Podcast: Adapting to the holidays as a vegan

It’s the holiday season, and many celebrations at this time of year focus on food!

More and more people are adding compassion to their festive meals by opting out of animal-based products and ingredients. In this special episode of The Informed Animal Ally, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault discuss their experiences adapting to the holidays after going vegan.

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

Preparing for a plant-based holiday

Chantelle: It’s the holiday season, so we wanted to talk about our experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan and maybe inspire others who are thinking of trying a plant-based holiday for the first time, or who are thinking of new plant-based ways of celebrating.

Read more: 10 tips for starting a plant-based diet

So let’s jump right in. How was your experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan?

Amy: Making my own food or if I have a holiday where I’m just spending it with vegan friends, that’s easy.

But the times that I first encountered holidays with extended family were pretty tricky to navigate. I really had to think through what my strategy was going to be in advance.

The first thing that I did was to set some clear expectations with my close family to say, it’s important for me to have food available for me at this event, and I really want to appreciate that food. So there’s different ways to do that. Essentially, I’m happy to go to the grocery store and buy things for myself, and this was at someone else’s house, so prepare my own food either before and bring it over or, or if there’s space for me to prepare it at the house.

And by doing that, I think I really set myself up for success because I wasn’t depending on others to accommodate my needs.

It also created the space for them to offer up to prepare some dishes that I could eat.

I’ve seen that play out a few different ways. At one holiday celebration, there was a meal that got provided for me, and it was very interesting because essentially I was expected to eat it and take it home with me because that’s how much my family was not interested in even thinking about a plant-based diet.

I think that speaks to the adaptation that can be required, but also the importance of opening it up to conversation.

Sharing the love

Chantelle: Absolutely.

I was actually really fortunate. I think my experience is a little bit different because I have not spent any holidays with extended family since going vegan, so it’s been pretty insular for me. My immediate family is very accommodating, which I’m really lucky about.

I think the best part for me has been, bringing my baked goods and being able to share them. People were very welcoming about it, even if they were hesitant at first.

Amy: I love that. I definitely have done that as well.

With another family that I spent holidays with, the approach that I took was, I will make dishes to share. I brought all the ingredients over, or in some cases, prepared some things in advance, so there were two types of stuffing.

And what was nice about that is everyone was sort of motivated by the idea of there being like novelty and different things to try, and so everyone was willing to try the dishes that I brought.

I think that was a good testament to the fact that plant-based eating can be a transition for people. Making dishes that you know, you know are going to be tasty and sharing that is a really nice way to have people start to shift the way they think about what plant-based food tastes like.

Read more: Adapting meals to be plant-based

Plant-based holiday favourites

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. And plant-based stuffing is delicious.

Amy: Oh yes. In terms of what I put into it, I like to use a good bread, like a vegan sourdough or whole grain, then mix that up with sweet potato and some potato and carrots, lots of herbs and rosemary, you can put cranberries in it and things like that.

It almost comes out like a roast.

Chantelle: That sounds so lovely. It has that holiday feel and it speaks to how much our celebrations tend to revolve around food and how much this is an opportunity to share our own plant-based recipes with others who are vegan and are also not vegan and thinking of adding more plant-based foods into their diets.

What’s your favorite plant-based holiday treat?

Amy: I’ve experimented so much with a lot of different things. I think the foods that I have a lot of fun making are things that maybe you would traditionally put dairy in.

Making something like a pumpkin pie is so much tastier than even a store-bought one that would maybe have dairy, and serving it with coconut whipped cream made with a whipped cream dispenser. The novelty of the experience as well of having really fresh coconut whipped cream makes the pumpkin pie that much more delicious.

Chantelle: That sounds fantastic. Coconut whipped cream is also amazing.

Amy: How about yourself?

Chantelle: I really liked adapting my childhood recipes to be plant-based.

When I was younger, we used to make Sweet Marie bars, which are rice crisp cereal, peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and I’ve now replaced the butter with vegan margarine and put a plant-based chocolate on top. And that is so delicious.

I also make chocolate coconut macaroons. They’re so good.

For me it’s about finding those nostalgic flavors, and adapting them has been actually super easy. I wrote an article for our PlantUniversity platform about replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients in a way that is very simple and sustainable.

Read more: Tips for vegan baking

Tips for a first-time vegan holiday

Amy: What advice would you give to someone having their first vegan holiday?

Chantelle: I would say find plant-based versions of the foods you already love.

There are more and more products available to find those plant-based versions of foods you love.

If you’re cooking homemade, it’s so much easier. So for instance, that stuffing you made sounds incredible. You can make roast veggies. There’s so many versions of a seitan roast online that you can find and incorporate those nostalgic flavors.

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think the best part is that you can also celebrate what you’re gaining; you’re adding all this love and care and compassion into your meal.

Read more: Tips for a plant-based holiday

What advice would you give?

Amy: I think there’s so much that gets complicated around holidays. I know that when we talk about holiday, it looks very different for every person. You might be spending it alone. You might be spending it with a huge group of people.

I would say overall, be kind to yourself, set reasonable expectations so that you don’t get stressed out or frustrated.

Focus on what experience you want to have. If you want to be spending time making food and en enjoying making food, do that. And you know, whether it’s you eating it or you sharing it, have it be that the experience itself is part of the joy. Maybe trying a new recipe or adapting one.

On the other hand, if it’s stressful to try to think about all of that, and maybe even like, you know, you feel you’re missing some of the dishes that you’re going to be surrounded by, find some kind of treat or something like that, that makes you feel good. That way you can still have that feeling of celebration in your own way.

Read more: Vegan winter desserts
Media Release

City of Vancouver can save money and help tackle climate change through plant-based foods, says report

VANCOUVER, Nov 3, 2021 – Vancouver City Council is considering a motion today that could help decrease spending, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve animal welfare. The motion would support recommendations from a recently released report by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), which highlights the impact the City of Vancouver can make by replacing 20 percent of their animal-based food purchasing with plant-based alternatives.

The report looks at the current food purchasing strategies for the City of Vancouver and outlines the annual cost and greenhouse gas emissions associated with foods typically purchased. By making a shift in their purchasing, the City of Vancouver could expect to save up to $99,000; 500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions; and the equivalent of nearly 400 farmed animal lives on an annual basis. The report outlines the impacts of three strategies that effectively replace 20 percent of animal-based foods purchased with plant-based alternatives.

“The evidence is clear that we need to shift our diets and our food system toward more humane and sustainable plant-based foods,” said VHS Campaign Director, Emily Pickett. “In Vancouver, the consumption of food makes up nearly half of the City’s ecological footprint, particularly from intensive agriculture producing meat and dairy products made from animals. There’s a lot of opportunity for positive change and we’re pleased to see this important discussion happening at the City of Vancouver level.”

The motion acknowledges that livestock farming is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions; the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has advised that a plant-based diet can help in the fight against climate change. It goes on to highlight how a shift toward more sustainable and healthy plant-based foods aligns with existing City of Vancouver priorities, including the City’s Climate Emergency Action Plan and the Healthy City Strategy. The motion recommends that Council direct staff to consider the policy options outlined in VHS’s “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level” report.

The full report can be accessed on the VHS website and the “Plant-Based Purchasing Savings for City and Climate” motion can be accessed on the City of Vancouver website.


For further information: Emily Pickett: 604-416-2902,

Related links:

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Blue Heron Creamery – Vancouver’s first plant-based cheese shop


Blue Heron Creamery launched in 2016 as a vegan cheese-making and event catering company, but recently Chef Karen McAthy and her business partner Colin Medhurst announced that they will shortly be opening Vancouver’s first standalone vegan-cheese shop. We talked to Karen about the new storefront operation and about the growing appeal of plant-based cheese.


How did Blue Heron Creamery start?

I had been the executive chef of Graze Vegetarian (a vegan restaurant that closed in 2015). During my time there, I had wanted to offer a vegan charcuterie or antipasto board, but I didn’t really love what was available in the stores with respect to dairy-free, vegan cheese options. I have a background in fermentation, and such, so I began searching for ways to make something I would want to eat and to offer. So began what is essentially the first stage of Blue Heron r & d. I was very fortunate during that time, in that I had a young cook/chef from another restaurant who knew I was doing fermentation and culturing and reached out to ‘stage’ and Katie became an integral part of that early research. 

In late 2015, I moved to another vegan restaurant, but the interest and demand for the cheeses and other foods didn’t stop, so I began thinking about what I wanted to do with this process. In 2014, I had been approached by New Society Publishers to write a book about vegan cheese-making, and since I was doing ongoing research for the book, I was making cheeses and sharing them. By the spring of 2016, I knew that Blue Heron was the name I wanted (I have an abiding respect, admiration and appreciation for herons) Then I had the great fortune to reconnect with Colin Medhurst at an Erin Ireland event, Mindful Movie night. Colin had been a regular guest at Graze along with his wife at the time, and I had done some recipes for one of their e-books for Feed Life, their nutrition and wellness company. 

Reconnecting with Colin, put the whole project into a new motion, and we were so incredibly blessed to have the help, support and effort from Eden Chan and Zoe Peled in our first effort to get the company into a more formal place, and since then it has been a constant sense of growth and demand, and a multi-faceted learning curve!


What was the response from Vancouver consumers?

I would say we’ve been so fortunate to have support from so many people. I never assume everyone will like everything, so I am always happy when our products are well received. We have some products coming, such as our blue cheeses, that we know won’t be everyone’s preference, but that is okay too. 

It’s an interesting time to be producing a product that we know will make some people very happy, invite some skeptics, and, well, all the usual things that come with being in the food industry. 


How difficult is it to create cheeses that have the same appeal as their dairy equivalents?

Well, this may seem surprising to say, but that hasn’t necessarily been my overt goal. I am more interested in understanding what the microbes want to do with the plant-based mediums and what flavours and textures will be the result. My goal has been more to create cheeses, free from animal products, that can stand on their own. Some will occasionally feel familiar or taste a little similar, and some of that is because the microbes doing the culturing produce those same kinds of flavour and texture in dairy cheeses. I work primarily with cultured cheeses and that is the focus of the cheeses Blue Heron will be offering. So, it is a bit of an invitation to not compare and contrast (though this will be a little inevitable), but to taste something for its own characteristics.

This is a little different than some of the other vegan cheese producers out there, who are doing the work of trying to capture some nostalgia and familiarity of things that folks miss or think they will miss.


What made you decide to open a storefront operation in Vancouver?

We weren’t actually seeking to open a storefront in Vancouver, or anywhere really (at least not at this stage). We were looking for a larger, non-shared space to produce, and this opportunity just came up and it seemed like we should just go for it. We are right beside Friendly Snackbar, another vegan (and gluten-free) spot with amazing treats, and we really enjoy working with the folks attached to that project and the Wallflower Modern Diner, where owner Lisa Skelton has been incredibly supportive and encouraging among many other things. And, the neighbourhood, Mt. Pleasant, has been my home for more than 10 years, so it has a lot of appeal. 


Will you be expanding your product range?  (Some examples? – What’s most popular now?)

I have developed more than 20 styles of cheese that we will be releasing gradually. Some take a long time to age and will not be ready for release until the fall. Others, like our Cumulus (a coconut milk based cheese, presented in several flavours), along with our Smoke’n’Spice (sort of like a young smoked gouda), Forest (earthy and mild smoky notes), our coconut yogurt, cashew/coconut sour cream, cultured and non-cultured butters, and some other products of the non-cheese variety. 

Later in the year, we will be releasing some of our more ’boutique’ cheeses, the ones that take longer to age and develop, like our Beachwood (an almond-based cheese), our Ardea Blue (an ashed and wine washed blue cheese), and a couple of varieties of  bloomy-rinded camembert. 


What has been the biggest challenge In launching a plant-based business?

How do I communicate hysterical laughter in writing? First, there is never just one big challenge in this kind of enterprise, and sometimes they overlap and can be overwhelming. Vancouver is an expensive city. So, finding affordable, suitable space is immensely difficult. Food costs are an ongoing challenge for anyone working in the food industry, and trying to be mindful of things like wanting to minimize waste, and remain attendant to Fair Trade issues, and meet all regulatory requirements requires constant attention. 

The growing nature of a business partnership is a challenge and pleasure all at the same time, and good partnerships require as much attention and care as good friendships or other human relations, and are essential to the core of the business, but this isn’t a ‘bad’ challenge, just the reality. 

And, we make cultured food products, so if inventory is getting low, we can’t just ‘make more’ and have it be ready the next day… so we have the challenge of trying to keep all the layers of production moving so that we can meet a constantly increasing demand. 

Also, I am not sure that these challenges are any different than any other food business, the only one that I haven’t mentioned yet, that is different than some of the others, is that we need to be ready to inform, educate, and speak to what we are doing much more often and at much more length than some other food businesses. At tasting events we have participated in (some of the Gala’s that we’ve been at), we are often asked many more questions and need to be prepared for that… but this is actually a pleasure and worth it. 


Who buys plant-based cheeses?  (Just vegans or is the appeal wider?)

Since I was at Graze and through until now, our client base has been fairly wide ranging. We have many vegans, of course, and quite a lot of vegetarians who are transitioning to vegan. But we have a number of clients who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy proteins, and we have a growing number of food interested, food curious people who are spending more time thinking about where their food comes from, how it is prepared, and who like trying new things. 


Do you think the market for plant-based food will continue to grow?

I think the numbers speak for themselves. I don’t think the increase in plant-based, vegan products or lifestyle choices will be a trend, such as cupcakes (peaked then dropped a bit). With the UN posting reports about the impact of animal agriculture, increasing water insecurity due to human engagement and politics, and ever mainstreaming of some of the animal ethics concerns, I think the growth will continue. The Plant-based Foods Association identifies the dairy free sector to be selling several billion dollars globally by 2020, and vegan cheese is looking at global sales of $3.5 billion by 2024. I think other issues will arise, as they always do with rapid shifts in consumer changes. Commodity prices for the ingredients used in these products, and for the products coming from sensitive political and developing nations will pose some challenging questions around extraction and ensuring human rights and wellness of those related communities will become larger topics I am sure. 


What do think is driving the interest in plant-based products? – Animal welfare, health concerns, environmental concerns?)

I think there is more than one factor. For many years, it could have been said to be the primary influence was personal health and wellness, then environmental, and then animal welfare and rights, but the hard, diligent, difficult and tireless effort of so many activists and researchers and lawyers on the ground have been steadily having deeper reach, (my opinion) within larger parts of mainstream society. Animal Justice (Anna Pippus as a rep for them), The Furbearers Association, Van Chicken Save (all here in Vancouver), do constant work in this area, and folks like David Isbister of Plantbase Food and Products, aligns his business with animal activism, and while there is ongoing exercised dialogue between this realm and detractors, this dialogue also creates the opportunity for shifts in perception. 

No major changes, or perhaps very few, didn’t come without a number of different forces at play.  


Where do you see Blue Heron Creamery in five years?

We hope to be widely distributing across Canada and the U.S., and have licensing of our method to other companies in other countries, and develop our food education and innovation components. The course I teach in conjunction with my first book, The Art of Plant-based Cheesemaking is routinely full, and we are looking to develop an online course, along with several other courses… and Colin, co-author of the Juice Truck book and a certified health coach, and I want to develop some other ideas. 

We also want to be in a place to mentor and develop other vegan cheesemongers, and help develop the methods and practices of craft vegan cheese-making evolve and be understood as an evolution of cheese-making craft itself. 

I have a personal goal that I have had for much longer than Blue Heron, Soil (I won’t say much more here right now), but I am hoping that somehow Blue Heron will allow that project to sprout and grow. 

Blue Heron will open at 2410 Main Street in February.

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Tell Health Canada it’s time to recognize the benefits of a plant-based diet

Food sources of complex carbohydrates, isolated on white background.

Your chance to stand up for a healthier, kinder and more sustainable diet for Canadians.

Health Canada is currently conducting a consultation on the Canada Food Guide, which makes important dietary recommendations for Canadians.  It only takes a few minutes to complete a brief questionnaire.

The questionnaire focuses on a number of questions related to health but also asks for general recommendations regarding diet (near the end of the survey).  Please stress the values and benefits of a plant-based diet.  Here are some suggested points:  

The Canada Food Guide should provide information on the specific benefits of a plant-based diet, which are well established by scientific evidence. These include: lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar; healthier weight and lower risk of cancer and diabetes. 

The Canada Food Guide should contain advice on how to transition to a plant-based diet, including specific information on how to replace animal protein with non-animal protein such as pulses.

The Canada Food Guide should provide information on the health, environmental and animal welfare implications of dietary choices. There is substantial scientific evidence showing that the overconsumption of meat is linked to poor health; that meat and livestock production causes environmental degradation, contributes to climate change and wastes resources; that intensive agriculture (factory farming) is inherently inhumane to animals.

Health Canada should actively promote the benefits of a plant-based diet and encourage its adoption by Canadians.  It should support concepts such as Meatless Monday, especially in schools, hospitals and workplaces, to familiarize Canadians with plant-based eating and its benefits.

Please click here to take part in the consultation, which runs until December 8, 2016.

Thank you for your support!

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Factory farming: A problem with solutions

A farmer veterinary walks inside a poultry farm

Two recent news stories underscore why factory farming must end and how some powerful interests are working to make that happen.

Last week, A new study found compelling  and disturbing evidence that a novel form of the dangerous superbug Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) can spread to humans through consumption or handling of contaminated poultry.

“We’ve known for several years that people working directly with livestock are at increased risk for MRSA infections, but this is one of the first studies providing compelling evidence that everyday consumers are also potentially at risk,” said one of the authors of the study.

Intensive farming practices, which often involve giving food animals low doses of antibiotics to encourage fast growth and compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions, has led to the spread of superbugs like MRSA.  Those same conditions, which billions of animals around the world must endure, are the reason animal advocates have called for an end to factory farming on animal welfare grounds.

Animal suffering and dangerous superbugs are, of course, not the only unwanted consequences of industrialized animal agriculture.  Intensive farming also degrades our environment, including contributing 14.5 per cent of all greenhouse gases to global climate change. It uses up huge amounts of land, water and energy.  And, not least, its end product is meat – the overconsumption of which can be damaging to human health.

The other related news story acknowledges these problems and offers solutions.  This week, a group of 40 investors managing $1.25 trillion in assets launched a campaign to encourage 16 global food companies to shift from selling meat to selling plant protein. “The world’s over reliance on factory farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis,” said the investor leading the initiative.

The meat and livestock sector is no longer just the target of grassroots activists and animal advocates.  The world, including the world of finance, is waking up to just how unsustainable this industry is.

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A chance to speak up for farm animals



The federal, provincial and territorial governments are asking for comments on plans for the future of agriculture in Canada, providing an opportunity to raise issues about the treatment of farm animals.

Phase 2 of the consultation is open until November 30 and includes options to fill in an online questionnaire, email your comments or write a letter. Please take the time to contribute your views about animal welfare and the future of animal agriculture.

The consultation refers to the government’s plan, called The Calgary Statement – the Next Policy Framework, which sets out several Priority Areas:

Markets and trade
Science, research and innovation
Risk management
Environmental sustainability and climate change
Value-added agriculture and agri-food processing
Public Trust

Following are some key points from our submission to the consultation (full submission here):

Markets and Trade

Canada should develop markets for plant-based protein instead of animal-based protein, which contributes to environmental degradation, is resource-intensive and is dependent on inhumane confinement systems.

Science, research and innovation

Canada should invest in research and development of plant-based protein, especially the production and processing of pulse crops.  In contrast to animal protein production, pulses have been shown to be environmentally beneficial (requiring relatively little water and fertilizer), healthy and sustainable.  A number of innovative plant-based industries have emerged in recent years, attracting investment and consumer interest.

Risk management

The livestock sector has a number of inherent risks, including:

– negative environmental impacts (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions)
– zoonotic disease outbreaks (e.g. avian flu, listeria, e. coli)
– consumer rejection of inhumane, intensive confinement systems (e.g. battery cages for laying hens) and other animal welfare concerns
– consumer health concerns over meat consumption (e.g. cancer risk of red and processed meats)
– rise of antbiotic resistance due to overuse of antibiotics in livestock

Environmental sustainability and climate change

Globally, the meat and livestock sector contributes 14.5% of all greenhouse gases, which is more than the transportation sector.  It is also resource-intensive – it is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, through grazing and the use of feed crops. The sector is also a major contributor to water pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Public Trust

Canadian consumers have many concerns about animal agriculture.

Currently, animal agriculture in Canada involves the confinement and suffering of millions of animals.  Animal welfare should be a top priority in the development of agricultural policy. Currently, there are no mandatory animal welfare standards in Canada, only voluntary Codes of Practice.  These should be replaced with mandatory standards enforced by independent, third-party inspections.

The meat and livestock sector is dependent on intensive confinement systems (factory farms) that compromise animal welfare and degrade the environment. In addition, the overconsumption of meat has been shown to be harmful to human health.  Consequently, this sector is unsustainable.  Consumers will lose faith in agriculture if these problems persist.

Resources should be shifted to the development of a plant-based protein sector, including more support for Canada’s production, processing and marketing of pulses (peas, beans, lentils). Plant-based diets should be promoted through public information programs and support for initiatives like Meatless Monday.

Such initiatives would earn public trust, as they benefit the environment, public health and animal welfare.

Your participation in this consultation will ensure that animals are not forgotten in the development of Canada’s agricultural policies.

More info:

CBC News story


Twitter: #agnpf



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Erin Ireland’s plant-based journey


Erin Ireland is a food journalist, blogger, entrepeneur and animal-lover who has been on a personal journey to discover and understand the principles and practices involved in ethical eating. In a recent blog post (reprinted below with her kind permission) she describes her transition to a plant-based diet.  


It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here on the couch in pyjamas drinking an almond milk latte. I’m crying after re-reading some of the 831 comments on Jillian Harris’ blog post, “How This Alberta Meatatarian Became so Vegan-ish”, in which she opens up about her transition to a plant-based diet.

In the days following her post, I texted Jillian to say how impressed I was by her written words—how I envied her ability to get thoughts ‘on paper’ so effortlessly. What she wrote would have taken me months. She has drawn me to my computer today to share the unedited story of my own journey. I usually stick to sharing my ‘plant-based messages’ on social channels because they are short and easy to write. I definitely prefer talking over writing, which is why I gave this speech. But Jillian’s post (which broke website traffic records) inspired me to go deeper and share some of the factors the inspired my personal decision to go vegan.

Like Jillian, I used to be a ‘meatatarian’. I was proud of it. As a college athlete training twice a day, I was the type to order double meat at Subway. I thought eating nothing but ‘lean animal protein’ would help me achieve a healthier, more fit, muscular body. I often said that I was “just not the type who would ever become a vegetarian”.

Wow, how things have changed…



My introduction to the word vegan came when I asked my parents what the term meant. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe they alluded to the fact that veganism was some super-extremist lifestyle that was more-or-less unachievable and mainly adopted by ‘extreme hippies’. I never thought twice about learning more.

Looking back, I don’t blame my parents. 25 years ago things were different. Factory farming wasn’t in the media spotlight like it is today. Baby-Boomers were raised in a time when meat and dairy was fully embraced. National meat and dairy councils were (and still are) supplying nutritional information to schools in North America. Despite the conflict of interest, teachers believed what they were teaching and young, impressionable students ate it up, literally.


My first step towards cutting animal products out of my life came during sophomore year of university. For most of my life, I’d felt a little bit stuffed up, as if I had a constant cold. My dad suffered the same symptoms and told me that cutting milk out of his diet seemed to alleviate the stuffiness. I switched to soy milk. Immediately my sinuses felt better and I never went back to milk (note: this isn’t a professional opinion and I’m not saying this can work for you, just that it worked for me). I’ll admit, I still ate cheese and chocolate from time to time …how could I resist? I thought it was worth a bit of congestion.

The other reason I cut milk out of my life was acne. My skin issues began around the age of 19. I often got blemishes after big doses of dairy. Cutting milk out of my diet helped, but it was also a hormonal thing for me—going on the pill was the only thing that finally resolved my skin problems completely. Ironically, at the time my reasons for cutting dairy out had nothing to do with environmental or animal welfare issues. I didn’t know the truth about the lives of so many dairy cows. Today, in my heart, our planet and the animals are the main reasons I am passionate to seek dairy alternatives.


As an NCAA Div. 1 volleyball player, I thought I needed a ton of protein. I thought I needed a meat heavy diet. Not a single girl on my volleyball team ate vegetarian—if any teammate, classmate or teacher raised the topic of vegetarianism during my four years of school, I don’t remember it. At my peak, I weighed 155 lbs and was the second strongest female in my athletic department.  Always looking to take things a notch further, I wanted to gain more muscle and I thought eating meat would help. Sometimes for dinner, I’d eat a whole rotisserie chicken. Nothing else. Even worse, my teammates and I would go to the Golden Corral buffet (which my mom nicknamed, ‘the pig trough’) for all-you-can-eat steak.

My small university town in South Carolina revolved around the one Walmart, and I loved going there to buy their cheapest lean ham. Another regular purchase was extra lean ground beef that for Hamburger helper that my roommate and I used to love to make. We thought we were making healthy choices. My mom would sometimes ask if I knew where this meat was coming from. I always dismissed her questions thinking she was being a paranoid mom. I remember telling her that the FDA / governing bodies wouldn’t allow unsafe food on the shelves…was I ever wrong. My mom had been right to question.


My transition to a plant-based diet slowly started with the documentary, ‘Forks Over Knives’. The movie presented facts that a vegan diet not only stops disease from forming in the body, but actually reverses it. The evidence was convincing to say the least. I started to realize the impact animal-based foods were having on our health. I couldn’t believe this was the first time I was hearing such important information. The more I learned, the fewer animal products I ate.

Earthlings was another documentary that had a huge impact on me. It introduced me to the term, speciesism: the prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species. The documentary is graphic, filled with undercover footage shot inside factory farms and the odd slaughterhouse. I shut my eyes and cried through much of it, but I felt strongly that I needed to know what was going on behind closed doors. How could I make decisions about my food choices unless I knew the consequences of my actions? Now, I had seen those consequences and I simply couldn’t have anything to do with it. Farming is not what it was 100 years ago and the vast majority of the time, animals are not leading the happy lives, as depicted on food labels.

At this point in my life, I was still eating cage-free organic eggs from time to time, and if I was in a dining situation where the only option was seafood, I’d take it. But gradually, as I continued to read and watch, I lost all appetite for anything animal-based, including leather.


Three years into my plant-based journey, there are a couple recurring questions friends and family often ask. The first is which animal product I miss the most? The answer is: none. Since learning the true impact of animal agriculture, my cravings for animal products has completely disappeared. Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I love GOOD food, and today, my plant-based options leave me dreaming about my next meal every single day.

The second question is whether my energy or training has suffered since quitting animal protein. Today, I’m more energetic and satiated than I ever was in university. I’m up at 5:30am for a 10K run about five days a week. I can’t imagine having the energy to do this back in the day — I remember always feeling hungry and tired during my school years. Another important driver for me was learning that the fear of not getting enough protein from plants…is a myth. As long as we consume our daily recommended intake of calories (from whole foods), it’s nearly guaranteed we will also get our daily recommended dose of protein. Our bodies can’t even process extra protein (just like vitamins) so they are eliminated from our systems, into the sewage system.

The last thing I’m often asked, is whether veganism requires more work. Ironically, I find it requires less (less stress too!). It’s really the little things that start to add up: no more racing home to get groceries refrigerated. No more obsessive washing of the cutting board for fear of e-coli or salmonella. No more finicky fat trimming. No more stressing over timing and temperature for the perfect steak, roast, or chicken. No more fear of meaty leftovers going bad if I forget to refrigerate right away.

Remember there’s always a learning curve when transitioning to any new diet. If the thought of vegan meal planning is daunting, know that, unlike generations before us, we are spoiled by the amount of amazing resources out there. For starters…

Before hitting publish I reread the post that inspired this note. Jillian received 831 comments on her blog and Instagram post—almost all filled with love, encouragement and acceptance. They bring tears of happiness to my face when I read them. What’s even more heartening are the actions of her following that I’m certain will be inspired from the conversation she has just begun.

Thanks to leaders like Jillian, a word I associated with ‘extreme hippies’ 25 years ago, is now well on it’s way to becoming a mainstream movement. This gives me so much hope.


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Here’s the scoop on Vancouver’s Nice Vice Creamery


Nice Vice is Vancouver’s first ever 0% dairy, plant-based micro creamery, which opened in Yaletown in February. VHS talked recently to owner-operator Chris White about starting up a plant-based business. Here’s our Q&A with him:


1. What inspired you to open Nice Vice?

I opened up Nice Vice Creamery after visiting many of the fantastic artisanal ice cream and gelato establishments around the city and never having very many D-F options. When I was making so many different flavours at home, my sons inspired me to open up a dairy-free scoop shop.

2. How have you found the reaction from the community?

Absolutely fantastic! I believed that Vancouver was ready to support a 100% dairy-free, plant-based vice cream shop. I think the awareness of plant-based foods has become much more positive in the last few years.

3. What do you enjoy most about running the business?

I love working the front counter and interacting with people. We have received so much good energy from our patrons you can’t help but feel good behind there.

4. What do you find is the hardest part?

We opened up an ice cream store during the winter,with a new brand, with a new product, and in a new location! We made it as hard as possible to succeed. So, if we can get through this and become profitable then we will achieve success.

5. How do you stay positive in a world where animal-based products are still so predominate?

I focus on how aware society is becoming about the positive aspects of choosing a plant-based product over the negative realities of animal-based products. After all, that is one of the motivating factors behind Nice Vice – the ability to participate in change through positive vibrations of consuming vice cream.

6. What is your most popular menu item?

Besides several of our classics, our Instagram @nicevicecream has our new flavours which regularly sell out within a day or two. (Buzz’d Coffee or Strawberry Lychee anyone?)

7. Who are your customers? Is there a predominate demographic?

When I wrote the marketing plan, I assumed that health conscious females between the age of 15-35 would be our predominate SHUs (Super Heavy Users). However, we have been surprised to see an equal number of male customers as well and, pleasantly, we seem to be catching on in the Asian community where over 70% of that ethnic group is lactose intolerant.

8. What do you think is the best way to encourage consumers to make more ethical choices?

This is a good question. At Nice Vice I tell our employees not to judge anyone for any choices they make. We believe that education and awareness of the ethical benefits of a plant-based diet are being portrayed by documentaries auch as Cowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks over Knives. When the conversation comes up between a customer as to why I am plant-based, I point the customer to these three documentaries to guide them in their own decision making.

9. Do you think plant-based products and businesses are becoming more mainstream?

Absolutely! Plant-based food products and restaurants are the fastest growing sectors in their respective industries. The shift has happened because there is largely no where else to grow. Just look at Ben & Jerrys and the number of new vegan restaurants that have opened this year in Vancouver alone. We are at the beginning of a monumental shift in consumer choice. And thank God for that!!!

10. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about running a plant-based business?

You can’t please everybody!! There is a wide variety of knowledge in society and we have experienced different levels of emotions from anger and anxiety to euphoria in our shop. Not everyone will believe in what we are doing as being positive – that is the reality and beauty of living in a free society. The other lesson is that dealing with the government can be challenging and requires patience and perseverance. The residual benefits of business are numerous and exciting! No matter what happens with Nice Vice, I can honestly say, I have never had a such a roller-coaster of emotions with this small business and the period of personal growth has been phenomenal.

Nice Vice Creamery is located at 1022 Mainland Street, Yaletown and is open 12-10 daily.

Tel: 778.379.6423


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Going veg? Here’s what to stock up on


Vegetarian Sandwich Wrap or burrito made up of saute yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers and onions rolled in a corn tortilla with rice and diced tomatoes and goat cheese and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Wrap is served with a baby lettuce salad.



If you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet, it’s important to stock up on some of the staples that are essential to a meat and dairy-free lifestyle. Below, we’ve compiled a list of key food ingredients and products that will help anyone going veg.  It’s by no means exhaustive and we encourage you to explore the many sources of information on plant-based eating available online. (At the bottom of this page we list some of our favourite sites.)





Alternative milks Almond, soy, rice, cashew are the most common. A new product is Veggemo, which claims to be “the first non-dairy beverage originating from veggies.”

Buttery spread (homemade): Store-bought, non-hydrogenated Earth Balance is popular. There have been concerns about its use of palm oil, which is destructive to wildlife habitat. However, the company has said it will use only sustainably produced palm oil by the end of 2015.

Dairy-free cheese: Vancouver-based Daiya melts like the real thing. Chao Slices are getting good reviews.

Cream cheese (homemade): Store-bought products include: Tofutti, Daiya, Go Veggie and Follow Your Heart all offer vegan cream cheese.

Sour cream (homemade): Ready-made brands include Tofutti, Follow Your Heart

Dairy-free yogurt (product reviews)





Gardein does a range of healthy meat replacement products including veggie burgers, “chick’n scallopini”, holiday roasts and even “fishless filets.”

Tofurkey is famous for its holiday roasts but also does a range of meatless products

Field Roast is probably best known for its amazing meatless sausages but also makes roasts, slices and other products.


Yves does a range of meat substitutes, including burgers, sausages and bacon.

Veggie burgers (homemade) Store-bought (frozen and refrigerated) includes Gardein; Yves and Sol, which are some of the main Canadian brands.




While ready-made meat substitutes can be quick and convenient, many people prefer less processed and more natural sources of plant-based protein.

Tofu: A long-time staple of meat free eating.

Tempeh: Soybean-based meat substitute.

Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan is high in protein and has a meaty texture

Edamame (recipes): These young, green soy beans make a great high-protein snack.

Pulses (beans, dried peas, chickpeas, lentils): Dried and home-cooked are cheap and the healthiest but canned are convenient.

Nuts and seeds: High in protein and healthy fats. Cashews are especially useful as they can be soaked and used in a variety of ways.

Nut butters: Peanut butter is the best known but almond butter, cashew butter and others are increasingly popular.

Egg alternatives (for baking): Follow Your Heart has developed the VeganEgg, which can be scrambled and used in omelettes.

Mayonnaise alternatives (homemade): Store-bought brands include Vegenaise, Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo.  The latest (and best, according to some) is Just Mayo, although it is not yet widely available in Canada (Costco has had it in stock).





Brown rice: More nutritious than white.

QuinoaA great plant-based complete protein.

Steel-cut oats: Good for breakfast.

Whole-wheat couscous: More nutritious than regular.



ONLINE RESOURCES (Plant-based recipes, nutrition advice):

Vegan Health:
Minimalist Baker:
Vegan Richa:


LOWER MAINLAND GROCERS (Stocking many plant-based staples)

Donald’s Market
Whole Foods
Choices Markets
Vegan Essentials (online store)
Eternal Abundance
Sweet Cherubim
Famous Foods

Looking for more plant-based inspiration? Whether you’re going meatless on Mondays or every day, take our Meatless Monday pledge to receive a weekly plant-based recipe via email.








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Take action for chickens!

Mother hen with its baby chicken

Our friends at the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA) are running a great campaign to help chickens in Canada – and they need your help.

CCFA has launched a new website about chicken farming, transport and slaughter.  It includes an important take action page that enables compassionate Canadians to contact chicken farmers and grocers to raise concerns about the deplorable conditions and treatment that chickens in Canada endure. It’s a quick and easy way to make a difference in the lives of chickens, often described as the most abused animals on the planet.

Both egg-laying hens and chickens raised for meat suffer on factory farms.  VHS recently called attention to the suffering of meat chickens in op-eds in the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star.

We support any action that will alleviate the suffering of farmed animals. Through our ChickenOUT! project, we urge consumers who buy eggs to ensure they are certified organic, which are cage-free and have the highest welfare standards.  Better still, consumers can reduce or eliminate egg consumption by taking advantage of egg replacement products.  VHS also encourages switching to a plant-based diet. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption reduces the need for cruel factory farming. Our Meatless Monday initiative is a great way to start.