Never Too Late to Go Vegan

The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet

Being a Vegan Caregiver

Ginny Messina1 Comment

By Carol J. Adams

Vegans are always caregivers. One way in which we give care is by refusing to support a system that causes the suffering and death of animals. But as we were writing Never Too Late to Go Vegan, we realized that we needed to address an important type of caregiving that often becomes an intimate part of life for those over 50. As we age, we may be called upon to care for someone with an acute or chronic illness.

Most often that person is a parent or a partner, but it may be another family member or a friend. It may be crisis caregiving, lasting for a few weeks or months. Or it might be chronic—lasting for the rest of the care receiver’s life.

If you’ve been a caregiver, you know that it’s an experience that can be filled with moments of grace and with deep connection. It can also be very, very hard. Our own experience is that being vegan impacts caregiving in important ways. As a result, we developed a theory and a practice of vegan caregiving. Here are our tips for vegan caregivers.



Lower your expectations: You may be called upon to prepare animal foods for the person you are caring for. You’ll need to lower your expectations that your vegan diet can be anything more than your vegan diet. Remember that for each day, you are still making a difference for yourself and for animals. And because others around you may be caught up in the stress of a friend or family member’s illness, you may also need to lower your expectations that others will remember your veganism. Be prepared to provide your own food.

Raise your self-care: Grab small moments of self-care: five minutes of deep breathing or stretching, resting, or getting outside. Have favorite foods on hand that are easy to prepare. Accept offers of help from others. Ask them to step in to give you a few hours to yourself or to prepare a few meals for the care-receiver.  

Protect the boundaries you can: Your veganism is one of those boundaries. You don’t need to defend or explain it. It can turn into a target for others who are feeling anxiety but you can let it be known that you aren’t willing to discuss it.

Enjoy healthy vegan meals: Caregiving is precisely when you need to feel that there are some things you have control over, even as you lower your expectations. Now is not the time to subsist on chocolate (although it’s okay to have a treat when you need it). Remember, too, to take daily supplements of vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega-3 fats from microalgae. A shortfall of any of these nutrients can worsen depression. During the stress of caregiving, your vegan meals can nourish you on many levels.



Eating Vegan to Conquer the Drought

Ginny MessinaComment

by Patti Breitman

cattle drought.jpg

In Never Too Late to Go Vegan, one of the things we wrote about is how going vegan can be an important part of your legacy. That is, it’s a way to leave behind something positive and beneficial. Or to leave the world a better place than how we found it. In particular, if we want to leave behind a planet that can support the lives of future generations, we really have no choice but to adopt a plant-based diet.

It’s something that has become painfully clear as California continues to face one of the worst droughts in history. Right now, California’s ranchers are facing a water shortage and a feed shortage. They are selling off cattle because there is not enough water to grow their animals’ food. Or they are forced to purchase very expensive hay because there is no grass growing in this record-breaking dry season. Food prices are expected to soar.

Many people are responding to the drought in California by cutting back on washing their cars, taking shorter showers, and letting the lawn go dry. Those are all good things to do, but they don’t have nearly the impact of a vegan diet.  

Food choices are intricately tied to water use. Raising cows and food for cows are among the most extravagant uses of water that we humans have devised. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that it takes 990 liters of water to produce just one liter of cow’s milk. Most of this water isn’t fed directly to the cows; it’s used to irrigate crops that the cows eat. Huge amounts of water are also used to grow crops for animals raised for meat. The Worldwatch Institute reports that the heaviest water use on the planet is associated with producing meat for humans. In turn, fecal waste from the animals, along with fertilizers and pesticides used to grow their food contribute to water pollution, taking an even greater toll on the water supply.

So many things are beyond our control and we certainly can’t control the weather. But we can live in a way that uses resources like water far more efficiently and responsibly. We can control our personal food choices. Every vegan meal we consume is a vote for the careful and intelligent use of our limited, precious water supply. It’s a vote for protecting the planet and the future for our children.


Spanakopita with Spinach and Vegan Feta

Carol AdamsComment

By Carol Adams

In Never Too Late to Go Vegan, I mentioned that learning to use tofu in place of cheese was a breakthrough for me in going vegan.  The vegan “feta” in this recipe came to me from my friend Shirley Wilkes-Johnson. My children loved taking this for their school lunch. I always had to send extra ones because their classmates loved them so!

This makes 18-20 spanakopita pockets



For the vegan feta:

1 pound extra-firm tofu
8 ounces vegan cream cheese such as Tofutti brand
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons salt (depending on how salty you want it)
½ teaspoon garlic powder

 For the spinach mixture:

1 pound  fresh spinach, washed, de-stemmed and chopped or 1 16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and with water squeezed out

3 tablespoons almond meal (ground almonds)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Dash of salt and onion powder

For the wrapping

6-7 sheets whole wheat phyllo pastry dough
½ cup bread crumbs (more as needed) (I used toasted cooked quinoa since I had some on hand)
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing phyllo pastry or use an olive oil spray can



Thaw the phyllo dough according to the instructions on the box.

Prepare “vegan feta”

  • Rinse the tofu and pat it dry. Then crumble it slightly into a bowl.
  • Add the vegan cream cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder and combine. Do not overmix since it should appear chunky and crumbly.

Prepare the spinach filling:

  • If using fresh spinach, wash it and squeeze out excess moisture. Chop finely. If using frozen, let it defrost and squeeze out excess moisture.
  • Stir together the almond meal, nutritional yeast, salt and onion powder to make vegan paramasan.
  • Combine the spinach and vegan parmesan. Stir into the vegan feta mixture.

 Prepare the spanakopita

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  • Unroll the thawed phyllo pastry and cut it in thirds. Pile the thirds on top of each other and cover with a moistened towel.
  • Remove the towel and carefully peel off the top pastry sheet and move it to your work area. Recover the stack of phyllo with the moistened towel. (I have found it is less necessary to keep phyllo covered if you are using whole wheat phyllo.)
  • Brush the single phyllo sheet with oil and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  
  • Put another pastry sheet on top of it and repeat with the oil and breadcrumbs. Repeat with a third sheet, brushing with oil. Do not add the breadcrumbs to the third sheet.
  • Fold the bottom of the pastry, up 1 inch. Place a tablespoon of the spinach mixture in the right hand corner.
  • Fold this over into a triangle, and then fold again to make a triangle pocket. Brush the top with the oil and place on a baking tray. When your tray is full, bake for 15 minutes or until the phyllo pastry is golden.


spanokopita 1.jpeg
spanokopita 2.jpeg

Cooking Class with Patti Breitman at San Anselmo Rec Dept

Carol AdamsComment

Are you ready to eat well? Think you don't have time? Let Never Too Late to Go Vegan co-author Patti Breitman teach you the kitchen short cuts that save time and add flavor. Delicious, nutritious vegetarian meals are easier than you think!

You'll gain a new understanding of healthy eating that doesn't take a bite out of your already busy day.

Cooking Class through San Anselmo (CA) Recreation Department

February 5, 2014

7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

To register click here or visit the link below.