Having My Vegan Cake…And Eating it Too!

This year marks my 31st birthday, and I have to say that 30 was pretty great. It was the year of many accomplishments. My passion project turned into a registered non-profit called Secondhand Stories, which then joined VegOttawa as a business partner, and then two months ago I joined the VegOttawa board as the new 2022 President. Life is pretty good, so I’m going to celebrate! I can’t imagine all the exciting things to come, but I know one thing’s for sure – I’m going to have my vegan cake… and eat it too.

Did you know that there are 12+ options for vegan cakes in Ottawa?! I had no idea there were so many places that offered delicious, mouth-watering, spongy goodness. It was so hard to decide which one to get. If you’re like me, you might consider having a birthday week just to get more cake. So, without further ado, I’m breaking down our incredible vegan cake options in Ottawa for you all:

Little Jo Berry’s
Sizing: 6’’ or 8’’ cakes
Price: $42.55 – $53.85
Flavours: 6 Flavours (including Dunk-a-roos)
Bonus: Can be made GF!

Pastel & Coco
Sizing: 5’’to 11’’ (4 – 18 servings)
Price: $36 – $145
Flavours: 12 Flavours
Bonus: 4 Cheesecake flavours!

Serendipity Cakes by Olivia
Sizing: Feeds 15-20 people
Price: Starting at $120
Flavours: Over 13 flavours and fillings.
Bonus: They make wedding cakes, too.

Sizing: Varies
Price: $63 – $150
Flavours: Varies – See website for details.
Bonus: Mini Cakes, Smash Cakes and GF Cakes, too!

Strawberry Blonde
Sizing: 4” – 10” (2 – 30 servings)
Price: $40 – $95
Flavours: Over 19 flavours!
Bonus: Solo party? Get a cake tin for only $8.50! Walk in cake tin purchases get 10% off with a VegOttawa membership.

Naturally Vero
Sizing: 6 to 10 people
Price:  $42- $75
Flavours: 13 Flavours Available

The Green Door
Sizing: Not Listed
Price: $18 – $52
Flavours: Vegan Orange Blueberry Cake and 12 Cheesecakes and Pie Flavours

Thyme & Again
Sizing: Small & Large (6 to 12 people)
Price: $30 – 50
Flavours: Pink Lemonade
Bonus: They also have a vegan raspberry tart!

The Merry Dairy 
Sizing: 6” – 9” (6 to 14 people)
Price:  $40 – $50
Flavours: Vegan Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake

Sizing: Small, Medium or Large (4-15 people)
Price: Inquire for pricing.
Flavours: Cinnacake with 1 Frosting Flavour and up to 5 Toppings
Bonus: VegOttawa Members Save 10%!

Keepin’ It Vegan
Inquire on the website.

Special Mentions
Grow Your Roots Double Rainbow Cake Mix
Whole Foods (for when you’re in a pinch)

So, you’re probably wondering which one I chose? Well, you’ll have to follow us on Instagram for the cake reveal on our stories on May 25th. 

 Ps: A bonus birthday hack for you all – look on Facebook marketplace for balloons right before your celebration instead of buying new. Balloons aren’t all that great for the environment, but if you can find some new-to-you air filled ones, you can reuse them again and again!

Liz Wheeler is the current President of VegOttawa Association. She is passionate animal advocate who is dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our community. She has completed a certificate in Animal Welfare from Thompson Rivers University and a certification in Anthrozoology at the University of Windsor. Liz is a philanthropy officer for a national animal protection organization, the founder of Secondhand Stories, and creator of Ottawa For The Animals. She is a cat mom and dedicated feline enthusiast. When she’s not busy advocating for animals, she enjoys snacking on delicious vegan food.

Vegan Ice Cream Bingo

Is there anything better than a good vegan scoop? We don’t think so. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best vegan ice cream options in Ottawa, but made it BINGO! Make sure you check out the incredible options below, and scroll all the way down to read about our giveaway!

Moo Shu Ice Cream – Scoops, Bars & Pints. Vegan Chocolate, Vegan Dalgona & Coffee & Others on Rotation

Lois N’ Frimas – Scoops. Mint chip, espresso/peanut butter, salty caramel, pistachio, and cookie dough

Dairy Queen – Non Dairy Dilly Bars

Beachconers – Scoops & Pints. Varies with flavours like vegan maple walnut or  vegan chocolate orange.

Menchies – Scoops. All sorbet options (up to 15) are vegan.

The Merry Dairy – Scoops & Pints. Flavours like Coffee or Hibiscus Passionfruit.

La Diperie – Scoops & Bars. Raspberry Soft Serve, Cookie Dough. Vegan Bars: Vanila, Chocolate, Mango, and Raspberry.  

Cinnaholic – Pineapple Dole Whip

Carp Custom Creamery – Scoops & Pints. Flavours like chocolate mint oreo, peanut butter chocolate, vanilla, strawberry sorbet, peach sorbet and more.

La Cigale (Chelsea, QC) – Scoops & Pints. Banana Oreo or Chai Almond flavours. 

Oat & Mill – Scoops & Pints. Scoops available at Little Jo Berrys & Jojo’s Cremeria.

Chocolat Favoris – Scoops. Vanilla or Raspberry Soft Serve. Chocolate dip and topping varieties.

Marble Slab Creamery – Scoops & Pints. Chocolate, Coconut milk, Strawberry Banana or Pina Colada.

Ikea – Strawberry Softserve

Pascales – Scoops, Bars & Pints. Scoops available at Carlington Coffee House pop-ups. Flavours like Vanilla Coconut, Dark Chocolate Cashew and Tahini Caramel.

Strawberry Blonde – Coming soon! Pints. Flavours like vanilla, chocolate, brownie fudge.

Baskin Robbins – Scoops & Pints. Strawberry Streusel.

Thimble Cakes – Coconut Scoops. Flavours like cherry mint chip, cookie dough, and more.

Chris’ Ice Cream –  Pints available upon request. Flavours like maple oat milk, oat milk latte, strawberry coconut milk and roasted peach sorbet.

Mantovani 1946 – Gelato & Sorbetto Scoops. Flavours like Vegan Hazelnut, Tropical Sorbetto and dark chocolate gelato.

Heritage Hemp (PlantX Market) – Vegan Vanilla Hemp Iced Pints.

Farinella – Gelato Scoops. Flavours include Dark Chocolate, Mango, Pear, Strawberry, Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate Cookies & Cream & Grapefruit.

Honey -Various gelato scoops.

Piccolo Grande – Sorbet Scoops. Flavours include Lemon, Lime, Mango, Passion andFruit. Grapefruit and Cherry available seasonally.

Share your ice cream posts with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us at @vegottawa and your next cone might be on us!  Every post that tags us and uses #vegottawa will be entered to win a $10 gift card to Cinnaholic to try their delicious dole whip!

Liz Wheeler is the current President of VegOttawa Association. She is passionate animal advocate who is dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our community. She has completed a certificate in Animal Welfare from Thompson Rivers University and a certification in Anthrozoology at the University of Windsor. Liz is a philanthropy officer for a national animal protection organization, the founder of Secondhand Stories, and creator of Ottawa For The Animals. She is a cat mom and dedicated feline enthusiast. When she’s not busy advocating for animals, she enjoys snacking on delicious vegan food.

REVIEW: Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary Walking Tour

Lying east of the city of Ottawa is Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary, a safe haven for non-human animals that spans 58 acres. This vegan oasis is home to all sorts of creatures including horses, cows, goats, sheep, cats, turkeys, chickens, pigs, quails, geese, and many more.

Like many organizations affected by the pandemic, Penny Lane was forced to close their doors to visitors for many months. Now, they are offering self-guided walking tours that allow visitors to explore the grounds and meet the Penny Lane residents in a COVID-safe way.

The walking tour is about 0.5 KM in length and takes you around the farm sanctuary grounds covering all of the enclosures on the property, including the forest and butterfly garden. To keep things fun, the tour has 8 stations that have a fact sheet about the residents such as their weight, age, and story before coming to Penny Lane.

Throughout the tour, on-site volunteers are happy to answer questions and share more information about each of the residents. I was lucky enough to meet several residents like Jade the horse, who suffered in Quebec City’s caleche industry before retiring to Penny Lane, and Suzie, a 6-week old calf who is one of Penny Lane’s newest additions.

The capacity that non-human animals have for compassion and forgiveness always amazes me. Despite their tragic histories (which often involved abuse and mistreatment), the majority of Penny Lane’s residents showered me with affection throughout my visit. I felt deeply loved as they nuzzled against me or followed me as I walked around.

Residents who are not interested in spending time with humans are given plenty of space and not forced to interact with visitors if they don’t want to. Instead, I was able to appreciate them from afar.

All in all, I highly recommend taking one of Penny Lane’s walking tours as it is a great experience to share with kids, friends, family members, or co-workers. Visiting the sanctuary can also be a great way to share the values of veganism with others by allowing them to interact with some pretty amazing farmed animals. Penny Lane gives visitors the unique gift of seeing animals who are free to just be (which is the sanctuary’s slogan!).

Photo credit: Jon Godin

To learn more about Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary, check out their Instagram and Facebook. To learn how you can support the sanctuary or to schedule a tour, please visit their website.

Jade Conrad is President of VegOttawa Association. She participated in one of Penny Lane’s walking tours on September 12, 2021. This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary.

Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling: Stakeholder Meeting

The Canadian government is developing new regulations that would require front-of-package labelling for foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.

This image, from the consultation document (by the Food Directorate) found on the Government of Canada’s website, is titled “Figure 1: Examples of FOP “high in” symbol under consideration by Health Canada“.

Canada Front-of-Package Labelling


Front-of-package labelling is an issue that may be of interest to many health-concerned people. It is specifically relevant to vegans because most of the foods that are high in saturated fats are animal-derived; however, foods that are high in sugars may or may not be vegan, so more research would need to be done to determine if these new labelling requirements would actually benefit animals.

The consultation is now closed, but if this is a topic that interests you, you might want to check out the live-streaming of an upcoming meeting with stakeholders on the subject. You can get your free tickets on Eventbrite.

Have a nice day!

Our Voices Are Being Heard!

By Carolyn Harris

(This blog post is also posted on Carolyn’s personal advocacy blog.)

Many of you may recall that last year, Health Canada was holding Phase 1 of its public consultation on revising Canada’s Food Guide. Canadians were invited to submit their opinions and experiences with the Food Guide using an online form on http://www.foodguideconsultation.ca. In total, 19,873 submissions were received (although participants were able to make submissions more than once). Of those, 14,297 were from the general public, 5,096 were from professionals, and 461 were from organizations (the NCVA was one of those organizations!). Now, several documents have been released, including one reviewing the input that has been heard from the Canadian public; an “Evidence review for dietary guidance”; and a proposed description of “Guiding Principles, Recommendations, and Considerations” for healthy eating.

These documents are very encouraging for those of us who are working to spread the vegan/plant-based/vegetarian message! I am saving the best news for later on in this blog post (under the subheading “Guiding Principles”), but I recommend that you read the whole post to get a more complete picture of how the proposed dietary recommendations relate to plant-based eating.

Public Input from Phase 1 of the Consultation

First, let’s look at the document, “Canada’s Food Guide Consultation – Phase 1 What We Heard Report”.

Happily, veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-based diets are mentioned in the document a few times!

The document can be found in full on the Government of Canada website. Below, I have included 7 excerpts from the document that mention veganism, vegetarianism, and related issues.

1) When asked how useful the current Four Food Groups were, participants expressed the following: “Current food groupings (such as Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives) were considered useful, to at least “some extent”, due to their simplicity, however less useful to some because of their departure from the nutritional components, lack of applicability to all circumstances and needs such as for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or dietary restrictions.” (found in Section 4.0)

2) “Other personal interests in healthy eating recommendations that were mentioned by participants include:

  • improving the health of all Canadians in general;
  • having a focus on dietary choices such as vegetarianism and veganism;
  • managing food intolerances/allergies;
  • disease management/managing health conditions, such as diabetes;
  • concerns about the environment or animal welfare;
  • support for educational study; or
  • to aid their own involvement in a social or community group related to personal wellbeing, such as:
    • a healthy lifestyle
    • fitness
    • weight loss” (found in Section 5.1)

3) “Participants were very positive about the prospect of revisions to Canada’s Food Guide. For some, the current format offers a simple way to structure thinking about healthy eating and encourages Canadians to think about healthy eating principles. Others felt that the current recommendations are misleading and that revisions would be helpful to ensure the recommendations are useful to a broader audience.” (found in Section 5.2)

4) “Generally, participants from the public, professionals and organizations felt that dietary guidance should cover a broad range of needs. Feedback received from contributors on potential content of the guidance included:

  • more focus on audience specific recommendations, particularly for those with lower incomes, elderly Canadians and children;
  • inclusion of guidance addressing a range of lifestyle choices/dietary restrictions; and,
  • more details related to the nutrient requirements for positive health outcomes, such as a focus on macronutrients and micronutrients essential for health.

A few participants also commented on a need for broader changes to the food industry beyond guidance materials to more specific policy changes to improve the health of Canadians by limiting options that negatively affect human health.” (found in Section 5.2)

5) “Many general public participants indicated that the current food groupings were useful to them, to at least “some extent”. They often cited the simplicity of the groupings as a good foundation for building awareness of healthy eating habits. Others felt the groupings were not useful due to their:

  • departure from the nutritional components (micro and macro nutrients) in foods essential for positive health outcomes; and
  • lack of ability to apply the groupings to all circumstances and needs, such as for:
    • vegan or vegetarian lifestyles
    • other dietary restrictions” (found in Section 5.4)

6) “A greater emphasis on (or de-emphasis of) certain foods was recommended by participating professionals as a way to improve the usefulness of the food groupings. For example, some contributors suggested this could include:

  • a greater emphasis on vegetables, rather than fruits; or
  • a de-emphasis of meat or milk” (found in Section 5.4)

7) “While there are mixed perspectives, both positive and negative, on the value of Canada’s Food Guide in its current format (including the content and recommendations specifically), many general public and professional/organizational participants agree that Canada’s Food Guide may no longer be reflective of the increasingly varied diets of Canadians today.

There are different, more varied food types on the tables of Canadians than ever before, due to the rise of trends, such as:

  • community gardening;
  • gluten-free products;
  • an emphasis on whole foods and plant-based diets; and
  • the greater variety of traditional cuisines of Canada’s multicultural population.

There is a call for healthy eating recommendations to be expanded to:

  • reflect this greater variety;
  • provide a basis of scientific evidence;
  • provide more details to Canadians about the foods they are consuming; and
  • create guidance to inform healthy eating behaviours.” (Section 6.0)

It seems that the government is starting to hear the logic of our movement. That’s not all the good news, however. There’s more!

“Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance”

The document “Evidence review for dietary guidance” does not mention plant-based eating, vegetarian diets, or vegan diets. However, they did make some comments about how some people are concerned about industry influence on Canada’s Food Guide:

“Another reported challenge was that there remains a perception among some groups of consumers and organizations that food industry representatives exerted influence on the development of the recommendations in the Food Guide. This adversely affects the credibility of the guidance from a scientific standpoint in the eyes of these stakeholders.” (Page 5 of the PDF)

I wouldn’t be surprised if concerns raised by vegans about the influence of the meat, dairy, and egg industries on the Food Guide are part of the reason why Health Canada makes this statement. I myself expressed this concern in my Op-Ed on the Epoch Times’ website last year.

Guiding Principles

Health Canada has also released a document outlining the proposed Guiding Principles, Recommendations, and Considerations for healthy eating.

Here is a summarized description of the principles:

(Source: Government of Canada)

A detailed description of the Guiding Principles is also available on the Government of Canada website. The word “plant-based” is used 6 times in the Guiding Principles document, and in 5 of those times it is used positively! Here are 4 excerpts from the document that mention plant-based food:

1) “Health Canada recommends:

  • Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich foods* – especially plant-based sources of protein
  • Inclusion of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that contain mostly of saturated fat
  • Regular intake of water

*Protein-rich foods include: legumes (such as beans), nuts and seeds, soy products (including fortified soy beverage), eggs, fish and other seafood, poultry, lean red meats (including game meats such as moose, deer and caribou), lower fat milk and yogurt, cheeses lower in sodium and fat. Nutritious foods that contain fat such as homogenized (3.25% M.F.) milk should not be restricted for young children.”

Note that plant-based sources of protein are mentioned first on the list of protein-rich food sources! It looks like the plant-based/vegan/vegetarian message is doing better than many of us may have thought!

2) “What is needed is a shift towards a high proportion of plant-based foods, without necessarily excluding animal foods altogether.”

While the second part of this sentence may initially seem a bit disappointing, they do seem to be making progress in the right direction. Also, consider the fact that Health Canada actually mentions the idea of excluding animal products altogether; the way they phrase the sentence (“without necessarily excluding” (italics added by me)) makes me think that they don’t think that excluding animal products is at all far-fetched.

3) “A shift towards more plant-based foods can help Canadians:

  • eat more fibre-rich foods;
  • eat less red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat); and
  • replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat (e.g., cream, high fat cheeses and butter) with foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat (e.g., nuts, seeds, and avocado).

To help meet these recommendations, Canadians can choose nutritious foods and beverages, including:

  • foods and beverages that require little or no preparation such as fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit, canned legumes or fish, tofu, plain milk or fortified plant-based beverages;
  • foods and beverages that are pre-packaged for convenience (such as pre-washed salad greens, pre-cut fruit) or to increase shelf-life (such as powdered milk);
  • foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish, avocado, and vegetable oils instead of foods like high fat cheeses and cream; and
  • foods obtained through gardening, hunting, trapping, fishing and harvesting.”

Apart from the last bullet point and the recommendations of fish and milk, and, I am encouraged by with the progressive thinking in terms of plant-based eating that is demonstrated here.

4) “In general, diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact, when compared to current diets high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.”

Overall, I am quite impressed with the receptiveness to vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eating that the government has shown in this first phase of the consultation. However, there is still definite room for improvement.

Next Steps

Our job is not over yet!

Phase 2 of the public consultation is being held from June 10 untilJuly 25, 2017. In this new phase, Canadians are being asked to submit their input on the proposed Guiding Principles for healthy eating.

I have already submitted my input. Although I did suggest that plant-based eating be further emphasized (and that meat, dairy and other animal products be further de-emphasized), I chose to focus my comments on the positive aspects of the proposed new recommendations, as they appear to be a major improvement from the current Food Guide. I want to encourage the government to keep the progress they have made, at the very least. It is likely that many groups will be submitting their comments to the government on the proposed recommendations, so it is important for vegans and vegetarians to speak up and let the government know that we care about this issue.


You can submit your comments at www.foodguideconsultation.ca. Thank you for caring!


Canada’s Food Guide Consultation – Phase 1 What We Heard Report

Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance: Summary of Results and Implications for Canada’s Food Guide

Summary of Guiding Principles and Recommendations

Guiding Principles

Canada’s Food Guide Should Recommend a Vegan Diet (my Op-Ed)

12 Gift-Giving Ideas You Can Feel Good About


With the winter holidays fast approaching, you’ve probably already started thinking about potential gift options for the special people in your life. For most of us, it feels great to be able to give someone you care about a present that you know they’ll love. But it feels even better when you can feel good about where that gift came from.

Thankfully, as more and more people become conscious of where they shop and what they shop for, we’ve seen the advent of countless new companies and products that use sustainable practices. So whether you’re a vegan and/or a hardcore environmentalist, or you’re just trying to be a little bit more ethical in your shopping habits, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find gifts that align with your values.

The following is a list of great cruelty-free gift ideas, many of which are local, that you can feel good about purchasing.

1. Bath and body products: If you want something that’s made here in Ottawa, Sud With Me has a range of natural, vegan personal care products (and all of the profits go to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, so it’s a win-win!). Purple Urchin is another independent, Ottawa-based company that sells natural soap and skincare products. There’s also Druide, which is based in Quebec, and Lush of course. If you’re feeling creative you can even try your hand at DIY homemade bath and body products – there are endless ‘recipes’ available online on sites like Pinterest.

2. Books: There are so many fantastic books out there that can educate people about how to live more ethically and healthily. A few examples include the Ecoholic books by Adria Vasil; The Simply Raw Living Foods Detox Manual by Natasha Kyssa, owner of Ottawa’s Simply Raw Express; Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina; or Vache à lait: Dix mythes de l’industrie laitière by Élise Desaulniers.

3. Cookbooks: If you need a gift for someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, some of the most popular plant-based cookbooks on shelves at the moment are Angela Liddon’s The Oh She Glows Cookbook, Robin Robertson’s Vegan Without Borders: Easy Everyday Meals from Around the World, Nava Atlas’ Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes, Mayim Bialik’s Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours and Emily von Euw’s Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes.

4. Homemade treats: Who doesn’t love a batch of something homemade? You could make vegan peppermint bark, gingerbread cookies, Turtle oatmeal cookies, magical coconut bars, peanut butter fudge or snickerdoodle cookies. Put your goodies into a nice tin, jar or gift box, add a bit of ribbon and a bow and voilà – you have an inexpensive and one-of-a-kind gift that’s perfect for the sweet-lover on your list.

5. Experiential gifts: Want to avoid giving someone a “thing”? Plan an outing to the theatre (try the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa Little Theatre or The Gladstone, La Nouvelle Scène) or a museum or gallery. Or, organize a short trip to a nearby city or a wellness retreat, such as Sugar Ridge in Wyebridge, ON or Shanti on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, ON.

6. Eco-friendly items for the home: Help your family members and friends be kind to the planet by giving them something useful and sustainable, such as a set of mesh produce shopping bags, a reusable silicone baking mat, stainless steel or cast iron cookware, biodegradable dishes and utensils or napkins, placemats and sheets made from hemp, linen or organic cotton. If you need more inspiration, Terra20 has a holiday flyer with tons of other great ideas.

7. Tea and coffee: There’s nothing like a steaming cup of your favourite brew to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, so why not put together a selection of sustainably-sourced teas and coffees? Stash has a line of organic, fair-trade teas and Angela Liddon, who’s based in Toronto, has just opened the Oh She Glows Tea Shoppe, featuring a range of delicious-sounding organic, loose leaf tea blends. Bridgehead sells organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffees and organic, fair-trade teas. Adria Vasil (known for her Ecoholic book series and website) recommends the Jane Goodall Institute Blend coffee, which is organic, fair trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified. In Gatineau, the Cha Yi Tea House offers a vast selection of organic and natural teas and herbal teas. Daniel, its owner, travels each year to Asia where he  buys high quality teas directly from small tea farmers.

8. Ready-made meals: If someone on your list is perpetually short on time, they may appreciate receiving food that’s already prepared. Erika LeBlanc has a 100% vegan catering company, appropriately named Erika’s Vegan Catering, which offers salads, entrees and desserts that feed 6 or 12 people. You could also have a restaurant or take-out place deliver food to a friend’s house regularly for a while to save them the trouble of having to cook every night.

9. Themed gift baskets: Assembling your own baskets can be a lot of fun because you can create unique gifts tailored to the people on your list. If you have a friend who’s obsessed with all things chocolate for example, pick out an assortment of nice, cruelty-free chocolate bars, hot chocolate mixes and chocolate-covered snacks like pretzels and raisins and put them into a decorative basket. Add some tissue paper and a little ribbon and you’ve got a fancy, thoughtful gift that your friend will love (and the basket and tissue paper can be reused).

10. An evening out, on you: If you need a gift for someone who already has everything, you might want to pick up a gift certificate for a veg or veg-friendly restaurant. The Table, Café My House, Simply Raw Express and The Green Door are great all-veg establishments. Popular places with good vegetarian/vegan options include A Thing for Chocolate, The Manx Pub, The Daily Grind and Oz Kafe.

11. A donation to a good cause: No matter what your loved ones are passionate about, chances are there’s an organization dedicated to it. If you’ve got any animal lovers on your list, consider making a donation in their names to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, Hungry and Homeless Cat Rescue or Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary (all local) or the Humane Society International or Mercy for Animals Canada.

12. An NCVA membership: Belonging to the NCVA will not only bring your gift recipient into a supportive community of people who follow a plant-based diet, but it will also give them access to great discounts on a wide range of veg-friendly foods, products and services.

If you’ve got other ideas for ethical gifts, please share them in the comments below!

Becoming (and Staying) Vegetarian


When I tell non-vegetarians or vegans that I don’t eat meat or fish, they usually respond in one of two ways: they either look surprised (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes less so) or they say that they’re impressed, because, while they like the idea of vegetarianism, they don’t think they could ever do it. The reality is though, it’s not hard to make the transition if you’re committed to it.

It probably seems as though I’m preaching to the choir here – and to an extent, I am. But given that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month it seems like a good time to share some tips for those who have perhaps ‘flirted’ with vegetarianism or those who like the concept but aren’t sure if they’re ready to actually become vegetarian.

These tips are based on my own experiences with giving up meat. I became vegetarian in 2010 after thinking about it for several years, and was happily surprised that it was easier than I thought it would be. (I made the transition to veganism in early 2014 and will cover that in a separate post.)

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you’re already veg and you have other suggestions, ideas or personal stories to share, please post them in the comments below.

Tip 1: Know why you’re doing it.

There are many good reasons to go veg, whether it’s for moral reasons or because you want to improve your health or lessen your carbon footprint. Taking the time to think seriously about why you want to be vegetarian is important, since there may be times when you feel like giving up and it will help to remind yourself of why you made the decision to go veg in the first place.

Tip 2: Decide on an approach.

Some people stop eating all meat and fish immediately, while others opt for a more gradual approach. I personally was worried that I might relapse if I gave it up overnight, so I decided to eliminate one animal from my diet at a time. I eventually became vegetarian after several months of cutting out animal products and experimenting with vegetarian recipes. I suggest that you do whatever feels right for you.

Tip 3: Look for alternatives to staples in your diet.

If you consume a lot of meat/fish or have favourite dishes that include animal products, it’s not a bad idea to find substitutions so that you can still enjoy foods you know you like. For example, there are some very convincing ‘faux meats’ that are popular among many vegetarians and vegans (like products by Yves or Field Roast) and meat alternatives like soy, tempeh and seitan. If you’re used to having spaghetti and meatballs, try adding lentils or roasted vegetables to your pasta instead. Used to having turkey on a sandwich? Hummus is a great alternative. It may feel like a bit of hassle at first but I promise, there are so many delicious vegetarian options out there that you won’t feel like you’re missing out.

Tip 4: Do your homework.

A lot of processed/pre-packaged foods contain ingredients that are not vegetarian, or that may come from non-vegetarian sources. You’ll have to carefully check labels for things like gelatin (found in marshmallows and gummy candies, for example), shellac (common in candies with a shiny coating), anchovies (in Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing), rennet (in some cheese/dairy products), carmine (used as a colouring agent), stearates (like calcium or magnesium stearate) or any derivatives of glycerine (like mono and di-glycerides, which are found in most commercial bread products). Some of these ingredients can be derived from plant sources, but more often than not they are not suitable for vegetarians. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of asking questions in restaurants. Although almost every menu has at least one vegetarian option, seemingly innocent items like soup are often made with animal broths.

Tip 5: Talk to your friends and family about your decision.

This is especially important if most of the people you’re close to are omnivores. I recommend telling the people in your life about your new dietary preferences and your reasons for becoming vegetarian, since they will likely want to know the reason for the change and may wonder what you expect from them. Ask them to support you in your new lifestyle and suggest ways to make the transition easier for everyone. For example, you may need to be a little more involved in planning the menu for your next family gathering, or you could offer to prepare something the next time you go over to a friend’s house. Ultimately it will be up to you to work out the logistics (it will be more of an issue for some people than others) but it’s usually a discussion worth having.

Tip 6: Pay attention to your body.

Most people seem to feel great after ditching meat and fish from their diet. Before long, you should start to see and feel positive changes in your body such as increased energy, easier digestion, deeper sleep and of course, a clearer conscience if you’ve gone veg for non-health reasons. However, it’s important to make sure you’re eating balanced meals and getting the right nutrients (this goes for everyone, regardless of how they eat). If you start to notice any negative changes that don’t clear up on their own, like low energy levels or significant weight loss, it may be worth seeing a doctor or nutritionist. Eating a variety of fresh, whole foods should leave you feeling strong and healthy, but you may need or choose to supplement your diet with extra doses of vitamins and minerals like iron, B12 and calcium.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to vegetarianism but don’t feel ready to give up meat/fish completely, just do what you can at first. Some people do meatless Mondays, or follow a weekday vegetarian diet, or make 2 out of 3 meals each day vegetarian. Every little bit helps your body, the planet and the animals. And when you’re ready to fully commit to being vegetarian, you’ll already know which vegetarian meals you like and which restaurants in your area offer good veggie fare.

Stay tuned for another article with tips on becoming vegan, coming soon!

Be Kind to Activists, Feed the Birds

A while back, an animal rights activist who I know only casually sent out a call for help on Facebook. She was working in the Territories and needed help re-homing a dog that had been abandoned, tied for weeks to a tree.

She’d done what she could for the dog, feeding him and trying to make him comfortable in her home. But her job posting there was ending soon, and she was already on thin ice with her employers because her pro-animal attitudes weren’t jiving too well with the locals.

I’ll save you the suspense and tell you that the story has a happy ending. The dog was taken in by a wonderful rescue in British Columbia. Before this excellent resolution, however, my heart broke – not only for the abandoned dog, but for the activist herself. I imagined what it would be like to be her: all alone among unsympathetic strangers and facing the very real possibility of having to leave this dog to his fate.

As I reflect now, it occurs to me that this is exactly the sort of situation in which all of us should make an extra effort to help.

Why? Why should we take a particular interest when an activist needs help saving an animal? Because, as a friend of mine puts it, you’ll be “feeding two birds with one scone”. Three birds, actually.

Bird#1: You’re helping the animal. Just one in the sea of desperate creatures you probably see in your facebook feed each day, but he or she is as deserving of a break as anyone.

Bird #2: You’re helping ease the pain of a fellow activist. As some of you may know first hand (and as I know from studying animal activists from a sociological perspective), being an animal activist in a world that treats them as chattel can be emotionally draining if not downright debilitating.

Bird #3: In addition to relieving the activist’s short-term pain, you are giving her hope. Hope that there are others out there that feel as she does. Hope that when she reaches out for help on behalf on her non-animal brethren, someone will heed the call. In other words, you help her remain an animal activist. And that helps the animal protection movement flourish.

So how did I come to the revelation, you ask. Well, the simple fact is that I’m playing the role of heartsick activist right now. We foster cats for the Ottawa Humane Society, and the fellow we had for four months just went into the adoption centre. From a comfy seat on our couch, our constant attention and the companionship of his foster sister, he has gone to a cage in a PetValu in Nepean.

And I feel pretty much like crap about it. So crappy, in fact, that I am unsure if I can emotionally handle fostering the next cat in need.

What’s helping me, however, is the fact that, when I asked my Facebook friends to share his profile, a lot of them did. They may think it was a small thing, but it meant a lot to me.

Anyway, if what I’ve said resonates at all with you and you agree that going the extra mile to help your fellow activists is a swell idea, then I have just the place for you to start!

Neil made an adoption profile for our darling Damon. Please share it: http://bit.ly/1eDo6G7

Help him, help me, and help the movement by giving an activist the hope she needs to stay in the game just a little bit longer.

Here’s to Ottawa’s Next Gen Veg Activists!

Their website - let's help them get those likes up, people!

The NCVA recently received an email from highschoolers Lia and Bethany. They’re working on a project for their grade ten outdoor education class. The goal: to help the environment by encouraging people to try eating vegetarian. The plan: to set up an interactive pro-veg website and facebook page, and distribute flyers in their neighbourhoods.

They asked us to mention them on our blog, but being so impressed by their awesomeness, we thought they should speak for themselves. So without further ado, here’s a guest blog post from Lia and Bethany, next-gen veggie activists extraordinaire! Don’t forget to go like their facebook page when you’re done reading!


The Economist magazine rated Canada as the ninth most carnivorous country with just under 100kg of meat consumed per person in 2007. That’s 3.96 million tonnes of meat in total. Here are the numbers:

An average steer weighs 1400 pounds, but only 43% of that is transferred into edible products you see in store refrigerators after the hide, head, organs, and excess fat are removed. So, of that 1400 pound cow, only 602 pounds of it is sold and consumed. 3.96 million tonnes is equivalent to 8,730,305,583 pounds of meat. That’s 14.5 million cows.

Pig factory farm. Photo by Maqi.

Beef accounts for only a third of the 3.96 million tonnes of meat Canadians consumed in 2007. Pigs make up just under another third, and poultry makes up the rest. Pigs, and especially chickens, produce far less meat per animal. This means that even more animal lives are lost to fill our plates.

No matter how you slice it, Canadians literally eat tonnes of meat. If all of Canada’s 34,482,779 people made the effort to eat one more vegetarian meal per week, many animals would be spared from the slaughterhouse. What if we ate two more meals? Three?

Making the effort to eat vegetarian even three times a week not only saves lives, but also greenhouse gas emissions. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), producing one calorie of meat protein requires eleven times as many fossil fuels than producing one calorie of plant protein. If every person in Canada skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking over 55,333 cars off the road.

In theory, eating less meat is easy. Just don’t cook any. But then the question is: what can you make instead?

Inspiration for your next vegetarian meal is right at your fingertips. The Veg Pledge is a student-run initiative meant to encourage people in the Ottawa area to try eating at least one vegetarian meal per week. Don’t know what to make for dinner tonight? Check out our collection of vegetarian recipes and photos at www.thevegpledge.weebly.com, and don’t forget to share your creation with us at pledgetoveg@gmail.com!

If you want to get inspiration delivered to your notifications, like our page at https://www.facebook.com/TheVegPledge. All we ask in return is that you share this encouragement with your friends. Join us in our push for a greener Ottawa!