Author Archives: Vegetarians of Washington

Jane Goodall’s new vegan cookbook

Renowned animal lover and chimpanzee scientist Jane Goodall recently published her first plant-based cookbook, EatMeatless – Good for Animals, the Earth and All. Along with the Jane Goodall Institute, she decided to create this collection of 80 plant-based recipes because, she said,

“It’s becoming more and more clear that the obsession with eating meat and dairy products and eggs is totally destroying the environment. It’s creating methane, it’s wasting water, and it’s bad for our health.”

Jane wrote the cookbook’s foreword and many nuggets of wisdom throughout the book.

A lifelong animal lover, Goodall became a vegetarian in the 1970s. “For me, the starting point was ethical,” she says.“It all began when I read Peter Singer’s Book.” Singer is an Australian moral philosopher. His book, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, was first published in 1975. In it, Singer explores non-human animals’ ability to experience suffering, particularly within factory farming.

“I didn’t know about factory farms up until that point, I was out in Gombe and I had no idea that they existed,” continues Goodall. “The next time I saw meat on my plate I thought ‘ah, that symbolizes fear, pain, death.’ And I didn’t eat anymore ever again.”

Though her initial reasons, she says, were “ethical and purely about animals,” they are now also about the environment. She is particularly concerned with the raising of animals on factory farms, which requires the clearing of huge swaths of habitat and the use of pesticides, fertilizer and lots of fossil fuels.

She also recognizes the health benefits, and the growing research that links meat to human antibiotic resistance and the emergence of superbugs. She has published many different books, including Harvest for Hope, a guide to mindful eating.

For those of any age, Goodall stresses it’s never too late to tweak your diet. She offers a simple suggestion for meat eaters: Start by going meatless one day a week. Her cookbook (or ours) is a great place to start.

Fish sauce goes vegan

Fish sauce is going vegan. What is fish sauce? It’s a sauce made by fermenting seafood in salt, and it’s usually associated with food from Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam and Thailand. Generally it’s made from anchovies, but tiny shrimp can also be used. The flavor of fish sauce comes from its umami quality – the earthy, savory flavor field that makes things like mushrooms and vegetables taste so complex and craveable. There’s a distinct, pungent aspect to the sauce, sure, but that flavor is flanked by a salty, briny, caramel sweetness.

There was a time when the use of fish sauce made it hard for vegetarians to enjoy Thai food. But those days are over. Sales of plant-based fish sauce are growing quickly – $18 million of plant-based fish sauce was sold in the United States last year and almost $160 million was sold globally – and sales are growing quickly.

There are now so many brands of vegan fish sauce to choose from.  Follow Your Heart, Primal Kitchens, Sir Kingstons, The Vegan Mayo Co., Danone S.A, The Archer Daniels Midland Company, Daiya Foods Inc., Ripple Foods Inc, Impossible Foods Inc., Eat Just, Inc., Beyond Meat, Inc., Amy’s Kitchen, Tofutti Brands Inc., and Earth’s Own Food Company Inc. are some of the major players in the vegan fish sauce market.

So when you next get a craving for Thai or Vietnamese food, be sure to buy or ask if a restaurant uses a vegan fish sauce!

Kate Mara receives Justice for Animals award

While Kate Mara has received numerous acting awards in primetime television (House of Cards for example) and blockbuster movies (such as Fantastic Four), in January she was recognized for her animal advocacy efforts off the screen.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund selected Kate as one of the honorees at its Justice for Animals Fundraiser.

Kate Mara grew up in Bedford NY, where she developed a deep love for animals.  During her teens she observed several trucks carting chickens to slaughter and realized that this animal cruelty was just to allow us to feed ourselves in a certain way.  She adopted a vegetarian diet soon after.  It was a health argument, from reading a book called The Beauty Detox, that convinced her to go vegan.  Her younger sister Rooney Mara had adopted a vegan lifestyle about two years earlier, so she had plenty of support in her decision.

Her first act of animal advocacy was sparked by the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which revealed the animal abuse and tragic human accidents that were covered up by SeaWorld.  She reached out to the filmmaker and offered her support. Since then she has chosen to get involved with several different projects.  She makes an effort to keep up to date by surrounding herself with people who do a lot for animals. She credits the attorneys at the Animal Legal Defense Fund for giving her and other advocates the support needed to have the greatest impact.

Kate shares that being a mom of three young children has fueled her work as a defender of animals. 

“I find it empowering to choose the stories we tell them and how to make them aware [of what’s on their plate]. I wasn’t aware of what was put on my plate. It excites me to be able to raise my children in a way that is more honest,” she said.  

Plant-based proteins can help reach net zero emissions

In a new report “The Breakthrough Effect” published for the World Economic Forum, three key “super-leverage” points have been identified as accelerating the move toward zero emissions across ten of the highest emitting sectors in the world economy. The public purchasing of plant-based proteins is identified as one of these super-leverage points, because of the impact of reducing meat production on the world’s rainforests in particular.

With time running out to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, the report produced by an international team in conjunction with the University of Exeter, shows how parts of the global economy could move rapidly towards zero emissions by using government actions as super-leverage points.  The three key actions they identify are:

  • the mandate of the sale of electric vehicles,
  • requiring green ammonia to be used in the manufacture of fertilizers,
  • and, most significantly for us, the public purchasing of plant-proteins.

A tipping point is reached when a low-carbon solution is able to outcompete its higher-carbon alternative, creating a feedback loop that supports the low-carbon solution, thus influencing transitions in multiple sectors of the economy simultaneously. In the case of plant-based proteins, a tipping point may be triggered once plant-based alternatives cost the same amount as animal protein and can offer an equivalent attractiveness (taste, texture, nutrition).

If global government purchasing (in hospitals, schools, prisons and government departments for example) of plant-based alternatives to high-carbon emitters, such as meat and dairy, is required, this could rapidly increase demand and help producers reach the economies of scale needed to bring costs down.  It would also introduce millions of people to plant-based foods and help to shift social norms around meat consumption.

Researchers say that changing the market on this scale could free up 400-800 million hectares of land, equivalent to 7-15% of global agriculture land today, which would provide more land for carbon storage and biodiversity, while drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting incentives for deforestation.

The report concludes that the scale and pace of the economic transitions required to meet climate change goals are unprecedented in human history. While they cannot guarantee the outcome, the report writers urge policymakers to take decisions, such as switching public purchasing of food to plant-based proteins, and to act without delay!

Vegan fast food – steps in the right direction

Fast food is popular – over one third of the population eat at least one fast food meal every day.  We want more people to choose a plant-based meal rather than an animal-based one, so it’s important to ensure that fast food restaurants have some tasty vegan options. 

Many fast food restaurant chains are cautiously dipping their toes into the market to see what the demand is like for plant-based options.  Here are some examples we’ve heard about:

  • Starbucks is currently doing a limited trial of six new food items in three locations in Washington DC and Virginia, and their oatmeal breakfast item is available nationwide as a staple.  For the first time last Fall, they offered a special vegan-by-default drink, the Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato. 
  • Subway tested a Meatless Meatball Marinara sandwich at 600 locations in the US and Canada in 2019, and that option is now available across Canada, although not in the US yet.
  • McDonalds have signed a 3-year contract with Beyond Meat to test out various plant-based options in European locations.  They are testing the McPlant burger here in the US so we hope they will plan to roll it out nationally soon.
  • Burger King has been offering their Impossible Whopper for several years across the US. They are currently testing a plant-based chicken sandwich at select locations.
  • Chipotle has been offering their plant-based protein, Sofritas (a tofu-based vegan protein) available at all locations for several years now. This year, they are adding two new plant-based options in their Lifestyle Bowls – the Veggie Full Bowl which is based on white rice, black beans and fajita veggies, and the Plant-Powered Bowl which includes supergreens, Sofritas, and fajita veggies, along with the salsa and guacamole. 
  • Taco Bell unveiled its first vegan beef option, called “the real seasoned plant-based protein” in 2021 and has rolled it out to various test locations. Working with Beyond Meat, they have also launched a Beyond Carne Asada Steak, a vegan version of the chain’s marinated steak, at 50 test locations in Ohio.

Let’s hope that the many test products from these various fast food companies are successful, and are rolled out to restaurants nationwide as soon as possible!

Seniors need more protein

Seniors need more protein than younger adults. Once you reach your 60s, you might want to begin upping the amount of protein you consume per day in an effort to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions as long as possible, since older people need to make up for age-related changes in protein metabolism.

Nutrition experts recommend that healthy older adults should consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, which is an increase over the RDA for younger adults. This formula translates to:

150-pound senior woman69 to 81 grams per day
180-pound senior man81 to 98 grams per day

This compares to the Recommended Daily Allowances for protein which are:

Babies10 grams per day
School-age children19-34 grams per day
Teenage boys52 grams per day
Teenage girls46 grams per day
Adult men56 grams per day
Adult women46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)

As you can see, the guidelines for dietary protein intake have traditionally advised similar intake for all adults, regardless of age. This one-size-fits-all protein recommendation does not consider age-related changes in metabolism.  Doctors are now recognizing that this leaves seniors without enough protein and the health problems that brings. A shortfall of protein supplies relative to needs can lead to loss of lean body mass, particularly muscle loss. By the time people reach age 65, they become at greater risk of sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass, strength and function. It’s also important to note that simply moving your body with plenty of regular exercise can be just as crucial as protein intake when it comes to maintaining muscle as we age.

Now, for the good news. You can get all the protein you need with plant foods such as beans, lentils, whole grains and nuts. Even better, plant protein doesn’t carry the high price tag of saturated fat and cholesterol that meat and dairy have.  It’s better for the animals and the environment too. Here are just a few examples of some plant foods that are good sources of protein, but there are many more. 

Type of food  Portion sizeProtein in grams
Firm Tofu (soybean curds)4 ounces10g  
Tempeh3 ounces17g  
Cooked lentils1 cup18g  
Oats1 cup10g  
Almonds3.5 ounces21g  

In some cases adding plant protein powder to a daily smoothie can be helpful way to increase the amount of protein consumed. There are several kinds available including soy protein, rice protein and pea protein.

While seniors need more protein, it’s important not to overdo it. Going overboard and eating much more protein than you need can cause problems, as too much protein can put a strain on the kidneys. Plant-based protein is much better for the kidneys than animal-based protein, but it’s still possible to overdo it.

Finally, we need to dispel a myth. The myth is that plant proteins must be combined at every meal to be of any use to the body. This was popularized in the early 70’s by the book “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé. The author has since retracted the statement frequently. “In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth,” she said. Unfortunately, the protein combining myth has taken root in the public. Eating a variety of plant foods over the course of a day or two is all that’s necessary to ensure you get the variety of amino acids you need.

As always, check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet or health care.

WIC program adds vegan options

There’s a game-changing proposal to add dairy-free milk and cheese to the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program. Egg substitutes would also be included.

WIC is an assistance program that aims to safeguard the health of low-income women and children under the age of 5. About 6.2 million women and children participated each month in fiscal year 2021.  Designed to fill in nutrition gaps, the program provides free vouchers for foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, eggs and cheese. Currently, the only dairy-free alternative the program allows for is soymilk. Through the proposed revisions, WIC would expand the variety of dairy-free milks and egg-free options, including soy yogurt, vegan cheese, and tofu.

We applaud the proposed changes. The Secretary of Agriculture says, “USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC, helping mothers, babies, and young kids thrive. These proposed changes will strengthen WIC—already an incredibly powerful program—by ensuring it provides foods that reflect the latest nutrition science to support healthy eating and bright futures.”

Besides protecting women and children from the harmful affects of the saturated fat and cholesterol, plant-based milks protect children who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar primarily found in milk and dairy products. It is caused by a shortage of lactase in the body, an enzyme active in the small intestine that is needed to digest lactose. It is estimated that 36% of Americans and 68% of the world population have some degree of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance affects people from certain ethnic populations and races—such as African-Americans, Native Americans, and east Asians.   

Black vegan chefs lead the way

Here’s some great news about the Black vegan chefs who are leading some of the biggest innovations in the vegan world. For many chefs, this new era of interest in plant-based cuisine feels like a timely opportunity to expand vegan fast-food concepts across the US, reaching new, curious consumers.

Lamarr Ingram and crew

For chef Lamarr Ingram, who runs Vegan-ish in Philadelphia, vegan cuisine is an opportunity for Black vegan chefs to share their food through a Black American lens.  Ingram believes that his identity as a Philadelphia native, and his familiarity with the community’s challenges and needs, enables him to better connect with those in his community which talking about the benefits of veganism. “All the benefits that come with a plant-based diet, I’ve been able to experience them in a community I’m from, and where people are suffering from a lot of health issues caused by what we eat” he says.  He points to the high number of chronic illnesses that disproportionately impact the Black community as his motivation to spread the goodness of veganism any way he can.

Toriano Gordon

On the other side of the country in Oakland, California, Toriano Gordon, the owner of a vegan BBQ and soul food restaurant called Vegan Mob, believes that restaurants like his are a gateway to vegan cuisine for customers who want to enjoy a fast meal, without the health risks often associated with traditional fast food. Examples of his food that attracts such a following includes fried lumpia stuffed with Impossible meat, onions and spices; a plant-based nacho cheesesteak: and candied yams brushed with a hint of cinnamon.

And in Dallas, Texas, Jovan Cole is serving vegan fast food like “shrimp” po-boys, cauliflower buffalo wings, and vegan mac and cheese at his pop-up food truck Vegan Vibrationz.  The truck has been so popular at the Dallas Farmers Market, that he’s preparing to open a permanent outpost in the nearby city of Plano.

Pinky Cole

One pioneer of fast-food vegan dining is Pinky Cole.  She owns a restaurant chain known as Slutty Vegan, with several locations across Georgia, Alabama and New York, and new locations in the works.  Her success, starting in 2018, is seen as thanks to its fast-food burger and fry offerings, playful menu names, and an unapologetically Black and carefree persona which she promotes on Instagram. Pinky is proud of the gradual change that has occurred in the vegan community since opening her first location.

Finally, in Miami, Christian Bernard draws from his experience of living in Costa Rica, New York and Miami at his restaurant, Eduble Chefs. He serves dishes such as a Still Smokin’ Chili Bowl and a vegan sausage fried rice.  For him, the importance of a vegan diet is in its reduced impact on the environment.

We love that so many creative chefs are developing delicious new ways of eating vegan food.

Climate labels catch on

Let’s label them! Labels signaling the climate or environmental impact of food products have emerged as a potential strategy to promote sustainable food choices in restaurant, cafeteria, and supermarket settings. According to a recent study, climate impact labels on a sample fast food menu influenced participants’ food choices in favor of more climate-friendly items. High-climate-impact labels on burgers increased non-beef choices by 23 percent. Evidence suggests that products labeled as environmentally sustainable may be perceived as healthier as well.

According to one researcher, climate labels are probably most useful in cases when climate-conscious consumers need a reminder nudge, or when climate-conscious consumers lack awareness in the first place. Labeling has become a big issue in the food industry. There are various labels for vegan and kosher just to name a few. For more information on labeling and food shopping see our shopping guide In Pursuit of Great Food.

The restaurant industry has documented increasing consumer demand for vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based items. Several major fast food chain restaurants recently introduced meat-free or meat-alternative menu items, and restaurant industry reports identified increasing sustainability as among the top restaurant menu trends. The climate label adds to other labeling strategies such as the green light, yellow light and red light labels for healthy eating. High–climate-impact labels may easily be adopted in settings like workplaces, universities, hospitals, and other anchor institutions with carbon neutrality commitments.

We’ve written before about the effect meat has on global warming and other environment problems such as water pollution. The climate label has the potential to increase public awareness of the massive impact livestock has on the environment.

Market for plant-based foods continues to grow

Every year the market for plant-based foods continues to grow.  Globally, the market for products is expected to grow by about 18% per year to reach almost $92 billion by 2027, according to a new report by market research firm “Research and Markets”. 

The report says that consumer interest is driven by several different factors, including the rising support from medical professionals recognizing the health benefits of plant-based diets. They point to the reduced risk of diseases transmitted by animals and antibiotic resistance, and the ability to feed more people with fewer resources by producing meat from plants, fermentation, or cultivation from animal cells.  They also note that consumers can help to minimize air and water pollution, slow biodiversity loss, and protect the oceans by choosing plant-based options.

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