Eat the rainbow (without unicorns): Color Me Vegan is an indispensable guide toa healthy diet
Who hasn't heard the hackneyed phrase, "eat the rainbow"?
It's nutritionists' attempt at encouraging people to go beyond the cremes, beiges and browns of unremarkable animal flesh and encourage the consumption of foods that visually make people smile, rather than edibles that demand the unfastening of the belt to accommodate an expanding bacon-double-cheeseburger (fries with that?) muffin-top belly.
"Eat the rainbow" sounds a little like an idiomatic expression that belongs to the land of unicorns, banana kings, sparkling amulets and a bong. Though the recommendation means well, with an ever-increasing fountain of ridiculous nutritional information in the public realm, it is necessary to have some solid ground to promote its message.
Or else, we end up confused. Very confused.
"The biggest misconception about vegan food is that it is somehow special food or different, unfamiliar food. I mean, it 'is' special in that whole-food based vegan dishes are healthful and nutrient-dense and kind to the animals and the environment."
As recently as yesterday, I overheard someone advise against apples because of their carb and sugar content. Really? Am I living in land of magic bridges of hope and wonder leading to Candy Mountain?
Eat the rainbow (without unicorns)
An answer to the colorful-rich sustenance conundrum is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Color Me Vegan, a cookbook organized in eight chapters that works through the complete hue spectrum — red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white/tan, black/brown and of course, the rainbow. She provides an array of delicious, easy recipes that gets to the core healthy, sensible eating.
"Most people eat enough veggies from the yellow and red groups, between the familiar veggies of corn and tomatoes, as well as favorite fruits such as bananas and strawberries," Patrick-Goudreau aka the Compassionate Cook, said in an email interview.
"These tend to be non-threatening foods that don't require a lot of imagination to see how we can increase them in our diet. The most difficult colors to create recipes for were probably those in the white/tan category just in terms of making the recipes nutrient-dense, but you'll definitely find that in my Winter White Soup (made with parsnips and white beans) or my Banana Oat Date Cookies."
Color Me Vegan breaks it down so meals can maximize the intake of lycopene and betzcyanins in red foods; beta-carotene in oranges and carrots, lutein in mangos, lemons and yellow bell peppers; chlorophyll in kale and broccoli, anthocyanins (antioxidants) in blueberries and purple cabbage; fiber and allicin in white beans, parsnip and garlic; and selenium in mushrooms.
Each section contains elements of a complete meal beginning with starters and salads, soups and stews, main entrees, sides and desserts, all while keeping it vegan.
"The biggest misconception about vegan food is that it is somehow special food or different, unfamiliar food. I mean, it 'is' special in that whole-food based vegan dishes are healthful and nutrient-dense and kind to the animals and the environment.
"But on the other hand, it's food we're already familiar with and food we already love. When we talk about 'vegan food,' we're talking about vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, grains, herbs and spices. And yes, it's also bread and chocolate. Even when we talk about 'vegan' baked goods, we're talking about flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract and cocoa."
No animals were harmed in the writing of Color Me Vegan.
Her arguments is simply this: Phytochemicals, phytonutrients (phyto means plants), fiber and antioxidants originate from plants. If they happen to be found in animals, its because they consumed those plants. So why go through a intermediately when you can go to the source?
That just makes sense. But the government's convoluted message, not so much.
Re-learning to eat
The food pyramid — which since its introduction 20 years ago has resulted in 27 percent of young adults being too overweight to meet the requirements for military service — was replaced by MyPlate in June. The new food icon and nutritional guide as endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that one-half of a plate should be allocated to fruits and vegetables, an improvement over the previous guide.
But the government entity's subsidies tells a different story with 60 percent of agricultural handouts benefiting the meat and dairy industry (big surprise) while only one percent have been earmarked for fruits and vegetables.
It gets juicier and artificially more flavorful. Directly or indirectly, $16.9 billion in subsidies for corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils (processed as hydrogenated oils) have ended up as junk food additives since 1995.
A new study titled Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food uncovers such a apocalyptic disparity and when taking into account that apples — the only significant federal contribution to fruits and vegetable — received only $262 million, the numbers would equate to 11 Twinkies and less that one quarter of a Red Delicious apple per person (18,952,632 Twinkies to 216,363 apples) for Houston.
Why are we then trusting the government with food, nutritional or health guidelines?
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has put out their own — and may I say less politically skewed — Power Plate consisting of a quarter each fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables. That means there is no need for animal-derived protein.
Making it pretty and colorful
To make such a plate a feast for the eyes and the tongue, Color Me Vegan is now a permanent companion in my culinary adventures. The cookery book has helped me overcome difficulties in achieving my own nutritional goals, including experimenting with food colors that for most, are quite daunting.
"Green is definitely high on the list of food color groups that Americans have trouble consuming and don't consume enough of," Patrick-Goudreau explained. "And I think the biggest reason for this is that most people grew up eating green vegetables that were covered in cream sauces and butter and fat and were never able to really appreciate the flavors of such veggies as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and asparagus.
"When we remove all the animal fat from our palates, our palates become sensitive to the true flavor and vegetables and we recognize that it doesn't take much to appreciate them — a little olive oil, a little garlic, a little salt and that's all you need."
Brought to you by the color purple, this recipe is inspired by Color Me Vegan's Blackberry Breakfast Bars.
Blueberry Oat Flax Bars inspired by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Color Me Vegan
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 tablespoon of agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance), melted
- 1 cup quick oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2/3 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Cook the blueberries in a heavy sauce pan with lemon and agave nectar. When the mixture boils, add in the cornstarch dissolved in a little bit of water. Simmer for 5-8 minutes and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the crust ingredients and divide in two. Use half of the mixture and press firmly at the bottom of 8 x 8 inch pan (or one of similar dimensions). Bake for 20 minutes.
Spread the blueberries on top. Use the second half of the crust mixture to top, packing gently down to create a firm top layer. Bake for another 20 minutes.
Let cool completely before cutting into desired shapes, otherwise, they will fall apart. Enjoy by themselves or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. There's plenty of vegan choices out there.