Whole Foods

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Marinated mushrooms, golden and regular beets, edamame beans, mixed rice and adzuki beans, kale salad with sesame, arugula, pumpkin seeds and Whole Foods no oil miso dressing and their no-oil ginger and tahini dressings.

There are so many wonderful things about Vancouver that makes you just want to pack up and leave wherever you are to move here. Perhaps it is the cool climate, stunning natural beauty, the benefits of both mountains and beaches close by, the outdoors and Bohemian lifestyle or in my case the wonderful family and friends I have here in the Whistler and Vancouver area. But, there is nothing like a visit to Whole Foods to really get a sense on what you are missing out on in Asia and other places.

While many people who are reading this will have been lucky enough to visit a Whole Foods and dang it, perhaps they even get to shop here on a regular basis (mildly jealous), but most health conscious non-North Americans have probably only dreamed about a place like this. Shortly put, it is a grocery store with the focus on healthy organic products. It also has an incredible ‘take-away’ cafeteria section that it really the stuff of dreams. The word ‘abundance’ comes to mind when walking around it. While we were in Vancouver we ate dinner and lunch here despite having a huge choice of dining choices in this lovely city. Firstly, I felt rather comatose after the flight and eating the less than best nutritious food and I needed and wanted things like kale. Secondly, I am of the opinion that one should leave nice restaurants for a time when one has time and feels good enough to enjoy them properly.

I think Whole Foods really does get a bad rap. It is often called ‘Whole Paycheck’ due to its price, and I would agree, it is easy to spend a lot of money when there are so many expensive, high-end, excellent quality organic items with their beautiful packaging that just seem irresistible sitting on the shelf and would be much better placed in one’s tummy. I have been known to spend up big here in previous years to stock up on those things I couldn’t get in Asia. But the fact is, most of the high end items that I can buy off the shelves in Whole Foods are available in Asia, I just have to make ‘em myself. That delicious choc chip cookie I bought for dessert I could have had in Asia, I would have had to make it myself. And those incredible Field Roast sausages at probably about $7 for 4 sausages? I bet Post Punk Kitchen’s Italian Sausages could give them a run for the money at a much-reduced price but of course I have to make them myself. Isn’t this the case for all things? When you choose the Field Roast sausages you are choosing convenience over price. This just goes to show what I always say. Eating a plant-based diet is considerably cheaper when you eat a whole food diet rather than the expensive gourmet processed goods that end up in your trolley if you aren’t prepared to find the time to cook from scratch. Luckily in Indonesia, plant-based whole foods are available in abundance and are seriously cheap if I choose local rather than imported. There are plenty of things in even Whole Foods that are seriously cheap, but of course they are actual whole foods. A pound of organic 365 brand quinoa was only $4.65. If I did live in Vancouver, I am sure I would still have to live on a whole-foods make from scratch diet as it would be the only thing I could afford or a teacher’s salary. Those Field Roast sausages would be a rare treat!

Still, I do believe that the salad / hot food bar is a good value for money when travelling especially for the huge range there is on it. Sure, I could buy individual things and assemble them myself in the hotel room and save the cash, but I am prepared to pay for the convenience of just piling my plate and the massive range of foods that are available in the salad bar and the fact that it is so highly nutritious and delicious is a real bonus for me, especially after a long plane ride. While writing this post, I came across this article on ‘how to beat the salad bar at whole foods’ and I will certainly be using some of these tips as we travel around the US.

This plate of food cost me $11 and it was amazing. It was made up of all whole foods and grains and had incredible no-oil dressings. I could have easily spent double that by piling my plate up really high, having a fresh juice and a dessert and completely stuffing my face, but I really am trying to practice moderation where I can, especially given that I will be heading to the US shortly where massive portions will be the name of the game.

It is certainly true that there are cheaper places to eat when travelling. But even those really cheap fast food places cost probably about $6 for a whole meal like McDonald’s, really, this is only $5 more and I am happy to pay because I am actually one of those really lucky people that earns more than enough to satisfy my basic needs and with my disposable income, choosing good quality nutritious food is a priority for me. Some people like to spend their extra cash on a big screen TV, having lots of kids, wine (very expensive in Indonesia) or nice houses and decorating, but for me this is so important and a deal-breaker. When I think about this dilemma we often have,  I often think about the time I spent tourleading where I spent time with travellers or overhearing conversations with backpackers. They would often be indignant about spending the difference between a third and a second class train ticket to their next destination which would save them $5, but come beer ‘o’clock those exact same people would happily spend 3 times that saving they made on alcohol (which is not an essential). I’m not knocking those people. We all make these choices. Those of us that are lucky enough to have more than enough money to satisfy our basic needs all make these choices everyday (unless we are ultra rich). My choice is healthy and delicious nutritious food that nourishes me makes all aspects of my life more enjoyable over fine wine and a beautifully decorated home.

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FAQ #1 – How Do You Eat Vegan in Asia?

I’ve been vegan in Asia in three different countries; Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia and from time to time people ask me how on earth I can cope. There are not exactly a lot of vegetarian restaurants here and there are absolutely no Bocca Burgers, Veganaise, Daiya Cheese in Jakarta.

The thing is, as much as I quite like these foods from time to time, I try to make sure they are not the mainstay of my diet. Sure they are are quite satisfying and really good when you are transitioning from a Standard American Diet (SAD) because although they are better for you than the equivalent animal-based burger or mayo, I don’t want to just eat well, I want to eat optimally and fuel my body with the best whole foods I possibly can in their most unprocessed state. That’s why I use mainly local produce and cook from scratch. It also saves me some cash. The high cost of those processed veg meats / cheeses is another reason I want to avoid them. Dried chickpeas and tempeh though? Seriously cheap.

So, while it is certainly true that it pretty easy to just take some burgers out of the freezer when we get home from work, make a quick side salad or some oven fries, I would rather take the extra time (which when you come down to it, it is only a matter of an extra 20 minutes) and make something from scratch. It’s true, it does take more time, but I believe that this is so important, that I need to make this a priority in my life. I think we all need to be taking the time to nourish our bodies properly. If it means I have less time to watch TV of an evening then I’m OK with that.

The thing is, when I fancy a burger I’ll make one. Need mayonaise? I’ll make some. OK. Cheese is a bit of a problem,  but I can make foods with nuts and nutritional yeast that will satisfy those cravings. Nearly all things that you can find in Whole Foods in Canada or the US you can pretty much make yourself. Indonesia has beautiful produce and some amazing protein sources. It might not have kale, but it has plenty of other green leafies. I don’t feel deprived at all and even if I lived in a place with a huge stack of awesome frozen burgers, mayo and muffins, I’d still make my own.

by SweetOnVeg