Category Archives: Vegetarian Living

Packing a vegan school lunch

The kids are back in school, and we want to give them the best possible nutrition to support their learning and growth, not to mention encouraging them to think about the importance of the environment and the animals.  Many schools now offer at least one vegetarian option for school lunch, but kids can be picky eaters at the best of times, so if you want to ensure that your child has nutritious and healthy vegan food to eat, it is probably worth taking the time to pack something for them.  As they get older, you can put a selection of items out for them to choose from, so that they can make their own lunch to take.

Here are some ideas that are quick and easy, while still being nutritious:

Sandwiches, pita pockets or wraps: These are easy to eat, and could include a selection of the following: hummus, mashed avocado, chickpea “tuna” salad, baked tofu slices, meat-alternative deli slices, cheese spread substitutes, lettuce, cucumber, red pepper slices, grated carrot.  Wraps can be spread with hummus, the veggie ingredients lain in a line, then rolled up to make pin-wheel sandwiches, which are fun.  See recipes

Veggies and dips: Using several small containers, or a container with compartments, you can offer a selection of separate veggies – baby carrots, celery sticks, red pepper sticks, crackers – along with a dip such as hummus, tahini sauce, peanut butter (if allowed in your kids school, use sunflower butter otherwise), or a black bean dip.

Salad bowl: In a plastic bowl with a lid, place lettuce and a selection of veggies along with cooked beans and grains (eg. rice, quinoa) with a tasty dressing to pour over it, such as tahini sauce or another yummy dressing.

Soup or chili – use a wide-necked thermos to provide a hot soup or chili, with bread or crackers alongside.  Soups can be made in a large batch and frozen in kid-sized portions, then heated up in the morning before leaving for school. There are also many brands of vegan soups available canned or in cartons.

Leftovers from the night before – when you finish dinner the night before, transfer some leftovers into a plastic container with a lid, so that it’s ready to grab from the fridge, and take to school.  Don’t forget to send a reusable spoon or fork if needed.

Don’t forget the fruit – the healthiest packable dessert is any kind of fruit. Bananas and apples are easily consumed whole or pre-sliced. Grapes and clementine segments are easy finger food. Small bowls of precut fruit of any kind, with a small spoon, will be popular.

General tips – Avoid using any glass containers which may break in the hurly burly of school. Use an insulated lunchbag with an ice pack to keep foods vulnerable to spoilage fresh. But if the trendy thing is currently a brown paper bag, choose foods that are low-risk, and let your kid enjoy fitting in, even if the contents may be very different from the next kid!

LA’s vegan food bank

Everyone, regardless of their circumstances, deserves access to nourishing meals.  This is the founding principle of Vegans of Los Angeles Food Bank, which is working to ensure food security while championing healthier dietary choices for the residents of Southern California.  They aim to provide not just sustenance, but also a sense of dignity and positivity among those seeking aid.

Founder, Gwenna Hunter, was inspired to create the vegan food bank after she experienced food insecurity herself.  “At one point I had $5 to feed myself for the week.  It was one of the scariest and most stressful times of my entire existence” she says.  “I personally know what it feels like to wonder how you are going to feed yourself and survive.  It can be a very dark feeling that depletes your hope.” 

Gwenna says that a vegan food bank would have saved her from so much stress. Locally sourced, seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and beans line the shelves, alongside plant-based products donated by companies such as All Vegetarian Inc, Hodo Foods, Good Catch, OmniFoods and Just Egg. Individuals can select items that cater to their family’s dietary preferences and needs, giving a personalized and respectful approach to assistance.

Given the growing number of scientific studies that confirm the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the need for more plant-based nutrition is critical.  This food bank challenges the idea that we need to eat animal products to be healthy, as well as instilling patrons with a sense of hope and pride.

How to eat vegan while traveling

At this time of year, many people are looking to enjoy a summer vacation. Whether it’s a trip to a far-off land, or a road trip to another state, what you’ll be able to eat is not something you want to have to worry about. Fortunately, it’s getting easier and easier to find vegan food on your travels, especially if you do a bit of preparation beforehand.  

Let’s start with the airlines.  On long haul flights, at least one free meal is usually offered for free, with 2-3 options to choose from.  While one of the choices is likely to be vegetarian or vegan,  there’s no guarantee they will have that option available if you’re not one of the first to be served.  It’s best to order a special meal online ahead of time – preferably when booking the flight, but at least 24 hours before.  Most airlines allow you to specify that you’d like your food to be vegetarian or vegan, along with catering for allergies and other considerations. The benefit of doing this is that a special meal that meets your requirements will be delivered directly to your seat usually before they serve everyone else, and if they’re serving a 2nd meal, such as breakfast, they will cater for your needs for that meal too.  

On shorter flights, meals are not usually included unless you pay these days, so you can’t specify your requirements ahead of time.  A simple hummus platter is often one of the options to buy, but we recommend that you eat in the airport where you’ll likely have many more options to choose from, or bring your own food to eat.  You can check out the food options at the airports you’ll be traveling through, online ahead of time, so that you know which eateries to head for when you get there.

Once you arrive at your destination, you will likely be dependent on restaurants and grocery stores for your food.  In western countries, vegetarian and vegan options are becoming much more common in restaurants, and in big cities you may well find specifically vegan restaurants, but wherever you are, you are likely to need to do some research before choosing where to eat.  Look up restaurant options and study menus ahead of time to build up a list of places, with addresses and phone numbers, where you’d like to eat at each location.   

In other parts of the world, vegetarian options may be a standard part of the local cuisine, although you may have to ask for them to leave out the dairy, eggs, or fish sauce for example.  If you are in a place where there are limited options, it’s best to ask specifically for what you want, based on the ingredients you can see they have available.  A chef who understands your needs is often willing to make a special dish for you, so learn a few key phrases in the local language such as “no meat”, “no fish”, “no dairy or eggs” to help you communicate your needs.  

Another option is to be prepared to make your own simple meals, especially for breakfast and lunch, by packing lightweight bowls, plates and cups, plus sturdy plasticware. You may also consider bringing a small cool bag and an ice pack to put in the refrigerator in your hotel room. You can then buy food from a grocery store such as plant-based milk, oatmeal, hummus, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and other snacks, to make your own light meals. 

On a road trip, you may even pack a can opener and chopping board, a camping stove and pot, plus some canned foods such as vegan chili or baked beans, so that you can make your own meals. This will also save you money compared to eating in restaurants for every meal.  

For those who prefer organized tours, the travel industry is starting to recognize that people on a plant-based diet appreciate having all their food needs taken care of.  Look for tours and cruises that specifically cater for your food needs and you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation without having to think about where you’re going to find food you can eat.  

Whatever your travel plans, with some planning and forethought, you should be able to enjoy a wonderful and worry-free trip while keeping your commitment to eating healthy plant-based meals.

Odd Burger to launch in Washington State

More vegan fast-food options are coming to Washington State.  Odd Burger, a Canadian chain of vegan fast-food favorites, has recently signed a franchise deal with a holding company 5GH to open 20 locations of the chain across Washington in the next eight years, the first state in the USA to do so.  

Odd Burger became the first publicly traded vegan fast-food chain in the world and the first to offer a 24hr drive-thru, when it took over a shuttered location of the popular Canadian fast-food chain Harvey’s in 2017. While it is already expanding across Canada, it has yet to open a location in the US.  

“We are excited to be the first US Area Representatives and to lead Odd Burger’s expansion into this key market,” Luke Ceraldi, President of 5GH—which is also developing two Odd Burger locations in Victoria, British Columbia—said in a statement.   

Odd Burger’s expansive menu includes the Famous Burger, a vegan version of the McDonald’s Big Mac, the Vopper (a vegan version of Burger King’s Whopper), along with “chickUN” sandwiches in Buffalo, crispy, and sticky (slathered in Korean sesame sauce) varieties, breakfast sandwiches, onion rings, milkshakes, wraps, and more. 

Making plant-based food popular in Nigeria

We often share news about progress in other parts of the veg world from European or Asian countries, but it’s not often we come across a story from a country in Africa.  So when we learned that the global nonprofit, ProVeg had launched in Nigeria with the aim of revolutionizing the country’s food culture by promoting healthy plant-based options, we thought this was news worth sharing.

ProVeg International already has 10 other offices in countries around the world, with the ambitious goal of replacing 50 percent of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. They engage with all relevant stakeholders to create a food system where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals and our planet.

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How you can help make Vegfest a success

Vegfest is an all-volunteer run event. It’s a big undertaking and we need lots of help! Volunteers who help for a 4 hour shift or more will receive a free Vegfest t-shirt, free admission to the event, the reward of helping to make Vegfest a big success, and a whole lot of fun.

Volunteer Today. Please help us make Vegfest a big success!

Those who have never volunteered at Vegfest before may wonder what they would be doing.  Let me tell you about the many roles you can choose from:

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Oscars’ Party boosts vegan options

As Hollywood steps up efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, the Oscars’ big Governor’s Ball event will be going greener with an (almost) vegan menu.  The chef, Wolfgang Puck, says the menu will be 70% plant-based this year, including the desserts.  The organizers are pushing for a largely vegan menu at the post-Oscars party, which will cater for around 1500 people, although there will still be caviar, smoked salmon and Japanese beef for the non-vegans.

“We want everybody to be happy,” Puck told journalists during a tour of his kitchen where he was prepping for the extravaganza. “At the end of the day you can make vegan food taste really good and you won’t miss meat or fish.”

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First female Indian vegan climbs Mt Everest

In May 2022, Prakriti Varshney became the first female Indian vegan (possibly the first female vegan worldwide) to successfully scale Mount Everest. She has since scaled three of the highest mountains in Africa, and aims to climb nine more in various countries this year.

Twenty-six year old Prakriti had been vegan for more than five years before starting this climb.  She originally embraced the vegan lifestyle after learning about the impact of the dairy industry on the environment and the animals themselves.  She volunteers with an animal rescue nonprofit and uses social media to encourage people to take care of animals. She brought her sustainability concerns with her during her Everest expedition by being very conscious of what she left behind on the mountain. She was shocked by the amount of garbage left behind by other climbers.

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LinkedIn café offers plant-based by default

The headquarters building of LinkedIn, based in San Francisco, has converted their employee café to be plant-based by default.  The company was looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and the food they served in their cafeterias provided them with a big opportunity to make a difference. Working with an organization called “Greener by Default” alongside their catering partner, Sodexo-owned Good Eating Company, they were able to gradually move to a 65% plant-based menu and the replacement of cows’ milk with oat milk as the default.

Although they still serve meat dishes, these are limited in number, and they only serve the most carbon-intensive options such as beef or lamb, in one dish per week.  They have worked to create vegan versions of the most popular meat dishes in the café, so that diners will likely choose the most climate-friendly options.  As they made the transition to offering more plant-based options, they carried out regular surveys of the diners to see how they felt about the new choices that were being offered.  As the feedback received was positive, they were able to make more changes over a three-month trial period, and ended with having switched the ratio of foods from five meat meals to three plant-based meals to five plant-based meals and three meat-based at each meal. Other LinkedIn offices will now start working on the same menu transformation.

“When a corporate trendsetter like LinkedIn shows that people are happy to choose plant-based foods when they’re accessible and appealing, it’s a huge leap forward towards a more sustainable food culture,” said Katie Cantrell, CEO of Greener by Default.  Greener by Default works with a range of clients including healthcare facilities, universities, restaurants and more.  They include Harvard University, Stanford Medicine and a global soap manufacturer Dr Bronner, as happy clients alongside LinkedIn.  They present plant-based food as being more sustainable, cost-effective and inclusive. Clients note that by making plant-based meals the default, they also increase the healthfulness of their meals.  They seem to have hit on a winning formula to help businesses make a significant switch to their cafeteria options.

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!

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