As a former vegetarian of many years, I’ve seen this diet and lifestyle choice move from the marginal to the mainstream, and now—could it be?—back again.
It seems the current foodie crop is deeply obsessed with all things animal. And while it’s great to see a focus on local and so-called more sustainable snout-to-tail menu options, it feels like vegetarians are once again being left out in the cold. Have you noticed this?
Recent visits with my sister, who is still a strict non-meat eater, have really brought this into focus. On several occasions we’ve wanted to try some new hot spot restaurant, both in LA and Toronto, only to discover that there’s barely an item on the menu that doesn’t contain some kind of meat. It’s not that veggies aren’t prominently featured everywhere, they are, just not on their own. Even the former safe bastion—the side dish—is being adulterated by animal parts.
You’d be hard-pressed these days to find a side of roasted Brussels sprouts that doesn’t contain bacon, or a swisschard sans chorizo. Even french fries are being done in duck fat.
While I acknowledge that pork does make things extra delicious (though I’m sorry, duck fat fries = overkill), I’m wondering where vegetarians and non-vegetarians are supposed to break bread together these days. Sure, there’s always Indian food, but if she wants a steak—or say, pork belly tacos—and he wants something that doesn’t feature pig ears, lamb neck gravy, lardo or marrow—just a few of the items featured on two new trendy LA menus I glanced at—they’re going to have to cook at home.
I’m being a bit hyperbolic of course: There are surely still great steak houses where a vegetarian can get a side of mashed potatoes or mac and cheese, and most of these trendy spots are both overpriced and overrated. (I don’t know about you, but I tend to go to the same three restaurants on the rare occasions I’m not cooking at home.) But fast food places seem to have given up on any attempt at veggie options too.
Remember that moment in time when even McDonald’s had a veggie burger and maybe a few meatless wraps? No more. These days road trips don’t offer a whole lot other than fries or some nasty salad that you have to pick the ham off of.
The only spot I can think of is Harvey’s in Canada, which makes one of the meanest veggie burgers I’ve ever had, but it seems they keep closing down.
The irony is that this food trend is cloaked in some kind of hunter-gatherer cool that purports to be more planet-friendly—but eating more meat, even the local kind, will never be as sustainable as eating more veggies. And while I now like to eat both, I still think Brussels sprouts are often better without bacon. There I said it.
Have the vegetarians and vegans in the crowd been a little miffed at this latest food trend? Where do you guys go where you can find great options for all?
In case you missed the memo, refined sugar is really, really bad for you.
This post from yesterday’s Lifehacker does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of how sugar reacts in the body and brain. If you’re up for an even deeper look, read the killer (pun intended!) New York Times Magazine cover story from last month, and check out this video of Dr. Lustig—who Siobhan saw speak last month at the Dr. Weil conference in SF—and see for yourself that it’s the devil.
But man does it taste good. Sweets are also tied into all kinds of comfort-and-reward-do-my-parents-love-me stuff left over from childhood. Of course, it’s ok to splurge on a sugary treat here and there, but I’m gonna get bold and say that I’ve concocted a dessert you could enjoy every day if you’d like to. And, by total happy accident, it tastes a lot like a grownup version of a McDonald’s Sundae.
In fact, if I was Bethenny Frankel I’d be calling this the Skinny Sundae and selling it to someone for a cool 100 mill. But what makes this treat so amazing is not its lack of calories (we know better than to equate low calorie with healthy, right?) but its significant lack of sugar along with its surprising nutritional density.
Here’s how you make it.
—3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt (I used the Fage 2% — feel free to try a sugar-free vegan alternative but make sure that its THICK.)
—1 tbsp vanilla extract
—Stevia to taste (Stevia is a natural sweetener made from a plant. You can get it anywhere now, and it has no glycemic impact and no creepy chems.)
—Stir in 1 tsp of organic crunchy salted peanut butter (I used one from Trader Joe’s—whatever you use, it’s gotta be crunchy and salty. I know you can’t see them in the picture—I’m not going to win any food photography awards—but those little crunches are the best part.)
—1 tsp of maple syrup (I’m using a can I smuggled home from my last visit to Quebec. It’s been in my fridge for a while and it’s nice and thick.)
To do the chocolate version drizzle instead with a melted square or two of high-quality dark chocolate. I bet raw honey would be yummy too, but not any kind of McDonald’s equivalent.
I just can’t tell you how delicious this is!
Here’s why it works: Stevia on its own has a bit of an aftertaste that takes getting used to, but that’s fully masked by the delicious flavors of vanilla, peanuts and maple syrup. And even though it’s only a teaspoon of syrup, it feels like plenty (look at the picture!) and having that real sugar in there is key to making the experience satisfying—that, along with the salty crunch of the peanut butter and the creaminess of the yogurt make it hit all of the right dessert notes.
Now let’s do a health comparison!
McDonald’s Caramel Sundae with Peanuts: 385 calories, 11.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, 160mg sodium, 62 carbs, and…. 44 GRAMS OF SUGAR.
Our Sundae (roughly the same size): 177 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 19.5 grams of protein (!!), 67.5mg of sodium, 12 carbs and… 11 GRAMS OF SUGAR.
Ow math—but clearly worth it! That’s a lot of protein, and not a lot of sugar, for something that tastes a little bit like heaven. K, this post is officially as random as my vegan cappucino one (btw, I still use coconut milk in my coffee).
Do you have any amazing lower-sugar dessert recipes to share? Bring it!
This is only slightly off topic. Via GOOD I came across a post this morning about the Happy Meal Project by New York photographer Sallie Davies. So far Davies has followed the life of an untouched happy meal for 137 days, though she plans to continue until something happens.
See, in case you didn’t notice, the above picture taken on day 137 looks shockingly like the one from day one—there’s no mold, no dinsintegration… I’d wager that, for all intents and purposes, that Happy Meal isn’t even food.
I bring this up for two reasons. One, what we eat (and how we feel) is inextricably bound to how we look. Two, nothing we put on or in our bodies should last indefinitely. While it’s not an argument without some merit, I’m so sick of hearing how important preservatives are and how the real danger is bacteria. Ok ok I get it, but can my freaking burger biodegrade on day three, guys? Does my hand cream have to last ten years?