Americans are particularly obsessed with eating enough protein, which is why I asked vegan Laura Van Zandt of One Girl, Two Cities to share her top reasons for going vegan (and her favorite Twin Cities vegan restaurants).
My name is Laura vanZandt, and I write theater and restaurant reviews, share personal thoughts, and generally write about happenings in the Twin Cities (and occasional travel) on my blog One Girl, Two Cities. I’ve always been an animal lover and even thought I would be a veterinarian as I grew up. While I didn’t become a veterinarian, I did work at an animal hospital as a veterinary assistant for 8 years after college.
I became vegetarian in 2008 after I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. One of the chapters made me think about the fact that I could never kill an animal for food, so it felt wrong to allow others to do the deed for me. The switch was immediate, and I didn’t regret it for a moment. In 2014, I made the choice to go vegan, and several factors have affirmed this decision.
More and more studies show that meat and dairy are linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and a plethora of other diseases that can be prevented simply by following a plant-based diet. The typical question non-vegans like to ask is, “Where do you get your protein?” not realizing that non-meat food has more protein than you realize. (Check out this Pinterest board for great plant-based protein sources)
The amount of protein per serving of broccoli is actually very similar to the amount of protein per serving of cow meat. What more people should be concerned with is getting enough fiber in their diet because it helps regulate blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, helps increase nutrient absorption, and more. This typically isn’t a problem on a vegan diet because we’re naturally more likely to consume more fruits and veggies than meat eaters. The documentary, Forks Over Knives is a fascinating watch regarding the topic of health, and it’s presented in a very digestible manner. I also love the website NutritionFacts.org which offers short videos with science-based information regarding health.
The environmental destruction that the animal agriculture industry causes is another reason for me to follow a plant-based diet. Cows produce an inordinate amount of methane which causes great harm to the ozone layer, and we’re clear-cutting the rain forest which exists partly to help filter Earth’s air and provide us with healthy oxygen (aside from the fact that we’re causing extinction of species we may not even be aware exist).
The obsession to continue eating animal meat is so strong that people are creating backpacks that cows can wear that will help dispose of their methane, and millions of dollars are being spent to grow animal meat in a laboratory, when all people really need to do to help prevent the environmental damage is to stop eating meat, or at the very least cut back. To learn more about the current state of the environment, I highly recommend the documentary Cowspiracy (available on Netflix).
A big part of becoming vegan meant that I finally came to terms with the fact that I was still supporting animal abuse by consuming eggs and dairy. Egg-laying hens have their beaks seared off, the amount of space per bird is the size of a regular sheet of paper, and most male chicks are killed in an horrific manner such as being put through a wood chipper while still alive.
Cows are forced into pregnancy using a device called a Rape Rack which I find incredibly abhorrent, especially because I consider myself a feminist. It breaks my heart that babies are taken away from their mothers immediately after birth just so we can steal their milk. Male calves are typically kept barely alive in pens by themselves and end up as veal. What if we did this to humans?
Cow’s milk is bad for us for so many reasons, and we’re lucky to have an array of non-dairy options available to us these days. Personally, I find it a little weird that people would want to drink something that is designed for an animal that weighs 500 pounds at one year of age.
Every time I’ve shared snippets of this information on social media, it’s elicited some great conversations from people who are starting to connect all these pieces of the puzzle. If you would like to join the conversations, please leave a comment below or feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
Making the Change
The big thing is, it’s overwhelming to think about changing how and what you eat, right? I’ve recommended that people start with one category and work their way through slowly: like cut out red meat, and then pork, then dairy, etc. Not everyone is mentally prepared to make an overnight switch like I did, and it’s an easy way to set yourself up for failure.
If you’re one of those people who has said, “Oh, I could never go vegan,” then DON’T. But find ways to cut back here and there, like try to eat vegan for one meal each day and see where it takes you.
I’m admittedly not much of a cook, so I eat out fairly often. The Happy Cow website has been an incredible resource for me in finding vegan– and vegetarian-friendly establishments worldwide. Anytime I travel, I make sure to reference it, and the phone app is great for finding options near you on a map.Check out these amazing vegan-friendly restaurants in the Twin Cities #plantbased #vegan #reviews… Click To Tweet
Vegan-Friendly in Minneapolis
We’re fortunate to have many vegan-friendly restaurants in the Twin Cities, and I have a few favorite spots. My number one right now is Reverie whose entire food menu is plant-based. They serve familiar, approachable dishes like Tacos and Cubanos, and their Caesar Salad with tempeh is amazing! For those wanting to eat out without having to figure out whether or not something is vegan, Reverie takes all of the guess work out of it. An all vegan restaurant called J. Selby’s will open early next year in St. Paul, and I’ll be eating there often.
Two local chains that I love are Pizza Luce and French Meadow Bakery & Cafe. Both restaurants make it incredibly easy to eat vegan, as well as gluten-free. If you’re looking for non-American options, try the Veggie Sampler Platter at Ethiopian restaurant Fasika (perfect for sharing!), and if you have a sweet tooth, a vegan donut from Glam Doll Donuts is a must.
I’d also be remiss not to mention The Herbivorous Butcher, which is America’s first vegan butcher shop and also where I happen to work. We make plant-based meats and cheeses, and we love helping people cut back or make the switch since we make familiar products like deli meat, BBQ ribs, sausage, and more.
You’ll find an increasing number of plant-based meats in the grocery store as well. For people with cost concerns, I recommend buying lentils and potatoes; they’re nutritious and inexpensive, and a little goes a long ways. If you love cooking at home, start with your favorite dish and search online for recommendations on how to replace ingredients. You might be surprised at what you find. If you are on a budget, there are a number of vegan-friendly national fast food chains, like Chipotle, Subway, and Taco Bell.
It’s easier now more than ever to go vegan, and I love being part of this movement to encourage people to be healthier, help save the environment, and reduce animal cruelty.
Thank you, Laura, for the amazing recommendations! I can vouch for the tastiness of Pizza Luce’s vegan sausage, and am excited to try some new restaurants in the Twin Cities. Plus, I have personally experienced the deliciousness that is vegan Indian cuisine.