'Tis the Season to Donate

It's the end of the year, and for non-profits, that means scrambling for donations from kind folks like yourselves. I know because I run one. Many people have also opted to make donations in honor of loved ones for the holiday season, which I think is a fantastic idea as most of us have too much "stuff."

So, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of my fave organizations that you may feel compelled to support. Remember that no donation is too small. I always thought that was a bit of a cliche; however, it is true. I would rather get a few dollars donated than nothing at all.

A Well-Fed World "is a hunger relief and animal protection organization chipping away at two of the world's most immense, unnecessary and unconscionable forms of suffering... the suffering of people from lack of food and the suffering of animals used as food." They offer a handful of programs, including one which provides grants to organizations addressing vegan issues and another called the PB&J campaign. Now that is a campaign I can get behind!

Food Empowerment Project is another organization addressing food justice issues from the vegan perspective. They are the ones behind the fantastic chocolate list that works to identify slave labor chocolates. I love, love, love this group and its founder, Lauren Ornelas. Click here for just one of her inspiring talks.

Animal sanctuaries & rescues are certainly worthy of our support. When looking to donate to animal causes, I encourage you to investigate - as not all animal organizations operate from a vegan perspective. Some groups have no problems holding fundraisers that exploit one group of animals while benefiting another. You can read my feelings about that at Your Daily Vegan. Here are some of the smaller groups doing great things  - where your dollar will certainly go a long way:

Ohio SPCA provides sanctuary to over 100 farm & companion animals. They are leaders in the state in fighting for rural county pound reform and intervening in cruelty cases. I had the pleasure of assisting with their bust of a puppymill last year in which nearly 250 dogs were saved. They are not affiliated with the ASPCA and run solely on donations. 

Lasa Sanctuary is an up & coming sanctuary housing 40+ animals in northeast Ohio. I became friendly with one of the founders, Joy, when we were both living elsewhere and struggling to make a difference in the lives of companion animals by operating rescues in areas of rural Ohio. Eventually, she bought a farm, and I moved to the city (no cows for me - boo!).

Sunrise Sanctuary was found in 2001 and is located in central Ohio. Home to over 170 animals, Sunrise hosts an annual "Thanksgiving For the Turkeys" that I hope to one year attend. I mean, look at these beauties:

Uplands PEAK Sanctuary is a brand new organization in southern IN. Their first residents, piglets Annie & Andy, are adorable - duh. This group plans on opening to the public in Spring 2014 and are currently holding a matching fund drive - with the chance of obtaining $10,000, which is a huge amount of money for a start-up sanctuary.

Mid-Ohio Animal Welfare League is my animal advocacy organization, and of course I am going to mention it. We are a very small group but have placed over 350 companion animals since 2005. I co-founded this group when I lived in Mansfield, where the plight of cats and dogs is pretty dismal. Now that I live in Cleveland, we don't foster as many companion animals as we once did as we are short on space & qualified foster homes; however, we still organize the only low-cost spay.neuter clinic back in Mansfield for cats & dogs and often subsidize costs for low-income families. When we do take in fosters, we try to take the more medically needy ones that have less chance of being saved from shelters. One of my current fosters is Shiloh -

Alley Cat Allies - cuz they advocate for feral cats. 'Nuff said.
Music & Memory's mission is  to bring "personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life." The power of music is incredible. If you don't believe me, watch this:

And of course, there is always the idea of donating non-perishable vegan food to your local food pantry, like peanut butter and canned beans. There are many deserving organizations. I hope you choose to donate and extend the circle of compassion.

My ABC's List of Thanks

I am not going to act as if I am a fan of Thanksgiving in terms of what it means in the traditional sense. Sure, I will gather with loved ones, all of whom agree sparing the turkey is the kindest act, and enjoy my fair share of vegan goodies. But let's not pretend that the Native Americans and Pilgrims were BFFs, and the poor symbolic turkey is now slaughtered by the millions for a single day of gluttony. That being said, sometimes I need to just write & think about lighthearted dribble.

I love making lists - so much so that I am fairly certain I entered the world with pen & paper in hand, contemplating the pros and cons of cloth versus disposable diapers. So, this my food-themed list of what I am giving thanks for this year. 

Biscuits & gravy, especially the recipe from "Vegan With A Vengeance" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Carmelized Onion Hummus - I could eat it by the gallon.
Dandies - I like 'em best in Rocky Road scones.

Espresso Balsamic Vinegar. Enjoy it as a dressing on a spinach salad with walnuts & cranberries.
Food Empowerment Project
Gin Gins.
Hilary's Eat Well burgers
Ice cream. Soy, coconut, rice milk-based. Take your pick.
Jam. Strawberry. Organic.
Kale. Not really, that vegetable is sooo 2012.
Lagusta's Luscious - Admittedly, I haven't ordered yet, but everything looks mouth-watering, & they just seem like a kick-ass business.
Mint tea. Iced or hot, whatevs.
Nori. I like it for sushi, & I like it as a cat's name.
Organic farmers
Quinoa. A bit of an obligatory answer because not many food stuff starts with 'Q.'
Root Cafe
Slave-free Chocolate
Taco Tuesdays - especially when they involve 'battered avocado' varieties.
Urban farms
Wheatgrass. (Just kidding.) yeah. I got nothing.
Yellow miso? Yeah, 'Y' is difficult, too. 
Zucchini Rosemary Lemon bread. A triple threat of yum.  

Myself, my husband, and two feathered friends at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. The rooster was pooping, which makes this photo even that more awesome.


Thanksgiving Noms - My Suggestions.

This week, I had the pleasure to host at my local Whole Foods Market their first "Vegan Thanksgiving Tasting." In collaboration with Morag Keefe, Demo Coordinator, & Lisa Sands, Marketing Director, we planned an evening where guests could sample items off the WFM holiday menu, along with try recipes I felt would be sure-fire hits. Plus, it was FREE.

We had a really nice turnout. Guests were served quinoa stuffed butternut squash, green bean casserole, maple roasted brussel sprouts, farro stuffing, olive oil mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, cranberry orange relish, gardein roast, & pumpkin pie. No one left hungry, and I am pretty sure most left with a few ideas for the holiday table. 

In addition to tasty food, guests were given a pamphlet showcasing two Thanksgiving menus put together by moi. I pulled from a handful of blogs over which I enjoy drooling...

Menu 1

Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Menu 2

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Root Vegetables
Polenta Stuffing

Two recipes mentioned are found in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Appetite for Reduction" cookbook, "Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples" and "Polenta Stuffing." The "Curried Pumpkin Soup" is sold by Whole Foods Market as a part of their "Health Starts Here" product line.

Well, this blog entry has certainly left me hungry. I would love to hear what is on your menu next week!

Them bones...

 May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Ten million people (80% are women) in the US alone are affected by this disease characterized by a bone loss. This decrease can lead to fractures with debilitating results and, according to the National Institutes of Health, costs over $20 billion per year to treat...

You can read the rest of my post here on the website for Your Daily Vegan

Supplements...a Replacement for a Healthy Diet?

The issue of supplements (specifically vitamin & mineral supplements) is one that I am constantly asked about by people. I tackle the question in my latest weekly blog for Your Daily Vegan.

"Nothing can replace a balanced diet. If you aren’t eating well, supplementing with various vitamins and minerals is not a terrible thing to do; however, I would rather you evaluate what is keeping you from eating well in the first place. Basic food preferences? Poor planning of meals? Time management issues? Eating ‘real food’ is ideal over supplements because food has so many nutrients, like phytochemicals & fiber, which you will be missing due to your supplement dependency..."

You can read the rest of the article here.

Un-Sung Vegan Heroes

Recently, I was featured in the super wonderful vegan website, Your Daily Vegan, as their "Un-Sung Vegan Hero." Per YDV, this is a "new series about vegan activists, real people doing really amazing work.  People who work hard to bring positive change in our world.  People who make a substantial, yet unrecognized, contribution to the vegan movement- people whose actions are unknown or unacknowledged.  People just like you."

You can check out my YDV interview here. I am looking forward to future installments of this series - as anyone speaking up for the voiceless animals is certainly a hero is my book.


Vitamin B12...take it!

This is a repost from my latest contribution to the Healthy & Humane Observer.

There are some things you just shouldn’t live without – a comfy pair of jeans, a stellar book collection, and a consistent supply of vitamin B12. Ok, so perhaps your idea of “must haves” is a bit different, but do not dare disregard the importance of vitamin B12. All vegans should include a reliable source of this nutrient in their diet. Reliable sources include fortified foods like non-dairy beverages, cereals, meat analogs and nutritional yeast, as well as a supplement. If you are not including any of these sources in your diet, you run the risk of developing a deficiency, which can cause anemia, elevated risk for heart disease, and potentially irreversible neurological damage. A deficiency may go unnoticed as symptoms can take years to develop, which is why it is crucial to have a regular intake of the nutrient. It should be noted that Vitamin B12 deficiency is far from a “vegan only” issue, as it affects many adults as they age due to decreased absorption ability, which is why it is advocated all people over the age of 50 years old supplement with this nutrient.

As vegans, we simply cannot stand by the idea that every nutrient we need, we can obtain solely by eating plants. It is scientifically untrue in today’s society. It is true that we need only a small amount of this vitamin – 2.4 micrograms for adults with slightly higher needs for pregnant and lactating women. So, it is reasonable to think that a century ago when food sanitation was not what it is today, a vegan could obtain the daily requirement for vitamin B12 from bacteria on food and in drinking water.Still today, some people believe foods, like algae and fermented products, are reliable sources of vitamin B12. Again, this is untrue.

If you are opting to rely on fortified foods as your primary source of vitamin B12, you should reach your recommended daily intake by consuming 2-3 servings of fortified foods.  On the other hand, if you do not consistently consume fortified foods, you must take a supplement - at a dose of 25 – 100 micrograms daily or 1,000 micrograms twice per week. Those amounts may seem excessive, but our body only absorbs a small percentage of the dose. It is simply that easy to ensure a consistent vitamin B12 supply. 

Consumer, inform thyself!

The following is my first article written for the inaugural issue of the "Healthy & Humane Observer," which is a local, free publication distributed throughout NE Ohio. You can access their website & online version here.

People often ask me what are my favorite ‘superfoods’ or nutritional supplements because they “saw something on Dr. Oz.” As a registered dietitian, these are fair questions. My simple reply is that I do not recommend any particular superfood because the addition of one single nutrient-rich food is not going to dramatically alter your nutrition status. You can eat kale by the bushel, but it does not compensate for the cheeseburgers you are regularly consuming.

Nutritional supplements will also typically throw me into a fit of eye rolling. Note that I am not referring to actual vitamin & mineral supplements, which I do think can be useful. I am talking about those supplements which make claims that sound too good to be true – and we all know what our mamas said about things like that. Within a day or two, my local grocer sells out of every shipment of green coffee bean extract, which is touted for its weight loss capabilities despite the science to support it. And often, these are consumers who have yet to change their consumption of what is known as the Standard American Diet, which is an eating pattern excessive in sugar, salt and saturated fat. Their grocery carts are overflowing with processed foods while without one fruit, vegetable, legume or whole grain in sight.  Have they considered that their money could be better spent speaking to a trained health professional specializing in whole foods, plant-based nutrition like myself than on an overpriced bottle of pills?    

I suppose I cannot blame people for their lack of understanding about basic nutrition. Our government, which issues dietary recommendations for the public, is deeply influenced by lobbyists for food and drug manufacturers as well as for trade organizations (cue Coca Cola, Pfizer, and the American Egg Board). Our health professionals receive little (if any!) nutrition education as part of their curriculum in school. This is upsetting when many people look to their physicians for guidance. Even my fellow dietitians, who are trained to be nutrition experts, fall prey to biased education material created by food lobbyists. Our food manufacturers are often deceptive in their product marketing & health claims, which only add to consumer confusion. Our media caters to health trends and buzzwords without regard to whether or not what they report is based on sound science.

Unfortunately, I cannot wave a wand and make the government, lobbyists, food manufacturers and the media have your best interests in mind. What I can do is make people aware they need to be their own advocates when it comes to their health, and when they have questions, seek out reputable sources. I have spent more than a decade sorting through nutrition information and trying to convey it to the masses. At the end of the day, my message remains simple: No superfood or a bottle of supplements can replace a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Vegan 101 course at Whole Foods Market

Cleveland! If you are interested in taking my Vegan 101 series at Whole Foods Market in University Hts, please RSVP asap. Classes will be held on Mondays from 6:30 - 7:30p. Info below:

Vegan dietitian and nutrition expert Anya Todd will guide you through a four week series of wellness and lifestyle change! With a focus on a vegan diet, Anya will offer instruction on how to successfully go "Plant-Strong" with the popular Engine 2 Diet book as a guide. Drop in weekly for $10 per class, or sign up for the series and pay only $35 and get a "starter kit" of products valued at $20.00. The book is recommended but optional. Each week includes a lesson, recipes and sample snacks. Payment is due at time of reservation at customer service. 216-932-3918

Class schedule (6:30-7:30p) and lessons:

Feb 11 Foundations of E-2. Pantry re-do, The importance of breakfast, smoothies

Feb 18 Protein and iron; alternatives to meat and eggs, raw food demo and samples

Feb 25 Calcium and Vitamin D; eliminating oil, incorporating greens and grains

Mar 4 B 12 and omega 3s; Maintaining your diet; staying strong, the role of fitness
Hello! Welcome to my new blog. My name is Anya. I am a registered, licensed dietitian specializing in vegan nutrition.