Thursday, January 31, 2013

Transitioning to a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle - Step 4

(roasted vegetables with goat cheese)

How are you doing make lifestyle changes?  I hope the first three changes are starting to stick now.  Let’s recap what we have done so far:
  • Drinking enough water
  • Consuming at least 10 servings of veggies and fruit per day
  • Adding at least one cup of beans to your meals per day

The most difficult change for me in this list was the 10 servings of veggies.  However once I conquered that one I felt so much better that I knew this lifestyle was something that I would do for the rest of my life. I hope you are also starting to feel the benefits.  J

Today’s step is also going to be difficult for many of you but once you have mastered it, you are going to feel incredible so I hope you are willing to at least give it a try.  The next step is to give up cheese.  Are you still with me? I am sure some of you nearly fainted when you read that and were thinking cheese would be way down the line. However there is a reason that cheese is so high on my list and I will explain it so that you understand.

(quick macademia nut cheese)

What is wrong with cheese?

In America we have been brainwashed by the dairy council that we need dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese) for calcium and protein and that is simply not true.  In fact consuming cheese is harmful for your health for many reasons.  No one loves cheese more than I used to.  In the past I would have told you there was no such thing as too much cheese.  I added cheese to anything and everything.  However in my defense this was many years ago, and long before I knew better.

Cheese is extremely high in fat.  Thing about how cheese is made. Milk is coagulated and during that process protein is removed and drained and that concentrates the fat in the cheese compared to milk.  Here is a little chart which shows the fat as a % of calories in various cheeses.  Please look for your favorite and think about this.

Type of cheese
% calories from fat
Cream Cheese

Did you find your favorite cheeses on this list? Were you horrified by the percentage of calories in that cheese from fat?  My personal favorite cheese has always been taleggio. However knowing that it gets 75% of its calories from fat is something that sticks in my mind.

In addition to cheese being so high in fat it is predominantly saturated fat which is the stuff that plays a big role in: high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammation.   Additionally cheese tends to lead to constipation so you will feel better if that is an issue for you.  Consuming cheese also increases your IGF-1 which fuels tumor growth.  Dr. Colin Campbell was able to show that by adding and taking away the protein in dairy he could turn on and off cancer growth in animals.   What I was saying is that if you don’t care about the extra weight that usually comes with cheese then please think about all the other problems that come with consuming cheese.

(flax crackers with nut cheese and veggies)

What do you I use in place of cheese?

This was my biggest question when we went vegan.  I felt as though I needed a little parmesan on food which I am sure is an Italian thing.  I also loved the creamy texture that cheese gives food.  Who doesn’t love a nice slab of lasagna filled with ricotta or a nice stringy queso cheese dip?   There is something gooey and comforting about cheese and I think all of us know it.  Most people don’t say to me I can’t give up milk; rather it is always I can’t give up cheese.   I still remember how hard it was to give it up.

The good news is that there are substitutes for cheese which are fairly easy to make.  While they aren’t perfect substitutes for the cheese you eat now they do mimic the texture and taste enough that they will get you through the transition.   As much as I used to love cheese I don’t miss it now.  Well I miss it when our chef friend Ian has to tell me about the taleggio he has and what he could do with it.  That Ian is a stinker. But other than that I really don’t miss cheese any more I used to eat a lot of it.

(vegan mozzarella - no soy)

When I feel that I need to aroma and umami of cheese y go to is nutritional yeast flakes. I sprinkle them on salad or veggie dishes.  If I have a bit more time I will make my walnut parmesan. That has more calories so it usually ends more on Dan’s food than mine.  When we need a cheese sauce I turn to the queso recipe which his very versatile and a good one when you are first transitioning off the cheese.  You can make almond feta if you need something cheesy on a cracker.  For ricotta you can use the tofu/cashew cheese in my vegan lasagna.  In southern Italy many recipes use toasted bread crumbs sprinkled on food in place of cheese. That is something else that you can try.  It adds a crunchy texture that I like.

Removing the cheese from your diet is a huge step.  However it is a very healthy step and I think you will feel better very quickly once you remove it.  I know that your arteries will thank you since cheese has more saturated fat than meat. 

To find any of the recipes pictured in this post enter the name into the search box on this blog in the upper left side. The recipes will come right up for you.  :-)

Happy thoughts:
  1. Today was another one of my uber busy days.  I have no idea how my life has gotten so out of control but it has.  However I am pleased that I had time to write this post during the evening.  J
  2. I am also grateful that I had time to check on my parents today and do some things for them.  Even though they know how to push my buttons they are “all mine” and I love them.  ;-)
  3. Dinner for Dan tonight was curried red lentil soup over brown rice which I also made in the pressure cooker.  I was happy for both my pressure cooker and quick and healthy recipes that Dan enjoys.
  4. I chatted with my friend Angela which is always a good time.  She cracks me up.  We all need people in our lives who make us smile.  Thanks sweetheart you are good for my soul.  J
  5. I was happy to be able to help a friend with finance homework today.   I get a lot of pleasure out of being able to do things for the people who I care about. 
  6. I almost forgot my good news from this morning.  When I got on the scale this morning it was down again.  I am now down 4.2 pounds after 3 days of juice fasting.  *woot woot*  Today I decided that I wanted to have a salad so that is how I broke my fast. But I have to tell you juice fasting can become addictive because it is so darned effective.
  7. Our weather today was glorious. It was 70 degrees in the afternoon. All I can say is wow was that a nice treat in January.  A girl could definitely get used to this weather.  Come on spring, I miss you!
  8. Next week our friends Phil and Jeff (father and son) will be in town for work and I adore going to dinner with Phil as he is such a pleasure to be around.  I am already looking forward to it.  There is nothing better than time with friends.
  9. We are half way through the week!  I am hoping for a nice weekend.  J

Signing out:

I didn’t sleep well last night so I need to be in bed before midnight tonight.  I am operating on a little bit of sleep deficit and don’t want to add to that tonight. 

I hope that your week has been good.  Talk with you again soon. Ciao for now.


  1. I wanted to get your thoughts on something. I have quit eating both brown rice and quinoa due to articles I've been reading. Do you have any thoughts? Brown rice is showing very high levels of arsenic, and quinoa is more of a fair-trade issue. I've been replacing both with barley and was thinking of picking up some millet.

    1. Good morning Brigid,

      Sorry for my delay in replying to your questions. It has been a wild week here. I am so happy that it is Friday. :-)

      Brown rice does have arsenic that the plant absorbs from the soil. However so do other foods grown in dirt. I personally am not worried about brown rice in our diet. However if we were eating a (brown rice heavy) macrobiotic diet I would be a little bit concerned. I am much more concerned about something like brown rice syrup which concentrates the arsenic level. Just so you know I haven't eliminated that either. But I also use it once every other month or so.

      You can buy fair-trade quinoa just FYI. I happen to love quinoa so that would be a tough one for me to give up. However barley is a wonderful choice and is fabulous for keeping your cholesterol in check. Millet is another fantastic choicce and is Dan's favorite whole grain. Interesting enough millet is the most alkaline grain so that is also good. :-)

      Did that help or would you like me to write a post about this? Just let me know if you think more detail would be good for everyone. :-)

      Happy Friday, hope you have a great one,

    2. That's very helpful, and thank you for your response! I will have to look into the fair-trade quinoa. I bet our health food store has it. I started using barley because it has a low glycemic load and, therefore, seemed like a better choice for my diabetic husband, but one can only eat so much. Ha. I need a little variety. I did not know that about millet! I will definitely have to pick some up. I haven't eaten any in a long time.


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