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Eating out: a vegetarian’s dilemma

Vegetable wontons ... is Asian the only reliable choice for meat-free eating out. Photo: Gary Schafer

How easy is to find vegetarian food on restaurant menus? That depends on where you are and what kind of vegetarian you are – and it helps to be in love with quiche, risotto or pasta with tomato sauce, the standard veggie options in many places. If you eat eggs and dairy products, the choices are wider, but for vegans who avoids both, along with meat, poultry and fish, it’s trickier – unless you’re in a big US city. On a trip to Chicago, Ondine Sherman, managing director of the animal protection organisation Voiceless, found so many vegan friendly restaurants she was spoilt for choice.

But while Australian restaurants increasingly offer a vegetarian option and are happy to ‘vegetarianise’  dishes by removing ingredients like prosciutto, many meatless offerings rely heavily on cheese, she says – and the term ‘vegan’ can leave the wait staff scratching their heads.

“I often have to explain what it means, but hopefully this will change as more people ask for meals free from animal products,” says Sherman whose menu wish list includes more dishes based on legumes rather than cheese.

Still, ordering an all-plant brekkie in Sydney is getting easier – along with the usual eggy breakfasts, more menus now include toast with avocado, mushrooms and spinach.

Japanese food also has good options for vegetarians, including vegans, says Sherman whose favourites include agedashi tofu, glazed eggplant with miso sauce – called nasu dengaku – as well as edamame (green soy beans) and miso soup.

“Thai restaurants can be difficult for vegans because of fish sauce but they do offer many great tofu dishes. Indian food is ideal for vegetarians and very healthy with a variety of protein-rich lentils and beans,” she says.

Not that Voiceless is prescriptive when it comes to what people should or shouldn’t eat, stresses Sherman who believes that a ‘purist’ approach to eating isn’t helpful to the animal protection movement.

“Although most Australians might want to eat ethically, they’re not prepared to become 100 per cent vegan all the time – but significantly reducing animal products and eating only free-range will make an enormous difference to animal suffering,” she says.

But while she thinks Australia has a great food culture and has become friendlier to the idea of ethical eating over the last five years, we’re not ahead of the pack when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food – at least not compared to the US and UK.

“I think that MasterChef and other cooking shows that set food fashion really need to step up to the plate – excuse the pun – and help educate the public,” she says.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, things have improved since animal advocate Glenys Oogjes, gave up eating animal foods more than 30 years ago. Back then, eating out and being vegan often meant one option: a veggie stack.

“It’s getting much better. With South East Asian and Indian food, vegetarian dishes are just a normal part of the cuisine – the preponderance of meat on some restaurant menus is often more a concession to western tastes,” says Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, the organisation which revealed mistreatment of animals in Indonesian abattoirs.

“I can also be reasonably confident that if I go to a Middle Eastern or a Mexican restaurant, there’ll be something I can eat –although I’d be less confident in a French restaurant. There are more vegetarian or vegan restaurants around too and they’re not just catering to vegetarians either – it’s becoming more the case that not everyone wants to eat meat all the time.”

Looking for menus that embrace more plant based dishes? The Animals Australia website has a guide to eating out with tips for finding veggie options, as well as listings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in cities around Australia.

Incidentally, for vegetarians who eat cheese, Parmesan can be a pitfall as  most Parmesan cheeses are made with rennet derived from enzymes from an animal’s stomach – generally from . milk fed calves. However Chew on This has tracked down one brand, Pantaluca, which is made from non-animal rennet.  If you prefer cheese made without animal rennet, check the label or see this  guide from the Victorian Vegetarian Network.

Do you look for vegetarian options on restaurant menus?

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Vegan & Vegetarian Differentiated

Animals are abused in slaughterhouses. There is only one way to stop that, go vegetarian. This is a video I made about vegetarianism and veganism and animals. The pictures belong to either Peta, Peta2, or Google. The song is Everything by Lifehouse. Add me on Facebook: Nellyanne Elizabeth Nash 😀 and join my group MaybeGreenLuvvIt & if you want, like my animal rights page: Animal Rights MaybeGreenLuvvIt. I made all of the names my username here on YouTube so you could remember them easily. Save the Planet, go vegetarian 🙂



Facts & information on being Vegan and Vegetarian. Very well differentiated for your general knowledge. Lets learn something today!


Video courtesy of MaybeGreenLuvvit from YouTube



Why Vegan Over Vegetarian?

A lot of people wonder why a vegan diet is a better option than a vegetarian lifestyle. The words are actually often used interchangeably. What’s vegan is already vegetarian, but what is vegetarian isn’t always vegan. More simply put, a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry or fish. Vegetarians do, however, consume dairy and eggs. Vegans, on the other hands, abstain from eating any animal by-products. They don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs or even honey. The term vegan also refers to a lifestyle free of animal by-products. Vegans do not buy leather, fur, wool or any other by-product from an animal.

Health Concerns

A vegan diet is better for your overall health. Vegans don’t usually have problems with cholesterol. The reason for this is simple–there’s no dietary cholesterol in vegan foods. However, vegetarian foods, like cheese and eggs, still contain dietary cholesterol. A vegan diet is heart friendly.

Vegans need to be sure to get enough vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements and foods such as flax seed can make sure that a vegan gets all needed nutrients. On average, the vegan diet is much healthier than the average American diet.

Body odor is often eliminated or greatly reduced by a vegan diet. Observers from health experts to Oprah have stated that, when you don’t eat meat or dairy, you naturally smell better. Going vegan eliminates a lot of body odor concerns.

Although studies are still being conducted, a vegan diet has shown to reduce the risks of certain types of cancers, including colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. In countries where very few animal by-products are consumed, there is also a lower rate of breast cancer diagnosis. A vegan diet that is also organic and not filled with processed foods is ideal to contribute to optimal health.

Weight Issues

A vegan diet, as long as its not filled with vegan junk food, can lead to easy weight loss. As a result, going vegan can also lead to a lower BMI level, the now popular index that attempts to correlate weight and health risks. It’s debatable if BMI levels themselves actually mean anything, but a lower weight can be a great relief for those battling the bulge.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has produced a food group chart that reflects what vegetarians, vegans and others should be eating for optimal health. Don’t look for animal by-products there. It’s a healthy food group chart without the need for dairy, eggs or meats at all.

Ethical Concerns

A lot of people choose vegan over simply being vegetarian because of ethical concerns. The dairy and egg industries have repeatedly been exposed for animal abuse in the same way that the meat industries have. In order to make a stand against violence against animals of any kind, many people take it a step further and commit to the vegan lifestyle.

For those who are concerned about the environment, going vegan is also something seen as inevitable. Plant-based foods take up fewer resources than animal-based foods.

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Now I know the difference between vegan and vegetarian. It is not easy to go on a vegan diet because you will need to feel comfortable with the foods that didn’t contain any meats, eggs or even honey! However, vegan diet does give many benefits such as reduce the risks of sickness and weight loss. Why don’t we start to have vegan diet by doing it one or two times per week?

Zuckerberg: Just Go Vegetarian Already

Zuckerberg: Just Go Vegetarian Already

You may have read about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly beginning a personal challenge that means he now kills animals himself for meat, instead of letting a slaughterhouse or butcher do it. Some articles have indicated this approach is more honest, but is it? Are meat-eaters lying to themselves about where their meat comes from? They may not like to think about the animals that died to feed them, but who could blame them? Another said he has learned from a butcher to slit their throats because it is said to be the kindest way to end their lives, but ending an animal’s life to make it into dinner isn’t the least bit kind–there is no ‘kindest’ way to do it. CNN quoted him as saying he has learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising animals. It may be true that eating meat from animals raised on small farms and fed organic food  is probably better for the environment, and might be healthier for consumers, but it still isn’t kind.

Meat-eaters I have met usually say they eat meat because they like it, and that is good enough for me, as I respect the freedom we all have to make our own personal choices. Some say they eat meat to get protein, but a vegetarian diet has plenty of protein, and it doesn’t contain the animal cholesterol that contributes to heart disease. If you have seen the new movie Forks Over Knives, it states that almost all heart disease is related to the use of an animal-based diet, and that for some people they may experience a reversal of heart disease when they convert from an animal-based one to one that is plant-based. The movie’s tag line is “Warning: This Movie Could Save Your Life!” and Roger Ebert said he believes that is true in his review of the documentary.

So it seems a little odd that Zuckerberg stopped in his dietary change at killing his own animals for meat, when it is much easier and less harmful to animals and to one’s own health, to simply stop eating an animal-based diet. It is definitely is better for the environment, as animal agriculture contributes very much to global warming and has disrupted natural landscapes tremendously for conversion to pasture and feedlots. Also, most of the plants cultivated by industrial agriculture today are used to feed animals, so they can later be eaten by people, according to Forks Over Knives. If we shifted all the food grown to feed animals we could feed all the world’s starving people, the film indicates.

It appears Zuckerberg is heading down the path towards vegetarianism, but gradually as many people do. First they give up beef, then fowl, then dairy milk, and some go all the way to vegan. Others continue with dairy milk and and eggs, but subsist mainly on vegetables, grains and fruits. Some are mainly vegetarian, but eat seafood once in a while. Changing one’s diet is not generally an overnight process, unless there has been a medical intervention with some urgency, such as Bill Clinton’s removal of most meat from his diet to help reduce his heart disease situation.

When removing meat from one’s diet initially, a common complaint is fatigue, but this is not due to a problem with the meat-free diet, it is due probably to being uninformed about where to get iron, and an amino acid called carnitine–but you can easily get carnitine from a supplement or by combining rice and beans, which contain the amino acids to make carnitine. Zuckerberg’s reported posting on Facebook of his personal animal slaughters seems more than a little theatrical, and one wonders if it is a publicity stunt. If he is really interested in sustainability, why doesn’t he just drop meat altogether?

Image Credit: Jonathan Billinger

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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.”
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Food Poisoning – Top 10 Sources

On April 28, 2011 the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute released information regarding the top 10 sources of food borne illnesses.  The hope is that those in charge of protecting us from such food borne illnesses will use the information to help prevent outbreaks.  Unfortunately to date their efforts have not been coordinated and thus are not as effective as they could be.

According to Michael Batz, who is the main author of the report, “Government agencies must work together to effectively target their efforts. If we don’t identify which pairs of foods and microbes present the greatest burden, we’ll waste time and resources and put even more people at risk.”

Currently the top 10 food pathogen combinations are responsible for economic losses of 8 billions dollars annually from lost work days, medical costs, and severe disabilities caused by illness.

Here are some of the highlights pulled directly from the report:

  • POULTRY contaminated with Camplylobacter bacteria topped the list, sickening more than 600,000 Americans at a cost of $1.3 billion per year.
  • Salmonella in POULTRY also ranks in the Top 10, with $700 million due to costs of illness.
  • Salmonella is the leading disease-causing bug overall, causing more than $3 billion in disease burden annually.
  • In addition to POULTRY, Salmonella-contaminated PRODUCEEGGS and multi-ingredient foods all rank in the Top 10.
  • Four combinations in the Top 10 – Listeria in deli MEATS and soft CHEESES, and Toxoplasma in PORK and BEEF – pose serious risks to pregnant women and developing fetuses, causing stillbirth or infants born with irreversible mental and physical disabilities.

While a vegan diet is not immune to food poisoning, I found it interesting that 8 out of the 9 foods mentioned were animal based foods with poultry mentioned 3 times…4 if you count eggs.  We can drastically reduce our exposure to these food borne illnesses by simply eliminating our consumption of animal based foods.

To read the results of the study directly from the University of Florida, click here.

Salmonella image courtesy of

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Vegetarians at lower risk for metabolic syndrome

A recent study by researchers at Loma Linda University showed that vegetarians had a 36% lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome compared with people who ate animals.

Good news, except, what the heck is metabolic syndrome?

Well, according to Wikipedia, metabolic syndrome is a combination of disorders that, when mixed together, dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome affects about one in five Americans and seems to be brought on by factors such as stress, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and now – according to the new Loma Linda University Adventist Health Study 2 – perhaps an animal-based diet.

The study found that 25% of vegetarians (people who ate meat, poultry or fish less than once a month) had metabolic syndrome.  That number increased to 37% for semi-vegetarians (people who ate fish regularly and other meats less than once a month) and to 39% for non-vegetarians.

“Trending toward a plant-based diet is a sensible choice,” said Gary Fraser, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the study.

The Adventist Health Study 2 is a long-term study of the health of 96,000 Seventh-Day Adventist across the United States and Canada—this particular study focused on a random sampling of 700 participants.

I find it interesting to note that, despite the fact those who avoided meat were less likely to end up with metabolic syndrome, still a full 25% of those vegetarians who participated in the study had the disease.

It’s a good reminder that a vegetarian diet is not necessarily a healthy diet.

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