Interview with Sayward Rebhal, author of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide  »

My general strategy for attacking something that’s new or unknown to me — or even just interesting — is to bury myself in information, often in the form of books. This has lead to a personal library that covers a few topics, like cats and vegan cooking and nutrition, in great depth. It also probably makes people think I’m weird, but I am a nerd and I like to arm myself with information!

Naturally, when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to stock up on all the pregnancy and baby books I could get my hands on. There are a lot of those, to be sure, but there aren’t that many that address concerns specific to vegan (or even vegetarian) pregnant women. My experiences in skipping over a lot of stuff like “How much dairy to eat while you’re pregnant” is part of why I wanted to do this series for Vegansaurus in the first place. It’s also why I was so happy to receive a copy of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal, awesome blogger of Bonzai Aphrodite and badass vegan mama.

VPSG is a short read, but it’s packed with information — even with as much as I’d read already, I found stuff to take away from the book that I hadn’t yet come across. It’s also nicely organized — you can read the whole thing or just flip to the section that’s relevant for where you are in your baby-growing experience. And it’s friendly and conversational without having that irritating “Girlfriend OMG let me tell you ALL ABOUT pregnancy!!!1!!” attitude that some women-oriented reference books employ. I think I dog-eared every second page of this one and I know I’ll come back to it often.

Ms. Rebhal was kind enough to answer some questions for me about the book, her own pregnancy experience, and what she hopes to work on next. Read on!

What made you decide to write a book about pregnancy from a vegan perspective?
When I first found out I was pregnant, I did what most newly knocked-up ladies do: I went looking for books! At the Herbivore store here in Portland,  I was wandering around in circles when the owner, Michelle, asked if I needed anything. I said, “Yeah, where are all the books on vegan pregnancy?” And she was like “NOWHERE … you should write one!”

That was basically the start of my friendship with Michelle and Josh. They were awesome during my pregnancy, and after my son was born, I decided to take Michelle up on her offer. I wanted to write a book so that other people wouldn’t have to do what I did (hours and hours of exhaustive research, piecing the puzzle together from every corner of the Internet), and I asked Josh and Michelle if they would help me publish it. Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide was released by Herbivore in late 2011.

Were there any particular challenges you came across in finding information about pregnancy and post-partum care for vegans?
Yes and no. I mean, the underlying pregnancy and post-partum care is the same for vegans as it is for non-vegetarians. We all have the same requirements, you know? So it was more a matter of understanding universal pregnancy/postpartum needs, and then modifying things with a vegan twist. Mostly it was pretty straightforward. Sometimes it took a little creativity, which was fun (if you’re a geek like me). Sometimes, like when I had to spend a whole day calling all the major over-the-counter drug manufacturers to verify which products were and were not vegan, well that was not so easy or fun.

How has the response to the book been?
So great! There was definitely a hole there that needed to be filled. Especially since, I think, becoming pregnant can be sort of unsettling. It was for me. I never doubted my choices until I was pregnant, but when you’re suddenly responsible for a life … and it happens to be the very most precious life in the whole world … that’s a ton of pressure! So I think a lot of women are just grateful to have a little friend in their back pocket going “Yeah! You got this! Here, try X or Y or Z, you’re doing awesome.”

You’ve had one vegan pregnancy now — is there anything you’d do differently the next time around?
I’d take my own advice, and eat less sugar!

Any favorite vegan products for pregnant women and babies?
Oh yes. The brand Earth Mama Angel Baby is all vegan/cruelty-free and really amazing. Their stuff uses only natural ingredients and the whole line receives a “0” on the Cosmetic Safety Database rating system (that’s the best score, it means no risk whatsoever). The Baby Bottom Balm is great for diaper rash prevention, and the Mama Nipple Butter is essential for those first few weeks of breastfeeding. Every other nipple product (and I mean EVERY one) uses lanolin. Earth Mama Angel Baby has all sorts of other products too. They’re the best!

Finally, are you planning a follow-up book — vegan child care, perhaps?!
Honestly, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that you just can’t judge other parents, because kids are just too different and every situation is unique. So I don’t think I’d feel comfortable instructing people on how to raise their kids.

However, for the same reason that I wrote Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, I’d love to write a kid-centric cookbook. There’s not a lot out there for vegan kiddos! I’m super lucky to have a huge community of vegan families in my area, and I dream of compiling a massive compendium filled with their most delicious, nutritious, children-approved recipes. Lots of color, lots of photos, lots of stories and style and tips and strategies. I have such a strong vision for this book, and I really hope to see it through some day. (Hey publishers - email me!) (Just kidding) (No, but not really)

Thanks, Sayward! And everyone, read my other posts about vegan pregnancy and let’s rap about swollen ankles and designing nurseries on Pinterest. Go!


Vegan Pregnancy: Let’s talk about fiber!  »

One of the biggest head trips about pregnancy is the fact that all of a sudden, your body is largely out of your control. I’m used to a state of affairs where I know the cause-effect relationship behind the changes in my physique. Looking fine in them jeans? Why yes, I have been working out! Sporting a new muffin top? Damn you, delicious Oreos!

But once you’re up the duff, things will happen to your body—sometimes overnight—and you will not really understand why. You will also not necessarily be warned about them. I knew that my stomach would get bigger, of course. I expected my boobs to do the same, though not quite as remarkably or quickly as they did. (Ow.) But were you aware that when you’re pregnant, your nipples get darker? I was not! It’s nice to be warned about these things!

There are actually biological reasons for these changes, though—those darker, saucer-sized nipples help your blurry-eyed newborn easily find them to nurse, for example. That’s a good trick, evolution! Here’s another: When you’re pregnant your digestion slows down, giving your body more time to get nutrients from your food to your fetus. Pretty cool. However, this change comes with an unfortunate side effect: constipation.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m vegan, I couldn’t possibly get constipated! I eat all the legumes! And that may be true, but I know you nodded when I mentioned Oreos. The thing is, even if you’re pretty good about your fiber intake, normal rules no longer apply. Your baby wants to steal all your vitamins and minerals, and your digestive tract is complying, so you’ve got to bring out the big guns or else risk getting hemorrhoids. Apparently that’s a common feature of pregnancy too!

I don’t want hemorrhoids. I have gone my entire adult life (thus far) without them, and I hope to continue that streak. And I know you don’t want them either. That’s why we’re going to talk about all the roughage you need to get into your body in between bouts of nausea and all that napping.

There are actually two kinds of dietary fiber that you need to pay attention to: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and slows down the time it takes for food to exit your stomach and get into your intestines, which in turn means that sugars are released and absorbed more slowly. This kind of fiber helps to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol, which is the kind you particularly don’t want to have. It also helps to keep your blood sugar regulated, which is important if you are diabetic, or have gestational diabetes. Oats, dried peas and beans, nuts, barley, flax seed, fruits, and vegetables all provide soluble fiber.

The other kind of fiber, insoluble, helps to keep the bulk of food waste moving along through your intestines, preventing constipation and keeping your guts at a healthy pH level. This keeps you pooping on the regular, which means you’re getting waste out of your body efficiently, and is tied to colon cancer prevention. You get this kind of fiber when you eat vegetables like green beans and leafy greens, fruit and root vegetable skins, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

The average ratio of fiber is 75 percent insoluble to 25 percent soluble, but don’t get hung up on that; lots of foods provide both types. Just focus on eating lots of high-fiber foods in general, and the ratio will likely even out.

How much is “lots,” exactly? The American Pregnancy Association recommends getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily when you’re pregnant. It’s also important to drink lots of fluids. You need a good amount when you’re pregnant anyway, and the liquid helps keep things chugging through your digestive tract. Exercise can also literally help keep things moving, along with just being good for you in general. Talk with your medical pro about what’s right for you when you’re knocked up.

As an added bonus, a lot of the foods that are high in fiber—particularly legumes and whole grains—are also good sources of iron and zinc, important minerals for baby-growing. And because iron supplements can be constipating, it’s great to get as much iron from food sources as you can. Finally, getting enough fiber could also help prevent preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous vascular condition that can affect pregnant women. Now go eat some roughage!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.

[photo by Jessica via Flickr]


"But how do you get your protein—FOR THE BABY?!" Vegansaurus gets pregnant!  »

When you’re pregnant, everyone has advice for you. They know which doctor or midwife you should use and which hospital you should deliver at, or if you should have the baby at home instead. They know how much weight you should gain and where you should do prenatal yoga—you are doing prenatal yoga, right? And they definitely know what you should eat.

If you’re vegan, this can go to a whole other level.

Emily Deschanel is vegan, and she stayed vegan during her recent pregnancy. Last fall, she was on the cover of FitPregnancy, and in the interview she talked about her veganism. According to Salon and other publications, staying vegan was “controversial,” and Deschanel knew it, saying “As a pregnant woman especially, people will say to me, ‘You must eat meat and dairy.’ You really have to tap into your self-esteem whenever people try to convince you you’re making the wrong choice.”

She’s not alone—a few months earlier, Glamour published a short piece called “Health Controversy: ‘I’m Vegan, and Pregnant’” featuring Crazy Sexy Life contributor Corinne Bowen.

Personally, I’ve found that the best defense in this situation is a good offense. If you’re informed about your nutritional needs during pregnancy, it’s easier to defuse people’s criticisms—or, less cynically, to address the concerns of your partner, family, and friends.

To that end, I’ll be posting about being pregnant and vegan here at Vegansaurus — I’ve got lots to learn myself, and I hope that I can pass along some of that info along the way. In all situations, I like to arm myself with information (side effect of being a journalist, I guess). Here are some of my starting places—and I’d love to hear your suggestions for future posts in the comments!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.


Vitamix: The Über Kitchen Tool Every Vegan Should Own!  »

I have wanted a super-fancy blender for a while now, and read a bunch of comparisons of Blentec and Vitamix models. But you know, while these blenders are very high quality, come with extended warranties, and can perform miracles in the kitchen, they are also quite expensive. So, I made inferior smoothies with my existing blender and dreamed of better, more smoothly mixed times.

And then: a deal to purchase a Vitamix Aspire blender on a payment plan, no interest. What’s a newly knocked-up lady to do? I need awesome smoothies for protein, guys! So a few days later, a Vitamix arrived at our house.

The Vitamix really is a handy machine, one that replaces your blender and food processor in pretty quick order. You can blend. You can chop. You can even heat up stuff to make soup! If you get the dry-goods attachment, you can mill your own flours. You can make homemade milks like almond and cashew. You can make smoothies so velvety and perfectly blended you’ll swear they were from your favorite shop. And you can make delicious salsas, chunky or otherwise. You can even make baby food!

The Vitamix comes with a recipe book, but it’s pretty hit or misss. It’s a good way to get ideas but I wouldn’t stop there. There are no shortage of recipes online—check out the wide variety at Healthy Blender Recipes to start off. You can filter them by several options, including vegan, raw, and gluten-free. Oh She Glows also has a ton of great smoothie recipes, all vegan and many gluten-free. For books, I’d check out Green Smoothie Revolution and Liquid Raw, though there is no shortage of publications with great ideas for juices, smoothies, desserts, sauces, and soups.

As you can tell, I really like my Vitamix. If it weren’t so pointy, I’d sleep with it at night. If you’ve been thinking about getting one, add this testimonial to your considerations! I’ve always been a shopping enabler.

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.


To be a healthy vegan, focus on…wait for it…health!  »

Laura has already registered her disappointment (OK, rage) at the new ad campaign from PCRM, which employs fat-shaming as a means to scare people off cheese. This campaign ignores all the good reasons why we should skip cheese—its production involves animal cruelty, eating it is not particularly good for us—and instead goes for a cheap shot at chubby thighs.

The awesome Ginny Messina already addressed why going vegan only to get skinny is likely to lead to disappointment, but she’s followed up with an article that I think is also worth mentioning here. Messina’s post for One Green Planet, The 7 Habits of Healthy Vegans, does a great job of focusing on vegan health regardless of size. Her suggestions apply to everyone—we could all be a bit healthier by eating legumes more often, choosing whole grains, and loading up on veggies. 

I actually did lose weight when I became vegetarian, and I also lost weight when I had to give up gluten. I didn’t lose any extra when I went vegan, but I had already changed my diet pretty drastically by then. Everyone is different. And I have no problem acknowledging that fitting into smaller pants felt great, but I could have gotten there a variety of ways; knowing that I was living my life according to my values and ethics has always felt better than skinny jeans. If you initially go vegan to lose weight and end up loving the lifestyle and learning more about how awesome it is, fabulous. But if your end goal is just a number on a scale, and you’re ignoring everything else that helps to keep us healthy and happy—mental health is part of that, too—then you’re not going to do well, no matter what your diet looks like.

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.

[photo by slightlypale via Flickr]


Elle Macpherson ingests rhino horns, sucks  »

Elle Macpherson is attractive, sure, but she looks a lot less beautiful to me after reading about this Twitter interview she recently did with The Times Online, where she discussed her use of rhino horn, saying “it works for me.”

That’s just delightful that it works for her—it probably doesn’t!—but unfortunately it definitely does not work for rhinos.

There are five species and 11 subspecies of rhinos; three of the five species are critically endangered, while white rhinos are “near threatened” and Indian rhinos are “vulnerable.” There are thought to be only about 60 Javan rhinos left in the entire world. Despite their endangered status, poaching of rhinos continues and is growing — fueled by the high prices that can be fetched for their horns, which are used in Chinese medicine. Rhino horn is worth about 50 percent more, per kilogram, than gold, which only contributes further poaching. When you get celebrities like Elle Macpherson talking about how awesome rhino horn powder is — even if it’s also illegal for her to use it — the appeal of the product is only heightened.

IFAW quickly denounced Macpherson’s statements, but you can help as well: Talk to people about rhinos and why their poaching for horns is such a problem, donate to a group working towards their conservation, and maybe consider sending a reasonable and informed tweet to Ms. Macpherson to let her know that what she’s supporting is dangerous and wrong, and why.

[photos by Clem Evans and John Morris via Flickr]


Ch-ch-ch-chia!  »

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I made a list of 101 things to do in 1,001 days. So much can happen to send a year off track, but I figure 1,001 days — about three years — is plenty of time to get my ass in gear. One of my goals is to drink a chia fresca before bed each night every day for a month — if you don’t know about chia, read on to find out why I think that’s a good idea.

Read More


Cookbook Gifts: Sometimes you just want dinner to be classy! Enter the ladies of Spork Foods  »

Look, I am never going to tell you that your meal is not fancy enough. Most of my cooking is of the “What’s in the fridge today?” variety. But maybe you are throwing a nice dinner party, or you want to make a dish with which to impress and shock all your omnivorous friends: “That’s right, it’s vegan!” In those circumstances, Spork-Fed—the new cookbook from the ladies of Spork Foods—will help you out.

Spork Foods is a gourmet vegan food company based in Los Angeles that is operated by two sisters, Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. The offer vegan cooking classes in person and online, and in the fall they released their first cookbook, Spork-Fed.

The recipes in this book don’t look easy to execute, but they do look delicious. They cover a variety of meals and situations, from brunch to appetizers to desserts, and the suggested menus at the beginning of the book are helpful for the culinarily stunted (like, uh, me). The carrot soup with mint oil, corn fritters with lemongrass, and glazed tempeh particularly stood out for me. I also appreciate that they mark the recipes that are gluten-free.

If you’re looking to step up your game in the kitchen, this is a good one to pick up.

Also — if you’re in Los Angeles online, Groupon has a deal on Spork classes right now! Get up on it!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.

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