California Restaurants, Grocers Are Stocking More Vegan Options
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
March 13, 2012 - The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month was established with the intent to raise awareness, through the month of March, of proper nutrition. One nutrition lifestyle choice growing in popularity among Americans is veganism – a plant-based diet void of any animal products.
Former President Bill Clinton famously switched to a “plant-based diet” to slim down for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding in 2010. Publisher of Forbes Magazine Rich Karlgaard has publicly written about his near-veganism.
Defending boxing champion Manny Pacquiao squares off with Timothy “The Vegan” Bradley Jr. this June, adding to a growing list of vegan professional athletes like mixed martial arts fighters Mac Danzig and Jon Fitch.
Vegan Ellen DeGeneres has a blog on her show’s Web site called “Going Vegan with Ellen.” Actress Alicia Silverstone has a new vegan cookbook called “The Kind Diet” that has become a New York Times Bestseller.
And the list goes on.
Countries around the world have had populations of folks eating plant-based diets for years. Donald Watson, founder of the U.K. Vegan Society, coined the term vegan in England in 1944. A 2006 national poll conducted by Harris Interactive showed that 1.4 percent of Americans is a dietary vegan. The lifestyle change is typically made for health, environmental and sometimes ethical reasons.
Individuals who identify as vegan do not eat any animal products, most of which are meats, dairy or eggs. Some of these vegans avoid insect-based products, such as honey or certain food dyes. Others also avoid food products made with animal skin, bone or marrow. In addition to dietary vegans, others incorporate being vegan into their lifestyle by avoiding all commodities made with animal products such as leather or fur.
Studies have shown that the mass production of animal products in today's agriculture industry has negative effects on the environment. The agriculture industry is one of the leading producers of greenhouse gasses in the U.S., and some argue that meat production is an inefficient use of energy resources.
“Many of the problems inherent in industrial agriculture are more acute when the output is meat," according to a 2002 article by Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence and Polly Walker of the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. "Our food supply becomes more resource intensive when we eat grain-fed animals instead of eating the grain directly, because a significant amount of energy is lost as livestock convert the grain they eat into meat.”
Emily Burritt, director of clinical nutrition for Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, told the Business Journal there are many health benefits associated with eating vegan. Individuals who follow a plant-based diet tend have a lower risk of obesity and tend to have a lower body mass index; lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension; and lower cholesterol levels than those who consume meat, egg and dairy products, she said.
“The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position is that it is healthy for all populations – children, pregnant women, athletes, the general population,” she said. “I can’t think of a population that I would say the vegan diet is not okay for.”
Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies In Vegans
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March 2009 looked at vegetarian and vegan diets, particularly focusing on how vegans tend to be thinner, have lower blood pressure and lower serum cholesterol. In the study’s abstract, it was noted that vegetarian and vegan diets have been increasing in popularity and are “associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated.”
However, the study also found that there is a chance of certain nutritional deficiencies among vegans. Micronutrients like vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids are among the nutrients vegans should consider when developing a balanced diet, according to Burritt. Because vitamins D and B-12 are nearly impossible to incorporate into one’s vegan diet without supplementation; humans typically get adequate vitamin D from sunlight, and vitamin B-12 can be fortified into cereals or non-dairy beverages like soymilk or almond milk.
Vegans are often questioned on how they get adequate protein without meat or dairy. “That is definitely one of the things that a lot of people focus on,” Burritt said. “If you’re eating enough calories and are eating a variety of foods, you’re getting enough protein. You only need a small percentage of your diet to be from protein, 10 to 15 percent of your total day’s calories.”
While some use veganism or vegetarianism to mask an eating disorder, Burritt said the best way to avoid any deficiencies is to sit down and plan out what foods you need to incorporate into your diet to be sure you are getting a variety of foods and the range of nutrients they provide – from dark, leafy greens to fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.
Veganism Permeates The Mainstream
As the vegan trend continues to build in the U.S., grocery stores are stocking the shelves with more animal-free food options. While grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have carried vegetarian and vegan options for many years, chain stores owned by major corporations, such as Albertson’s, Ralphs and Vons, have dedicated sections for dairy and meat analogs and tofu products.
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has stores across California, Arizona and some in Nevada. Brendan Wonnacott, spokesperson for Fresh & Easy, said the grocery chain is currently developing a list of vegetarian and vegan food options each store carries that will be made available online and in stores. There are currently three markets in Long Beach.
“People are looking at more options on that front. We have been looking at [products] friendly to those who want to eat less meat, and also to branch out and bring in more options for vegans as well,” Wonnacott said. “What we currently have are different meat replacement options, such as Soyrizo, Smart [brand] sausages, Smart [hot] dogs, Gardein [vegetarian] products, things along those lines.”
One restaurant has had a hold on vegetarian/vegan dining in Long Beach since 2006 – Zephyr Vegetarian Café at 340 E. 4th St. Zephyr Café Owner Breck Dockstader, a 20-year practicing vegan, said the restaurant converted to a strictly vegan menu two years ago this June.
“We’re the fattest country on the planet. People need to start eating healthy, especially in Long Beach,” Dockstader said. “We have a severe overpopulation of obese people and obese children. We need to start educating ourselves. The vegan diet, I think that’s one of the best ways.”
More vegan and vegetarian eateries have been popping up here over the past couple of years.
Steamed Organic Vegetarian Cuisine, 801 E. 3rd St., opened April 2011. The all-organic vegetarian menu can be made vegan, according to restaurant owner Stephanie Carlough. “When I moved into Long Beach six years ago . . . [I found that] there’s such a need in this town,” she said. “We only have 28 ingredients. The goal is to keep everything local with as much high integrity of the food as we can.”
On October 17, 2011, Long Beach welcomed another vegan restaurant – the Long Beach Vegan Eatery at 2246 N. Lakewood Blvd. and owned by Jeff Terranova and Beckey Salg. Terranova, who hasn’t eaten meat since Thanksgiving Day 1987, said he wanted to open a restaurant with traditional American fare to attract vegans and non-vegans alike. The menu is full of “stick to your ribs comfort foods which are dairy and cruelty free and contain . . . nothing with a mother, nothing with a face,” according to lbveganeatery.com.
“We wanted to go 100 percent vegan because the issues I had being a vegetarian, going to places and having to worry about cross-contamination,” Terranova said. “I never wanted anybody to have to worry about that [here]. I wanted this to be a safe haven for people, whether you’re a diehard vegan, vegetarian, have a lactose intolerance, or whatever the case.”
Several other eateries in Long Beach have incorporated vegan options, including Paradis Ice Cream, 5305 E. 2nd St. in Belmont Shore. Owner Gildardo Nava said the menu includes fresh fruit sorbets that can be mixed with organic dark chocolate for a delicious vegan treat. “There really isn’t another option for a frozen treat that’s vegan on 2nd Street,” Nava said. “I think maybe Olive’s, but those are manufactured and pre-packaged. Here, the ice cream is made fresh daily and we have plenty of options.”
Alexis Schulze, chief visionary officer of the new Nekter Juice Bar at the Marketplace Long Beach, said she decided to open a vegan-based restaurant with the philosophy that “it’s great to give the body a rest from animal products.” Since there are few places that offer healthy vegan fast-food options, Schulze said via e-mail that Nekter – which opened February 20 – is filling the gap with a menu of unprocessed and vegan drinks and snacks.
“There are many philosophies that include unprocessed and anti-inflammatory diets; Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory [Food Pyramid], The China [Study], Skinny Bitch, and videos surfacing like Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – all with confounding evidence that the American diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables and linked to so many health issues in America today,” Schulze said.
“Most of the foods we eat are overly processed so there are little to no nutrients left, and are loaded with sugar and salt. It’s not so much about a label ‘Vegan’ or ‘Vegetarian’ that seems to scare people away, but it’s the idea that our bodies are meant to have a large portion of fresh, alive fruits and vegetables to get enzymes and nutrients from. I know. I personally find it hard to get five servings of vegetables and fruits in unless I drink them daily.”
Vegan vs. Not Vegan List
Here’s a list of plant-based food items that may be part of a healthful vegan diet.
Following is a list of food items that are derived from animals. Some vegans are stricter than others; for example, some will still consume products that are vegan in the end result but processed with animal products, such as refined sugar.
- Bone char (often used in refining sugar)
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