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Gifts are always difficult to choose, even for those we know well. If your vegan friend's birthday is coming up and you're still not sure what to buy, this short guide will help you find a gift (or at least a category!) they will appreciate.
First of all, gifts depend greatly on personalities, there’s no universal “gift for vegans”, so bear that in mind. But there are some non-vegan products vegans are sometimes gifted and left in an awkward position, so let’s check these first.
Sounds obvious, but can be sneaked into many normally-looking products. Belts, purses, accessories, even trousers with a small leather brand label. Double-check the materials before purchasing.
The most misleading label of them all: cruelty-free. Cruelty-free only means that a product was not tested on animals. But it could still contain animal-derived ingredients! If there’s no vegan label on the bottle or a brand’s website, probably best not to buy it.
Not such a long time ago, someone thought: “What do all vegans have in common? Being vegan? I should capitalize on that!” This was the start of the practice of making ugly things and writing a word on them: keychains, tote bags, t-shirts, etc. If they have a cool message or graphics (and if the person likes such things), sure, why not. But if these items only have this word slapped on with zero aesthetics, it’s obviously a cash grab.
Nothing speaks louder than money. However, receiving money seems a bit impersonal, like we haven't put in the effort to think about a gift. This is where vouchers and donations come in. Find an animal sanctuary they like or a cause they care about and donate the amount of money you’d spend on a gift. No amount is too small! Screenshot the donation, print it, and put it in a nice envelope. Warms every vegan’s heart, guaranteed.
Remember those cash grabbers from two sentences ago? Well, they lurk behind books too. Veganism is unfortunately sometimes still seen as a fad, and trendy words seem to sell products. Still, books and cookbooks are a great choice for those who like reading about diet, animals, health, and other topics related to veganism. When browsing books for somebody else, read about the author as well. If they are a vegan, go for it. But if the author isn’t a dedicated vegan but a company printing books about all topics with no criteria whatsoever, it’s better to keep looking for a better book.
All of us have some wishes we’re just too rational to fulfill. This is the point of gifts, getting spoiled with something we couldn’t justify buying ourselves, right? Maybe your friend or a loved one has wanted to try something on a pricier side but didn’t want to waste money. It’s your time to shine. Pay for a weekly subscription for a vegan meal kit delivery service, a monthly beauty box, a subscription to freshly ground coffee beans… options are almost endless. This is a great way for your friend to see if they like something before committing to it.
Finally, a hands-on activity. It takes more time and effort, but it’s bound to score points in the emotional department. Roll up your sleeves, find a good recipe, get the ingredients and make a cake! The recipe doesn’t have to be wild or glamorous; even a simple cake shows you care and want a gift with soul.
Contrary to the popular meme about how vegans always tell everyone they are vegan, that doesn’t happen that often. In other words, the fact that someone is vegan doesn’t mean they want all the things in their life to be about veganism. Don’t forget about their other hobbies or interests. But if they are into this kind of thing, it’s hard to go wrong with donations, books, subscription services, and of course, cake.
“A series on professional athletes that have gone vegan in the pursuit of peak physical and mental performance”
There are many reasons to go vegan. Anecdotally, most vegans choose to abstain from flesh for one of three reasons: for their health, for the environment or for the welfare of animals. A slept-on but growing trend is becoming vegan for athletic advantage.
Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul nicknamed "CP3", has had an illustrious career. He is an 11x All-Star, 9x All-NBA and 9x All-Defense. He is also a recently converted vegan as of 2019. Why the change?
The 2018 Houston Rockets, which Paul co-anchored, were one win away from slaying arguably the greatest collection of talent of all-time, the 2018 Golden State Warriors.
With the series tied 2-2 and the Rockets up 95-94 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Paul suffered a hamstring injury. It was not Paul’s first injury in a playoff series. But it was the costliest. He was out for the remainder of the series.
The Rockets won Game 5 98-94. They lost Games 6 and 7, thus the series 3-4. They are considered one of the best teams ever to not win a championship.
So close to a ring, the 2019 Rockets decided to run it back. But once again Paul was hurt and missed 17 games. He would play his second-lowest games in a season (58) and shooting a career-worst, 41.9 % from the field.
Paul relies on a deceptively athletic game. The 2019 season saw those advantages sapped. At 34-years old Paul was looking at the descent of his career. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the season, a team looking to tank and rebuild for the future.
The Thunder’s timeline did not fit into Paul’s narrative. He sought changes to help flip the script. This included shifting to a completely plant-based diet. And...
Paul rebounded. He played 70 games and was named an all-star during the 2020 season. Both had not happened since 2015 when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. Statistically, his scoring shot back up to 17.6 ppg and he shot his second-best FG% ever at 48.9.
The Thunder snagged the 5th seed in the West and scrappily fought their first-round matchup, the Rockets, before losing Game 7.
Paul's resurgence went beyond the stat sheet. He was more active on the court than ever. This alley he caught in the 2020 All-Star Game can attest to his bounciness. A fresher serving for the blasphemous.
According to Paul his ability to recover was boosted by swearing off meat.
“I think the biggest change for me is the aches and pains of the season. I started working out and training and I got to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and I thought, am I not lifting hard enough? Am I not training hard enough? Why am I not achy? I ain’t trying to say you have to stay with it, but give it a try.”
But how did Paul arrive at veganism?
The film debates the merits of plant-based eating vs a carnivorous diet for athletes. For Paul personally, the results speak for themselves.
On a typical day, Paul's diet will consist of: oatmeal for breakfast, pasta/rice with beyond sausage and veggies for lunch, fish (plant-based) with soup or Hawaiian Loco Moco with a Beyond burger on top.
This season Paul's Suns are the 2nd seed in the West. He has played 59 out of 60 games, was named an all-star and is shooting a career-best 93.1% from the free-throw line.
He recently partnered with goPuff, an online marketplace, to bolster their plant-based lineup. In conjunction with goPuff, he is bringing attention to black and brown-owned businesses that offer vegan options. Visiting teams playing the Suns receive plant-based snacks from goPuff.
Paul is also an ambassador for Beyond Meat along with fellow NBA players Kyrie Irving and Deandre Jordan.
Let's jump right into this: here is a list of five staples for every vegan pantry. All items on the list are available absolutely everywhere, cheap, and can be stored for a long time, which makes them perfect staples regardless of your eating habits.
That’s right, the first item on our little list is good ol’ oats. When you first start looking for vegan meal ideas, chances are you’ll see oats in every other recipe. And for good reason! This species of cereal grain can be used everywhere: entrées, main dishes, and especially desserts. Oats can also enrich smoothies, as well as shine on their own.
The Creative Exchange – Unsplash
Oats are popular for many reasons. Here are some. Neutrality: you can combine them with sweet or savory ingredients. As they are so neutral in taste, they won’t overpower other ingredients, they will just add to the texture and make the whole dish more nutritious. Price: oats are a widely-available and rather cheap staple, especially if bought in bulk. Versatility: use them in porridges, as a binder in veggie patties, as a thickener in stews, grind them into flour to make simple pancakes if you avoid wheat. You can even have a go at making homemade oat milk! The leftover pulp can be used in baking. As they can play many roles in cooking, oats are always handy to have in the pantry.
If you’re into bodybuilding or trying to gain weight, you’ve probably come across nuts as a good source of calories. That’s the reason for including them in this list. Nuts are a good snack when you only have a few minutes and need to get enough calories to sustain you for the next few hours. Grab a handful of any nuts and you’re good to go. Sure, you may not feel completely full but at least you won’t starve.
Maksim Shutov – Unsplash
However, many people are allergic to nuts. Luckily, seeds of all kinds are similar to nuts in terms of calories and use. If you find nuts and seeds plain, you can roast them (careful, they tend to burn if unwatched!), and toss them together with some salt or spices. Of course, you can also make delicious nut butter with them. Some nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, are excellent for making homemade milk. There are many kinds of nuts and seeds which differ in price. If you’re feeling posh, treat yourself to some pecan nuts, brazil nuts, or cashews. But, for everyday use, consider stocking up on cheaper nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pepitas. All of these can also be turned into an amazing nut or seed butter.
This section is going to be a short one as there are usually not too many health benefits to jarred sauce. But hey, you don’t always have half a day for slowly simmering marinara. Nor the will to cook, of course. If you ever have one of those days where you just feel too exhausted to function, you know how tempting it is to just skip a meal. Jarred pasta sauces are a godsend for such occasions. Boil some pasta for ten minutes, mix it with a store-bought sauce, and you have a nice meal. The self-care movement is picking up steam, and this is a great example of self-care. Try to treat yourself to something easy and accessible when it seems impossible to do so.
Other than for the time-saving properties, having a back-up pasta sauce is also good if you don’t have a lot of cooking equipment, for example, a blender for making pesto. Having a jarred pasta sauce in your pantry means that you can get a gourmet meal in a matter of a few minutes. Jarred sauce also doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, it depends on the ingredients. But, even if your favorite sauce does contain a fair amount of sugar, salt, and fat, it’s not a problem, everyone deserves comfort food from time to time.
A bit less glamorous star of every vegan pantry: a can of beans. Beans often make an appearance in vegan meals because they are filled with protein, cheap, and easy to incorporate into all sorts of lunch or dinner dishes. However, cooking dried beans from scratch can be a bit bothersome. First soak them for 12 hours, then cook them for several hours more before you can even use them in another dish where you’ll also cook them further. Granted, there isn’t much active cooking time, but you still need to work cooking beans into your schedule in advance. Well, no such fuss with canned beans.
Grab a can, rinse the beans, heat them, and flavor them – that’s it. The best thing about canned beans is their shelf life. They can be stored for up to three years. So, if you find your favorite canned beans at a discounted price, buy them even if you don’t need them at the moment. Your future self will be grateful when you find yourself on a Sunday evening, with all stores closed, whipping up a stew with all the forgotten things found in your freezer and pantry. We’ve all been there and it usually turns out better than expected! Basically, canned beans are great to have on hand for those occasions where you need a quick and easy base for a filling meal. Just be careful when buying them. If a can is deeply dented, don’t buy it because bacteria may have entered the can, so it’s better to stay on the safe side.
Once considered a luxury, now an everyday staple, plant milk is a great example of the principle of supply and demand. It used to be a novelty product, but since the demand has grown, you can now find plant milk in almost every store. Sure, it can be hit or miss, but once you find your favorite type, you know in which direction you can explore. Some people love soy milk, and others can’t stand it. The same goes for other varieties such as oat, coconut, almond, rice, hazelnut, and any other plant milk.
Although it’s completely possible to live without plant milk, it was made an honorary guest on this list because it can make all sweet (and probably some savory) food better. You can drink black tea on its own, but with a splash of milk, it becomes a fancy treat. Pancakes with water and flour? Doable, but plant milk is what brings the flavor and richness. Use plant milk in beverages, smoothies, and in absolutely any kind of dessert or baked goods. Unopened plant milk can also be stored for quite a long time. Some brands tend to be pricey, but are often on sale, and that’s how you can always have a few cartons in your pantry without breaking the bank. One additional benefit of plant milk is that some brands sell fortified milk, which is great for those who forget to take their B12 supplement from time to time.
Annie Spratt – Unsplash
Oats, nuts, jarred pasta sauce, canned beans, and plant milk are seemingly humble ingredients. But don’t be fooled, each one of them is a valuable staple to have. They are convenient, affordable, and nutritious. Don’t overlook them just because they may look plain or basic. These are the qualities that make them so practical! If you have oats and plant milk, you have pancakes. If you have canned beans and pasta sauce, you have a filling meal. Nuts can be added to absolutely everything or enjoyed on their own for a calorie-dense snack.
The main takeaway is that if you have any of these five in your pantry, you won’t need to get takeout.