Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to FAQs authored by young animal activists who are part of Farm Sanctuary’s Youth Leadership Council!


If you don’t eat meat, where do you get your protein?
by Debi, 8th grade, San Jose, CA

There are many other ways to get protein besides meat. Beans, seeds, grains, and nuts are excellent sources of plant-based protein. In fact, all plant-based foods provide protein!1

Registered Dietician Ginny Messina states, “Eating a varied diet of plant foods will easily provide plenty of protein as long as you’re meeting calorie needs. It’s important to make sure that you include legumes (which include beans, soyfoods, and peanuts) in your vegan diet to ensure adequate intake of all of the essential amino acids.” Take it from the USDA, which agrees that “protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods.”


Is being vegan expensive?
by Lauren, 12th grade, Pittsburgh, PA

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the staples of a vegan diet (fruits, vegetables, grains like bread and pasta, beans, spices, and tofu) are relatively inexpensive. If you want to buy meat or dairy substitutes, it may get a bit more expensive; however, these products will only get cheaper as more people choose plant-based options and demand increases, and you definitely can make delicious vegan food with simple ingredients! Don’t believe us? Check out these Plant-Based on a Budget meal plans!


How do you eat out vegan?
by Olivia, 6th grade, Roswell, GA

If you’re eating out, you can sometimes find vegan options at familiar restaurants by taking a closer look at their menu, asking the server, or making substitutions to menu items. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have non-dairy options. All you have to do is order with coconut, almond, or soy milk. You can also go to some fast food restaurants! At Chipotle, they have a lot of plant-based options that you can choose from. At Burger King, you can get a salad, hash browns, French toast sticks, and Dutch apple pie! At Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s, you can order their hash browns and their salad. If you stop at Taco Bell, consider ordering the bean burrito “fresco style,” the black bean burrito without cheese, the veggie cantina power bowl without the sauce, and the cinnamon twists. Dairy Queen offers a vegan Star Kiss bar. If you go to Little Caesar’s, Papa John’s, or Pizza Hut and order without the cheese but include your favorite vegetable toppings, you’re good to go! All of their pizza crust and sauces are vegan. White Castle also has a vegan burger!

For more tips on ordering plant-based while dining out, visit V-lish.com. Don’t forget to download the app at HappyCow to find restaurants with vegan options near you!


How do you get the right nutrients eating vegan?
by Abby, 12th grade, Colorado Springs, CO

Plant based diets are “stalk” full of nutrients (pun intended)! Getting nutrients as a vegan can be a piece of cake … I mean kale, as long as you know what to look for! Big questions while maintaining a vegan diet tend to be: protein, calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. Although the more well-known sources of these nutrients do tend to be in products coming from animals, all of them can be obtained without causing harm to animals. Some nutrient sources can even be higher in the necessary nutrients than their animal-derived counterparts. Protein, for instance, can be found in dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale; beans; nuts; seeds; legumes; and whole grains. Leafy greens, while high in protein, are also full of calcium and iron.2 Other sources high in calcium are sesame seeds, almonds, and calcium-fortified products such as non-dairy milk and yogurt. Iron-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, quinoa, legumes, and leafy greens.3 Vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure and consuming portobello, maitake, morel, button, and shiitake mushrooms. Many non-dairy milks and tofu can also be fortified with vitamin D. Sources of B12 are fortified products such as certain milk alternatives, cereals, soy products, nutritional yeast, and B12 supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, Brussels sprouts, soy, and walnuts.4


How do you transition to veganism or reduce animal products in your diet?
by Avalon Jade, 12th grade, Tampa, FL

There are a number of different ways that you can transition to a plant-based diet. In fact, you probably already eat more vegetarian or vegan food than you even realize. We know that fruits, veggies, and nuts are free of animal ingredients, but what else? How do you eat your favorite snacks or meals in a plant-based way? And how do you do that affordably and without hassle? Read on!

When you need a snack, fruit and nuts are go-to options, but other options such as granola bars, crackers, chips, and pretzels can can also be found without animal ingredients at your local store. You just have to read the label. Switching from one brand to another, or even from one product to another under the same brand, can mean more plant-based foods in your diet! What are some specific items? Nature Valley Peanut Butter Crunchy Granola Bars, Larabars, and most Clif Bar flavors are vegan. However, sometimes you just want snack foods, like Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Ritz Crackers.

Do you like sweet foods and desserts? You will be happy to know that there are options! Some sandwich-style cookies, like Oreos and Nutter Butters, are vegan. Unfrosted Pop-Tarts, too! Feel more in the mood for baking? Many of Duncan Hines’ creamy homestyle frosting and cake mixes are vegan. There are many other everyday vegan foods here. Prefer a more homemade approach to your baking? Replacements can be very easy, such as using a mixture of 1 tablespoon of flaxseed and 2 ½ teaspoons of water for an egg. Other substitutions can be found here.

Many supermarkets carry a selection of packaged, plant-based foods that provide yummy alternatives to your favorite meat and dairy products. For milk, there are a variety of options, including hemp, soy, and almond. Feeling sweet? So Delicious, Häagen-Dazs, and Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams taste great and are vegan, too! Can’t live without cheese? Daiya or Chao Cheese to the rescue! They even melt, which makes for a very exciting grilled cheese sandwich! Worried you’ll miss your chicken, beef, and fish? Depending on your local grocer, you may be able to find vegan burgers, fish fillets, chicken strips, meatloaf, and much, much more, through brands such as Beyond Meat, Boca Foods, Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, Engine 2 Plant Strong, Field Roast, Gardein, and MorningStar. Check out V-lish.com for more info! Many people can’t actually tell the difference between these options and animal meats, because they are so realistic! There are also tofu, tempeh, and seitan, all wonderful meat alternatives.


Is it healthy to eat vegan?
by Sienna, 7th grade, Easton, PA

A vegan diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes has been clinically proven to provide an array of health benefits.5 Research shows that whole food veganism can help prevent and even reverse conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while also protecting against certain cancers. Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet can be a positive change for your body’s health!


Where do you shop for vegan groceries?
by Lorelei, 12th grade, Westlake Village, CA

Most grocery stores carry a selection of packaged plant-based foods such as veggie burgers and dairy-free milks. You will be able to find plant-based staples at most stores such as rice, pasta, bread, beans, as well as fruits and vegetables (canned, frozen, or fresh), which can make really delicious plant-based meals. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or small natural-foods store, they will have a large number of vegan food options. You may also be able to find community gardens in your area with a farm stand or a local farmers market selling fruits and vegetables.

Here are some of my top vegan food picks at my favorite store, Trader Joe’s: I like to shop at Trader Joe’s because they have a lot of vegan items and they are inexpensive. They have many prepared items that are refrigerated and shelf stable, as well as frozen items. Some of the items I like to get are the spicy lentil wrap, super spinach salad, chicken-less strips (frozen), penne arrabbiata (frozen), beefless ground “beef” or soy chorizo (to use in tacos), hummus, dried apricots, and Joe Joe’s (cookies).


What is wrong with dairy and eggs?
by Sienna, 7th grade, Easton, PA

What do you picture when you think of dairy farms? Maybe you think of cows grazing over green pastures or chickens roaming around a bright red barn with a white fence. This is what the dairy industry wants us to imagine. The truth is much, much darker. Dairy cows are only meant to supply milk for their offspring. We humans are the only species to consume milk from another species — and it’s odd when you give it more than a moment of thought! On dairy farms, however, cows are artificially inseminated and constantly forced to have babies. Once the calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers immediately.6 Chickens — who, as we know, lay eggs — are arguably the most abused farm animal. Male chickens are killed immediately because they can’t produce eggs. Female chickens spend their entire lives in battery cages, cages that are so small, chickens can’t even stretch their wings. Thankfully, there are alternatives for dairy products and ways to replace eggs without contributing to these harmful industries.


What about “cage-free” and “humane”?
by Lauren, 12th grade, Pittsburgh, PA

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs at your grocery store are labeled “cage-free,” “humane,” “free-range,” or something similar. Many people see these labels and assume this means the animals lived good lives and were treated well before they were slaughtered (think of your classic “Old MacDonald”-style farm). Unfortunately, these labels can be misleading and are not a guarantee of humane treatment. Here are a few examples of ways factory farms are able to get around the laws that are supposed to govern animal protection and welfare.

“Cage-free”: This term is most often applied to eggs, and most people assume it means that the chickens who produced the eggs were not raised in “battery” cages (about 18” by 24” cages that will be crammed with up to ten hens, so closely packed they can’t spread their wings), instead living outside with plenty of space to move. In reality, companies that are called “cage-free” often simply crowd thousands of chickens into warehouses. While technically not in cages, the experience for the hens is the same: packed so tightly that they can’t move and going through the same traumas that battery-cage hens do.

“Free-range”: Also usually applied to chickens and eggs, most people think this label means that the chickens had the ability to go outside if they wanted to. In practice, what it usually means is that the chickens were packed in a warehouse like the one described above, with a small door somewhere opening to a small “outdoor” area. While a few chickens may have been able to make their way outside, most of them will never be able to reach the door due to the crowding in the warehouse. Most chickens, “free-range” or not, will never get the chance to walk on grass or see the sun.7

“Humane” or “Humanely Raised”: The USDA (the government organization responsible for making sure food labels are accurate and informative) has no definition of what it means when meat, dairy, or eggs is marked as “humane.” Often, the USDA won’t even investigate a company that applies to be called “humane.” They’ll simply take the companies word for it that the animals are well-treated. Of course, even if the labels were trustworthy, and the animal did live a good life, he or she was always slaughtered in the end. And there’s no way to “humanely” kill someone who doesn’t want to die.


What about fish?
by Josie, 6th grade, Great Falls, VA

People often ask, “Why don’t you eat fish?” and the simple answer is: Fish feel pain and emotions just like us! The human body does not need fish for omega-3s! Omega-3s are found in walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, and the omega-3s DHA and EPA can be found in seaweed.8 Seafood is also the number-one cause of food poisoning in the U.S.9 You may think eating fish is okay because they are caught in the wild and live happy lives but that is not the reality! Fish are kept captive in “Aqua Farms” which are like factory farms but for sea animals. Even if fish are caught in the wild, other sea animals like dolphins or sea turtles can get injured or even die because of the massive nets used by fishing vessels.10 Above all, fish are sentient beings who feel grief, pain, sadness, anger, joy, love, and frustration! Fish have been known to use tools and have good sensory perception, just like other vertebrates!11 Next time you want to eat fish, try a vegan substitute, like one you might find at your local store (such as a Gardein Fishless Filet) or one that can be made at home using a recipe.

Photo by Cindy Seigle

What is vegan fashion?
by Brooke, 9th grade, Pottstown, PA

Vegan fashion is the production of clothing and accessories without the use of materials that come from animals. Materials that come from animals include: fur, down, wool (versions of wool such as mohair, cashmere, angora, or sheep), leather, and silk. There are animal-friendly alternatives to these materials! Be on the lookout for plant-based fabrics like cotton, linen, and hemp. Synthetic materials, such as polyester and rayon, are also vegan alternatives to leather, wool, and silk. Many popular brands make vegan clothes, shoes, and accessories – just check the tag when you’re shopping. There are often vegan options in department stores, retail chains, and small shops. Check out Farm Sanctuary’s list of vegan and vegan-friendly clothing brands!


How do you get B12 on a vegan diet?
by Annie, 8th grade, Bethesda, MD

Vitamin B12 is a microorganism that is necessary to every diet in order to prevent anemia (when blood is deficient in healthy red blood cells), which can also cause other serious symptoms like dizziness, shortness of breath, personality changes, and confusion or forgetfulness.12 This microorganism is usually associated with meat and animal products, but can be found in a plant-based diet through fortified foods or by taking a B12 supplement. While it is always a good idea to check labels so you can be sure how much of a nutrient you are getting, some vegan foods that often contain B12 are fortified non-dairy milk (such as soy or almond milk), nutritional yeast, fortified cereal, or snack/protein bars. Regularly taking a B12 vitamin supplement is also recommended when eating a plant-based diet.13


Are honey and beeswax vegan?
by Sienna, 7th grade, Easton, PA

Bees are necessary for our survival, as they pollinate the crops that we eat. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy many foods we eat on a regular basis! The practice of obtaining beeswax from beehives is not as humane as one may think — the queen bee’s wings are cut off, and she is left unable to leave her colony in order to prevent swarming, when bees leave a hive to start a new one somewhere else.14 Believe it or not, honey is not just a byproduct; bees consume their honey in the winter months! Commercial honey farms feed bees sugar syrup to substitute the honey that is taken from their hives. This can cause bees to suffer from health issues that can be detrimental to the survival of their hive.15 Instead, you can try maple syrup or agave nectar, which are great alternatives for honey!


Does one person make a difference?
by Debi, 8th grade, San Jose, CA

Yes, one person does make a difference. According to Counting Animals, a vegan saves more than 370 animals per year!16 Going vegan encourages friends, family, and others around you to consider eating plant-based, too. By eating fewer animal products we can lessen the demand for meat, dairy, and eggs, which leads to fewer animals being raised for food.


How do I talk to my family about being vegan?
by Taylor, college freshman, Los Angeles, CA

The first step in talking to your family about plant-based diet choices is making sure they’re educated about the issues and dietary health. It can be helpful for your parents to know that veganism isn’t a fad diet but is a long-term, sustainable way of life that is better for the animals, the environment, and your health. Show your parents some helpful documentaries on the subject such as What the Health, Forks over Knives, and Cowspiracy. There’s also a TED Talk I recommend by Dr. Melanie Joy called Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices that is very educational and enlightening. Below you will also find a list of websites that your family can look over if they have any doubts or questions about eating vegan as a young adult. A lot of the time parents don’t want their children becoming vegan because they might think their children won’t get enough nutrients. However, meeting your daily nutrient intake on a plant-based diet is completely possible!17 You can track the food you consume for a few days on cronometer.com and it will show the exact nutrients you are consuming. This way, your parents can see you are consuming enough protein, iron, calcium, etc. If you like to cook you can even prepare a plant-based meal for your whole family once every week or month! Check out my YouTube video on talking to your parents about eating vegan.

Resources to share with family members:
livestrong.com/article/200961-vegan-diets-for-teens
pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-diets-for-children-right-from-the-start
teens.webmd.com/vegetarian-diet-for-teens
andeal.org/vault/2440/web/JADA_VEG.pdf


What if your doctor isn’t supportive of vegan/vegetarian diets?
by Lauren, 12th grade, Pittsburgh, PA

It can be the case that your family doctor may not be in support of vegan diets due to the fact that they may not have all of the information regarding healthy plant-based eating.

There are a few things you can do if this is the situation you’re in. Choose the solution that seems right for you.

1. Ask your doctor what their specific concerns are, then go home, do some research, and present your doctor with what you’ve found. Sometimes they just need to be educated on the facts surrounding veganism. Make sure to use trustworthy sources though! Scientific studies and medical journals would probably be your best bet. It might be helpful to share the position of the ADA and their full paper on this topic: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

2. Get a second opinion. Doctors don’t always agree and it can’t hurt to get someone else’s opinion. Your doctor is also more likely to listen to you if you have another medical professional backing you up.

3. Find a different doctor. This might seem a little extreme, but if your doctor won’t listen to the facts about veganism and/or doesn’t really care what you want, it might be time to switch doctors.

Sources

  1. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-healthy-eating-for-vegetarians
  2. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/pdf/courses/PBDNutritentsofConcern.pdf
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iron-rich-plant-foods#section1
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-plant-sources-of-omega-3s#section5
  5. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/pdf/courses/PBDNutritentsofConcern.pdf
  6. https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/dairy/
  7. https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/the-truth-behind-humane-labels/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-plant-sources-of-omega-3s#section3
  9. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=118052
  10. http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-animals-in-the-aquaculture-industry-1.pdf
  11. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/18/fish-intelligence-study_n_5503895.html
  12. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vitamin-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355025
  13. https://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.php
  14. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/heres-how-you-can-save-honeybees/
  15. https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/bee-centred-vs-conventional
  16. http://www.countinganimals.com/how-many-animals-does-a-vegetarian-save/
  17. https://www.livestrong.com/article/200961-vegan-diets-for-teens/