The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on October 11, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Alicia Hückmann, intern visiting from Germany

As vegan foods become more popular around the world, these foods are increasingly being exported and imported to different countries. Are there different tastes internationally? What does a German think of an American product now available in her country, such as Tofurky? Of course, remember that tastes everywhere, even in the same family, differ dramatically.


I tasted the following products:

– peppered deli slices

– bologna deli slices

– pepperoni deli slices

The reason why I am only going to review cold cuts is because they are the only meat alternatives I consume on a regular basis. While I certainly tasted enough brands and flavors to do a knowledgeable review on Tofurky’s deli slices, I lack experience with other types of products.


1. Taste

Tofu- and soy-based products are among the best when it comes to vegan cold cuts in my opinion. Thus it didn’t come as a surprise that I enjoyed Tofurky’s deli slices as much as I did. I have to admit, however, that they didn’t beat my personal favorite, the plant-oil based cold cuts by Gut Wudelstein. Even though I really like Tofurky’s use and balance of spices, they don’t always neutralize the slices’ natural tofu flavor (especially in mild flavors like bologna). The spicy slices (peppered and pepperoni) are definitely among my all time top 5 vegan cold cuts, though. Not only taste-wise but also because they are a great source for protein and iron among others. Furthermore, they seem much healthier than the aforementioned cold cuts that mostly consist of fat and oil.

2. Freshness

While other cold cuts are usually dried out after three days and make pretty good crackers after seven, this was not the case for Tofurky’s deli slices. Although it takes me about a week to finish one package, they remain moist and soft until the very last day – only the edges harden a little after a while. At first I thought this was only due to the fact that they come in a block of slices and are therefore less likely to transpire but changed my mind when I witnessed how two leftover slices (bologna style) still tasted relatively fresh after laying in the fridge for another three days.


1. texture

As I am generally a big fan of Tofurky’s deli slices, all suggestions I have to say are really minor issues and wouldn’t actually prevent me from buying the products. One of them is the texture which could be a little more tender in my opinion. For me, the perfect cold cuts are the ones that you can bite through easily (the pepperoni come very close). I often eat a little while working on my computer or reading, so having a snack that doesn’t make make my fingers greasy and that doesn’t need to be held in two hands is very convenient. When putting a deli slice on a slice of bread, however, I always have to hold on to it with both hands in order not to pull it off with my teeth.

2. Packaging

While I appreciate the fact that Tofurky uses less plastic than many other brands for their cold cuts, I sometimes get a little frustrated due to the way they are sealed. Opening the package can be a bit of a struggle because there is only little space between the tightly sealed bits of the package and the block of slices. This makes it literally impossible to tear it open and also very difficult to cut it open using a knife or even a pair of scissors (which will most likely come into contact with the cold cuts). Once it is open, I have to take out the whole block in order to grab a slice, which I wouldn’t mind if putting it back were less of a challenge due to the aforementioned space issue. Furthermore, the package cannot be resealed which means that the products’ smell will spread inside the fridge unless it is put into a second or different plastic bag (not exactly an environmentally friendly solution).

German taste buds and meat alternatives

General information and recent developments:

The perfect meat alternatives for Germans

A survey conducted by the German Vegetarian Union (Vebu) in 2012 reported that only 15% of all respondents think that meat alternatives should look like meat. 70% on the other hand prefer meat alternatives that have a different name than the products they imitate or are inspired by and another 70% don’t care if meat substitutes taste like meat at all. On the other hand, many consumers seem to attach great importance to organic labeling. 44% think that all meat substitutes should be organic, 26% at least partly agree to this statement, and only 22% attach little to no importance to organic labeling. In general, the majority of all people interviewed was very satisfied with the average quality, taste, texture, and variety of products available on the food market.

Tofu and Soy products

Tofu and Tempeh are the most popular bases for meat alternatives. In the aforementioned survey, these soy products make up about 35% of the average respondent’s consumption. I have the impression, however, that some German vegans, vegetarians, and other consumers are cutting down on soy products at the moment. The reason for this are studies suggesting that consuming “too much” soy can lead to a higher risk of hormone-related types of cancer due to the amount of phytoestrogens it contains. And even though many don’t know what “too much” means, they are still inspired by the headlines to cut down on soy or give it up altogether. As I already suffer from hypothyroidism and have relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer, I was tempted to do the very same until I did a little more research on the many benefits of soy as well as the exact meaning of “too much.” In order to demystify soy and fully restore its good reputation, more companies need to highlight and advertise its advantages (great source for protein and iron, environmental friendly, etc.).

For more info, see

Major brands might be unhealthy

Another headline that is likely to cause changes on the market for meat alternatives relates to the most recent reviews by Stiftung Warentest (a German consumer organization). Out of 20 products that were tested, 6 contained too high amounts of pollutants – e.g. 400 mg mineral oil/“mosh” per kg in Rügenwalder Mühle Schnitzel. This is one of the highest concentrations of mosh in food products that has ever been measured by the institute. Other products that have been reported to contain mosh are meat alternatives by Alnatura, Netto, Alberts, Viana, and Taifun (20-60 mg each), all of which are commercially successful brands carried by many major supermarket chains. Some supermarkets drew consequences shortly after the test results were published, like the chain REWE, which is going to remove the product “Naturgut Bio-Veggie-Schnitzel” from its shelves. All companies accused of pollution tried to explain the findings by suggesting that white mineral oils (which are almost identical to mosh but considered to be harmless) are to blame. Rügenwalder Mühle announced that they would stop putting them into their products nevertheless.

Mosh is a problematic (accidental) ingredient that affects the food market as a whole. It often finds its way into products if harvested crops come in contact with lubricating oil or if products are transported or packaged in recycled carton boxes. According to foodwatch, rice, noodles, and cereals are among the most polluted products (31 out of 42 tested products contained this type of mineral oil).

Stiftung Warentest did not only criticize the products’ pollution with mosh but also their composition. Only 2 out of 20 products were described as well-balanced in regard to their nutrients. Some products, on the other hand, contained more fat than the recommended amount for a main course (100g sausages by Meica) or 2/3 of the daily recommended sodium intake (100g burgers by Berief). Both of the aforementioned products did also fairly bad concerning environmental friendliness. Other brands have been revealed to use soy from areas that contribute to deforestation or partially genetically modified soy. Only two companies reported that they exclusively use soy grown within the EU.

Stiftung Warentest focused on the category of vegetarian meat alternatives in this particular study. In previous studies, they analyzed the quality of other products including meat. In one of these studies (mincemeat testing in 2015), the conductors found out that every second sample contained E.coli bacteria and antibiotic-resistant germs. One product contained salmonella.

It is also important to bear in mind that Stiftung Warentest only reviews a very small part of the overall market. They focus on products that are sold in or even produced by discounters as well as very popular brands. The majority of these brands are not vegetarian/vegan-only labels but in fact owned by meat producers (like Ruegenwalder Muehle – one of Germany’s major poultry producers). Several of my favorite foods from vegetarian companies were not reviewed.

The contents of this posting, website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

VEGDINING.COM invites you to celebrate World Vegetarian Month (October)

Posted on October 11, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


Our friends at invite you to celebrate World Vegetarian Month (October). Visit one or more of your favorite veg restaurants during October and for each fully veg restaurant you visit, submit a mini-review (3 sentences or more) on You’ll be entered to win a veg prize, including a $100 Vegetarian Resource Group gift certificate! Last date to enter Oct 31, 2016 — more details and contest entry at

Traveling Ireland as a Vegan

Posted on October 10, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Alicia Hückmann, intern visiting from Germany

When I decided to move to Dublin for two months for an internship, I had no idea what to expect in regard to food. Although I had already been to Ireland a few years before, it was my first trip to this country as a vegan. The only thing I remembered from going shopping back then was how exorbitant the prices for groceries were (in comparison to German standards) – so at least I was prepared to spend a fortune on food. Upon my arrival, I soon had to find out that Ireland is anything but a vegan nation. Not very surprising considering the fact that their farms come frighteningly close to these romanticized illustrations of picture perfect farms, grinning cows on milk cartons or packaged meat on first sight. I can actually understand why some people wouldn’t immediately think of animal cruelty when seeing herds of outdoor sheep and cows grazing on the idyllic meadows of Eire. Then again, I never noticed any pigs, male baby chicks or calves jumping around happily, so I came to the conclusion that being vegan in Ireland was still a very good idea.

While vegan labels and meat alternatives were a rarity in many of the common grocery stores I went shopping at (I remember going to Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Gala, and SPAR on a regular basis), products directed at lactose intolerant people are much more common – even the smallest supermarkets had at least one type of plant milk! This and porridge basically saved my breakfast. Porridge (like oatmeal) does not require much time and effort and can be prepared on a stove or in a microwave within a few minutes. I usually added some fruits, berries, and cinnamon for a richer flavor.

As my workplace’s cafeteria only offered non-vegan options, I had to bring my own lunch box. This mostly consisted of some bread, hummus, vegetable sticks, and fruit. At home (I lived in a place that had a fully equipped kitchen), my meals usually contained frozen vegetables, rice, beans, noodles, or lentils. These were not only some of the products available most easily but also some of the cheapest. In return, I treated myself to Dublin’s relatively pricey vegan options at restaurants (like a bar that offered vegan pizza – turned out to be a regular veggie pizza just without the cheese).

Depending on how you choose to travel Ireland, cooking your own meals can be really simple. Hostels are probably the most convenient type of accommodation for young adults and much, much more common all across Europe than they are in the USA. As a low-budged traveler, hostel dorms are your best friends – I booked in advance and managed to get a bed in Galway, Belfast, and Cork for €10-15 per night in a room that I shared with 5-9 other people. Be warned, however – the less you pay, the more likely you will be to require high-quality earplugs at night! The truly great thing about hostels (for vegans in particular) is that they usually have a fully equipped kitchen or at least basic kitchen tools that you can use for free. You’ll never have to worry about finding a suitable place to dine out and quite frankly, hostel kitchens are one of the best places to find new friends! In my experience, the smaller a hostel is the cleaner its facilities are but I would always check reviews on websites like hostelworld, just to be sure.

While some hostels don’t have an age limit, others won’t accept people older than 35. In that case (or if you are simply not a fan of these places), you will have to find a different kind of accommodation. Airbnb is a popular alternative and definitely a great solution if you are planning on staying somewhere on the countryside.

The biggest mistake I made when going out to eat was not joining Dublin’s vegan Facebook group much earlier. Many of its members are not only long-term vegans but have been living in Ireland for most of or all their lives. They are absolute experts when it comes to helpful insiders’ tips for vegan tourists. Here, I also learned about a vegetarian restaurant called Cornucopia, which quickly became one of my favorite places in the country (

If you plan on going to Belfast, by the way, I promise you will cry sweet tears of vegan happiness. Like the rest of the United Kingdom, this city is a lot more vegan-friendly than the Republic of Ireland in my opinion. In fact, one of the first posters I came across in Belfast advertised a vegan festival! Besides, I also found a lot more plant-based products in regular supermarkets.

All in all, Ireland is a beautiful country that is definitely worth the visit if you are ready to make a few compromises. And since Guinness has recently switched to a vegan recipe, you can always just drown your frustration in some good, bitter Irish beer if you have to.

Sedona VegFest 2017

Posted on October 10, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


Healthy World Sedona (an affiliated member organization of PlantPure Nation) announces the first ever vegfest in Sedona, AZ, next January 14-15, 2017. An amazing program of presenters is on tap, including keynotes from Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. Richard Oppenlander. Celebrity chefs Jason Wyrick and Sedona’s own Lisa Dahl will do cooking demos, and there will be plenty of exhibitors providing the latest information, products, and services promoting a whole-food, plant-based diet and lifestyle. And it’s in the beautiful red rock country of Sedona, world-renowned as a magical place for personal healing and renewal.

Sedona VegFest 2017 will be a true feast—for the eyes, the mind, the body, and the soul. Information and registration at


Posted on October 07, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


Are you looking for some vegan-friendly items to handout to children on Halloween? If so, here are some suggestions:

Naked and Chocolate Covered Vegan Caramels

OCHO Mini Coconut Bars

Sensible Portions Ghosts & Bats Veggie Chips

Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates

Surf Sweets Organic Fruity Bears – Mini Bags

Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops

You can also handout small bags of pretzels, popcorn, or baked chips.

Please Show Your Support for all the Good Work The Vegetarian Resource Group Does Year-Round by Donating to VRG Through the Combined Federal Charity Campaign or other Workplace Campaign

Posted on October 07, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

2016 has been a very productive year so far for The Vegetarian Resource Group. Here’s a sampling of some of our accomplishments and outreach:

-Nancy Berkoff’s Vegan in Volume published by VRG has been distributed to thousands of food service personnel
in different settings. This encourages chefs to serve more vegan food options in universities, hospitals, employee cafeterias, nursing homes, and other places. Nancy also developed vegan recipes for Our Daily Bread in Baltimore, which serves over 700 meals per day to homeless and low income individuals. About 10% requested veggie meals. VRG interns prepared and donated 9 foodservice size trays of vegan food using Nancy’s recipes.

-We continue to work with numerous High School and College interns in our Baltimore office including three future Registered Dietitians and a student visiting from Germany. VRG Nutrition Advisor Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, mentors those interns who are interested in pursuing a career in nutrition. VRG staff also works with students that are majoring in English, Journalism, Business, and other subjects. These students are the future of the vegan movement and we should all be excited about what they will bring to the cause once they graduate.

-The Vegetarian Resource Group assisted media (print, web, radio, tv, etc.) including Family Circle magazine for an article on children who decide to go veggie; NPR member station KUT in Austin, TX about the public’s increased interest in vegan diets and PBS 8 in Phoenix Arizona about vegan options for Thanksgiving; Consumer Report on Health about reducing meat for health benefits; Dr. Don Radio Show about veggie pregnancy and lactation; On the Menu, a radio podcast, on the topics of why people go veggie and VRG poll information; Grocerant magazine about what vegans would like to see in the prepared section of grocery stores; and Baltimore Business Journal about the history of The Vegetarian Resource Group.

-VRG has done numerous outreach booths including at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Boston, MA; GreenFest in Washington, DC; Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD; Taking Action for Animals in VA; Charlottesville and Richmond, VA VegFests; Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore, MD; Albany VegFest in NY; NH Dietetic Meeting in Concord, NH; Veggie Pride Parade in NYC; New England VegFest in Worcester, MA; etc. VRG Nutrition Advisor Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, spoke at state dietetic meetings in NH, FL, and AZ and gave a webinar on ‘Vegetarian Diets for Older Adults’ for members of the Healthy Aging Dietetic Practice Group.

-The Vegetarian Resource Group provided vegan handouts free-of-charge for outreach in a wide variety of locations including a box of literature to be shared with a High School women’s basketball team in California; 500 Save our Water Brochures for tabling at an Earth Day event in Houston, TX; several hundred handouts to Animal Advocates of Western New York for a local Health Expo; a thousand brochures for leafletting in NYC; and hundreds of handouts for state dietetic meetings in NH, WA-OR, and NE.

Your support is greatly appreciated! You can also donate directly to VRG at

Vegan Casseroles for Our Daily Bread

Posted on October 06, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


By Casey Brown, VRG Intern

Our Daily Bread is a soup kitchen located in Baltimore that provides full meals and additional services to men and women in need in Baltimore City. Local churches, groups, and individuals donate casseroles, and many others volunteer their time in order to allow this program to serve over 600 people every day.

As an intern with VRG, I baked vegan casseroles to donate to Our Daily Bread. The vegan recipes are provided on their website (, and they are each very easy to make! The first time I made the casseroles, I prepared one of each of the recipes: the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Casserole, the Brunswick Stew, and the Creamy Bean and Potato Casserole with Carrots. This past week, I made two of the Brunswick Stew recipes to donate. Each of the recipes are easy to make, and they use simple ingredients that are often frozen or canned, requiring minimal preparation and cost. While cooking, I would prepare the ingredients for one casserole while another one was in the oven or on the stove cooking. This allowed me to make the most effective use of my time, so I could prepare multiple dishes in one afternoon. Each of the recipes take less than an hour to prepare and cook individually. I thought it was easiest when I made the same recipe twice since I was able to prepare all of the ingredients in bulk, and I was familiar with the cooking process, so it allowed me to prepare them even quicker!

My mom joined me when I was preparing the casseroles since she enjoys cooking and wanted to support the cause as well. She thought these recipes were very easy to make and hopes to continue making them in the future. Since I live about an hour away from Baltimore, I decided to keep the casseroles in my freezer until I was planning to go to the area, which worked out well because they wanted them frozen. When dropping off the dishes, they should be frozen, wrapped in aluminum foil, and clearly labeled with the recipe name.

While we were dropping off the casseroles on both occasions, we were able to visit the center. It was amazing to see the facility and the generous work that they do. Not only do they provide meals to over 600 people everyday, but they also have additional programs to help get people back on their feet and back into employment. The organization is primarily made up of volunteers, and they heavily rely on people’s generosity towards this program. The staff was very appreciative of the vegan dishes since it allowed their visitors to have a wider selection, and it provided a healthier meal option. The volunteer coordinator mentioned the need for more vegetarian options, stating that 200-230 of the 600+ people they serve daily prefer these choices.

If you are looking for a way to get involved in your community or be able to make a difference in someone’s life, then you should consider donating vegan casseroles to a local soup kitchen. The recipes are healthy, low-cost, and very easy to make. It can be a great family activity for you all to cook together, and it will make a huge difference in other’s lives. Even if you are not in the Baltimore area, you should still consider donating these vegan casseroles to soup kitchens near you.

See more about the vegan casseroles on our blog:


Posted on October 05, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


Sunday, October 16, 2016, 6 PM

The Vegetarian Resource Group will host a vegan Thai dinner at My Thai Vegan Café in Boston on Sunday, October 16, 2016 during the annual meeting of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Meet VRG advisors Reed Mangels PhD RD, Catherine Conway MS RD, Debra Wasserman, and vegetarian dietitians from around the country. All are welcome.


Tom Kha, Thai Coconut Soup with tofu

Thai Mango Salad

Nam Prik Kaeng Kari with tofu (Yellow Curry) and brown rice

Pad See Ew. Wide rice noodles with Chinese broccoli and vegan gluten.

Fruit cocktail for dessert or other fruit

Tea and cold water

This will be a plated sit down dinner.

TO RESERVE: Send $30 person (includes tax and tip) (Under eight is half price) with names of attendees to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

Call (410) 366-8343.

You can also pay at and write Boston Dinner in the Comments.

Refunds after September 30th only if your seat can be replaced.

Hope to see you there!


Posted on October 05, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Hana Takemoto, former VRG intern

College is going really great! In every single dining hall, there are clearly labeled vegan and vegetarian options that taste amazing. I've even heard some people say that they go for the vegan options because they just taste better. Those options definitely seem more nutritious – more vegetables and variety vs. the non-vegetarian options, which tend to have more fried foods and less vegetables. Today for lunch I had tofu, chickpeas and lentils, and stir-fried veggies, and for breakfast every morning they have vegan pastries. The only thing I would add to make my dining hall better is some non-dairy milk, but since there's a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's close by it's not really a problem. Overall, it's a LOT easier to be vegan here at Northwestern than at home.

October is National Pasta Month – Enjoy these Vegan Pasta Dishes!

Posted on October 04, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


October is National Pasta Month – Enjoy these Vegan Pasta Dishes!

Pasta can be prepared in so many ways vegan-style. Here’s links to pasta recipes and tips (as well as pasta sauces) we’ve run in previous issues of Vegetarian Journal:

Make Ahead Pasta Delights

Hot and Cold Pasta Salads

Pasta Perfect

Regional Italian and Sicilian Pasta Sauces

Vegan Mac and No-Cheese with Zucchini “Cream” Sauce

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