Category Archives: Chic Vegan Column


When I became the Editor of Chic Vegan I decided to start an Interview Series on the site and it has quickly become one of my favorite projects to work on.  I really enjoy interviewing notable vegans and vegans who are making a difference, whether they are famous or your neighbor down the street.  There are so many wonderful vegans out there!!!

So far I have interviewed –

Click HERE to go to the Chic Vegan interview links.

I have some really great interviews in the wings…I can’t wait to share them!

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Interview, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Stumped By Tempeh

My latest Ask Grettie column on Chic Vegan.

I just tried tempeh for the first time at a restaurant today and really liked it, but I am not sure how to prepare it on my own.  Do you have any tips, or recipe suggestions for preparing tempeh?


Hi Monica!

I am glad to hear that you like tempeh.  Tempeh is a wonderful source of protein and is further beneficial due to the fact that it is fermented.  In addition, cooking with tempeh is a great way to add protein to your meals without buying processed meat substitutes.  As with anything in life, moderation is key since tempeh can be high in fat.

I understand that tempeh can be a bit intimidating to prepare, but once you cook with it a few times you will realize that it is actually very easy to work with.  Tempeh can be prepared using the same methods that are used to cook meat (barbecuing, baking, broiling, stir-frying) .  One of my favorite ways to use tempeh is as a ground beef substitute.  Sarah Matheny of “Peas and Thank You” likes to make ground meat substitutes with tempeh by grating it.  You simply take the block of tempeh and grate it on your cheese grater then add it to your recipe.  Alternatively you can crumble a block of tofu with your fingers or pulse it in your food processor and garner the same results.

TIP – Some people find tempeh to be slightly bitter.  If you steam the tempeh for 20 minutes, the bitterness disappears.

Recipe Ideas

  • Peas and Thank You is a blog with a lot of recipes that include tempeh and it is a great place to start.  Sarah just came out with her first book, Peas and Thank You – Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love and it is a worthwhile purchase (For my review of the book click here).
  • Vegetarian Times is also a great resource for tempeh recipes and they have a great recipe search function on their site that I am sure you will find helpful.  Their recipe for tempeh bacon has a four star rating.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Cooking is an art form and can be a lot of fun to play around with.  Once you make a few recipes containing tempeh you will have the confidence to whip-up meals containing tempeh without even following a recipe.  Let me know if you come across some winning recipes along the way since I am always looking for recommendations as well.

Here’s to health!


**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – High Speed Blender vs. Juicer

I thought I would share with you one of my Chic Vegan “Ask Grettie” columns…

So, after catching my second sore throat/cold/whatever in a month I am starting to think that I need to add something to my diet and am ready to take the plunge and start juicing.  I did a bit of research and found two options, a juicer or a Vitamix.  A friend of mine really is pushing the Vitamix for two reasons:  you keep the fiber and you can add things that you can’t really juice like kale, etc. and get more out of it.  Thoughts?


Hi Alison,

I am so sorry to hear that you have been sick so much, but I applaud you for wanting to take steps to strengthen your immune system through nutrition.

I see tremendous value in both juicers and high speed blenders.  Both products serve different needs, though both are great tools for you to use to boost your immune system.

It is true that with a Vitamix you retain the fiber and that is very beneficial for the digestive tract.  I use my Vitamix every single day of the week to make green smoothies.  A high speed blender makes it so easy to add veggies to a smoothie while pulverizing them into a smooth drink.  My Vitamix is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  It does need to be said that a high speed blender can be used to make juice, albeit with a bit more work.  To make juice with a high speed blender, you would essentially make a smoothie and then strain it through a nut milk bag.  A Vitamix is very diverse and can be used to make everything from soups to dressings and raw desserts (ice cream, cheesecake, etc.).

Juicing is a wonderful way to support the immune system since juicers strip the fiber from the plant resulting in a tall glass of nutrients.  Since there is no fiber in the juice, the nutrients are immediately available and do not require much digestion.

With regards to kale and juicing, I add kale to my juicer all the time!  Juicers usually have at least two speeds and one of them is optimum for juicing kale and other leafy greens (Read the insert that comes with your juicer for specific instructions).  When I make a kale salad I strip the kale from the stem and keep the kale stems in the fridge to use in my juice the next day.  I also keep the broccoli hearts to do the same (if I am too lazy to peel them and use them in my cooking).

It is a tough decision whether to go with a high speed blender or a juicer, but I do see real value in both.  Since your immediate goal is to strengthen your immune system, I would suggest that the juicer is the way to go initially because of the maximum nutrient load you will get from veggie juice.  Juicers are also available within a wide price range.  Costco usually carries a decent juicer at a very reasonable price.  High speed blenders tend to be on the expensive side, but also available at Costco on occasion.  Either way you won’t go wrong.

Here’s to health!



Filed under Alkaline, Chic Vegan Column, Detox, Education, Immune System, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Urinary Tract Health

My latest column for Chic Vegan…

One of the topics I get asked about often is urinary tract health.  Many people (mostly women) experienceUrinary Tract Infections (UTIs) from time to time and they want to know if there is anything they can do naturally to keep a bladder infection at bay.

A few years back I was suffering from recurrent bladder infections (3+ in one year!) and hated having to take antibiotics.  When you truly need antibiotics they can literally be a lifesaver, however it is well known that antibiotics are vastly over prescribed in the United States and the overuse is detrimental for individuals and the public at large.

After drowning myself in jugs and jugs of cranberry juice (I even resorted to the unsweetened 100% cranberry juice), my UTI’s persisted.  In an effort to avoid another UTI and avoid the antibiotics that oftentimes accompany such an infection, I began researching the issue and discovered that there are steps we can take as well as an amazingly safe natural product we can use when needed to ensure our urinary tract health and avoid infections.  As a result of my findings, I have not had a UTI since!


Thankfully my research brought me to Dr. Jonathon Wright.  I stumbled upon this post from his Tahoma Clinic blog which discussed the benefits of the simple sugar D-Mannose in the fight against UTIs.  With regards to the safety of D-Mannose, Dr. Wright states:

“D-mannose is very safe, even for long term use.   D-mannose is a simple sugar, very little of it is metabolized. It doesn’t interfere with blood sugar regulation, even for diabetics. It creates no disruption or imbalance in normal body microflora. It’s safe even for pregnant women and very small children. In the less than 10% of cases where the infection is a bacteria other than E. coli, antibiotics can be started in plenty of time. (Many physicians will likely advise collecting a urine specimen for culture, if possible just before starting D-mannose, so that the bacteria can be identified as rapidly as possible in the few cases when D-mannose doesn’t work.)


As mentioned above, D-Mannose is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in both cranberries and pineapples.  Since very little of the sugar is metabolized by our bodies, most of it is excreted through our urine.

So what does this have to do with UTIs and how can it help cure them?  The bacterium that causes most UTIs is called Escherichia coli (“E. coli”).  When we become infected with a UTI most often it is caused by bacteria called Escherichia coli (“E. coli”).  This E. coli likes to attach itself to the walls of our bladder which causes a multitude of problems.  Fortunately for us E. Coli LOVES D-Mannose.  When we drink water that has been mixed with D-Mannose, the D-Mannose makes its way to our bladder and the E. Coli lets go of our bladder wall and grabs on to the D-Mannose.  When we urinate the E. Coli leaves our body.  I am amazed by how simple and effective this remedy is.

Whenever I feel that I may be coming down with a UTI, I drink water with D-Mannose and I do not get one!  I travel with D-Mannose…I am that big of a believer.


The usual dose for D-Mannose powder is 1/2 teaspoonful (2 1/2 grams) stirred into water every 2 to 4 hours. If the infection is not substantially better within 24 hours, it is probably not being caused by E.coli. in which case it is recommended that you contact your regular physician.

My favorite brand of D-mannose is by pure encapsulations (click here for more information).  I always keep a container or two in my home.


In addition to Dr. Wright’s suggestion to utilize D-Mannose, Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests that there are simple steps you can take to help promote a healthy urinary tract:

  • Drink plenty of water every day – this dilutes your urine and helps you regularly flush your system.
  • Urinate when you feel the need.  Don’t resist the urge to go.
  • For women, wipe from front to back and use unscented and unbleached toilet paper as many young women react to the dyes and chemicals in other toilet papers.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Cleanse your genital area prior to and after sexual intercourse.
  • Urinate after intercourse to flush out your urinary tract.
  • Avoid feminine deodorant sprays, douches, and powders that can lead to irritation of the urethra and genitals.
  • Only use cotton sanitary napkins and tampons.  97% of women believe they are made of cotton, but the truth is LESS THAN one percent actually is.

I hope these tips are as helpful to you as they have been for me.  Bladder infections are no fun!

Here’s to health!



Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, General Vegan, Urinary Health, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Digesting the Vegan Diet


Here is my latest Ask Grettie column for Chic Vegan.

Does the stomach ever get accustomed to eating a plant-based diet and no longer have GI distress? I am afraid of getting bloated and windy (gassy). I have IBS. Thanks!


Hi Dolores!

I am sorry to hear that you have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and have been experiencing intestinal irritation.  Yes, I can assure you that the stomach does in fact adjust very nicely to eating a vegan diet.  As with many things in life, one has to give themselves time to adjust to this new way of life.  For example, I wouldn’t recommend that a person who is not accustomed to eating vegetables and legumes start eating 2 cups of beans in one sitting.

I also recommend digestive enzymes.  Raw food contains many enzymes on its own which are highly beneficial.  However, most people primarily consume cooked food and the enzymes are destroyed during the cooking process.  As a result the pancreas needs to secrete digestive enzymes to assist in the breakdown of our food.  When our pancreas becomes over-taxed, over time it is not able to secrete as many digestive enzymes.

“Eighty percent of our body’s energy is expended by the digestive process. If you are run down, under stress, living in a very hot or very cold climate, pregnant or a frequent traveler, then enormous quantities of extra enzymes are required by your body. Because our entire system functions through enzymatic action, we must supplement our enzymes. Aging deprives us of our ability to produce necessary enzymes. The medical profession tells us that all disease is due to a lack or imbalance of enzymes. Our very lives are dependent upon them!”

– Dr. DicQie Fuller, The Healing Power of Enzymes

We can assist our bodies by eating as many raw foods as possible and by taking digestive enzymes.  I personally take digestive enzymes.  I have had great results with Life Extension’s Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes and Hippocrates Health Institute’s LifeGive Digestive Enzymes.

One other solution to keep in mind is the addition of probiotics into your daily regimen.  Read a past Ask Grettie column about probiotics.

If the above solutions do not solve your GI issues, you may have a food intolerance or allergy which may be causing some of the uncomfortable inflammation in your digestive tract.  Keep a food log and see if you notice any patterns with regards to when you experience your GI issues and whether it is related to the consumption of certain foods.  A great way to determine the offending food is to put yourself on an elimination diet.  Basically you remove possible food triggers for a week and then slowly add them back one at a time to see if your symptoms return.  If the symptoms return after adding back a particular food, then you have found your culprit (some people have more than one).  I used an elimination diet to determine my gluten intolerance.

According to Dr. McDougall, the six leading causes of food allergies are dairy, eggs, chocolate, nuts, shellfish, and fish.  Becoming vegan will automatically remove four of the six most common food allergens from your diet…yet another reason to praise vegan diets!  If nuts and chocolate are not your triggers, then it is time to move on to the elimination of the following potential allergens from the vegetable kingdom, wheat (and/or gluten in general), corn, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Please keep in touch and let me know if the above recommendations help solve your GI distress.

Here’s to health!


**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, General Vegan, Gut Health, Vegan, Vegetarian


My latest Chic Vegan column. I have lots of vegan bread recipes that call for whole wheat flour, but I don’t bake with gluten.  Is there a formula for adding xanthan gum to gluten free flours, ie…teaspoon for every cup of flour, etc.? ~ Sirica Hi Sirica, Yes, there is a formula for adding xanthan gum to recipes.  The amount of xanthan gum added depends upon what you plan on using it for.  Here is a quick breakdown: Cake – ¼ tsp. per 1 cup of flour Breads – 1 tsp. per 1 cup of flour Pizza Crust – 2 tsp. per 1 cup of flour Salad Dressings – 1/8 tsp. per 1 ½ cups of dressing Frozen Treats – 1/8 tsp. per 2 cups of liquid For those of you not familiar with xanthan gum, it is a powdery substance often used in gluten free baking to replicate the function of gluten.  When added to dressings xanthan gum binds the dressing together and improves the texture.  When added to frozen treats it inhibits the development of large ice crystals and imparts a more creamy texture to the dessert. A wonderful resource for learning how to bake gluten free is The Gluten Free Goddess by Karina Allrich.  I always keep a bag of Karina’s Gluten Free Flour mix in my fridge. Karina’s Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix

1 cup sorghum flour (aka jowar flour)
1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour)
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond meal, buckwheat flour, millet flour or quinoa flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

To read more of Karina’s gluten free baking tipclick here. I know it seems intimidating at first, however with a little experimentation I know you will soon be very comfortable baking in your gluten free kitchen. Here’s to health! Gretchen **Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her .**


Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, Gluten Free, Gluten-Free Baking, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Natural Remedies for Ulcers

One of my Chic Vegan columns…

Dear Grettie-

I have an ulcer.  What can I do naturally to help it heal and what can I do in the future to avoid its return?


I am sorry to hear that you have been suffering with an ulcer as I hear they can be extremely painful!  Unfortunately you are not alone as it is estimated that 1 in 10 people will succumb to this fate during their lifetime [1].  As I mentioned, ulcers can be extremely painful since they are basically open wounds in your esophagus, stomach, or intestine.

My research indicates that there are definitely actions you can take to help heal your ulcer and prevent them in the future.  I do want to mention that it is very important you be diagnosed by a doctor and consult your doctor while designing your treatment plan.  The advice below should not be considered medical advice as I am most definitely not a doctor.

Ulcers can also be very serious business.  Ulcers resulting in bloody vomit (especially if it resembles coffee grounds) or stool (bloody or black) are cause for immediate medical attention.


The general belief used to be that ulcers were caused by stress and eating spicy foods.  While those behaviors can definitely exacerbate an ulcer, it is now widely believed that the main culprit in the formation of ulcers is a bacterial infection from Helicobacter pylori (otherwise known as H. pylori).  H. pylori is common and affects “1 in 5 people under the age of 30 and about half of the population older than 60 [2].”  The theory is that somehow (possible causes listed below), the mucosal lining of the stomach and small intestine becomes compromised and at that point the H. pylori is able to invade.

The second most common cause of ulcers is believed to be the long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) [3].

Contributing factors to the deterioration of the mucosal lining can be:

  • Smoking – Nicotine will increase the amount of acid in the stomach
  • Food Allergies – There is some research indicating that food allergies (which often result in a high amount of irritation) can be responsible for ulcer formation [4]
  • Alcohol consumption – irritates the lining of the stomach
  • Coffee, tea, and carbonated beverage consumption – also irritates the stomach and increases stomach acid
  • Vitamin K deficiency – Vitamin K is a key nutrient connected with blood clotting
  • Radiation
  • Burns


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you should eliminate the contributing factors listed above and follow these nutritional tips:

  • Eat foods containing flavonoids – like apples, celery, cranberries (including cranberry juice), onions, garlic, and tea may inhibit the growth of H. pylori.
  • Eat antioxidant foods –  including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers).
  • Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium – such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no allergy), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables.
  • Avoid refined foods – such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
  • Eat fewer red meats (YEAH TO THE VEGANS!) and eat tofu (soy, if no allergy) or beans for protein.
  • Use healthy oils –  such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids – found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
  • Drink 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.


If you are already suffering from an ulcer make sure you follow the advice above.  In addition, several references agree that the following can be quite helpful in the healing process:

  • Fresh cabbage juice – up to 1 liter per day (divided throughout the day).  Dr. Garnett Cheney from Stanford University’s School of Medicine performed several studies resulting in the documentation that “the majority of the patients experienced complete healing in as little as seven days [5].”
  • Bananas – Eating bananas 3 times a day with almond milk does a fantastic job of neutralizing stomach acid and coating the stomach lining.
  • Lime – aids digestion
  • Mastic gum – is useful for its antimicrobial benefits and has been used in the Mediterranean for Middle East for thousands of years.  Research has shown mastic gum to be effective against 7 strains of H. pylori bacteria [6].  Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily in divided dosages.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Naturally very high in vitamin K, apple cider vinegar helps blood clot and is also a natural antiseptic.  Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink it as maintenance.  When in an acute episode, add up to a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water and drink in order to help neutralize stomach acid.  Drink until you feel the pain subside.
  • Probiotic supplement (click here to see a past Ask Grettie post about probiotics).
  • Vitamin C, 500 – 1,000 mg 1 – 3 times daily – Vitamin C may be helpful in treating bleeding stomach ulcers caused by aspirin use.
  • Eat alkalizing foods – click here for a Veggie Grettie post about the importance of an alkaline diet.
  • DGL-licorice standardized extract – 250 to 500 mg 3 times daily, chewed either 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals — may help protect against stomach damage from NSAIDs. Glycyrrhizin is a chemical found in licorice that causes side effects and drug interactions. DGL is deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed.
  • Cranberry – 400 mg twice daily.  Some preliminary research suggests cranberry may inhibit H. pylori growth in the stomach.
  • Peppermint standardized, enteric coated tablet – 1 tablet 2 – 3 times daily — may help relieve symptoms of peptic ulcer. Each tablet contains 0.2 ml peppermint oil. Be sure to use the enteric coated form to avoid heartburn.
images courtesy of Peter Gerdes and

**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column

ASK GRETTIE – Veganizing a Tea Party

My latest Ask Grettie column for Chic Vegan

I am hosting a tea party and one of the guests is vegan.  Can you recommend some vegan recipes (I will be serving mint tea and English breakfast tea)?  My vegan cookbook only has recipes for fruit crisps and nut balls.  Not very inspiring!!!

~ Kristie

Hi Kristie!

It can be very intimidating to host vegan guests when you are not vegan yourself.  The good news is that it really is very easy to “veganize” recipes.

I have a few ideas…

When I think of “tea” I always think of delicate crust-less sandwiches.  If you go this route just look at the ingredients and make sure there is no dairy or eggs in the bread.  Many sliced breads do not have milk or egg in them, so this should be relatively easy to find.

I don’t know how sophisticated the children’s palate’s are, but most children like peanut butter and jelly, jelly and cream cheese (vegan), or just plain jelly sandwiches.  Cucumber sandwiches are another classic tea sandwich that would be great to serve for the adults.

Another idea along the same sandwich lines would be to make some wonderful pinwheel sandwiches by taking tortillas, spreading them with hummus, filling them with colorful veggies (peppers, cucumber, avocado, spinach, onion), rolling them like a jelly roll, and slicing them for a gorgeous colorful presentation.

Salads are also a great addition to any tea menu.  My friend made an amazing Israeli couscous salad and brought it to our most recent BBQ.  Her salad was so fresh and consisted of cooked Israeli couscous, fresh basil in a chiffonade, cherry or grape tomatoes, balsamic or red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Sometimes the simplest salads are the most impressive since they allow the quality ingredients to speak for themselves.  Another salad that would flow beautifully with your menu is tabouli.  The mint and other fresh herbs in the salad would go well with the mint tea you plan to serve.

If you want to make a vegan sweet or coffeecake, it is really easy to veganize conventional recipes.  Simply replace the butter with a vegan alternative and use a non-dairy milk.  As for the egg substitutions, I posted about that recently on Veggie Grettie.

I hope this helps.  You have inspired me…now I want to host a vegan tea party!

~ Grettie

UPDATE –  I answered Kristie directly since her tea was approaching quickly.  She sent me a picture of the wonderful food she prepared for the tea along with the following message:

Gretchen, thanks so much for your help!

 I ended up serving the vegan classic cucumber tea sandwiches (thanks to Tofutti!) and the special pb&j.  I also served up vegan cupcakes with vegan chocolate frosting which was a big hit with the kids, including Kaya (the eldest, in the picture above). Thanks again for your inspiration!


**Do you have a questions for Grettie?   She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions!  Email her at .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Vegans and Protein


My latest Chic Vegan column…

How much protein does a vegan person need daily?  Is animal protein superior to plant-based protein? 

~ Gail

This is definitely the question I get asked most.

When eating a varied whole-food plant-based diet that is adequate in calories it is actually difficult to become protein deficient (i.e. spinach is 57% protein while hamburger is 37%).  According to Dr. Pam Popper,

“[We] are suffering from excess, not deficiency.  [Americans] are eating too much fat, too much protein, and too many calories.”

So many people are so concerned about protein deficiency.  While protein is a very important macronutrient, so are carbohydrates, and you never hear anyone expressing a concern about carbohydrate deficiency.  Without the appropriate amount of carbohydrates our brains do not function well and that should be a big concern!

There is an elemental difference between animal-based and plant-based protein.  Since the amino acid structure of animal-based protein most closely mimics that of our own bodily protein, it is more available for our body to utilize immediately…But that does NOT mean that it is a more superior form of protein for our bodies to use.  We must remember that animal-based protein is acidifying and results in our bodies need to buffer that acid by removing it from our body’s alkaline stores (most notably calcium from the bones).  I don’t know about you, but I want to keep as much calcium IN my bones as possible.

While plant-based protein does not generally provide all 9 essential amino acids (there are some exceptions; soy, quinoa, spinach), it is not acid producing which is a major benefit.  The essential amino acid issue so many people have harped about for years is insanely easy to rectify.  It was once thought that vegetarians and vegans needed to eat complementary protein foods at each meal to result in a complete amino acid profile, but it is now known that it is not necessary to do so. The Vegetarian Resource Group states,

“We recommend eating a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit 8,9.”

Current protein recommendations for vegetarians vary from 0.6-1.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight.  To determine your protein needs, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 (this will give you your weight in kilograms).  Take that number and multiply it by the protein recommendation.  Let’s use a 150 pound man as an example:

150lbs. / 2.2 = 68kg (rounded down for ease)

68kg x 0.6 = 41 grams of protein

68kg x 1.0 = 68 grams of protein

The protein recommendations for a vegetarian male range between 41 to 68 grams of protein per day.  When you look at the protein content of many vegetarian foods (click here to do so), it becomes clear that consuming adequate protein is not a problem.  Vegan protein powders alone can provide up to 24 grams of protein per scoop.

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, Protein

ASK GRETTIE – Eliminating Cheese From Your Diet

This is my latest column for Chic Vegan.


I am in need of your expertise. I am considering taking dairy out of my kid’s diet to look more like me & my husband’s diet, but I am finding the right cheese replacement to be the hardest part. They really like the soy cheese, but I don’t want them to have that much soy. They also like the rice and/or almond cheese but they both contain casein, which is in dairy and not exactly healthy for you! All the ones at Whole Foods that say Vegan have soy and all the Rice Cheese have casein. Can’t decide which is worse…Help…any suggestions? Do you make nut cheeses for your kids?


I love to hear that parents are considering taking dairy out of their children’s diet.  My children do not consume dairy and are thriving!  That being said, it can be a tough battle to remove something from a child’s diet if they really have a fondness for it.  I removed dairy from my children’s diet about 3 years ago and some items were harder to remove than others.  There was some kicking and screaming with regards to the removal of string cheese.  The milk was easier to remove because I slowly changed their milk without them even realizing it.  My method involved slowly diluting their milk with almond milk.  On day one I replaced about 1/6th of their milk with almond milk and the next week it went to ¼ of their milk, the next week 1/3, then ½, ¾, until it was all almond milk.  I personally think that the milk transition would have been even easier if at the time I had access to So Delicious’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

Now, onto cheese.  People have a true addiction to cheese.  In PCRM’s (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) research studies, “When we take people off meat, dairy products, and other unhealthy fare, we often find that the desire for cheese, in particular, lingers on much more strongly than for other foods. While they might like ice cream or yogurt, they describe their feelings for cheese as a deep-seated craving.” It has been found that cow’s milk and human milk both have trace amounts of morphine in them.  It is theorized that this helps babies bond with their mothers when breast feeding. According“[C]ows actually produce it within their bodies, just as poppies do. Traces of morphine, along with codeine and other opiates, are apparently produced in cows’ livers and can end up in their milk.  Cow’s milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese.”

As long as you understand that the removal of cheese will be difficult and you make the decision to stay the course, you will survive the transition and be glad you stuck it out.  In my opinion, there is no direct replacement for dairy cheese in the vegan world.  As for substitutes, different vegan cheeses serve different purposes.  You are right that a lot of the vegan cheese substitutes out there do contain casein as well as soy.  Perhaps these cheese substitutes can help your children with their transition away from dairy cheese.  One thing is for certain, they are more healthful than dairy cheese.  Daiya has been a great substitute for me.  I do not use it all the time due to its high fat content, but it makes wonderful grilled “cheese” sandwiches and macaroni and cheese (click here for my recipe).  I do make nut cheeses on occasion and find that they work really well in my lasagna recipes or as ricotta substitutes.  If I make the nut cheese on its own (i.e. to eat with crackers), I find that I like it more than my children do, but my nephew loved it the last time he tried it.  Mostly I have made peace with the fact that I don’t NEED a replacement for cheese.  For example, pizza tastes great without cheese as does garlic bread and pesto can be made with nutritional yeast.  I think we all need to change the way we think about cheese.

Congratulations on making the decision to improve your children’s health.


**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her .**


Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Children, Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian