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Vegan Dogs (and homemade dog food!)

Anytime someone meets my dogs (and they’re aware I’m vegan) they ask if my dogs are vegan too. I would have thought the answer would be an obvious “yes” but most often, people seem surprised when I tell them, “yup, the whole family is veg!”

I get the question via email too, so I thought I’d put it out there that yes, my dogs are vegan and they are thriving.

If you’re wondering if dogs can be vegan, the answer is yes. Dogs, like humans, don’t need meat to survive. The pugs’ vets in Boston, Los Angeles and New York City have all been supportive of their vegan diet and one even said she would recommend a vegan diet over an omnivorous one if she thought more dog owners would be open to the idea.

Although there are several brands of vegan kibble on the market (Nature’s Balance, V-dog, Wenaewe, Pet Guard, Avo Derm, Natural Life, Evolution Diet and Wysong) I prefer to make vegan dog food myself.

It all started a month ago when we ran out of vegan kibble at home, and to make matters worse, the store was sold out, too. Obviously the pugs couldn’t go hungry so I made them a plate of rice and beans. The next morning I made them a plate of peas and apples and that night, peas and beans. It continued on for days and by the time the store had called to say they had our kibble, I didn’t bother to go buy it.

Of course, Scott was skeptical. He wondered how long I’d last at making fresh meals for our dogs every day, twice a day — but a month later I’m still doing it!

I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in the pugs since we started on home cooked meals. Although they liked their vegan kibble, they were never excited about meal time. Really, they could take it or leave it. Now they bark and do circles — they couldn’t be more thrilled to eat their supper.

I’ve also noticed a change in their…bodily functions. The pugs were never constipated or anything, but we always had to walk them around the block a few times before they were ready to do their business. Now, they poop much quicker and with more ease. I’m convinced it’s all the added fiber. There is little to no fiber in kibble, so it’s not surprising they’re going much more easily now.

I’ve also noticed a change in their urine. Quaid and LilyBean used to have deep yellow pee, which always made me worry they could be dehydrated. Now their urine is much, much lighter in color. I’m convinced its because they’re getting water from their food now. Water is in the rice they eat and the beans I cook for them– vs. kibble which is dehydrated.

By now you’re probably thinking “This sounds great, but I don’t have the time to cook two meals for myself, let alone my dog!” But I promise, you do — and it will save you money! I’m spending a fraction of what I used to on kibble!

Here’s how I do it: I cook an entire bag of brown rice once a week, storing leftovers in my fridge. I do the same with a bag of beans and I’ll steam or bake sweet potatoes while I’m add it. Every day I’ll put brown rice, beans and either a sweet potato or thawed frozen peas into their bowl. It takes seconds.

I’ve also recently started added chopped fresh apples and zucchini from my garden. I also keep a bag of puffed brown rice on hand, and a few cans of beans, just in case I run out.

When I started making my own dog food, I was skeptical I’d have the time or energy to keep up with it — but it hasn’t been a problem at all and now it’s a habit. I’ll put rice and beans on the stove when I’m watching a movie, cleaning the apartment or doing something else. An hour later I have all their food done for the week and I’ve been known to swipe some for myself, too.

I’ve also realized that I can thaw frozen peas under hot water in less than 20 seconds when I’m really desperate. (They really love peas!)

I can’t recommend making homemade vegan dog food enough. The pugs seem to like every bean, vegetable and fruit I throw at them, but they’re particularly fond of: corn, peas, sweet potatoes, black beans, kidney beans, black soy beans, tempeh, apples, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, asparagus, brown rice (they actually won’t eat white rice), collard greens, kale, spinach, whole grain cereal and oatmeal.

Just be sure to avoid giving your dogs raisins, grapes, garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Perhaps my pugs are the luckiest dogs in the world, at least in terms of their food (they’re still envious of dogs with big backyards!) but hopefully with this post I’ll convince a few more dog owners to nurture their pets with natural, plant-based foods!

Update: we now live abroad where I have no choice but to feed the dogs home cooked meals. I start with a protein base — beans or lentils, and then mix in leftover raw vegetables (chopped well), pumpkin (for Lily Bean’s eyes) and any leftovers or leftover grains I have, like brown rice. We joke that the dogs are our compost bin. I always make sure to give them a mix and variety — right now their food is a base of lentils, with bell pepper, cucumber, yellow squash, cabbage, lettuce and cauliflower, plus some leftover rice.

Supplemant: I use veg-e-dog supplement as a proactive measure. The company sends great dog food recipes with their vitamins which I love!

Article excerpted from


Should you give up being vegan when pregnant?

PregnantActor Natalie Portman recently announced that she had relinquished veganism during her pregnancy to satisfy cravings for non-vegan foods. Is adhering to veganism in the face of strong pregnancy cravings impossible? Alison Waters, who has had three vegan pregnancies, argues that it isn’t – and that pregnancy is, in fact, an optimal time for vegans to stick with it.

15 May 2011

“Perhaps others disagree with me that animals have personalities, but the highly documented torture of animals is unacceptable,” asserts actor Natalie Portman in her October 2009 opinion piece on Eating Animals.

Portman attributes Jonathan Safran Foer’s book with transforming her from a “20-year vegetarian” to a “vegan activist”. She states: “What Foer most bravely details is how eating animals pollutes not only our backyards, but also our beliefs. He reminds us that our food is symbolic of what we believe in, and that eating is how we demonstrate to ourselves and to others our beliefs … This book reminded me that some things are just wrong.” 

In light of her passionate comments, what can we make of Portman’s recent decision to revert to vegetarianism during her pregnancy? “I actually went back to being vegetarian when I became pregnant, just because I felt like I wanted that stuff,” Portman said during a radio interview in April this year. “I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy and that sort of stuff.”

Portman acknowledges that women “do stay vegan: during pregnancy, but adds: “I think you have to just be careful, watch your iron levels and your B12 levels and supplement those if there are things you might be low in in your diet”. Portman discusses her experience of non-vegan food cravings: “If you’re not eating eggs, then you can’t have cookies or cake from regular bakeries, which can become a problem when that’s all you want to eat…”

These remarks imply that Portman’s cravings overrode her vegan values – barely 18 months after she referred to herself as a “vegan activist”. Does her decision to consume animal products mean that she no longer regards the torture of animals as “unacceptable”? Portman was obviously deeply influenced by Foer’s text. She made an intellectual and rational decision to become vegan.

So, are pregnancy cravings so powerful that they can override deeply held beliefs?

Journalist Elisabeth Lambert recounts her experience of pregnancy cravings and morning sickness during her ‘vegan’ pregnancy. Lambert adopted a vegan diet for health-related reasons two years prior to her first pregnancy. “I declared to all who would listen that I planned to stick with veganism throughout my pregnancy.”

In her article, ‘I’m pregnant, vegan and all I want is a Junior Burger’, Lambert reveals that her first trimester morning sickness could only be alleviated by the consumption of a fat-laden, sugar-loaded, salt-burdened and very non-vegan burger from McDonalds.

“I let myself go into a burger stupor, knocking back burger after burger. When I finally battered the demon inside with beef and buns, my husband, slightly bemused, pointed out I’d knocked back five Junior Burgers in under 20 minutes.”

Lambert’s “insatiable appetite” for Junior Burgers continued in to her third trimester. She admits to having ‘the smallest of niggles in the back of [her] mind’ that she had ‘failed’ her baby and herself. However, Lambert declares: “If Ms Portman, Oscar-winning actress with millions in her bank account to spend on chefs, dieticians, nutritionists and health professionals, couldn’t keep up a vegan diet during pregnancy, then how was a mere mortal like myself expected to?”

On the day that Essential Baby published Lambert’s Junior Burger article, Lambert introduced a second article, Vegan Checklist for Pregnant Women, with the following statement: “As a result of choosing to be a vegan throughout my pregnancy, I have put together a basic checklist that all pregnant vegans and their partners/supporters should know.” (My emphasis).

It should come as no surprise that Lambert – who devoured “a bunch of burgers from the Golden Arches: during her pregnancy – includes the following suggestion in the checklist: “It is imperative to keep in mind that there are definitely some situations when expectant vegans should consider revising their diets to include animal products.”

Lambert concludes the checklist with a comment from Dr Leon Massage, founder and medical director of the Body Metabolism Institute and spokesperson on weight loss and nutrition for the Australian Medical Association (VIC): “I have treated many people, and women in particular, who have had a problem with their immune response after several years of strict vegetarian or vegan diets …. when small amounts of fish or chicken were added to their diets, symptoms improved dramatically.”

This comment does not refer specifically to pregnant women. A search of the Body Metabolism Institute (BMI) website reveals that Dr Massage is ‘an eminent practising doctor who has specialised in weight loss for more than 20 years, [and] is passionate about weight loss, health and disease prevention’.

The ‘checklist’ and the BMI website do not provide information about Dr. Massage’s professional experience with vegan pregnancy. Pregnant vegans are entitled to ask why Lambert included a generalised quote in her vegan pregnancy checklist – referring to vegetarian and vegan ‘women in general’ – from a doctor who specialises in weight loss.

Perhaps Lambert included Dr Massage’s comment to provide a justification for her decision to abandon a vegan diet during pregnancy.

I am disappointed by Lambert’s decision to refer to her checklist as ‘vegan’ – and to introduce it by giving the impression that she maintained a vegan diet during her pregnancy.

There are an abundance of ‘mainstream’ pregnancy books, websites and articles that ‘inform’ women about the ‘necessity’ to eat animal products in order to grow a baby and thrive during pregnancy – Lambert’s checklist is merely another contribution of this nature.

I expect a ‘vegan checklist’ to provide pregnant vegans with information and support about maintaining a healthy and nutritious vegan diet. Pregnant vegans would be wise to avoid Lambert’s checklist. The checklist may be popular with people who believe that a vegan pregnancy is risky and irresponsible, as well as pregnant women seeking validation for their decision to abandon veganism and ‘give in’ to non-vegan cravings.

Morning sickness, pregnancy cravings and Natalie Portman have been used as rationalisations for Lambert’s monumental failure to maintain a vegan diet during pregnancy. Lambert made an intellectual decision to become vegan for her own health. Yet, she abandoned veganism during pregnancy – an optimal time to uphold a healthy and vibrant diet.

Pregnant vegans speak out

Clearly, vegan women are not immune to pregnancy cravings. I was surprised to experience a persistent – and unwanted – craving for a very non-vegan ‘food’ during one of my pregnancies: cottage cheese. I had not regarded dairy products as a food source for 10 years prior to my pregnancy. My commitment to the vegan ethos ensured that I did not indulge the craving. A desire to live in concert with my deeply held value system – and logic – prevailed. And I am a ‘mere mortal’.

Health-conscious vegans may find themselves craving junk foods during pregnancy. Vegan mum, Kerri, experienced cravings for unhealthy foods: “Suddenly, all I could think about was junk food … greasy, disgusting, artery-clogging fast food. Once a healthy, whole grain and salad lovin’ vegan, I suddenly became a junk food craving lunatic.”

In her humorous article, ‘Not-So-Vegan Pregnancy Cravings’, Caity McCardell discusses the challenges of dealing with unwanted, non-vegan food cravings. She affirms: “For me, there’s more at stake than my cravings. I’ve made a commitment to animal welfare and I’m determined to live up to that stand. I know from experience and research that my body and my baby don’t need animal protein.”

McCardell acknowledges the difficulties that non-vegan pregnancy cravings can present: “If you’re vegan and pregnant and craving crap, you have all my sympathy. I understand the pain and frustration and discomfort.”

She provides advice for pregnant vegans who are experiencing unwanted cravings: “I encourage you to focus on your compassion, your commitment and the larger picture … Seek out people who will help you be strong.”

McCardell suggests that pregnant vegans ask themselves the following questions: “What does the original commitment to health, animal welfare, the environment mean? Does the decision to be vegan disappear if a speed bump gets in our way? Do we abandon our principles when our hormones are so wacked out?”

I do not aim to underestimate the negative impacts of morning sickness and food aversions. As someone who experiences debilitating morning sickness during pregnancy, I can relate to Lambert’s encounter with morning sickness. I endured all-day nausea throughout the first 16 weeks of my pregnancies.

During my first pregnancy I vomited each day of the first trimester. There was a period when dry crackers and toast were the only foods I could stomach. I felt repulsed by foods that I had previously adored – like tomatoes, eggplants, hommus; and my favourite breakfast, banana and berry smoothie.

Portman’s comment, “I think you have to just be careful…” gives the impression that embarking on a vegan pregnancy may be risky. Lambert’s checklist certainly reinforces that view. I regard it as unfortunate that the negative promotion of vegan pregnancy may influence women to abandon their veganism.

Vegan mum, Kenya, writes on her blog, “I feel a sense of obligation to continue documenting the healthy existence of our vegan twins. All of the disinformation out there on vegan pregnancy and raising vegan children must be combated. When I peruse other ‘vegan’ pregnancy blogs I am astonished by the number of people that think exploiting animals during their pregnancy is okay. Vegan pregnancy isn’t hard…”

Pregnant vegans are able to obtain optimal nutrition on a vegan diet – and grow healthy vegan babies.  The American Dietetic Association maintains that “well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation”.

In their book Becoming Vegan Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina state that a vegan diet “can support very healthy pregnancies, however, vegan mothers do need to ensure adequate intake of energy and nutrients”.

Queensland Health has developed a comprehensive guide to healthy eating for pregnant and breastfeeding vegans. The guide states: “A well planned vegan diet is able to meet nutrition requirements for pregnancy and breastfeeding.” And there is no recommendation for vegan women to consume animal products! It is a genuine ‘vegan checklist’.

McCardell has advice for pregnant vegans, such as Portman, who consume non-vegan food during pregnancy: “Please don’t get down on yourself. You can always jump right back up on the wagon and eliminate the animal bits again.”

Can we expect Natalie Portman to rediscover veganism after the birth of her child? Will she raise her child as a vegan? In her opinion piece, Portman asks, “What stories do we want to tell our children through their food?”

I sincerely hope that she is influenced again by the man she refers to as “brave” – who states in Eating Animals: “Feeding my child is not like feeding myself: it matters more.”
Article excerpted from

Vegetarians Have Lower Risks of Diabetes and Heart Disease


If you are a vegetarian then you should be thankful because a study revealed that vegetarians have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.

This study took samples of blood sugar, blood fat, blood pressure, waist size, and weight. All these factors affect the metabolic syndrome in the body that can trigger diabetes and heart disease.

After studying those samples, it was found that vegetarians have a lower tendency of being attacked by the two diseases.

In a study which took samples of 700 people, metabolic problems were found in 23 out of 100 vegetarians, whereas 39 problems were found in non-vegetarians and 37 problems in semi-Vegetarians.

“I expected that there will be difference, but I had no idea that it would be this much,” said lead researcher Nico Rizzo from the Loma Linda University, according to reuters.

Using a questionnaire on diet, the researchers categorized people who are being investigated as vegetarians, non-vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians. Researchers also measured their Body Mass Index (BMI).

The average BMI of vegetarians are 25.7 or lower four points from non-vegetarian. BMI above 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.

Courtesy of MedicMagic

Article excerpted from

Eating Vegan: Why I Love Being Vegan

happy carrot

Every once in a while an anti-vegan article makes the rounds, bashing veganism as an unhealthy, unyielding, and unethical lifestyle choice. After running across one today, I felt like it was time to look at what’s great about being vegan.

Just to be clear here: I understand that a vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It’s a big change from the lifestyle we’re raised on, but it’s one I’ve chosen along with many people that I know. Not vegan? I’m not judging you. I just love being vegan, and here’s why!

Why I Love Being Vegan

It’s compassionate. For most vegans, compassion is at the top of the list. That means living a cruelty free lifestyle that doesn’t harm animals, but for many of us that notion of compassion goes much further. That means being kind and being tolerant. It means making mindful choices about the food and products that we buy, and it goes beyond just avoiding animal products. Most of the vegans I know support small farmers, organic agriculture, and fair labor as well as animal rights.

The vegan community. There is a strong, kind, supportive worldwide vegan community, and I am happy to be a part of that!

For my health. Yes, it’s easy as (vegan) pie to live on vegan junk food. Potato chips are vegan. So are french fries and most white bread. If junk food is what you’re after, you’re going to find it no matter what your diet. Health was one of the driving forces when I chose veganism. You can tell me that animal fats aren’t that bad for you all day long, but when I went vegan, my cholesterol went from the mid-200s to a normal level, and it’s been that way ever since.

Helping animals. Animal rights are at the center of veganism. No matter how humanely you raise that cow, it’s tough to argue that killing it is humane.

It’s delicious. I love food, and I have to tell you that there’s no way I could have gone vegan if it weren’t for tasty vegan food. I don’t mean fake meat and vegan cheese. I mean mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, lentil burgers, quinoa, good dark chocolate, mashed potatoes, and all of that other vegan food that I cook, enjoy, and share every day.

I feel like there’s a misconception that veganism is this exclusive club, and that all vegans are quietly judging you for what’s on your plate, and I just don’t think that’s true at all. Sure, there are some douchey vegans out there, but it’s unfair to judge all vegans based on one or two interactions. There are some meat eaters who have been pretty cruel to me about my lifestyle, too, but I don’t think all meat eaters are jerks because of a couple of ruined meals. We’re all people trying to be our best selves. I just don’t see the need for hostility.

Article excerpted from

Animals Killed By Vegan Diet?

A number of people have contacted me about the Animal Kill Counter in the sidebar of this blog saying that is a very useful reminder of just how many animals are being killed every second of the day by the meat, dairy and egg industries.

The rates of deaths are staggering… and that’s what many of us want to help eliminate.

However, have you stopped to consider how many animals would still die if there was a worldwide move to purely plant-based diets?

One person who has taken on the task of finding an answer to this question is Mark Middleton, artist, web developer, and animal advocate. Mark has looked at the research into the numbers of animal deaths associated with producing a million calories from eight different foods categories.

Here, Mark gives a little background to his project:

The idea that a vegan diet kills as many or more animals than a meat-based diet is sometimes used as a rationalization for consuming meat, and this idea serves to add uncertainty to the ethical case for a plant-based diet. In an attempt to help clear up this uncertainty, I have made estimates of the number of animals killed directly by slaughter as well as through crop harvesting in order to produce one million food calories from eight different categories of food, shown in Figure 1.

Click to view Figure 1

Figure  1: A diet of plants causes the fewest animals to be killed. Leaving chickens and eggs out of our diets will have the greatest effect on reducing the suffering and death caused by what we eat. [Source: Mark Middleton/Animal Visuals]

The visual is interactive. You can click on the three tabs to show the different death statistics associated with harvest, slaughter, and both harvest and slaughter. You will notice that the chicken and egg-producing industries account for the highest death rates.

Mark has written detailed notes to go with this graphic which you can find over at Animal Visuals. I urge you to go read it in conjunction with the visual representation above. In conclusion, Mark states:

The results of this estimation show that a diet that includes animal products will result in more animal deaths than a plant-based diet with the same number of calories. The production of chicken meat results in vastly more animal deaths than any other category of food. Based on this estimation, someone wanting to modify their eating habits in order to reduce animal suffering and death should start by removing chicken from their diet, then eggs. Although beef may cause more animal deaths than pork, pork probably causes more suffering, because most of the beef-related deaths are wild animals, and in comparison, a greater number of the pork-related deaths are factory farmed animals. The most animal suffering and death can be prevented by following a vegan diet.

Thanks again to Mark for his great work on this project and his use of innovative methods of helping to highlight the plight of so many animals in the modern food industry. The findings of Mark’s project are available at Animal Visuals.

Article excerpted from

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