What’s On My Thanksgiving Menu

With just over a week away from Thanksgiving, it is time to start planning the menu for the big day. This is my first Thanksgiving on a whole foods plant-based diet. It’s about to get interesting. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is centered around processed meats, lots of fat and butter, and sugar-laden desserts. Any vegetable on the table is typically baked into a casserole with cheese or butter. The only semi-healthy item is the salad (which wasn’t a common option on Thanksgiving in my family for what I can remember) but any health aspect was negated by the cheese and fatty dressing poured on top.

And then the stomach ache and drowsiness would set in.

Ever wonder why you get so tired after a big meal? On Thanksgiving, many blame the turkey because it contains tryptophan. However, this myth was dispelled over a decade ago by a study done at MIT. Turkey only contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid, in small quantities. What happens is that tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Since it is found in animal proteins in a smaller ratio, it is typically last in line for transport. So if anything, consuming turkey actually lowers tryptophan levels. When tryptophan is consumed as part of an animal protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise while brain tryptophan levels decline.

Lower tryptophan levels are associated with depression so being able to have it cross the blood-brain barrier is key. On Thanksgiving day, what’s more likely happening is the refined carbohydrates and fat are increasing the release of insulin, which causes the muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel and allows the tryptophan to be first in line for brain access. Once in the brain, this leads to an increased production of serotonin–the “happy hormone” and some of it gets converted to melatonin, a chemical associated with helping sleep.

The reason you feel so much sleepier than usual on Thanksgiving is because of the sheer amount of calories you’re consuming–>not only does that surge of serotonin production lead to melatonin, but your body has to use so much energy just to digest all of that food. Also, being dehydrated can exacerbate your lethargy, so make sure to drink plenty of water!

An alternative is to eat a plant-based meal that will not cause the sugar high and subsequent crash. Whole plant foods are nutrient dense and fill you up sooner with less calories. It is REALLY HARD to over eat on a whole foods plant-based diet. And those complex carbs break down slower which means a more gradual release of insulin rather than a spike.

calories

And when consuming foods with a high tryptophan-to-total protein ratio such as pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or roasted soy beans, tryptophan levels in the brain increase. This may be why studies show that those eating plant-based diets have superior mood states. You heard that right–I’m happier than you omnivores!

veganbaking

This is what they meant by better mood, right?

This year Daniel and I are hosting my family for Thanksgiving so I have been getting pumped up to plan the menu. There will be a total of 6 people. Although I am trying to stay as close to whole foods as possible, it is a holiday which calls for some rules to be broken. Don’t worry, I’m not eating animal products. But I’m okay with adding some processed foods to mix against what I just blabbed on about. You’re welcome. (Dr. Michael Gregor said what you eat on holidays and special occasions won’t affect your long term health sooo…..)

pumpkin_pie2

The Menu:

And here’s a teaser photo of those sprouts:

maple glazed brussels sprouts

You haven’t lived until you’ve had maple glazed Brussels sprouts. Even a picky eater would gobble these up.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving meal from my menu. The turkeys will thank you! xoxo

turkeys

How Your Diet Is Slowly Killing You (And All of Us) Part 4

After the first few installments of this series you probably realize by now (I would hope) how your diet is slowly killing you–but how is it killing all of us? Many people don’t realize this, but their every day food choices actually impact us all. How, you may ask? Because we only have one planet. Because at our current rate, we will need 4.1 Earths to support us. Because if we really wanted to make a difference, the biggest difference to save the earth we have, it’s not using LED light bulbs, it’s not unplugging appliances when they’re not in use, it’s not remembering to shut off the lights when you leave the room, or recycling, or choosing to walk or bike rather than drive–the biggest impact we can make is to STOP supporting animal agriculture.

Have you ever heard the saying that a vegan driving a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than an omnivore driving a Prius? I heard that saying many years ago and it never really sunk in until recently.

Late September marked the dreaded tipping point for atmospheric carbon levels. It reached 400 parts per million. This should be concerning because it is considered permanent. Although the forests and oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, at this rate we need an extra half a planet just for that.

And here’s why you should be ALARMED by this if you’re not already:

Extinction—The Nature Conservancy suggests that one fourth of Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050.

Rising sea levels—Coastlines will become flooded and communities will be displaced. In May of 2016, the residents of Isle de Jean Charles were given $48 million to move (the first U.S.-based climate refugees)

Ocean acidification and coral bleaching—delicate marine ecosystems such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are bleaching and dying from climate change. This is considered irreversible.

Bleaching of Great Barrier Reef

The leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture. Take a look at the chart below from this study based on the effects of diet and our carbon footprints.

Carbon Footprint by Diet

This is our responsibility and we have to take action now.

Below is a nicely condensed video on the topic by Dr. Oppenlander. He has done extensive research on how our choices impact the environment. It is only 14 minutes long and you can speed up the video by using the little cog in the bottom right-hand corner (my preferred way to watch YouTube).

Another big resource of information is the documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix. The facts it presents are just astounding. You can also access them at their fact page here.

I know it’s a lot to take in so here are some key facts I’ve gathered from these videos and around the web:

  • Animal agriculture is the leading contributor to the amount of methane gas being released into our atmosphere. Methane gas traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5 year period, and 72 times more within a 20 year period. However, it leaves the atmosphere within a decade. Therefore, reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately according to a U.N. press release in 2014.
  • Growing feed for livestock consumes 56% of the water in the U.S.
  • Livestock and livestock feed occupies one third of the earth’s ice-free land
  • Animal agriculture is responsbile for up to 91% of the Amazon destruction
  • It is predicted that we will have fishless oceans by 2048
  • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 Billion people but more than 50% of this grain is fed to livestock

I know some may not find this information interesting—I’m a nerd like that—but I felt it was necessary to present all of this first to get the cogs turning so that you will hopefully do more research and make that connection with this lifestyle. I truly want us all to be happy, healthy, and to have a planet we can share for generations to come, and the only way we can make that happen is to educate ourselves on these issues. Vote with your dollar by not supporting these industries anymore and let’s make a difference!

So now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, stay tuned for some upcoming posts involving my favorite recipes (including bonus holiday ones!) and what my journey has been like so far with this lifestyle.

Thanks for all of the support! xoxo

P.S. In case you missed it, click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.