Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Maui - The Vegan Capital of the World!

I just returned from Maui, where we bought some property earlier this year.  I have always yearned for a place on Maui, but had just assumed that if we ever bought a place, it would be a small condo somewhere near Kihei – the touristy side of the island that I was most familiar with.  In a surprising and seriously synchronistic chain of events, Mark and I ended up buying 8 acres in Haiku with a Vegan Farm Sanctuary on it (www.LeilaniFarmSanctuary.org) … and I anticipate that it will be one of the best things we have ever done.

Why do I bring this up here, in my vegan blog?  I bring it up because I consider Maui to be the “Vegan Capital of the World,” especially the North Shore, where the towns of Pa’ia and Haiku are famous for their vegan and raw food populations and their focus on spirituality. 

Just about all restaurants in the area actively offer vegan options, and there are three restaurants in Haiku/Pa’ia that are 100% vegan - The Fresh Mint, Veg Out and Prana Nui.  Even in large cities, 100% vegan restaurants are hard to come by, much less in small towns like Haiku and Pa’ia.  Non-vegan restaurants here almost always offer vegan options – the Pa’ia Burrito at Maui Tacos is perfect when you’re starving after a long day at the beach, and the Vegan Pizza at Flatbread is to die for.

Local tourist shops carry a lot of vegan clothing, hats and gifts, reflecting Maui’s natural focus on preserving our resources and being kind to the earth.  You’ll see a lot of people hitchhiking – many who are young surfers that can’t afford a car, but others who simply choose not to own a car and contribute to polluting our air.

The grocery store in Pa’ia – Mana Foods – is literally crammed with vegan options, and you’ll bump into people as you squeeze between the vegan frozen soft-serve and the hot-from-the-oven vegan scones.  They don’t just carry a few brands of soymilk – they carry pretty much all brands, and the same goes for all other types of vegan substitutes.  For those feeling a little lazy at dinner time, Mana’s vegan frozen food section goes as far as the eye can see, and their produce section is packed with straight-from-the-trees/ground produce that is delivered fresh from local farmers.  Their deli is a vegan smorgasbord, making it very difficult to decide what to eat for lunch, and includes a fantastic salad bar with all your naughty favorites – macaroni salad, potato salad, etc – all done vegan! 

While you’re in Mana Foods, spend some time reading the community bulletin board.  Here, you’ll find information on vegan cooking classes, raw food retreats, yoga and meditation classes, and a multitude of spiritual gatherings.  If you’re in need of a serious health cleanse, take up residence at The Temple of Peace, where they’ll feed you raw food and juice you for several days.

I never found it that challenging to travel as a vegan … I can always find a salad, some veggie sushi or a veggie pizza with no cheese.  But on the other hand, I rarely find vegan culinary delights when I travel.  Maui is different.  If you’re looking for an amazing getaway, lots of sun, activities and like-minded vegans, head to Maui.  To really get enmeshed in the vegan community, stay at the North Shore and immerse yourself in the community by going to classes, gatherings and meetups.  Who knows … if Maui calls to you, you too, might soon call Maui home!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vegan Athletes

I have had a rash of questions lately about how to use the vegan diet to optimize athletic performance.  While I have race-walked marathons and played competitive tennis as a vegan, I have never paid particular attention to my diet while competing – I just ate my regular vegan diet.  However, if you are interested in optimizing your athletic performance, I do have some advice…

First, google vegan athletes in your area of interest.  Robert Cheeke is famous for vegan bodybuilding.  Scott Jurek is a world-champion vegan ultra-marathoner.  Martina Navratilova – the tennis player with the most grand slam championships in the world – was vegan before most people even knew what vegan was.  See what vegan athletes in your area of interest have to say on their websites about how they get the best performance out of their diet.

Second, check out books about vegan athletic performance.  There are not many out there, but my favorite is Thrive by Brendan Brazier.  As an Ironman Triathlete, Brendan began tweaking his diet in small increments in his teens, in an effort to maximize his performance.  As he deleted items and added items in and out of his diet, he finally came to a diet that he felt absolutely allowed him to perform at his peak.  As it turned out, that diet was 100% vegan, and nearly fully raw. 

Finally, experiment yourself.  Try eliminating fat for a week.  Try eating small meals throughout the day, versus eating three larger meals.  Try wheatgrass shots, different hydration methods, and varying your protein intake.  Take notes and notice how you feel when you wake up, before you work out, after you work out, and throughout the day.

With a little extra effort, your vegan diet can catapult your performance.  Just ask Carl Lewis, Mike Tyson, or Tony Gonzalez!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Meals

If you are a busy person or can’t stand spending your time in the kitchen, you always appreciate a really quick meal.  One of the easiest I’ve found is lettuce wraps.

To make a lettuce wrap, you simply buy romaine lettuce (or endive, or any type of lettuce that you can make a little cup out of,) take a favorite filling and put it inside the lettuce cup.  Roll it up and eat it like a burrito! 

Do you have leftover Mexican dip from yesterday’s party?  Leftover veggie ceviche (see January 20th blog)?  Leftover couscous?  Many types of leftovers can easily be wrapped up in lettuce leaves and made into a quick meal.  Here are a couple of easy ideas, in case you don’t have leftovers handy:

Black Bean Lettuce Wraps
Take a can of black beans, 2 tablespoons of salsa, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.  Mix together, put into lettuce cups and serve.

Hummus Lettuce Wraps
Spread hummus on lettuce leaves, top with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, chopped basil and chopped kalamata olives.  Roll up and serve.

Kid’s Lettuce Wraps
Spread almond butter on lettuce leaves, slice banana on top, and serve.  This is a fantastic way to get your kids to eat greens!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to be a Classy Vegan Guest

“HELP!  I’ve been invited to someone’s home for dinner!  How do I tell them I’m vegan?”  This is one of the biggest conundrums for vegans – eating at other people’s homes.  But it doesn’t have to turn into drama.  Follow these steps to make sure you are a respectful guest … and get a great meal!

1.      Tell or remind the host/ess that you are vegan.  You may think the person knows or that they remember you are vegan, but you really don’t want to show up and find that they didn’t know or didn’t remember after all, and have them become horribly embarrassed that they don’t have anything appropriate for you, or feel that they have to scramble in the midst of all of their other preparations to make you something vegan.  Unless you are 100% sure they know that you are vegan, it’s best to pick up the phone and politely remind them.
2.      Offer to bring a dish.  When I call the hostess, I always offer to bring a dish.  I say something like, “I just wanted to call because I wasn’t sure if you remembered that I eat a vegan diet.  I really don’t want to put you to any more work, so would it be helpful if I brought a vegan dish to supplement your meal, and I’ll bring enough for everyone?”  I usually throw in something like, “Many people have found this makes life much easier for them!” which lets them assume that most other hostesses accept this offer, and they feel like they can too. 
3.      Make it easy.  If the hostess tells you not to worry about bringing your own dish, then you may want to offer to help.  If she sounds a little clueless about how to go about making a vegan meal, “Don’t worry about bringing a dish – I’ll figure it out,” then I either offer again to bring a dish, or ask if it would be helpful if I e-mailed over any recipes.  If your hostess is really excited to experiment in the kitchen, then just sit back and enjoy!  But …
4.      Make sure your hostess understands what a vegan diet is.  This is the most important step.  If your hostess is definitely going to cook for you, then make sure that she really knows what a vegan diet is.  A family member of mine got Italian take-out when I came over, which should have had tons of options, but came back with Eggplant Parmesan, pasta with cream sauce and salad with cheese.  She was horrified when my cousin pointed out that none of it would work for me.  I could have prevented her that embarrassment if I had been really clear about what I could and could not eat.

It can be tricky to eat at someone’s house as a vegan, but it doesn’t need to be.  The important thing is to remember to be proactive about what you can and cannot eat, gracious about whatever works best for them, and thoughtful about how you can help.