work as a recipe developer. In the fall, I finally changed my blog title, which was an important symbolic step for me and a sign of how my relationship with food has evolved in the years since The Full Helping (formerly Choosing Raw) began. I knew that the name change would feel significant, but I wasn’t prepared for how much creative space it would open up.
Since letting go of the raw foods orientation–not merely in my personal life, as an eater, but also in my branding, my message, and my language–I’ve felt such a sense of freedom and inspiration. It’s amazing how words–something so simple as a blog name–can serve either to constrict or nourish our identities. I didn’t realize how choked I felt by maintaining identification with raw food; I figured that since my approach had always been flexible, it was no big deal. But it was a big deal, because it was the linguistic remnant of a time in my life where I approached food very differently than I do today. My vision of good nutrition was far less holistic back then, my definition of “healthy” so much narrower. In some ways, vocalizing this shift was every bit as important as experiencing it.
This has been a year of tremendous professional excitement and growth on all fronts: academic, culinary, creative. Throughout it all, my heart remains firmly tethered to blogging. Recently a friend of mine remarked that she’s surprised I’ve been blogging for so long, as so many blogs are short-lived. But in spite of the fact that I’ve gone through ups and downs with blogging–periods of greater or less investment–not blogging has never crossed my mind. During my post-bacc, I started to feel disconnected from blogging, in part because of stress, and in part because I was so uncertain of myself that it was hard to show up publicly and speak out loud. In the last year, I’ve regained the capacity–or the courage, maybe–to share my words, my voice, and my food. It feels good.
In the spirit of sharing, though, it’s important for me to come clean about the fact that outside of the blog, this was not always an easy year.
In February, for NEDA week, I wrote about the odd realities of leaving an eating disorder behind. Yes, there’s a lot of freedom to be gained. But there is also the unsettling process of having one’s favorite armor stripped away. I’m further removed from anorexia than I ever have been, but I’ve also become poignantly aware of how many seemingly unbearable feelings my eating disorder protected me from. Without it, I am so much more susceptible to loneliness, anxiety, and fear. My eating disorder imprisoned me, but it also made me feel safe, and it gave me a layer of remove from thoughts and emotions that were far more threatening to me than the pain of self-denial.
In the fall of this year, I started to feel anxious. At first it was easy to dismiss this as the inevitable result of juggling graduate school with work, but the anxiety didn’t seem to improve during my winter break, and it never ebbed or flowed with professional stress. It clung to me no matter how busy I was or how hard I tried to shake it off. By the late winter, it was so acute that tiny, insignificant things could make me unravel in the blink of an eye. I felt as though I was losing my capacity to differentiate between what was meaningful and what wasn’t, and it scared me. That sense of brittleness, of feeling as though I was perched someplace precarious and constantly at risk of falling, reminded me a lot of my eating disorder.
There were other things, too. In spite of having finally found myself in a graduate program that’s a perfect fit for me, in spite of living in the city I adore, and in spite of sharing my life with a wonderful and loving partner, I was often unhappy. Or rather, I felt as though I was looking at happiness through a pane of glass: I always felt so close to it, so ready to partake, but somehow I couldn’t shatter the glass. That so many things were going well made me feel even worse about this sense of distance and remove. There was so much abundance in my life; why couldn’t I inhabit it fully? Did this make me ungrateful and rotten? And since I had no reason to be sad, anxious, or fearful, why did I so often feel those things?
In February, I finally gathered up the courage to return to therapy. I haven’t been in therapy since my last ED relapse in my early and mid twenties, but it was a vital tool for me back then, and I hoped that it could help me again. It has been very different this time around: uglier, messier, and not nearly as comforting. My last experience of therapy was a relief: after all of those years of secrecy, it was so good to speak and be heard. And because nearly all of the “work” was focused on managing my recovery, there’s a lot that I was able to avoid.
Therapy in my thirties has been anything but a relief. It has been by turns exhausting and humbling, a process of self-exposure that leaves me wishing for my old defenses. I started the process hoping to find quick answers, and instead I’ve been presented with more and more questions about who I am and how I want to be. More than anything, being in therapy has made me aware of the ways in which I tend to hide, and it has given me insight into the things I’m hiding from. In that sense I know it’s doing its job, but to have the curtain pulled back is painful, and I often wish I could close it up again.
But along with all of the exposure and vulnerability, therapy is helping me to find my voice. I don’t tend to think of myself as someone who is muffled; I write about personal things in a public space, after all, and I tend to express my emotions freely. But I also spend a lot of time apologizing for and doubting myself. When conflict arises, I lose sight of my own perspective. And, in spite of how hard I’ve worked to wrestle down anorexia, I’m still often paralyzed by perfectionism, by trying to craft a life that is oh-so neat and tidy and carefully maintained.
Since life itself is rarely tidy, I need to start exploring what it means to incorporate messiness into my world view, to embrace a way of being that’s freer and bolder than the one I cling to now. I don’t know how I’ll do that or what the end result will be, but I do know that I want to feel less confined and more resilient. I want to take more risks. And this is the first step in that direction.
Late this spring, things happened in my personal life that brought up a lot of my stuff. Deep stuff, painful stuff, stuff I’ve worked long and hard to avoid–usually with great success. It was a difficult experience, but I didn’t hide, and I was able to make some choices that amounted to what is for me a radical form of self-care. It was a sign that, no matter how turbulent and weird these past few months have been, they’ve served a purpose. They’ve helped me to live more authentically, which hasn’t always meant living more wisely or more benevolently or with greater equanimity. It’s so hard for me to open the doors of my life to conflict, struggle, or anger. But I’m trying, because the consequences of avoiding these things feel scarier to me right now than the things themselves.
So, that’s 34. If nothing I just shared makes sense to you, that’s OK. It doesn’t make much sense to me, either. But in the spirit of allowing confusion and disorder to be a part of my life–along with the beauty and meaning that I work so hard to find–I’ll let this post be the tangle of words that I knew it would be.
I say this nearly every year, but it always merits saying, so I’ll do so this year, too: Thank you for reading, and thank you for making this blog a space that I cherish and value so deeply. The best part of every birthday is finding a way to communicate a year’s worth of experience to you. Onwards into the 35th year.
xo
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How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19



Why have so many people made so many bad decisions around COVID-19?

On the one hand, many ignored the information about the pandemic at first, dismissing its importance. Plenty believed — and some continue to believe — COVID-19 is no worse than the flu and shouldn’t be a concern. Others thought the US medical system would easily cope with it, as it did with SARS and other respiratory infections. Many think it will blow over soon, disappearing with the warm weather in the summer.

On the other hand, plenty of people have taken aggressive — and unhelpful — actions to address their fears. Many have engaged in panic buying, stocking up on more toilet paper than they can use in a year and getting canned goods that they will never eat. Others turned to hyped-up miracle cures offered by modern-day snake oil salespeople, despite health experts clearly conveying that there’s no known treatment or cure for COVID-19.

Such poor decision making stem from dangerous judgment errors that cognitive neuroscientists like myself call cognitive biases((American Psychological Association: On the reality of cognitive illusions)). These mental blind spots impact all areas of our life, from health to relationships and even shopping, as a study recently revealed((Top10: New Survey Reveals What Really Drives You to Buy What You Buy)). We need to be wary of cognitive biases in order to survive and thrive during this pandemic.

What Are Cognitive Biases?
A cognitive bias is a result of a combination of our evolutionary background((Wiley Online Library: The Evolution of Cognitive Bias)) and specific structural features in how our brains are wired. Many of these mental blind spots proved beneficial for our survival((Social Cognition: Adaptive Rationality: An Evolutionary Perspective on Cognitive Bias)) in the ancestral savanna environment, when we lived as hunter-gatherers in small tribes. Our ability to survive and reproduce depended on fast instinctive responses much more than reflective analysis.

Our primary threat response, which stems from the ancient savanna environment, is the fight-or-flight response. You might have heard of it as the saber-toothed tiger response: our ancestors had to jump at a hundred shadows to get away from a saber-toothed tiger or to fight members of an invading tribe.

This lizard brain response proved a great fit for the kind of short-term intense risks we faced as hunter-gatherers. We are the descendants of those who had a great instinctive fight-or-flight response: the rest did not survive.

Unfortunately, our natural gut reaction to threats to either fight or flee results in terrible decisions in the modern environment. It’s particularly bad for defending us from major disruptions caused by the slow-moving train wrecks we face in the modern environment, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, the people who ignored — and continue to ignore — the reality of the dangers from COVID-19 are expressing the flight response. They’re fleeing from uncomfortable information, ignoring the reality of the situation. The people who are taking aggressive and unhelpful actions are expressing the fight response: trying to take control of the situation by doing what they can to fight COVID-19.

Neither of these very natural responses is the right response, of course. Our natural instincts often lead us in exactly the wrong direction in our modern civilized environment. That’s why we need to adopt civilized (and unnatural) behavior habits to ensure we develop mental fitness to make the best decisions.

You already take unnatural and civilized steps for the sake of your physical health. In the ancient savanna, it was critical for us to eat as much sugar as possible to survive when we came across honey, apples, or bananas. We are the descendants of those who were strongly triggered by sugar. Right now, our gut reactions still pull us to eat as much sugar as possible, despite the overabundance of sugar in our modern world and the harm caused by eating too many sweets.

Just like you take proactive steps to go against your intuition to protect your physical health, you need to go against your intuitions and adopt civilized decision-making habits to protect yourself from COVID-19 and so many other modern-day problems that didn’t exist in the ancestral savanna.
The Most Relevant Cognitive Biases for COVID-19
More specifically, you need to watch out for three cognitive biases.
The Normalcy Bias
The normalcy bias((American Journal of Community Psychology: The continuity principle: A unified approach to disaster and trauma)) refers to the fact that our intuitions cause us to feel that the future, at least in the short and medium term of the next couple of years, will function in roughly the same way as the past: normally. That was a safe assumption in the savanna environment, but not today, when the world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace.

This bias leads us to fail to prepare nearly as well as they should for the likelihood and effects of major disruptions, especially slow-moving train wrecks such as pandemics. As a result, we tend to vastly underestimate both the possibility and impact of a disaster striking us.

Moreover, in the midst of the event itself, people react much more slowly than they ideally should, getting stuck in the mode of gathering information instead of deciding and acting.

While the normalcy bias is the most harmful cognitive bias from which we suffer in the face of the pandemic, it’s far from the only one. In fact, a number of other cognitive biases combined with normalcy bias lead to bad decisions about the pandemic.
The Attentional Bias
One of these, attentional bias, refers to our tendency to pay attention to information that we find most emotionally engaging, and to ignore information that we don’t((Anxiety, Stress & Coping: Attentional bias for words and faces in social anxiety)). Given the intense, in-the-moment nature of threats and opportunities in the ancestral savanna, this bias is understandable. Yet, in the modern environment, sometimes information that doesn’t feel emotionally salient is actually really important.

For example, the fact that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and caused massive sickness and deaths there didn’t draw much attention as a salient potential threat among Europeans and Americans. It proved too easy to dismiss the importance of the outbreak in Wuhan due to stereotypical and inaccurate visions of the Chinese heartland as full of backwoods peasants.

In reality, Wuhan is a global metropolis. The largest city in central China, it has over 11 million people and produced over $22.5 billion in 2018. It has a good healthcare system, strengthened substantially by China after the SARS pandemic. A major travel hub, Wuhan’s nickname is “the Chicago of China”; it had over 500 international flights per day before the outbreak. If we assume an average of 250 people per plane, that’s 10,000 people a day flying out of Wuhan.

Europeans and Americans, with the exception of a small number of experts, failed to perceive the threat to themselves from the breakdown of Wuhan’s solid healthcare system as it became overwhelmed by COVID-19. They arrogantly assumed this breakdown pointed to the backwardness of central China, rather than the accurate perception that any modern medical system would become overwhelmed in the face of the novel coronavirus.

In the savanna environment, our ancestors had to live in and for the moment since they couldn’t effectively invest resources to improve their future states (it’s not like they could freeze the meat of the mammoths they killed). Right now, we have many ways of investing into our future lives, such as saving money in banks. Yet our instincts always drive us to orient toward short-term rewards and sacrifice our long-term future, a mental blind spot called hyperbolic discounting((American Psychological Association: Hyperbolic discounting)).

This helps explain why so many people are not focusing sufficiently on the long-term impact of the pandemic. Many are rushing to “get back to normal,” failing to realize that doing so will leave them very vulnerable both to COVID-19 and the disruptions accompanying the impact of the pandemic.
The Planning Fallacy
We tend to feel optimistic about our plans: we made them, and therefore the plans must be good, right? We intuitive feel that our plans will go accordingly, failing to prepare adequately enough for threats and risks. As a result, our initial plans often don’t work out. We either fail to accomplish our goals or require much more time, money, and other resources to get where we wanted to go originally, a cognitive bias known as the planning fallacy((Advances in Experimental Social Psychology: Chapter One – The Planning Fallacy: Cognitive, Motivational, and Social Origins)). Moreover, we don’t pivot quickly enough when external events require us to change our plans.

Thus, the vast majority of us were unprepared for a major disruption like COVID-19. Moreover, a great many people tried to go ahead with their plans when they should have pivoted, such as holding weddings, going on vacations, and so on.
Addressing Cognitive Bias
To address these cognitive biases in relation to the pandemic, you have to adopt a realistic and even pessimistic perspective. We have no way of coping with the pandemic save a combination of shutdowns and social distancing. We will see wave-like periods((NPR: Is There A Long-Term Strategy For Overcoming The COVID-19 Pandemic?)) of tight restrictions that result in less cases, then loosened restrictions with spikes of cases, and then again tightened restrictions.

Such waves will last until we find an effective vaccine and vaccinate at least the most vulnerable demographics, which in the most optimistic scenario will not be until late 2021. If things don’t go perfectly, it might be more like 2023 or 2024: that’s the moderate scenario. In more pessimistic scenarios, we might not have an effective vaccine until 2027 or even later.

Does that feel unreal to you? That’s the cognitive biases talking. We still don’t have an effective vaccine for the flu, as our current version is only about 50% effective in preventing infections.

Ray Dalio, who leads Bridgewater Associates and manages over $150 billion in investor assets, said early in the pandemic : “As with investing, I hope that you will imagine the worst-case scenario and protect yourself against it”((CDC: Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work?)). So what would it mean for you if you plan for the worst while, of course, hoping for the best?
The Bottom Line
You need to pivot for the long term by revising your plans((Disaster Avoidance Experts: 10 Steps for Strategic Planning to Defend Your Future)) in a way that accounts for the cognitive bias associated with COVID-19. By doing so, you’ll protect yourself and those you care about from our deeply inadequate gut reactions in the face of such slow-moving train wrecks.
More Tips on Overcoming Cognitive Bias

How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making
20 Cognitive Biases That Largely Affect Your Everyday Decisions
5 Cognitive Biases That Have Kept You From Achieving Full Potential

10 Best Home Office Work Desks You Can Afford



If you work from home often, you need to set up a functional work area or home office to provide the needed concentration that will boost your productivity when you work. The office also has to be conducive and convenient for work, and this is why it should be equipped with proper ventilation, lighting, and, of course, suitable furniture, including a nice work desk.

When it comes to the choice of home office work desk, there are things to consider such as the amount of space you have, your home decor and settings, as well as your budget.

Below are some of the best home office work desks that are within budget range and are suitable for different kinds of home settings and work requirements.

Why You Should Trust Us
We checked Amazon to find suitable, affordable, and comfortable work desks you can use in your home office. We selected the ones with good features and those that have received reviews and ratings not less than 4-Star from real users. We believe the items that made this list are the best home office work desks you can get on Amazon for their price.
Important Things to Note
Before you dive into the list, kindly note that when making your purchase, check with the supplier to make sure you are getting the complete package. Some buyers have complained that some parts were missing on delivery. Also, make sure you take the time to read the product’s manual before you begin to assemble. It would save you time and frustration that come with trying to figure things out yourself.
Best Affordable Home Office Work Desks
Any one of these 10 work desks would be a great addition to your home office. First, consider what your ultimate goal is for your office, what kind of style you lean towards, and how much space is available to you. Then, peruse these options to find the perfect desk for you.
1. CubiCubi Computer Desk 32″ – $84.99
4.6-Star, 300 Ratings

This is a simple style PC desk that combines an industrial vintage surface with features fitting for a home setting. It is made of a metal frame, triangular strut design, and adjustable leg pads for stability. All can be easily assembled in a matter of minutes.

It measures 32″ on the surface, 19.7″ on the side, and the height is 29″. It has a large enough space to work and can take up to a max load of 220 lbs.

As a bonus, it has an iron hook to hang your stuff, such as those headphones you’re using for all the video meetings these days. It also has a storage bag on its side—a great space to organize your books, magazines, and notes.

Pros

Simple style
Sturdy design
Easy to assemble
Doesn’t take up much space
Suitable for study and work on the computer
Price is competitive

Cons

Desk surface not smooth enough for writing
Some customers complained of missing parts during assembly

Get the desk here!
2. Ameriwood Home Dakota L-Shaped Desk with Bookshelves – $121.13
4.0-Star, 7045 Ratings

This is a work desk that comes with wood grain laminated particleboard and an MDF surface. The surface is large enough for your monitor or laptop. It also has two open shelves on its side to place your books, binders, and other stationery.

The L-shape of the desk makes it fit perfectly in a corner to save space. It also has two grommets built into the desk for cord management.

Pros

Easy to set up
Plenty of legroom
Enough space for other things to be placed on it
L-shaped
A good amount of workspace
Two-pen shelves

Cons

The spray smell of the table might stick around a while
Unwiped liquid such as alcohol might damage its surface
The top of the desk is narrow

Get the desk here! 
3. Mr. IRONSTONE L-Shaped Computer Corner Desk – $129.99
4.3-Star, 22 Ratings

This is both a work desk and a gaming desk with a large desktop space and legroom. Both sides of the desk are of the same length, and the sides can be easily switched depending on what makes you most comfortable.

It is sturdy and has adjustable leveling footpads to keep the desk stable when it’s on an uneven floor. The L-shape also helps to maximize your space.

If you use multiple monitors for work or games, this work desk will be a great choice for you as it can support two to three monitors at once. You can place your monitor, laptop, and game devices on the table without worrying that it will warp or sag.

Pros

Easy to set up and looks great
It has a lot of legroom
Designed for efficient use of top space
Anti-scratch, anti-skidding

Cons

Some delivered items might be missing parts

Get the desk here! 
4. SHW L-Shaped Home Office Wood Corner Desk – $138.87
4.2-Star, 2266 Ratings

This L-shaped computer desk is made of Espresso wood grain laminated particleboard. It has plenty of space for your gadgets and sufficient legroom for when you want to stretch out while you work.

It also has two open shelves for your books and other items. You can convert this to something else by choosing not to install the middle shelf if you have other use for that space.

Pros

Sturdy
Easy to set up

Cons

It can’t support much weight
The cable holes are not well placed

Get the desk here!
5. Walker Edison Modern Corner L-Shaped Glass Workstation – $153.30
4.4-Star, 6255 Ratings

This is a glass L-shaped PC, writing, and gaming work desk for use at home. It can accommodate multiple monitors and includes a universal CPU stand. The work desk is large enough to work, and it is easy to modify to suit your needs.

Pros

Modern design
Sleek and very professional
Easy to set up
It is sturdy even though it has thin limbs and supports
Each screw has a pair in case of defects
Universal CPU stand

Cons

No features for cable management
Doesn’t have an option for shelf or drawer
The keyboard tray is tiny and may not accommodate the keyboard and mouse together

Get the desk here!
6. Zinus Tresa Computer Desk / Workstation – $159.99
4.7-Star, 203 Ratings

This is a simple computer desk with a Rich Espresso finished surface area. It has a monitor stand that can be placed on any part of the table.

Its frame and leg support are made of strong steel. This makes the table is very sturdy. It can conveniently seat dual monitors, has a decent tray for holding your pens and writing pad, and comes with a clamp at the back for cable management.

The desk can allow up to 300 lbs of weight. Space and holding capacity are dependent on which one you choose: small, large, or medium.

Pros

Excellent packaging
Easy to set up
Smooth surface finish; no grain feel
Steel frame with leg support
Wide legroom

Cons

The monitor stand is not strong, but the tabletop itself is
The surface finish may cause keyboard to shift when typing or gaming.

Get the desk here! 
7. VIVO Black Height Adjustable Stand-up Desk Converter – $179.95
4.6-Star, 1364 Ratings

The VIVO work desk passes as a dynamic tabletop work desk with its adjustable height and sit-to-stand tabletop. It has a large enough surface to take single and dual monitor/laptop setups.

Change from sitting to standing in one swoop with its dual gas spring force, while the keyboard tray moves in sync with the tabletop. This guarantees that you won’t have to sit all day while working.

Your tabletop work desk can be adjusted from a height as low as 6″ up to 17″. This means you can comfortably sit or stand to work.

Pros

Sturdy and stable, not shaky when typing
Very easy to assemble
Comes with a 3-year warranty

Cons

Might be too high for your neck if you only want to sit all-day
Might not be suitable for gaming

Get the desk here!
8. Monarch Specialties Computer Desk with Drawers – $218.56
4.2-star, 198 Ratings

This is a cappuccino desk with durable construction and modern design of top grade, thick-paneled composition. The 60-inch long tabletop is large enough to accommodate a laptop, printer, writing material, and other essentials that need to be on your table. It also has multiple drawers and an open space, which can be set up either on the right side or on the left for your convenience.

Pros

Contemporary design
Large enough workspace
Desktop with a large workspace
Has drawers and file cabinet

Cons

Hard to assemble
The installation instructions are not easy to read

Get the desk here! 
9. Stand Steady Tranzendesk 55 Inch Standing Desk – $299
4.4-Star, 97 Ratings

This is a health-compliant table with a sitting or standing arrangement. It has a height adjusting crank to go high or low anytime. This crank can attach to either side of the table, so you can put it wherever is convenient for you. It also has plenty of legroom to free your legs.

It is sturdy and stable. Its leveling feet and strong steel base keep the desk firm as you work or adjust the height. It can also support up to 70lbs, so you can use it for a double monitor set up.

Pros

Sturdy
Large workspace
Easy height adjustment for sitting or standing
Spacious top
Sturdy design

Cons

Some parts may be damaged when shipping

Get the desk here! 
10. Teraves Reversible L-Shaped Corner Computer Desk – $255.99
4.6-Star, 196 Ratings

This is a reversible L-shaped work desk with open shelves for your gadgets and magazines. It has two workspaces that can take up to 450 lbs of weight. At its corner, the desk can hold up to 110lbs. It also has a monitor-mount hole to tightly secure your monitor and a dedicated CPU stand.

The desk is sturdy, and the surface is made of P2 class particle board with a perfect edge and thicker steel frame for strength and durability. Underneath, it has an adjustable leg pad to keep the desk balanced, especially when placed on an uneven floor or carpet.

Pros

Looks beautiful and well-structured
Reversible, spacious workspace
Easy to assemble
Sturdy and stable

Cons

The tabletop is not perfectly smooth for writing on a sheet but will work if you put another sheet under
Assembly might be a little difficult

Get the desk here!
The Bottom Line
When you’ve finally made a decision to place an order for your work desk, check for available varieties in terms of colors and sizes. Some prices may be higher or lower depending on the size you finally choose. There are also some products with optional components that you can also purchase to enhance your convenience when working.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to feel comfortable and productive in your workspace, so choose a desk that will lend you a hand in getting there.
More Tips on Creating a Home Office

10 Hacks to Improve Your Home Office Productivity
8 Tips to Set Up Your Home Office for Serious Productivity
31 Simple Ways to Maximize Efficiency in Your Home Office

My List of Go-To Vegan Products



When I first started writing this blog, I was the queen of DIY. I made everything from scratch–well, everything I could, because I hadn’t been cooking for very long, and I was still figuring it out. I made my own nut milk. I sprouted my own sprouts. I made fruit leathers, snack bars, and yogurt. I fermented vegetables.
Times have changed. I still love the idea of doing it all from scratch, but the truth is that lately I’m far more excited to find a time-saving vegan product on the shelves of my grocery store than I am at the prospect of new kitchen project. Maybe this is just a function of where I’m at right now, or maybe it’s the new normal–I’m not really sure. What I know for certain is that I am seriously grateful for a number of smart, useful vegan products, and I thought it was worth writing about them today.
I almost titled this post “the ten vegan products I can’t live without,” but of course that’s not true–I’d do just fine without the products I’m about to share. Making certain items from scratch is all just a matter of how one wishes to invest one’s time: I could make refried beans and yogurt every week, but right now I’d rather that time go to recipe testing for the cookbook or to opening up more space for work and life–especially since I have product options that really appeal to me.
It’s also worth saying that we all have staples that we enjoy making, and some we don’t, and it can be worth figuring out the difference. I love making homemade salad dressing, hummus, cashew cheese, granola, and muffins. I don’t really enjoy making homemade snack bars, fermented foods, crackers, or veggie burgers. On the list of things that sound really fun to make, but which I haven’t yet taken the time to master, is homemade bread. These lists will probably shift around over time, but they fit my life right now. Distinguishing between the homemade projects that feel fun to me and those that don’t allows me to spend my kitchen time wisely.
My list of go-to vegan products isn’t meant to be definitive or comprehensive: it’s simply a roundup of the items I rely on most, a handful of ways that I use them, and some of my favorite brand recommendations. The list may or may not speak to you, but if it does, perhaps it’ll give you some new ideas for saving time in your own kitchen.
More than anything, I hope it might bring home the idea that it’s OK to outsource some of your culinary work. I’m not suggesting, of course, that you give up cooking or that you give up on the idea of homemade staples. There’s an art–and often a lot of economy–to making one’s own pantry items.
But cooking can feel overwhelming at times, and I’m of the mind that strategically relying on a few store-bought vegan items can actually help to make the whole process more accessible. If purchasing a can of refried beans helps you to whip up some tasty homemade tostadas for breakfast, for example–rather than grabbing something lackluster at the corner deli on the way to work–that’s pretty great. And if it makes a plant-based lifestyle feel more within your reach, even better.
So, here’s a list of the vegan items that get me through busy times. It’s always evolving, and one of the great things about being vegan these days is that I know that more and more innovative, time-saving products are soon to come.

Vegan “Chik’n” Strips or Pieces
These are my favorite faux/plant meat product, and they always have been, but they’ve come a long way. The vegan chicken-free strips I’ve tried in the last few years are, I think, amazingly authentic in terms of flavor and texture, and they’re so versatile. I also tend to include seitan products in this category, since a lot of them taste (to me) like chicken.
Favorite Uses:
Throwing into salads or vegan lunch bowls, using in vegan enchiladas, adding to pasta dishes or casseroles, adding to tacos.
Favorite Brands:
Beyond Meat grilled strips, Quorn Vegan Chik’n Tenders, Gardein Teriyaki Chik’n Strips, Sweet Earth Foods Curry Satay

Refried Beans
As mentioned, these are most definitely a go-to for me. I do a lot of tostada breakfasts–usually two corn tortillas with refried beans, leftover rice, avocado slices or guacamole if I have it, and other creative toppings (sometimes leftovers from the night before). Making refried beans from scratch is nice on a weekend, but having them at the ready makes weekday assembly so much faster.
Favorite Uses
Breakfast tostadas, enchilada casserole, nachos, tacos, dip/snack
Favorite Brands
Whole Foods’ 365 Refried Black Beans, Amy’s Light in Sodium Traditional Refried Beans, Pacific Organic Refried Black Beans with Chilis

Whole Grain Crackers
I love to make a batch of hummus each weekend, but I leave crackers to the pros. I rely on a couple of wholesome brands–especially those that feature whole grains, like spelt, or nutritious nuts and seeds.
Favorite Uses
Easy snacks or snack plates, serving with soup
Favorite Brands:
Wasa Multigrain or Flax Seed Crispread, Engine 2 Triple Seed Crispbread, Natural Nectar Flatbread

Vegan Meaty Grounds or Crumbles
Pictured above in a super quick soft taco, but also a mainstay for homemade chili, skillet rice dishes, casseroles, and pasta sauce. I love the texture and heft and protein that crumbles and grounds can add to everyday cooking and comfort food dishes alike. I tend to go for chipotle, chorizo or Italian flavor profiles, but the plain ones can be really useful, too.
Favorite Uses
Stirring into skillet rice or quinoa for a quick Mexican-themed dinner, folding into homemade marinara for hearty pasta, adding to my gluten-free mac n’ cheese for chili mac, adding to casserole dishes, throwing into burritos or tacos.
Favorite Brands
Sweet Earth Savory Grounds, Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble or Feisty Crumble, Tofurky Chorizo, Lightlife Smart Ground, Gardein Beefless Ground, Field Roast sausages (great for crumbling by hand into pasta and other dishes), Neat Mixes

Pre-cooked Rice
I am, honestly, super embarrassed to admit this one. After years of writing ad nauseum about the value of batch cooking whole grains on the weekend to use during the week ahead, I have–more often than I’d care to admit–leaned on frozen, pre-cooked brown rice as a staple this year.
I’m not proud. And I still cook a lot of rice at home. It’s just that sometimes our dinner plan changes spontaneously, and we’re suddenly eating something that cries out to be scooped over a bowl of rice. Or we’ve got most of an entree ready, but it needs a whole grain in order to be substantial enough. And when this happens, using the pre-cooked stuff is really quick, and really easy.
I’m not suggesting this, exactly. Theoretically, I encourage everyone to batch cook, then freeze, rice. This is what I do, too–theoretically. But we all know that real life competes with our plans and good intentions sometimes, and when it does, pre-cooked grains may just come in handy.
Favorite Uses:
Stir fries, using as an accompaniment for curries, stirring into casseroles or bakes, using as a quick component for bowls
Favorite Brands:
Whole Foods’ 365 frozen brown rice, Seeds of Change Brown Basmati Rice or Quinoa & Brown Rice, TastyBite rices
Organic Soups and Chilis
Another one I sometimes feel guilty about–after all, soups and chili are two of my very favorite dishes to make from scratch. But life happens, and when a pot of homemade soup isn’t in the stars, having a box or can in the pantry can make for a very quick meal indeed. Sometimes I even stir in a box of canned beans for a little extra protein and nutrient density.
Favorite Uses
Serving with bread or rice for an easy meal, stirring (chili) into my gluten free mac n’ cheese for chili mac, using as the base for a rice or quinoa casserole (especially good with mushroom soups)
Favorite Brands
Fig Foods organic soups, Pacific Foods soups (especially the butternut and red lentil), Amy’s vegan soups and chilis (I try to get the “light in sodium” options)

Smoked or Pre-Seasoned Tofu
This is one of those dishes that I would actually always prefer to make myself–I love marinating and baking tofu and tempeh–but I do rely on the pre-seasoned varieties when things are super busy, or if I need to add tofu to a dish quickly but know that it needs flavoring first.
Favorite Uses
Adding to stir-fries or soba/udon noodle dishes, adding to grain bowls, adding to wraps, chopping and adding to salads
Favorite Brands
Soyboy Smoked Tofu (I absolutely love this stuff, and I use it in a lot of dishes), Wildwood Organics baked tofu, Nasoya TofuBaked, Fresh Tofu Inc. Lemon Pepper Tofu, Westsoy Italian Garlic Herb Baked Tofu, Hodo Soy Five-Spice or Curry Thai Tofu Nuggets

Almond and Soy Milk
I used to be big on homemade nut milk, and I still love it as an evening treat, or for adding to homemade muesli. But my enthusiasm for making it from scratch has dwindled, and beyond that, I like to use store-bought varieties to ensure that I’m getting the calcium from fortification.
Favorite Uses
Oatmeal, cereal, soups, baking
Favorite Brands
Silk Almond and Soy Milk, So Delicious Dairy-Free Almond Milk, Califia Farms Almond Milk, Westsoy Original Soy Milk

Vegan Yogurt
Another one I’ve made in the past, but which I just prefer to invest in nowadays–especially soy yogurt, which is relatively inexpensive and my favorite option from a taste perspective. I love combining it with homemade granola (something I do relish making from scratch!), my crispy buckwheat cocoa clusters, or muesli. The unsweetened varieties (especially Nancy’s plain soy yogurt), are also great for topping curries or Middle Eastern dishes.
Favorite Uses
Muesli, with granola and fresh fruit for breakfast, adding to overnight oats, serving with Indian or Middle Eastern dishes
Favorite Brands
Nancy’s Cultured Soy Yogurt, Silk Dairy Free Yogurt, Amande Cultured Almond Milk Yogurt, Kite Hill Yogurts

Veggie Burgers
I have a love-hate relationship with veggie burgers. When I make them and they turn out well, I love them–and so does Steven, who could probably eat at least one veggie burger every day of his life. But I find that it actually takes a lot of work and tinkering to get a recipe just right, and sometimes, I don’t have the patience.
For this reason–and because we eat a lot of them–I tend to buy veggie burgers, unless I have a bunch in the freezer already from a recent, homemade batch.
Favorite Uses
Serving on buns or English muffins with hummus or avocado, crumbling into rice skillets, crumbling into bakes and casseroles, folding into soft tacos for breakfast, wraps
Favorite Brands
Sunshine Burgers, Hilary’s Eat Well “World’s Best” Veggie Burgers, Gardein Black Bean Burger, Sweet Earth Veggie Burgers, Field Roast FieldBurger, Amy’s California Veggie Burger, Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers (lots of vegan options), Neat Mixes (can be shaped into burgers), Engine 2 Italian Fennel Plant Burger . . . can you tell we’ve done some taste testing? 🙂
Runner Ups: Vegan mayonnaise, vegan buttery spread, vegan cereals (for Steven, who eats cereal for breakfast almost every day)
Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list in the sense that the products we need most are always changing. Once cookbook testing is behind me, I’ll be able to settle into a more regular cooking routine that includes more batch cooking on weekends and a lot more everyday staple foods, and I suspect that I’ll be able to DIY a little more.
But for now, these foods help to make my vegan lifestyle just a little simpler and more accessible, and I so appreciate that I have them as options. It seems as though more and more companies are bringing vegan options to the table these days, and I hope the trend continues.
I’d love to hear more about your favorite vegan brands and products–and if you’d like me to share any of the semi-homemade recipes I mentioned in this post, let me know!
xo
The post My List of Go-To Vegan Products appeared first on The Full Helping.

15 Iron-Rich Vegan Food Combinations



Today I’m checking in with a continuation of my series of posts on nutrient-rich combinations of plant foods. First I tackled protein, and then I addressed calcium. Today I’m chatting about iron within a vegan diet, and I’m offering you 15 iron-rich combinations of plant food, along with ideas for how to enjoy them.
All About Iron
Iron is needed by red blood cells in order to deliver oxygen throughout the body. It’s essential for energy maintenance, and it also plays a role in DNA synthesis and immunity. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, and it’s more common among women than men, in part because women lose iron through menstruation. Low iron stores lead commonly to iron-deficiency anemia; symptoms include fatigue, pallor, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath.
When we think about iron, our minds might immediately turn to red meat, liver, or any of the foods we were told to eat for iron when we were growing up. It’s true that red meat is a great source of iron, but so are many plant foods, including lentils, soybeans, and leafy greens; in fact, an average serving of lentils contains more iron than a 3-ounce serving of beef. A cup of cooked turnip greens or beet greens contains about 20%. Surveys of vegans show them to be at no greater risk for iron deficiency than omnivores [1, 2], and some research suggests that vegans may consume more iron, on average, than do non-vegans [3].
Vegan Diets and Iron Absorption
In spite of the fact that vegan diets can easily be abundant in iron, there are some factors that vegans should consider beyond the actual amount of iron consumed–namely, issues of bioavailability and absorption.
The type of iron in plant foods, known as non-heme iron, is less well absorbed than heme iron, which comprises about 40% of the iron found in meat, poultry, and fish. Some research suggests that the bioavailability of iron from diets that contain substantial amounts of animal protein is about 14-18%, while it’s closer to 5% to 12% from vegetarian diets [4]. Vegans may need to consume more iron in order to account for this difference. 
Many iron-rich plant foods are also high in phytates (also known as phytic acid). Phytates bind to iron and other minerals, preventing their absorption. Phytates are abundant in some of the most healthful and nutrient-dense plant foods, including whole grains and legumes, and they’re associated with some potential health benefits, so they shouldn’t be avoided; rather, vegans should take care to eat ample iron-rich foods and be mindful of strategies than can help to increase absorption.
One of these strategies is to eat foods that are rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid) along with foods that are rich in iron, since vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of non-heme iron. Vitamin C, which is found in plant-based foods including bell pepper, strawberries, certain crucifers, and citrus, can increase iron absorption up to six-fold, which may ultimately outweigh the differences in bioavailability between heme and non-heme iron [5]. The fermentation process used to make breads such as whole wheat sourdough can also help to increase absorption.
Finally, tannins–found in coffee and tea–can decrease iron absorption, as can calcium. For this reason, it’s wise to each iron-rich food a few hours before or after coffee and/or calcium supplements, if you take them [6].
Iron Recommendations
As far as iron recommendations go, the RDA for women between the ages of nineteen and fifty is 18 milligrams daily. It’s lower for men–8 milligrams daily–to account for the fact that women lose some iron through blood loss during menstruation. For women 51+, the recommendation is 8 mg daily, and for teens (14-18 years), it’s 15 mg daily.
While the Institutes of Medicine recommends that vegetarians and vegans get 1.8 times the RDA [7], an increased intake of this magnitude may not be necessary. In her iron primer for vegans, Ginny Messina notes that the current iron need determinations were based on limited research. She also cites studies suggesting that human bodies may adapt to lower iron bioavailability with enhanced absorption [8, 9].
In other words, it probably behooves vegans to increase iron intake above the RDA, but it may not be necessary to essentially double iron intake beyond what’s recommended for omnivores. No matter what, vegans should keep in mind the additional factors (like vitamin C consumption) that impact how iron is absorbed.
The plant-food combinations I’m sharing in this post, and my calculations of how they help you to reach the RDA, use the standard recommendation of 18 milligrams per day for women. My vegan readers can increase intake well beyond that by maximizing consumption of beans, soy foods, leafy greens, certain grains (especially quinoa, bulgur, and pearled barley), blackstrap molasses, cashews, and sesame seeds/tahini, among other foods.
Vegan Foods that are High in Iron
Now we get to the fun part: food! Specifically, the vegan foods that can best help you to source ample iron in your diet. Here’s a list of twenty plant-based foods that are particularly rich in iron:
Spinach, cooked, 1 cup: 6.4 mg (36%)
Tofu, 4 ounces: 6.4 mg (36%)
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 4.4 mg (24%)
Swiss chard, cooked, 1 cup: 4.0 mg (22%)
Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon: 3.6 mg (20%)
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup: 3.3 mg (18%)
Potato, cooked, 1 large: 3.2 mg (18%)
Turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup: 3.2 mg (18%)
Quinoa, cooked, 1 cup: 2.8 mg (16%)
Beet greens, cooked, 1 cup: 2.7 mg (15%)
Tahini, 2 tablespoons: 2.7 mg (15%)
Peas, cooked, 1 cup: 2.5 mg (14%)
Tempeh, 4 ounces: 2.4 mg (13%)
Black eyed peas, cooked, 1/2 cup: 2.2 mg (12%)
Cashews, raw or roasted, 1/4 cup: 2.1 mg (12%)
Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 2.0 mg (11%)
Chickpeas, cooked, 1/2 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Black beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Bok choy, cooked, 1 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Bulgur, cooked, 1 cup: 1.7 mg (10%)
A quick note about spinach: while it’s very high in non-heme iron, it’s also high in polyphenols that are thought to inhibit absorption [10, 11]. So it’s a particularly good food to consume with vitamin C.
15 Iron-Rich Combinations of Plant Food
It’s always one thing to see, or read about, or be told about foods that are high in this-or-that nutrient. From a practical standpoint, though, I think it’s so much more impactful to be told how to incorporate such foods into a real-world, everyday diet. That’s what the goal of this post truly is, and without further ado, here are 15 iron-rich combinations of plant food, as well as some thoughts on how you might enjoy them.

Spinach (36%) + quinoa (16%) = 52%
Prepare a simple quinoa pilaf and stir in cooked spinach, or combine quinoa and spinach in a hearty soup or stew (you can try topping my cream of broccoli and quinoa soup with tempeh bacon or lemon pepper tempeh cubes!).

Blackstrap molasses (20%) + black beans (10%) = 30%
Prepare a batch of baked beans with blackstrap molasses, or try making my iron vegan sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.

Potato (18%) + turnip greens (18%) = 36%
Prepare a baked potato and stuff it with vegan sour cream or buttery spread and a cup of cooked, dark leafy greens. Or, try combining potatoes and turnip greens in an easy vegan hash.

Tempeh (13%) + bulgur (10%) = 23%
Make a batch of vegan tabbouleh and top it with my lemon pepper tempeh cubes, or prepare a simple bulgur and vegetable salad, then pile it high with tempeh bacon.

Chickpeas (10%) + quinoa (16%) = 26%
Quinoa and chickpea salads to the rescue! Start with my quinoa chickpea caesar salad, or my quinoa, carrot, and spinach salad with spicy carrot chili vinaigrette.
Other iron-rich options (featuring different beans) include my protein packed black bean and kidney bean quinoa salad, or my quinoa, corn, black bean, and tempeh salad with creamy cilantro dressing.

Tofu (36%) + spinach (36%) = 72%
Create a quick and easy stir fry using seared tofu, spinach, and your favorite whole grain. Or, for a comfort food meal, try whipping up my vegan eggplant rollatini.

Soybeans (24%) + bok choy (10%) = 34%
Create a stir fried rice dinner with soy beans and bok choy, or try my bean noodles with bok choy, edamame, and miso sesame sauce.

Lentils (18%) + quinoa (16%) = 34%
Where to begin? Both of these ingredients are abundant in vegan recipes, and they can be easily folded together in salads, pilafs, and grain bowls. I love combining them in my festive, holiday-worthy quinoa salad with dried cranberries, apricots, lentils, and pecans, or you could try serving my slow cooker masala lentils over a bowl of fluffy quinoa.  

Blackstrap molasses (20%) + cashews (12%) = 32%
Combine molasses and cashews in a bowl of morning porridge or oatmeal, or try combining them in nutrient-dense muffins or quickbread!

Black beans (10%) + quinoa (16%) = 26%
There are so many things I like to do with this combination of ingredients that I’m not sure where to start! They play very nicely together in salads, bowls, and more. Try combining them in my black bean and quinoa salad with quick cumin dressing, or throw them together and let them simmer in my slow cooker black bean, quinoa, and butternut squash chili.

Turnip greens (18%) + black eyed peas (12%)
Of course you might combine these two in a simple bean & green skillet (sort of like my simple stewed pinto beans and collard greens). But for something a little more traditional and festive, try combining them in a vegan hoppin’ John dish, and using turnip greens in place of traditional collards.

Bulgur (10%) + kidney beans (11%) + tahini (15%) = 36%
Try throwing these ingredients together in a Middle Eastern stew or soup dish. Or, throw together a simple bowl with bulgur wheat, kidney beans, and either tahini dressing or a nice big scoop of hummus and tahini.

Tofu (36%) + bok choy (10%) = 46%
Try combining these two ingredients together in a simple stir fry dish–with some bell pepper and/or cauliflower thrown in for extra Vitamin C!

Quinoa (16%) + peas (14%) = 30%
I love these ingredients on their own, and I also think they work really nicely in grain salads and pilafs. Try my purple asparagus and quinoa salad with peas, or my lemon herb quinoa with hemp seeds, spring peas, and basil.

Tempeh (13%) + black beans (10%) = 23%
I love putting these two plant protein superstars together–especially in Mexican dishes, like chilis, but also in everyday salads. They’re great in my quinoa, corn, black bean, and tempeh salad.
As you can see, it’s truly not difficult to obtain quite a bit of non-heme iron within a single meal. It’s simply a matter of picking the right foods and then taking care to pair them, if you can, with vitamin C.
More Reading
Curious to read more? There are plenty of great resources on the web, including some of the articles that have helped me to write this post today. Start with Ginny Messina’s practical, comprehensive iron primer (and then take a moment to explore her other vegan nutrition primers). The Vegetarian Resource Group also has a great iron article that includes a comprehensive list of vegan sources of iron. True to form, Jack Norris offers extremely thorough and carefully researched information in this article. And finally, you can download the AND’s PDF on iron and vegetarian diets here.
Questions? Comments? Request for recipes or meal ideas? Let me know! I hope you find this post useful and practical, and I’m always happy to hear about other nutrition-themed posts that you’d like to read.
And because I can’t resist thinking in recipes, I’ve got one to share with you tomorrow that’s very rich in iron–and also quick, easy, and very delicious. Till soon!
xo
Resources
1. Haddad EH, Berk LS, Kettering JD, Hubbard RW, Peters WR. Dietary intake and biochemical, hematologic, and immune status of vegans compared with nonvegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70(suppl):586S-93S.
2. Obeid R, Geisel J, Schorr H, et al. The impact of vegetarianism on some haematological parameters. Eur J Haematol. 2002;69:275-9.
3. Mangels R MV, Messina M. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets. 3rd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2011.
4. Hurrell R, Egli I. Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1461S-7S.
5. Hallberg L. Bioavailability of dietary iron in man. Ann Rev Nutr 1981;1:123-147.
6. Gleerup A, Rossander Hulthen L, Gramatkovski E, et al. Iron absorption from the whole diet: comparison of the effect of two different distributions of daily calcium intake. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:97-104.
7. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc : a Report of the Panel on Micronutrients. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
8. Hunt JR, Roughead ZK. Nonheme-iron absorption, fecal ferritin excretion, and blood indexes of iron status in women consuming controlled lactoovovegetarian diets for 8 wk [see comments]. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:944-52.
9. Armah SM, Boy E, Chen D, Candal P, Reddy MB. Regular Consumption of a High-Phytate Diet Reduces the Inhibitory Effect of Phytate on Nonheme-Iron Absorption in Women with Suboptimal Iron Stores. J Nutr 2015
10. Rutzke CJ, Glahn RP, Rutzke MA, Welch RM, Langhans RW, Albright LD, et al. Bioavailability of iron from spinach using an in vitro/human Caco-2 cell bioassay model. Habitation 2004;10:7-14.
11. Gillooly M, Bothwell TH, Torrance JD, MacPhail AP, Derman DP, Bezwoda WR, et al. The effects of organic acids, phytates and polyphenols on the absorption of iron from vegetables. Br J Nutr 1983;49:331-42.
The post 15 Iron-Rich Vegan Food Combinations appeared first on The Full Helping.

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Traveling Without The Kids



Travel is something that has always been a part of my life. Whether I’m dreaming about it or actually doing it, I always seem to function better if I’ve got an adventure ahead.
Travel can be big and elaborate or beautifully simple but it always seems to put things back in perspective. We love traveling as a family, but today we are looking into the benefits of traveling as a couple, without your kids.
By Assistant Editor Sarah.
Photos from Liz and Jared’s backpacking trip to the Lost Coast this past December. 
The post Traveling Without The Kids appeared first on Say Yes.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro



Change. Whether we like it or not, change tends to be on people’s minds at this time of year. I’ve already shared my intentions for 2017, and they don’t involve any big lifestyle changes–just a few subtle shifts in perspective, which have been underway for some time already.
Still, I’m thinking about change because I’ve just gotten started with my nutrition counseling course. The course is dedicated to giving us the tools we’ll need to empower people to change the way they eat, and this begins with acknowledgment of the fact that lifestyle change is hard. Part of this is the power of habit: we become so entrenched in certain ways of being that changing them starts to feel inaccessible. But I don’t think that we resist change simply because we’re stuck in our ways.
So far as I can tell, change is hard because life is hard. Many of us face enormous daily challenges. They might be practical, like financial constraints, busy work schedules, or the demands of care taking. They might include management of an illness, depression, or chronic stress. Lots of things stand in the way of our changing the way we eat, no matter how much we might want to. Time and again, clients tell me that they know what they need to do to eat healthier, and it’s true. The issue isn’t a lack of knowledge or motivation. It’s the fact that life is complicated, and food is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
When I’m working with a new client, I try to identify areas of his or her life in which healthful eating can be made just a little easier. If a client has gotten carried away with trying to make everything from scratch, I might suggest a few frozen meals or products to help ease the cooking burden. I might recommend simpler recipes or investment in a time-saving kitchen tool. Sometimes I encourage someone to make “upgrades” to her favorite foods, rather than seeking out a brand new style of eating.
Small shifts that take practicality into consideration can make a huge difference, whether someone is simply trying to eat more healthfully or considering a big dietary change, like going vegan. And that’s why I love brands that are working to make healthful eating easier. Veestro is one of them.

I first met Monica and Mark Klausner–the co-founders of Veestro–in 2013, when I reviewed some of the vegan start-up’s meal delivery options. I was immediately struck by Monica’s passion for making veganism more accessible for the busy person, which had clearly grown out of her own experience.
Monica and Mark grew up in Costa Rica, raised on a diet of freshly cooked foods. When they moved to the US for college, they found themselves relying on processed and convenience foods that were less than optimal, and their health suffered as a result. When they discovered plant-based eating, they became inspired to create ready-to-eat, vegan meals that were delicious, nutritious, and convenient.
Today, Veestro delivers organic, preservative free, and non-GMO vegan meals to customers around the country. The company offers tons of subscription or ordering options, which means that customers can explore the meals in a way that fits their individual needs. Maybe you work long hours and need dinner waiting for you when you get home. Maybe you need a few lunches each week that you can defrost and bring to the office with you. Maybe you’re traveling, unpacking, or managing a difficult time in your life, and you need all of your meals taken care of. Veestro offers options that fit all of these circumstances, and more.
Right now, in acknowledgment of a new year, the folks at Veestro are hosting a “21-days of yes” program that’s designed to nourish mind, body, and soul. The program can be customized to include either 1 or 2 meals daily, and it comes with 6 juices to enjoy with the meals or as snacks (or however you like). There’s a gluten-free option, and of course, all of the meals are 100% vegan.
What I love about the program is that the emphasis isn’t just on food. It’s designed to help make healthful eating and lifestyle change feel like a reality. Many folks who are trying to go plant-based don’t know where to start, and these vibrant, tasty meals can help to inspire them and provide future recipe ideas. The program also comes with recipes and ideas from the awesome ladies behind So Buddhalicious, who help to make vegan meal-planning (in bowl form!) feel easy and fun, and guidance from a vegan nutritionist.

In other words, the program helps provide tools for lasting change at home, as well as some meals to help kick-start the process easily.
I’ve had a chance to savor Veestro’s meals in the past, and I’m impressed with how the options have continued to grow. There’s so much to choose from, ranging from super familiar, comfort food dishes to global fare. A sampling of meals from the “yes I can” program includes savory croquettes, Spanish torta, veggie lasagna, red curry, and Southwest BBQ chicken. There’s something for everyone, from people who are looking for plant-based alternatives to mainstream fare to folks who are already vegan and have adventurous taste buds.

So far, a personal highlight has been the oatmeal breakfast pie, which is made with gluten free oats, sweet potato, apple, and chia seeds. It’s hearty and delicious, and it has kept me surprisingly full, in spite of my morning tendency to get snacky. I’m not big on juices these days, but they’ve been a great compliment to the morning meals. I’m particularly digging the Johnny Appleseed, which is a tart, sweet green juice with apple.
One of my favorite lunches so far is the golden chickpea stew. It’s a fragrant mixture of chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, quinoa, and potatoes, enhanced with warming spices like ginger and curry. This meal is light on its own–the Veestro meals vary in size and density, which means that it’s important to customize them as needed–so I enjoyed it with extra quinoa, and I threw in some arugula that I had left in my fridge for texture.

For midday comfort food, I recently loved the enchilada casserole, which is packed with plant protein, thanks to tofu and veggies. Steven has been enjoying the meals right along with me, and he gave this one two big thumbs up.

I loved the creativity of the adzuki bean spaghetti entree. It’s topped with garbanzo veggie balls, summer squash and mushrooms, and a flavorful marinara sauce. I think it’s cool that it’s made with a bean pasta for extra protein power, and that it’s a suitable dish for both GF and non-GF folks.

Finally, one of the dishes I remember most fondly from the first time I sampled Veestro was a kale salad with quinoa, cranberries, tempeh, and a tahini dressing. It was a great combination of sweet and savory flavors, and I thought that the quinoa and tempeh pieces gave it really nice texture contrast. This meal has stood the test of time, and it’s still on the Veestro menu. And I still love it.

For me, personally, experiencing the 21-day kick-start comes at a really nice time–a period of rest after cookbook writing, a really busy month of coursework, and the start to a new year. I mentioned that change is on my mind because of my studies, but the challenge of self-care hits home for personal reasons, too.
Last spring, maybe for the first time I can remember, I felt overwhelmed by cooking. For years, I’d listened to folks tell me how daunting the task of food preparation seemed, and while I understood, I’m not sure how directly I could empathize. I’d always taken comfort in cooking, no matter how busy life got. Even during my post-bacc, when I had practically no free time, I got it done.
Then depression hit, and everything changed. Small tasks, chores, and errands started to feel overwhelming. I was less interested in socializing, and with that came a disinterest in sharing food with others. Cooking, which usually gives me so much a pleasure and satisfaction, started to feel joyless and exhausting.
Things shifted, and I happily found my way back to the kitchen this summer. But I have a new perspective now. I know exactly how it can be that nourishment falls by the wayside in the face of a personal struggle. I know that there are many circumstances in which cooking is anything but straightforward or simple. And I appreciate any resource, tool, or service that can step in, offer support, and provide practical solutions.
If meal delivery is something you’ve considered, and you’d like to explore it through a vegan brand that’s focused on food that’s both accessible and wholesome, the Veestro 21-day kickstart is an awesome place to begin. In addition to the vegan meals, you’ll get weekly fitness challenges and wellness checklists. These are optional, of course (I’m just using the wellness checklists myself), but the resources are there if you want them, and they’re a great reminder that wellness goes beyond food.
Thinking about it? Or maybe you’d like to suggest it to a loved one who’s trying to go vegan or eat healthier in the new year? Right now all readers of this blog can sign up for the 21-day Yes I Can program at a 20% discount, using the code 21daysTFH at checkout. You can also explore the program offerings, see a list of sample meals, read FAQs, and learn much more over at the Veestro website.
There’s more cool news: the Veestro team will be offering one of my readers a chance to get a free 21-day kickstart package in a giveaway that I’ll be sharing next weekend–along with more meal reviews, and some thoughts on food and nutrition as a part of the self-care process.
As always, I’m starting this new year totally committed to helping all readers of this blog feel empowered and inspired. If you’re just stumbling on this space, and you’d like to sign up for email updates, you’ll get my free plant-based starter kit delivered to your inbox. It includes easy recipes, tips for making the transition to veganism, a sample grocery list, and more. And of course, you can always check out my recipe page for meals that suit your dietary needs.
I’m excited to tell you more about my experience with the “Yes I Can” challenge–and how it’s helping me to think about self-care–next week. For now, happy Friday, and I’ll see you for weekend reading.
xo
This post is sponsored by Veestro and its 21-day “Yes I Can” challenge. All opinions are my own, and I think this wellness initiative rocks. Thanks for your support!
The post “Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro appeared first on The Full Helping.