2019 Pride Outreach in Pictures

Every year, CAA sets up a table in Loring Park for two days, where we leaflet and conduct video outreach on behalf of animals, which reaches many people along the way. We had a blast at this year’s Twin Cities Pride Festival!

Pride is an ideal venue for sharing our message of compassion. The festival itself celebrates and is committed to expanding the circle of compassion to include the LGBTQ community and the people we reach there tend to be especially open to the idea of opening their hearts to the plight of farmed animals. After watching the video, one attendee said, “I wanted a burger, now I just want fries.”

A volunteer said, “Some of my best conversations were with people who said they ‘couldn’t watch the video’—this led to some easy cognitive dissonance about ‘if you can’t watch it happen, should you really be comfortable eating it?’ Lots of people committed to making small, better choices.”

Over the course of the weekend, we gave away more than 1,500 leaflets sharing the truth about animal agriculture and compassionate living and got more than 520 views from individuals and groups of viewers—wow!

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped with outreach and to Emily Nyberg for taking these photos!

Diet and Climate: Where’s the Beef?

the world map painted onto two human hands

When I became a vegetarian in 1992, it was all about the animals. I love animals and had never really thought about the fact that their lives were being brutally taken to give me life. I mean, how could we with fun e/McDonald’s songs that we sang on the school bus and kitschy commercials from Wendy’s that had my classmates joking around in the cafeteria with one another by asking, “Where’s the beef?” 

While I knew I was still contributing to animals’ suffering by being a vegetarian, I didn’t quite understand how I was still causing them to die until I learned what happened to the male calves and chickens when they were born. So a few months later, I transitioned to being vegan. The environmental and health reasons for being vegan were extra bonuses.

A Destructive Industry — For All

However, when I actually started doing research last year on how much environmental destruction is being caused by animal agriculture, I realized this wasn’t just an afterthought at all. This could also be a primary reason why people choose to eat a plant-based diet, or at the very least, a plant-rich diet.  

For example, did you know that agriculture uses 18% of our fossil fuels? If you’re buying an electric car to keep fossil fuels in the ground, changing our diets is actually more affordable and accessible for everyone. Also, in the United States alone, 87% of our freshwater is used in agriculture, and that number is a staggering 70% worldwide. Factor in the water contamination of pesticides and the antibiotics that are given to the animals, and how much is actually remaining for human consumption? 

And then there’s the fact that the dairy and meat industries use 38% of our land throughout the world. Think about how much of that land could be used for reforestation, carbon sequestration and even feeding the world. 

In 2010, the United Nations came out with a report that recommended people change to a meat and dairy-free diet. At that time nine years ago, the meat and dairy industry was responsible for “9% carbon dioxide emissions, 37% methane, and 65% nitrous oxide” (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010). In 2019, those percentages have increased, with the latter two gasses being 25 and 300 times more poisonous than carbon dioxide. 

With those kinds of numbers in mind, last October the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shocked the world with their revelation that in 12 years, it will be too late to turn things around. In fact, we need to be in the process of turning them around within the next couple of years so that we aren’t raising the temperature of our planet any more. With all of this critical information, I was determined to start making a difference in my community by focusing on the connections between food and climate change.

Community Change Adding to Global Change

So as a part of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC), which is a city commission that advises Mayor Frey and City Council on environmental issues, I formed a subcommittee on food and climate change. Some things I’m starting to work on are changing the ordinance so people can grow food on their boulevards, getting free community gardens into every city park, and being a part of the creation of the Food Action Plan

In 2013, CEAC helped with the creation of the Climate Action Plan, which is a roadmap for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. At that time, there was no mention of food in the plan, which is why it’s critical that it’s being added now. 

Homegrown Minneapolis is hosting meetings for the public to be a part of, and the next meeting is July 24 at Eastside Neighborhood Services, with the topic being Diets and Community Demand. If people show up en masse to show we care about all the impacts of animal agriculture, including the fact that Plant-Rich Diet is the number 4 solution (out of 100) for reducing carbon dioxide in our world that was identified in a report called Drawdown. Researchers from around the world proposed a comprehensive plan filled with 100 significant and existing solutions to reverse climate change. 

The Plant-Rich Diet is Part of the Solution

Plant-Rich Diet was the solution that a few of us from Compassionate Action for Animals were working with when we wrote up a proposal for MN350 to add it as a solution to their newly formed Solutions Team last year. This was not an easy road, and it was difficult to understand objections to a solution that would encourage people to do the thing that the organization was created for, reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

However, if you look at environmental organizations around the country, it is very rare to find one that is willing to take on a plant-rich diet (even plant-based is now seen as a bad term, and don’t even get me started on how people react to “vegan”). With that being said, I’m thrilled that the MN350 Solutions Team is now able to work on Plant-Rich Diet as a part of our campaigns. 

We Need YOU!

BUT, and this is a big BUT, we need YOU there! We need people who are concerned about the environment and diet to show up at our meetings so that our committee of two or three can be a committee of ten or twelve and start getting things done. We need environmental nonprofits to see that community members care about animal agriculture and how it impacts our planet every moment of every day. 

So what can you do to make a difference, other than eating a plant-rich diet?

  • Join me on the Food and Climate Change Subcommittee for the Community Environmental Advisory Commission. We’ll meet once a month, with a time to be determined. My contact information is below.
  • Come to a Community Environmental Advisory Commission meeting, and let us know that you are concerned about the impacts of food and our environment. If you have specific ideas as to what we can do at the city of Minneapolis level, bring those too. Our meetings take place at a different location each month so check our website. 
  • Attend one or more of the Food Action Plan meetings! 
  • Join MN350’s Solutions Team! We meet every other Thursday at the MN350 office in South Minneapolis, and our next meeting is July 18. Check out our website for more information!
  • Educate others about the impacts of eating animal products. Encourage them to try at least one thing to make a change, whether that be eating smaller portions of meat, participating in Meatless Monday or going completely plant-based. (Oh, and please let the grass-fed beef eaters know that it isn’t as rosy of a solution as they’ve been taught to believe.)
  • If you or someone else does need a mentor for changing your eating habits, Compassionate Action for Animals has a program to help you make small changes or big ones. Whatever you want to do, that’s what they’re there for!

I’m super excited about inviting you all on this journey with me, and if you have any questions, please send me an email at michelle.shaw@exploreveg.org.

Just as the animals need us to save them, the planet needs us too, and we can’t afford to wait one more minute to rise up and act.

Keiko’s Kitchen brings alkaline food to the Twin Cities

Written by Maya Ulrich

Mykela Jackson, the owner of Keiko’s Kitchen, has a vision which has become her business’s slogan—to create “real food for the soul.”

With her pop-ups, she is working to break down traditional soul food into creative, colorful, and accessible plant-based dishes that the black community can try—in a way that is not confrontational or offensive. 

Jackson recognizes that the food the black community often has access to commonly perpetuates food oppression dating back to slavery in America. “I want to bring awareness that the foods that we are eating and are readily available to us are not good for us,” Jackson explains, noting that she hopes to create food that supports nutritious eating and healthy lifestyles.

Jackson believes that by breaking down the traditional idea of soul food the black community can build progressive relationships with each other and with the foods they eat. To accomplish her goal, she started collaborating with Breaking Bread Cafe. Breaking Bread’s food advisors helped her develop a schedule to host Keiko’s Kitchen pop-ups at the cafe while still maintaining her day job and other responsibilities.

Jackson has also helped open up the door for other vegan entrepreneurs to partner with Breaking Bread, helped increase vegan options at the cafe, and she has also helped money go back into the black community by supporting the development of black-owned businesses. In fact, she has just signed a residency contract with Breaking Bread for every other Thursday starting August 1st.  

Mykela follows the Dr. Sebi diet which, in addition to being vegan, states that natural alkaline plant foods and herbs can control acid levels in the body and prevent disease. Jackson sees this diet as the key to health because it uses the power of food to transform communities, both through physical health and environmentally sustainable foods. 

In addition to supporting the alkaline movement, Jackson is trying to make her business as holistic as possible. Initially, her business was formed on the basis of health and breaking away from the chains of oppression and white supremacy. However, as she continues to grow Keiko’s Kitchen she wants to make animal advocacy and environmental activism even more a part of the business’s mission. 

Volunteer Shout-Out: 2019 Festival Planning Committee – Part 1

Dedication, creative vision, and passion. The Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee is short on none, and it shows—our festival has grown to be the largest Veg Fest in the Midwest, attracting over 9,000 attendees in 2018.

As the festival has grown in size, so has the committee! Over 20 people are working on this year’s festival to make sure that every detail is taken care of.

Some members are serving on the committee for the first time, while others have returned to help make this year’s festival the biggest and best yet and they can’t wait for you to experience it. This week, meet part of the team behind this year’s festival.

Suzy Sorensen

What’s your role on the festival planning committee?

Coordinating speakers to get new info out to attendees! Hope to inform and motivate those at Twin Cities Veg Fest. 

How did you get involved with Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I was on the planning committee for the precursor, Their Lives Our Voices (TLOV) conference, not sure how many years ago! But have continued to be part of the event in some capacity ever since. 

If you’ve been or helped organize before, what is your favorite part of the festival and what, if anything, is going to be different this year?

I love the great positive energy! So many kind-hearted, open-minded folks in one place. That’s been a constant! 

What (or who) drew you to living a veg lifestyle?

I met a lobster and it changed my life. 

When you’re not working on planning the festival, what are you up to? 

Keeping up with my business, Move2Veg Nutrition. But also puppy sitting, reading, traveling, enjoying the garden and its wildlife! 

Mitch Thompson

What’s your role on the festival planning committee?

I am this year’s assistant chair. There was a lot learned from last year’s successful move to Harriet Island. With a better understanding going in this year of the space, we will have an even better festival in 2019.

How did you get involved with Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I volunteered early on and things just grew from there. 

If you’ve been or helped organize before, what is your favorite part of the festival?

Just seeing it come together and the constant flood of people makes all the work worth it. 

What (or who) drew you to living a veg lifestyle?

My wife. 

When you’re not working on planning the festival, what are you up to? 

I am very busy these days, first working in the film/tv industry. I serve on several boards, including Compassionate Action for Animals (which puts on Twin Cities Veg Fest). The other boards are the HumanistsMN, and DEMO (Diverse Emerging Music Organization). I also play drums in a band called Umbrella Bed that I also help manage.

James Peña

What’s your role on the festival planning committee?

As Volunteer Co-Coordinator, I am responsible for recruiting, training, and organizing volunteers working at this year’s festival.

How did you get involved with Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I attended Twin Cities Veg Fest for the first time in 2017 and decided to become a volunteer in 2018.

If you’ve been or helped organize before, what is your favorite part of the festival and what, if anything, is going to be different this year?

My favorite part of the festival is that it builds community among like-minded people and raises awareness of the vegan movement.

What (or who) drew you to living a veg lifestyle?

I am thankful for the recent surge of plant milks and other specialty foods that have helped me make the switch after being vegetarian for a decade.

When you’re not working on planning the festival, what are you up to? 

My interests include leftist politics (I highly recommend the Vegan Vanguard podcast), working out, and taking naps. 

Shannon Lasnetske

What’s your role on the festival planning committee?

My role in the committee is as Volunteer Co-Coordinator, so James and I have been setting up the website for volunteers so that they can easily sign-up there to volunteer with us. We will also be organizing volunteers when we get closer to the event and working with them on the day of the festival.

How did you get involved with Twin Cities Veg Fest?

This is my first year being involved with the Twin Cities Veg Fest! Last year I attended the festival for the first time and I loved it so much. This time I’m so excited to actually be a part of it. I got involved through Laura, who I had met through events with CAA on the University of Minnesota campus.

If you’ve been or helped organize before, what is your favorite part of the festival and what, if anything, is going to be different this year?

I haven’t helped out with organizing the event before, but my favorite part of the Twin Cities Veg Fest is, of course, all the food! I think that this year there will be even more people then there have been in the years before, which is really exciting. It’s always great to see so many vegans and vegan vendors, so I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out this year.

What (or who) drew you to living a veg lifestyle?

When I was 17 I read a book called “Skinny Bitch” and it ended up being all about veganism, which I had never really heard about before. I ended up doing my own research and felt that I had no choice but to adopt a vegan lifestyle after everything I learned. Going vegan was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

When you’re not working on planning the festival, what are you up to? 

I’m studying! I study chemistry, French, and Arabic at the University of Minnesota. This summer I’m taking classes as well as working as a medical scribe and volunteering in the hospital whenever I can. I love going to the lake and spending time with my friends, but most of my time this summer has been spent in the library for sure!

Sam Barba

What’s your role on the festival planning committee?

I am Music Coordinator for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2019. My main focus is greatly increasing the focus of the music aspect of the festival, growing the volume of attendees, making sure everything on the main stage runs smoothly, booking acts, and creating an incredible event out of the After Party!

How did you get involved with Twin Cities Veg Fest?

2019 would be my first year! I reached out to Laura, Nathan, and Mitch, desiring to bring my expertise to the table, and help grow the music aspect of the festival. I’ve worked in music fest production for five years, and want to start marrying that community with the vegan community. My hope is to introduce more people to the vegan community, open their minds to a new lifestyle, and create lifelong vegans and activists.

If you’ve been or helped organize before, what is your favorite part of the festival and what, if anything, is going to be different this year?

I have not helped with this event in past years, but I am incredibly excited to announce that the music will be growing dramatically from 2018. Most people I talk to didn’t even realize there was music last year. It was a small tent stage, with a 4 track mixer. This year, we will be renting out the Target Stage and making the live performances a much stronger focal point of the fest.

What (or who) drew you to living a veg lifestyle?

When I was 16 years old, a woman gave me a PETA2 DVD at Vans Warped Tour. I had no idea what it was, watched it when I got home, fell down a nearly 4-hour rabbit hole of a documentary, and the rest is history.

When you’re not working on planning the festival, what are you up to? 

For my day job, I am an Executive Account Manager for an amazing company, called Modern Coin Mart. We are the #1 source in the world for Scarce and Rare Collectable Coins.

My side hustle and passions include a production team I partner in, Romerdome Familia, doing music festivals throughout the summer, and homegrown events through the winter. This winter, we will be airing live on local television! I also play in two bands, Sammy Strings & The Can of Bliss, and The Bad Shine.

Lastly, I spend all of the rest of my time, loving my companion animals, protesting and volunteering for animal advocacy, am a Board Member for Rooster Redemption Animal Sanctuary, and of course, enjoy spending time with my lovely girlfriend, Ashley Riddle; of which I am so proud! She is the Program Director for Animal Rights Coalition and works so hard for animal advocacy.


Twin Cities Veg Fest is our biggest event of the year, and we need lots of enthusiastic volunteers to help make it a success. Sign up here to be a volunteer and help make this awesome vegan Minnesota get together happen!

Bringing Veganism to the Minnesota State Fair

Written by Florence Brammer

When I moved to Minnesota in the early ’80s, one of the first things I grew to love was the Minnesota State Fair.  Though never a farm girl myself, I was born and raised in Indiana and enjoyed entering Indiana State Fair creative activities competitions as a 4-H’er in the 1960s.  

When I moved to Minnesota from New York, I was happy to learn that adults could participate in the creative competitions of the Minnesota State Fair, and promptly began entering baked goods and other creative activities entries on an annual basis.

In 2010—as a direct result of attending the third Compassionate Action for Animals’ “Their Lives Our Voices” Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference—I made the decision to transition from a vegetarian to a vegan diet and lifestyle.  

After making the decision to be vegan, I immediately began to lobby the Minnesota State Fair to include a vegan baking category to its competitive baking categories. While the fair officials declined to create a vegan baking category, they did agree to create a Vegan Main Dish category, beginning with the 2011 fair.

What’s the Vegan Main Dish contest?

As only the second state fair in the country as of 2011 to have a competitive vegan cooking category (Iowa was the first), the Minnesota State Fair’s decision received wide and favorable attention in local and national press.

The number of entrants has grown annually, and thanks to the creation of this category and the participation of fair fans, thousands of fairgoers are able to see the wide-ranging appeal and variety of plant-based, cruelty-free main dishes.

How to enter

Entering a vegan main dish in the state fair is free, easy and fun. And you might even win a ribbon, a small stipend and—if you are the first-place winner—an additional special prize, the Twin Cities’ own Robin Asbell’s newest vegan cookbook, Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-to-Go Recipes.

All the information you need to enter can be found here. Look at Special Contest #1085 for all the details. Pre-registration is required by August 6.

See you at the Fair!     

Vegan Recipe Club – A Few Hints for July 2019

Written by Henry Patterson

Planning on coming to the Vegan Recipe Club on July 16? Here are a few hints for some of the selected recipes to get you started:

Purple Potato Salad with Whole Grain Mustard from “The Vegucation of Robin” on page 136

July is the start of the Potato season, and August is typically the peak but you can still find Purple Potatoes around town.

At this time of the potato season you might find the purple potatoes to be on the small size, so consider doubling the quantity from 4 to 8 depending on the size of potatoes you find.

Check your local farmer’s markets starting June 29 to see if they are readily available.

I found purple potatoes in a variety pack at Lund & Byerly’s (Terrific Trio – Little Potato Company brand). I’ve been told variety packs with purple potatoes are also available at Trader Joe’s. I’ve seen a variety pack from Melissa’s Gemstone Potatoes which also has purple potatoes. You may only find 4-5 small purple potatoes in the variety packs, though. If you can’t find something in the store, check with the produce manager at your local grocery store, they might be able to order for you to pick up locally.

Blueberry Cobbler with Lime and Coconut from “Whole Food Heaven in a Bowl” on page 124 (optional recipe)

The original recipe is vegetarian, not vegan. Here are some substitutions we recommend to make it vegan (and gluten-free!).

Replace the 1/2 cup unsalted butter with one of the following:

  • 1/2 cup of Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup of refined coconut oil, softened

Replace the 1 cup of whole milk with one of the following:

  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of lite coconut milk
  • 1 cup of other non-dairy milk (i.e. almond, soy, rice milk, etc.) look for unflavored or plain varieties

Replace the optional ice cream/whipped cream with one of the following:

  • Vegan ice cream, (Soy Dream, Rice Dream or something similar)
  • Vegan Whipped Cream, Reddi Whip makes a few non-dairy whipped creams (almond and coconut, etc.)

If you’re planning on making the recipe gluten-free:

Replace the 2 cups of whole wheat self-rising flour with a gluten-free flour blend OR try out this gluten-free flour blend recipe:

  • (Whisk together all of the following)
    • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
    • 1 cup sweet rice flour (Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour works well, and is available at most Asian Markets, and some larger grocery stores)
    • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (tapioca starch)
    • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder 
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Vegan Recipe Club – Getting Started

Written by Henry Patterson

What is the Vegan Recipe Club?

The Vegan Recipe Club is for everyone—those curious about vegan cooking and those more experienced with it.

It’s a chance to build community with fellow participants and try making some great new food!

It’s also a chance for CAA to connect with folks who might be shy about attending our events but feel comfortable learning about veganism in a library setting.

And we know all the benefits a vegan lifestyle can have. This club will help the animals and the environment, and potentially people’s health.

Recipes are being chosen with an eye toward supporting folks from communities of color who are experiencing health disparities.

The club is also an opportunity to help the East Lake Library branch and the community by participating in and promoting the use of the library collections.

How does it work?

In the month prior to the Vegan Recipe Club Meeting, head on over to the East Lake Library (2727 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN) and pick up a copy of the recipes to peruse or check out the cookbooks for use at home.

Try making one or more of the recipes then come to share and discuss what you thought about them with the group.

If you have questions about the recipes or the Vegan Recipe Club before the first meeting, message the Compassionate Action for Animals Facebook page or email info@exploreveg.org.

Who is it for?

The Vegan Recipe Club is for Vegans, Vegetarians, Flexitarians, those who do Meat-Free Mondays, dieters, and everyone else. It’s for non-cooks, novice, and expert cooks alike.

Maybe you want to attend because you:

  • Are interested in going vegetarian or vegan
  • Have children, family, or friends who’ve gone vegan or vegetarian and you’d like to offer them more than a salad to eat
  • Are willing to share veg cookbook recipes and/or web recipes with a group of like-minded people
  • Are open to sharing vegan recipes you’ve tried and review cookbooks
  • Have questions about a recipe you’ve seen and would like to try out
  • Are willing to share tips and discoveries with others
  • Have another reason!

When is it?

The Vegan Recipe Club meets on the third Tuesday of every month from 6:30pm – 7:30pm. The sessions planned for 2019 are:

  • July 16
  • August 20
  • September 17
  • October 15
  • November 19

Where is it?

East Lake Library
2727 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406

About the Facilitator

My name is Henry Patterson. Like many, I didn’t grow up as a vegan or vegetarian but did grow up with a love and respect for animals. I am a board member and volunteer at Compassionate Action for Animals.

What drew me to veganism?

My younger brother became a vegetarian first, and after he read Diet for a Small Planet 1971, by Frances Moore Lappé he challenged me to make the switch. It took a little convincing, but I did. I started as a pescetarian (some seafood, but primarily a vegetarian diet). The benefits were improved health, including reducing the risk of colon cancer that runs in my family.

I switched to a 100% vegan diet seven years ago, in June 2012, and haven’t looked back since.

Why the interest in the Vegan Recipe Club?

Like my entire family, I have always loved to cook and have cooked for friends and coworkers for years. My favorite dishes have changed over time, but soups, stews, curries, French Ratatouille, and tofu scrambles remain amongst the ones I love to make and share.

Recipes for July 2019 discussion

The 4th of July Holiday is coming up and it might be the perfect opportunity to try out your cooking skills on family and friends.

Enjoy the recipes and feel free to share photos of your creations with CAA on Facebook or Instagram @exploreveg.

Marrekesh-Blend Squash Soup from “The Vegucation of Robin”

“The Vegucation of Robin”

Find it at the library (Quivers, Robin, and Rachel Holtzman. The Vegucation of Robin, 2013) or on Amazon.

Ratatouille from “The Vegucation of Robin”

“Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl”

Find it at the library (Bailey, David, and Charlotte Bailey. Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl, 2017) or on Amazon.

Thanks to:

  • Anna Zillinger and Ayanna Muata, Hennepin County Library staff at East Lake Library branch, for all their work in planning and supporting the program.
  • The Vegan Recipe Club is based on the Vegan Cookbook Club which was started in December 2016, at the Mount Royal Branch of the Duluth Public Library (DPL). The Duluth project was initiated by Bonnie Ambrosi and Alicia Peterson and continues thanks to Bonnie’s leadership. Thanks to Bonnie for reaching out to CAA about the idea of starting something similar.
  • Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) for promoting outreach and education programs that support and build an animal-friendly community in the Twin Cities.

CAA Awarded 2019 Effective Animal Advocacy Fund Grant

Compassionate Action for Animals received a Grant for the Effective Animal Advocacy Fund in 2019

We’re excited to announce that Compassionate Action for Animals has been selected as a grant recipient of Animal Charity Evaluators’ Effective Animal Advocacy Fund!

Thanks to this grant of $40,000, we’ll be one step closer to hiring a community organizer to support the growth of plant-based eating and animal advocacy in Twin Cities communities of color.

We want to make sure that we can support this position for several years and are exploring partnerships and additional funding to make this a reality.

If you have thoughts or want to be involved, please email Laura Matanah.

This grant will enable CAA to build on its work of the past two years including:

  • Leadership from Latinx volunteers in organizing our Cinco de Mayo video outreach
  • Support of Coco and Lala’s work to expand plant-based eating in the African-American community (check out our 2019 events!)
  • A new Vegan Cookbook Club program in partnership with the Hennepin County Libraries which will include recipes and thoughts about animal-rights and veganism written by people of color
  • The Wholesome Minnesota program, which increases plant-based food offerings in institutions such as schools which serve communities of color
  • Expansion of the Explore Veg Mentor Program

You can learn more about the grant and process by clicking on the image above.

Vegan Teen Spirit! – Growing Up Vegan Part 4

Written by Suzy Sorensen, RD, LD, CDE

Vegan teens should choose a variety of foods and aim for a balanced plate including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes at most meals. Teens can meet all their nutritional needs through a mindfully planned vegan diet!  

Research shows that vegan and vegetarian teens tend to be well-nourished compared to their non-veg peers. Generally, they have lower cholesterol, lower risk of obesity, and healthier weight for height. Vegan teens eat less fast food, fewer salty and sweet snacks, and have a higher intake of fiber, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

One other health benefit that has been observed: vegan teens often have a later onset of menstruation which is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.

Studies suggest there is no difference in growth between vegan teens and their non-veg peers. Teens do have higher calorie needs than adults to support growth, needing as much as 50% more calories than their parents. For girls, once menarche is reached, their calorie needs decrease as growth slows.

There are a few key nutrients that are important at this critical stage of growth. See the table (on right) for details (1). Food is always the first choice, but a once-daily vitamin may be helpful to assure micronutrient needs are consistently met.

Vegan athletes usually need additional calories to support physical activity. It’s easy to add in snacks like trail mix, mixed nuts, dried fruits, smoothies, crackers with nut butter or hummus, or healthy granola bars to meet the needs of growing teens on the go.

It’s increasingly easier for vegan teens to “match” what their non-veg peers are eating to decrease the potential for feeling different or left out. Vegan pizza, burgers, burritos, corn dogs, nuggets, and more are available at grocery stores, and more and more restaurants and food trucks offer vegan versions of classic favorites.

While it is important to respect a teen’s need for privacy and independence, it is fair to expect participation in family mealtime including responsibility for helping with meal prep or clean up and sharing the meal.

Teenage years can be an exciting time for exploring independence and learning about one’s place in the larger world! Many teens from non-veg families choose to try a vegetarian or vegan meal plan as they learn about the environmental impact of raising animals used in the food industry and the ethics of consuming them. Others teens who have grown up in a vegan family might experiment with eating meat away from home as they make more independent choices and are influenced by peers. As Brenda Davis R.D. and Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D. say in their great reference book, Becoming Vegan, “For parents, this is a great time to learn a lesson about boundaries and letting go.”

However, we can provide a foundation of compassion and healthy eating that allows teens to make informed choices and encourages plant-based eating!

(1) Adapted from the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group resource on Vegetarian Teens.

Please note: This information, while accurate, does not provide an all-inclusive feeding plan and is not intended to substitute personal medical advice. It is intended to offer guidance only. We recommend working with a registered dietitian to help meet any specific questions you may have.


Suzy Sorensen is a Twin Cities-based Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who is passionate about plant-based eating! She has a Certificate of Training in Vegetarian Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and opened Move2Veg Nutrition Counseling in 2009 to support those interested in plant-based eating. For more information, visit move2veg.com.

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