being a CONSCIOUS plant eater

Yesterday, wow, I sort of mindlessly posted on my Facebook page (find me as Robyn Openshaw-Pay or GreenSmoothieGirl) a group called “No More Blood On My Plate.”

Wow.   The response that followed could only be described as a war.   I didn’t even participate in the discussion. (The whole conversation was just NOT. MY. STYLE.   But let’s just say that between those who did, it was . . . heated.)   This leads me to repeat something I learned in my 20’s, as I started trying to share my nutrition philosophies with some of my in-laws.   The point isn’t that they were my in-laws; the point is that I was sharing information they didn’t ask for.   Unsolicited ADVICE giving is probably how they saw it, regardless of whether I felt my motives were pure and didn’t feel I was telling anyone what to do–just sharing things I’d learned.   Wanted to help people I knew were suffering from modern degenerative diseases.

I learned something important.   NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, is more emotional for us than food.   Our opinions about food are sacred cows.   As deeply held as our religion and politics.   People come to the program  only when they (a) were already primed for information about whole foods by their life experience, or (b) have come to a difficult or even desperate place, health-wise, and are frustrated by what’s available (read: NOT available) in modern medicine to help them.   As I’ve said in one of my books, when a student is ready, a teacher appears.

Anyway, I was dismayed at the Facebook war.   Fact is, as I am working to teach my 13-y.o. vegetarian daughter, we can’t bludgeon somebody to death about our dietary opinions and win a single convert.   (Some in the discussion were talking about “forcing” your food views on others, etc.)

Be a CONSCIOUS plant eater.   If you’re following 12 Steps to Whole Foods, you’re getting what you need.   If you’re a vegan eating Diet Coke and Twinkies, you’re in trouble.    Being gentle with the earth and avoiding killing animals is great, but let’s take it up a level and also eat what nourishes us best.   That’s what the Word of Wisdom is about.


I just took the kids to the dollar movie tonight, Wall-E, for the last night of the “Staycation” we’ve been having for their fall school break.   If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a robot that is the only remaining life form on Earth, since humans destroyed it with  profligate consumption and garbage pileup and toxic waste.   He goes around doing waste disposal, until he meets and falls for a probe sent from a spaceship where the remaining living humans are.   The probe (appropriately, “Eve”) has the task of trying to find any green life, so humans can come back to the planet and make it green again.

These humans are grossly overfed, underactive, basically obese babies floating on hover chairs with robots doing everything they need (like levering them back into their hover chairs if they fall out and fetching them yet more junk food).   They consume electronics and fast food in their stationary life–none of them have ever seen a plant, let alone eaten one.   Humans have forgotten how to work and  to read well.   Somehow they  must still be having sex, because the movie shows babies.   I wondered how that worked, because the humans can’t even walk.   (In the climactic ending scene, they all roll out of their hover chairs and begin trying to totter around.   They also plant the tiny little plant Eve found, and the captain says to all the people gathered around, “Kids, we’re going to plant lots of plants, like vegetable plants!   And pizza plants!”)

Afterward, I had a conversation with my kids about, how far-fetched IS it, really, that we are like this 700 years in the future, considering the direction we’ve been going?   I told them that they haven’t experienced, like I have, a time when there were no video games (unless you count Atari Pong, wasn’t it called?–we thought that was so cool! and Ms. PacMan in the video arcade, if you had a quarter).   They weren’t around, like I was, back before everyone got fat.   (It has happened in only a couple of generations!)   Back when people made dinner every night.   This is a little part of our conversation:

Emma: Mom! We need to start recycling!

Me: Are you kidding me? Recycling is for people who actually BUY glass, plastic, and tin.   See, we don’t eat much of anything from boxes, cans, and jars.   The occasional can I use, I can toss in the neighbor’s recycling thing on garbage day.   Our eating 99% plant food, and growing a lot of it,  is better than recycling, and the fact that every scrap goes to the compost pile means that we turn that into fertilizer, which makes us more food, and so on forever.   What we do is UNCYCLE.

Emma: You just made that word up.   The  Joneses totally recycle!

Me: No, I didn’t make it up.    It’s good to recycle, but  the  Joneses recycle because they eat lots of packaged, processed food.   If you don’t eat that, you don’t even  HAVE to recycle.

Kincade:   Man, those hover chairs would be COOOOOOL, though.   You wouldn’t have to do ANYTHING.


I’ve got a bit more work to do to teach my kids that WORK IS A BLESSING.   The law of the harvest and all that–I love every time I haul cabbage out of my garden and in 30 minutes turn 2 big heads of it into 6-7 quarts of raw sauerkraut.   But watching the big old incapacitated grownup babies on Wall-E may have influenced  my kids  a bit in that direction!   Have you seen the movie with your kids, if you have any–and what did you think?

Check out the homepage for my brand-new video on composting and my garden: (or see it on YouTube–click on “watch this in high quality”)

Need motivation? . . . LAST ONE! part 13

You know that my primary motive on is to improve the health of human beings through a plant-based diet.   But today we look at figures regarding the treatment of animals raised for food in America before I officially retire this series:


Number of pigs in U.S. raised in total confinement factories where they never see light of day until trucked to slaughter: 65 million   (in England, zero!)  

U.S. pigs that have pneumonia at the time of slaughter: 70 percent


Broiler chickens so overfed and obese at 6 weeks that they can’t walk: 90 percent


Mass of breast tissue of 8-wk. old chicken compared to 25 years ago: 7 times greater


Do you think the treatment of animals is acceptable if the package reads “cage free,” “free range,” and “natural?”   Those terms mean virtually nothing in the U.S.–they’re just a marketing gimmick with no law or regulation defining them (by USDA standards, a Burger King Whopper is “natural”).   Egglands Best and Vegetarian Harvest both use caged hens.


Length of time birds subjected to forced molting (75 percent of U.S. hens) are given no food:   10-14 days (and 3 days with no water)


Chickens housed in U.S. egg farms in an 18″ by 20″ cage: 7 or 8 (where they peck each other to death, so farmer “de-beak” them, and excrement falls constantly on them from chickens above)


U.S. dairy calves taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth: 90 percent (compared to 8 months of nursing from their mothers in a natural environment)


Veal calves in the U.S. are: denied mother’s milk, trucked to auctions 1-2 days old, commingled with sick and dying animals, chained for life in crates 22″ wide, denied solid food, made anemic, kept in the dark, plagued by respiratory and intestinal disease, not allowed lie down normally, deprived of bedding, never able to walk


Tell me:   Do you love your dog?   Would you be okay with your dog being treated this way?   How did we get to the point that we condone this treatment of other animals like cows, birds, and pigs?

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 12 of 12

Today, why you’re contributing to environmental damage if you eat high on the food chain:


Gallons of oil spilled by the Exxon-Valdez: 12 million


Gallons of putrefying hog urine and feces spilled in North Carolina in 1995 when a hog excrement dam broke:   25 million


Fish killed as an immediate result: 10-14 million


Fish whose breeding area was decimated by this disaster: half of all mid-East Coast fish species


Farmed fish the answer to avoid overfishing?   Farmed fish contains much higher levels of pollutants and pesticides, including 10 times more PCBs (2001 study)


Concentration of pathogens in hog waste (a biohazard) compared to human sewage: 10 to 100 times greater


For every household in the country, 20 tons of livestock manure are produced annually.


The single largest source of water pollution, which cauterizes waterways and kills fish: dairy farms


Rainforest beef destroys: 20-30 plant species, 100 insect species, and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species


When will Indonesian forests (280 million acres) be gone if cleared to produce enough beef for Indonesians to eat as much as the U.S. does, per capita: 3.5 years


When will Costa Rican rainforests be gone if cleared to produce enough beef for Costa Ricans to eat as much as the U.S. does, per capita: 1 year


What a hamburger would cost (produced by clearing forests in India, which is common practice) if the REAL costs were included and no subsidies were involved: $200


Tell me: what does this mean to you?   Do you think we are overconsuming meat?

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 11 of 12

Today, more info on world hunger and why you’re contributing to overconsumption of resources  eating high on the food chain:


Number of people whose food energy needs can be met by the food produced on 2.5 acres of land, if the land is producing . . .


Cabbage                     23 people

Potatoes                      22 people

Rice                               19 people

Corn                             17 people

Wheat                         15 people

Chicken                         2 people

Milk                                 2 people

Eggs                                  1 person

Beef                               1 person


Grain needed to adequately feed every person on the planet who dies of hunger annually: 12 million tons


Amount Americans would have to reduce their beef consumption to save 12 million tons of grain: 10 percent


Amount of fish caught per person, worldwide, sold for human consumption (1996): 16 kg

Amount of marine life that was hauled up with the fish and discarded, per person (1996): 200 kg


Amount of world’s fish catch fed to livestock: 50%, more than the combined weight of the U.S. human population


Newsweek quote: “The amount of water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a (Naval) destroyer.”

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 10 of 12

Today, stats about hunger in the world, and how this is related to a plant-based diet:


Number of UNDERFED and malnourished people in the world: 1.2 billion

Number of OVERFED and malnourished people in the world: 1.2 billion

Both groups have high levels of sickness and disability and shortened life expectancies


Weight of the world’s cattle compared to weight of the world’s people: nearly double


Area of Earth’s total land mass used as pasture for cattle/livestock: 50%


Grassland needed to support one cow under optimal conditions: 2.5 acres

Grassland needed to support one cow under much more common marginal conditions: 50 acres


Pounds of grain needed to produce 1 lb. of beef: 17

U.S. corn eaten by people: 2 percent

U.S. corn eaten by livestock: 77 percent

U.S. farmland producing vegetables: 4 million acres

U.S. farmland producing hay for livestock: 56 million acres


U.S. grain and cereals fed to livestock: 70 percent

Human beings who could be fed by the grain and soybeans eaten by U.S. livestock: 1,400,000,000


World’s population living in the U.S.:   4 percent

World’s beef eaten in the U.S.: 23 percent

Is Europe healthier than the U.S.?

Ciao, hola, bon jour, and cheerio!   We had an amazing time in six countries of Europe (Slovenia and Croatia not represented in those greetings, because I wasn’t there long enough to pick up any vocab).   But we were so ecstatic to arrive home to our FAVORITE country that we almost kissed the dirty floor of the airport!


I’m now more thankful than before for abundantly available ice, predictable traffic, nonsmokers, free and easy-to-find public restrooms and drinking fountains, and my dollar actually BUYING me something, just to name a few.   I have newfound respect, however, for conservation–of space, resources, water, land, and gasoline.   I think I may never complain about $4/gal. gas again, since Europeans are paying $9/gal.!


You will be thrilled to know that a certain brand of American capitalism is alive and well in Europe (see photos below in Florence, Venice, Versailles, Barcelona, and London).   So if we’ve so successfully exported some of the worst parts of our culture, why are they still so much healthier than we are?   More on that tomorrow.

“The plural of anecdote is not data” . . . part 1 of 4

I’m still laughing since I read that most excellent quote–thanks, Katie!


When I’m teaching my college students elemental data analysis and research, I tell them my two pet peeves about research in general, but particularly in the field of health and nutrition.


I say that I am completely frustrated with medicine.   The vast majority of research inside modern medicine is bought and paid for, motive tainting it to the point of near uselessness.   A profit motive is often counter to the interests of the public health (a flaw in the capitalist economic system, not that I’m advocating for any other system).   Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of prescription drugs.   The problem is highlighted by the 2007 release of a study of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies (often referred to as Big Pharma): they spend 2:1 on marketing (drug pushing) versus research and development!


On the other end, as Katie’s quote alludes to, “alternative health” doesn’t have big bucks backing it, so those who market natural remedies often rely on case studies.   One person, or even ten, saying their constipation improved taking X or Y herb?   That’s not compelling research.   Worst of all is the fact that many health/nutrition products are marketed by people with little knowledge base (in direct sales and network marketing models).   Those selling many products these days rely on nothing more than anecdotes, or “testimonials.”      







Their selling sometimes looks a lot like a revivalist religious meeting, and that turns me cold because it’s emotion based rather than logic based.   Look at the folks claiming their gout or their psoriasis or their athsma is better because of Product X, at those meetings, and tell me: do they look truly healthy?   Can you really believe that a diet of hot dogs and potato chips, with a little pasteurized miracle mangosteen juice or a pill of  some kind, is the answer to all health problems?  Do a product’s claims fit with what you already know, or is it just wishful thinking and preying on the desperation of so many people in poor health?


I see the problems with  common reasoning flaws on a micro level, constantly.   Three examples tomorrow.

Mark Bittman: western lifestyle causing global warming


This is a great speech worth your time, by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.   Did you know that our massive meat consumption (which has increased per capita 250 percent globally in the past 50 years) contributes to global warming?


Bittman discusses the history of food since 1900, and he talks about while the mission of “kindness to animals” is good, it’s a red herring and by no means the biggest issue, since we’re killing 10 billion animals annually, thus leading not only to heart disease, but a serious threat to global survival.   Thirty percent of the earth’s surface is devoted to animal production, and this is expected to double in the next 40 years or fewer, if our dietary habits continue.   And 18 percent of greenhouse gases are directly attributable to livestock production.


Processed foods also consume lots of the earth’s resources, with 1 billion cans of Coke consumed DAILY.


He says “locavore” is Webster’s word of the year: it refers to people who eat only food grown locally.   (If you live in Alaska, obviously this won’t be as easy as for people in California!)


Conservatives, beware: while this speaker/journalist is dead-on with  his facts (reads the same sources GreenSmoothieGirl quotes constantly), he’s the usual “liberal media.”    Of more concern is that  he doesn’t practice  what he preaches.   He doesn’t dare call for people to eat lower on the food chain, since he states multiple times that he eats plenty of meat and plans to continue, but he waters down his message saying that we need to be more “aware.”   Huh?   Aware that we are personally contributing to the profligacy of our generation, but do nothing about it?   If you’re aware meat and dairy is bad for you and consumes far more than your share of the Earth’s resources, why not change?


“You eat more plants, you eat less other stuff, you live longer.”


–Mark Bittman (a  speaker/writer who needs to lead by example)

fun with community supported agriculture


I just got home from picking up at our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) co-op.   We each paid $400 for a half share: weekly pickups of whatever they have, for a 4.5-month growing season.   Four friends and I take turns picking up.   It has been so much fun!   This week, we got baby carrots (put the tops in green smoothies), beet thinnings, bok choy, spring greens, onions, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and fresh mint.



I came home and was putting a green smoothie together.   While I did that, I quickly sauteed some of the boy choy, baby carrots, and the garlic from last week (some interesting variety that looks/is like an onion but tastes/smells like garlic).   I sprinkled it with sea salt and fresh pepper, tossed in some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and a couple teaspoons of agave.   Yum, dinner in five minutes!   It would have been good with brown rice, if I’d thought ahead to make some.   Or tossed with quinoa, which takes only 10 minutes to make.  


Last week one of the items were these little baby turnips.   My 12-year old daughter said, “This is the best thing that has ever been in my mouth, EVER.”


Bell Organic ( is in Draper, Utah, and although they sold out for the full season, they’re selling mid-season shares for August-October.   They are so adventurous with what they grow, and we’re consequently getting amazing variety in our green smoothies.


I highly recommend getting involved with a local CSA for 12 Steppers and anyone interested in increasing plant-food nutrition in your home.     You’ll not only get amazingly flavorful, organic produce at a fraction of the cost, but you’ll  make your family’s “footprint” on this earth  smaller.   Every bite of food you eat grown locally is a bite of food you DIDN’T eat that had to be shipped from somewhere else in the world that consumes packaging and nonrenewable fossil fuels.