With Janet Tubbs
Janet Tubbs is a leading authority on being a vegetarian and author of If You Can't Pronounce It, Don't Eat It - ABasic Guide to Veganism.
Q. I am 65 years old and have been hearing a lot about osteoporosis. Is this really a problem for older people?
A. Loss of bone density is all too often found in vegetarians who do not eat enough protein as a substitute for meat. Many substitute pasta without realizing that the loss of protein can result in painful fractures and decompressed spinal discs. Bone density loss occurs naturally as we age, however we are seeing more and more cases in younger people. If you have a diet that is healthy and contains a balance of fruit, vegetables, protein, calcium and carbohydrates, it will help to keep this condition at bay. However, the food we eat today doesn't have the same quality of vitamins and nutrients that it did a few generations ago mainly due to soil depletion. It is important that we take vitamins and supplements to keep our entire body healthy with extra protein and calcium.
Q. I would like to know if you can tell me a simple breakfast I can make with tofu. I love it.
A. I think you'll like this quick, easy and attractive breakfast. In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil. Cut a 1/2" slice of tofu from the brick and cut into cubes. Cut a portabella mushroom into cubes and brown both in the skillet, turning frequently.
While this is browning, steam some frozen mixed vegetables. Everything takes about the same time to cook. Sprinkle some Bragg's Liquid Aminos on the tofu and mushrooms. Grind a little Celtic salt on the veggies, mix all together and enjoy!
Q: What is your favorite vegetable and how do you prepare it?
A. I had to really think about this question and find it difficult to pick just one. I love all kinds of squash and there are so many varieties with different flavors to choose from. Acorn squash is one of my favorites and like all squash, it is very easy to prepare. I cut it in half and place it in a baking dish with about 1/2" water.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife can be inserted easily.Steaming this way preserves the freshness and the lovely color. You can fill the cavity with your favorite stuffing or simply add a little olive oil and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. When I have guests, this is served in a small salad bowl so they can easily eat it with a spoon. Many have never seen the squash before and love it. To complete a tasty, nutritious meal, I often brown a veggie burger or a Boca sausage and add a green vegetable and spinach salad.
Q. My seven-year-old daughter won't eat meat. Isn't this dangerous?
A. Many young children and teens today are also refusing to eat meat. I doubt that a seven-year old would be influenced by health or animal rights concerns. It is more likely that she intuitive knows what is best for her body.
I wouldn't worry about it as long as she is getting protein from another source. I recommend checking your local health food store and supermarket for soy products. There are many to choose from ranging from soy chicken nuggets and burgers to pizzas and ice cream.
A daily multi-vitamin is a good idea, but check the label. Most of them for children contain sugar and artificial coloring. After all, we want them to look and taste good, don't we? ;)
Q. Your column has helped me so much and I really like the recipes. I have a different request though and hope you can give some suggestions. I would like to do a fast and think I can do it easily but don't know how to go about it. Do you fast and do you just drink water?
A. I think fasts are a great idea for those who can go without solid food. There are many reasons for fasting; for example spiritual holidays, enlightenment, or to give the digestive system a rest.
I do fast periodically and in fact, just did a short four-day fast. Ordinarily, they are for one or two weeks. I would never suggest a water fast because I don't think it is healthy. If you don't have a blender, you might consider purchasing one at a department or health food store. Fresh carrot juice is delicious. Please don't buy canned carrot juice!
I alternate my liquids during the day: plain carrot juice, carrot/beet/celery, diluted grape/ and apple juice. I often add parsley or spinach to the carrot juice. I usually make a large pot of vegetable soup - or simply potassium broth with potatoes - strain and drink it during the day. If you take vitamins, continue to take them during the fast. And add a little extra protein powder.
Remember that fasting is a state of mind. If you are fasting for a spiritual reason and are consumed with thoughts of eating, you have just defeated the purpose of the fast.
I need to emphasize that not everybody can fast. Often detoxing takes place and causes dizziness. This is actually good, but it can make an inexperienced faster fear that they are causing harm to their body by not eating.
Q: I would like a quick snack for my kids that tastes good too. Any ideas?
A: Here's a favorite with kids of all ages and one that your children can make. It couldn't be easier! Just spread pizza sauce (or spaghetti sauce) on plain rice cakes, top with mozzarella cheese and heat in the oven until the cheese melts. You can also use soy cheese, but I haven't yet found one that melts or tastes like the real mozzarella. Children aren't quite as fussy as grown-ups though, so these are a hit.
Q: What is your favorite recipe for turkey stuffing?
A: I may not eat turkey, but I love dressing! My favorite recipe has been used by my mother when I was a child, by me when my children were growing up and by my children, so it must be pretty good -- or we're sticklers for tradition.
Tear a loaf of white bread into pieces and place in a large bowl. Add a small amount of boiling water, just enough to moisten and let stand while you go to the next step.
Melt ˝ stick of butter in skillet and add one chopped onion. Sauté lightly and add to bread in the bowl. Add ˝ tsp of sage or poultry seasoning and mix together. If it is too dry, add more water, a little at a time, until it is moist. Taste to see if it needs a little more seasoning and add a sprinkle of salt if you like.
Bake in covered casserole at 350 for 25-30 minutes and enjoy.
Q: I have only been married for a few months and have been invited to my husband's parents for Christmas dinner. They don't know I'm vegetarian. How can I tell them I don't eat turkey without hurting their feelings?
A: This is not as difficult a situation as many people think it might be. Tell them how pleased you are to be invited to their house for the holiday dinner and that you are a vegetarian. You needn't apologize for not eating meat, but do ask if you can bring a vegetarian dish for everybody to try. If your mother-in-law protests that it's not necessary, don't insist. She probably will prepare plenty of food that you'll be able to eat. Who knows? She may be ready to stop eating meat too.
Q: I love spaghetti and meatballs but my boyfriend is a vegetarian. I want to make a nice Italian dinner without meat. Is this possible?
A: Yes, it's not only possible, it's delicious. You can make your own meatballs or buy them frozen at Trader Joe's, if there is a store near you.
Mash one package of firm tofu. Add bread crumbs to make a mixture that sticks together and is easy to handle. Add 1/8 tsp each oregano and garlic powder. Chop ˝ onion very fine and add to mixture. Blend all ingredients well.
Shape into medium sized balls and brown in olive oil, shaking the pan to be sure they brown on all sides. Add to your favorite sauce and spoon over cooked spaghetti.
Serve with a crisp green salad and crusty French bread that has been drizzled with olive oil sprinkled with garlic powder and heated in the oven.
Q: I need your help. My son has ADHD and is very hyperactive. He has been on several different kinds of drugs. He is 8 years old and very smart for his age but he gets into trouble in school. Somebody said that diet might help. Is this true? We are lacto ovo vegetarians.
A: Yes, diet is a major factor in the behavior of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Most cases of ADHD are caused by allergies to dairy products and when these items are removed from the diet changes in children are often dramatic.
They are not as hyperactive, less sensitive, dark circles under the eyes disappear, they are happier, and no longer have runny noses. There are many soy products that provide protein found in dairy products.
Q: Why do I feel funny when I eat peanuts? When I turned vegetarian, I started eating a lot of peanuts for protein but now I wonder if there's something wrong.
A: This could be a sign of an allergic reaction to peanuts, which is very common and unfortunately, can be deadly. Please make an appointment with an allergist and have him test you for this. Some people have difficulty breathing if they are in the same room with peanuts and some schools have banned peanut butter sandwiches because one or two children have this allergy.
Q: With summer coming, I need a recipe for a quick salad that I can take on a picnic. Do you have one?
A: Here's a layered salad that couldn't be easier. Combine chopped avocados, celery, carrots, radishes, zucchini, jicama, broccoli and cauliflower. Add cherry tomatoes, frozen peas, and canned kidney beans. A little olive oil, a squirt of Bragg's Liquid Aminos and dash each of garlic powder and cayenne will make a great salad that won't spoil in the summer heat. This is particularly attractive if it's layered in a glass bowl.
Q: I would like to know if there is a substitute for milk that tastes good and not like cardboard.
A: Some health food stores have rice milk which seems to have a better flavor than soy and there is a product called Silk that is an excellent milk substitute. It's available in vanilla and chocolate and available in some grocery stores. I only use it on cereal but some people say it tastes just like milk.
Q: Did you really lose 35 lbs. when you stopped eating meat? I bet it's easier if you live alone than if you have to cook for a husband like mine. He'll make a fuss.
A: Yes, I did and it wasn't difficult at all. First, I didn't substitute pasta for meat, which is the downfall of many aspiring vegetarians. Secondly, I love to cook and used to make large meals for my husband and four children so there was plenty to eat besides meat. I found that for a long time no one noticed that I wasn't eating meat and realized that it's only a big deal if you make it a big deal and keep bringing it up at the table.
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