Being Thankful - Being Vegetarian

by Michael Bond

With Thanksgiving Day growing near, those who are following a vegetarian diet have much to be thankful for. You can be thankful for your overall good health, derived from your healthy diet choices. More specifically, you can be thankful for your healthy heart, clear arteries, and lower cholesterol that can be credited to a plant-based diet. You can be thankful that you have lowered your risk for heart disease, colon cancer, strokes, diabetes, and a number of other life threatening conditions.

You can be thankful that you have reduced the strain on Mother Earth by using less water and natural resources to produce your food. You can be thankful that you are not contributing to the meat industry’s environmental degradation through topsoil loss, deforestation, water pollution, etc.

You can also be thankful that you are not contributing to the needless pain and suffering experienced by billions of innocent creatures each year.

It is sad that on this wonderful day of giving thanks, what is on many peoples’ minds is the turkey dinner. We all know the original purpose of Thanksgiving was not to focus on eating a stuffed bird. Thanksgiving originated as a feast and celebration of the harvest and later grew into a day where people would offer thanks and appreciation to God for all that He has provided (such as fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, grains, fruits and vegetables to nourish us, and so on).

Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder that we should count our blessings, and be thankful for all that we have. And of all days, Thanksgiving Day should remind us to be compassionate to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. That compassion should not extend only to our friends and families, but to all of God’s creatures, and yes, even to turkeys.

Millions of turkeys are slaughtered each year, just to “celebrate” Thanksgiving. It is unfortunate that our society has adopted this cruel tradition, and many feel that to have Thanksgiving without the turkey dinner, would not be the same. If that is the case, then why not try having a healthier, cruelty-free Thanksgiving and try one of the several tasty mock-turkeys that are now available. And along with that, get back to the roots of Thanksgiving by celebrating the harvest with preparations using your favorite seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Check out this month’s recipes for some specific ideas, and from all of us at Down to Earth, have a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

This Christmas, Choose Peace

by Michael Bond

During this Christmas holiday I am reminded of the wise, time-honored lesson “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Christmas is meant to be a time of compassion, “peace on earth”, and good will towards others. Having sympathy for the suffering of others, and caring enough to want to help them is a quality we should all strive for. Not just at Christmas time. All the time.

Unfortunately, compassion is not the norm in our society. Recently there was a tragic (although thankfully uncommon) example of the bitter fruits of selfishness. On Black Friday (the first major day of Christmas shopping) Jdimytai Damour, an employee of Wal-Mart in Long Island, was trampled to death when hundreds of people barged into the store as it opened the doors for a sale. We can only imagine the sadness his family must be going through, but sometimes it takes tragedy to invoke our compassionate nature.

While it may not be as “newsworthy” as a Wal-Mart stampede, every day, countless innocent animals are subjected to horrifying living conditions, followed by an unimaginably cruel death, simply because eating meat is the norm in our society. When we become aware of the extreme pain and suffering caused to these billions of innocent creatures, hopefully we will have the insight to ask ourselves, “Why shouldn’t we extend our compassion to all living beings, not just humans?” We must then consider whether the tradition, habit, status quo, or that tingle on the taste buds is really enough to justify this utter lack of compassion for animals.

It’s not just the animals raised for food that suffer immensely, but eating meat also brings intense suffering to individuals and society in the form of greatly increased levels of disease and environmental devastation.

Be Good to Yourself

How can you experience peace if you don’t treat your body right? Not only is there no need to eat animals to live a strong and healthy life, a meat-based diet greatly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases. Transitioning to a plant-based diet is the single most important step you can take to improve your health and well-being.

Be Good to the Environment

How will you find peace if you don’t treat the Earth (which sustains all of our needs) with the respect she deserves? Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Choosing a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing you can do for the environment because you will no longer be contributing to the havoc being wreaked on the Earth by raising animals for food (whether it's the overuse of resources, unchecked water or air pollution, or soil erosion, etc.).

Be Good to the Innocent Animals

Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. Given the suffering these animals endure, and that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism requires a very serious consideration. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong.

I submit for your consideration that a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them.

While “peace on earth” may be a pretty tall order, we can bring peace and compassion into our own lives and the lives of those around us. This Christmas, why not be good to yourself, be good to the environment, and be good to the innocent animals? Add more compassion and peace to your life by choosing a vegetarian diet.

Having a Compassionate Christmas

by Tandis Bishop

One of the most profound ways you can celebrate Christmas this year is by moving towards a plant-based vegetarian diet. The mass consumption of animals for food causes pain and suffering all over the world, so it is up to each individual to decide to make the effort to change.

I remember the story a man once told me. He was a slaughterhouse worker, in charge of slaughtering the cows, one at a time. He was not interested in living a compassionate life. Then one day, one of the cows that he was about to slaughter fell down on her forelegs, tears dropping from her eyes as she silently pleaded for mercy. The man I met and the other slaughterhouse workers who were there could not bear to kill her. They pooled their money together and bought the cow to spare her life.

After having personally killed thousands of cows, that experience awakened in him the natural compassion that lies within each and every one of us. He became a vegetarian and has also helped many other people become vegetarian since that experience.

If we truly want to live a compassionate life – not just in words but in real life action – then we should try our best to never unnecessarily harm other living beings. Great spiritual teachers Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha have taught this virtue. One of Jesus’ primary teachings was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He taught compassion - the ability to feel others’ pain in a sympathetic way. Lord Buddha also underlined the importance of living a compassionate life. He said, “In compassion lies the world’s great strength.” He also said, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”

Not only are animals not necessary for food, eating animals brings intense suffering to individuals and society in the form of greatly increased levels of disease, environmental devastation, etc.

Consider some of the following enlightening facts:

  • More than half the water used in the United States is used for meat production.
  • It takes less water to produce a year’s worth of food for a pure vegetarian than to produce one month’s food for a meat-eater.
  • Raising animals for food is the largest polluter of water in the United States, topping all other industries that produce toxic wastes.
  • 85 percent (more than 5 billion tons) of annual American topsoil loss is directly associated with raising livestock.

A New Year’s Resolution: Go Vegetarian!

by Mark Fergusson, Down To Earth CEO

As we fast approach Christmas and the New Year, we are reminded that this is a time of compassion and good will and yet another opportunity for the resolve to improve our lives. Every January many customers come in to our stores looking for products that support New Year’s resolutions to achieve better health. As always, and in the spirit of compassion, we encourage them to adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle and consider the idea of going vegetarian or eating less meat. Why? At Down to Earth, we passionately believe and promote the vital truth that 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. There are a number of reasons why adopting or moving towards a vegetarian diet is important:

Better Health

Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases is linked to a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients. These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet. We believe this result is best achieved by adopting a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of fresh organic produce and organic and natural foods.

Better for the Environment

America’s meat addiction is poisoning and depleting our clean air, potable water, and arable land. More than half the water used in the United States goes to animal agriculture. Farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human US population, and factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems as our cities and towns do. As a result, this concentrated slop ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil, and contaminating our air. In its 2006 report, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Most of it comes from manure and billions of belching animals. Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else we do. Whether it's the overuse of resources, unchecked water pollution, global warming greenhouse gases, the widespread use of pesticides to treat crop grown for feed, or related soil erosion, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on Mother Earth. Therefore, the most important step you can take to reduce global warming and save the planet is to go vegetarian.

Better For the Innocent Animals

Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. This includes neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling and—at the end—the infliction of gruesome and violent slaughter. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions. If we truly want to live a compassionate life, it follows that we do our best to never unnecessarily harm other living beings. While we may not be able to change the world by ourselves, each individual can do what they can in their own lives to improve their health, help the environment, and cause less pain and suffering to other living beings. Therefore, we encourage everyone to adopt or move towards a plant-based vegetarian diet. On behalf of all the team members at Down to Earth, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! And as always, thanks for shopping with us!

Down to Earth's Christmas Gift Giving Guide

by Tandis Bishop

This year, you can make it a special Christmas with a gift from Down to Earth. We have something to please just about anyone. Here are some great gift ideas that will delight your loved ones... Merry Christmas!

Candles and Incense

Candles and incense are not just for meditation anymore. Their aromas bring a positive atmosphere to any room and help transform a house into a home. Candles in particular make a special gift and are something everyone can use.

Essential Oils/Aromatherapy and Massage Oils

While the healing powers of Aromatherapy have been known for centuries, their popularity has exploded in the West in the last decade. Even the grumpiest humbug’s day will be brightened by burning the right oil. Also, massage oils are a great gift, even better if it comes with a massage!

Music CDs

Delight the musically inclined person on your list with a CD from our selection of exotic world beat music. What better opportunity than Christmas to help broaden someone’s horizons.

Assortment of Teas

If it is one thing we have a lot of, it’s teas. Choose their favorite, or put together an assortment from our selection of calming, healing, refreshing, or just plain tasty teas.

Toffee Treasures

These are my personal favorite gift to receive. These locally made toffees are truly a treasure. The only problem is whoever you give them to may not want to share them with you.

Gift Baskets

Down to Earth offers a beautiful selection of baskets for Christmas or any occasion. Our gift baskets are hand made, creating each of them with all the care and attention you would give to them if you made them yourself. Pick up a brochure at any of our store locations or view it on our website.

Vegetarian/Vegan/Raw Cookbooks

Many people are interested in vegetarianism, but most just don’t know where to start. Even if they just want to dabble with veggie food or even raw food, our popular selection of cookbooks is a great place to start. A perfect gift for newlyweds, kids away at college, or anyone who loves to cook (or eat!).

Assortment of Body Care Products

Choose from several small gift sets, including our popular Alba Hawaiian line, Burt’s Bee’s kits, and the new Jason’s Holiday Gift sets. Or you can put together your own package with a selection of natural and organic soaps, shampoos, lotions, etc. Our friendly team can help suggest the right choices for that special person you have in mind.

Yoga, Fitness, Relaxation Products

Giving something that supports health and wellness will be appreciated for years to come. It may even turn someone's life around for the better. While fitness gifts are incredibly valuable, they don't have to be expensive. Check out our selection of resistance products, yoga mats and accessories, and various stress release products.

Gift Certificates

Too many options? Can’t decide what your loved ones would enjoy? Do not worry, Down to Earth offers Gift Certificates that make a perfect gift to slip in with a Christmas card. They also make great stocking stuffers!

How to Avoid Gaining Weight at Christmas

by Tracy Rohland

Winter is here and holiday treats are on their way in abundance. During this time, it is not uncommon to worry about the numbers on the bathroom scale gradually increasing. So, this season do not let your weakness for Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie get the better of you by following a few suggestions to help you stay healthy

  • A vegetarian diet is the best place to start. By sticking to a vegetarian diet, you will avoid a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol.
    • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth in your gravies and soups. Instead of turkey or ham, try a main dish of grilled seasoned tofu or a hearty vegetable stew. There are also turkey alternatives such as Tofurky and Un-Turkey. Our recipe section on the website has some great holiday recipes.
  • Make a variety of vegetable side dishes. Think beyond steamed green beans and mashed potatoes and experiment with apple-beet salad, baked basil-eggplant, curried vegetables or sautéed butternut squash with shitake mushrooms.
  • Be sure to include a raw salad. It will help fill your plate as well as your stomach and will aid in digestion. Make it festive by using a variety of greens and adding walnuts, cranberries and apples.
  • Avoid white-flour rolls loaded with butter. Instead, make your own whole wheat rolls and top them with cranberry-orange relish.
  • When dessert comes around, the important thing is portion control. Take less than your eyes want and eat slowly. Resist that second piece of Pecan Pie ala mode. It is okay to indulge a little so long as you do not go overboard. For dessert, try a lighter version of the classics – see our recipe page for ideas including No-Bake Pumpkin Pie, Tofu Cheesecake, and Apple-Apricot cobbler.
  • Be sure to stay properly hydrated. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, and coffee all lead to dehydration so it is important to drink plenty of water or herbal tea to make up for the loss.
  • Finally, do not forget about exercise. When you have a little free time, grab your water bottle and take a long walk, a bike ride or do some yoga.

It is up to you to maintain your health over the Christmas season. It is natural to gain a couple of pounds over the winter because your body is trying to preserve itself for the cooler temperatures ahead. Just as things in nature are hibernating, closing and going inside, your body does the same. But do not be a victim of holiday excess – stay active and check out Down To Earth’s website for great recipe ideas.

Prevent Excess Weight Gain While Enjoying Holiday Cooking

by Tandis Bishop

The Holiday season is here again and right along with it are all the tasty goodies and home-cooked meals that are such a part of our lives during this time. To the dismay of many of us however, these delectable indulgences tend to leave behind some undesirable extra pounds on our bodies. Is it possible to enjoy hearty meals and sweet treats without the extra pounds? We at Down to Earth say, “yes!” Read on for some ideas to help you maintain a healthy weight during the holidays...

  • This holiday season, go meatless! You will greatly reduce your calorie, fat and cholesterol intake if you have a meatless, plant-based holiday feast. Our website has great vegetarian holiday entrees, salads, and side dishes to choose from. If you are unable to eliminate meat altogether, try to fill up more on the veggie side dishes such as yams, green beans, and cranberry sauce, and less on the main dish, which is usually very high in fat.
  • Make healthier desserts, such as cookies without refined sugar (see recipe at the end of this article). Experiment with agave nectar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup or honey as sweeteners and take them with you when you gather with your family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This way you are giving yourself and your loved ones healthier dessert choices. In addition, you should try to consume less of the other desserts which are rich in cream and refined sugar.
  • Choose whole grains when making or eating holiday dishes. Use whole wheat flour or exotic brown and wild rice blends when making stuffing and dressings. Use whole grains when making desserts and bread rolls. Whole grains maintain the fiber, vitamins and minerals that refined grains lack.
  • Instead of high calorie beverages such as eggnog, hot cocoa, soda and alcohol, explore the vast variety of herbal teas available at DTE. Lightly sweeten them with a tiny bit of maple syrup or honey. Offer to bring the drinks at the next party and reduce your calorie intake by the hundreds. There are numerous teas, including holiday-spiced varieties, which are perfect for such occasions. Teas can be served hot or cold with ice.
  • This is a great time to bond with your family and friends and enjoy some quality time together. What better way to do this than enjoying some sort of physical activity. Especially here in Hawaii, we have the luxury of enjoying many outdoor activities. Get the family together for a fun game of beach volleyball or tag football. Enjoy a game of tennis at a community tennis court. Go for a hike together, enjoying some of the world’s most beautiful trails and work off any excess calories at the same time. Make sure you have a water bottle with you to stay hydrated!

It is certainly possible to maintain your health and weight over the holiday season. The key is to fill up on veggie dishes, avoid refined foods and control your portions – don’t overdo it even on healthier treats. And remember, choosing these healthy, organic and natural foods won’t cost more than conventional foods and is often less expensive.

Healthy Holiday Cooking

by Tracy Rohland

The holidays are just around the corner, and as we all know, along with the festivities usually come enough sweet and savory goodies to last the whole year. This can spell trouble and temptation for those watching their diets, but don’t worry – it’s not necessary to completely abstain from eating your favorite dishes. With just a few substitutions, you can turn a fat and sugar-laden holiday season into a tasty and healthy one. Below are a few suggestions to use in your cooking. Try any combination of them and use your imagination to create tasty holiday treats!

  • Instead of whole milk, substitute skim milk, soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.
  • Instead of cream, try plain yogurt or evaporated skim milk
  • When making sandwiches or wraps, use an eggless mayonnaise with healthy, non-hydrogenated oil in it.
  • Also look for vegetable spreads made from non-hydrogenated oils to use instead of butter.
  • Applesauce can replace oil in a cake recipe.
  • Instead of fat-and-caffeine-laden-chocolate, try making carob brownies, or carob-chip cookies.
  • In baking recipes that call for eggs, use an egg replacer to reduce cholesterol and fat.
  • Add some wholesomeness to your cookies by using whole-wheat flour in place of bleached white flour.
  • Avoid too much sugar by using alternative sweeteners like Stevia, Xylitol, and honey.
  • On top of that hot apple strudel put a scoop of non-fat frozen yogurt (or soy frozen yogurt), and leave the ice cream in the freezer (or at the store).
  • For a healthy and tasty dessert, experiment with fresh fruit tarts – each different combination of fruits will make a different treat! You can also use seasonal fruit to make a colorful fruit salad.
  • Make a toast with sparkling cider instead of champagne.
  • Finally, forget the turkey and try making a Heathy Holiday Mock Turkey from this month's recipes or pick up a “Tofurkey” at Down to Earth.
  • Top it off with some vegetarian Mock Turkey gravy! (See last month's e-newsletter recipe section).

These ideas will hopefully get you started on the way to a healthy holiday season. Take some carob cookies to a get-together and indulge your friends without feeling guilty. Share with them your secrets of healthy cooking. Just remember- moderation is also important. Despite the fact that your goodies will be healthier than normal, it’s important to resist overeating. Above all, have fun with your cooking. Get the kids involved and teach them about healthy eating. The good habits they learn will stay with them their whole lives.

Until next month - Happy, Healthy Holidays to all!

Emerging From the Holiday Health Rut

by Tandis Bishop

We wrote about healthy “holiday” eating in the November/December issue, so we thought to get you ready for January. If you are like most health-conscious people after the holiday feasting, you probably want to get back on track in terms of your daily diet. Even for the most avid health crusader, it is difficult not to slip a bit over the holidays. Family gatherings and celebrations generally revolve around food to some extent and in most cases you are not the one preparing the whole meal! Travel, stress and lack of time during this season can also contribute to a decline in your usual healthful diet. Below are a few ideas to help you get out of the rut and back in the groove…

  • Start by re-hydrating. Get the liquids flowing through your body by drinking plenty of water. Water will help flush out toxins, improve digestion, assist with fat-loss, hydrate skin and give you more energy, just to highlight a few of its benefits.
  • Get your body moving! Exercise is a primary factor in getting your health back up to par. Especially if your body has been more stagnant lately, or you have been eating heavier foods, exercise will be the key to getting back in shape. Even a brisk 20 minute walk each day will make a difference.
  • Revive your body with immune boosting and nourishing whole-food supplements. Give your body the basics it needs to rebuild and ward off sickness. Sugar, often in abundance around the holidays, can take a toll on the immune system. Stop by Down to Earth for friendly and informative assistance in picking a supplement that is right for you.
  • Take advantage of our seasonal vegetables, especially those locally grown. They are often cheaper and fresher than those from the mainland. Use a variety of vegetables to create delicious, low calorie, nutrient rich meals. See our recipes page for ideas.
  • Learn new ways to enhance your healthful diet. Come to one of DTE’s vegetarian cooking classes to get new ideas for scrumptious and healthy vegetarian meals.

And remember, don’t get discouraged if you are having a hard time staying healthy over the holidays. Once you get back into your regular schedule, your body will quickly bounce back and you will feel energized and motivated for the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Great Tips for Making Your New Year Healthy

by Tracy Rohland

The beginning of the year is a great time to start making positive changes to your health. If you are at a loss of where to begin, we have some healthy suggestions that will put you on the right track for the coming year.

Resolution #1: Eliminate Trans fats from your diet.

Trans fats are created through the process of hydrogenating vegetable oil. Whenever you see the words “partially hydrogenated” on an ingredients list, the product contains trans fats. Trans fats, like saturated fats, raise bad cholesterol (LDL), but they also deplete good cholesterol (HDL) as well as raise insulin levels. This contributes to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Food manufacturers hydrogenate oil in order to make it solid and increase its shelf life. Put simply, hydrogenation removes all the health benefits from vegetable oils and turns them into solid fat-like margarine and shortening. To avoid trans fats, look for hydrogenated oil on the nutrition label. The most common trans fats culprits are margarine (especially stick form), animal products, French fries, cakes and pastries, cookies (especially cream-filled cookies), crackers, chips, and candy. In your own cooking, be sure to use oils rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These include olive oil and canola oil (both monounsaturated) and soybean oil, sunflower oil and corn oil (polyunsaturated). When shopping, look for vegetable spreads at your local health food store that say “trans fat free.” If you must use margarine, select a soft, tub margarine as the stick margarines contain much more trans fat. When eating out, don’t be afraid to ask what kinds of fats are being used in food preparation. The F.D.A. has made it easier for consumers to be aware of how much trans fat store-bought food contains. As of January 1, 2006, all food products are now required to state the trans fats count on the label on a separate line directly under the saturated fat count.

Resolution #2: Reduce the intake of simple carbohydrates

There are two types of carbohydrates: complex and simple. Complex carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, rice, beans, potatoes, and other starchy foods. They provide energy for the body, and the foods they are in provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Simple carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, are quickly broken down by the body and used for fast energy. They are found in processed and refined foods such as white flour, white sugar, candy, cakes and pastries, and soft drinks. Unfortunately, these foods have no nutritionally redeeming qualities and excess carbs are simply empty calories. Simple carbs turn into body fat and affect insulin levels. Eliminating these foods from your diet means stepping in the direction to healthier living.

Resolution #3: Eliminate processed foods

The easiest way to get rid of trans fats and simple carbs is to eliminate the processed foods in your diet. Processed foods are filled with harmful fats, loaded with sugar, and packed with unnecessary chemicals. Foods that are canned, frozen, or packaged into cute little shapes are examples of processed foods. The overcooking and high-heat cooking of processed foods also depletes their nutritional value. Make it a goal to eat more foods that are close to their natural form. Making these changes to your eating habits is a move toward better health. Your body will thank you for taking the extra step.