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One Bite at a Time – Part 7!

By Lindsey Gallagher

Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.

Common Questions & Challenges!

Welcome back! This week we will explore some common questions and challenges that those new to plant-based eating face. Then I’ll offer my answers and the best advice in response. 

Let’s jump right into this Q and A!

How do I handle social events and peer pressure as a plant-based eater? Can I still go out to eat? What about at restaurants that don’t have any plant-based options?

It’s almost impossible to avoid eating with others—eating is a social event! Certainly we should embrace this and the joy that comes from sharing meals with others. But I would be remiss to say that plant-based eating doesn’t create some complications when eating in social settings. 

Surely you don’t want to be rude to people who cook for you, but you also don’t want to be forced to eat animal products if you’re not comfortable. The best way to avoid uncomfortable situations is to be prepared ahead of time. Of course, there are so many social events with food with many different contexts, but I can offer some general guidelines. 

A meal together is a meal well spent! Sharing a meal (pre-plant-based) with my dad while camping in South Dakota! 

If you are going to someone’s house for a meal and you know ahead of time, be upfront about your diet before you get together. This will give the host time to accommodate your diet (if they choose to). If they don’t accommodate it, it will make it clear that you not eating a dish with animal-products is because of your diet, not you personally rejecting their cooking. I personally never expect people to cook vegan for me, and I don’t want people to feel like they need to, so I often bring my own dishes to events that others can also eat and I can rely on for a meal if I know it won’t be in a vegan-friendly environment. It’s actually quite fun to bring a plant-based dish to share because you can expose others to the diet and show them how delicious and expansive plant-based food can be. 

If you are at a social event and offered something that is outside of your diet, simply decline politely. You certainly don’t have to explain yourself, though you can if you feel comfortable. Sometimes you will find yourself in less than optimal situations where you have no plant-based options. In that case you can decide that is a day to embrace flexibility and have some items you don’t normally eat. In some cases, you can try to remove the non-plant-based item (like peeling cheese off). Or, if your situation permits, you can decide to eat after the event. In most cases when I go to an event and I suspect my diet may not be accommodated, I eat some snacks/a meal prior to the event, or I bring snacks to have after in case I don’t get enough to eat while there. Keep emergency snacks in your glove box, bag, or pocket so you always have something!

In terms of restaurants, you can absolutely still go out to eat! Your diet should never limit your ability to enjoy eating out. There are many approaches you can take when going to restaurants. If possible, you can look at menus ahead of time and pick the restaurant that has plant-based options (or pick the one with the option that’s most exciting to you, if you have many restaurants with plant-based food nearby). If you can’t pick ahead of time, then you’ve got to make the best with what you’ve got. Sometimes this looks like a meal made up of sides. Most restaurants have a variety of sides, like salad, fries, baked potato, veggies, bread, etc. that you can add together to make an eclectic meal from. Another option is to see if the kitchen is willing to make adjustments to some of the menu items, such as holding the cheese on a pasta dish or not adding a sauce with animal-products to the dish. This will depend on the restaurant you’re at, as each one has a different degree of flexibility in allowing alterations. If you are feeling a bit nervous about the restaurant remembering and following your dietary preferences, one trick I’ve used is simply saying I’m allergic to dairy or meat or whatever else it is. Restaurants seem to pay more attention to the word “allergy” than the word “vegan” or “vegetarian.” 

A plant-based nacho bowl I enjoyed at Sticky Fingers Diner in Washington D.C.

How do you deal with people (including family) who may not be welcoming to plant-based eating? What do you do when you have to explain your diet or justify your lifestyle?

The truth is, many non-plant-based eaters feel threatened by the plant-based diet. This is for a number of reasons, but like any other lifestyle choice other people always have an opinion about how you chose to live your life and want to tell you the right way is their way. Unfortunately, many people who are not on board with the plant-based diet simply lack education on the topic and perpetuate myths and other harmful ideas (vegans don’t get enough protein, real men eat meat, etc.). For some they feel that you, a plant-based eater, will tell them that they need to go plant-based, too. They fear that you will condemn their diet choices. There is a stereotype about the vegan that thinks they’re better than everyone and shames anyone who is not vegan. For the most part this is not true. More often than not when vegans talk about their diet it is because they are excited to share how it has positively impacted their life. 

Depending on the person you encounter and your relationship to them, you may decide to not engage or you may decide to help share the facts about a plant-based diet. You can certainly encourage other people to try a plant-based diet, but never put them down because they aren’t plant-based. This only turns them further away from plant-based eating. It’s much more likely a person will change their diet if it is done by choice, not force. 

I’ve had a family member tell me I’m “missing all the fun by being vegan” and others have simply dismissed being vegan as a stupid thing to do. When things like this happen, I have found it useful to reframe things when I encounter resistance simply by saying, “I’m not telling you to be vegan. I respect your choice to not be a vegan and I hope you can respect my choice to be vegan in return. This is a choice I am making for myself, not for you.” Importantly, you aren’t required to defend yourself, you can simply ignore it and smile when others are condescending. It’s funny, no one ever questions meat-eaters like they do plant-based eaters. On the other hand, you may find people are curious and want to know more. Yay! When this happens, it’s always nice to have a good sense of your why to explain to them. Having some facts and statistics in your back pocket that show how beneficial the diet can be is also nice!

The absolute best vegan chicken tenders I’ve ever had! These were chickpea-based ones also from Sticky Fingers Diner. 

If you are in a setting where you suspect the group as a whole (perhaps a restaurant) may not be welcoming of a plant-based diet, I suggest avoiding saying I’m vegan, I’m plant-based, I’m vegetarian, etc. I’ve found that these words can actually trigger tension. You could instead say, I don’t eat meat or I don’t eat dairy or ask if it is possible to get the item with the animal-product removed (would I be able to get the fried Brussels sprouts with the cheese on the side?). People don’t catch on as easily and for some reason they feel less threatened by this phrasing, perhaps because it seems like a more individual preference rather than being part of a collective (of vegans, of vegetarians, etc.). 

How hard is it to go plant-based? 

Well, I can’t really answer this question for you because everyone will have a different experience based on their individual experiences and preferences. But I can tell you about my experience, and perhaps that can help. Certainly, it’s not easy. In the transition phase you will spend a lot more time thinking about and preparing your meals. You will also have to think more about your nutritional needs to make sure you’re getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that are harder to come by on a plant-based diet. You will need to plan and prepare. Going into it and expecting little to no work only spells an unsuccessful transition and a likely return to your original diet.

The hardest part, I think, is not eating many of your old staple foods or foods that you may really enjoy (for most this is meat and cheese). As humans we’re eating all the time, so losing our staples does have a big impact on our life—we can’t ignore this! With this being said, you will adapt sooner than you think (especially if you plan ahead and find plant-based alternatives to your favorite things). If you remember my first post, I grew up with lots of meat and dairy. In high school, I remember saying I would and could never go vegetarian because I loved steak too much. When I went vegetarian it was a relatively slow transition at first, and then it was cold turkey no meat (pun intended). I got used to it relatively quickly because I filled the gap with other things like tofu and veggie burgers. Over time, I found my desire for meat diminished because I learned more about animal agriculture and its impacts on the environment and human and animal vitality. After learning about these consequences, it was no longer justifiable to eat meat just because I liked it. Sooner than I expected I actually became grossed out by the thought of putting meat in my mouth. And now I’m here a few years later and couldn’t even imagine eating steak, my old favorite—it no longer has any appeal to me. I don’t actually think I would be able to eat it if I had to, which is a complete reversal from my high school self. It’s incredible how much we can change. 

Visit your local Farmer’s Market to find some fun fruits and veggies to add to your rotation!

When I transitioned to veganism, I was more nervous because I knew how big of a role dairy played in my diet. Cheese, specifically, was my favorite thing. Almost everything I ate had parmesan or cheddar on it. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. And, when I went vegan, I didn’t even have any non-dairy alternatives in place to fill the gap. This made it tougher at first, no longer having access to many of my staples (this is why having plant-based alternatives you like before the final switch away from animal products is so important). But I was surprised again at how quickly I adapted and got used to life without cheese. I found alternatives, I was forced to get creative and to try new things. The excitement of this helped me greatly in getting used to the new diet. 

So, no, going plant-based is not easy, and it gets harder with more restrictive diets (i.e. veganism). It will take work, planning, and learning. But I don’t think it’s as hard as you might think it is. Novelty and change have an incredible power to make us excited and resilient. If you asked a plant-based person how hard the transition was, I’d bet that more often than not they tell you it was easier than they initially thought it would be.

How do I cook plant-based?

If you know how to cook veggies, you already know some plant-based cooking! Source

A lot of people think that plant-based cooking is something entirely new. Good news: it’s not! You will still use most of the same cooking methods, and you’ve already been cooking plant-based if you’ve ever had veggies, grains, or nuts in your life! What will be new is simply the ingredients and the combinations of ingredients. You will likely have to learn how to cook tofu, which is really quite easy. It’s just a matter of pressing the water out, cutting it up, and baking or frying it. On that note, I 100% recommend a tofu press if you want it crispy and crunchy. But things like these don’t take much skill or time to learn. Overtime, as you get better with cooking plant-based, you can find recipes for animal-based versions of foods and substitute with plant-based alternatives as you go. I’d say that creativity and flexibility are the biggest keys to plant-based cooking. It is actually quite exciting to try new ingredients and combinations! I found a new love for cooking once I switched to a plant-based diet. If you do want more on plant-based cooking, here are 20 vegan cooking tips for beginners!

How can I be a plant-based eater in an animal-product household? 

If you live with others who eat animal products, don’t try to force your diet on them. Simply let them know what you do and don’t eat (and you will probably have to remind them a lot as most people don’t actually know what plant-based or vegan is). Be patient, especially if they are the one cooking your meal and they now have to learn how to make plant-based ones. I was lucky to go vegan at the same time as my sister, and we were able to work together at the start to prepare our meals. We also had very accommodating parents who didn’t discourage us and actually became vegan after seeing my sister and I’s success with the diet. 

I now live with my partner Rachel who isn’t plant-based and, while I’ve influenced her to have a lot more plant-based food, she still eats meat and dairy. I understand that forcing her to be plant-based wouldn’t work, and she understands that forcing me to eat dairy or meat wouldn’t work either. We have largely had to work together so we can still share meals but have them meet our individual needs. One thing that we do is make the meal in pieces so that an animal-based item can be easily substituted for a plant-based one. For example, if we are having a stir fry we’ll make tofu and chicken separately and then we can each add our protein to the rice and veggie mix that we can both have. Sometimes we have to make our meals relatively separately, like eggplant parmesan, because the dairy and non-dairy cheese gets mixed in. But, sometimes it’s as simple as Rachel having a beef burger and me having a veggie burger. In all cases we get to enjoy the same meal while accommodating our diets. 

What do I do if I want to go plant-based but don’t have access to plant-based alternatives near me?

When I moved from Missoula, Montana I no longer had access to my favorite vegan donuts. So I got creative and made my own version!

This is an unfortunate reality for many people. Our country is moving toward plant-based, but we’re not all the way there. There are still many plant-based food deserts, you might call them. On the bright side, the most basic plant-based foods like produce, grains, and nuts, are available at even the most basic grocery store. What will be hard are the plant-based meats, dairy and specialty snack products. If you have the means you can decide to pay more to have it delivered to you from other areas. But if you can’t afford that, you may decide not to do an entirely restrictive diet for the sake of longevity as a plant-based eater. Once again, flexibility is your friend. Don’t make yourself strictly vegan for the sake of being a “pure” vegan. Be willing to work with what is available to you and branch out from strictly vegan foods. For instance, you might be vegan five days of the week and then eat animal-products that you can’t access alternatives to the other two days so you can enjoy your favorite things, experience eating in social settings where you live, and remain happy and satisfied with your diet! 

I’m an athlete, is plant-based still okay for me?

Yes! Being plant-based can actually improve your athletic performance! One 2022 study, highlights that a plant-based diet “may provide performance-enhancing effects for various types of exercise due to high carbohydrate levels and the high concentration of antioxidants and phytochemicals found in a plant-based diet.” A review in Nutrients highlights a number of benefits an athlete has on a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets are responsible for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, which allows an athlete’s heart to stay strong. Cholesterol, which is high in many animal-products, is also known to increase inflammation that can hinder the recovery process. A plant-based diet, because it contains no cholesterol, can reduce inflammation and improve recovery times. This was one of the first things I noticed when I switched to a vegetarian diet, and it became even better on a vegan diet. With less cholesterol (and saturated fat, which is high in animal products), blood viscosity increases, enabling more oxygen to reach your muscles, and this is a benefit to athletes across pretty much all sports. 

It has also been shown “that athletes on a plant-based diet increase their VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen they can use during intense exercise—leading to better endurance.” On top of this, a plant-based athlete will have better blood flow thanks to fewer meals that impair arteries from doing their job well. Finally, a plant-based diet is richer in antioxidants than a diet including meat. Antioxidants are responsible for neutralizing free radicals, which lead to muscle fatigue, slower recovery, and worse athletic performance. 

A review of The Game Changers by Vogue. Source

The research-backed documentary The Game Changers explores the performance benefits a number of elite athletes have seen from switching to a plant-based diet. As an athlete, it will be more important for you to monitor your intake of vitamins and minerals because the demands of sport can deplete you more quickly, but it’s 100% doable. I have been an athlete since I was quite young, so I have been involved in sport on both a diet including animal-products and a plant-based one. I was iron deficient on an animal-product diet at one point. Not once on my plant-based diet have I been iron deficient. I have supplemented iron since my deficiency and, as a plant-based athlete, constantly monitored my levels through blood work, while prioritizing iron-rich foods. I can say with great confidence that going plant-based has not hurt my athletic performance in any way. If anything, it has only improved it. And I’m not the only athlete to say this. Some of the world’s best, including tennis players Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic; NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, and ultra runners Scott Jurek and Rich Roll are plant-based.

For plant-based athletes I would also recommend nomeatathlete.com for resources and support!


I hope you found some useful information here! As you dive into your plant-based journey and experience the diet, know that you will learn even more along the way! It is an incredibly exciting adventure!

Stay tuned next week to hear from my sister Emma about her experiences and perspective as a vegan!

Recipe of the week: Veggie burgers!

After trying many other veggie burger recipes I’ve adjusted and perfected my own. Here it is:


  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (you can buy or make your own in the blender)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup carrots
  • Water (for blending)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend. Add water slowly until it is well-blended into a fine consistency. Form into patties. They will be pretty soft but they crisp up when you put them on the stove. You can grill these immediately, but putting them in the fridge to firm up for a bit can help them stay together. You can also freeze these to use later! Makes about 4 patties for you to enjoy sandwiched between a bun and your favorite toppings (I love hummus and avocado). You can also crumble the cooked burger and add it in wraps or top a salad with it!

My homemade veggie burger, topped with lettuce, avocado and vegan feta, sandwiched between Ezekiel English Muffins!

One Bite at a Time – Part 6!

By Lindsey Gallagher

Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.

Taste Tests!

Welcome back! This week I’m very excited to take you with me for some taste tests of assorted plant-based products. I put some of my favorite products head-to-head with other brands, and I also tried some new items. It was lots of fun!

Clockwise from the top: Gardein, MorningStar Farms, and Impossible Foods nuggets.

Chicken Nuggets

To start, my partner Rachel and I tested the iconic chicken nugget. For this, we put three versions of plant-based nuggets to the test: MorningStar Farms Veggie Chik’n Nuggets, Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, and Impossible Foods Chicken Nuggets. We’d both had MorningStar and Gardein before, but we got to put them head to head. And we got to try Impossible’s nuggets for the first time!

We assessed seven different criteria to determine the all-around winner. These included:

  • Flavor of the “meat” – the seasoning of the inner meat and an answer to the basic question: does this taste good, or does it taste like chemicals? 
  • Flavor of the breading – the seasoning in the breading and if it had that rich saltiness we so crave
  • Texture of the “meat” – how moist it felt and its composure (was it stringy, firm, chewy, tender?)
  • Texture of the breading – how crunchy and crispy it was
  • How chicken-like – how well the nugget mimicked a nugget made of real chicken meat, which is a sort of combination of the texture and the flavor of the “meat”
  • Protein content – how much protein was packed into the nugget
  • Value – the cost per ounce of nugget

The flavor of the “meat,” flavor of the breading, texture of the “meat,” texture of the breading, and how chicken-like were all scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and 1 the worst. The protein content and value I also scored from best to worst but with a slightly different point system. The one with the most protein per serving got 10 points, 2nd most got 5 points, and worst got 0 points. Similarly, the one with the lowest cost per ounce got 10 points, 2nd lowest got 5 points, and lowest got 0 points. By adding all of these scores together I came up with the nugget’s overall score, which ranged from 0 to 70 points.

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

The first nugget we tried, though technically it was a tender, was the Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tender. True to form, these were longer tenders rather than the more circular nugget. The breading on the Gardein was much lighter in color and thinner than the others. You could also see the diversity of grains, with a few visible whole oats. Trying the tender, Rachel was delighted by the texture, which was firm and tender. She also enjoyed the rich variety of seasonings in the breading. She found it had a good taste, but it only did an okay job mimicking chicken. For me, this tender was relatively bland. The texture of the “meat” was fine—nice and tender—but the flavor was forgettable. In terms of the breading, I found there was very little, and it lacked that desirable salty crunch. On another note, these nuggets took far longer to cook and get crispy than the others. Overall, the Gardein was average. I would certainly eat it again, but it wasn’t great. In terms of the protein content there is 7.8 grams of nugget for every gram of protein. For value, these tenders cost 55 cents per ounce. 

Impossible Foods Chicken Nugget

Next in our test was the Impossible nugget. Rachel absolutely loved this nugget, giving it 8s across the board. She said the “meat” very closely resembled chicken meat in texture and taste. She also enjoyed the breading and the satisfying crunch. I, however, was not partial to the Impossible nugget. The “meat” had a pronounced chemical aftertaste that really ruined the whole nugget for me. The texture was like chicken but that wasn’t enough for me to like it. The breading tasted fine but it was less thick and flavorful than MorningStar Farm’s. I wouldn’t pick this nugget to try again, but Rachel absolutely would. In terms of protein content there are 7.3 grams of nugget for every gram of protein and it costs 54 cents per ounce of nugget.

MorningStar Farms Veggie Chik’n Nugget

Our final nugget was MorningStar Farms. For Rachel this nugget was forgettable, as the Gardein was for me. She thought the textures were working for both the “meat” and breading, but the flavor was lacking. In terms of mirroring chicken, for Rachel, this nugget did the worst job of the three. MorningStar Farms has been my favorite nugget for a while, and it was not outmatched in this test. I still feel that this nugget has the best flavor—a non-chemical tasting “meat” and a well-seasoned breading. The “meat” is dense and tender and bites like a piece of chicken and the breading is perfectly crunchy and crisp. This nugget will still be my tried and true and I genuinely think they are delicious. MorningStar Farm also outperformed the other two for both protein content and value: every 6.6 grams of nugget contained a gram of protein and it costs only 44 cents per ounce which is 10 cents less per ounce than the other two!

MorningStar FarmsGardeinImpossible Foods
Flavor of “meat”Rachel- 4, Lindsey- 8Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 5Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 3
Flavor of breadingRachel- 4, Lindsey- 9Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 5 Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 7
Texture of “meat”Rachel- 7, Lindsey- 8Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 5Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 8
Texture of breadingRachel- 7, Lindsey- 9Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 4Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 7
How chicken-likeRachel- 4, Lindsey- 7Rachel- 6, Lindsey- 4Rachel- 8, Lindsey- 8
Protein content Every 6.6 grams has 1g protein – 10 pointsEvery 7.8 grams has 1g protein – 0 pointsEvery 7.3 grams has 1g protein – 5 points
Value (cost per ounce)44¢ – 10 points55¢ – 0 points54¢ – 5 points
Overall (out of 70)Rachel- 46, Lindsey- 61 Rachel- 38, Lindsey- 23Rachel- 50, Lindsey, 43
Putting all of our ratings together

The clear winner of the nugget challenge depends on the taste tester. Rachel, who eats chicken and has a better familiarity with its flavor and texture than I do at this point, loved the Impossible nuggets. I loved the MorningStar Farms nuggets because their flavor was superior to the Impossible nuggets, which had a chemical aftertaste to me. I also feel MorningStar has the best breading. For me, it was less important that the nugget mimic chicken closely; I just wanted a solid-tasting nugget with a crunchy and well-seasoned breading. Rachel cared much more about how well the nugget mimicked chicken and was impressed by how well Impossible did that. She said if you gave her a chicken nugget and an Impossible nugget she would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Rachel would happily eat Impossible nuggets as a substitute for chicken nuggets. In terms of the loser on the taste and texture-based fronts, Rachel disliked MorningStar Farm’s the most and I disliked Gardein’s the most. When it comes to criteria that doesn’t depend on flavor or texture, which are subjective, there is a clear winner and loser. MorningStar Farms was the most protein dense and it had the best value by a large margin. Gardein however, had the worst protein content and it also cost the most (by a slim margin over Impossible). 

A new snack!

This wasn’t a test pitting one snack against another, but I did try a new vegan snack product to share with you: Spudsy Sweet Potato Puffs in the Cheezy Cheddar flavor. I purchased these to see how they hold up to Hippeas Chickpea Puffs (vegan white cheddar flavor), which I think are the golden standard for vegan cheese puffs. Hippeas are incredibly light and airy and their flavor is truly cheesy. They are delightful. Unfortunately, the Spudsy puffs did not hold up. These puffs are crunchier and harder, lacking airiness. In terms of the flavor, I didn’t taste sweet potato at all. And the cheese wasn’t good either—it was super chemical-tasting and pretty awful, honestly. It reminded me of the flavor of Kraft mac & cheese. This may be a controversial opinion, but I used to hate Kraft because the cheese tasted so chemically to me. I would not recommend buying this product, and I’m glad I could save you the effort of trying them yourself. Like any other food, not all plant-based food is necessarily good. Mimicking dairy cheese still seems to present a challenge for many plant-based companies. Still, it is very fun to experiment and try new products yourself! If you’re looking for a cheese puff Hippeas Chickpea Puffs reign supreme!

Protein Bars

I was very excited to try some new plant-based protein bars this week, as it’s often hard with my allergy to find ones that I can eat and have a decent flavor. 

First, I tried a peanut butter chocolate protein ProBar. This bar was coated in chocolate and had a rice-krispie-like filling. It was soft to bite, but the krispies made for a pleasant crunch, too. The overpowering flavor of the bar was the chocolate, which I, a chocolate-lover, enjoyed. The peanut-butter krispie inside had less of a pronounced flavor. All in all, this was a very solid bar—it wasn’t chemical-tasting, and it didn’t have that icky protein powder flavor that really turns me away. Certainly not the tastiest thing ever, but I would certainly buy this again if I was looking for a protein-rich snack.

Since nutritional quality seems to be a factor in many people’s choices for protein bars, I wanted to include some of the basic nutrition facts for this bar:

  • Calories: 280 (70g)
  • Protein: 20g (1g protein = 3.5g of bar)
  • Fat: 9g total (4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat)
  • Sodium: 390mg
  • Carbohydrates: 32g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6g
  • Sugar: 12g (11g of which are added)
  • Iron: 3mg (15% of daily value)

Then I tried a peanut butter chocolate chip No Cow protein bar. This bar was not for me. The No Cow bar was smaller than the Probar and much thinner. It did not have a coating; it was simply a soft bar with chocolate chips mixed in. The overpowering flavor of the bar was the taste of protein powder, which isn’t desirable at all (at least to me). The chocolate chips were hardly noticeable. I think the worst thing about this bar was the soft texture and lack of crunch. It didn’t feel like I was eating a solid, rather something in between a solid and a liquid. That in itself prevented me from taking a second bite. As you can guess, I will not be buying this again. 

As for the nutrition facts for this bar, here they are:

  • Calories: 200 (60g)
  • Protein: 20g (1g protein = 3g of bar)
  • Fat: 5g total (2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat)
  • Sodium: 220mg
  • Carbohydrates: 26g
  • Dietary Fiber: 15g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Iron: 3mg (15% of daily value)

Nutritionally, the No Cow bar has more protein per gram and much less sodium (170mg) than the ProBar. For those who care about the sugar content, the No Cow bar also wins there with 11 grams less than the ProBar. However, in the absence of sugar, No Cow is sweetened with artificial sweeteners Erythritol and Stevia, which have some potentially adverse health effects. Of course, all of us will have individual preferences for our protein bars, but at the most basic level the No Cow bar has more protein per gram. 

On another note, like many plant-based bars these guys are expensive. I paid just shy of $3 for each of these. Certainly, buying in bulk makes it slightly more affordable but these would still put a dent in your grocery budget. There are much cheaper ways to get your protein in!


To end the testing, I tried two different brands of vegan chocolate chip cookies, which are one of my favorite desserts.

To start I had the Made Good chocolate chip cookies, which are mini cookies. The cool thing about Made Good cookies is that they contain a number of vegetables, which add vitamins and minerals. These cookies have extracts from spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beets, and shiitake mushrooms. You might be thinking that sounds like a sub-par cookie. However, you really don’t taste these veggies at all! These particular cookies are crunchy (and perhaps a bit dry) but I found they have the right combo of cookie to chocolate. They are sweet but not too sweet. They reminded me a lot of mini Chips Ahoy! cookies. I very much enjoyed the size and these could have great versatility as a topping or add-in for other baked treats. I would happily buy these again! Made Good has a lot of other great products, like granola bars, crackers, crispy squares, and more, too. I highly recommend you check them out!

I also tried Back to Nature Homestyle Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Cookies. These cookies came in a more traditional size. Since these were soft baked, they were obviously soft, which is my preferred texture for cookies. These cookies were also a bit dry, but they had a lot of chocolate to make up for that. Still, I didn’t like the flavor of the cookie itself—it reminded me of the flavor of protein powder, which is not what I want in a cookie. I don’t think I would buy these again. 


I hope you enjoyed coming along on these taste tests with me. Now it’s time for you to get out there, experiment, and try new things. It’s much more fun when you get to do the tasting yourself!

Stay tuned next week to hear about some common questions and challenges new plant-based eaters may have, along with my answers and advice!

A small note: next week’s post will come out early, on Thursday, as I have an adjustment in my schedule. 

Thanks for reading!

Lindsey 🙂

Recipe of the Week: Stuffed Sweet Potato!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Purple Carrot as a great resource for someone new to plant-based diets. While Purple Carrot is a meal delivery service, all of their recipes are accessible online for free! This recipe for stuffed sweet potato with cucumber chickpea salad and miso tahini is one of my Purple Carrot favorites. I never would’ve thought up a combination like this and the miso tahini makes this a phenomenally umami dish! On top of this, this meal is packed with nutrients! Try it out here!

One Bite at a Time – Part 5!

By Lindsey Gallagher

Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.

Plant-based Staples

Welcome back! This week it’s time to explore some (but certainly not all) plant-based staples to fill your fridge and pantry with for a successful journey as a plant-based eater! Let’s jump right in!


  • Rice – All rice (brown, white, basmati, arborio, etc.) in its basic form is vegan!
  • Farro – An ancient grain of three wheat species that has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It is a great source of fiber, iron, protein, and magnesium. 
  • Quinoa – Technically, a seed, but classified as a whole-grain, quinoa is unique from many plant-based foods in that it is a complete protein (i.e., it contains all the essential amino acids). Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain! It is also full of antioxidants and a great source of folate, iron, thiamine, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Even better, because it’s so tiny, quinoa is incredibly versatile (you can easily add it to smoothies, desserts, salads, soups, etc.)!
  • Bulgar wheat – Another ancient whole grain, bulgur is light and nutty, sort of like couscous. A great source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, and iron. 
  • Pasta – Most store-bought pastas are already vegan (Barilla, De Cecco, store brands, etc.). However, if you’re looking for a more nutritionally dense pasta, there are plenty of plant-based options! This includes Banza, a chickpea-based pasta full of protein, or Explore Cuisine’s Edamame pasta, also high in protein. There are also lentil and pea pastas that offer more protein than conventional pasta. Try out some different ones to figure out which variety you most enjoy!
  • Soba noodles – These Japanese noodles, typically made from buckwheat, flour, salt, and water, are vegan! These make a great base in many meals!
  • Rice noodles – These noodles, made from rice and water, are also vegan and great for Asian cuisine. 
Nothing beats a bowl of oats! Source
  • Oats – To me, there is no better breakfast than a bowl of oats. A little bit of oatmeal goes a long way, and there are so many ways to change the flavor with add-ons. If you don’t like oatmeal, you can add oats to so many other things, like baked goods, and they always enhance the flavor! Oats are a great source of fiber and beneficial to heart health as well!
  • Bread – Bread is something you will want to always check the label on because different kinds and brands of bread vary in ingredients. Some breads that are commonly vegan are sourdough, pita, Ezekiel, ciabatta, and baguettes. If you haven’t ever tried it, Ezekiel Bread is delicious because it’s packed with whole grains that give it a rich, hearty flavor (always found in the freezer aisle). 

An aside on honey: Since we’re talking about bread, which often includes honey, we’ll talk about honey. Honey is one of the most contentious foods when it comes to a plant-based diet. It’s generally accepted that honey is not plant-based because it is an animal product. However, some vegans do consume honey. Every person will have to make this choice on their own. From my perspective, it is a very small thing to fuss over. I used to not consume honey on my vegan diet, but as I’ve come to embrace more flexibility, I don’t mind having things that are sweetened with honey here and there. As you make your own choice, just be aware that quite a lot of bread, snacks, and desserts are sweetened with honey, and it can be difficult to accommodate this all the time.

  • Cereal – fortified cereals are great for plant-based eaters because they contain some of the vitamins and minerals that are harder to come by in plant-based products. Cheerios (my favorite), for instance, are fortified with Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B12, to name just some. Use labels at the grocery store to find fortified cereal you’ll like!
All of the vitamins and minerals in a 1 ½-cup serving of Original Cheerios! 


Flour, like grains (and because it comes from grains), is vegan, so you have many options here! You can turn almost any grain into flour, and if you have a blender, you can even do this from home. Some of your options include:

  • Whole wheat flour
  • White flour
  • Oat flour 
  • Almond flour
  • Rye flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Semolina flour
  • Gluten-free flour
  • Rice flour
  • Corn flour
  • Chickpea flour (works great for veggie burgers)


So many beans to choose from! Source

Like grains and flour, all beans and legumes, in their natural form, are vegan! Beans and legumes will also be an important source of protein on a plant-based diet! Since these are a major protein source for plant-based eaters, I’ll include the protein content of each one (per a half-cup serving), which I pulled directly from the packages on these items in my pantry. Do note that there are many other nutritional and health benefits besides the protein content, though.

  • Black Beans – 8g
  • Kidney Beans – 7g
  • Great Northern Beans – 6g
  • Cannellini Beans – 7g
  • Lima Beans- 6g
  • Pinto Beans – 6g
  • Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas) – 6g
  • Peas – 3g
  • Lentils – 7g
  • Peanuts – 8g per 1 oz, Peanut butter – 7g per 2 tbsp
  • Edamame – 6.5g 


Minimally processed protein sources:

  • Tofu – This soy-based protein is one of the most versatile plant-based foods. It will absorb any flavor! 3 ounces of firm tofu has 7 grams of protein!
  • Tempeh – This soy-based complete protein is more dense than tofu and holds a nuttier taste. It also has a great protein content, with 18 grams from a 3-ounce serving. 
  • Seitan – This is a plant-based protein made of vital wheat gluten that is great for mimicking the texture of chicken. Only two ounces of seitan has 18 grams of protein! 
A delicious tofu bowl! Source

Protein sources that are more processed:

There are a number of companies that make mock meats with a flavor and texture that closely resemble animal-based meat. Many of these products are delicious and I would certainly recommend checking them out, but it’s also important to keep in mind that these are often ultra-processed and may not be the smartest choice health-wise as your main protein source. Of course, any protein is better than none, so there’s no need to completely avoid these. Just keep moderation in mind!

  • Gardein makes a variety of plant-based meats (and even some soups!), all of which are vegan. They have everything from chicken tenders and chicken nuggets to turkey cutlets to wings to meatballs to sausages to burgers to ground beef to fish filets to complete plant-based meals to chicken noodle soup. Another benefit is that many of these products also have a solid amount of protein. The ultimate plant-based burger, for example, has 20 grams of protein. I haven’t tried all of their products but I certainly love the seven grain crispy tenders, which have 10 grams of protein for 3 pieces. 
  • MorningStar Farms, like Gardein, makes a variety of plant-based alternatives to animal-based meat products. They have burgers, breakfast sausage and sandwiches, chik’n and waffles, hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza bites, and chorizo crumbles, to name a few of their products. I should also let you know that not all of MorningStar’s products are completely vegan, many are only vegetarian, so do check the label to make sure the product aligns with your diet. My personal favorite of their products are the Original Chik Patties and Chik’n Nuggets. 
  • Field Roast is a plant-based company making meats and cheese (Chao Creamery). Some of their “meat” products include sausages, appetizers like BBQ bites, hot dogs, various flavors of deli slices, pepperoni, and even roasts! In terms of cheese, they have shreds, slices, and blocks in a variety of flavors from creamy original to Mexican style blend to tomato cayenne to smoky original. My favorite of their products (though I will admit I haven’t tried the cheeses) are the Italian Garlic & Fennel and Apple & Sage Sausages. These are both so flavorful and, being made from vital wheat gluten, have a lot of protein (1 sausage has 25 grams)! My partner who isn’t vegan often prefers these sausages to animal-based ones!
Some Italian Garlic & Fennel Field Roast sausages! Source
  • Impossible Foods is a company you’ve probably heard of as they tend to be the more widely known, and it’s usually Impossible Food products that fast-food and chain restaurants turn to when adding plant-based items to their menu. Like the other companies, they have a variety of products from burgers to sausage to pork to premade meals. I’ve only ever had the Impossible burger, something that I would not repeat, because it actually tasted far too much like animal-meat and freaked me out. But if you’re a plant-based eater missing your meat, Impossible’s products are incredibly similar in flavor (and especially texture) to animal-meat.
  • Beyond Meat, similar to Impossible Foods, has plant-based products that are extremely similar to animal-meat. Beyond Meat has most of the same products that all the others have like sausages, burgers, and chicken products, but they also have some unique ones like steak and jerky (in three flavors). 
  • Soy milk – This is a nice milk alternative because it has a comparable protein content to dairy milk. In terms of protein content this is the best plant-based milk. 1 cup of soy milk has 7 grams of protein (for reference, 1 cup of whole cow milk has 8 grams of protein). 
  • Oat milk – This is another option as a milk substitute, but it doesn’t have quite as much protein as soy milk (only 3 grams in 1 cup). If you are hoping to get protein from your milk, I’d recommend soy milk. But oat milk is still delicious!
  • There’s also almond and cashew milk. I’ve never had either of these because of my nut allergy, but they are still viable options for those without nut allergies! Almond milk has only 1 gram of protein in a cup. I should also remind you that almonds have one of the highest water footprints, so if you’re plant-based for environmental reasons you might want to avoid almond milk. Cashew milk is also low in protein with less than 1 gram of protein per cup. 


Chia seed pudding! Source
  • Chia seeds – Chia seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant native to Mexico. These little seeds are nutritionally packed—they’re not a superfood for nothing! Just 2.5 tablespoons of chia seeds has 5 grams of protein. They are also one of the best plant-based sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are exceptionally versatile, too. You can add them to just about any recipe, like baked goods or oatmeal. When combined with milk, you can create chia pudding. And if you combine one tablespoon of chia seeds with two tablespoons of water and let it sit for a few minutes, the seeds will absorb the water making a great egg substitute or binder for baking.
  • Hemp seeds – Another superfood, hemp seeds have 9.5 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons (they are also a complete protein). Like chia seeds, they contain omega-3 fatty acids along with a number of other minerals and vitamins. 
  • Flax seeds – These seeds pack a nutritional punch, too! Although not as high in protein, flax seeds contain many vitamins and minerals (particularly thiamine, copper, and manganese). They also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Like chia seeds, when combined with water, these make a great egg substitute or binder for baking. Generally, ground flax seeds are better than whole seeds because your body can more easily absorb the nutrients they provide. 
  • Sesame seeds – These little seeds carry a number of health benefits and they have delightful flavor. If you love sesame seeds you should try tahini, which is ground sesame seeds (as peanut butter is to peanuts). Tahini is an essential ingredient in hummus and works great in sauces!
  • Nuts (Almonds and almond butter, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, etc.) – These are great sources of fat (which you need!) and they also have some protein.
    • As I’ve mentioned, I am unfortunately allergic to nuts (though I can enjoy pine nuts.) However, you will find that nuts, mostly cashews, are used as a base in many vegan cheese products and recipes. According to my family, cashew cheese is delicious, so it’s worth giving a try!


No produce is off limits! Enjoy as many fruits and veggies as you want! And make sure you get in some avocado for some healthy and essential fat!



Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil!

There are many brands of vegan butter and I find that almost all of them melt, spread, and taste like dairy butter. I actually think that plant-based butter tastes better than dairy butter! Personally, I love Earth Balance but I’ve recently enjoyed Country Crock Plant Butter. To learn more, here’s a review of the many vegan butters.


Where do I even begin with cheese? I could make a whole post exclusively about cheese because, well, who doesn’t love cheese! I do feel it important to note that all vegan cheeses are highly processed so don’t make them the base of your diet. Still, absolutely enjoy these because cheese is amazing and makes everything so much better. It’s so important that you actually enjoy your plant-based meals, and if cheese helps you do that, then embrace it! There are so many brands and varieties of vegan cheese, which is exciting but also a little overwhelming. After my experience tasting a number of them, I’ve found that the quality of the cheese varies greatly. In order to find ones that fit your preferences the best thing to do is really experiment and taste test yourself. To start, here’s a list of the many that I know of:

  • Go Veggie
  • Tofutti
  • Babybel
  • Laughing Cow
  • Chao Creamery
  • Kite Hill
  • Miyoko’s
  • Nurishh
  • Earth Grown
  • Violife
  • Boursin
  • Treeline Cheese
  • So Delicious

**If you have a nut allergy make sure you check the label when testing cheese! Some of these are nut-based!

And here’s my favorites: 

  • Follow Your Heart is my absolute favorite brand to go to for vegan cheese. I am a religious buyer of this stuff. Growing up a parmesan lover, their shredded and grated parmesan have been a lifesaver. The flavor, texture, and meltability is impressive and mirrors real parmesan pretty closely. They also have mozzarella and cheddar shreds, slices in six varieties, bleu cheese, and feta cheese. Of all their cheese, I find that the parmesan is best in terms of resembling dairy cheese, but I would also highly recommend their feta crumbles. 
Follow Your Heart, the best cheese in the game!
  • Daiya is my other favorite brand for vegan cheese. They also have many varieties like Follow Your Heart. I would say the flavor of their cheese is slightly below Follow Your Heart, but Daiya really stands out in its meltability (Follow Your Heart does melt just not quite as well/fast). The first time I had Daiya mozzarella shreds on a pizza I thought I had grabbed a non-vegan slice! Daiya also has a number of other vegan products (mac & cheese, pizzas, desserts, etc.) that are worth checking out!

Other dairy products 

Most of the brands I listed for cheese also make other dairy-based products in plant-based form like veganaise (vegan mayo), cream cheese, salad dressings, yogurt, sour cream, and more. I haven’t tasted these products much, so I’ll leave the tasting and reviewing to you!


In terms of snacks, you will find that almost everything has a plant-based version. One of my favorite veganized snacks is Hippeas Chickpea puffs, which resemble Pirate’s Booty and Cheetos Puffs. Hippeas puffs are light and incredibly cheesy! 

There are a number of snacks that are already plant-based, too. These include:

  • Rice cakes, which are great for spreading hummus, peanut butter, or jam on.
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Nabisco Original Graham Crackers
  • Guacamole (I did have one instance where guacamole had sour cream, but this was rather rare. In general, guacamole is a safe bet!)
  • Hummus
  • A number of chips (most original flavors are vegan), including tortilla chips, potato chips, Fritos, and Stacy’s Pita chips.
  • A number of granola/protein bars. I love Lara Bars for a hearty snack, though these are not protein dense. Here’s a great review of 18 different vegan protein bars.
Lara Bars, a delicious and filling date-based snack!


  • Miso paste – Miso paste is made from soybeans that are fermented with salt and a koji starter. The best way to describe its flavor is very salty but wonderfully umami. The greatest benefit of miso is that the fermentation process makes it rich with probiotics that are excellent for gut health. Miso works well as a soup base, in risotto, in sauces, or in marinades.
  • JUST Egg – This liquid product is an egg substitute made of mung beans that can be scrambled, made in omelets, or used for baking. Like animal eggs, it also has protein. One serving of JUST Egg has the same amount of protein as a chicken egg (6 grams)! This product does a great job of mimicking the texture of eggs. However, even though the flavor is decent, it’s certainly not the same as a chicken egg.
  • Nutritional yeast – This food is sold in flakes (it resembles fish food) and has a wonderful cheesy taste. As I mentioned last week, it is an excellent source of Vitamin B12 for plant-based eaters. This can be sprinkled on almost anything or included in bakes, sauces, and much more!
  • Applesauce – If you don’t have JUST Egg or chia seeds, applesauce makes a great egg alternative for baking. 


As with the snacks, most animal-based desserts can be found in a plant-based version. Excitingly, more and more grocery stores, bakeries, ice cream parlors, and other treat shops are adding plant-based products to their menus! Here are some of the best widely available desserts that I’ve discovered as a vegan (the best of the best I’ve found in local and small businesses):

  • Enjoy Life makes a number of plant-based snacks and desserts like cookies, brownie bites, chocolate, breakfast bars, dessert bites, and chips. Their semi-sweet chocolate chips are wonderful, closely mirroring the flavor of milk chocolate and melting like it too. I also recommend their soft-baked snickerdoodle cookies! 
  • Ice cream is similar to cheese in that there are so many plant-based brands and varieties. Most of the dessert section will cover ice cream because I’m writing this, and ice cream is my favorite dessert. So, sorry if you don’t like ice cream… For plant-based ice cream there are a number of bases, most commonly coconut, nuts (mostly cashews and almonds), and oats. There are also more obscure bases like soy and avocado. My personal favorite are the oat-based ice creams, as I don’t like coconut and obviously can’t have nuts. Here are my favorites:
    • Oatly has chocolate, vanilla, and so many other great flavors of ice cream! I find that Oatly has the richest flavor of the plant-based ice creams I’ve tried and very closely resembles (in flavor and consistency) dairy-based ice cream. Oatly is also a big seller of oat milk, and dairy-free yogurt. 
    • Planet Oat also makes ice cream. I find that their ice cream is less flavorful and sometimes tastes watery. It’s not bad, just not as rich as Oatly. However, Planet Oat’s chocolate chip cookie dough is amazing; it is far superior to Oatly’s chocolate chip cookie dough.
A big bowl of Planet Oat chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, Oreos, strawberries, and melted Enjoy Life chocolate!
  • Tofutti Cuties, tofu-based ice cream sandwiches, are a must try. It sounds strange but these little sandwiches are phenomenal (though hard to find). I was actually introduced to these when I was a kid by my aunt who lives in Brooklyn. After my sister and I first tried them, every time we visited my aunt it became a tradition to go to the market and buy some Tofutti Cuties. Perhaps I love these because they have sentimental value, but I really do think they’re delicious!
  • Other ice cream giants like Ben & Jerry’s have lots of plant-based ice creams (these are nut-based, so I can’t say anything about their quality), and recently Häagen-Dazs has stepped into the vegan game. 
  • Other plant-based ice creams include Nada Moo, So Delicious, jeni’s, and Favorite Day, among others.
  • A small bit of sad news: I have yet to find a plant-based ice cream that comes in a size bigger than a pint! And plant-based ice cream is alarmingly expensive 🙁 
  • Ice cream is not the only dessert that’s plant-based, though! There are plant-based cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, cheesecakes, muffins, fudge, and anything else you could think of! In fact, most desserts are easy to make plant-based because you just have to switch cow milk for plant-based milk, dairy butter for plant-based butter, and egg with an egg replacer! 
  • VegNews has a whole article on cookies that are accidentally vegan. The exciting news: Oreos, Nutter Butters, some Girl Scout cookies, Fig Newtons, Biscoff cookies, and Teddy Grahams are vegan!!!
  • Before you give your money to these large brands, though, be sure to check ice cream parlors, bakeries, and sweet shops local to you. Support the small businesses that are embracing plant-based options!


Whew! That was a lot of listing! I hope you are ready to try some new foods! Enjoy the tasting!

Stay tuned next week to join me in taste testing some plant-based products!

Thanks for reading!

-Lindsey 🙂

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Pie!

Since I’m talking about dessert, this week I will share one of my favorite vegan desserts! My partner made this for me as a surprise one day. I absolutely loved it, and we’ve made it many times since! This pie is tofu-based but you don’t taste the tofu; you just taste the chocolate! The rich and creamy chocolate filling pairs perfectly with the crust. Head on over to chocolatecoveredkatie.com to treat your tastebuds!

One Bite at a Time – Part 4!

By Lindsey Gallagher

Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.

Becoming Plant-based!

Welcome back! Last week we explored the many benefits of a plant-based diet. Now, it’s time to actually talk about making the switch!

Forms of plant-based diets

When considering a move toward a plant-based diet, recall that there are a number of different forms, including (in order from most to least strict in terms of what foods are consumed):

  • Plant-based: a diet that is mostly made up of vegetables, grains, and other foods that come from plants instead of animal products. 
  • Mediterranean Diet: a diet that focuses on fruit, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seafood, and olive oil. Animal products such as dairy, eggs, and poultry are included (in moderation). Red and processed meats are also included but rarely. 
  • Flexitarian: a diet that mostly excludes meat and seafood. Flexitarians limit their consumption of meat but may still have it sometimes. For example, flexitarians may do “meatless Mondays” or save eating meat for the weekends. 
  • Pescetarian: a diet that excludes meat but includes seafood and fish. 
  • Vegetarian: a diet that excludes meat and seafood. A vegetarian diet can be broken down in a few different ways:
    • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs.
    • Lacto-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that includes dairy but not eggs.
    • Ovo-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that includes eggs but not dairy.
  • Vegan: a diet that excludes all foods that come from animals (such as meat, dairy, eggs, and, for some, honey).

How do you decide?

There are many plant-based diet options, and it can be overwhelming to decide which one to select. As you are thinking things over, use these questions to help: 

  1. What is your why? Why are you interested in adopting a plant-based diet? Is it for environmental reasons? Health reasons? For animal rights? Something else? What is your ultimate goal? (Not just I’d like to be vegan, but what changes would you like to see in your life, whether that’s physically, mentally, philosophically, etc.)?
  1. What is your starting point? How often and how much meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs do you consume? Take stock of your last week of eating—how many of those meals included animal products? Once you have this number, you will have a sense of how heavily you rely on animal products. From here you can make a sustainable plan for transitioning to a plant-based diet. For example, if 15 of your 21 meals last week included animal products you might try cutting that number by three meals each week if you want to reach your goal more quickly or just cutting one meal per week if you want to take your time. Knowing that most of your meals include animal products tells you that you probably won’t want to stop eating these foods abruptly, but rather phase them out over time.
  1. Do you have any health conditions (including mental health conditions) that could create complications with a particular diet? While there are health benefits to a plant-based diet, that doesn’t mean that it can’t create issues depending on your individual needs. I am not a medical professional, so if you are considering the switch but have pre-existing conditions, you should talk to your healthcare provider or see a dietician first. For example, I have a nut allergy and I had no idea how this would become a pretty major complication for me as a vegan when I first started. Unfortunately for me, many vegan dairy alternatives, like ice cream and especially cheese, use nuts. Many times, I’ve been excited about a vegan option at a restaurant or a new product at the grocery store only to learn that it includes nuts, and then I can’t enjoy it! Luckily, I’ve found things that work for me, but there are still frustrating moments. And, ultimately, my options are much more limited than vegans without nut allergies, so it would’ve been nice to know this before I began my journey. 
The Vertical Diner, a vegan diner with locations in Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon! Source
  1. What accessibility do you have to plant-based products? Where can you get the alternatives that you will want? Certain places, usually rural ones, have a much more limited offering of plant-based products (mostly meat and dairy alternatives, as produce, grains, legumes, and nuts tend to be available even in the smallest grocery stores). 

Remember: no single form of a plant-based diet is “best.” The best one is the one that is sustainable for you and works in the context of your life. Hopefully these questions help you to see how to make a plant-based diet work best for you!

My top tips

Now let’s consider my top tips for a successful transition to a plant-based diet. These are based largely on my experience and what I’ve learned over the years in my own plant-based journey! 

Tip 1: Start small

When I went vegetarian, I did it all at once. Granted, I did have less meat because of the road trip I took in the month leading up when I changed my diet. Still, I went from meat to no meat at all. When I started, I knew very little about protein-rich vegetarian options to replace meat-based protein sources. I had only eaten tofu once or twice before and knew nothing about how to prepare it. I didn’t even know what seitan or tempeh, staple plant-based proteins, were. Instead of preparing ahead of time with research, I jumped right in, figuring things out as I went. Luckily, I did have my sister along for the journey with me. After a few weeks, I consulted my aunt, who had been a pescatarian for years. She offered recommendations on some of her favorite meat substitutes. However, living on a small island with one grocery store, our options were rather limited in terms of what was available. Back then, tofu was really the only thing the store reliably carried. 

When I went vegan six months later, I did the same thing I did as a new vegetarian: I jumped right in. At that point, I was primarily doing it for environmental reasons and really didn’t care how it might impact my nutritional needs. I did little research and had little idea of what would replace dairy in my diet, which was then a big part of it. And vegan was a word I had heard and come to understand less than a year before!

I set a date with my sister to start our vegan journey. It was right before Christmas and I remember my mom telling us we should wait until after the holidays, as it would be hard with all the gatherings. But we did not heed her advice; we were determined to start as soon as possible even if that meant we had to make most of our own food to bring to holiday gatherings, which we did. In the days leading up to the vegan start date, I remember eating lots of dairy because I knew I would miss it a lot. Almost all of my favorite things included dairy: pasta with parmesan, cheddar and crackers, bean and rice burritos loaded with sour cream and cheese, and ice cream. Pretty much everything I ate had either parmesan or cheddar on it. When I went vegan, I missed these things a lot and wasn’t equipped with alternatives to my favorite staples to fill the gaps. Excitement about the change carried me for a bit, but after that, it became a challenge having my normal food routines uprooted and without go-to foods to rely on.

You can certainly stop eating animal products abruptly if you want. However, for the sake of making a plant-based diet sustainable for you, I highly recommend doing it in small steps. The size of these steps depends on your starting point and your end goal. For example, if most of your meals contain animal products, and your ultimate goal is to become a vegan, don’t go vegan in the span of a day. Start by working towards vegetarianism, and once you have stopped eating meat, then begin to decrease your consumption of dairy and eggs. You could also try going vegetarian a few days a week or picking one meal of each day (say lunch) to have vegetarian every day. As you go through this transition phase, branch out and try new things and learn what plant-based alternatives you like so you can build an arsenal of foods that you can rely on and enjoy once you do make the ultimate switch. In the long term this will make the diet more sustainable because if you don’t like what you’re eating, you won’t stick to it!

Tip 2: Do your research

Before you begin your plant-based journey, it is essential that you prepare by doing research. If you jump right in without exploring options, you are more likely to have a bad experience as a plant-based eater and return to an animal-product diet, which is not your goal! In your research, consider the following questions to ensure you are ready to start the journey!

  • What are your favorite animal products? What plant-based alternatives for these exist? 
  • Where can you purchase plant-based alternatives to the animal products that you want? 
  • What are some of your favorite meals? Find plant-based versions of these online or in cookbooks so you can still enjoy your favorite things!
  • Are there any restaurants near you that have plant-based meal options? 
  • If you do have any health conditions that may impact you in the transition, consult a medical professional. After that there are likely resources with tips and advice from plant-based eaters that have the same conditions as you.
  • What challenges do you anticipate facing in your transition? What can you do to overcome these? A common example is ex-cheese eaters craving cheese once they go vegan. Look around to see what other people who have faced challenges you anticipate facing are saying (there are lots of plant-based bloggers out there). Making a plan and being prepared to face these obstacles beforehand will allow you to overcome them much more easily!

Tip 3: Be smart! Make sure you get all the nutrients you need!

While many plant-based foods are packed with nutrients, plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy.’ Don’t immediately assume you will be healthier on a plant-based diet. As always, staying healthy takes work, and as you transition to plant-based, it will take a little more work and time each week to meet your food needs!

I don’t like to use the term “junk food” because all food is fuel for your body or can serve you emotionally, but certainly some foods can offer more benefit in terms of nutrients than others. There are plenty of plant-based foods that aren’t necessarily beneficial to your health, especially ultra-processed ones. This is not to say you can’t eat them; just don’t make them a meal three times a day. This is where tips 1 and 2 come in. If you have a plan ahead of time for what you can now eat and make at home, you won’t be scrambling and relying on freezer aisle and other processed plant-based foods to fill the gap of the missing animal products. These foods can make you feel crummy over time, hurt your health, and ultimately make you likely to return to an animal-product diet. Balance is just as important on a plant-based diet as it is on a diet including animal products!

Vitamins and Minerals

When decreasing your consumption of animal products, there are some specific vitamins and minerals to be aware of to make sure you are still supporting your body! Some of the key ones a person on a plant-based diet should be cognizant of are vitamins B12, A, and D, as well as protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fats. In the United States, most people rely on animal products for these essential things. There’s no need to panic, though, because you can get all of these things, except B12 and Vitamin D, from plant-based foods. And even B12 and Vitamin D, which are not naturally occurring in plant-based foods, you can supplement or get from fortified plant-based foods. I’ll now briefly touch on a few in this list that are more difficult to get on a plant-based diet. 


Iron is an essential mineral used to make hemoglobin, which is a protein that carries oxygen to your lungs, and myoglobin, a protein that gives your muscles oxygen. Iron is also needed for the production of some hormones. This explains why you feel so tired and energy-depleted if you’re iron deficient. 

Countless times people have told me, “You’re vegan, you’re gonna be iron deficient.” And while this is not necessarily the case, it can absolutely happen. On a plant-based diet, especially a vegan one, you are at a higher risk of iron-deficiency if you are not careful. Though I will say, you can be iron deficient eating animal products (as I was), so it all depends on the choices you make! 

If you are plant-based it’s important that you prioritize eating foods high in iron. These include spinach, iron-fortified bread and cereal, lentils, white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, baked potato, and broccoli among other things.

When you have iron-rich foods or an iron supplement, pair it with Vitamin C or Vitamin C rich-foods (citrus, berries, etc.), which enhances your body’s absorption of iron. A big reason that vegans struggle with getting enough iron is because plant-based iron sources are not as easily absorbed as animal-based iron sources. Vitamin C is the solution to this! Alternatively, make sure you don’t pair iron and calcium, as calcium inhibits iron absorption!

Vitamin B12

B12 is a vitamin that helps make DNA and keep the blood and nerve cells all around healthy. B12 is only found naturally in animal foods, which is why it’s so essential to seek out B12 on a plant-based diet. Plant-based foods only include B12 when fortified. You can find B12 in fortified cereal and nutritional yeast, a cheese-tasting flake-like product. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which aids the body in building bones. It can also reduce inflammation and help control infections. There are only a few foods that have Vitamin D and the best sources are animal products. The plant-based foods that include Vitamin D are mushrooms and fortified plant milks and cereals. And, of course, you can get Vitamin D by sitting out in the sun!

Supplementation (taking a pill or liquid form) is another option for getting all of these vitamins and minerals, too! As a vegan athlete, I supplement to make sure I get these things with the demands of my training. Always talk to your healthcare provider before supplementing, though!

To learn more about the other key nutrients and minerals a plant-based eater should pay attention to, visit vegan.com or foodinsight.org.

Tip 4: Be flexible

One of the most exciting things about stepping into plant-based eating is how flexible it is. There is a large spectrum of options from simply plant-based all the way to veganism. An important thing to keep in mind as you approach plant-based eating is that you can always change—you can always return to a previous diet or try a different one if something isn’t working for you. If you decide to go vegan, it doesn’t have to be for life! With any form of plant-based eating, you are in charge of what you eat, and there are no hard and fast rules for how to do it “right.” Flexibility is your friend! 

Flexibility was something that I struggled with in my first few years as a vegan. I believed I could never eat anything non-vegan or I wouldn’t be a “real” vegan. So I didn’t, even though this sometimes hindered my ability to fuel my body or even my emotional desires for specific foods. It was only recently that I truly embraced flexibility on a vegan diet, and this came from adapting to my circumstances. A month ago, I traveled abroad for the first time to Italy with my family. Before the trip I was nervous about how I’d be able to stick to my vegan diet. I also recognized that food is very much a part of culture, and I wanted to be able to experience authentic Italian food (especially the parmesan). 

I ultimately decided before I left that the trip would be more enjoyable for me (and my family) if I was willing to stray a bit from my vegan diet and eat what was available at the restaurants we were at. I decided I would have some cheese and egg (in pasta) while abroad. I also decided that I still wouldn’t have meat because it is now unappetizing to me and would make me exceptionally uncomfortable to eat. It was really important that I made a plan ahead of time based on my comfort levels so I was ready for the experiences I was about to have and not make stress-inducing, last-minute decisions. Throughout the trip, I had meals with cheese and egg, and much to my surprise, it was delightful. It was relieving to eat something non-vegan and see that nothing happened to me—no one condemned me for being a fake vegan. And I recognized that having a few animal products here and there wouldn’t increase my environmental impact much. As the trip went on, I found myself more and more relaxed eating parmesan and delicious Italian pasta. 

Some Pomodoro, topped with parmesan, I enjoyed in Italy!

I learned such a valuable lesson on flexibility from this experience, and I have taken it with me since returning home. On occasion, if I really want something non-vegan, like an old snack from childhood, I’ll have it because it serves me emotionally, and it keeps me satisfied with my diet. In the past, at an event where the vegan “meal” option was a simple salad with no protein, I would’ve just eaten the salad and refused to have anything else that wasn’t vegan. But I now recognize that this was detrimental to my body, especially as an athlete. Now, in those situations, I embrace flexibility and prioritize fueling my body over rigidity for the sake of being a “real” vegan. Now, I might decide to eat a baked potato even if it has some butter in it because I know my body needs a complete meal, and it will make me feel satisfied with what I ate. I never thought that going vegan would help me, a rigid person in all areas of my life, become more flexible. It is just one reminder of many that a plant-based diet doesn’t simply change what you eat, it changes who you are!

For those just starting your plant-based diet, you too should strive to embrace flexibility. You will learn to assume there won’t be food for you when eating outside of your home and be flexible as a result. Making this assumption you can decide, for this dinner, you will be okay having some cheese so you can have one of the entrees. Or maybe you want to stick to plant-based eating that day and will make a meal by combining sides at the restaurant. Or maybe you decide to eat something beforehand so you can still have a meal to fuel your body. Get used to always having extra snacks for unexpected situations so you have the option to stick to plant-based eating and, more importantly, have something to eat. And, of course, there will be times when you can’t plan ahead—sometimes you may have to eat something you don’t want to, and that’s okay. It’s ultimately more important that you fuel your body, even if it is with a food you are avoiding. Over time, you will establish a routine as a plant-based eater and learn how and when you’d like to or need to be flexible and stray from the diet. Trust me when I say flexibility is one of the biggest keys to longevity as a plant-based eater!

As a plant-based eater, always pack snacks! Source

Tip 5: Consider costs

I recognize that I am privileged to have enough money to put food on the table. Unfortunately, for many people, this is not a reality, and the option to spend more money for plant-based products does not exist. Veganism has a long way to go in terms of accessibility, but that’s why sharing this information is so important—the more people who go plant-based, the more we increase the demand for plant-based products and push our country to make these products more cost-effective and more widely available. We have a long way ahead of us to make accessibility a reality, but the plant-based industry is steadily growing! By 2030, the industry is expected to double!

Unfortunately, as it stands right now, if you do buy the plant-based meat and dairy alternatives (which are the most expensive plant-based products) or go out for plant-based meals at all, then it’s likely you will spend more on food. If you are planning to go plant-based, it’s important to determine how many of the more expensive plant-based products you can afford. And consider your food preferences and desires too—the last thing we want is for you to spend more for plant-based products but find you are less satisfied with what you eat. This is not to say you should write off plant-based eating if you can’t routinely afford the more expensive plant-based products. It’s just a reminder that cost is certainly a factor with a plant-based diet. 

The global value of plant-based foods from 2020-2030 in billions of U.S. dollars. Source

I will remind you, though, that many of the foods you eat every day, and are likely already purchasing, are plant-based. All fruits and vegetables (in their unprocessed form), grains (like rice, oats, wheat, barley, quinoa), legumes (like beans, chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts, and lentils), and nuts are vegan! That covers quite a lot of food products! If you are eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, these items will be the large bulk of your diet. It is the plant-based meats and dairy alternatives (cheese, sour cream, milks), which are not necessarily essential for your nutritional needs and often highly processed, that tend to make a plant-based person’s grocery bill increase. And for animal-meat-eating folks, it’s meat products that are actually one of the most expensive things at the grocery store, even more than conventional veggies and fruits. So going plant-based isn’t necessarily exponentially more expensive, as many assume.

Tip 6: Get support, take advantage of resources!

Ask your plant-based friends questions about their experiences. Ask your friends for recipes. Go to plant-based restaurants and festivals near you! And take advantage of the tons of online resources like these: 

  • Vegnews– massive plant-based media outlet. Includes a magazine, website, recipes, reviews, travel, a podcast, news, and more!
  • Forks Over Knives– recipes, meal plans, health information, the Forks Over Knives documentary, and more!
  • Vegan Outreach– a nonprofit organization spreading information about the vegan diet. They have a vegan mentor program where you can get a mentor to help you in your plant-based journey. You can also sign up for 10 Weeks to Vegan for free, which includes a weekly email full of tips and resources to help you make the transition to a vegan diet. 
  • Purple Carrot– A vegan meal delivery service! Just like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, you can select from many recipes each week and get them delivered right to your door for easy prep and delicious eating! While this is costly, it can be a great way to try new recipes and get ideas at the start of your plant-based journey! You can also access all of their recipes for free on their website if you want the inspiration but not the price!
The 10 Weeks To Vegan program at Vegan Outreach. Source
  • Nora Cooks– vegan recipes!
  • A Virtual Vegan– more vegan recipes!
  • Vegan.com– a center of vegan information! Includes guides, health information, recipes, an FAQ page, and more!  
  • Happy Cow– Great website to find plant-based restaurant reviews and restaurants near you! Also includes a blog and other tips of vegan living. Available as an app, too!
  • No Meat Athlete– A hub of information for plant-based athletes!
  • There are so many places to draw support from, so take advantage of them to make your plant-based journey exciting and successful!


I hope you feel more comfortable starting your plant-based journey with my tips and the resources I’ve provided. For those making the change, I am so excited for you to experience plant-based eating and all that comes with it! 

Stay tuned next week for a comprehensive guide of staple plant-based foods!

Thanks for reading!

-Lindsey 🙂 

Recipe of the Week: Homemade Vegan Feta Cheese!

I discovered this recipe after being at an event that served feta and wondering how I might be able to veganize it at home. (There are pretty good vegan fetas you can buy from the store, but if you want a cheaper, less processed option, this is a great recipe). Again, I’m sending you to someone else because so many of my favorite recipes come from other people! This week it’s vegan feta cheese from Melanie McDonald at avirtualvegan.com. I follow this recipe pretty loosely now and often just taste test and adjust until it’s just right. The recipe calls for coconut oil but you really don’t need it. I have made this recipe without coconut oil every time, and it’s always delicious (I don’t like coconut and it’s also expensive). So, no worries if you’re missing it! 

I like to make this feta and leave it in the creamy blender form and make a meal of it. I’ll cook up some bulgur wheat, crisp some chickpeas, and chop some cucumber, bell peppers, or lettuce. Then I’ll add it all to a bowl and top with the feta! Since I started making this meal it has been a staple for me! 

One Bite at a Time – Part 3!

Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.

The Many Benefits of Plant-based Diets!

Welcome back! Last week I talked about some pretty terrifying numbers in terms of the impact animal agriculture has on the planet. Now it’s time to talk about the potential a plant-based diet has to help reduce climate change, along with some other benefits to humanity and animals!

Combating Climate Change

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Getting rid of animal agriculture and substituting it with plant-based diets is “our best and most immediate chance to reverse the trajectory of climate change,” say scientists at Stanford and UC Berkeley based on a recent model

Perhaps the biggest impact a move to a plant-based diet will have is on greenhouse gas emissions. The model referenced above is just one piece of evidence among many on how emissions would change. The model, created by scientists at Stanford and UC Berkeley, sought to determine what the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions would be as a result of transitioning away from animal agriculture. The researchers concluded, a global move to a plant-based diet “would effectively halt the increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases for 30 years and give humanity more time to end its reliance on fossil fuels” (Than). Based on researchers Patrick Brown and Michael Eisen’s estimations, getting rid of animal agriculture could “reduce net emissions by the equivalent of around 1,350 Gt CO2 this century. To put this number in perspective, total anthropogenic CO2 emissions since industrialization are estimated to be around 1,650 Gt” (Eisen and Brown). But the biggest finding from the model is that “eliminating animal agriculture has the potential to offset 68 percent of current anthropogenic CO2 emissions.” That is absolutely massive and, I think, a great cause for optimism. By changing just this one aspect of our lives (though it won’t be easy) we could do so much!

Annual emissions and projected atmospheric concentrations of GHGs under Business as Usual (red) and with a 15-year phaseout of animal agriculture (green). Source

The researchers also broke down emissions and impacts of specific animal products and categories. The main takeaway from this is that a completely plant-based diet (a vegan diet) is not necessary to achieve massive reductions in emissions. A diet without red meat has almost just as much of a positive impact as a full vegan diet! Ruminants (cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats) make up 90% of the projected annualized CO2 emissions through 2100. Therefore, just by replacing ruminants we can achieve 90% of the benefit of phasing out animal agriculture. That means you can still eat chicken and eggs, which are some of the “most efficient animal products on a per protein basis,” as they have per protein emissions 25 times less than that of ruminant meat. The bottom line: you don’t have to give up everything animal-based! 

I’ve broken down the main takeaways from this model, but there are many more details that I haven’t included. To read the full publication in PLoS Climate go here

Many other studies have similar findings. In the 2022 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) listed a move toward plant-based diets as holding great potential for reducing emissions. A 2020 study in Nature Sustainability found that “shifts in global food production to plant-based diets by 2050 could lead to sequestration of 332–547 GtCO2, equivalent to 99–163% of the CO2 emissions budget” which would drastically improve the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Data from Our World In Data (see graphic) reveals that less meat still has a lower impact than sustainably produced meat. More and more across the board, the findings are reaching the same conclusion: plant-based diets could seriously curtail global emissions. 


Last week I spent some time discussing the water footprint of various food products. What I found from my research is that animal products (especially meat) have higher water footprints than plant-based products. And, as you can guess, by moving toward plant-based diets there is great potential to save water, which is becoming an increasingly precious (and always essential) resource. 

A 2016 study in Science of the Total Environment found that a vegetarian diet leads to water footprint reductions of 30-53%. Another study in Water Resources and Industry determined that agriculture makes up 92% of the freshwater footprint of humans and almost one-third of this footprint comes directly from or relates to animal products. By moving away from animal agriculture, humans themselves would have much greater access to water. Addressing clean water access is majorly important; in 2019 the World Health Organization reported that 1 in 3 people did not have access to clean drinking water. 

Other Environmental Impacts

Animal agriculture is a major contributor to deforestation. Recall that 35% of the earth’s habitable land is used for animal agriculture (grazing and land used for animal food production). A landmark 2019 study published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek revealed that a move to plant-based diets could lower the amount of land used for food by 3.1 billion hectares, which is a 76% reduction. 

Pollution and Environmental Racism 

Pollution is another place where the plant-based diet could help. Agriculture is one of the top sources of air pollution in the U.S. This is an issue for the environment because harmful gases like methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide are released into the atmosphere from farms (mostly from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs). However, this is also a major human health issue. A 2021 PNAS study, which estimated the health impacts of air quality, found that “80% of the 15,900 annual deaths that result from food-related fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution are attributable to animal-based foods.” That’s 12,720 deaths. The Washington Post ran an article specifically about this, with a focus on North Carolina, the state with the fourth most CAFOs in the U.S.

As The Washington Post explains, “the most insidious kinds of air pollution are known as particulate matter (PM) 2.5—tiny particles one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, which can become lodged in lungs or absorbed into the bloodstream. Exposure to PM 2.5 can lead to asthma and other breathing problems, and over the long term increases the risk of dying of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.” 

Waste from CAFOs is often put in spray fields around the farm. And the waste doesn’t stay there; it seeps into the surrounding environment in various ways (air pollution, run off, etc.). Source: 2013 Donn Young Photography 

And air pollution is not the only impact of CAFOs. The National Association of Local Boards of Health identifies nine environmental health effects of CAFOs including: groundwater, surface water, air quality, greenhouse gases and climate, odors, insect vectors, pathogens, antibiotics, and other effects (property values). 

But returning to CAFO-caused pollution, another issue emerges: environmental racism. In 2019 I did a research project called “CAFOs and the Poverty Position: Understanding the Impacts of CAFOs on Human Well-being.” What my research revealed was that U.S. counties with large concentrations of CAFOs had a great poverty level and a larger Black population. For my research, I largely focused on North Carolina, because at the time it had the greatest number of CAFOs in the U.S. Here’s one snippet from my research that reveals the CAFOs as a site of environmental injustice and racism:

The two North Carolina counties with the most CAFOs, Duplin County and Sampson County had 300 and 296 CAFOs, respectively. These two counties also have high poverty levels in comparison to surrounding areas (Duplin with 24.3% and Sampson with 26.3%). Alternatively, Wake County is one of two counties in the state with a poverty percentage below 12%. Its CAFOs count is 0. 

Beyond poverty, Duplin, Sampson, Wayne, and Bladen County, which have some of the state’s highest CAFO numbers, also hold the highest Black populations in the state. It’s no coincidence that the areas with the greatest numbers of CAFOs in the state are part of the Black Belt, a band of the south where large populations of slaves once worked on plantations. The impacts of this still reverberate.

“A century later, [B]lack residents of this region still experience high rates of poverty, poor health care, low educational attainment, unemployment and substandard housing,” says Nicole Wendee, science writer and researcher. Due to the clustering of CAFOs in poverty-stricken minority communities and their health effects, both environmental injustice and racism concerns have been raised for this region.

In the context of this blog, by moving to a plant-based diet we can reduce the demand for CAFOs and help reduce negative impacts on human health and cases of environmental racism.

A North Carolina home next to a CAFO. Source: 2013 Donn Young Photography 

Human Health

It is well-known that one’s diet is strongly linked to one’s health. There are many health benefits to be gained from a plant-based diet. To briefly summarize, “Studies ha[ve] shown that people following vegetarian and near-vegetarian diets have significantly lower prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and gallbladder disease, compared with non-vegetarians. In clinical trials, low-fat plant-based diets reduce body weight and blood pressure, and improve plasma lipid concentrations and glycemic control.” 

On the topic of cancer, there are strong links between a vegetarian diet and decreased risk. In 2015, the World Health Organization categorized red meat as possibly carcinogenic to humans and processed meats (bacon, sausage, jerky, ham, etc.) as carcinogenic to humans. The epidemiological studies used as the basis for the categorization established a strong link between the consumption of processed meat and colorectal cancer. There were also links, though not as strong, between processed meat consumption and stomach cancer. In terms of the risk of eating processed meat, according to WHO, “an analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.” Red meat was also linked to colorectal cancer and showed possible links to pancreatic and prostate cancer, too.

Cancer is not the only thing the plant-based diet can help protect you from. A plant-based diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, which is caused by the buildup of plaque from cholesterol. The staples of an animal-based diet—meat, dairy, and eggs—are naturally high in saturated fat and cholesterol. A 2019 study that followed over 400,000 participants for almost 13 years concluded that consuming red and processed meat increases one’s risk of heart disease for every 100 grams eaten. A 2021 study in Cardiovascular Research determined, “the evidence is highly concordant in showing that, for the healthy adult population, low consumption of salt and foods of animal origin, and increased intake of plant-based foods—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts—are linked with reduced atherosclerosis [a form of cardiovascular disease] risk. The same applies for the replacement of butter and other animal/tropical fats with olive oil and other unsaturated-fat-rich oil.” 

It’s also been concluded by multiple studies that a plant-based diet can lower one’s chances of hypertension (this is mostly because plants have a lot of potassium, which lowers blood pressure). In terms of mental health, there is evidence suggesting that plant-based diets can reduce depression and anxiety. 

Many of the links between a diet of animal-products and poor health outcomes are newly established and still being studied. However, more and more research is reaching the same conclusion: a plant-based diet is one of the best interventions for improving health. Though, moving to a plant-based diet does mean you need to be aware of your intake of some vital nutrients that aren’t as prevalent or easily absorbed in plant-based products—but we’ll discuss this next week! This short section is by no means an exhaustive list of the health impacts of one’s diet so I would highly recommend checking out the health topics page on Forks Over Knives if you are curious about more of the diseases and health conditions that a plant-based diet can help combat!

Animal Well-being 

Content warning: graphic language

One last thing worth mentioning is how animals in CAFOs are treated. The only law protecting farmed animals is the Humane Slaughter Act, which was passed in 1958. According to US Legal under this act, “the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter must be carried out only by humane methods.” Humane methods include: 

  1. “In the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut; or
  2. by slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering.”
Pigs kept in close confinement at a CAFO in North Carolina. Source: 2013 Donn Young Photography 

But this law concerns only the slaughtering. It says nothing about how the animals are kept between their arrival to the facility and their slaughter. And it’s no secret that conditions for the animals are abysmal. Animals are kept in dark, small spaces for long periods of time. Pigs are often kept in gestation crates during pregnancy and egg-laying hens are often kept in cages that prevent them from even turning around. There are many other inhumane methods used across large-scale farms, and this is not an animal rights blog, so I’ll let you defer to PETA for that.


There are many reasons to consider a plant-based diet, whether it’s for environmental reasons, human health and well-being, or animal rights. Everyone has their own perspective and experiences to consider as they make their personal choice. Regardless, I hope I’ve inspired some of you to consider a more sustainable alternative (across many fronts) to an animal-based diet. When considering a decision like this, remember to take it one bite at a time! 

Stay tuned to hear about how to actually go about reducing your consumption of animal-products and moving to a plant-based diet with practical tips and resources, along with my own experience!

Thanks for reading!


Recipe of the week: Ratatouille!

This week I am deferring to Tasty for another one of my favorite meals. Ratatouille is a purely vegetable-based dish originating in France. It typically consists of tomato, bell pepper, onion, zucchini, squash, and eggplant with a few spices and herbs like garlic, thyme, and basil. In this recipe, the vegetables are sliced with a mandolin or knife, which is relatively labor intensive and time-consuming, but entirely worth it! (To save time you can also buy pre-sliced veggies for a bit more money, if desired). There are many ways to prepare this dish but this specific recipe is wonderfully flavorful! Check out the recipe here. Thanks, Tasty!

P.S. This meal is best when paired with a viewing of the movie Ratatouille. My sister and I like to celebrate New Year’s in this very way—spending time together slicing the veggies and carefully ordering them in a circular dish. Then we sit down with our bowls and have ratatouille with Ratatouille

Summer is Here & Some Farmy Reads!

The Summer Solstice is upon us—June 21st this year! For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, we are awaiting the longest day and the Earth tilting toward the Sun. GWP is thrilled to have the summer ahead of us. Our summer interns and fellowship recipient, Connie, are starting on Monday! We will take the summer to read our submissions on Submittable.

We love working with and publishing our farmer-writers. Here is a great summer reading list for when you find time, lolling around the barn, lying in the hammock after planting seedlings . . . so wash the sweat off your brow, change out of those Carharts, and take a break—especially on the longest day of the year!

What a fabulous review of Peter Gould’s Horse-Drawn Yogurt, 2nd Edition, Revised by Peter Coyote:

“For years I thought that I’d written the best book on the communal, counter-culture reality. It’s called Sleeping Where I Fall and has been in print since 1999. Peter Gould has written a real contender, and perhaps even a better book. It turns out I met Peter one night about 47 years ago when my girlfriend, Nichole Wills, my daughter, Ariel, her son Jeremiah and my dog, Josephine, pulled down their long snowy road and were taken in. We were traveling from commune to commune from the Delaware Water Gap of Pennsylvania throughout New England, establishing a counter-cultural trade route; assessing surpluses and needs, publishing them, and sending the book back around. 47 years later Peter sent me the book for a blurb for the new edition and I fell into it as if it was a vat of honey. He really nailed the amount of labor, reclaiming of abandoned and abused shelters and machinery, and the diplomacy of making friends with the older farming generation which was on its way out. My family, the Diggers, did the same at every place we lived — Olema, Forest Knolls, Trinidad, Salmon Creek, Black-Bear Farm. His story could have been — and in many degrees is — our story. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Peter Gould must be my brother-by-another-mother. I urge you to read his book. It’s glorious! Peter’s tone-perfect narratives capture the back-to-the-land movement—the danger, the disappointments, the values, the joys of living a life of meaning in harmony with one’s deepest intentions, and the thrill of expanding the heart’s perimeter to include everyone you meet. He really nails the amount of labor, in salvaging thrown-away machines and lumber, forging bonds, in learning skills that would have passed away with the previous generation. Horse-Drawn Yogurt is a great read by a fine writer and an even better reminder of a time and season when many young people were fearlessly committed to living lives of meaning and ecstasy. You can’t beat that combo.”

Peter Coyote, actor, author, Zen Buddhist priest

Farm Girl by Megan Baxter is a memoir of urgent grace that crosses boundaries of genre and time. In her second year of college, Megan finds herself bonded to a lover spiraling into addiction and two thousand miles away from her heart’s home—a stretch of forty certified-organic acres along the banks of the Connecticut River separating Vermont and New Hampshire. In the crucible of a rainy Portland winter, Megan is forced to decide whether to embrace her future as a farm girl or to continue growing into the woman everyone hopes she’ll become. Farm Girl is about two love affairs that force a decision: the love between two people and the love between Megan and the landscape. With innovative prose and lush description, Farm Girl raises the earth up as a character and asks questions about the work we choose to sustain us—how careful attention and devotion to the earth transcends human tragedy.

“A startlingly lovely memoir . . .” —Jodi Picoult

“This is a book about groundedness, I think — about the soil into which one can sink one’s feet when the going is impossible. It’s a remarkable account.” —Bill McKibben

“. . . Crews has written [Bluebird], a book of love poems: to the Earth, to rural living, to his community, to his husband, and to each one of us.” –Shari Altman, Literary North

James Crews’ work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun Magazine, Ploughshares, and The New Republic, as well as on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in Writing & Literature from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the author of four collections of award-winning poetry, including The Book of What Stays (Prairie Schooner Prize and Foreword Book of the Year Citation, 2011), Telling My Father(Cowles Prize, 2017), Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of several anthologies of poetry: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection; and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. He leads Mindfulness & Writing retreats online and throughout the country, and works as a creative coach with groups and individuals. He lives on an organic farm with his husband, Brad Peacock, in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

Lucas Farrell’s award-winning debut poetry collection entitled the blue-collar sun is the winner of the 2020 Sundog Poetry Book Award in Partnership with Green Writers Press and will be coming to bookstores and online in time for Earth Day, 2021.

“I love these poems. They’re both warmly familiar and also weird AF. They made my heart leap for the ordinary, fascinating world.”

Anais Mitchell


A wonderful review of the blue-collar sun by SevenDayspoetry critic Benjamin Aleshire

“That the recipient of Vermont’s newest poetry award is a farmer, equally comfortable shoveling manure and penning urgent existential verse, is an auspicious sign for literature in this corner of the world.”

About the Poet
Lucas Farrell lives in Townshend, Vermont, where he and his wife own and operate Big Picture Farm, a small hillside goat dairy and award-winning farmstead confectionery. His first book of poems, The Many Woods of Grief (University of Massachusetts Press), was awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry. He has two daughters.


Enjoy the summer reads & shop at those farmer’s markets!
If you feel like supporting one of our favorite, local farms . . .

The SUSU commUNITY Farm is an Afro-Indigenous stewarded farm and land-based healing center in Southern Vermont that elevates Vermont’s land and foodways.

“There is no liberation without community.”

—Audre Lorde