By Paul Brown
It may come as a surprise to realize that a plant struggling for survival in a harsh environment is also doing its bit to save the planet from the threats of the rapidly changing climate. But that's what Mexico's cactuses are managing to do.
Research published in the journal The Science of Nature shows that desert soils supporting a high density of cactus contain large quantities of stored bio-minerals (minerals produced by living organisms), formed by the action of the plants in extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Not only that. Cactuses can also be harvested, processed and turned into a form of leather used to make fashion accessories like purses and wallets.
These two attributes have been turned into a successful business by a Mexican/American company, CACTO. It claims to be the first "carbon negative fashion company in the Americas" − in other words, its activities remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it creates in making and marketing its products.
No Animals Involved
This is a bold claim in an industry struggling with its poor environmental record. According to McKinsey and Co. the worldwide fashion industry emits about the same amount of greenhouse gases as France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. But CACTO gives Mexico's cactuses special treatment.
CACTO's products are vegan and so allow a growing class of consumers to buy leather objects that are made without any animal products.
The research into the ability of cactus to extract carbon from the atmosphere and store it was carried out on one cactus species, the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which can grow to 40 feet.
It is native to the Sonoran desert in Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora, and shares with all other cactus varieties the same abilities for dealing with carbon. This has proved a bonus for CACTO because cactuses are the most numerous plants in Mexico.
CACTO's plantations are organic, fed by rainwater, free of herbicides and pesticides, and renewable, and after the ears, or leaves; of the cactus are harvested, the plant grows a replacement in six to eight months. This regeneration allows repeat harvesting. The leaves are then sun-dried to avoid using any electricity. The company's products (available only in green or black) are on sale in more than 100 countries.
CACTO was founded by Jesus Chavez, a climate campaigner, and was designed to have sustainability as a guiding principle at the core of its operation. The entire production cycle is closely monitored by its staff, from the sourcing of materials to production, packaging, distribution and shipping.
Through a partnership with a Swiss non-profit organisation, On a Mission, CACTO says its staff have measured and offset 150% of its CO2 emissions through sustainable reforestation worldwide.
The measurement and offsetting process will take place every six months for the next 10 years. Through several emergent partnerships, the company says it aims to offset at least 1000% of the emissions it generates by the end of 2021.
Jesus Chavez said: "If we want to succeed in reaching net zero carbon emissions well before 2050 and avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must all work in concert in whatever capacity we are able to.
"Industries across the board need to benefit from existing technology and offsetting programs to become carbon-negative, and to invest in new research and innovation to reach that goal faster. The decisions we make this decade will determine the fate of humanity for centuries to come. It is up to us now."
He said customers around the world wanted alternatives to materials that increased pollution and to unethical manufacturing processes.
CACTO hopes to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to make clear what has been evident to specialists for decades, that decoupling emissions from economic growth is not only feasible, but is the smartest, fastest and most responsible way to grow. Mexico's cactuses bear a heavy responsibility on their ears − or leaves − or branches.
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
By Reynard Loki
The exact origin of the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which started the COVID-19 pandemic, is still unclear. Early reports suggested that the virus jumped from an animal to a human at Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a "wet market" that sells live animals. On March 30, the international team of scientists assembled by the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report of their recent visit to Wuhan to investigate the source of the virus and confirmed the "zoonotic source of SARS-CoV-2."
"Evidence from surveys and targeted studies so far have shown that the coronaviruses most highly related to SARS-CoV-2 are found in bats and pangolins, suggesting that these mammals may be the reservoir of the virus that causes COVID-19," the WHO report states. "In addition to these findings, the high susceptibility of mink and cats to SARS-CoV- 2 suggests that additional species of animals may act as a potential reservoir. … Several samples from patients with exposure to the Huanan market had identical virus genomes, suggesting that they may have been part of a cluster."
Virologists believe that these sites, which bring together a variety of live animals into close contact with humans, are ideal places for this sort of interspecies viral transmission. In 2002, for example, scientists identified the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in Himalayan palm civets, a small mammal, in wet markets in Shenzhen in southern China. SARS-CoV-2 is a strain of SARS.
"While there remains a need for more investigation, we are not surprised about the wildlife origin referenced in the report and we know enough to act now to reduce risks of future zoonotic pandemics," said Dr. Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a press statement. "Some 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases reported globally are zoonoses, causing about 1 billion cases of human illness and millions of deaths every year. Of the more than 30 new human pathogens detected in the last three decades, 75 percent have originated in animals. Importantly, research has shown zoonotic-origin pathogens increase along the supply chain from source to market."
Wet markets are "unique epicenters for transmission of potential viral pathogens, [where] new genes may be acquired or existing genes modified through various mechanisms such as genetic reassortment, recombination and mutation," according to a paper written by a team of microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong and published in the journal Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases in 2006. They add that these markets, "at closer proximity to humans, with high viral burden or strains of higher transmission efficiency, facilitate transmission of the viruses to humans."
"Once you walk into one of these places, it's quite obvious why they're called wet markets," said Jason Beaubien, NPR's global health and development correspondent, on the radio station's "Morning Edition" show last year. "Live fish in open tubs are splashing water all over the place. The countertops of the stalls are red with blood as fish are gutted and filleted right in front of the customers' eyes. There are live turtles and crustaceans climbing over each other in boxes. Melting ice adds to the slush on the floor. So things are wet."
In January, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the public health risks posed by wildlife markets, called the Preventing Future Pandemics Act (H.R. 151). The bill "prohibits importing, exporting, purchasing, or selling live wild animals in the United States for human consumption as food or medicine."
It also directs the Department of the Interior to "hire, train, and deploy at least 50 new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement attachés around the world." Additionally, the bill obliges the United States to work with other members of the United Nations toward instituting a global ban on commercial wildlife markets and enforcement of wildlife trafficking laws. A companion bill, S. 37, was introduced into the Senate by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
"For the sake of our health, our economy, and our livelihoods, preventing the next pandemic before it starts is perhaps the most important thing we must do," said Rep. Quigley. "We were thrilled with the robust, bipartisan support the bill received last year and we're committed to building on that momentum to see this bill become law."
In addition to their threat to public health, wet markets are sites of extreme pain and suffering for so many animals. "Wild animals sold in commercial wildlife markets endure extreme stress and unsanitary conditions before being slaughtered," according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit based in Cotati, California, that works to pass state and federal legislation supporting animal rights. "As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, our continued exploitation of animals and our environment is fueling the next pandemic. Shutting down commercial wildlife markets—and the international wildlife trade—is critical both to reducing the risk of novel zoonotic disease and animal suffering."
"We must acknowledge the basic tenet that the more we destroy and intrude on nature, the more likely zoonotic spillovers will occur," said Dr. Walzer. "Zoonotic spillover events and subsequent outbreaks are inevitable, as the interfaces between wildlife and humans increase, primarily due to deforestation and agricultural expansion."
The cruelty to animals witnessed at wet markets points to a deeper, ethical concern about how we view and treat other species. In November 2020, during an interview with Euronews, Jane Goodall, the renowned British primatologist and ethologist, said that "we, in part, brought [COVID-19] on ourselves by our disrespect of nature and our disrespect of animals."
She added, "We push animals into closer contact with humans. We hunt them, eat them, traffic them, sell them as exotic pets around the world, we put them in factory farms in terrible close conditions and all these situations can lead to an environment where a pathogen, like a virus, can jump from an animal to a person, where it may cause a new disease like COVID-19."
Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy's Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Edwina Hughes, Richard Waite and Gerard Pozzi
With people increasingly aware of the climate impact of their lifestyles, the spotlight is falling on the food we eat. Agriculture and related land-use account for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But not all foods are created equal, and plant-based foods are generally a lot less resource-intensive to produce than animal proteins. Take beef vs. beans: per gram of protein, beef production uses 20 times the land and generates 20 times the GHG emissions as beans.
Much attention is paid to unusual innovations aimed at offering a wider variety of food options with a smaller climate footprint — like crackers made from insects or algae protein bars. But large institutions that want to offer diners climate-friendly food options are finding it's more straightforward than expected. That's in part thanks to recent behavioral science research, which shows that small changes in menu language or creating delicious plant-centered dishes can greatly increase the uptake of sustainable offerings. In short, they've found it's already possible to eat tomorrow's climate-friendly diet today, through easy changes that don't compromise on flavor or cost.
New data from the Cool Food Pledge — a group of restaurants, cities, hospitals and companies that have committed to cutting GHG emissions associated with the food they serve by 25% by 2030, in line with Paris Agreement goals — show that members were able to collectively reduce emissions by 4.6% overall and by 12% per plate in just four years. Some members have reduced emissions even more quickly, showing big changes are possible within a short time.
Food consumption in restaurants, workplace canteens and school cafeterias has fallen dramatically during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns. While the industry begins to revive amid calls for a "green" recovery, these results can serve as inspiration, showing what could be achievable when the wider food service industry picks up again post-COVID. When diners return, food service operators should seize the chance to ensure strong and engaging sustainability credentials are at the center of their menu offerings. Offering more plant-rich options is key to hitting climate targets since as they are generally much less resource-intensive to produce.
So what does that mean for organizations serving food? And how feasible is it? Lessons from Cool Food Pledge members show that meaningful progress toward a sustainable food future is simple. It's just a case of keeping the spotlight on what's delicious, cost-effective and low-carbon.
Here are the three main lessons:
1. Make It Delicious
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to be dull. Take the example of biotech company Genentech, which has 10,000 staff based in California, and an in-house culinary team creating chef specials. When it joined the Cool Food Pledge it changed the chef specials to plant-rich options — serving up even more vegetables, pulses and grains. Some of the new dishes included "Vegan Jackfruit, Okra and Seitan Jambalaya" with brown rice, Creole sauce and shaved scallions as well as "Charred Yucatan Vegetables" with an array of vegetables, stewed black beans, habanero pickled red onions and flour tortillas. Following positive responses from employees, demand for the new plant-rich options grew while demand for the more traditional, meat-heavier options declined. Between 2018 to 2019 alone, the company reduced the climate impact of each plate of food it serves by an incredible 33%.
2. Keep It Cost-Effective
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to increase costs — and can even reduce them.
In the health care sector, at UCSF Health, forward-thinking chefs decided to couple a more climate-friendly ethos with a cost-effective one while feeding patients and visitors. UCSF had a 100% beef burger that wasn't selling well, so switching to a 70:30 beef/mushroom blended burger in 2017 that sold better was a no-brainer. The Department of Nutrition and Health Services at UCSF Health realized the blended burger would cost less, the mushroom would ensure it remained flavorful and the reduction in beef would help UCSF Health hit its climate-friendly target for food.
At the same time, its central menu evolved from serving 20 entrees featuring beef in 2017 down to just three by 2020. This more plant-rich menu has proven both better for the climate and more appealing to customers. UCSF Health's total food-related GHG emissions dropped by 13% in just three years, the biggest reduction amongst the health care members of the Cool Food Pledge.
3. Explore the World of Plants
A welcome consequence of committing to a climate-friendly menu offering has been a surge in the quantity of vegetables, pulses and grains procured and served by member organizations. In fact, members purchased 12% more plant-based food items in 2019 relative to the base year. The University of Cambridge's University Catering Service, which manages 14 cafés and canteens and caters for 1,500 events a year, has phased out ruminant meat completely, and guests can enjoy Swedish-style Vegballs, Smoky Moroccan Chickpea Stew and sweet potato burgers instead. Emissions dropped by more than 30% even as the university served 30% more food, reflecting the significant change in the ingredients that make up the meals it is serving.
Having an Impact Isn’t Rocket Science
This variety of progress reflects the distinct environments in which these organizations operate and the different diners they serve. Many are cutting emissions even as the number of meals they serve grows.
While every dining facility will have its own unique operations, the Cool Food Pledge is providing structure and guidance to help the food industry lower the carbon footprint of food in line with climate science. Members are guided through a three-steps of "pledge, plan, and promote": they pledge to reduce food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030; they develop a plan to achieve their aims using the latest behavioral science; and by promoting their achievements, they are on the front lines of a growing movement that's slashing the impact that food has on the climate.
Reposted with permission from the World Resources Institute.
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Concerns about the environment and pandemics like the coronavirus have made a growing number of people hungry for meat alternatives, The Guardian reported Tuesday. At the same time, the plant-based meat market in the country is growing to satisfy this need, and analysts say China could even become a global player in the industry.
"[W]ith a local abundance of non-GMO soybeans and huge capacity to process plant-based raw materials including soy and pea, China has the potential to play a major role in accelerating the plant-based meat trend around the world by increasing production and bringing down costs," Global Food Institute Asia-Pacific (GFI-APAC) managing director Elaine Siu said in a 2019 GFI report.
Meat consumption in China has risen significantly since the 1960s, when the average person consumed five kilograms (approximately 11 pounds) of meat per year, The Guardian pointed out. By 2015, that number had risen to 48 kilograms (approximately 106 pounds). In the U.S., for comparison, per capita meat consumption was 218.6 pounds in 2018, according to Dr. Derrell Peel at Oklahoma State University.
China still eats 28 percent of the world's meat and half of its pork, according to The Guardian. Its meat market is worth $86 billion. However, in 2016 the Chinese government announced a plan to reduce meat consumption by 50 percent in the country and urged its citizens to limit their meat intake to 40 to 75 grams a day. While the government has not done much to forward this goal since the initial ad campaign, it is notable because few countries have incorporated the issue of meat consumption into their plans to address the climate crisis.
At the same time, there are signs that the food culture in the country is shifting. The vegan market in China was expected to grow 17.2 percent from 2015 to 2020, the fastest growth rate in the world, Inside Retail Asia reported in 2016. In Shanghai, the number of vegan restaurants rose from 49 in 2012 to more than 100 in 2017, Business World reported.
Even among those who don't identify as vegan or vegetarian, the new interest in plant-based meat is catching on, GFI reported. While more than 90 percent of Chinese people surveyed by the institute did not identify as meat-abstainers, 86.7 percent of them had tried plant-based meat. In 2018, the country's domestic plant-based meat industry was $910 million and experiencing a yearly growth-rate of 14.2 percent.
This is evident in restaurants across the country, The Guardian noted. KFC in China sells vegan chicken nuggets, while Burger King offers an Impossible Whopper and Starbucks offers Beyond Meat products. Domestic plant-based companies are also getting in on the action. Hong-Kong based OmniFoods has placed plant-based pork in McDonalds in Hong Kong and Aldi, White Castle and Starbucks in mainland China. It also is launching in 13 other countries this year.
This represents a real growth opportunity for China and the world, according to GFI. The country is already a major exporter of plant proteins and has great capacity to continue being so. As of 2016, it had the capacity to process up to 79 percent of global soy protein isolate, 50 percent of global textured soy protein and 23 percent of global soy protein concentrate.
Within China, OmniFoods is opening a factory next year, and hopes to decrease the cost of plant-based foods, which are currently more expensive than meat alternatives. However, the CEO of plant-based mince-maker Z-Rou thinks he can persuade middle class consumers to adopt the new foods despite the higher price.
"They would even be willing to pay more as they know they're getting a healthier product that's helping ensure the future of the planet their children are inheriting," CEO Franklin Yao told The Guardian. "That's priceless."
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Transitioning to a plant-centric diet can help decrease your environmental impact while improving the quality of your diet. These six vegetarian meal delivery services make it easy to enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet at home.
Our picks for the best vegetarian meal plan services
Each product featured here has been independently selected. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Vegan Option - Purple Carrot
- Best Eco-Friendly Option - Splendid Spoon
- Best Organic Option - Sunbasket
- Best Pre-Made Meals - Sprinly
- Best for Healthy Eating - Daily Harvest
- Best for Giving Back - Mosaic
Following a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian dietary pattern is an excellent way to increase your intake of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, lentils, nuts, seeds, and beans. However, preparing nutritious plant-based meals can be time consuming and some people don't have the desire to cook meals every day.
Fortunately, there are a number of meal delivery services that are either entirely plant-based or offer vegetarian-friendly meal and snack options approved by nutritionists in addition to omnivorous choices. Some send you high-quality prepared meals while others make meal prep simple with recipe cards and quality ingredients like black beans, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, zucchini, quinoa, and more included in every box. You can also read our review of the best eco-conscious meal kit services for 2021.
How we chose the best vegetarian meal delivery services
To create our list of the best vegetarian meal kits, we compared each brand on a number of factors. These included:
- Organic ingredients - Are the meal options made with non-GMO organic ingredients and are they free from artificial preservatives and sweeteners? We looked for important eco-friendly labels from authorities like the USDA, Non-GMO Project and the Marine Stewardship Council for any pescatarian plans.
- Dietary restrictions - Do they offer entrees and meals that are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegan, paleo, keto, low-calorie, and low-carb?
- Pricing - How much does the service cost in total and how does that break down per meal? Can customers add a la carte items to their plan?
- Packaging - How are the meals packaged? Do they generate a lot of waste or do they use recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials?
Based on these categories, here are the 6 best vegetarian meal delivery services.
Purple Carrot is a completely vegan meal kit subscription service that offers options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus snacks. Follow simple instructions to prepare flavorful, plant-based meals from scratch and Purple Carrot labels meals that are Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, <600 Calories, Nut-Free, High-Protein, or Quick and Easy meals that take 30 minutes or less to prepare.
Why buy: The Purple Carrot menu changes weekly, and is packed with delicious meals. You can enjoy vegetarian tacos, Thai, or Mediterranean, just to name a few options. Meals generally take between 25 to 40 minutes to prepare and start at $9.99 per serving. Read our full review here.
Splendid Spoon creates ready-to-eat, vegetarian options including smoothies, noodle bowls, soups, grain bowls, and wellness shots. Splendid Spoon offers five plans, including Breakfast + Lunch and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, + Reset. The "Reset" is a one day plan that includes 5 plant-based soups.
Why buy: Customers can choose from more than 50 menu items that are gluten-free and vegan. Splendid Spoon offers a nice mix of comfort foods and healthy meals great for weight loss. Plus, their packaging is almost entirely recyclable. The Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, + Reset plan starts at $185.
Sunbasket is a certified organic meal kit delivery service that offers a variety of plant-based menu options, including vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian. Since it's a meal kit service, it's a perfect choice for people who like to cook. In addition to their tasty dinner recipes, Sunbasket offers breakfast, lunch, and snack options.
Why buy: These dietitian-approved vegetarian meals contain no meat and provide between 400 and 800 calories, at least 5 grams of fiber, and at least 10 grams of protein per meal. Sunbasket also makes a good choice for eco-conscious pescatarians because they only use wild-caught or sustainably sourced seafood. Meals start at $8.99. Read our full Sunbasket review here.
Sprinly is a plant-based meal delivery company that offers vegan-friendly, fully prepared, gluten-free meals that are ready to eat in three minutes or less. Most of the ingredients Sprinly uses are organic and nutrient-dense. Meals provide between 300–650 calories per dish.
Why buy: Sprinly's packaging includes 100% recycled cardboard boxes, insulation that is compostable, recyclable, and biodegradable, and recyclable plastic containers and ice packs. Meals start at $16.05 per serving, depending on the plan you choose.
If you're a smoothie lover, you've probably heard about Daily Harvest. This plant-based meal delivery service is known for their delish smoothies that come in mouth-watering flavors like Chocolate + Hazelnut and Acai + Cherry, but they offer many other tasty dishes as well. Keep in mind that some of these meals are low calorie and may need to add extra ingredients to make them filling enough.
Why Buy: Choose from over 80 chef-created, gluten-free, plant-based frozen options. Choose a plan and then customize a box with nutritional options like oat bowls, chia bowls, harvest bowls with quinoa, flatbreads, soups, and plant-based lattes. Prices range from $5.99 to $8.99 per item.
Mosaic is a smart choice for people leading busy lives. This plant-based meal delivery service provides customers with healthy veggie options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meals are fully prepared and ready to enjoy in five minutes or less. Each meal contains between 5 to 20+ grams of plant-based protein and is made with nutritious ingredients.
Why buy: You can feel good about purchasing Mosaic meals. For every Mosaic box sold, the company works with a non-profit called City Harvest to rescue two pounds of healthy food and distribute it to people in need. The company also uses organic and local ingredients whenever possible. Mosaic has a $70 order minimum. Meals start at $5.
Why should you eat vegan and vegetarian?
Eating a vegetarian and plant-based diet is both better for your health and the environment. Studies show that vegetarian diets can lead to a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and can increase longevity, according to the Harvard Health Blog.
In terms of the benefits for the planet, a study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition finds that vegan diets produce 50% less greenhouse gas emissions and vegetarian diets produce about 35% less greenhouse gas emissions than diets that include meat. They also significantly reduce the use of natural resources like water and help protect against deforestation associated with pastures.
If you want to introduce more vegetarian or vegan meals into your weekly routine, try one of these six meal delivery services. They are a great place to start making a positive change for your health and the environment.
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, holds a master's degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. She is certified in plant-based nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University.
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By Johnny Wood
Switching en masse to a plant-based diet is essential to protect wildlife habitats and prevent the loss of numerous species currently facing extinction, according to a new report.
At the root of the problem is cheap food. While cut-priced comestibles may seem like a good thing, especially for low-income households, market pressure to continually reduce food production costs forces many farmers to adopt unsustainable, intensive methods that harm the land and overuse valuable resources like energy, land and water.
The study by researchers at UK think tank Chatham House, supported by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme, notes that the race to lower prices increases food waste and degrades soils and ecosystems, making available land less productive.
As more forests and wild lands are cleared to grow crops and raise livestock, the feeding, breeding and living habitats of numerous species also disappear. Unless we change what we eat and how it is produced, the report says, the planet's ability to support humans could come under threat.
New @UNEP, @ChathamHouse & @ciwf report on #food systems impacts on #biodiversity loss proposes 3 actions… https://t.co/T80QkoPdak— ipbes (@ipbes)1612804080.0
During the past half century, conversion of natural wild land for crop production or animal pasture has been the principle cause of habitat and biodiversity loss, the report, called Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss, says. Agriculture poses a threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 species documented as at risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But what happens next to the world's endangered wildlife populations rests in human hands, and the rise in popularity of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products offers hope for the future.
Rearing crops in place of animals uses land and other scarce resources more efficiently, the report notes. While raising livestock adds to greenhouse gas emissions, switching to plant-based foods would free up grazing land that could be used for other purposes. A global switch to a predominantly plant-based diet would boost dietary health, help reduce food waste and eliminate the need to keep clearing new land for grazing. Switching the global population's diet to plant-based foods, for example, would free up 75% of the world's cropland for other uses.
Alongside changing dietary behavior, the report recommends protecting and setting aside more land for nature, avoiding converting it for agriculture. As well as preserving wildlife habitats from being destroyed, forests and wilded land serve as a natural carbon store absorbing pollution from the atmosphere, which helps counter the impact of the climate crisis.
Today's high-intensity chemical-reliant farming methods must be replaced by nature-friendly practices that support biodiversity and value sustainability over ever lower farm door prices.
It's important to note that the report is advocating a dramatic reduction in meat intake rather than replacing meat with plant-based foods. And, as the World Bank says, livestock farming supports the livelihoods and food security of almost 1.3 billion people. The Chatham House report says incentivizing more diverse agriculture could lead to more resilient farmer livelihoods.
Planting the Seeds of Change
Despite the compelling arguments for moving to plant-heavy diets, persuading the global population to abandon its love of meat will be no easy task. Around 80 billion animals are killed for their meat each year, UN figures show.
In 2018, almost 70 billion chickens, 1.5 billion pigs and more than 300 million cattle were slaughtered to serve our love of meat.
In general, meat consumption increases as incomes rise – so the richer the country, the more meat is consumed, according to figures from the UN and the World Bank.
But for some the role of meat is beginning to change as awareness grows of the health benefits of plant-based foods and the impact of business-as-usual farming on the environment.
The U.S. plant-based food market was worth more than $5 billion in 2019, up 11% on the previous year and 29% over two years. Sales of plant-based meat substitutes increased by 18% year-on-year.
Demand for plant-based foods could see annual growth of almost 12%, reaching a market value of more than $74 billion by 2027, according to a Meticulous Research forecast. While plant-based demand is increasing in most global markets, takeup in Asia-Pacific is expected to outstrip other regional markets.
Changing consumer aspirations and a growing appetite among investors to back plant-based ventures are among the drivers of global plant-based market growth, the research showed. How far, how fast and how much demand for plant-based foods increases in the coming years remains to be seen, but the future of myriad species depends on it happening quick enough.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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Bill Gates is out with a new book on how to solve the climate crisis. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: the Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need follows his general history of emphasizing technological innovation over policy changes. But, in an interview promoting the new book, he did propose one dramatic behavioral change: People living in wealthier countries should switch to plant-based meat alternatives.
"I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef," Gates told the MIT Technology Review Sunday. "You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they're going to make it taste even better over time."
In the interview, Gates gave shoutouts to Beyond and Impossible, two companies that have made headlines with their plant-based burger alternatives in recent years. (He is, in fact, an investor in both, the article noted.) While these meat alternatives currently represent less than 1 percent of the meat in the world, they have quality and cost roadmaps that make them competitive, he said.
On the other hand, he did not think that lab-grown alternatives like Memphis Meats, in which he also invests, were likely to be economically viable on a wide scale.
In the interview, Gates did not think that poorer nations would have to give up beef. In Africa, he said, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focuses on lowering the emissions per cow using genetics.
"Weirdly, the US livestock, because they're so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa. And as part of the [Bill and Melinda Gates] Foundation's work, we're taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite US beef lines," he said.
His ideas may be a hard sell, however. The claim that the Green New Deal would force U.S. residents to give up hamburgers has been a major right-wing talking point, as TIME noted in 2019.
However, Gates thought a shift to plant-based meat was possible over time.
"Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand," he said in the interview.
Food & Living Vegan opined that his argument made sense from a climate perspective.
"Oxfam revealed that the richest 1% is responsible for double the carbon emissions as the poorest 50%, therefore even if it is just wealthy nations switching to lab-grown or synthetic meat, this will have a huge impact," the magazine wrote.
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By Martin Kuebler
Pulses, a broad category of edible seeds that includes pantry staples like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas, are one of the world's most important food crops.
This underrated legume has featured heavily in diets around the world for thousands of years. Pulses are the main source of protein for people who don't eat meat — whether by choice or by circumstance — they're good for the environment, nutritious and tasty.
Environmentally Friendly Meat Alternative
Changing our diet, and how we produce what we eat, can have a huge and positive impact on the planet.
A recent key report on food and biodiversity loss linked global eating habits to around 30% of human-made emissions in terms of energy and fertilizer, making them a "key driver of climate change." It also highlighted the devastating impact of our food production on nature.
A big part of the problem is meat and other animal products. Though it might be a good source of protein, meat is terrible for the environment. Getting a kilogram of beef to your kitchen emits as much as 60 kilograms (130 pounds) of CO2-equivalent, according to a 2018 study published in Science. And with the world population set to surpass 10 billion in a little over 30 years, increasing demand for food — especially meat and monocrops like wheat, corn and soybeans — will further stress the climate, limited natural resources and biodiversity.
Pulses like peas and lentils, however, produce some 0.9 kg of CO2-equivalent for every kilo grown. And they provide a far higher protein yield per square kilometer than a herd of cattle or flock of chickens, meaning existing farmland can be used more efficiently and untouched forests can be spared.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted pulses as "a good alternative to meat," pointing out that they "can play a key role in future healthy and sustainable diets." In recent years, calls from environmental groups for people in the Western world to drastically reduce their meat consumption, has inspired a growing trend toward vegetarian and vegan diets.
In a September analysis, climate data provider Carbon Brief said "a global switch to veganism would deliver the largest emissions savings out of any dietary shift," preventing some 8 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2050. Current food production is responsible for around 13.7 billion tons per year.
"It is now becoming clear that a plant-based diet is not just a crock," said Christina Ledermann, head of the German advocacy group Humans for Animal Rights. "The future of nutrition is plant-based, or there is no future."
Pulses Enrich Soils, Save Water
Pulse crops are very efficient when it comes to capturing existing carbon from the air and storing it in the soil. One analysis suggested that legumes can store 30% more carbon than other plant species due to their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil via root nodules.
These nodules, which are formed by rhizobia bacteria attached to the roots, absorb inert nitrogen from the soil. This symbiotic relationship helps increase microbial biomass and improve soil biodiversity, while also providing plants with nutrients and energy.
Nitrogen, along with phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium and magnesium, is one of the key macronutrients found in soil. And according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 190 million hectares (470 million acres) of pulse crops contribute to as much as 7 million metric tons of nitrogen in soils around the world every year.
This naturally produced fertilizer results in higher yields for pulses and other crops and implies a lesser need for polluting organic and synthetic chemical fertilizers, reducing direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and preventing further contamination of soils and waterways. Bean crop residue — stalks, leaves and seed pods — can also be used as fertilizer, or as fodder for livestock.
Beans also get by with much less water, making them ideal crops for regions prone to drought. The FAO has estimated that growing a kilo of lentils requires around a third less water than a kilo of chicken, and just a tenth less water than a kilo of beef. Some pulses like pea and lentils also rely more heavily on rain and other surface moisture for their water needs, leaving more groundwater available down below for future crops.
Healthy Way to Improve Food Security
Pulses make up 75% of the average diet in developing countries. Countries in South Asia, especially India, are famed for their extensive use of pulses — which are also very healthy. Besides being an excellent source of protein, pulses are also high in fiber, have little fat and no cholesterol.
The FAO devoted an entire year to pulses in 2016 to raise awareness about how important the likes of lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas are for billions of people around the world. And over the last decade, new seed varieties developed by programs like the Tropical Legumes initiative have made high-yield, climate-resilient pulses an increasingly important crop for smallholder farmers.
Pulses such as chickpeas and lentils are a key component of agricultural practices like intercropping, which help regenerate soils and foster the growth of other non-pulse crops. Planting them in rotation with other plants also helps ward off certain pests and diseases that only affect specific species.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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What's in a name? Apparently, a lot. According to the European Union (EU), plant-based, dairy alternatives commonly referred to as almond milk or vegan cheese cannot be marketed as such. New, stricter rules under consideration this week could ban the vegan products from even referencing anything dairy-like or using packaging associated with the dairy industry.
In 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that dairy terms, including milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, could only refer to products derived from an animal, and not plant-based alternatives. A new set of rules, known as Amendment 171, now aim to increase restrictions and make it illegal for plant-based foods to be compared to dairy products at all.
The so-called "Dairy Ban" passed a final vote in the European parliament in Oct. 2020 by a narrow 54 percent majority, The Conversation reported. This week, Amendment 171 will be considered for approval by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission, The Conversation added. If approved by both, the amendment will become law.
So, what exactly does Amendment 171 mean for tofu cheese, soy yogurt, vegan butter and other plant-based, dairy-alternative products steadily coming into the mainstream? The new rules would prohibit "imitation or evocation" of dairy products, Politico reported. Interpreted broadly, descriptions such as "creamy," "cheese-alternative," "milk-free" and "does not contain milk" would be illegal, Plant Based News reported. In the extreme, the rule could even require package redesign, as milk cartons and yogurt cups are most commonly associated with dairy, The Conversation reported.
Vegan producers would also be prevented from discussing the health or environmental advantages of their plant-based products by comparing them to traditional dairy products. Because of the high carbon footprint of animal products, studies have found that going vegan is the best thing consumers can do for the planet. Indeed, in a 2019 leaked report from the United Nations, climate scientists felt that a shift to vegetarian diets is necessary to save the world.
With the proportion of vegans in the EU doubling in the last four years and up to one-third of all consumers self-identifying as "flexitarians" rather than meat-eaters, according to a Veganz survey, the commercial implications of pro-dairy censorship are huge.
"Given the climate crisis, it's irresponsible to try and prevent us from encouraging people to make the switch to plant-based and help protect the planet in the process," Cecilia McAleavey, director of public affairs and sustainable eating for Swedish oat milk brand Oatly, told Food Navigator. "People are not stupid — everyone understands that this is an attempt by the dairy lobby to hinder the shift towards sustainable plant-based eating."
The dairy industry claims that Amendment 171 prevents consumer confusion, reported The Conversation. The use of dairy-related terminology on plant-based products could mislead consumers, the industry argues. Is it either dairy-based or it's not.
The European Dairy Association told Food Navigator, "Non-dairy products cannot hijack our dairy terms and the well-deserved reputation of excellence in milk and dairy."
The lobby noted that similar laws exist within the EU to protect the national origin of products such as "Champagne" and "Parmigiano," The Conversation reported. A 2017 Cambridge study called such intentionally ambiguous language "food fraud" meant to "[induce] a false impression on the consumer" and found that such behavior had an increasing economic impact on the continent.
The vegan-alternative sector claims that its products need to be evaluated against conventional dairy products to showcase health and environmental benefits. Politico argued that a broad application of Amendment 171 could actually censor essential information for consumers suffering from dairy allergies and intolerances. Without terms like "dairy-free" and "milk-alternative," shopping could become needlessly difficult for these people, the report said.
Packaging changes could also confuse consumers, if, for example, plant-based cheese can no longer be sold as a classic block shape that indicates what it is, as well as its anticipated flavor and texture, Politico said.
In an Instagram response to Amendment 171, Oatly called its passage a "wacko, incomprehensible direction to take in the middle of a climate crisis." Oatly, Upfield and other plant-based brands launched a petition to overturn Amendment 171, Food Navigator reported. They argue that the ban is counter to the EU's stated goals to improve public health and environmental sustainability, Food Navigator added.
"Making it illegal to name, package and depict plant-based foods in the way we have done for over 100 years is a serious step backwards," said Upfield's Janette Fielding. "Consumers are looking for strong EU leadership on climate and environment. That means tearing down bureaucratic barriers to sustainable and healthy eating, not building them higher."
For the first time ever, a vegan restaurant in France has been awarded a coveted Michelin star.
The French edition of the Michelin guide, published Monday, awarded a star to ONA. The name stands for Origine Non-Animale, or animal-free origin, BBC News reported. The restaurant is located in Arès, near Bordeaux in southwestern France, and was started by chef Claire Vallée, a 41-year-old former archeologist who became a vegan after a trip to Thailand.
"[T]his star is mine, it is yours, it is that of the impossible," Vallée wrote in an Instagram post announcing the win. "It brings Vegetable Gastronomy definitively into the closed circle of French and Global Gastronomy."
The Michelin Guide started in France in the late nineteenth century as a road guide published by the Michelin tire company. Over time, it evolved into a highly respected restaurant review guide, thanks to reviewers who secretly visited them. The hierarchy of one, two or three stars became established by 1936. The Michelin system has since spread abroad, and currently rates more than 30,000 restaurants in at least 30 territories. The guide has awarded stars to vegan restaurants in other countries, BBC News reported, but never before in its place of origin. In addition to the Michelin star, ONA also won a green star, a recognition of ethical practices.
"It felt like I got hit by a train," Vallée told AFP of the win, according to an AFP story published in The Guardian.
Vallée and ONA had a winding road to success. Her first requests for a loan were denied by traditional French banks, who were skeptical of both her chosen location and her menu.
"They said the outlook for veganism and plant-based food was too uncertain," she told AFP.
Undeterred, Vallée crowdfunded her restaurant, and also obtained a loan from a bank called Le Nef, which funds ethical projects.
"This goes to show that nothing is impossible," she told AFP.
ONA opened its doors in 2016, according to BBC News. The restaurant offers a seven-dish gourmet menu that uses ingredients such as fir tree, boletus mushrooms and celery. However, it is currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus restrictions also made it difficult to publish this year's Michelin guide, Reuters reported, as inspectors only had a few weeks to visit restaurants in between lockdowns. The annual guide also comes at a tough time for restaurants.
"For people who get their first star, in the period that we're suffering through, this will be at least a comfort for them," chef Sylvain Sendra of Paris restaurant Fleur de Pave told Reuters.
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More than 500,000 people have pledged to try a vegan diet this January.
The annual challenge Veganuary announced Tuesday that it had received more than half a million sign-ups and counting, the most in a single year since it first launched in 2014. It also reached its sign-up goal earlier than any other year so far, the group noted on Instagram.
"Proof that 2021 really is THE YEAR for positive change," the group wrote in the post.
Veganuary is a non-profit dedicated to motivating people to try a vegan diet for the month of January, and maybe keep it up the whole year round.
"Throughout the year, Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people," the group explained.
Their message is catching on. More than one million people from 192 countries have participated since 2014, according to the website. In 2020, more than 600 businesses participated and more than 1,200 new vegan products and menus were introduced. In fact, its potential as a product launch opportunity means it has become a bigger deal in the retail calendar than Christmas, co-founder Matthew Glover told Vegan Food & Living.
This year, its reach is only growing. In addition to its record sign-up count, the group celebrated an unprecedented buy-in from supermarkets in the UK, which are using the month to promote vegan products.
"While new vegan product launches from big name brands are exciting, the way British supermarkets have embraced Veganuary this year is truly game changing," Veganuary's head of communications Toni Vernelli said in a blog post. "They are not simply using it as a marketing opportunity but are promoting the many benefits of plant-based eating and encouraging people to give it a try. As bastions of our food supply, they know that the only sustainable way forward is plant-focused."
The month-long-challenge is spreading beyond the UK as well. The campaign has recently focused on Latin America, according to The Guardian, where 150,000 people signed up this year. The challenge also saw 80,000 sign-ups from the U.S. and 50,000 from Germany, as well as 125,000 from the UK.
The month's popularity comes as a growing body of scientific research indicates that adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best things that people in wealthy countries can do to reduce their environmental impact.
"It really feels to me that plant-based eating is no longer controversial," Vernelli told The Guardian. "Pretty much everyone has accepted we need to be reducing animal products in our diets for environmental reasons."
If you are still looking for a New Year's resolution, it is not too late to sign-up for the challenge. You can do so here.
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While any ol' protein bar offers convenience, not all bars are created equal in terms of overall nutritional value and, certainly, overall level of sustainability and eco-friendly production. So, which are the best vegan protein bars on the market?
Finding the right protein bar can be hard, and the job is even tougher when you're a vegan. That's because many of the top bars on the market today are made with non-vegan ingredients, whether that's honey, whey protein, or milk.
We've done a little detective work for you, testing out some of the best, most filling, most sustainable, and more nutritious vegan protein bars available today. These are a few of our picks.
Our Picks for the Best Vegan Protein Bars
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, and low-sugar, Aloha bars are one of the best vegan protein bars if you want a healthy dose of protein (14 grams) without too many additives or synthetic chemicals. They come in several great flavors, too; our favorites are chocolate mint and peanut butter, but we encourage you to try any that sound good to your palette.
Each Shanti Bar has 17 grams of plant-based protein, making them a great option when you only need a nibble of something to get you from meal to meal. The vegan credentials are off the charts: Shanti bars are organic, gluten-free, sustainably sourced, and made without any refined sugars. The nut butter chocolate chip maca flavor is especially tasty.
We love the Vega 10g bars not only because of their simplicity, but also their great flavor. You can pick them in chocolate peanut butter, chocolate caramel, blueberry oat, or coconut almond, and we'll vouch that all are really yummy. With any option, you'll get 10 grams of plant-based protein, plus four grams of fiber. A great snack item for anyone who wants their protein bars to be vegan, dairy-free, non-GMO, and altogether tasty.
GoMacro's protein bars are both filling and energizing. We love using them to begin the day, as they help give us the push we need to start the morning's activities with plenty of focus and stamina. Each one is made with 10 to 12 grams of plant-based protein and is completely vegan. Again, there are loads of flavor options. Our top pick: blueberry with cashew butter.
Looking for a protein bar that's not only vegan-friendly, but also offers the natural power of hemp protein? Evo's product line is one of our favorites. These bars are noteworthy for offering plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, too, which can help naturally reduce inflammation. There are plenty of other nutrients packed into these bars, too, along with some excellent natural flavors, making them high on our list of best vegan protein bars.
If you're looking for simplicity, give Rise Bars a try. They're made with four simple ingredients yet have an impressive 15 grams of plant-based protein per bar. There's just something refreshing about these simple vegan bars, especially if you opt for a light flavor like lemon cashew.
7. 22 Days Nutrition Organic Protein Bar
If it's flavor you're after, the 22 Days lineup has a lot of enticing options: Peanut butter chocolate chip, salted caramel, fudge brownie, you name it. This is one of our top options for sweet tooths, but we'll also note how much we appreciate the balanced nutritional contents. There's even a high iron quotient here, which is something many vegan diets tend to lack.
It's right there in the name: No Cow bars are totally dairy-free, in addition to being gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO. But boy, do they pack a lot of nutritional punch. Each bar comes with 19 grams of fiber, 20 grams of protein, and a scant 190 calories per serving. There's a lot to love about the No Cow bars, and we haven't even touched on the amazing array of flavors.
Raw Rev Glo makes some of the best vegan protein bars that are loaded with superfoods; you'll find amazing, plant-based nutrients here, along with delicious flavors and an appealing texture. Each bar has 11 grams of protein plus 13 grams of fiber, which means it has a high overall nutritional value. These bars are an altogether wholesome and eco-friendly way to add some protein to your daily diet.
Looking for a low-carb option? You'll find just a single net carb in each Pegan bar, yet there is plenty in the way of protein and fiber. Specifically, they are rich in prebiotic fiber, which can help you sustain that helpful bacteria in your gut, easing the digestion process. We also like that these bars offer some flavors you don't see from other brands, like the tasty ginger snap option.
Start Snacking on a Vegan Protein Bar
As you consider your options for different vegan protein bars, there are a lot of factors to consider, including flavor, total fiber content, and more. One thing you can feel confident about is that each of the bars we've recommended here is fully compliant with a vegan diet. And all are made with admirably earth-friendly practices.
These are bars you can feel good about any time you need to reach for that fast vegan breakfast or that afternoon pick-me-up. Try one of the best vegan protein bars today and see which ones you like the most.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, copywriter, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. As a writer and independent reviewer of CBD products, Josh covers the relationship between natural wellness products and the human body. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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