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The Vegan Diet - are You Up for Oprah's Challenge?

new astrological signsOnce again, Oprah Winfrey has spurred a diet trend – on today’s show, the Vegan Challenge, Oprah and 378 Harpo staffers committed to go vegan as Kathy Freston and Michael Pollan discussed issues surrounding food, health, and the role animals play in our food system. Veganism – no meat, no milk, no animal anything – is difficult, but promotes whole foods and makes it difficult to subsist on packaged meals or takeout. The challenge: for North Americans to go from super-sized to veganized. Could you do it? I’m not sure I could.

Veganism is not new – and there’s no doubt that it offers health benefits, as well as the potential to lose weight as people cut back on calorie-dense foods. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada approve of a vegan diet as appropriate for all stages of life, but caution that poorly planned vegan diets can be deficient in vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also important to know how to get a sufficient intake of protein (beans and grains are high on my list, even as a carnivore), so if you’re giving the vegan life a shot, read up on it first.

As always, Oprah is offering help. If you’re in, you can find the Starter Kit here, and you can watch Kathy Freston’s Cooking Lesson here. And if you need a boost, Oprah also offers a three-week meal plan, grocery list, and helps with culinary substitutions, if you don’t know what to use to replace ingredients like milk, eggs and butter.

And to help you along during Super Bowl, here’s an easy guacamole recipe to snack on with corn chips or tortillas – now that’s not so difficult, is it?

Guacamole

Make sure your avocadoes are ripe or they won’t mash very well. The best way to tell if an avocado is ripe is by squeezing it – a ripe avocado will yield to gentle pressure. If you need to ripen them fast, put them in a paper bag with an apple to speed up the process.

2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1 glove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped or grated purple onion (optional)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
a few chopped cherry, strawberry or grape tomatoes (optional)

Mash everything (except the tomatoes, if you’re using them) together with a fork to make it as smooth or as chunky as you like. Stir in the tomato if you’re using it. Serves 6.

Per serving: 111 calories, 10.3 g total fat (1.6 g saturated fat, 6.4 g monounsaturated fat, 1.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 1.4 g protein, 5.8 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.8 g fiber. 76% calories from fat

Tortilla Chips: To make tortilla chips, simply cut fresh flour tortillas into wedges (this is easy to do in quantity if you stack them first) and bake on a cookie sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until crisp.

Chili Lime Corn Chips: Brush fresh corn tortillas with lime juice and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, chili powder and cumin. Cut into wedges and bake on a cookie sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until crisp.

The Challenge is on! Could you do it?

Photo credit: istockphoto/ariwasabi

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