Lifestyle Blogger Kelly Zugay Chats About the Benefits of Vegansim

by | Feb 2022

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity due to overwhelming benefits.

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity due to overwhelming benefits.

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity due to overwhelming benefits.

The vegan diet, also known as veganism, has been growing in popularity in the past several years. People have been cutting out animal products and byproducts for environmental and ethical reasons. But many people have questions about veganism, and finding the answers isn’t always easy.

I sat down with Kelly Zugay, a Twin Cities-based lifestyle blogger, who is vegan and shares her favorite recipes on her blog (

What is the vegan diet?
Being vegan means not consuming any animal-based products or anything that is produced from an animal. [This includes] meat, dairy, honey—depending on the vegan you are talking to. It can also carry over from not just the foods you eat but also into your lifestyle, [like] not having leather products or things of that nature. Every person varies on an individual level, but the whole goal is to avoid animal products
and enjoy a whole-food, plant-based, vegan diet.

What is the difference between being vegan and vegetarian?
Vegetarians avoid just meat, but they’ll still have dairy products, like milk, cheese or yogurt. A vegan wouldn’t choose anything made with an animal ingredient.

What are the health benefits of being vegan?
There are a lot of reasons that people feel motivated to go vegan, and the coolest part is knowing that the benefits are so multifaceted. I initially [pursued] a plant-based, vegan diet to improve my health and to make sure I was consuming the right foods that are best for my body. But the benefits and side benefits of going vegan were having more energy, better endurance [and] being a stronger runner/athlete. There are a lot of secondary benefits.

What are the environmental benefits of the vegan diet?
I learned through watching several documentaries that, with regard to factory farming and the scale at which animal products are produced, it has environmental impacts. Resources to feed the animals that become food [and] the land/space can have environmental impacts.

In addition to that, [there are] the normal implications of hunting and fishing and disrupting the ecosystem where animals live and thrive. For me, it was a matter of learning about the climate and earth and wanting to do my part to not disrupt that and eat foods that are readily available.

Is it more costly to eat vegan?
With regard to cooking at home, I would say that it’s a common misconception that vegan food is more expensive. A lot of food I eat is based on a can of beans or produce that is available in the grocery store. It can be very cost effective … I eat a lot of tofu, which [takes] the longest to prepare since you have to press it to have it take on flavor. But it makes it fun and easy. With just a few plant-based ingredients, you can make a lot of recipes.

How do you go about eating out at restaurants?
There are a lot of vegan options in the Twin Cities that aren’t only plant-based [restaurants] but options that are more readily available to eat at everyday restaurants. For vegan restaurants, my favorite is The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, which has really good lunch sandwiches that just hit the spot and tastes like something a meat-eating person would love and enjoy.

At restaurants that aren’t vegan, I usually get a salad without cheese, which is [often] going to be vegan, but it is so cool to see Beyond burgers and Impossible burgers in the restaurants. I’ll also gravitate toward sushi, which can be avocado rolls or cucumber rolls. You can always use plant-based ingredients to find new menu items.

Family Favorites

I’m no stranger to veganism. My sister Ashley has been vegan for nearly 10 years. For family dinners and holiday celebrations, this means vegan food is served next to “regular” food—like turkey, ham, cheesy potatoes and cookies.

Preconceived notions of the vegan diet may include, “I don’t want to eat only vegetables,” or “There’s no such thing as good vegan food.” Family recipes have proved that vegan foods can be just as tasty (and sometimes healthier!) than a normal diet. So, here’s a favorite vegan dish you’ll find around our dinner table. —Hailey Almsted, recipes contributed by Patrick Miehle

Jackfruit Pulled “Pork” Sandwich

Serves 4

  • 2 cans green jackfruit, drained with large seeds removed
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. garlic
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ancho chili powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. liquid smoke
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup vegan barbecue sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s Original.)
  • olive oil
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F; heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. Drain the jackfruit, removing large seeds, and cut into smaller pieces. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan, and combine all ingredients, besides the barbecue sauce, into the pan. Stir to combine, and simmer for four to five minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Spread the jackfruit evenly onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes or until caramelized with a slight char on the tips. In a bowl, combine the jackfruit with the barbecue sauce. Serve on your favorite bun, topped with vegan butter and toppings, such as pickles or coleslaw, or leave as is.

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

Serves 8

  • 4 cups macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. vegan butter (I prefer Miyoko’s cultured butter)
  • 5 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional, adds flavor)
  • ½ tsp. turmeric (optional, adds color)
  • Salt to taste

Optional topping:

  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs (Ensure breadcrumbs are vegan, as some brands add milk)
  • 2 Tbsp. vegan butter
  • Salt to taste

In a large pot, add water, make sure to salt and bring to a boil. Add macaroni noodles. Cook to al dente, drain and set aside. Pour vegetable broth into a microwave-safe measuring cup and heat to boil. Add raw cashews and let sit for five to six minutes before pouring into a blender. Blend until smooth. (Carefully blend, as ingredients will be hot and may splash.) Slowly add in almond milk until everything is smooth. Add dry seasonings, salt to taste, and set aside. Create a slurry with cornstarch by adding enough cold vegetable broth (or water). Return your pot to medium-low heat and add vegan butter. Once melted, mix in the sauce and slurry mix and heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add the pasta and combine. Garnish with breadcrumbs (see below).

Optional topping: Melt vegan butter in a skillet and add breadcrumbs over medium-high heat. Incorporate everything and stir/toss in the pan until breadcrumbs are lightly toasted. Set aside.

Chef’s note: If the sauce appears too thin, add more cornstarch. If the sauce appears too thick, thin it out with more broth.

Vegan Options Around Town

Looking for vegan food at restaurants around Edina? Here are some great options.

Organic Tofu Scramble: Curry-seasoned veggies, fried potatoes and 100 percent sprouted organic toast
People’s Organic, 2750 Southdale Center

Buddha Bowl: Steamed organic brown rice, organic kale, radish, cucumber, roasted tomatoes, scallions, sprouts, house-made guacamole, kalamata olives, house-made hummus, toasted sunflower seeds, harissa with lemon-herb vinaigrette
People’s Organic, 2750 Southdale Center

House-Made People’s Veggie Burger: Burger patty made with cashews, fresh herbs, organic chickpeas, fresh vegetables and organic brown rice, which is served with pickles, organic romaine, sunflower sprouts,  sundried tomato aioli and 100 percent sprouted organic wheat bun
People’s Organic, 2750 Southdale Center

Delicata & Mushroom Salad: Roasted delicata squash, apple, mushroom croutons and mushroom vinaigrette
The Lynhall, 3945 Market St.

Seoul Bowl: Brown rice, spinach, tofu, roasted mushrooms, cucumber, daikon radish, napa cabbage, carrot, cilantro, spicy bibimbap sauce, sesame seeds and Korean chile cashew dressing
Crisp & Green, 3930 W. 50th St.

Chiang Mai Thai Noodles: Rice noodles, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, coconut red curry sauce, peanuts and cucumber
Good Earth, 3460 W. 70th St. Suite 3460 in The Galleria

Planet Burger: House-made vegetarian burger of adzuki and pinto beans, sunflower and sesame seeds, cashews and vegetables
Good Earth, 3460 W. 70th St. Suite 3460 in The Galleria

The Garden Wrap: Gluten-free wrap, spicy avocado hummus, quinoa, cucumber, carrot, red pepper flakes and Tessemae’s green goddess dressing
Clean Juice*, 3943 Market St.
*All of Clean Juice’s acai bowls and juices are also vegan—and most of their smoothies!

Other local spots with vegan options;

Coconut Thai, 3948 W. 50th St.

Grabbagreen, 7153 France Ave.

Crave, 3520 W. 70th St. in The Galleria

Tamarind Indian Cuisine, 3875 Gallagher Drive


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