Category Archives: Vegetarian Living

Helping Black-owned restaurants serve vegan food

Rapper RZA

Many restaurants have struggled to survive during this past year.  Black-owned restaurants, which often serve as cultural hubs for their communities, have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and so a special program has been established to support them.  RZA, the rapper and founding member of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, has worked together with the plant-based cheese brand Violife,  to establish a Plant Grants program, whereby five Black-owned restaurants will be chosen to receive a $20,000 grant to help with revitalizing their businesses by incorporating plant-based dishes into their menus.

RZA explains that “I’m partnering with Violife because we share a similar philosophy about eating plant-based, and we want to make plant-based eating more accessible, affordable and sustainable to all.” He added that “The influence of hip-hop and the culinary history of plant-based eating in Black communities contribute to a movement of embracing meatless options. I’m proud to support Plant Grants to continue this movement and make plant-based eating more readily available at Black-owned restaurants that are at the heart of communities.”

The program is designed to help the restaurants develop new menu items with plant-based ingredients and create dishes and recipes, so that more people will be able to choose to eat plant-based foods.  To help facilitate the transition, the program comes with a coaching element where 2 plant-based pioneers will guide recipients in adding plant-based options.  The program also includes marketing and publicity assistance. Grant recipients will be chosen based on a number of criteria, including their commitment to add plant-based options and engage their community. The Plant Grants program is open now through July 31 and recipients will be announced in September 2021. 

RZA has been working to promote vegan options for several years, along with Wu-Tang members GZA and Ghostface Killah.  They helped to promote the launch of the Impossible Slider at White Castle in 2018.  In a previous article, RZA explained how he became vegan for the animals.  This latest program is a creative way for him to promote vegan food choices, while helping black-owned restaurants get back on their feet after the pandemic. 

Vegetarian Living – Going to Parties

Say No to Meat book coverWith the resumption of life after Covid-19, many are enjoying the opportunity to socialize and go to parties again. But if eating vegetarian or vegan is new for you, you may have some anxiety around how to maintain your food choices at parties.  This answer may be helpful to reassure you.

The following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, published by Healthy Living Publications.  This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!

What do you recommend when going out with friends or to parties?

Research beforehand and come prepared. When going out with friends to a restaurant, encourage them to choose a restaurant that you know has some veggie options you can choose. If you aren’t able to influence the choice of restaurant, it may help to look online beforehand to see from their menu what options are available to you. You may need to ask for something special to be made, if you can’t find a suitable menu item. Most chefs and restaurants don’t mind special orders, so it’s important to speak up. Another alternative is to eat beforehand, and just go along to enjoy the company.

Know before you go. At a catered dinner, ask beforehand if possible, whether the caterer has any vegetarian options. When going to a private party, it’s a good idea to mention to the host that you are vegetarian, so that they can cater for your needs if food is to be provided. Alternatively, you can just ask which dishes include meat when you arrive, so that you can be sure to avoid them, rather than putting your host to any special trouble.

Some people just need a little help. You may wish to offer to bring some food, so that you know you’ll have something to eat. At a barbecue, bring a package of veggie burgers or veggie hot dogs for the grill. A potluck is a great opportunity to show others how delicious vegetarian food can be, so it’s worth making a special effort to bring a particularly appetizing dish or two. You can pick something up from a natural foods deli section if you don’t wish to cook. Be sure to eat when you first arrive, since others may like your food so much they eat it all before you get any!

Do vegan labels matter?

Book cover for shopping guide

Millennials and Gen Z-ers make shopping decisions that largely depend on certifications and labels, a recent survey shows. A survey of more than 23,000 consumers internationally found that 91% prefer products provided with an independent stamp guaranteeing the product is really vegan, without having to read all ingredients list or spend time comparing and looking for alternatives.

While there is no one standard label in use in the US, the various symbols designating a product as vegan can be an aide for shoppers and we have found them to be reliable. We have also found products that don’t have a symbol but merely state “vegan” on the package somewhere, to be reliably vegan. However, there are also many great products that neither have a symbol nor the word vegan on the package. Perhaps these may even be the majority of vegan products, so reading the ingredients label is important. The ingredients on the product label are mandated by law and hence are the most reliable source of product information.

In fact, there is no legal definition of vegan. Our definition of vegan would be food that has no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and anything else that came from an animal. Vegan products that are not overly processed carry additional health advantages, so we recommend a whole-food plant-based diet. Packaged foods can be minimally processed and considered a whole food, but it’s important to check the ingredients.

Therefore, we still encourage nutrition and ingredient label reading. It takes only a moment but it’s worth the effort and will help keep you from unnecessarily limiting your purchasing decisions. These labels can also provide extras such as what vitamins and minerals and how much fiber the food contains. It can tell you how much salt, sugar and fat is in the product and a long list of unrecognizable ingredients may indicate that it is overly processed.

Considering how important our food is to our health, the animals and the environment, food shopping is a skill well worth cultivating and we can help! We have a handy take-to-the-grocery-store shopping guide, In Pursuit of Great Food, that includes how to understand the nutrition facts label, some labels to look out for and lists of ingredients to avoid, along with an invaluable description of all the foods you might want to keep in your kitchen so that you can make delicious meals at short notice!

Plant-Based Shopping Tips

In Pursuit cover 1.0Shopping is a vital link in the chain for those who follow a plant-based diet, or for those who are curious and want to give it a try. Our handy shopping guide, In Pursuit of Great Food, is a practical guide to help you learn about the many different plant-based choices to stock in your kitchen, and how to get the best value in time and money from your food budget.

Many people are on a tight budget and worry that eating healthy, plant-based food will be expensive. However, if you are willing to plan and prepare your own meals from basic ingredients, you can save quite a bit of money. For those who often find themselves short on time, there’s a wide selection of convenience and prepared products to choose from in many local grocery stores. Read more

Veg in France – progress amid resistance

ONA is the first vegan restaurant in France to earn a prestigious Michelin star/ Cécile Labonne

Lyonnaise cuisine is world renowned, with a particular emphasis on meat. When in 2019 France introduced an experiment (which ends in October 2021) to offer children a vegetarian option at all school cafeterias, there was an outcry of resistance which has recently focused Lyons. In February, Grégory Doucet, the mayor of Lyon, announced that the city’s school cafeterias would temporarily stop serving meat every day, initially to make it easier to comply with pandemic regulations, but also due to the mayor’s own environmental leanings.

The mayors edict sparked a local backlash. Farmers rolled out tractors to occupy city hall, and government ministers accused the mayor of harming children. Parents signed petitions and sued the city. The minister of the interior called the decision “an unacceptable insult to French farmers.”

Yet while meat is part of traditional French Cuisine, change is coming to France. For instance, a vegan restaurant, ONA, based in the south western town of Arès, near Bordeaux, recently made history in France by winning a coveted Michelin star. Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, one of the most famous cooking schools in France and in the world, now has a program called Cordon Vert to train chefs in vegetarian cuisine.

Brigitte Bardo in 1960s

It’s important to note that there has always been a vegetarian element in France. For instance Jean Jacques Rousseau, a political philosopher famous in French history and a vegetarian himself, advocated for a vegetarian diet for children. I think it would fair to say that if Rousseau were in Lyons today he would be siding with those enacting vegetarian meals for the school children in Lyons.

Today, the famous actress and animal rights activist, Brigitte Bardo carries a movement started long ago. Bardo has acted in 47 movies, performed in several musicals and recorded more than 60 songs. In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals and became a vegetarian. Even to this day, at the age of 86, she continues to advocate for animals.

Vegan soft serve is spreading

Dairy-free ice cream has just gone soft on us. We’ve had delicious traditional dairy-free ice cream available in many locations for some time. Many people also like what’s commonly called “soft serve.” We’re lucky to have so many brands to choose from and we’ve been able to enjoy them, pre-Covid, in many places, but we haven’t yet seen them in baseball stadiums. That’s changing!

One company making soft serve, Oatly, will now be serving their soft serve ice cream at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. What a treat for Cubs and Rangers fans! Mike Messersmith, Oatly North American President, said “More and more, people are choosing to eat more plant-based, even at the ballpark….Globe Life Field is a great place to make that choice, and we’re excited for Rangers fans to try Oatly in a whole new way with our soft serve.”

It seems that many of us will finally be able to go see baseball this summer. How about it, Mariners? Seattle has long been know as a cutting edge city so its baseball stadium should be cutting edge as well. Vegetarian and vegan food options are available at The Natural food stand at T-Mobile Park, but wouldn’t it be great if they could top that off with soft serve dairy-free ice cream!

What should vegetarians eat?

The following is an extract from our book, Say No to Meat: The 411 on Ditching Meat and Going Veg

Here’s the secret formula. Vegetarians should base their diet around five key food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts and seeds. As long as you eat a variety of different foods from these groups, you should get all the nutrition you need. The plate diagram below shows the relative importance of each group. Aim to get several portions of vegetables and at least 3 portions of whole grains, fruits, and legumes every day. Nuts and seeds are healthy foods, but it’s easy to eat too much of these – three times a week is sufficient. 

Don’t forget your nutritional insurance. Life often gets busy and we can’t always pay as much attention to our diet as we need, so we also recommend that you take a good one-a-day type multi-vitamin, for nutritional insurance. Make sure that it contains vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

Be smart with spices. Use herbs and spices to add flavor and variety to your food. Herbs are very healthy, but go easy on the salt since it can raise your blood pressure and forces your kidneys to work overtime.

Moderate amounts of vegetable oils and sweeteners such as maple syrup, rice syrup, sugar or agave nectar, rather than sugar or artificial sweeteners, are OK when called for by recipes. Don’t forget that chocolate is also a vegetarian product and dark chocolate is particularly healthy (in small doses!).

They’re not kidding when they say that our bodies are mostly made up of water. Water is an important component of a healthy diet.  Aim for at least 6-8 cups a day.

See our Frequently Asked Questions, to learn more about basic nutrition and what vegetarians and vegans eat.

Vegetarians in Brazil?

There’s a vegetarian revolution in Brazil. Vegetarians in Brazil? Yup.

While Brazil is famous for its meat and for burning down the Amazon rainforest, the number of vegetarians in Brazil is increasing rapidly. The number of vegetarians in Brazil has doubled in the past six years, which has given rise to a booming plant-based industry that is seeking to make meatpacking plants obsolete. Are you ready for this? 30 million people, or 14 percent of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018.

“We’re going through a revolution,” said Bruno Fonseca, a co-founder of New Butchers, one of several new Brazilian companies that make plant-based versions of animal-based protein, including burgers, chicken breast alternatives and even salmon.

Read more

Paying for meat’s damage to the environment

The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.

Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.

Read more

Dinner and Discussion – Wednesday July 21, 6:30pm

People eating at a circular table
8 people sitting at rectangular dinner table

We invite you to join us online on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.  Let’s have dinner together and share our experiences and challenges in choosing a veg lifestyle, plus we’ll have our popular monthly speech on an interesting vegetarian topic by our president, Amanda.

Please join us! This is a free online event, but please register beforehand for your personal link. We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Register for this event

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