Meet Veg Fest speaker #2: Jack Norris R.D.

The NCVA’s Dee Campbell-Giura posed some penetrating questions to Jack Norris R.D., one of Veg Fest 2012’s guest speakers. Don’t miss his presentation on April 29!

Norris is the co-founder of Vegan Outreach, and co-authour of Vegan for Life. Here are those questions, and his responses.

Dee: For those of us just learning about Jack Norris RD, please tell us a little bit about each of your websites.

Jack Norris R.D.: is the website for the organization I co-founded with Matt Ball. In terms of person-to-person outreach, I thin it’s safe to say that we are the largest organization in the world promoting a vegan diet (though we have help from many other organizations), handing out millions of our booklets every year. We have information about how and why to go vegan, and resources for people who want to help spread veganism in their community. I highly recommend signing up for our weekly e-newsletter to keep on top of what is going on in the vegan advocacy world. is a website that provides in-depth analyses of veg diets. It’s basically a review of the scientific literature. is a companion site in which I blog about any updates made to I also add more commentary and blog about some topics that never make it to

Do you remember the moment you decided to eat a plant-based diet? Tell us your “Aha!” moment.

Jack: I gradually transitioned to a vegan diet over the course of a year as I learned more about modern farming. But my final moment was when my chiropractor told me that I could get calcium from leafy green vegetables.

I had been confused about calcium because, in 1989 when I became vegan, there was very little available information on the subject and I had a teacher in high school who said you could not get calcium from plant foods

Dee: What has your career path looked like? How you got to where you are now?

Jack: I think it was in December of 1996 that it looked like Vegan Outreach had run out of money. I figured we were pretty much done. While we were not necessarily going to end the organization, I resigned myself to the idea that we had done what we could but that I needed to look for something else to do with most of my time.

The next day, I got a call from Matt saying we had received a $6,000 grant, which was huge, and we were back in on track! I started planning the next semester’s tour and the rest is history.

After traveling the country handing out Vegan Outreach’s booklets on college campuses during the mid-1990s, I met many people who had tried to be veg and went back due to health concerns. I decided that if my life’s work was going to be trying to spread a veg diet, then I needed to learn a lot more about nutrition in order to figure out if I could help such people.

Dee: As someone who dispels vegan nutritional myths, what are a few common ones that many vegans have about their diets?

Currently, the most important one is that vegans get enough calcium. Most vegans do *not* get enough calcium and it’s important that they take steps to do so in order to prevent osteoporosis. It’s not hard to do, but if you aren’t paying attention, you might not be getting enough.

Dee: For those who haven’t handed out leaflets for a cause, the idea of doing so might be nerve-wracking.  Any tips from a pro?

Jack: The first leaflet is, by far, the hardest. Hundreds of our leafleters will back me up when I say that if you just get yourself to hand out the first one, it becomes easy as pie and afterwards you will be very glad you leafleted. It is quite satisfying to turn our anger and sadness about how animals are treated into action, and most leafleting sessions will allow you to meet at least one person who is thrilled to get the information. There are potential vegetarians out there right now just waiting for you to reach them!

Dee: It’s easy to find conflicting vegan nutritional information out there. Can you tell us who to read, trust and follow? In addition to and, of course.

Jack: My co-author, Ginny Messina, [book: Vegan for Life] has an excellent blog at, run by Dr. Michael Greger, is also great. I’d also recommend the Vegetarian Resource Group‘s blog, though it is not exclusively about nutrition.

Your vegan wedding in Toronto, catered by KFC, is an interesting story. Why KFC?

Jack: The Canadian KFCs had agreed to make some changes to how their suppliers were raising animals and also introduced a vegan option at most of their stores. My wife, Alex Bury, worked for PETA at the time, and we thought a PETA wedding in front of the KFC would get a lot of positive attention – and it did. We got very nice articles in all the major papers and it was a lot of fun.

If you could convince just two people to change their diet to a vegan one, who would they be?

Jack: I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert going vegan could probably do the most good of any current celebrities.

What can we look forward to hearing about at your talk in Ottawa?

Jack: I do not approach nutrition research as a lawyer approaches the law. Lawyers try to create the best argument possible to represent their client. Rather than trying to create arguments, I look at the research and try to figure out what the truth is.

My talk will review the scientific literature on vegan diets without cherry-picking the data to fit what I want to be true. That said, there is a lot of positive, impressive research on vegans and I will be covering it at the talk in addition to any nutrition concerns.


Puppy mill seizure- fosters urgently needed

Guest blog submission by Jennifer Roussel


I’m a friend of the NCVA and a fellow animal lover.

This is Wally, NCVA board member Erin's adopted Boston Terrier. This is your chance to help another dog be as zen as Wally is.

A puppy mill seizure took place this week north of Ottawa in the province of Quebec.  As a result, more than 20 dogs are at that city’s pound and need to be placed into foster homes or they will likely be euthanized this Saturday.  Debra, from Arbed Rescue is coordinating the placing of the dogs into foster care here in Ontario.  The dogs are currently at the pound and the goal is to get them out before Saturday.

The breeds available for fostering include four small Poodles, two Pomeranians, two Boston Terriers, two Shi-Poos, a Daschund, Pugs, some Lab mixes, a Schnauzer and more.  All dogs are adults.

If you can make room in your home to save a dog’s life, please contact Debra at and download the fostering form from the Arbed Rescue website at

Keep in mind that this is a temporary arrangement.  The dogs will receive shots, they will be spayed or neutered and Arbed Rescue will find them good homes – they find dogs quality homes in a timely manner.  But first, these poor souls must urgently be rescued from the pound.

NCVA to participate as an exhibitor in National Women’s Show

By Raphaël Morin

My name is Raphaël; I’ve been volunteering with the NCVA for more than a year and I love it!

I’m particularly excited about tabling on behalf of the NCVA at the National Women’s Show next month because nearly 20,000 people visited this exhibition last year. According to the organizers, it’s The Ultimate Girl’s Day Out!

NCVA volunteers Michelle and Raphaël at Veg Fest in 2011

This is excellent opportunity for each one of us to connect with others to share information about plant-based lifestyles, but also to tell everyone all about Ottawa Veg Fest ’12.

The Women’s Show will occur on Saturday April 14 and Sunday April 15, at the Ottawa Convention Centre. More info is available here:

I would like to invite you to volunteer with the NCVA at this show.  This is the biggest show that the NCVA has ever been a part of, and an incredible outreach opportunity.  We need several volunteers to be at the NCVA table at all times, to ensure we can talk to as many people as possible!

Our awesome supporters Credible Edibles, Simply Raw Express, Auntie Loo’s Treats, and Café My House will be providing samples for us to share with show visitors.

Come and join me, and the NCVA’s wonderful volunteers, in our biggest outreach effort next to Veg Fest! If you can offer a few hours of your time, please email with your expression of interest.

Why Your Smoothies Suck

When I wrote that plea to Mike Zigomanis to speak at Vegfest, I promised that, in return, I would tell him the secret to making great smoothies.

Photo by flikr user olgucz

I also said I wasn’t going to tell the rest of you. But then I realized my priorities were out of whack; prostituting my culinary secrets to celebrities while leaving my own beloved Ottawa veggies to choke down their crap-tasting smoothies. Very unvegan behavior.

So I’ve decided to spill the beans.

Here goes:

Get out your hand blender and put all of the following ingredients into a large cylindrical container. Old pickle jars work great. You can also use a regular blender if you’re into the whole quaintly backwards thing.

-1 banana
-1.5 cups soy milk or other non-dairy milk of your choice. Except hemp. I mean guys, it’s gross. It just is. Accept it.
-1 cup frozen fruit of your choice. Strawberries and mangoes work best, followed by peaches and raspberries (if you don’t mind the seeds). Blueberries and blackberries are not as good so, if you’re using them, throw in some of the better fruits.
-Add a scoop of Vega if you’re into health and don’t mind the taste of dirt.

photo by Flikr user VegaTeam

Now whiz it all up with your hand blender. Using a brisk an up and down motion breaks up the fruit faster and makes for a smoother smoothie. Just try not to think too much about what you look like while doing it. Regular blender people, turn on your blender and look confused while the blade whizzes pointlessly as the fruit sits unscathed on top.

Now have a taste.

It sucks, right? You’re contemplating adding sugar, but you figure if you do that you might as well just have the piece of coffee cake you really wanted for breakfast. You’re ready to run off to Booster Juice where the “I know something you don’t know” look on the juice-ista kid’s face would make you dump your smoothie on his head if it hadn’t just cost you ten bucks.

Well don’t worry. We’re going to stick it to the little bastard together. Because I’m going to tell you how to transform that bland, vaguely fruit flavoured gruel into a fountain of guilt-free milkshake-like glory.

First, get a bottle of this.

If you get some on your fingers, you'll be tempted to lick it off. Don't.

And when I say get a bottle of this, I don’t mean a bottle of stevia. I mean this stevia specifically. NOW brand liquid stevia extract (not glycerate). The other brands have a fraction of the sweetness, and often a nasty aftertaste.

Now add approximately 10 drops to your smoothie.

Second. Get a good pinch of salt and throw that in too.

photo by Flikr user mollyjade

Now whiz everything up again (regular blender people, your fruit may have melted enough by now for it to work).

Now taste again.

Doesn’t suck anymore, right? Well, it shouldn’t. If it does, add another couple of drops of stevia and/or another dash of salt. Repeat until the magical transformation occurs. I promise it will.

Happy blending everyone!

Let’s hear it for Veg Fest sponsors, including a new addition!

Every year, a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into creating Veg Fest. As you may know, Veg Fest is 100 per cent volunteer organized, and it takes many hundreds of volunteer hours to bring it to life.

But one thing we have not had to worry about is having the cash to pay for expenses, and that is thanks to our wonderful event sponsors.  Without their support, we would need to spend even more time fundraising, scrounging up money, and penny pinching.

It is to their credit that we do not.  Simon Saab of  The Table Vegetarian Restaurant in particular has been an avid and constant NCVA supporter, and we could not have reached our current level of success without his support. Once again, for the fourth year running The Table Vegetarian Restaurant is the title sponsor for Ottawa Veg Fest.

Just when you thought Natasha Kyssa couldn’t get any faster, she goes all express on us.

This year, we have a new silver level sponsor joining the ranks, SimplyRaw Express. You may be wondering, SimplyRaw Express… is that like, SimplyRaw on speed?

The answer is a resounding NO.  SimplyRaw Express is Ottawa’s unique fresh juice bar and takeaway, which will be opening in late April at 989 Wellington St. West in Hintonburg. That’s right, around the same time as Veg Fest! Good timing, huh?

It will offer organic juices and smoothies, raw vegan dishes, quinoa bowls, delicious desserts as well as culinary workshops, detoxification and nutritional programs. Its food will be completely vegan, as well as soy and gluten-free.

“Ottawa Veg Fest has played an important role in raising awareness of and promoting the vegan lifestyle in the Ottawa community. As dedicated raw vegans, Mark and I are thrilled that SimplyRaw Express is a silver level sponsor for the fourth Ottawa Veg Fest. We always enjoy this fun, well-organized and high energy event, and becoming a sponsor is an excellent fit!” Natasha told us.

Introducing the silver level sponsors for this year’s Ottawa Veg Fest:

Twenty-four hours of vegan decadence in Montreal

I was feeling a bit of cabin fever and a desire for waffles, so I suggested a last-minute overnighter to Montreal to my husband. He never says no to that.

As my friends know, I am a bit of a creature of habit.  In terms of the big picture stuff, I am quite comfortable making quick and far-reaching decisions, but for the day-to-day things, I don’t stray far outside of my norm. The staff at most of my local haunts know what I am going to order, I go to bed at roughly the same time every night, I like the laundry done a certain way.  That sort of thing.

So I was thrown for a loop when I learned that Chu Chai, where I stop for dinner every time I go to Montreal is temporarily closed. I was alarmed. Where would I eat? That’s where I always go!  Deciding what company to hire to replace my home’s roof? No problem.  Finding a replacement restaurant for dinner?  Panic-inciting.

I took to to see what was new in Montreal, and I came across Su Shian Yuang, a relatively new Taiwanese veg restaurant.  It was just down the street from Chu Chai, which offered some comfort. We would give it a try.

But first, a stop at Viva Vegan, the all-vegan store a few blocks over on St-Laurent Blvd.  I wanted to buy some pastries for the morning. Sadly, I learned that their woman who was supplying their almondine and chocolate croissants is no longer doing so, but on the plus side, they had cinnamon rolls.  Sold!  I also grabbed an assortment of vegan candy bars, two gluten-free cupcakes (which were actually phenomenal) and several types of buillion, since I have been on a soup making craze.

General Tao Tofu

Then it was on to Su Shian Yuang.  It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, or the inside, although there were cute wall decals and the lights were dimmed just enough. The service was gracious, and the server seemed to genuinely be thrilled to receive thanks and appreciation.


We ordered two appetizers– crispy Imperial rolls and avocado sushi. Appetizers were inexpensive, in the $4-5 range.  The Imperial rolls were good, although not quite at the level that they were at Sacred Garden (RIP).  But the sushi was excellent.  Considering I make avocado sushi at home regularly, I was not expecting to be amazed and impressed, but I was.  Yves complained for the rest of dinner that he wanted more, and I have to admit, so did I.

Mixed veg stir-fry

Next came the main courses. I couldn’t decide between two, so I ordered both (I should note that I had one of the four Imperial rolls and one of the six sushi pieces).  I selected the General Tao Tofu, and a mixed veg stir-fry, not because it sounded particularly interesting, but because I wanted to make sure I ate enough vegetables for the day. Yves chose the bibimbop.

The mixed vegetables were fine; they were cooked exactly the right amount, and the sauce was non-descript. Pieces of what I believe was wheat gluten were interspersed. Nothing spectacular, but a good vegetable conduit, and the type of dish you could safely recommend to a frightened omni with no sense of taste adventure.

The General Tao Tofu was, on the other hand, excellent. The tofu was fried to a perfect consistency, and the sauce was tangy, and had just the right amount of spicyness.  It came tossed with peppers and bok choy, helping it pretend to be healthy I suppose.   As for Yves’ bibimbop, he liked it perfectly fine, but has been spoiled by two years of Cafe My House’s signature bibimbop.  He said this one was good, but less interesting than Cafe My House’s rendition, and that he would have preferred more sushi.

Waffles with cashew cream, maple syrup and fruit.

The next morning we headed to Aux Vivres for brunch, another Montreal ritual for us.  But I was conflicted. I had been craving waffles for about a week, thanks to Julia Cropley and Dee Campbell-Giura’s brunch musings on the NCVA Facebook page.  On the other hand, I adore their polenta dish, which happens to come with more vegetables.  My solution: I had Yves order one extra waffle for me (for $4), and ordered the polenta for myself.

La polenta

And of course, both were utterly delicious.  The waffles were  delightfully chewy, and sopped up their sides wonderfully.  The polenta was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and made an excellent utensil for the black beans, guac, and pico de gallo. I enjoyed every bite.  Both brunch items come with your choice of coffee or chai tea. I chose coffee, noting the cute little frothed soy milk side that they bring with it.

Raw lasagne

Before we hit the road, we decided to stop at Crudessence for some take out.  It had been a while since we had been there, but I had spent much of my car ride to Montreal talking to Natasha Kyssa of Simply Raw so I could practically feel her frowning at me for the fried tofu and cinnamon buns.  I know that she knows that I know better. This would be my way of making it up to her.

At Crudessence, I ordered what I had eaten the past two times I went there, their raw lasagne.  Super thin layers of zucchini, enrobed in tangy sun-dried tomato sauce and accented with nut-based raw cheezes.  It was, as I had recalled, delicious.  It came with a side “caesar” salad, including carrots and sprouts. I ate it all, out of respect for Natasha.

Om burger

Yves chose the Om Burger, which is mushroom based. He often chooses mushroom-y things when we eat out, because I loathe them and never use them at home.  Its bun was a mash of dehydrated seeds and vegetables, which he was not keen on, but other than that, he was pretty pleased.

Before heading out, we stopped at Paradis Vegetarien, where you can find almost any type of faux meat imagineable.  Erin and Neil had some requirements, and I was happy to oblige. I chatted with Jimmy, the owner, about Veg Fest. He will be coming, by the way.

Montreal is a great place for vegans to visit for even just for a day or two, because it packs a lot of punch.  The area bordered by Sherbrooke, Saint Joseph, St-Laurent and St-Denis is practically a vegan paradise, with lots of little independent shops to boot. Go there.