Adopting a Plant-based Diet, One Step at a Time

by Tandis Bishop

The single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.

If you are interested in reducing or eliminating meat from your diet, remember that the transition to a vegetarian diet should be just that – a transition. New habits never take hold overnight. We are all individuals and when it comes to making lifestyle changes, we all move at our own pace. Below are some suggestions and tools you can incorporate into your life to ease your transition to a plant-based diet.

  • Start by eliminating meat from at least one meal per week.Each week, try to eliminate one more meat-based meal.This allows for a slow but progressive movement toward vegetarianism.
  • Have the right ingredients on hand to make tasty veggie foods.Here is a list with some ideas:
    • Bragg Liquid Amino’s (similar to soy sauce, great for seasoning tofu, rice, asian dishes, etc.)
    • Nutritional Yeast:A great vegetarian source of B-vitamins with a great flavor.Try it on tofu, in salad dressings and on toast.Nutritional yeast has a flavor commonly described as cheesy and nutty.
    • Spike brand seasoning (regular or salt-free): An all-purpose, all-vegetarian seasoning.Use in soups, casseroles, on tofu and tempeh, on sandwiches and salads, etc.
    • Vegetarian Stir-fry sauces: Simple to add to any vegetable dish for extra flavor.
    • Thai Curry paste for making Thai dishes or try Indian curry for Indian dishes.
    • Vegetarian chicken-flavor broth or powder: For soups, or as a seasoning.
    • Miso paste: season veggies, also good for making a soup base.
  • Try different types of meat-substitutes:
    • Vegetarian deli meat slices:Great for sandwiches. Try the many different brands available at DTE.
    • Vegetarian ground beef, sausage patties, etc. Put them in your tacos, burritos or have for breakfast.You won’t even miss the real thing!
    • Veggie burgers. DTE carries a wide selection of brands and flavors.Some taste very meat-like, others resemble meat less, but have their own delicious flavor.
    • Fried tofu cubes: There are many ways to make great-tasting tofu. Experiment with recipes on our recipe page at
    • Tempeh:A lesser-known soy product than tofu, but another delicious and nutritious meat-alternative.
  • Down to Earth is a wonderful source for products, recipes, and ideas to help you in your transition to a more plant-based diet.Please visit our store or our website.We are here to help!

How to Work a Few Extra Steps Into Your Day

by Angie Smith

Modern day conveniences have made it easier and more efficient for people to get here and there without having to exert much effort. From cars to elevators and escalators to moving walkways, technology has allowed people the opportunity to cover more ground while physically doing less. But in the world of physical health, less is not more.

According to Intenz Athletix, makers of the Intenz Athletix pedometer, which can count the number of steps a person takes, the average person logs in only around 3,000 steps to 5,000 steps each day. But they recommend each person regularly accumulate at least 10,000 steps per day to maintain good health.

The average person of modern day is trained to reach for the convenient and forgo the extra effort, but for those who are looking to lose weight and improve their health, here are some suggestions for how to make it easier to get back on track.

  • Park at the back of the parking lot. We are all in a hurry these days, but most of us can spare a few extra minutes to walk a greater distance to the store and back. The benefits you can gain are enormous and you will have the extra bonus of rarely having to fight for a parking space.
  • Take the stairs. When given the choice always choose to take the stairs as opposed to the elevator. And this also applies if you are at the mall – find out where the staircases are and choose those over the escalators.
  • Walk the airport. Unless you are disabled in some way, always choose to walk the long corridors of the airports and avoid the temptation to catch a ride or hop on one of the moving walkways.
  • Buy a pedometer. It is a useful tool to keep track of exactly how many steps you take on average per day and will give you a way to monitor your improvement.
  • Walk to get your mail. In the afternoon or evening when you go to check the mailbox, do not stop in your car as you pull into your driveway, but choose to park and walk to check it.

These are a simple suggestions for how to add more physical activity into your day. As you begin to look for more opportunities to increase the daily steps you take, you will find countless chances to increase your health and well being.

Fruits Not Fries

by Tracy Rohland

There is little shock in the fact that America has become a “fast food culture.” The abundance of fast food restaurants across the nation is leading many people to clogged arteries and added pounds. So, while fast food restaurants can not be blamed for the whole obese epidemic in the United States today, they certainly can take responsibility for being a big part of the problem.

The cheap price and convenience of fast food makes it difficult to avoid, and their “kid-friendly” advertising insures that youngsters become devoted customers at an early age. According to an article by Jeffrey Zurlinden, about 96 percent of American school-aged children recognize Ronald McDonald, second only to Santa Claus. Equally alarming is the fact that almost every American child eats at a McDonald's® at least once a month.

It is easy to say, “Stop eating fast food,” but to those who have gotten into the habit of eating fast food regularly, it is easier to say than do. Below are a few suggestions for making the transition easier:

The key to success is to PLAN AHEAD. If you know you are going to be out for the day, bring snacks like fresh or dried fruits, carrots and celery, nuts, and whole grain crackers to hold you over until you can get home for a real meal. If you need more than a snack, pack a sandwich of lettuce, tomato, sprouts, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese on sprouted bread. Play around with different combinations of the above, add tofu for some extra protein, and sprinkle with olive oil and vinegar if cream cheese is too heavy. For an even easier sandwich, make a peanut butter n’ jelly with quality peanut butter (the ingredients should be nothing more than peanuts and salt) and naturally sweetened jelly (NO refined sugar) on whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread. Everything should of course be organic whenever possible. Bring your own water bottle and drink lots of water throughout the day.

Of course, there are times when eating out is unavoidable. In such cases, there is still no excuse to order the super sized cheeseburger, fries, and coke meal. Nearly all fast food places have salad and/or fruit bowl options. Order a green salad with either light dressing or no dressing (lemon juice, salt and pepper, or oil and vinegar make great alternatives to fat laden dressings). It you are in a metropolitan area, there is likely to be a Subway sandwich shop where you can get a tasty veggie sandwich on wheat bread for under $4. Also look for a Jamba Juice or other smoothie store where you can get a healthy smoothie and a snack or sandwich for lunch. Always be on the lookout for vegetarian and health food cafes, like Down to Earth, as these usually offer nutritious and delicious options. If you are eating breakfast out, steer clear of fast food. Even if it is the last thing on earth, NEVER eat one of those excessively processed French toast, egg and ham and cheese muffins or, heaven forbid, the “low-carb bowl.” Bagel and smoothie shops offer great breakfast options on the go. An even better option is to stop into a grocery store and get a banana and plain cultured yogurt.

If Americans are going to reverse the growing problem of obesity, fast food consumption must be reduced. Once the habit is broken, it is really quite easy to avoid eating fast food. You will find that your body feels better and that you lose the desire for fatty greasy food. It is also easier on the pocketbook when money is spent on fruits, vegetables, and healthy breads that can make many meals, rather than on a single meal that your body is not going to appreciate. Be good to your body as well as your finances by remembering that fruits go a longer way than French fries.

Get Your Fill of Water

by Tracy Rohland

Do you commonly suffer from headaches, joint and muscle pain, or constipation? You might simply need to drink more water.

A study by Cornell University Medical Center's Nutrition Information Center, states that the majority of Americans may be suffering from some degree of dehydration. Minor dehydration can result in dry skin, headaches, and fatigue, while longer-term, more severe dehydration can dangerously affect blood pressure, circulation, digestion, kidney function, and nearly all body processes, according to the study.

Too often, symptoms of dehydration are misdiagnosed and treated with aspirin or another pain medication. Unfortunately, many pharmaceutical drugs further increase dehydration.

Tandis Bishop reminds us that all liquids are not equal to water. Only straight water can supply your daily water needs. You should limit caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and soda as well as alcohol---as they are not a substitute for water. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which mean they actually cause your body to lose water, leading to dehydration. Sugary beverages can also pose a problem as sugar uses water to circulate through the body, drastically lowering the amount of water that actually goes to hydrating the body.

The easiest formula to determine how much water you should be drinking each day is to divide your body weight in pounds by two. The resulting number is the amount of water in ounces you should be drinking every day. Keep in mind that this is a minimum. People living in hot and tropical climates such as Hawaii, or those who are especially active will need more water.

A good way to ensure that you are getting enough water is to have a 1.5 liter (about 50oz) bottle with you throughout the day. Try to drink at least two cups of water in the morning, as morning is the best time for cleansing. Drink at least one of the 1.5 Liter bottles during the day, and then have a few more glasses in the evening.

Once you get into the habit of drinking water, it becomes very natural and you will actually become more sensitive to a lack of water in your body. You will notice when your body exhibits signs of dehydration and you will know exactly how fix it. Bottoms up!

Keeping Your Heart Healthy

by Tracy Rohland

A healthy diet is the best defense against high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and excess body weight; the three main factors contributing to heart disease. In honor of February as Heart-Healthy month, Down To Earth brings you some tips to maintain your heart plus a few recipe ideas.

The following is based on the American Heart Association guide for healthy American Adults:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose 5 or more servings per day.
  • Eat a variety of grain products, especially whole grains and bran, which is particulary good for the heart. Choose 6 or more servings per day.
  • Include organic milk products, legumes, beans, seeds and nuts.
  • Choose healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids from flax, nuts, and avocados.
  • Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition. This includes foods with a lot of added sugar like soft drinks and candy.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol (animal products such as red meat, chicken, pork and eggs are high in these fats).
  • Limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Maintain your ideal weight.
  • Get plenty of physical activity. Walk or do other activities for at least 30 minutes a day.

Maintaining Your Ideal Weight with a Vegetarian Diet

by Tracy Rohland

A low-fat, vegetarian diet is a great step toward arriving at and maintaining a healthy weight. If your meals are always abundant in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains, it is easy to avoid excess fat.

Vegetable oils like olive, sunflower, and grapeseed oil are healthy in small quantities as a salad dressing or for light sautéing. Always avoid fried foods and foods with hydrogenated oils. When eating dairy products, choose low-fat varieties and take a lactase enzyme if you have trouble digesting them. Enzymes are an excellent addition to any diet as they promote proper digestion and assimilation of the food we eat. Enzymes also assist in elimination, which is important in losing weight.

The Misnomer of Alcohol

by Tracy Rohland

In the light of recent studies about the ill health-effects due to drinking alcohol, it is important to take consideration of one’s choices. Studies by the International Agency for Cancer Research link alcohol consumption with an increased risk of cancer – noting repercussions with as little as one drink per day.

We at Down to Earth want you to be as healthy and vibrant as you can be. We are proud to say that our stores have never carried alcoholic beverages. Down to Earth supports you in your decision to be alcohol-free and makes it easy by supplying you with a variety of fun and delicious alternatives.

Next time you have a get-together, pick up a selection of sparkling juices like Sonoma Sparkler Organic Juices or Knudsen Sparkling Juices. Excite your taste buds with Reed’s Ginger brew and Natural Brew, in assorted flavors. Down To Earth also carries Kaliber Non-alcoholic beer as well as Haake Beck Non-alcoholic Beer. These are just a few suggestions from Down To Earth’s huge assortment of alcohol-free drinks.

Mix fresh fruit with juice or sparkling water for a bubbly, fruity drink, perfect for a summer day.

Reading Food Labels

by Tracy Rohland

If you have food allergies or are serious about maintaining a vegetarian diet, it is important to know how to read food labels. The new food labeling laws will make this much easier as the 8 major food allergens will now be listed on packages. However, until all labels have made this transition, it will still be necessary to carefully read ingredients. Research your particular allergy and learn the chemical names by which it may appear on a label. For example, “sodium caseinate” is a milk derivative, and “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” is a form of MSG.

Vegetarians should be wary of products containing mono and diglycerides, glycerol, natural flavors and maltodextrins, all of which may be non-vegetarian. The only way to be sure if a product is truly vegetarian is to contact the manufacturer and ask if they source animal-derived ingredients. If you shop at Down To Earth you can rest assured that our products do not contain animal-sourced ingredients, but some do contain milk-derived products.

Also, be sure to read labels for information about calorie, fat, sugar, fiber, protein content etc. The new label laws will require trans fats to be listed as a subcategory of fats.
The most important thing is to become familiar with ingredients by consistently reading labels. You will begin to recognize common ingredients and when there is a questionable one, you can research it (which is fairly easy to do on the internet) to determine if it is safe.

How to Make the Transition Fun

by Tracy Rohland

Many people who consume meat on a regular basis have experienced the desire to be a vegetarian or simply eat less meat. One of the drawbacks they feel is that they are going to be in for hard work or they might end up going hungry. But with all of the creative and inspiring vegetarians out there, changing your diet can be an easy and enlightening experience. You just need to know how to go about doing it.

By making the change to a vegetarian diet, you can take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle and a more peaceful world. The transition to a vegetarian diet can be a bit of a challenge at first. You may feel limited by your meal options or be worried about getting proper nutrition. But once you start exploring vegetarian foods, the delicious and nutritious dishes you will taste will make you wonder why you ever ate meat in the first place. All you need are some ideas to spark your creativity. Below are a few suggestions to make the transition easier.

  1. Start by trying new recipes. There are many fantastic vegetarian cookbooks available to help you. Their recipes range from quick and easy dishes to exotic, gourmet meals. Many are convenient and inexpensive to prepare. Another great resource for recipes is the internet. For instance, at you can check out our featured monthly recipes and also browse our recipe archives for many more.
  2. As you experiment with vegetarian foods, you will find useful meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, wheat gluten and various other vegetable proteins. Tofu is a common beginner’s choice because it is inexpensive, easy to find, and can be quickly prepared in hundreds of different ways. There are entire cookbooks dedicated to tofu recipes.
  3. If cooking is not your thing, a night out vegetarian style will open your eyes to the possibilities of vegetarian cuisine. In metropolitan areas, vegetarian restaurants are popping up all over the place. Each Down to Earth store has a vegetarian deli, bakery, and hot food bar. If there is not a vegetarian restaurant in your area, nearly all mainstream restaurants now have tasty vegetarian dishes. It is also fun to try foods from different parts of the world. Indian and Italian restaurants are good options for finding vegetarian choices. Be sure to ask about the ingredients if the menu does not specify.
  4. Keep yourself motivated and make new friends by finding other vegetarians in your area. Many cities have vegetarian dining clubs and a local Vegetarian Society chapter that get together for potlucks, socials, and other events. Find out about the organization in your area or start one yourself. Associating with other vegetarians will make your transition easier and fun. Before you know it, the thought of eating meat will not even cross your mind and you will feel healthier than ever.
  5. Finally, continue educating yourself about vegetarianism. It is important to know your reasons for adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. Being strong in your convictions will make it easier to avoid eating meat and will hopefully inspire others to follow your example.

Shintani Seminar

Down to Earth recently co-sponsored a health workshop hosted by well-known Hawaii physician Dr. Terry Shintani and his non-profit organization, the Hawaii Health Foundation.

The workshop, called “You Can Reverse Disease in 10 Days,” was held at the Toho No Hikari building, formerly known as the MOA True Health Center in Honolulu. It was attended by over 100 people seeking help with different health problems or concerns. At the workshop, they learned how much of their health problems are diet-related and how easy it is to reverse following a plant-based diet.

Dr. Shintani shared nutritional weight-loss research that helps individuals lose weight and control blood sugar levels by eating more of the right kind of carbohydrates.

He spoke of the Hawaiian Paradox. “In Hawaii, the healthiest state in the union, the Native Hawaiians have the worst health in the nation.” Ironically, his research showed that the healthiest cultures ate a diet similar in macronutrient content to that of the ancient Hawaiians, and also practiced lifestyle principles similar to those of ancient Hawaii. Their diets consisted of large volumes of unrefined carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein (mostly from vegetable sources), and few fats.

Dr. Shintani showed attendees how to:

  • Identify the "good" carbohydrates, from whole-grain pasta and pita bread to sweet potatoes and brown rice, as well as an array of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Use a plant-based diet to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and control blood sugar levels to help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, cancer, stroke, and other serious illnesses

With cooking demonstrations presented by Dr. Shintani and Tandis Bishop, workshop participants learned how to make quick, healthy, wholesome dishes.

“People were amazed at how easy it is to eat “healthy,” said Bishop. “It was a very practical workshop because not only did Dr. Shintani elaborate on the nutritional benefits of the meals being demonstrated, but there were plenty of samples to go around, proving the point that healthy foods can be quite tasty,” she explained.

Dr. Shintani also discussed common unhealthy lifestyle habits, how to make easy changes, and other topics such as “Calories & Fat: Controlling Weight and Cholesterol”, “Carbohydrates and Proteins”, how to correct chronic conditions and, of course, the importance of a plant-based diet.

“The workshop was a huge success,” added Bishop. “It equipped everyone with the tools they needed to get started on the path to better health through a plant-based diet, including the knowledge, recipes, and coupons from Down to Earth.”

Down to Earth’s co-sponsorship of Dr. Shintani’s health workshop supports the company’s mission to promote a healthy lifestyle to island communities. Since its founding in Hawaii 1977, Down to Earth has been working with hospitals, schools, and numerous groups and organizations to help educate the general public about how easy it is to improve their health and the health of their loved ones through a vegetarian lifestyle.

Terry Shintani, MD is the author of the “Eat More, Weigh Less Diet", "HawaiiDiet”, and “The Good Carbohydrate Revolution.” He has been featured in Newsweek, on CNN and CBS News, ABC national radio, and Dateline NBC. Dr. Shintani received his master’s degree in nutrition from Harvard University and both his medical and law degrees from the University of Hawaii. After medical school and studying nutrition at Harvard University, Dr. Terry Shintani returned home to Hawai'i with a sense that local people needed to return to their traditional native diet for both health and spiritual reasons.

Dr. Shintani is board certified in preventative medicine and is a member of the national advisory board of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Associate Chair of the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine.

Hawaii Health Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to promote world health. For over 10 years, they have conducted 700 community programs and presentations on health to tens of thousands of people.