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Plant-Based Eating: Nutrition Basics

Adopting a plant-based lifestyle has never been easier. We now have many resources such as cookbooks, blogs, nutrition books, and food products readily available. As a registered dietitian and someone that has made the transition to a plant-based diet, I think it’s important for individuals to go at their own pace when it comes to making dietary changes.

From a health perspective, vegan and vegetarian diets are safe and can even be beneficial for all age groups. Like any healthful dietary pattern, it is important to choose the right foods. For example, fried potato chips, Oreo cookies, and soda don’t contain animal products. They’re vegan, but they’re definitely not healthy! It’s important to fill your plate with wholesome food in order to get the most benefit from plant-based eating. There have been many research studies of people that follow plant-based diets, and it appears that vegetarian and vegan diets are associated with lower rates of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and a variety of cancers, all of which plague our country today.

When switching to a more plant-based diet, these are some of the questions that are often asked regarding nutrition:

  • Where do I get protein?
  • How do I get calcium?
  • Should I take a B12 supplement?

The simplest approach is to make sure you are eating enough food, taking a B12 supplement, and consuming a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. If you follow these simple guidelines, then you can rest assured that you’re consuming an adequate amount of nutrients for your body to thrive.

I recommend educating yourself with some plant-based eating basics before you dive into it. This table provides a brief overview of key nutrients to consider when adopting a plant-based diet.

Nutrient Purpose Foods
Protein Tissue maintenance, growth, cellular function Lentils, beans, peanuts, soy, nuts, nut butters, seeds, whole grains (e.g. quinoa, oats, wild rice, buckwheat)
Iron Growth and development, brain development; a critical component of the hemoglobin structure that carries oxygen throughout the body Beans, lentils, tempeh, nuts, whole grains, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables

*Pair with vitamin C rich foods (e.g. citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables) to help increase iron absorption

Zinc Immunity and wound healing; growth, development, and cellular metabolism Lentils, beans, cashews, almonds chia seeds, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast.
Calcium Benefits bones, teeth, muscle movement, nerve signaling, and hormone and enzyme production Kale, collards, broccoli, mustard greens, bok choy, figs, oranges, calcium-set tofu, fortified plant-based milks, blackstrap molasses, tempeh, almonds
Omega 3 Blood clotting, cell membrane structures in the brain, reducing inflammation, and preventing heart disease Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, soy, expeller pressed canola oil
Vitamin B12 Critical for the brain and nervous system; not getting adequate vitamin B12 can result in irreversible damage Fortified plant-based milks, fortified nutritional yeast, Take a 500 mg supplement daily or a 1,000 mg twice a week

*Vegan or not, all people over the age of 50 should take a B12 supplement.

This article was originally published in the 2015 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living.

Kristina DeMuth, R.D., featured on the cover of the 2015 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living

Kristina DeMuth is a Master of Public Health, Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She currently works full-time as the Social Media Director for, a non-commercial, science-based public service. Visit to learn more.


  1.  American Academy of Pediatrics (2014). Vegetarian Diets for Children.
  2.  Amit, M., Canadian Paediatric Society, & Community Paediatrics Committee. (2010). Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. Paediatrics Child Health; 15(5), 303-314.
  3.  American Dietetic Association and Dietitians & Dietitians of Canada (2003). Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association; 103, 748- 765.
  4.  Tantamango-Bartley, Y., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Fan, J., & Fraser, G. (2013). Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk Population. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention; 22, 286- 294.


3 Pathways to Compassionate Conversation

Going vegan or vegetarian and feeling stressed out about how to talk with friends and family about it? How do you share your plant-based journey in a way that feels good?

We’ve got some ideas for you. These general principles for compassionate communication were shared last fall when we were getting ready for the holidays. We were anticipating some of the awkward conversations that can happen around the family dinner table with our omnivorous peeps.

Now, during Twin Cities VegWeek, we’re sharing them again, hoping they inspire everyone who’s taking the Twin Cities VegPledge to consider how they can gracefully communicate with friends and family while they’re exploring a new way of eating.

Bottom line: If you don’t eat animals, that’s gonna set you apart from a lot of other people. And sometimes that’s a bummer.

Will you be asked why you don’t eat animals? Or where you get my protein? Or what you would eat if you were stranded on a desert island and your only choice would be to kill an animal or die? Probably.

Here are some savvy responses to those annoying questions, but be warned…memorizing the answers to those FAQs may not be what’s gonna lead to the most compassionate conversation.

Here’s a list of three general approaches that feel empowering to me. You can think of them as potential pathways to compassionate conversation. All situations are different, so you can adapt these to the circumstances in a way that feels right.

1. Choose your own adventure.

You could use this interaction as an opportunity to speak out for animals, or you could put that intention aside, especially if you think it could keep you from connecting with your loved ones and nurturing your relationships.

And if you are making those personal connections and the subject of what you eat (or don’t eat) comes up, then you’re arriving at the conversation from a more openhearted place, and that’s going to improve the chances for mutual understanding.

But even if the subject of your veganism doesn’t come up in conversation, rest assured that just by being you, eating your vegan food, you are going to have an impact. They are going to notice and think about their food choices.

Ultimately, you don’t have to feel compelled by anything but your own intention. How do you want to spend your time?

2. Engage in openhearted conversation.

If something on the subject of eating animals does come up, practice effective communication. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Listen at least as much as you are speaking.
  2. Ask questions. Be genuinely curious about who they are and what they think.
  3. Respect the person in front of you, even if you don’t agree with them. You have some core values in common. Bring the conversation back to that common ground to keep the connection.
  4. Let go of expectations. Rather than having an agenda for the conversation, just think of it as an opportunity for sharing and learning about one another.

And remember that you don’t have to know it all. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” Really, just say what’s true for you and speak from your own experience.

Also, you can always choose to bow out of the conversation or to postpone it for a later date. Remember that the dinner table is not always the best place to talk about what’s happening on factory farms, as people will likely be more defensive when they are eating animals. Suggest that you can talk about it more later.

If they show genuine interest in why you’re vegan, that’s surely a conversation worth having. But if they show no interest or worse yet just want to push your buttons, then you’re probably better off saving your energy for someone else, which brings me to the last point.

3. Use your energy strategically.

There’s probably a reason that I’ve been vegan fifteen years and none my family has yet gone vegan. And it’s not that I’m a bad animal advocate. I certainly have influenced at least a few friends and some strangers, but not family.

I’m no psychologist, but I’m guessing this has something to do with the complicated relationships with our loved ones. At this point, I’m aware of this dynamic, and so I put my energy where I think it will most likely yield results.

Consider logging onto and signing up for a volunteer shift at an upcoming outreach event. Channel the energy there. CAA and many organizations like it offer numerous opportunities to take action for animals. What’s more, the audiences they reach tend to be genuinely interested, and they’re not your family. To them, you’re just a friendly and passionate advocate for the animals. And they get to leave the conversation feeling informed, inspired, and empowered.

If it feels helpful to you to memorize some responses to the frequently asked questions, then go for it. Ultimately however, effective communication requires more nuance than that. It means being present, listening, being unconditionally compassionate. There’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all response for every situation.

In my experience, I find a slightly laid-back attitude with loved ones to be most effective. It’s the lead-by-example approach. (I also call it the sneaky vegan approach.)

Activism is work, and sometimes we do need to refresh ourselves so that we can return to that work with renewed energy. You get to put your passion for helping animals to use in whatever way you think will be most effective, and you can even choose to take a break from speaking out if you feel like you need one.

I look for ways that my activism can be sustainable and effective, and for me these approaches help me to feel that’s possible. I hope they feel helpful to you too.


Revealing the New Logo for Twin Cities Veg Fest

Check it out! Twin Cities Veg Fest, our annual celebration of compassion, has a new logo!

Why did we need a new logo?

While we thought the pig illustration in the previous logo was super cute, to the average omnivore, it looked like an advertisement for a pig roast. Not what we intended!

And looking forward to growing the festival further (we were at 7,000 last year!), we need a new visual brand identity that truly represents us and will keep drawing in the masses.

The previous logo

We want to give vegans an awesome experience of community, and we also want to bring in omnivores and show them how fun and delicious plant-based eating can be. In that way, the festival can have the biggest impact for the animals, which is our ultimate goal.

How did we create the new logo?

A few months ago, we met up with designer Danami Maurice Champion. He had just finished our new visual brand identity for Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA), and then he got to work on the festival logo.

Since Twin Cities Veg Fest is a program of CAA, they have much in common, operating with the same goals and core values. However, each has its own distinct vibe and attracts a slightly different audience.

The HB Doubles Down

We wanted a visual brand identity for the festival that communicates that it’s a fun, dynamic, and food-focused event. We also wanted to communicate that vegan food is not just fruits and veggies but can also include more decadent treats that some wouldn’t normally associate with the idea of eating vegan. (Remember the Herbivorous Butcher’s Doubles Down?!)

Danami got to work with these ideas in mind, and he delivered.

The new Twin Cities Veg Fest visual brand identity has arrived!

The playful font and arrangement of the words in this logo lockup capture the fun, dynamic quality of the festival.

Meanwhile, the colors for the new visual brand identity communicate a sense vibrancy and draw a bit from the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables:

To make it extra clear what we’re about, the posters and other promotional materials will incorporate a variety of doodles:

This iconography includes fruits and veggies, but there are also cupcakes and ice cream and burgers—all vegan of course! And the frying pan and sound speakers refer to the cooking demos and musical entertainment, which are other dimensions of the annual festival.

Just looking at the logo, colors, and iconography, one gets a sense of all that Twin Cities Veg Fest might include, enticing those in the Twin Cities to enjoy a day of vegan food and compassionate fun.

And you can save the date if you haven’t already! Prepare to join us on Saturday, September 16 from 11am to 5pm at Harriet Island Regional Park in St. Paul. This celebration of compassionate living just keeps growing, and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017, which drew more than 7,000 attendees to Como Park




How Thai Garden Became a Vegan Paradise

Two summers ago, my husband and I were just getting home from work, and we were very hungry. This was one of those days with temps in the 100s, and we were tired, hot, and HANGRY. We hopped on Yelp, did some searching, and found a few potential options.

We called one and asked if they had vegan options. The worker who answered the phone replied, “Vegan? What’s that? I mean yes, we have vegan options.” We said thanks and then ruled that place out.

The next place we called, Everest on Grand, said they have vegan options, but their AC went out earlier that day. Needless to say, we didn’t visit there, at least not that day.

Finally, we called Thai Garden. Ginger, the hostess answered and happily shared that they have vegan options—and air conditioning! So off we went, into the blistering heat for our journey. Not expecting much, we arrived and proceeded to enjoy the best Thai food that we’ve had in the Twin Cities.

Chef Long came out to speak with us and we got into a conversation about vegan food becoming more popular. The next thing we knew, he asked if I would be the official taster for the new vegan dishes he creates. Of course I said yes. Since that day, we’ve been there over thirty times. (My husband’s Yelp account is proof!)

Chef Long is at a point where he can make nearly every dish on the menu vegan, and it all started with us searching for a place to eat on a blisteringly hot summer day.

The best vegan dish you’ll find here is the Vegan Pho, which comes with homemade vegetable broth, thin rice noodles, veggies, and fried tofu. There’s also the Pad See Ew, a wide rice noodle dish with Chinese broccoli and fried tofu in a homemade vegan brown sauce. Hold the eggs!

Similar to the Pad See Ew is the Drunken Noodle. Google where the name came from—it’s hilarious! It’s a similar dish, except that the bell peppers are the stars in this dish. Once again, hold the eggs.

Their most popular dish is of course the Pad Thai. Leave off the eggs and this dish is otherwise naturally vegan. If you have a peanut allergy, no problem. They just won’t garnish your dish with them. If you’re a curry lover, you have five curries to choose from, even a curry Pad Thai. All of their regular entrées along with their fried rice dishes can be made vegan.

I would happily go on and on about their vegan options, but I hear your stomach grumbling. Just go on over and check them out. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed!

Join CAA for the April Dine-Out at Thai Garden on Wednesday, April 18.

Vegan on a Budget

Of all the assumptions concerning veganism, my least favorite is: “Eating vegan food is too expensive!” Although it is possible to eat expensive vegan food, it is equally easy to cultivate a diet that costs less than the standard omnivorous diet.

There are many choices for vegan restaurants, but cooking at home is often the most fun and affordable. Becoming vegan is a great way to explore new, cheap recipes. My meals typically cost $2.00 per serving.

Vegetables can be very cheap, especially if purchased in season or at farmer’s markets. Whole grains are another staple of most vegan diets, and they’re usually quite affordable.

Cheese and other dairy products tend to have relatively high prices and not many nutritional benefits. Leaving those off your grocery list is another way to save.

Many vegan protein sources are cheaper than meat protein.

Black bean salsa

Comparing Cost Per Pound

    • Lentils: $1.50
    • Black beans: $1.39
    • Tofu: $2.25
    • Chicken: $3.27
    • Beef: $3.00
    • Pork: $3.90

I could talk about the affordability of veganism all day long, but perhaps a recipe is most helpful. Vegan pizza is a great affordable option, and you don’t need to spend $20.00 at Pizza Lucé to get it!

Homemade vegan pizza

Homemade Vegan Pizza for Cheap!

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Mix pizza dough ($1), roll out, and set aside.
  • Prepare Soy Curls ($2) by soaking in water, coating with flour and/or seasonings, and cooking in a pan for a few minutes.
  • For the sauce, cook chopped onions ($1), greens ($0.75), and a pepper ($1.25). Add coconut milk ($1.60) and nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor ($0.40), as well as various spices such as cumin and red pepper flakes.
  • Assemble pizza and bake until the crust is golden and crispy.

Total Cost: About $8.00. This recipe should yield at least four servings, which comes out to $2.00 per serving.

From saving money by avoiding expensive meat and dairy products, to cooking your own vegan masterpieces, eating vegan can be absolutely affordable! My very first adventures in veganism were actually centered around saving money, learning afterwards that I could also save animals, my health, and the environment, all at once.

Online Resources for Cheap and Tasty Vegan Recipes

  • Budget Bytes
    • Though not completely vegan, this blog offers many ideas for plant-based recipes.
  • Plant Based on a Budget
    • This website include recipes, meal plans, videos, and more.

This article was originally published in the 2017 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living.

Shelby Schouweiler is a legal coordinator at a software agency in Uptown. She lives in Minneapolis with her compassionate vegan partner Adam and enjoys cooking, doing yoga, and volunteering with CAA.

Trio: Plant-Based Food for Everyone!

A new vegan restaurant is set to open in the Twin Cities later this year. Trio, co-founded by Sarah and Dan Woodcock and their friend, Louis Hunter, has already hyped up the vegan and foodie communities, evidenced by sold-out pop-up dinners based out of their shared North Minneapolis commercial kitchen.

Sarah Woodcock has received compliments on her food for years. When she went vegan six years ago, she was determined to create delicious plant-based food. Her years of practice have paid off. One guest complimented Sarah at a recent pop-up, saying that her lasagna was the best she had ever had. Made with ground “beaf,” homemade pasta sauce, and homemade ricotta and parmesan “cheeze,” it is the dish that Sarah is most excited about sharing. The Trio menu will also feature chapchae, a Korean dish, made vegan.

Sarah Woodcock and her vegan lasagna

Her passion for creating good food, combined with her commitment to justice, led her to co-founding Trio alongside her husband and friend. For Sarah, this new business endeavor is about more than food. It’s also about social justice. Sarah, Dan, and Louis aim to provide affordable, nutritious food as well as a welcoming environment. Sarah says they will provide employment opportunities to all and hopefully give some “a chance they might not get somewhere else.”

Clockwise from top right: salad with housemade ranch dressing; chickpea salad on romaine leaves; vanilla cake with strawberry sauce; lasagna with ground beaf, cashew ricotta, and housemade sauce

The next step for Trio is raising funds in order to purchase specific equipment and establish a good foundation for their operations. Their Kickstarter campaign started March 31 and runs for thirty days. The three hope to raise enough to secure a location and open as soon as possible once that location is customized to meet their needs.

All of us at CAA are thrilled to learn about Trio, yet another veg-friendly restaurant for the Twin Cities. It means that those in the area will have more options for vegan dining. We’re especially excited that this new venue aims to reach a diverse spectrum of patrons, giving even more people the opportunity to make choices that reflect their values of kindness and compassion for all.

We encourage you to support Trio’s Kickstarter campaign, which runs through the end of the month.

The 2018 Annual Banquet in Pictures

“Great job on a fun event! My favorite CAA banquet to date.”

“I just wanted to say how amazing that event was! The food was delicious, the speakers were engaging, the space was super nice, and everything went smoothly!”

We’re so glad to hear it! These are just a couple of rave reviews we got from folks who attended last Saturday’s Annual Banquet at The Blaisdell in South Minneapolis.

As revealed in the photo slideshow below, this year’s benefit for the animals was tons of fun, with more than a hundred in attendance and a delicious dinner catered by Root to Rise. Dessert was sublime, with cupcakes by Vegan East and ice cream donated by Ben & Jerry’s – South Minneapolis.

Acknowledging CAA’s 20th birthday, Executive Director Laura Matanah was joined by Jennifer Swick and Freeman Wicklund to give an inspiring overview of where the organization has been and where it’s going.

We’re very grateful to all who attended, volunteered, and donated auction items. We are also grateful for the generous gifts made to CAA throughout the evening. Some guests even joined our Circle of Care, making a commitment to help sustain CAA with a recurring monthly gift.

We’re happy to report that this year’s Annual Banquet raised more than $8,700 to help the animals! All we can say is wow, and thank you. Thank you for understanding how your support plays a vital role in how we can help animals.

If you couldn’t make it to the banquet and would still like to make a contribution, you are welcome to give today. You can also join our Circle of Care when you sign up to make a recurring donation of any amount.

Take the VegPledge for Twin Cities VegWeek!

Twin Cities VegWeek is coming up in just a couple weeks: April 16 – 22, 2018. Join us for this week-long celebration of all things veg!

You can participate by taking the Twin Cities VegPledge and attending one or more of our many fun and engaging Twin Cities VegWeek events.

What’s the Twin Cities VegPledge?

It’s an opportunity to try out eating vegetarian or vegan. Or, if you’re already vegan, you can pledge to get five friends to take the pledge. However you pledge, it’s a great chance to learn how to do better for the animals—either through exploring more plant-based eating or through inviting your friends to participate.

Sign up to take the pledge now!

Continue reading

The New Issue of Twin Cities Veg Living Is Here!

Want to learn how to get strong bones on a vegan diet? How female oppression and the dairy industry are interconnected? Why food access matters in creating a vegan world? Where to find the best vegan ice cream in the Twin Cities?

The answers to all these questions and more can be found in the latest issue of Twin Cities Veg Living, our annual 12-page magazine that shows the how and why of compassionate living.

Continue reading

Photos from the 9th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off

The 9th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off was a total blast! We gave the more than 300 folks in attendance a taste of compassionate living by way of vegan chili. See for yourself in the slideshow below.

Congratulations to our cook-off winners, Betsy Born and Edward Bosella. (Their recipes will be posted on our recipe archive soon!) And huge thanks to all of the contestants for providing amazing vegan eats for all to share. You really showed how easy, fun, and delicious vegan food can be.

Thanks also to the many volunteers who helped make this event a success. We couldn’t have done it without your support for planning, setting up, cleaning up, making extra chili, and more.

We’re also very grateful to all of our event sponsors, who generously provided their goods and services to help make this event a resounding success: Punk Rawk Labs, Tiny Footprint Coffee, The Herbivorous Butcher, Reverie Cafe + Bar, Crepe & Spoon, and The Sunshapes. Thank you!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who came to join in the fun. Whether you are new to vegan food or have been a part of the local vegan community for a long time, we hope you found inspiration and support in moving further down the path of compassionate living.

We also hope you’ll join us for our Annual Banquet at the Blaisdell on Saturday, March 31. With a gourmet vegan dinner catered by Root to Rise, this is a vegan culinary experience not to be missed. Get your tickets today!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

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Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

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Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

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Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library