It is an exciting time to be an advocate for a plant based diet! On a regular basis I am seeing signs that this way of eating is on the rise. Gae Lea launched a coconut based whip cream and now there’s vegan cheese in my local discount grocery store. And Toronto Life Magazine recenlty featured some gourmet vegan treat.  The more mainstream it becomes to leave animal products behind, the easier it will be – both socially and logistically. And easy is good!

One step at a time

Research shows that vegans are less likely to lapse if they adopt the diet gradually. If we are willing to continue adding vegan options to our diet, the animal based components will naturally diminish. So what are some strategies?

  • Eat in restaurants that offer good vegan options. Ethnic cuisines are including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Mexican are delicious.
  • Buy a vegan cookbook and/or go on-line for recipes (Oh She Glows is still my fave and Chapters/Indigo named it their Best Book of the Year 2014).
  • Try vegan cheeses (Daiya brand is great) and mock meats (try Gardien or Tofurky brands). You might be pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture.
  • Freeze leftovers for a quick meal later. I find chilies and pureed soups freeze the best.
  • Find a vegan salad dressing you love and have it on hand. A tossed salad is always fast and easy.
  • Have ingredients available for your favourite smoothies. They make decent meal substitutes when they contain healthy ingredients.
  • Have snacks ready to go: hummus and veggies or pita, fruit, trail mix and Larabars to name a few.

Check this clip of film director James Cameron’s thoughts on veganism. And at an environmental elementary school co-founded by Cameron’s wife, kids are learning about the connection between what they eat and how it affects the environment. Here’s what they are doing.

And while on the topic of kids…

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics states, “Well-planned vegetarian diets — even a vegan diet — can supply all the nutrients that children require for their growth and energy needs.”

And per a 1998 article published in the New York Times, in the seventh edition of his world-famous book, ”Baby and Child Care,” just weeks after his death at age 94, Dr. Spock wrote, ”We now know that there are harmful effects of a meaty diet…children can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans and other plant foods that avoid the fat and cholesterol that are in animal products.” He went on to write, ”I no longer recommend dairy products after the age of 2 years. Other calcium sources offer many advantages that dairy products do not have.”

So it makes sense to include the kids if you choose to increase plant based foods in your diet. Naturally it takes time and thought to feed vegan children. But it is well worth the effort. Thankfully there are many resources to guide us. Here are just a couple to consider:

  • Check out the kids section of here. The author of the site, Jack Norris RD, publshed a book called Vegan for Life that has lots of considerations and tips for raising vegan kids.
  • Dr. Michael Gregor’s site has a section on nutrition for kids. He gives an overview plus numerous links to related research.

For animal lovers everywhere…my friend Mafalda spotted this fun video…the rapper is a Torontonian. Enjoy!

Spotlight on B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is produced mainly by bacteria. Among other places, bacteria grow in the guts of animals and therefore eating animals and animal products can be a good source of B12. Vegans may once have obtained the needed B12 by drinking out of mountain streams or well water (herbivoreous primates get B12 by ingesting bugs, dirt and feces). Because plants are not a reliable source of B12, vegans must turn to fortified foods (e.g. cereals, non-dairy beverages, mock meats) and/or supplements. Michael Gregor, MD advises taking at least 2,500 mcg (µg) of cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement. Any excess is eliminated so there is no risk of taking too much.

Creamy Carrot Soup

Saute 2 cups chopped white onion for 2 minutes
Mix in 2 pounds of carrots (peeled and cut into ½ inch dice)
Add 5 cups low salt vegetable broth
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until carrots are very tender (be patient here)
Return to same pan and whisk in 2 tbsp honey, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice and ¼ tsp ground allspice plus salt and pepper to taste
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle generously with cumin
This soup freezes well