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          Case Animal Rights and Ethics Society sees green at vegan dinner

          Rachel Craft

          Issue date: 3/26/10 Section: Focus
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          CARES's vegan dinner, shown in part here, also featured creative dinner entrées made of tofu and a talk from dietician Terra Weston, who dispelled many myths about veganism.
          CARES's vegan dinner, shown in part here, also featured creative dinner entrées made of tofu and a talk from dietician Terra Weston, who dispelled many myths about veganism.
          [Click to enlarge]
          Tofu: it's weird, white, and wiggly, and many people tend to avoid it like the plague. But anyone who tried the General Tso's popcorn "chicken" bites at the Case Animal Rights and Ethics Society's Veggie Dinner last Friday could easily have called it a miracle food. Friday's event was the first of its kind for CARES and it provided an opportunity for vegetarians and omnivores alike to enjoy a well-balanced, entirely vegan meal (that is, no meat, eggs, or dairy) and to hear a dietitian's argument for a vegan diet.

          The smorgasbord of animal-friendly fare included the typical salad, fruit, chips and dip, and vegetable and hummus platter. What surprised many of the 50 or so attendees were the vegan pizza, pasta, cookies, and even imitation chicken. There was no shortage of food for thought, either: tables were scattered not only with CARES flyers on animal cruelty, but also with brochures on sustainability, vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, and scientific journal articles on the links between diet and disease.

          The guest speaker for the evening was registered dietitian Terra Weston, who works at the Cleveland Clinic and specializes in "plant-based" diets. Weston was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 17 years before transitioning to veganism 11 months ago. She encouraged audience members to be aware of what they eat, where it comes from, and how it affects their health. According to her, the majority of consumers are uninformed about what their bodies need and what their bodies are actually getting. What Weston tried to convey was that eating a healthy and balanced diet is far from black and white, and that too many people dismiss plant-based diets as unhealthy without getting all the facts.

          First, Weston addressed the most common concerns about a plant-based diet: protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. All three are typically derived from animal products, but according to Weston, they are far from difficult to find in animal-friendly forms. She said the daily protein requirement (50-75 grams on average) is "not hard to get," even without meat. Considerable protein can be found in grains (such as rice, bread, cereal, and pasta) and legumes (such as beans and nuts), not to mention the wealth of meat and dairy replacements derived from soy. She pointed out the many miraculous tofu innovations of recent years - from soy yogurt and sour cream to veggie burgers and tofurkey - and suggested a few of her own favorite brands. "We have all these products that we can replace," she said. "It's kind, it's peaceful, it's nutritious."
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