Can you believe it — 2012 is almost over! It seems like just yesterday that we were reflecting on all the vegan moments that happened in 2011, and now whole new year has gone by — complete with plenty of vegan action.
So before the big ball drops on Times Square, sit back, pour some champagne, and enjoy a totally different kind of New Year’s countdown with us: the Top 10 Vegan Moments — both singular events and sweeping celebrity trends — of 2012. This year was a doozy.
NASA Goes Vegan
Over the summer, NASA made headlines when it announced that it was planning a vegan menu for astronauts headed to Mars in 2030. Because of the distance to the red planet, and the travel time involved, NASA has had to completely rethink the food supply. “Mars is different just because it’s so far away. We don’t have the option to send a vehicle every six months and send more food as we do for International Space Station,” said Maya Cooper, senior research scientist for Lockheed Martin. Their solution? A vegan diet that would include plant-based pizza and sushi. “That menu is favorable because it allows the astronauts to actually have live plants that are growing. You have optimum nutrient delivery with fresh fruits and vegetables, and it actually allows them to have freedom of choice when they’re actually cooking the menus because the food isn’t already pre-prepared into a particular recipe,” said Cooper.
NASA also delved into the space farming arena so that the astronauts on the mission to grow their own food. To do so, NASA has created the VEGGIE system, which should allow for quick and easy vegetable farming — in space. The system is about the size of a microwave and uses minimal power. “VEGGIE could be used to produce faster-growing species of plants, such as lettuce or radishes, bok choy or Chinese cabbage, or even bitter leafy greens,” said a NASA spokesperson. Now if only NASA would produce an at-home version for consumers, that would be perfect.
James Cameron Jumps on the Vegan Bandwagon
James Cameron lives a big life. Not only is he known for directing blockbuster movies like “Avatar” and “Titanic,” but the avid environmentalist also enjoys major “leisure” activities, like checking out the bottom of the Mariana Trench. In 2012, he announced even more activism: He’s directing a climate change film (and snagged big stars Matt Damon, Alex Baldwin, and Don Cheadle to star), he installed a solar array at his movie studio, and he converted a massive dairy farm into a vegan one.
Cameron also embraced a vegan diet this year, saying “It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.” Additionally, he challenged other environmentalists out there to go animal-free, stating, “You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t be an ocean steward without truly walking the walk and you can’t walk the walk in the world of the future, the world ahead of us, the world of our children, not eating a plant based diet.” Indeed.
Vegan Food Goes More Mainstream
Vegan food is no longer considered weird or fringe and 2012 proved it! In April, ratings and reviews website Yelp! launched a new filter for vegan and vegetarian restaurants, making it easier than ever for those on a plant-based diet to find food. Then in June, PBS announced it was a launching a vegan cooking show, and four days later, sandwich chain Subway unveiled three vegan menu items: the Sweet Riblet, Malibu Greek sandwich and Italian Black Bean sandwich.
Then, to cap off a truly great year in vegan eating, Philly restaurant VEDGE scored the Eater Award for Philadelphia Restaurant of the Year. The restaurant’s phenomenal food is loved by herbivores and carnivores alike, something that pleases VEDGE co-owner Kate Jacoby. “We’re positioned as a plant-based restaurant, and that is great for the ‘foodie types’ and not just the veggies, since it’s about having good product,” she said. “We didn’t expect that, but it’s a nice bonus.” Fingers crossed that VEDGE opens shop in more cities.
Chaka Khan Goes Vegan, Beats Diabetes
Back in June, Chaka Khan appeared on “American Idol” in a skintight catsuit — and she looked great. Fans across the world wondered about her weight loss secret, and Khan was happy to spill that she’d gone vegan. Not only did adopting a plant-based diet help her shed 60 pounds, but it also helped improve her medical conditions. “My weight loss had to occur, because I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and I also had high blood pressure. What I did was stopped eating and went on a strict unconditional [juice] fast for a couple of months. And went off meat, became vegan, stopped all the dairy, stopped all the meat,” Khan said.
By November, her health had improved so much that she was able to go off her diabetes medication. Although intense, her method certainly seems to have worked. She said, ”I went on a radical change of lifestyle. I was on liquids for a year, and that gave me a good jump-start. It sort of changed my whole way of thinking. You have to get the mindset first.” Mission accomplished!
Celebs Sign Vegan Book Deals
We love when celebs spread the word about veganism, so we were thrilled this year when two of our faves, Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik, announced new book deals. Silverstone, author of “The Kind Diet,” is releasing two new books on veganism: “The Kind Diet Cookbook” and “The Kind Mama.” The cookbook will be a companion to her first book, and “The Kind Mama,” which will be published in 2014, is for women who hope to have (and who have had) vegan pregnancies. She said of the book, “I want to give women an easy-to-follow resource that’s as inspiring as it is informative. I want women to know that they have the power to not only have an amazing pregnancy without anxiety and discomfort, but also to feel beautiful while doing it.”
Bialik also wrote a book about parenting, and now she’s tackling the cookbook realm. She said, “My next book will be a plant-based (vegan!) family cookbook. It’s meant for vegan and non-vegan alike! I intend to include all of the Jewish recipes I’ve veganized as well as all of our family’s standard beloved recipes.” Look for that to hit shelves in the fall.
Olivia Wilde Tells It Like It Is
Olivia Wilde is one of the hottest actresses around, and she credits her plant-based diet for it. At the beginning of the year, she explained that vegetarianism was the secret behind her fit figure, saying that meat was a big calorie packer. Wilde also says that she follows a mostly vegan diet, although she was open about the fact that she finds it challenging at times. “I have been a vegetarian since I was like… 12,” she said. ”But [being vegan] has been something that, for the past four years, has at times been consistent, other times less so. It helps if you have the right support system.”
For her, that support came from fellow actress Alicia Silverstone, whose “kind” recipes helped keep Wilde on track. Another useful tool for the actress is the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” which has converted many meat eaters to the plant-based diet. Over the summer, Wilde tweeted, “Watching Forks Over Knives and remembering why veganism is pretty damn health-savvy.” Well said, Olivia.
Veganism Saves Lives
When President Clinton went vegan, the whole world took notice. In an effort to improve his health, Clinton embraced a plant-based diet — then he dropped 20 pounds and lowered his cholesterol. He now weighs less than he did in high school and says that going vegan helped improve his heart health. So when Rosie O’Donnell suffered a serious heart attack in August, she remembered the president’s advice and immediately contacted the docs behind “Forks Over Knives” and switched to a plant-based diet. Following in Clinton’s footsteps, she quickly began dropping weight, and started feeling “full, but lighter, and I have more energy.”
Unfortunately, O’Donnell found veganism too challenging. On “The Dr. Oz Show,” she said that the “FOK” diet was too limiting for her, and that she now follows a pescetarian lifestyle. Nevertheless, by talking about it publicly and explaining how it saved her life, O’Donnell became a vegan advocate, however briefly. It’s amazing that so many more people are recognizing the benefits of plant-based eating, and the more celebs who advocate for the diet — even temporarily — the more widespread it will become. That’s something to raise our forks to.
Celebs Get Married, Vegan-Style
Vegans Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman both tied the knot this year, and they did it in plant-based style. In August, Portman and fiance Benjamin Millepied got hitched in Big Sur. The couple’s green lifestyle was present throughout the ceremony; they wed under a chuppah made of twigs and their decorations were indigenous flowers. Guests were served a 100% vegan menu, complete with French macarons.
Hathaway followed suit a little more than a month later, also celebrating on the California coast. She even recruited Portman’s event planner, Yifat Oren, to ensure day went off without a hitch (except for the main one!), and served a vegan feast similar to the one at her engagement party, which included veggie burgers. Here’s hoping this environmentally-friendly celeb trend continues into the new year!
Arian Foster Scores Big as a Vegan
NFL stud Arian Foster raised eyebrows around the country when he revealed that he fueled his body with a vegan diet. The Houston Texans running back announced his diet decision in June via Twitter, writing, “Officially a vegan now. We’ll see how this goes. But week one down. So far, so good. Feels wonderful.” Although some questioned whether Foster could get adequate protein on a vegan diet, Foster continued to play well, stating that he was only concerned with nutrition and avoiding the “bad stuff.” “I said a while ago that when I quit playing football, I would probably become a vegetarian and I thought I needed the protein. Then I did some research with doctors who in their world are considered kind of radical. To me, it’s radical we have heart disease and 12-year-old kids with diabetes,” he said.
Foster managed to stay near the top the NFL in rushing yards while eating a diet primarily composed of kale, quinoa, oatmeal, fruit, veggies and more. If all that sounds too good to be true, it is — kind of. While Foster is still concerned about nutrition and mostly sticks to a meat-free diet, he did recently admit that he’s not 100% vegan. He told the Houston Chronicle, “I’ve been dabbling back and forth. I just like to eat healthy. The whole vegan thing, a lot of people are really interested in my food. … I’ve had meat since I said I don’t eat meat anymore, but I like to stay with the plant-based foods, but every now and then, I’ll eat something.” He may not be an example of perfect veganism, but he still proved that professional football players can succeed on a vegan diet — here’s hoping he eventually makes that 100% commitment, and other athletes follow suit.
Kristen Bell’s Big Year
Everyone’s favorite sloth lover, Kristen Bell, headed into 2012 as a longtime vegetarian. But after watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” Bell and fiance Dax Shepard made the leap to veganism. When they first made the switch, Bell said, ”It’s more about the health benefits than the ethics. But it’s compounded by the fact that I love animals and feel better not eating them.”
However, she seems to have developed a love for the diet. She told Shape magazine, “The first month or so I really missed cheese. But then I discovered Daiya, which melts just like regular cheese. It certainly doesn’t taste exactly like real cheese, but it’s really, really good. When I order vegan pizza now, I am glad that the Daiya is so yummy but lacks that heavy feeling a lot of cheeses can give you. And honestly, there are so many good substitutes available now that I really don’t miss anything!” Shepard also seems to be thriving and credits the new diet for making him feel “damn good” and improving his sleep, skin and allergies. Now the pair are expecting their first child together — perhaps a vegan baby is in their future?
There you have it — ten big moments in the vegan movement. Which one is your favorite? Are there any vegan trends that you hope take off in 2013? Let us know in the comments. Until then, Happy New Year from all of us at Ecorazzi!