The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegetarian Resource Group Booth at the Richmond VegFest

Posted on June 25, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Karen Leibowitz

The Vegetarian Resource Group hosted another successful booth at the annual Richmond Vegetarian Festival. It was held in the beautiful Azalea Gardens of Bryan Park. The VRG booth was placed in a perfect location, near the music stage and under a shady tree.

Intern Devlyn and I had the honor of working with long-time volunteer and vegan advocate Elsa Spencer, PhD. The three of us spoke with numerous festival attendees throughout the day. Elsa has her PhD in nutrition and is an expert gardener. She was able to answer a lot of questions that people had relating to the vegetarian diet. Devlyn and I spoke with and handed out related resources to students and new vegetarians about a number of subjects such as local dining options, foods that provide adequate levels of iron for those that are anemic, and ideas for vegan meals without nuts or gluten.

Interns Devlyn Perugini and Karen Abbe Leibowitz discuss vegetarianism with a booth visitor.

One attendee was very excited to see us there. He had lost over fifty pounds of excess weight after becoming vegetarian, and was passionate about sharing his encouraging story with others. Another attendee, a clinical nurse in an assisted living community, talked about the need for healthy vegetarian options, wishing there was “something more than a white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” She was relieved when we provided vegetarian senior care information and told her about assisted living meal ideas on our website.

Hosting booths like this one is rewarding because we have the opportunity to encourage people to continue pursuing the vegetarian/vegan diet by providing resources to make it easier, and we can provide information to those who are curious.

If you would like to volunteer at VRG booths, contact Nina at
If you would like to intern at VRG go to
If you would like to support VRG outreach, donate at
To join VRG go to

If you are attending the Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington, DC this weekend June 28-29th, please stop by the Vegetarian Resource Group booth.


Posted on June 25, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Take 20% off authentic Indian cuisine and organic bean pouches from
Jyoti Natural Foods. Use code: JYOTI20

Basmati rice, “Punjabi Chhole (chickpeas), black beans, and more.


Support The Vegetarian Resource Group by Obtaining The VRG VISA® Platinum Rewards Card!

Posted on June 23, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Funds from our Visa® program help us promote vegan diets, and influence dietitians, doctors, restaurants, food services, supermarkets, food companies, schools, students, and consumers. Your support helps us continue ingredient research, policy work for vegetarians, and our vegetarian scholarships and internship program.

When a cardholder activates the card, VRG receives $50. Then for the life of the program, VRG will receive a portion of every dollar that each cardholder charges. You can choose from four different beautiful photographs featured on these cards. For details on applying for a card see:

Lands in Love: 100% Vegetarian Hotel and Resort in Costa Rica

Posted on June 23, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

by Priscilla Broadwater

It’s that time of the year when kids are out of school and you may want to spend some quality time together as a family. Consider “Lands in Love,” a hotel and resort located in San Lorenzo, Costa Rica, only 75 minutes away from San Jose International Airport. This resort is in the middle of a cloud forest where you can admire nature at its best.

What activities do they offer for the whole family? Once you arrive, get ready to have fun because they have a myriad of activities for you and your children. Among some of the activities you can do are: canopy touring (viewing the forest from above the trees), rafting, rappelling, bird watching, and much more.

When it comes to food, their restaurant has lots of options. From vegetarian to vegan and gluten free to any special prescribed diet. Given that the owners of the resort are from Israel, Israeli food is offered as well. Guests are invited to use the restaurant kitchen if they wish to do so.

The hotel has over 30 rooms all equipped with internet access, a telephone, cable TV, a mini bar, and a coffee maker. The hotel also has two rooms specially designed for handicapped individuals. And that’s not all; within the hotel there is a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, pool table, foosball table, adventure center, and an orchid nursery just to mention some. Also, there is a pet hotel at Land in Love. This means that you don’t have to worry about your four legged friend being away from you. You can include your dog on the trip.

If you want to kick your trip up a notch, the staff at Lands in Love will help you arrange a tour that will allow you to see more of the beauty Costa Rica has to offer. Lands in Love offers tours to the Arenal volcano, Venado caves, hanging bridges, Caño Negro wildlife refuge, La Paz waterfall gardens, and more.

For further information visit their website,
Contact Information: (506) 2447-9331;

Celebrate the Arrival of Summer with These Vegan Recipes!

Posted on June 20, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Costa Rican Fruits

Posted on June 18, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Priscilla Broadwater

As a native of Costa Rica I can say that there is a myriad of fruits in my country. If you have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, it won’t take you too long to notice that there are fruits everywhere. Some of them you probably didn’t know existed.

Back in 2006 I was working as a tourist guide. My job required me to take groups of foreign students on a tour around Heredia city (located in the Central Valley) with the purpose of allowing them to become familiar with the area and the culture. We took public transportation because we wanted them to become familiar with the Costa Rican currency. My other duties were to show them the location of certain bus stops, supermarkets, and drugstores in case they ever needed anything. My favorite place to take them was the Central Market, which is located in the middle of the city. At this market, many sellers and farmers gather up every day to sell their products.

At the Central Market you can buy just about anything, for example: fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, plants, smoothies, sandwiches, traditional Costa Rican food, shoes, clothes, umbrellas, wooden toys, etc. I loved seeing the students’ faces as we walked into this market. As one student said to me, “you brought us to fruit land.” I had an acquaintance at the market who always allowed us to try the fruits he was selling; the students just loved it! The best part was seeing their faces and their reactions as they tried those exotic fruits they had never seen before. They always took plenty of pictures. Often I would hear them say, “We need to show our parents some of the cool fruits we tried.”

The following list provides just a few names of some of the most common fruits found at the Central Market in Costa Rica:

Manzana de agua (water apple): This fruit is called water apple because it’s red like an apple, but when you bite into it, it’s really juicy. The dark red ones are very sweet. This is a very refreshing fruit.

Guanábana (soursop): This fruit is sweet and juicy; commonly used to make juice, milk shakes, and ice cream. Its skin is green and inside contains a white flesh that’s chewy but tasty.

Guaba: The shape of this fruit is quite different from others. It’s thin and about 18 inches long; however, they can be shorter or longer. Inside there are seeds covered by a lightly fibrous and sweet white flesh. Kids love this fruit because after they eat the pulp, they wear the seeds as earrings.

Guayaba (guava): Americans know this fruit by the name of guava. It can be eaten when still green, or you can let it ripen. This is one of the most common fruits in Central America. People make guava jelly; which they often put on bread, crackers, and some pastries.

Mamey: The mamey looks a lot like a sweet potato, but slightly bigger. The pulp has a grainy texture and it is rich and sweet.

Granadilla: A granadilla is the size of a medium orange. Usually they are orange on the outside, but the color can vary. Inside there is a sweet and juicy group of seeds, wrapped in a thin clear layer. As a kid, this was my favorite fruit.

Mamón Chino (Rambutan):
This fruit is colorful; its thick and hairy looking skin can be red, yellow, or orange. Inside there is a seed covered by a translucent fleshy layer. Its taste is sweet, but can be slightly acidic.

Jocote: When green they are tart and very tasty; most people sprinkle on some salt before every bite. Once Jacote ripen, they are very juicy and sweet.

Marañon: This fruit looks a little bit like a water apple, and it’s also called cashew apple. On top of the fruit there is a hard shell that sticks out. Inside that part there is the nut known as cashew. The actual cashew nut contains a toxin; therefore they need to be properly roasted before you eat them. This fruit is sweet and notorious for a strong smell and taste.

Carambola (star fruit): The entire fruit is edible; as you cut it you can see the shape of a star, which is why it’s called star fruit. Usually people make carambola juice, which is very refreshing.

Cas: Cas belongs to the guava family, which is why they look so similar. Cas is a little bit sour and the size of a plum. This fruit is used to make juice which is delicious.

Cacao: Like many people already know, the seeds inside the cocoa fruit are used to make chocolate. The silky sour/sweet and creamy pulp that surrounds the cocoa seeds tastes very good; however, don’t expect it to taste like a chocolate bar.

Papaya: This fruit is very popular in Costa Rica. When not ripe it’s used to make what Costa Ricans call, “Papaya Salad,” a popular and unique dish. When the fruit is ripened it is dark orange inside and very sweet. As a kid, I loved to pop the little black seeds that come inside.

Craft Glues and Paints: Mostly Petrochemical but Carmine Present in Some Testors® and Plaid® Paints

Posted on June 18, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, VRG Research Director

A long-time member recently asked The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) about the glues and paints used in model kits. He was interested in building models using only vegan materials defined as materials which contain no animal ingredients nor were produced using animal-derived products.

After speaking with several model kit companies and craft glue and paint manufacturers in March to May 2014, The VRG discovered that most of the currently available kits, glues, and paints are derived from petrochemicals (petroleum or natural gas) that originated long ago from ancient animal and plant matter. A major exception is insect-derived carmine derived from carminic acid used as a color in some craft paint.

Model Kit Companies

The VRG contacted a few model kit companies to find out if they produced their own paints or glues or had any recommendations.

A customer service representative at Revell® told us that their American model kits contain only the plastic model parts. (Revell in Germany includes paint and glue in its kits.) Polystyrene plastic is used. Polyvinyl chloride tires are sometimes included. A Revell employee recommended Testors® paint for their kits.

Hasegawa® told The VRG that “most paints and glues are synthetic but can’t guarantee that there are no animal products.” At our request the service rep looked at the ingredient label on a can of spray paint and noted that “other ingredients” were listed with no further information provided. They had no information on the plastic parts.

A twenty-year employee at Tamiya® told us that he “doubted very much” that animal products were in the paint or glue saying that he was “99.9% sure that there were no animal ingredients.” He informed us that polystyrene is the plastic used for their model kit parts. Synthetic acrylic paint is used and rubber cement is sold separately. No further information was available.


The VRG identified craft glues without animal-derived ingredients according to company information. However, we received no complete ingredient statements as companies told us that their ingredient formulations were proprietary. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for glues yet they list only the potentially hazardous ingredients which in most cases are petrochemical-based. Possible animal-derived glue ingredients such as gelatin or the milk protein casein would not be listed on MSDS sheets.

Elmer’s® website stated that no animal products are used in their glue:

Elmer’s does not use animals or animal parts to make glue. Our products are made from synthetic materials and are not derived from processing horses, cows or any other animals.

Elmer’s products appropriate for model kits are:

The VRG called Elmer’s about the rubber cement and learned that it also does not contain animal ingredients. Customer service representative Brian told us that “all of Elmer’s products are synthetic.” He said that they never used animal products although the milk protein casein was in a glue produced by Borden® (dairy company) in the early 1900s (source).

Weldbond® also produces vegan glue. According to its FAQ page:

Weldbond® is not tested on animals and does not contain any animal by-products. This product is Vegan Friendly.

The VRG spoke with the technical department at Weldbond and learned that its glue would not work well with certain plastics including those commonly used in model kits such as styrene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).


The VRG received an email reply from Plaid® that manufacturers several craft paint brands listed on this page:

We were informed that,
Plaid products contain no food products, no food by products. No animal products and no by-products of animals. Plaid products are not animal tested…Plaid product ingredients are proprietary information and not available for public review.

After we received this email The VRG called Plaid and asked specifically about carmine. A customer service representative told us that their paints contained “natural pigments.” She didn’t know if carmine was included in this category but would ask the chemist, and mentioned that there is a Plaid paint color called “carmine” but didn’t know if carmine was in it.

She called back to relay information provided by the chemist. She said that “…some Plaid paint products contain carminic acid.” She could not specify which ones but said “…all Plain paint brands may contain it.”

Testors® paint produced by RPM International® Inc. is a major hobby paint brand. When we first contacted Testors by phone and asked if animal products were in their paints, we were told that no animal ingredients were present.

The VRG called Testors again and asked specifically about carmine. The product support representative told us that she would have to ask in the lab. Later she replied by email,

I heard back from the lab at Testors. We regret to inform you that carminic acid is in many of our colors.

‘We do use carmine, as it is a red pigment and it is derived from carminic acid which comes from scale insects. Red pigments are combined in many colors to make the actual finished pigment.’

During a followup call The VRG learned that carmine or carminic acid would not be listed on a paint label. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) list only hazardous ingredients and so carmine even if present would not appear. Here are some MSDS examples of red paint products found on Testors website:

Revving Red One Coat Lacquer Spray:

Pearl Red Aztek® Airbrush Paint:

We were told that both brush-on and spray Testors paints could contain the insect-derived pigment. No listing of specific paint colors produced with carmine is available from Testors.

In foods and beverages, carmine can be used to produce orange, pink, red and purple shades (source). This page also contains general information about carmine.

Readers may note that in 2009, the FDA ruled that carmine must be declared on food and cosmetics labels due to the possibility of severe allergic reactions in some people (source).

The contents of this article, 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.

Vegan Restaurants in U.S. & Canada Recently Added to our Restaurant Guide

Posted on June 16, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Vegan Restaurants in U.S. & Canada Recently Added to our Restaurant Guide.

These vegan restaurants were recently added to our online restaurant guide. To find restaurants in your area, please visit:

Charlie was a sinner
131 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107
(267) 758-5372
Vegan/natural foods/bar. Charlie was a sinner is a vegan bar with a full vegan menu. Enjoy creative foods like Saffron Artichokes, Korean-Style Fried Tofu, and Confit Potato Cup & Mushroom. The restaurant/bar is located in Center City. Reservations are accepted. Open daily for lunch and dinner through late night service. Full service,
fresh juices, espresso/cappuccino, beer/wine/alcohol, VISA/MC, $-$$.

Dough Bakery
100 Hurt St., Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 380-1400
Vegan/bakery/deli. Dough Bakery is a completely vegan bakery and deli. Their sandwich and soup specials are ever-changing but previous offerings have included the French Dip sandwich, “Meatball” sub, Chickpea Pasta soup, Cuban Black Bean soup, and Cuban sandwich. Enjoy sweets including cupcakes, cookies, coffee cake, and muffins. Cakes can be ordered for that special occasion. Dough Bakery is located in Inman Park, just east of downtown Atlanta. Open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Closed Monday. Counter service, take-out, catering, VISA/MC/AMEX, $.

Sweet to Lick
78 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, NY 11596
(516) 385-8833
Vegan/bakery. Sweet to Lick puts more personality and creativity into their treats than one can possibly imagine! They have enough cookies, cakes, and pastries to satisfy even the most indulgent sweet tooth. Tasty treats include Chocolate Chip Cookies, Rocky Road Bars, Peanut Butter Mousse, S’mores Cake, and Swiss Rolls. Looking for something savory instead? Sweet to Lick has you covered. Check out their Facebook or Twitter pages to see what creative dishes they are serving. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Open Sunday for lunch. Counter service, take-out, soymilk, special beverages, VISA/MC/AMEX/DISC, $-$$.

Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Co.
1277 Bloor St., W., Toronto, ON M6H 1N7
(416) 998-3321
Vegan/bakery. Through Being Cool is a cute little all-vegan take-out bakery. They make everything in-house including doughnuts, cookies, tarts, and preserves. In addition to baked goods, TBC offers oven-ready meals to-go; foods may include lasagna, cabbage rolls, pierogies, and mac & cheese. They are located in Bloordale Village. Cash only.
Open daily. Take-out, espresso/cappuccino, soymilk, $.

Vegan Cuisine
11743 Edinger Ave., Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 839-8305
Vegan/Vietnamese. Vegan Cuisine offers an all-vegan menu of Vietnamese cuisine. Enjoy foods like Bliss Chow Mein, Wonton Noodle Soup, and Lotus Root Salad. They also offer a few Western dishes such as Spaghetti with Ground Grazing Moon Meatless Balls.The café features many delicious desserts and specialty beverages as well. Outdoor seating is available. Open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesday. Full service, take-out, fresh juices, smoothies, soymilk, non-alcoholic beer/wine, VISA/MC, $-$$.

Issue 2 2014 of Vegetarian Journal is now online!

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor


Here are just some of the topics covered in this issue of Vegetarian Journal:
Guide to Vegan Milks
Going Amok in Cambodia
What Do Vegetarian Groups Consider Vegetarian and Vegan?
Injectable Vitamin B12
Kid-Friendly Vegan Entrees
Vegan Cooking Tips: Quick Salad Dressings
Vegetarian Action: Sprouting Veganism Through a School Garden

Former VRG Scholarship Winner Continues to do Veggie Outreach

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Seema Rupani
Project Manager, Eat Drink Politics

Hello, my name is Seema; I received a scholarship from The Vegetarian Resource Group several years ago ( and I am a big fan. I am now working with Eat Drink Politics, and I wanted to share this new report from Michele Simon on the dairy industry. It shows how the government is teaming up with the dairy industry to promote foods like Domino’s pizza, McDonald’s shakes, and Trumoo sugary milks in schools.

You can download the full report here:

  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS


    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):

↑ Top