by Michael dEstries
Categories: Eats, Film/TV
Tags: .

oprah vegan challenge, vegetarian, food, sustainable, oprah winfrey, healty eating

Oprah’s “Vegan Challenge” special aired today — and we’re happy to say that it offered a very positive and inspirational look at what going vegan can do for people. Author Kathy Freston did an admirable job helping to advise the 378 Harpo staffers that signed up for the seven-day experiment (300 ultimately made it to the end) and it’s wonderful to see so many considering making similar changes to their lives.

To our friends at — we hope you’re enjoying the flood of traffic! It’s certainly a great place to start your journey towards a healthier you!

The official Oprah site has also posted some wonderful resources for anyone looking to give going vegan a shot. Most notable are three weeks of easy meals from Kathy Freston’s book “Veganist” — as well as delicious vegan alternatives and a vegan FAQ explaining just what the lifestyle means.

If you’re looking to kick off the challenge this Superbowl Sunday, have a look at our Top 10 yummy vegan finger foods for the big game!

Of course, beyond “Veganist“, we also highly recommend Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet”, and the highly amusing “Skinny Bitch”. Check out some additional great lists here and here.

All in all, the staffers that took on Oprah’s vegan challenge lost over 444lbs (and gained 84lbs). We’re also happy to see that “Meatless Mondays” are now a part of the routine at Harpo Production’s cafe.

What did you think of the show? Will you be trying the vegan challenge? Let us know in the comments below!

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
  • herwin

    i didnt see the show but to see Oprah with “OPRAH The Vegan Challenge” on the background is just priceless, just as the Meatless Monday.

  • Judith Jaehn

    This program was a complete joke! Oprah saying, it doesn’t hurt them, I’m just steaming. She was best buddies with the woman that helped run the slaughterhouse! Of course they wouldn’t show the “BOLT”, she said it doesn’t hurt them, they don’t feel it, sometimes it take 12 hits before the monsters that hit them with the bolt finally brings them to the ground, because many of us have seen this horror. And they wouldn’t show any of that. Oprah was following this woman around on her knees. I wanted to throw up! All those people there wanted to do was to sell their books. I feel so sick. Sorry for the rant. Make no mistake, these animals all suffer….Oprah didn’t want the Texans after her again. Thanks folks for throwing the animals under the bus…..

    • Jean Maclay

      I totally agree. The whole thing was sugar coated. People should go on the PETA website to see what REALLY happens to all the poor animals ! Their lives are filled with pain and abuse !

      • Rachelle

        Pollan pissed me off the emtire time. Who’s paying him to say that BS???

      • baxter

        i felt the same way. it seemed that they were making a mockery of the vegan lifestyle. looks like she was making a show to promote the beef industry.
        you think if she was doing a show to promote a vegan challenge it would be a little bit more vegan friendly. what the hell does a friendly slaughterhouse have to do with going vegan for a week challenge.
        promote the great side of being vegan, the great food…i mostly saw people who without force signed up for the challenge but were a bunch of cry babies who couldn’t wait to get back to eating eggs.
        looks like oprah has made amends with the beef industry :(

      • BenCat1000

        we agree with your entire comment,

        especially: “what the hell does a friendly slaughterhouse have to do with going vegan for a week challenge”

        SO TRUE!

    • Thelma

      Judith, have you or do you work at a beef plant? Well, I did and a Cargill plant at that. I know what it is like…No, once it is knocked…they do NOT feel a thing… If there was an issue with the knocker and it was taking more than one time to knock the animal, that person will be taken out of that position. You obviously don’t eat meat… if you do in any form eat an animal or fish etc think about it… you are taking that life…well, even plants for that matter… There is one thing that I don’t think people realize… the government is on site and in every area of the plant…. they will stop the line at any point to ensure there are proper procedures in all respects.

      Also, I’m not protecting Cargill cause I used to be an employee…believe me.

  • Judith Jaehn

    Once again, sorry for my rant, but I couldn’t live with myself otherwise..

  • Acey

    Heads up: Grow Moringa, it is a tree with editable leaves with the more protein that any other plant on earth.(The leaves taste like radish flavored cilantro). I could get you more info, but do a search on it, you won’t believe this plant!!!

    • Steve

      Yeah I came across moringa when I met this company at a tradeshow on the NorthEast last year. It’s really an amazing plant. I definitely felt benefits when I sampled their powders and tea. You should check them out.

  • Judith Jaehn

    Well, I see you didn’t post my comment so, I’m logged out for good….
    You’re just as bad…

  • Judith Jaehn

    Sorry, I’m just a real mess…

  • Cora

    Vegan 15 months – lost 66 pounds – Type II Diabetes reversed :)

    • herwin

      congrats to you Cora.
      i personally know many people who stopped eating animal products and one year later could ditch the medication they were on, like allergies, astma and diabetes.

      • georgina

        My husband dropped his bad cholesterol by 150 points and lost 35 pounds in his first three months after going vegan, and i have glowing skin :)

  • Karina

    Congrats, Cora! More people need to realize that almost every single ailment and disease can be prevented and reversed by making one simple change – going vegan.

    • David

      Can you please give us some proof that “almost every single ailment and disease can be prevented and reversed by making one simple change – going vegan.” And where are all these 100+ year old vegans since they don’t get ailments and diseases they should live well past 100.

      • herwin

        i am sure i wont convince a cynical meateater like you who feels threatened by the growing numbers of vegetarians, but i give it a shot.
        Here a video of former president Bill Clinton who ditched the meat, dairy and eggs to combat heart diseases.
        If you agree with me that a healthy vegan diet can prevent heart diseases, we will go to the next disease, and will go through all the diseases that can be prevented and reversed with a healthy veggie diet.

      • georgina

        David, perhaps you could buy a copy of the China Study on your way to the butcher this morning. Also, while a vegan lifestyle/diet does wonders for the body and the soul and indeed helps lower the risk of many diseases such as cancer, i did not know it made people immortal!

      • David

        georgina perhaps you should buy a pair of glasses. Where did I say anything about immortality?

        And why would a buy another copy of the China Study when I have a perfectly good copy already?

      • georgina

        David, perhaps you can tell me where can i buy a pair of glasses show me personal stuff about people i do not care for. How am i supposed to know that you own that book? That is not something i should know.

        Also, maybe you ask better questions. Who (other than you of course) is talking about “100+ year old vegans”, which of course inspired my comment abut immortality?

  • vegn

    First off, the Oprah show was an insult to my intelligence. It made a mockery of being “vegan”. It was a great PR campaign for Cargill. Cargill ethical, what a joke. Sure it was a first step to at least promote a vegan diet, but it was so filled with anti-vegan sentiments that it did little to provide credibility to intelligent vegans or prompt others to adopt such a lifestyle. It was a show with one timid (though she tried) vegan author, and 400 omnivores.

    Oprah will not go vegan, as she said, and she so proudly stated that Lisa Ling saw the cows being killed and still ate meat, as if that meant she should receive an award for it (oh the pride she felt in Lisa).

    Another point here, about Pollan’s effort to eat meat sustainably… With 6 Billion people, this is IMPOSSIBLE. It is not conceivable to have free range animals for every person, even if it is only two or three meals of meat per week. There is not enough land on this planet that can support ethical animal farming (ethical animal farming is pretty much an impossibility anyway) without causing major environmental destruction. We see the effects from cramped factory farms, now lets place those millions to billions of cattle world-wide in pastures. The pastures would be eaten clean, the manure would pour into rivers and lakes, methane would still be created in massive amounts, erosion of the soils would continue to create long-term environmental issues, more “organic” cattle (or pigs, or chickens) using these areas would likely lead to illnesses spreading. Forgetting ethical considerations for a moment, free range only works as an alternative to the mainstream. Free Range can not work as the the mainstream. If anyone has explored the local environment of the picturesque free range family farm, you’ll see that forests are cut for pastures, local streams are polluted and shorelines are often destroyed causing sedimentation and siltation of dowstream water ways. This fails to even consider the amount of water consumed by free range (or any farmed animals) animals, as well as the supplementary diet necessary to accommodate growing herds. Pollan had one heck of an ego on there, and his smugness was far too transparent.

    • herwin

      OMG even discussing “eating meat can be sustainable” on a vegan topic is absurd and just untrue. You cant be a meateater and green and that should be explained.
      I was a little bit afraid of that because they invited Pollack, and not Jonathan Safran Foer (Eating Animals) , and Pollack is a pro meat eater. (he only wants to get rid of the damn guilt feelings without actually giving up the meat, PROBABLY the same feelings of Oprah..)

      And they actually did visit a slaughterhouse with a guide ? Nice PR for CARGIL indeed.
      Oprah should have shown undercover videos and REAL images of the slaugherhouses, and have Farm Sancuary as guests.

      big sigh.
      I get the picture thanks to the posts of Judith (thanks for your rant) and Vegn (thanks also for posting).

      Anybody did read the book, btw ?
      I have a vague feeling the book is the same..?

      I’ll stick to my copy of Eating Animals for the moment…

    • Judith Jaehn

      Amen, Vegn…..

      • herwin

        how about me ?

      • Judith Jaehn

        Amen herwin!!!!

  • georgina

    About the show…

    While it was super nice to see people saying that they lost x amount of weight during the challenge and that they had plans to stick to their diets, and also was nice hearing that while some were not converts will take some of the lessons they learned thorough the rest of their lives, the show was a joke.

    Let’s start with Cargill. A carcass processing plant does not get any cleaner and anesthetized than that does it? I certainly did not see anything that remotely resembles the scenes described in “They die piece by piece” by Joby Warrick, Washington Post staff writer.

    The show was a love fest to the meat industry. Hey, that steak on your plate came from a nice, happy, fat cow, that was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head and did not feel a thing after that happened! And then Michael Pollan, interrupting Kathy Freston just to say that, no, to reassure everyone that it is OK to eat meat BUT not from feedlots, buy meat from Argentine cows, which are fed grass. Many times I wondered if he is paid by agribusiness.

    It would have been more realistic to show excerpts from Earthlings, or to show “Meet your meat” rather than taking people on a tour to Cargill because Cargill is an exception to the rule.

    Clean, anesthetized TV for all to enjoy and nobody to get the shock of their lives. After all, who wants to see one cow after another getting stunned with a four inch bolt?

    At least Lisa Ling has a new found “conscience” about where her steak comes from. “I mean, seriously?”

    • Arya

      I echo the above opinion as well as others who expressed their views on how Oprah stated as a matter of fact:” They ( the animals ) don’t suffer”.WE are all at different levels of consciousness and without getting into the philosophy of “what is suffering”, but to make ourselves aware of expanding our conscience, I believe that was Oprah’s intent, she should do another follow up show ( may be Gayle can back me up on this )explaining the position of sustainable meat eating options. I’m all for people making choices at their own pace and comfort but object to how one justifies these choices with claims like no suffering or humane way of killing. Being a dog lover, Oprah should take Stedman’s lead and boldly take a stance without being afraid of “rocking the boat”. By the way, I love all my meat eating friends and family too. See, I can agree with the Cargill woman who said, “we love vegans too”.

  • BenCat1000

    What is happening to Oprah? It seems like maybe she is losing her mind.

    And what is with the Vegan challenge? Is it really a challenge to choose from the enormous food choices that do not include dead animals and their body fluids? Millions of Veg’ns aren’t having trouble with it!

    The slaughterhouse tour was ridiculous…..please.
    These days, everyone KNOWS that animals are mistreated, separated from their mothers, terrified, diseased, etc. There is NO way to take away the obvious violence that exists in a slaughterhouse. NO way….

    Oprah will lose LOTS of viewers because of this ridiculous attempt at massaging peoples guilty consciences. People are stressed out because they know their ethics are out of kilter and they know that their diet is a major reason for this. Oprah could have attempted to help people and animals, instead this show helped the slaughterhouses.

    Oh Oprah…do you really think that your overweight body is proof of a diet that works? Do you really believe that “meat” is humane? Did you EVER have ANY intention of exposing the truth about “meat”? You are in a position of influence over many people, with that comes much karmic responsibility. Surely you have thought about that. Yes? No?

  • Daniel Schutzsmith

    I agree with a lot of the sentiments from other commenters here. The one thing I will say, and I hope this makes sense, is that at least it did bring veganism back into the mainstream. If this episode at least converts a dozen folks whom otherwise wouldn’t have gone vegan, than thats great. Obviously it would be much better to convert millions, but realistically, given the tone of the entire episode I don’t think that will be possible. I agree that it almost seemed like a setup in many ways to put paint a pretty picture of the meat industry. Heck, they even tried to edit the one segment in a fashion to suggest that meat substitutes are disgusting but right after it aired the staffer admitted she didn’t follow directions in preparing it so “it was like mush”.

    One thing I do thing we can all do is use this episode to persuade other folks to go meatless. Kathy Stevens of Catskill Animal Sanctuary has a great post on “6 Things Oprah Viewers Should Know About Veganism” ( I urge you to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Get them to understand that it doesn’t have to be so hard to try being vegan.

  • BenCat1000

    The disclaimer on the Oprah show was the ONLY useful thing about it:

    “if you can’t watch this slaughterhouse video, don’t eat meat”

    Most people can’t stomach the videos, so they shouldn’t be eating the result of the slaughter. Pretty simply, yet so ridiculously complicated by people who cannot stop cooking up the dead, bloody carcasses.

  • Roo

    I wasn’t impressed at all with this episode, I had big expectations and it wasn’t inspirational at all. I found the show featured veganism in a selfish way, they mentioned some of the health benefits, but none of the spiritual, environmental or social impact that I believe most people go vegan for. As well, they only pushed packaged products and vegan substitutes but didn’t mention just working with low cost fruits veggies etc. I also was sooo mad when Michael Pollan said he didnt think people should be vegan because of all the great farmers out there…umm no matter what diet you consume it’ll require farmers…. and not to mention Oprah’s “but they dont suffer” just because your Oprah doesn’t mean you understand what suffering is to these creatures. I also had a huge problem when they were talking about humane eggs and freston said most people wouldn’t be able to afford them and then the elitist Oprah said “but I can” yeah so basically if you care, but you have low income, too bad…

    • Karina

      Agreed. I never really followed Oprah, but this made me lose all respect for her.

      • yvonne

        really. you don t respect her because she does not agree with your outlook on being Vegan?Really? They get ready to not respect most of the world. In the meantime, what have you done to change the world lately?

      • Karina

        No, I did not lose respect for her because she does not agree with my “outlook on being Vegan”. None of my friends are vegan, but I respect them. Oprah basically mocked vegans and animal rights. Why would you bring someone like Michael Pollan to the show? He is completely against veganism. And she wouldn’t even let people talk about the environmental and ethical issues, and would cut people off when they brought up the health benefits.
        Then the whole “the animals don’t suffer” crap. What a load of BS on this show. It seems as though she only did this “challenge” for publicity. And calling it a “challenge”? Really? That only makes people think that being vegan is difficult. She doesn’t respect the vegan lifestyle; her “food rockstar” guest as she called him, Michael Pollan, doesn’t respect the vegan lifestyle; and the one vegan on the show couldn’t even stand up for veganism.
        If you’re going to do a show about veganism, then show the truth about the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Don’t sugar coat it, because most people want to stay ignorant and not face the reality of where their “food” comes from. Bring in actual vegans with actual facts and information about the lifestyle.
        And what have I done to change the world lately? Let’s see: 1. I’m vegan, so not only have I eliminated the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions from my life, I don’t support animal cruelty in any industry either. 2. I donate to different charities. 3. I’ve volunteered with different organizations. 4. I’ve educated people about the food they eat and helped them live healhier lives. And if I had even a fraction of the power that people like Oprah have, I would make sure to actually get out into the world make a difference on an even larger scale.
        May I ask what you’ve done?

      • herwin

        + 1 Karina.
        although i think the show does have some pretty good results (her BF stayed vegan as well as some of her staffers, etc) its pretty absurd to invite no real vegans like the Eating Animals guy, instead pro meat guy Pollan whose main (paid?) job is to sugarcoat “meat eating” and Oprah making an off the wall remark like “they dont suffer”, etc.

        I think we should be wary for fake wannabe vegans like Oprah who do some good but also alter and distort the real meaning of veganism…(like not mentioning ethical and environmental issues)

        Anyway, happy to read your post and it did help me in my own thinking !

      • herwin

        and compliment, this is a great reply to posters like “Yvonne”. ;-)

  • Anita Krajnc

    I appreciate the critical commentary, however on the positive side:
    I am happy overall and admire Oprah. This is a step forward:

    1. taking the vegan challenge, rather than the vegetarian challenge, and popularizing our movement

    2. not taking it solo but involving 378 of her Harpo staff–it’s a challenge to all of us to ask our co-workers and our work place to take the vegan challenge. I’m going to do it at my work place. I invite you to do it at your work place or at any social groupings your involved in.

    3. I found the footage of the feed lot very sad and the commentary about so tomorrow they are going to die, very moving. And if people have a heart, that should make them think about what’s on their plate. And I found the slaughterhouse images sad too, but yes they were sanitized (esp. for AR activists who have seen much worse–the unsanitized truth). But remember, most people don’t even get near or as far as Oprah took them on her show. Which tv show ever goes to a slaughterhouse or a feedlot?

    Oprah is on the leading edge of mainstream. Yes, in the indy media or NGO websites, you get unfiltered news and images, but she’s going farther than others in the mainstream. Please give credit where it’s due.

    I started a new group earlier this year called Toronto Pig Save (website on wordpress: Our goal is to endeavour to erect windows on our city’s slaughterhouses through a variety of means: photo journalism, videos, reporting, and the arts (paintings, sketches, flyers, graphic novels, etc.). We’ve just started, but it’s growing fast. We’re currently planning a touring art exhibit. I hope you can start your own local groups as a way of promoting animal rights and a vegan diet.

    • herwin

      Anita + 1.
      When we look at the results :
      1. Meatfree Mondays in the cafe.
      2. Some staffers and Oprah’s boyfriend stayed vegan.
      we only can conclude that her vegan show worked and has a positive vegan effect on people.

    • Ina Mohan

      I agree with you. While we vegans would have wished for the superbowl of vegan media coverage with this Oprah show and were surely disappointed about the final outcome, we should now lick our wounds, take a step back, and appreciate the fact that such a mega star has catapulted the vegan lifestyle into the limelight overnight. Now that it’s out in the open what Oprah thinks, she and her staff will probably get huge amounts of mail and VIDEOS that tell the true story of farm animal abuse in response. I don’t think she will refuse to look at the reality, as she owes it to her large public followership to at least evaluate all sides.

      Let’s look at it this way: the dialogue with Oprah has opened with a bang in the public eye, and it’s up to us to seize the momentum and build more public support for veganism right now!

      • herwin

        Right ! there’s a time for analising her show and complain about it, and a time to look at this huge vegan media attention and aproach it as positively and constructive as possible so other non veggie people will get inspired and feel its nice to join the vegan club.
        One huge positive outcome is that Oprah makes veganism a mainstream word, so maybe next time at the family dinner instead of being ridiculed, our fellow meateating family members might actually listen to us…
        All in all, Oprah did a wonderful job, and i hope the vegans dont piss it all away because the show wasnt “perfect”…
        So all in all, if you reading the Ecorazzi, Thanks Oprah ! I am looking forward for Vegan Challenge nr 2 !

  • herwin

    Oprah’s partner (thats another word for “boyfriend”) Stedman Graham joined the Vegan Challange AND CONTINUES to be vegan !
    So all in all, even the show was far from perfect, seems like it has a positive effect and make them go meatfree.
    Also dont lets forget that the cafe now has Meatless Monday’s so thats a very real and positive thing and will save lots of animals.
    And thats what its all about !

    • Anita Krajnc

      Yes Herwin, these are real gains. It’s more than a one week vegan challenge, but the on-going Meatless Mondays.
      I’m proposing we take Oprah’s example as a model at my workplace and have some support already.