Monday, December 24, 2012

Give Yourself the Gift of Good Health

I know several readers of this blog are already vegan, while some are just vegan-curious. Still others read the blog because they're my friends or family members (thanks, guys!). If you read Sacramento Vegan because you're thinking about becoming a vegan, or at least incorporating more vegan meals into your diet, maybe this would be a good time to start.

What's the best way to begin? Start with a little research. The book that convinced me to go vegan was The Food Revolution, by John Robbins, which explains all the ways in which switching to a vegan diet benefits not only you, but the entire planet. He also wrote Diet for a New America, which includes a large vegan recipe section. The picture below shows just a few of the books for vegans that I have on my shelves. One book that's conspicuously absent is Dr. Neal Barnard's book, The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook. I keep buying it, but I always end up giving it away to someone who needs it more than I do. I definitely recommend it for anyone who's thinking about going vegan, as well as for those who already have. If these books aren't on the shelf at The Avid Reader or an independent bookstore in your area, your local book dealer can probably order copies for you.

If you decide to switch to a vegan diet, where would you buy your food? Most major grocery stores have a natural foods section these days, offering a variety of vegan items. In Sacramento, we're also fortunate to have the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, which carries a large selection of vegan groceries and offers occasional vegan cooking classes through their Learning Center and Cooking School. The Gluten Free Specialty Market carries many vegan products as well (I just can't get enough of their vegan mini cupcakes from Miglet's!).

But since fresh produce is pretty much the cornerstone of veganism, you'll probably want to go outside the walls of your local grocery store and buy produce closer to its source. City officials have recently declared Sacramento to be "America's Farm to Fork Capital" in recognition of all the local farms that provide fresh, seasonal produce in our region. Two great ways to purchase these wonderful fruits and vegetables are to shop at one of Sacramento certified farmers' markets, or to order a weekly produce box directly from a local farm through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

If you get tired of trying to make your own vegan meals, the whole purpose of this blog is to tell you what vegan menu options are available at local restaurants. It's easier to be a vegan at some restaurants than others, so you may want to check out the following establishments:

* The Green Boheme offers raw vegan cuisine, which is also organic, soy-free, and gluten-free. They also offer classes on raw food preparation, as well as pre-paid weekly food plans.

* Andy Nguyen's Vegetarian Restaurant offers almost exclusively vegan fare. The owner of the restaurant is a devout Buddhist, and so menu items have wonderful names like Universal Love Lemongrass and Peaceful Existence Clay Pot.

* The Plum Cafe & Bakery is a vegan restaurant in Midtown offering some really tasty bakery items. Good thing, too, since my sweet tooth didn't go away when I made the decision to go vegan!

* Any of Mai Pham's restaurants, including Lemon Grass, Star Ginger, or the Lemon Grass Asian Grill & Noodle Bar. While these are not vegan restaurants, the menus are clearly marked to indicate which items are vegan. The Vegetable Stirfry on Rice Noodles at Lemon Grass, the Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad at Star Ginger (pictured below), or the Jungle Curry at Lemon Grass Asian Grill & Noodle Bar are all outstanding.

If you do decide to take the plunge and go vegan, you'll be happy to know that there are lots of other vegans in town to keep you company, and there are vegan events throughout the year. For the past two years, the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge has taken place during the month of October, with local chefs creating special vegan dishes for the diners in their restaurants. Another fun event is the annual Sacramento VegFest, which is scheduled to take place on January 26th. The VegFest features food vendors, guest speakers, and cooking demonstrations. For information on other vegan activities, check out the website of the Sacramento Vegan Society.

I'll be taking a holiday break, so my next blog article will be posted on January 7th. Best wishes to you and your families for a happy and healthy 2013!

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