Category Archives: Tips For Going Veg

Foods You Didn’t Know Were Vegan

This is a guest post by Kelsey Joyers.

Foods You Didn’t Know Were Vegan

When you prepare your own food from home, it’s easy to ensure that the food remains vegan and free of any animal products. Buying pre-made items from the store is not as simple, and takes careful reading of nutrition labels for the word vegan or the lack of animal-based ingredients. In some cases you can assume a food is not going to be vegan based off of reputation or advertisements, but others may surprise you.
While many of the below listed items may not necessarily be as healthy as fresh foods, it’s good to know that when you’re feeling the need for a treat, or if you have just switched to a vegan lifestyle and are missing some of your old foods, many options are still available to you.

Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos

While the nacho cheese and cool ranch version of Doritos uses cheese, milk or whey for flavoring, the spicy sweet chili variety is free of these ingredients. However, consume in moderation, as while there’s no animal products in the chips, they do contain MSG, which can cause negative health effects to those who are sensitive to it.

Unfrosted Pop Tarts
Pop tarts create nostalgia for many, and bring back childhood breakfast memories. As long as you avoid the frosted version and stick to the fruit flavored varieties, the breakfast toaster pastries remain vegan.

Fritos surprisingly contain mostly three ingredients, whole corn, salt and corn oil, making them vegan-friendly. Even better, both the original and Barbecue flavored Fritos are vegan. Combine these chips with a vegan chili, or dip in another surprisingly vegan food, Fritos bean dip.

SuperPretzel Brand Pretzels
Typically pretzel dough utilizes dairy or eggs for flavor and texture, especially soft pretzels. However, SuperPretzels are free of both, providing a vegan option for soft pretzel cravings. Pair the pretzels with a mix of melted non-dairy butter spread, such as Earth Balance, and minced garlic for a vegan-friendly garlic butter dip.

Bacon Bites
While Betty Crocker brand Bac-Os are advertised as bacon bits, they do not actually contain any pork products. McCormick Bac’n Pieces are also free of actual bacon. So when you’re nostalgic for bacon, feel free to indulge in these vegan friendly bacon-flavored bites.

Creamy Italian Dressing
Most creamy dressings get their creaminess from the addition of milk products. However, Kraft brand creamy Italian dressing does not use milk products to obtain their creamy texture, giving you options beyond the typical vinaigrette on your next salad.

Sara Lee Apple Pie

Apple pie crust is typically lade with butter, but Sara Lee’s Oven Fresh Apple Pie uses other fats to create the flaky texture desired by most pie lovers. The pie is also free of eggs both in the crust and the filling.

Ritz Crackers

Another buttery favorite is the Ritz cracker. While these crackers are still loaded with fat at nearly a gram of fat per cracker, the fat used is not animal-based.

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Crescent rolls typically rely on butter and eggs for texture and flavor. However, Pillsbury crescent rolls pack all the same flavor without using animal products. If you miss the melted butter on top of the rolls, simply substitute with a dairy-free butter.

Kelsey Joyers writes all about health and nutrition. Her recent work is on the Top 10 Online Masters in Healthcare Administration.

Cheese Addiction Rehab Program

It seems that many vegetarians (myself included*) struggle to make the leap to veganism because of one thing: cheese.

I’ve found that most vegetarians agree that eggs are as easy to drop as the meat. And non-cheese dairy has plenty of not just adequate, but downright tasty subsitutes (butter, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, milk, and even grated parmesan). But cheese seems to be the vegan Achilles heel. What is it about this stuff that causes some of the healthiest eaters and some of the most outspoken animal rights advocates to declare, “I could NEVER give up cheese!”

For a lot of people we’ve talked to, cheese is the lone item that often still has its hooks in them. So many people have complained to us about how hard it was to give up cheese that we almost felt like we needed to set up some kind of support group in the basement of an area church where we served burnt coffee (with soy creamer) and let people talk about how many days cheese-clean they’ve been.

-From the book Vegan Freak: Being Vegan In a Non-Vegan World

Part of the answer lies in the addictive qualities of cheese. Yes, that’s right, cheese is addictive. It’s not like you’re going to go into seizures or begin vomiting when you give up cheese, but certainly the opiate qualities of cheese help to explain what makes it so hard for people to stop.

The principle protein in milk is casein. (Casein makes up 80 – 86% of the proteins in cow milk and 60% – 65% of the proteins in human milk). When we digest casein, something called casomorphins are formed. And these casomorphins have an opioid effect on us (similar to morphine but with one-tenth the power). In other words, it makes us feel good.

Cheese is produced by curdling the milk (by adding rennet, an enzyme produced in mammalian stomachs to digest mother’s milk, which “digests” the milk into cheese – um, gross!). The curds become cheese and the whey (liquid) is discarded. Doing this causes the casein concentration to be much higher in cheese than in milk. This is why Dr. Neal Barnard refers to cheese as “dairy crack.”

But wait, there’s more. Cheese also contains an amphetamine-like chemical, phenylethylamine (also found in chocolate) which is often called an aphrodisiac because it “arouses the pleasure areas of the brain,” and is even used as an anti-depressant because of its mood-elevating qualities.

Evolutionarily, these chemicals are probably present to create a positive association between the baby and its mother and her milk (that’s just a theory). But today, humans consume more cow’s milk than calves do and average cheese consumption in the US has tripled from 1970 to 2008, from 11 pounds per year to 33 pounds per year, per person.

Not to mention that dairy farmers and the USDA are loving this constant growth in sales. In fact, they love it so much that the USDA spends $140 million annually on marketing cheese and making slick deals with companies like Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell to double the amount of cheese in their products. These deals result in even more cheese sales and even larger waistlines. (Average weight for American females increased from 140 pounds in 1960 to 164 pounds in 2002. Males increased from 166 to 191 pounds.)

With opiates and the US government against us, what’s an aspiring vegan to do?

For starters, because of the addictive quality of cheese, trying to wean yourself off dairy-crack isn’t the right approach because the cravings will continue (you don’t wean a drug addict off heroin in rehab, you remove it cold-turkey). Dr. Neal Barnard recommends making a commitment to go dairy-free for just three weeks. He asserts that this is enough time for your cravings to subside.

To help you through your three week withdrawal period, I’ve created this list of disgusting cheese facts** that you should bookmark and read anytime you have a cheese craving. (You’re welcome.)

  • Cheese is made from milk, and milk contains pus and blood. Animals that are continually milked day after day develop infections and sores on their udders resulting in blood and pus in the milk. You may comfort yourself by thinking that the dairy is pasteurized, but while the pasteruization will protect you from becoming ill, you are still eating pus and blood. As Vegan Freak puts it, “Look at it like this: you could stick a dog turd in an autoclave and render it biologically harmless with significant pressure and heat. Yet, we’re willing to wager that you’d not be anxious to eat it unless you have some very strange proclivities indeed.”
  • In order for mammals to produce milk, they must become pregnant. Dairy cows are continually re-impregnated through artificial insemination within 2-3 months of having their previous calf. Naturally, a cow would nurse her calf for 9 months to 1 year, but the dairy industry removes the calf from the mother after only a few days, so that the milk that was meant to nourish her baby can be made into cheese for you. Separation of calf from mother is extremely traumatic. Both the cow and calf bellow and show obvious signs of distress when they are separated, often continuing for several days, leaving those within earshot in no doubt that it is a harrowing experience for both.
  • The calf that was taken from its mother is slaughtered for veal. (Yes, the dairy industry fuels the veal industry.)
  • Many cows are physically exhausted after 2-3 lactation periods, at which point they are sent to slaughter and end up in “low quality” beef products like ground beef, canned goods, and baby food. If you think no animals are being slaughtered as a result of dairy, you are completely wrong.
  • Cheese isn’t just a disaster for the cows, it’s also a disaster for you. One cup of diced cheddar has a whopping 532 calories, 385 of which come from fat. That includes 28 grams of saturated fat, which is 139% the recommended total daily value. To all that fat, you can add 139 mg of cholesterol and 820 mg of sodium.
  • And forget about being vegan – many cheeses aren’t even vegetarian. Rennet, which is used to curdle the milk into cheese is a stomach enzyme scraped from the stomachs of slaughtered cows. (Vegetarian rennets do exist – synthesized in a lab, no doubt – but it is difficult to to know which cheeses use which kind.)
  • A single dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of manure per day, which is equivalent to the waste produced by 20–40 people. That means California’s 1.4 million dairy cows produce as much waste as 28–56 million people. Millions of gallons of liquefied feces and urine seep into the environment contaminating rivers and groundwater, killing millions of fish, and delivering antibiotics and hormones into our water sources.

Dropping cheese from your diet should just be a natural extension of dropping the meat because whatever reasons you have for giving up meat hold true for giving up cheese (animal welfare, health, environment). To quote No Meat Athlete, “All it takes to stop completely is a decision.”


*In order to be fully honest, I must confess:

I eat strictly vegan at home, but I’ll sometimes eat vegetarian when eating out or at other people’s homes.

At restaurants, I choose a vegan option if there is one, or I’ll request simple modifications to veganize a dish (I’ll have the chalupa, hold the cheese), but sometimes there isn’t a straightforward vegan option and I’ll choose a vegetarian one instead. (While Austin is extremely vegetarian-friendly, it’s not entirely vegan-friendly.) I also do not scrutinize waiters about ingredients (do you use butter or margarine?). And, I hate to admit it, but I occasionally order items knowing full well that they contain dairy (ahem, desserts).

At friends’ and family’s houses, I’m simply not comfortable asking them to prepare me a vegan meal. I find that people are extremely willing to make me vegetarian meals, as this is a request that everyone understands and respects. But once the word “vegan” comes out, I can immediately sense their intimidation. Even though veganism is only 2 ingredients away from vegetarianism (dairy and eggs), people interpret it as “extreme” and quickly become overwhelmed by the idea of being able to make a vegan meal. So it’s my personal decision (at least for now) to request vegetarian, rather than vegan meals, if I am a guest.

For me, this results in about 2 or 3 non-vegan meals a week. It’s something I’m not especially proud of, but it’s what works for me and my lifestyle at the moment.

**Most of the bulleted facts are from here or here.


Breakfast: Bean and potato taco from the cafeteria at work

Lunch: Veggie Max sub from Subway
Dinner: Sloppy Joes with Meatless Crumbles and Manwich

50 Vegetarian Meals That Take 10 Minutes

There are thousands of vegetarian recipes online, but the reality is that you don’t always have time, or want, to cook something from a recipe. Most of the time you just want a quick and easy meal – no recipe needed. So here is a list of “staples” that don’t have long ingredient lists and can be made in 10 minutes or less!

Spaghetti with marinara sauce is great, but pasta can be so much more than that! Add any combination of veggies and/or beans to a pasta, then choose a sauce (plain tomato sauce, marinara, alfredo, pesto, olive oil & garlic, etc.), to create endless options! Some of my favorites are:

1. Pasta with spinach, tomato, artichoke hearts, garlic and olive oil
2. Pasta with peas, or lima beans, or broccoli, with onion, garlic, and olive oil
3. Pasta with lentils, garlic, and rosemary
4. Mushroom stroganoff, with mushrooms (obviously) and Stroganoff powder mix + sour cream, or cream of mushroom soup as the sauce
5. Pasta with potatoes, green beans, and pesto
6. Pasta with squash, chickpeas, olives, and marinara
7. Pasta with pinto beans, onion, and a can of diced tomatoes
8. Mac & cheese with veggies, like tomato, broccoli, peas, limas, or zucchini
9. Pasta with meatless meatballs (from the frozen section, like Nate’s)
10. Ravioli (frozen – there are so many vegetarian kinds!)

Growing up in south Texas means that Mexican food is a staple for me. Luckily there are tons of Mexican veggie options!

11. Bean tacos (use black, vegetarian pinto, or vegetarian refried)
12. Veggie quesadillas – try bell peppers & zucchini; or mushrooms; or black beans & mango; or go cheeseless by using hummus instead!
13. Nachos (bean & cheese – top with guac, sour cream, salsa, pico, etc.)
14. Taco salad (with black beans)
15. Mexican casserole – layer tortillas, spinach, beans, cheese, salsa (like a lasagna)
16. Chalupas (bean & cheese – top with guac, sour cream, salsa, pico, etc.)
17. Bean tamales (store-bought)
18. Bean & rice casserole = Mexican rice with a combination of black, kidney, pinto, and/or garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes & chiles (like RoTel), and corn
19. Veggie fajitas  – with bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini/squash, and carrots
20. Burritos – fill with beans, spinach, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cilantro, etc.

There are endless possibilities for pizza. For a healthier pizza, try making your own and using less cheese, vegan cheese, or no cheese (it’s really not bad, I swear – I actually often prefer it cheeseless! Just think of it as a veggie flatbread.)  Some of my favorites are:

21. Veggie pepperoni (like Smart Deli -find in the produce department with the veggie meats) and green olives
22. Spinach, tomato, and artichoke hearts (also one of my favorite pasta combos)
23. Broccoli, spinach, and veggie sausage (like Gimmie Lean)
24. BBQ sauce, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash
25. Hummus (instead of sauce & cheese!), spinach, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms

Yet another basic dish with countless variations. Add any beans, greens, or veggies to rice to create what you’re craving.  Also try substituting quinoa, couscous, millet, or bulgur; or use brown riceit’s healthier!

26. Veggie stir fry – You can make this super fast with frozen veggies and minute rice. Add tofu or beans (like edamame) for extra protein.
27. Red beans & rice = rice, kidney beans, onion, bell pepper, chili powder, Tabasco
28. Hawaiian style rice  = rice, pineapple, red bell pepper, onion, lime juice
29. Rice, chickpeas, and chard – or any combination of a grain, a green, and a bean
30. Italian rice & beans = rice, 1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes, 1 can cannelloni beans, Italian seasonings (basil, garlic, oregano, etc.)

Sandwiches, wraps, burgers, dogs, and more!

31. Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup
32. ALT (avocado, lettuce, tomato) sandwich – can also add veggie bacon
33. Veggie wrap with cream cheese or hummus – fill a tortilla with avocado, spinach, artichoke hearts, bell pepper, onion, tomato, sprouts, olives, etc.
34. Sloppy Joes made with meatless crumbles (like Morning Star or Boca) and Sloppy Joe mix (like Manwich)
35. Chili dogs made with veggie dogs and vegetarian chili (like Hormel)
36. Falafel (store bought, usually in the produce section by the veggie meats) in a pita with hummus, and veggies like cucumber, avocado, tomato, olives, and sprouts
37. Meatless meatball sub (from the frozen section, like Nate’s), or chickenless parm sub (using chickenless patties from the frozen section, like Morning Star or Boca) – top with marinara sauce, cheese, and fresh basil
38. Eggplant or portobello mushroom sandwich
39. Veggie burger (from the frozen section)
40. Veggie sub  – load it up with all kinds of veggies and top it with vinegar & oil or salad dressing

Don’t be scared of tofu! It may be squishy, but it tastes like whatever you cook it in, so it can be as tasty as you make it!

41. Marinated tofu – Use firm or extra-firm tofu, any type of marinade (your favorite kind), and bake or sautee the tofu.
42. Tofu and veggies – Just cook chopped tofu with chopped veggies. Add some marinade or sauce if you want.
43. Tempeh – If you’ve never had tempeh, you MUST TRY IT. It’s soy, but it’s not at all like tofu – it is thick and hearty and flavorful. You can use marinade, but it’s not needed.

Breakfast for dinner
44. Scrambled eggs (or tofu scramble) with lots of veggies – can also make breakfast tacos
45.  Waffles, pancakes, or French toast
46. Biscuits & gravy with veggie sausage (like Gimmie Lean) and hash browns (frozen)

47. Large baked potato or baked sweet potato – Top with butter or olive oil, sour cream, cheese, chives or green onion, bac’n bits, or add veg chili (like Hormel).
48. A big-ass salad – Don’t underestimate the heartiness of a big salad. Add beans, pasta, tofu, egg, or mock chicken to bulk it up!
49. Soup or stew – Dump a bunch of veggies in a pot (fresh and/or canned), add some vegetable broth and seasonings, then heat.
50. A plate full of veggies – You don’t need to have a “main course!” Just load your plate up with your favorite “sides”: potatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, rice, carrots, salad, bread, etc.

New Year’s Resolutions: 2011

Many foodies are predicting “reduced meat consumption” as a top food trend for 2011.

From Friends Eat:

Meatless Monday or 4/7 Vegetarian/Vegan: As many people are starting to be convinced that eating less meat can be healthy and fulfilling as well, the vegetable is slowly gaining more star power with these emerging trends. Similar to food practices such as 3/7 vegetarian (eating vegetarian foods three times a week), concepts such as Meatless Monday and Tofu Thursday is starting to define a trend in vegetarianism. True blue vegetarians and vegans may raise their eye brows on this trend, but as it picks up by 2011, many people will be eating more vegetables.

From Epicurious:

Meatless Mondays & Tofu Thursdays: While it’s hip to go whole hog, with butchers gaining star power and roasts as the focus of many a dinner party, there is a concurrent trend of eating less meat. As we recently pointed out in Back to the Future: 10 Food Trends to Watch Over the Next Decade, the proportion of people eating no meat or less meat is growing, and the nonprofit Meatless Monday initiative no doubt has been one motivator. Meatless Monday’s goal is to encourage U.S. consumers to cut their meat consumption by 15 percent for the betterment of our health and the planet. School districts from Baltimore to New Haven, Santa Barbara to Syracuse, have embraced the cause, as have more than 20 public health organizations, not to mention prominent chefs such as Marcus Samuelsson. We’re forecasting that eating meat-free will be on the calendar more than once a week.

If your New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, getting healthier, going green, or working to be a better, more compassionate person, eating less meat is one of the best resolutions you can make for your health, for the planet, and for the animals.

No matter what your New Year’s resolution is, it is daunting to make any kind of commitment for 365 days.  Seventy-eight percent of people do not meet their New Year’s resolution goals. It is difficult to change any habit or behavior, especially for an entire year, and especially if it is a lifetime habit – like eating meat. It is often easier and more realistic to make smaller, shorter goals.

Here are some ideas:

  • – Consider a resolution to do Meatless Monday – for just one day a week, cut out meat.
  • – Challenge yourself to go vegetarian for 2 weeks.  Use these Three Steps to easily come up with 2 weeks worth of veggie meals. Repeat 2 weeks of vegetarianism periodically throughout the year – every 2 or 3  months, or any frequency of your choosing.
  • – Practice food author Mark Bittman’s “Vegan Before 6” – eat vegan before 6pm, then whatever you want for dinner.
  • -Choose a vegetarian/omnivore ratio like 3/7 or 4/7 and eat vegetarian for 3 or 4 out of 7 days of the week.
  • -Eat strictly vegetarian at home, then eat onmi when eating out.

It is easy to fall back into old habits (especially when you get home from work, tired).  So, plan ahead by mapping out meals in advance and ensuring you have the ingredients for them.  Or at least make sure that you have some “staples” on hand like pasta, rice, beans, and fresh veggies. It’s so easy to toss some zucchini and spinach into pasta, or broccoli and bell peppers into rice, or throw some beans & cilantro into a tortilla.

Whatever scheme you choose, take it one month at a time.  If you slip, don’t beat your self up about it or throw in the towel, just get back on track as soon as possible – everyone falters, but not everyone perseveres. Remember that the more you try it, the easier it will get. And cutting even just some of the meat out of your diet will make a significant difference in your health, to the environment, and to the animals.

Soon you’ll have more energy and a better awareness of what’s going into your body. You’ll feel good about how you’re helping the Earth and the fact that you’re contributing less to the suffering of animals.  And, before you know it, 365 days will have passed, veggie meals will have become habit, and it will be time to make a new resolution.

10 Vegan-Friendly Gift Ideas

Tis the season for gift-giving and what better way to show the vegetarians in your life (ahem!) that you put a little thought into their gift this year by giving them something that supports their animal friendly lifestyle! And PS, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate a good cruelty-free gift. These gifts are fantastic for vegans and omnis alike!

1. Restaurant Gift Cards

gift cardA gift certificate to a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, or to a restaurant that is vegetarian friendly, is always a safe bet. (Be aware, though, that while many restaurants offer vegetarian items, they may not cater well to vegans, so know what type of diet your gift-recipient follows!) To find a vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurant nearby, use Happy Cow’s compassionate eating guide and simply enter your zip code.

2. Vegan Clothes and Accessories

Vegan shoe from Olsen Haus ($250)

Vegan shoe from Olsen Haus ($250)

It can be difficult to find vegan shoes (especially cute ones), but believe it or not, they do exist. Give the gift of compassionate fashion with non-leather shoes, belts, and bags. Don’t know how to choose the right look for your gift recipient? A gift card to a vegan outfitter works just as well. For high-end vegan fashion, check out Olsen Haus where some of the collection is even made from interesting recyclables, like recycled TV screen! Some more affordable options include: Vegan Chic, Alternative Outfitters, The Ethical Man, and Vegan Pimp. And to make a more direct fashion statement, there are tons of vegan and vegetarian graphic tees. Try Vegetarian Good and Zazzle to start. (I’m getting a real kick out of this Vegetarian Zombies shirt!)

3. Soy Candles

Soy candles from Kenny Co-Op ($6.00 each)

Soy candles from Kenny Co-Op ($6 each)

Turns out many candles aren’t vegan. Often, candles are made with beeswax or animal-derived stearic acid. (Read why beeswax and honey aren’t vegan.) One alternative to beeswax candles is paraffin wax candles, but paraffin wax is a petrochemical – it is made from the same stuff as gasoline. The good news is that thanks to some creative environmentalists, we now have vegan-friendly, environmentally-friendly soy candles! Soy candles are made from a renewable resource (instead of bee exploitation or petroleum), they do not release CO2 into the atmosphere (like paraffin), and they also burn slower than regular candles which means they last longer. Plus, scented soy candles distribute more aroma. The incorporation of soybean oil lowers the melting point of the candle, which translates into cooler burning candles and faster scent dispersion. More than you ever wanted to know about candles?! Just know that they make excellent gifts. Kenny Co-Op has a great set of soy candles in tins and Etsy has a whole slew of soy candles.

4. Vegan Lotions, Soaps, Lip Balms, Cosmetics, or Fragrances

Lavender gift box from Vibrant Naturals ($15)

Lavender gift box from Vibrant Naturals ($15)

Fragrances, lotions, makeup, and lip balms all make great gifts for the ladies. But make sure that the cosmetics you choose are not made with animal products and are not tested on our furry friends. Some of my favorite vegan-friendly cosmetic brands include: Crazy Rumors Lip Balm where the candy cane 4-pack is my personal favorite; Urban Decay has an extensive line of vegan cosmetics including everything from lip gloss to makeup brushes to nail polish; Vibrant Naturals makes all natural, vegan lotions, soaps, lip balms, and bath salts, they also have gift baskets and even have some dog shampoos!; and The Perfumed Court has this helpful list of vegan fragrances. And if you just can’t decide, a gift card to a vegan-friendly cosmetics store would be perfect.

5. Vegan Sweets and Treats

Chocolate Lover's gift set from Allison's Gourmet ($42)

Chocolate Lover's gift set from Allison's Gourmet ($42)

Load up a gift basket with sweet and tasty vegan treats like vegan chocolates, vegan cupcakes, vegan gummy candies, or vegan marshmallows. Some of my favorite savory vegan selections include: Allison’s Gourmet, an all vegan bakery where you can order fudge, cookies, brownies, coffees & teas, and more (they also have gift sets); Sweet & Sara who carries vegan marshmallow treats like reindeer-shaped marshmallows, strawberry-flavored marshmallows, rice-crispy treats, and s’mores; Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe which has vegan gummy bears and lots of vegan chocolate; and Good Baker offers vegan baking mixes for brownies, cookies, cakes, and muffins. And don’t forget that most cupcake shops make vegan cupcakes!

6. Animal Adoption Certificate

Sponsor this piglet at Farm Sanctuary ($10 and up)

Sponsor this piglet at Farm Sanctuary ($10 and up)

Any animal lover would appreciate the gift of animal adoption. Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Farm-Animal Project gives you the opportunity to sponsor a rescued farm animal. By adopting a farm animal, you’ll help provide their food, shelter, and veterinary costs, and you’ll show your opposition to farm animal cruelty. Adoptions can be made in a gift-recipient’s name and the recipient will receive information about their adopted “pet” including a picture, his/her story, and even details about visiting their animal (should you happen to be in NY or CA).  The World Wildlife Fund also has a similar program for adopting endangered species.

7. Animal Volunteer Vacations ($)

Volunteer with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Kenya ($1500 for 2 weeks, includes lodging and meals)

Volunteer with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Kenya ($1500 for 2 weeks, includes lodging and meals)

This one earned a ‘$’ because it is a pricey gift, but what an amazing gift it is. Instead of taking a ‘typical’ vacation of beach lounging or tourist site-seeing, make your next vacation one that benefits animals! There are hundreds of animal rehabilitation centers all around the world, working with all types of animals. Travel to Africa to rehabilitate rescued lions, or to Indonesia to work with endangered monkeys, or The Bahamas to track & monitor bottlenose dolphins, or Greece to save the Loggerhead turtles, or stay closer to home and camp at the Grand Canyon while supporting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. There are so many possibilities and the durations and price ranges vary. GVI and Charity Guide both provide great lists of international opportunities. Green Earth Travel specializes in “vegetarian vacations” ranging from animal volunteer vacations to vegetarian spas.

8. Food Gadgets

If your veggie-lover loves to cook, food gadgets are the way to go. Some great items for cooking great veggies include: a vegetable steamer, a rice cooker, (or just go for the combo), a food processor, a cooking utensil set, a lemon press, a garlic press, or my personal favorite, a tofu press.

Rice cooker and vegetable steamer from Walmart ($38.88)

Rice cooker and vegetable steamer from Walmart ($38.88)

Tal Ronnen

'The Conscious Cook' by Tal Ronnen (from $11.47 at Amazon)

9. Vegan/Vegetarian Cookbooks or Magazines

For anyone who enjoys cooking  or for anyone who wants more ideas for meatless meals, vegetarian cookbooks and magazines are an excellent source of inspiration! Some favorites are: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook, and Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.  I am a subscriber to Vegetarian Times and I think it is excellent! Some other vegetarian magazines include: VegNews and Vegan Magazine. (The Amazon links to these books/magazines are affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase one of these books through my Amazon link I will receive a few cents. Anything earned through affiliate links is put towards the cost of hosting this blog. If you decide to purchase one of these items, I hope that you will choose to do it through here.)

10. Leave The Dark Side

Becoming a vegetarian or vegan, even if just for a few days, would be the best gift for your veggie friend or family member.

Breakfast: Cereal with almond milk
Lunch:  Chipotle burrito bowl (no cheese, no sour cream, and free guac because it’s meatless!)
Dinner: Soy chorizo tacos

The Great Eight: 8 Foods Every Vegetarian Should Eat

**Don’t forget about the book giveaway! Enter to win by Tues, July 13th**

This list of 8 foods every vegetarian should eat was compiled by Vegetarian Times.

It is easy to maintain a balanced, nutritious vegetarian diet if you eat the right foods. All of the foods on this list are loaded with one or more of the hardest nutrients for vegetarians to get: protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Work in daily servings of The Great Eight and worry no more about getting your vital nutrients!

(Keep in mind that if you don’t eat eggs or dairy, you’ll want to take a B12 supplement, or a multi-vitamin containing B12, to make sure you’re getting enough.)

PS – I donated blood yesterday. When I was a meat-eater I sometimes couldn’t pass the iron test to qualify to donate. Yesterday was my first donation as a vegetarian and I passed with flying colors!  The nurse asked me, “Do you eat a healthy diet?” I told her, “I think so… I’m a vegetarian.”  Then she said, “Well, you’re eating the right vegetables because you’ve got plenty of iron.”  Sweet.

1. Tofu

tofu-in-bowlWhy it’s great: Plain tofu has a lot going for it. It’s a terrific source of protein, zinc, iron, and it even contains some cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. It also gives you more than 100 milligrams (mg) of calcium in a half cup. But the same amount of calcium-enriched tofu gives you up to 350 mg (about one-third of your daily needs) plus roughly 30 percent of your daily vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium—an extra bone-building punch that many people need. Look for enriched soymilk, too, which is also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Tip: “Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe,” says Sass. Firm tofu works best because it holds its shape when you sauté it or grill it.

2. Lentils

lentilsWhy they’re great: Lentils, like beans, are part of the legume family, and like beans, they’re an excellent source of protein and soluble fiber. But lentils have an edge over most beans: They contain about twice as much iron. They’re also higher in most B vitamins and folate, which is especially important for women of childbearing age as folate reduces the risk for some birth defects. For new vegetarians, lentils are also the perfect way to start eating more legumes because they tend to be less gassy.

Tip: Lentil soup is just the beginning. Add lentils to vegetable stews, chilis or casseroles. Toss them with red onions and vinaigrette. Stir them into curries; cook them with carrots. Experiment with different varieties—red lentils cook up very fast and can be turned into bright purées.

3. Beans

beansjpg-700668Why they’re great: A cup a day gives you about one-third of your iron and protein and roughly half your fiber. Even better, most of that is soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. One cup also provides a good amount of potassium, zinc and many B vitamins, and some calcium too. Just one alert: Rinse canned beans well—they can be soaked in salt.

Tip: It was once thought that to get a complete protein, you needed to combine beans with grains (rice, pasta, bread) at the same meal. “Now we know you just have to eat them during the same day,” Sass says. Toss beans and vegetables with whole wheat pasta; make soups and chilis with several varieties; add a sprinkling to grain salads. And for a different taste treat, look for canned heirloom varieties.

4. Nuts

nuts1240705690Why they’re great: They’re a nifty source of quick, totally palatable protein. In addition, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias and Brazil nuts are rich in zinc, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Some, like almonds, even provide a decent amount of calcium (about 175 mg in a half cup).

There’s also some great nut news: “Recent studies show that even though nuts are high in calories, eating them does not lead to weight gain,” says Sass. In fact, people who eat nut-rich diets tend to weigh less than those who don’t, say researchers at Loma Linda University and Purdue University. Peanuts may even help weight loss. Why nuts don’t make you fat—and may even help you lose weight—isn’t clear. “It’s possible that nuts make you feel so full that you’re less likely to overeat other foods,” says Sass. Other experts suspect that the labor-intense job of digesting nuts burns off calories. There are also hints that nuts increase the amount of fat that passes through the digestive tract, which might explain nut-linked weight loss. More research is obviously needed!

Tip:  Different nuts give you different nutrients. For example, a half cup of almonds provides about four times as much fiber as the same amount of cashews. Cashews, however, contain about twice as much iron and zinc as almost any other nut. Pecans and walnuts tend to land right in the middle for most nut nutrients—potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Sprinkle them in salads, or keep a bag of mixed nuts in your desk or backpack. Garnish smooth soups with crunchy whole nuts, stir chopped nuts into muffins and add crushed nuts to pie crust.

5. Grains

whole-grainsWhy they’re great: Some enriched whole-grain cereals are fortified with hard-to-get vitamin B12—some even offer 100 percent of a day’s requirement in one serving—as well as iron, calcium and many other nutrients. Keep in mind that if you don’t eat eggs or dairy, you’ll have to take a B12 supplement to make sure you’re getting enough. As a group, cereals and other whole-grain foods (whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rice,  etc.) are also high in other B vitamins, zinc and, of course, insoluble fiber, which not only helps whisk cholesterol out of your system but may reduce your risk of colon cancer and
other digestive disorders.

Tip: Because different grains provide different nutrients, vary the types you eat. “It’s easy to get into a rut of, say, just making brown rice all the time. It’s better to mix up the grains you eat, including oatmeal, bulgur, wild rice, whole rye and pumpernickel breads,” says Sass. Also try some of the ancient grains—spelt, farro, kamut—which are now sold at most whole foods markets.

6. Leafy GreensGreens

Why they’re great: Unlike most vegetables, dark leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard and collards contain healthful amounts of iron—especially spinach, which has about 6 grams or about one-third of a day’s supply. They’re also a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants; are high in folic acid and vitamin A; and they even contain calcium, but in a form that’s not easily absorbed. Cooking greens and/or sprinkling them with a little lemon juice or vinegar makes the calcium more available to your body, says Sass.

Tip: Always try to eat iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C because the C helps your body absorb the iron. With dark leafy greens, this comes naturally—just toss them into salads with yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges or any citrus. Or if you prefer your veggies cooked, sauté a couple of cups of greens in some seasoned olive oil with sweet peppers, garlic and onion.

7. Seaweeds

seaweedWhy they’re great: Besides being a terrific source of iron and phytochemicals, many seaweeds—such as alaria, dulse, kelp, nori, spirulina and agar—are good sources of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and chromium, as well as vitamins A, C, E and many of the Bs. Talk about superfoods!

Tip: Add chopped dulse to salads or sandwiches, sauté it with other vegetables or use it in soups. Use nori sheets as the wrappers for vegetarian sushi. Toast kelp, and crumble it on pasta or rice, or add it to noodle soups. Browse through Japanese or Korean markets to find seaweeds to sample.

8. Dried Fruits

dried_fruit1240705656Why they’re great: They’re good, super-convenient sources of iron—and if you combine them with some mixed nuts, you’ve got a packet of iron and protein you can take anywhere easily. In addition, dried fruits—think apricots, raisins, prunes, mangoes, pineapple, figs, dates, cherries and cranberries—provide a wide array of minerals and vitamins as well as some fiber. And even kids love to snack on them.

Tip: Sprinkle them on salads, use in chutneys, stir into puréed squash and sweet potatoes, or blend with nuts and seeds to make your own favorite snack mix. Chopped up, dried fruits make healthful additions to puddings, fruit-based pie fillings, oat bars, cookies, hot and cold cereals—you name it.

Breakfast: Bagel with jelly
Lunch: Amy’s black bean burrito and an orange
Dinner: Veggie tacos filled with mushrooms, zucchini, and squash at Rosa Mexicano

10 Ways To Eat Less Meat

In the “Smart Spending” section on is a list of 10 ways to eat less meat. Why would eating less meat be under “Smart Spending”? This article says, “Save your next four grocery bills. Add up the totals. Subtract half the money you spend on meat. Imagine saving that every month.”

by Kris at Cheap Healthy Good, from

Today, we continue our May Top 10 series by addressing a popular topic in both the food and personal-finance blogospheres: eating less meat.

“Why in the good name of Bea Arthur would I want to eat LESS meat?” some might ask. “I don’t get enough bacon as it is. Plus, humans were meant to be carnivores, right? Otherwise, how do I explain the dead alpaca in the fridge to my kids?”

Well, sweet reader. We come not to demonize meat, but to praise consuming it in moderation. Because when raised right and chomped sensibly, beef, chicken, pork, lamb — maybe even that alpaca — can be pretty good for you. What’s more, it’s good for your wallet, your children, the Earth, the moon, the universe, other universes, the multiverse, the Rebel Alliance, Hoth, Dagoba … sorry. Got carried away there.

Following that line of reasoning, here are 10-plus strategies for reducing your meat intake. Some are well-known. Others, less so. But all told, it’s a pretty decent list, if I do say so myself. (Note: And I do.)

Of course, if you’d like to change anything or add your own suggestion, the comment section awaits. That’s what it’s there for, after all. (Also: quoting “Glee.”)

1. Have one or more meatless nights per week.
It’s hard to say whether the movement began with bloggers or Johns Hopkins’ Meatless Mondays. Either way, this 15% reduction in your weekly meat can have a massive positive impact on … well, everything we just mentioned (the environment, your heart, Tatooine, etc.). The options aren’t as limited as you think, either. Vegetarian burritos, pizza, chili, and pasta are so tasty, you won’t miss the extra 8 ounces of pork.

2. Buy less meat. And when you do, purchase only pricey, delicious, humanely raised meat.
You have 3 grand and a choice: You can go to McDonald’s every night for a year, or Babbo every night for a month. You’d choose 30 days catered by Mario Batali over 3,000 stupid chicken nuggets, right?

Buying farmers market meat is kind of like that. You purchase less overall (because it’s pricey, yo), but what you do buy is so delicious, it’s worth the wait.

Not to mention, imagine a world where the chicken tastes like chicken. I’m not talking about the wan, watered-down, quasi-poultry we know and tolerate. I’m referring to genuine, robust fowl that screams, “I am bird! Hear me cluck! Or roar! Or roarcluck! Whatever.” That flavorful planet is attainable, if you’re willing to go for it.

3. Don’t eat meat before dinner.
You may have heard of Mark Bittman’s “vegan before 6” diet. Essentially, the New York Times writer doesn’t eat any animal products before dinner. (Um, that may have been somewhat self-explanatory from the name of the diet, in which case, I apologize.)

While restricting cheese and eggs might be a little too much to take, dude’s definitely on to something. How simple would it be to cut the bacon out of your morning feast? Or to swap grilled eggplant in for grilled chicken on your panini? Or to buy the deli’s awesome, overlooked Italian bean soup instead of their admittedly lame chicken noodle? Try it for a few days, and see what happens. Could be easier than you think.

4. Don’t make meat the focus of your meals.
There’s nothing like a good cheeseburger, but eating one every night takes its toll. Relegating meat to side dishes or secondary ingredients ensures you still get a decent helping of beefy goodness, without the egregious bad things. Chilis and soups are particularly wonderful for this, as is everything in Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond’s Meat Lite column on Serious Eats.

5. Go ethnic.
Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and even Italian and Mexican food rely much less on meat than traditional American cuisine. Throw your family a culinary curveball by having a World Kitchen Night, and preparing a few simple recipes from around the globe. Beyond the obvious benefits, you’ll also open minds and create adventurous palates. Sweet.

6. Filet or pound your cuts.
The recommended serving for meat is 4 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. If you put that in front of my brother, he’d laugh maniacally and then shove a fork into his thigh, a la Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein.”

There’s a way around that, though: Take a large piece of meat — chicken breast, let’s say — and A) slice it in half through the middle, or B) pound it super-thin. This creates the illusion of a big cut, even though the piece is essentially missing its bottom half. Bonus: It’ll cook more evenly, as well.

7. Learn to make more vegetable, grain, and pasta-based meals.
Baked ziti. Falafel. Pizza. Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili. Lasagna. Quinoa soup with avocado and corn. Ratatouille. Macaroni and cheese. Pasta Puttanesca. Black Bean Burrito Bake. Veggie lo mein. Stuffed peppers. Tomato and bread soup. Pumpkin orzo with sage. Roasted veggie sandwich. Oh, my sweet heavens, butternut squash risotto. All substantial. All delicious. None will make you crave a hot dog.

8. Find substitutes you dig.
Not everybody likes tofu. I get that. Bean curd is an acquired taste. Still, have you ever tried seitan? Done correctly, it’s scrumptious. I’m not kidding. Leigh makes these barbecue seitan bites that are practically crack.

Meat substitutes scare people off sometimes, but flavor- and texture-wise, they’ve come a long way since Tofurky. If you’re open to the idea, the trick is finding one (or two or eight) that works for you. Whether that’s Portobello mushrooms or tempeh or Morningstar Farms Chix Patties (Which? Mmm.), odds are it’s a better option than many commercially available meats.

9. Make your vegetarian friends cook for you.
Two of my friends have been vegetarians for nearly 20 years each. (One is the aforementioned Veggie Might genius Leigh.) Both are among the best cooks I know, presumably because they’ve been forced to experiment with a wider variety of foods to compensate for the lack of meat. If you have similar pals, watch them cook. Ask how they get by. Eat with them. Vegetarians are experts at non-meat lifestyles, and you can learn a lot just by hanging out in their circles.

10. Do the math.
Save your next four grocery bills. Add up the totals. Subtract half the money you spend on meat. (That other half will be spent on more grains, vegetables, and beans, presumably.) Imagine saving that every month, for the rest of your life. Not too shabby, eh?

Bonus: Avoid the meat areas of your supermarket. Out of sight, out of mind, right? It works for me.

Really good ideas from other people
These tips are pretty sweet too.

Forget about protein. Mark Bittman: “Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat. … By eating a variety, you can get all essential amino acids.”

Adapt old meaty recipes. Diet Girl: “Back when I first shacked up with Dr G, I started by taking my old standard meat recipes and finding veggie substitutes. This meant lots of beans and lentils.”

Make extra helpings of your side dishes. Owlhaven’s Mary Ostyn makes only one to 1 1/2 small servings of meat per person, but cooks extra veggies, grains and such. It keeps costs down, and ensures her kids don’t go overboard.

And that’s it. Sweet readers, the comment section awaits.

Note from Angie: Take me up on #9 – I’d love to cook for you!

Breakfast: Some delicious homemade sourdough bread from North Carolina
Lunch: Black bean and guacamole burrito from Baja Fresh
Dinner: Pasta and peas

Milk Alternatives

To follow up on yesterday’s post about the cruelty and abuse in the dairy industry, here is a list of compassionate, healthy, just as tasty (and in my humble opinion, more tasty) alternatives to milk.

Plus, all dairy-free milks are cholesterol free.

Soy Milk
The most widely available dairy-free milk is soy milk, which can be found both alongside milk in the dairy case and in cartons on supermarket shelves (usually in the baking aisle). Competition from national brands, like 8th Continent and Silk, has lowered prices across the board, making soy milk one of the more cost-effective milk alternatives. Soy milk is high in protein and an attractive alternative to milk for cooking and baking (I’ve used soy milk in everything from cakes to mashed potatoes and no one had a clue!).

All of the following dairy alternatives are found in cartons, usually in the baking aisle (not in the refrigerated section).

Nut Milks
Almond milk is among the most common nut milks. Like soy milk, nut milks are high in protein and are useful for baking. You may find their taste blends in with baked goods, coffee, or nutty cereals better than soy milk, although personal tastes vary. Nuts are also high in “good fats” and Vitamin E.

One thing to be careful about with both soy and nut milk: both of these are common allergens in and of themselves.

Rice Milk
Unlike soy and nut milks, rice milk is not especially allergenic, making it an attractive choice for families concerned about avoiding allergens in young children. The texture of rice milk is the most watery of all milk alternatives (very similar to skim milk) so it may not be the best alternative for cooking. It is best used as a beverage and for pouring on cereal.

Hemp Milk
A newer milk alternative, hemp milk may be difficult to find in some places. Its protein level and texture fall in between that of rice and soy milk. It is more watery than regular milk when poured, but has enough protein for use in some cooking applications. The essential fatty acids, vitamins & nutrients that are contained in organic hemp milk make it a healthy alternative to dairy.

Oat Milk
Made from oat groats (whole, minimally processed oats) and potentially other grains and beans, such as triticale (a hybrid of wheat), barley, brown rice, and soybeans. Like hemp milk, oat milk has a moderate amount of protein. Oat Milk is light in texture and substitutes very well for low-fat or fat-free milk. Oat milk is fairly mild and nutty tasting, and is a natural match for hot cereals and many breakfast foods.

For more information on why you should go dairy-free, check out PETA’s What’s Wrong With Dairy flyer and
Breakfast: An apple
Lunch: Black bean & guacamole burrito (that’s a bean and cheese burrito without the cheese, plus guac)
Dinner: Spaghetti and salad

New Year’s Resolutions

To lose weight, to to stop biting your fingernails, to quit smoking, to organize the house, to do more charity work.  Now matter what your New Year’s resolution is, it is daunting to make any kind of commitment for 365 days.  Seventy-eight percent of people do not meet their New Year’s resolution goals. 

It is difficult to change any habit or behavior, especially for an entire year, and especially if it is a lifetime habit – like eating meat.  But, one of the best resolutions you can make for your health, for the planet, and for the animals, is to eat less meat.

Going vegetarian, especially cold turkey, may be overwhelming, so it is often easier and more realistic to make smaller, shorter goals.  Here are some ideas:

Consider a resolution to do Meatless Monday – for just one day a week, cut out meat.  

Challenge yourself to go vegetarian for 2 weeks.  Use these Three Steps to easily come up with 2 weeks worth of veggie meals.  The 2 weeks will fly by.

Take it one month at a time.  After a month or a few months, expand your Meatless Mondays to Meatless Mondays & Wednesdays, or go meatless for the first week of each month.  The more you try it, the easier it will get. And cutting even just some of the meat out of your diet will make a significant difference in your health, to the environment, and to the animals. 

It is easy to fall back into old habits, especially when you get home from work, tired.  So, plan ahead by mapping out meals in advance and ensuring you have the ingredients for them.  Or at least make sure that you have some “staples” on hand like pasta, rice, beans, and some fresh veggies. It’s so easy to toss some zucchini and spinach into pasta, or broccoli and bell peppers into rice, or throw some beans & cilantro into a tortilla. 

Take each day meal by meal. Soon you’ll have more energy and a better awareness of what’s going into your body. You’ll feel good about how you’re helping the Earth and the fact that you’re contributing less to the suffering of animals.  And, before you know it, 365 days will have passed, veggie meals will have become habit, and it will be time to make a new resolution.
Breakfast: Vegan breakfast wrap – tofu scramble, soy cheese, and fake bacon bits
Lunch: Veggie sandwich – roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomoato, onion, mozzarella cheese, and pesto
Dinner: Soy chorizo tacos

The Three Step Program

If you’re making the switch to a vegetarian (or a more vegetarian diet), you’ll be pleased to find that not only is it healthier and more humane, but it is also a fun & delicious way to explore new meals!  A veggie meal can be as familiar as spaghetti & marinara sauce, as comforting as a bowl of rich potato soup, or as exotic as grilled polenta with portabello mushrooms.

Making the switch to a vegetarian diet is much easier than  you might think.  Most people (whether vegetarians or meat-eaters) typically eat a limited variety of meals over and over.  The average family eats 8 or 9 different dinners repeatedly. 

You can use this 3 Step program to come up with 9 vegetarian meals to become your staples.

1.) Think of 3 vegetarian meals you already enjoy.  Some common ones are:  spaghetti with marinara, pasta primavera (that’s pasta with veggies), vegetable or tofu stir-fry (with veggie egg rolls), veggie or cheese pizza, chalupas, nachos, grilled cheeses (with tomato soup), veggie wraps (with hummus), cheese or spinach lasagna, cheese or veggie ravioli, mac & cheese.

2.) Think of 3 meals you make regularly that can easily be adapted to a vegetarian menu.  For example, chili can be made with all the same ingredients, but replace the meat with beans or meatless crumbles.  Make cheese, spinach, or bean enchiladas instead of beef or chicken.  Enjoy veggie burgers instead of hamburgers, and eggplant parmesan instead of chicken parm.  Try grilling/baking/frying tofu in marinade, instead of chicken.  Replace meat in pasta sauces with meatless crumbles, or meatless meatballs, or zucchini & squash, or just make a plain marinara.  Make sloppy joes with meatless crumbles, make beans & franks with veggie dogs.  In casseroles & soups, remove chicken and replace with more veggies: zucchini, squash, potato, carrots, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, etc.  Try tacos with meatless crumbles (add taco seasoning), or whole black beans, or my personal favorite: soy chorizo (from Trader Joe’s).

3.) Find 3 vegetarian recipes you enjoy, online or in vegetarian cookbooks.  There is a plethora of delicious vegetarian recipes out there – you are sure to find more than just 3 that you like!  Here’s a few to get you started:;start=0;sort=views;desc

And just like that, you now have 9 vegetarian dinners with minimal changes to your routine!
Breakfast: A bean & cheese (soy chesse, actually) taco
Lunch: Leftover veggie stir-fry in yellow curry sauce
Dinner: Pasta salad with veggies & dressing, served cold