All posts by Carolyn

Interview with Kyle den Bak from PlantKind!

By Carolyn Harris

Kyle den Bak is a vegan athlete, personal trainer, and vegan nutritional consultant based in Ottawa. And what an inspiring athlete he is! Kyle has run over 5000 kilometres in a single year, has run the Boston Marathon on several occasions, has run marathons in less than 3 hours, and has achieved highly in ultra-endurance competitions.kyle-plantkind

Along with his personal athletic accomplishments, Kyle and his wife, Jane Kearnan den Bak, are the owners of PlantKind, a business through which Kyle offers personal training and nutrition coaching to his clients. Jane is creative director of PlantKind.the-plantkind-life

In this interview, Kyle explains how being vegan has helped him with his running, and he gives advice for athletes who are thinking about going vegan.

CH: How long have you been vegan? Why did you decide to make the switch?

Kyle den Bak: I have been vegan for 13.5 years. I decided to become vegan in my third year of university.

I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation in one of my first-year courses. Until then, I had not given much thought to the animals we use for food, clothing, research and entertainment.

Singer introduced me to “speciesism”. This is the unjustified belief that humans have more value than other species simply because we are more intelligent.

It took me until third-year university to take the leap. One night with my roommates I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie alludes frequently to the slaughter of food animals.

It’s an awful film. Leatherface treats his victims like cattle. To see human victims being treated the same way we treat other sentient beings had a strong effect on me. I went vegan the same day, and never looked back.vegan-pizza-pkl

CH: How has your vegan diet helped you with your running?

Kyle: It took me two years after reading Singer to go vegan. At the time, I was into heavy weight training. I thought I would lose all my size and strength giving up meat and whey protein.

I finally did it because I thought it was the right thing. I was prepared to sacrifice. But the real beauty of doing the right thing is that it’s not a sacrifice at all. It’s a joy.

And you know what? My health and fitness has benefited from all the amazing plant foods. My training and recovery have improved, not declined!

I am now a long distance runner and ultra-athlete who runs up to 5000 kilometers a year. I am competitive in my age group.  There is no way I could have done this on a meat-centered diet!

Everyone I know gets injured if they run as much as I do. Carbohydrate-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes give me endless energy. Nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory vegetables, berries and spices keep me injury free and speed up recovery.


CH: What is PlantKind, and why did you decide to start offering these services?

Kyle: PlantKind is built on our inclusive philosophy. My wife Jane and I know that the world is on the verge of change. The vegan diet is growing exponentially. We want to be a source of inspiration and knowledge to everyone from the full-time vegan to the Meatless Monday dabbler.

We see any embrace of a more plant-centered lifestyle as a fertile seed for watering. We want to meet you wherever you are, and help you every step of the way with no judgement. This is where we got the name Plant “Kind”. We strive for kindness in our advocacy.

Everything we offer is geared to making the lifestyle fun and sustainable in a supportive way.

Our site and Instagram page  revolve around lifestyle, fitness and nutrition.

As a fitness professional for over a decade, it’s only natural for me to offer personal training, nutrition and lifestyle services. I’m humbled by the success of my training and nutrition services, PlantFIT and PlantFUELLED, have been so far.pkl-food

CH: What are your favourite foods to have before or after a workout?

Kyle: The best food for athletic performance is fruit. Particularly sweet fruits like bananas, dates and mangoes are great before a workout to provide carbohydrates to working muscles. They digest quickly, and won’t sit in your stomach.

After a workout, fruit provides anti-inflammatory effects, helps to fight free-radical damage to speed recovery. Sweet fruit tops up muscle glycogen, keeping your immune system strong and fueling you for tomorrow’s workout.


CH: What advice would you give to a fellow runner/athlete who is thinking about going vegan?

Learn what your energy needs are and discover creative ways to meet the demand! Plant foods are not as calorically dense as animal foods. The working body needs lots of energy to fuel and recover. A typical male runner of my size will need 3000-4000 calories a day or more. That’s a lot of plants!

Don’t try to get by on salads!

Always base your meals on healthy starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, whole grain pastas, legumes or oats. Fruit can also be an important caloric staple if eaten in large quantities. Athletes can’t afford to be modest with their portions on a vegan

CH: What have you learned from your experiences with running a vegan business so far?

Kyle: First, be patient. PlantKind has been my side-hustle for over two years. It is just starting to pick up steam. You’ve got to just love what you do and keep nurturing it. As of April, PlantKind is going to be my full-time job! I’ll be doing what I love every single day.

Secondly, we are on the verge of a vegan revolution. When I went vegan 13.5 years ago, it was extremely rare. Everyone and their mother knows that a sustainable and compassionate future is plant-based.

Every single one of these people needs help and guidance. We need thought leaders, role models and experts in the local community. If you are thinking of running a vegan business, you can help give the revolution momentum. You can make a living while living your truth!


CH: What are your plans for the future?

Kyle: If you asked me a year ago, I’d tell you to make PlantKind a viable business. My belief in PlantKind is growing. I think it can be something even bigger.

I’d like to reach a wider audience. This would likely mean building a YouTube channel as well as offering more seminars and workshops to the wider public and publishing books. As one of the few experts in the field of vegan fitness, I want to have the biggest impact I can.

It’s those “aha” moments that people get when I talk to them that keeps me going. It’s like, I know I’ve planted a seed and it’s off to a good start. I just want to plant more of those seeds. Veganism is almost at its tipping point; we all just need to keep working and reaching more people.kyles-pancakes

All photos are courtesy of PlantKind. Best of luck as you turn PlantKind into your full-time business, Kyle!



Volunteers Needed!

The National Capital Vegetarian Association is a completely volunteer-run organization. The NCVA always welcomes new volunteers, but at the moment we have an immediate need for volunteers to fill the following roles:

1) Volunteer Board Member

The volunteer Board of Directors is the decision-making body of the NCVA. Currently, we are looking for one new Board Member.

Term: 1 year or more

The ideal candidate will:

  • be following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle
  • be a member of the NCVA (membership costs $20/year and has many benefits)
  • be passionate about sharing a plant-based lifestyle with others, promoting a plant-based lifestyle, and increasing the accessibility of vegan food in the Ottawa community
  • be able to attend monthly meetings with other Board Members (usually the meetings take place on one Sunday evening per month) and respond to e-mails in a timely manner
  • be able to take on various NCVA-related tasks (which will vary depending on the Board Member’s specific position and interests)

It is preferable that applicants have previous volunteer experience with the NCVA, but if you have not volunteered with the NCVA before, we will consider your application anyway.

2) Volunteer Co-ordinator (Board Member)

This position will ideally be combined with the position of board member.

Term: 1 year or more

The ideal candidate will:

  • be a Board Member (see above) of the NCVA
  • be able to co-ordinate volunteers to help out with events and Restaurant Outreach.

Previous experience with co-ordinating volunteers is preferred.

3) Restaurant Outreach Volunteers

Restaurant Outreach Volunteers, organized into groups of two or three, will visit non-vegetarian restaurants in their community to give the owners of these restaurants our “Beyond Veggies” guide, which contains tips on how to introduce vegan options at their restaurant.

Term: flexible

4) Events Volunteers

We would like some volunteers at our upcoming movie screening (date TBD) of The Marshall Plan (and possibly other screenings in the future). Volunteers should have knowledge of how to use a projector and laptop, etc.

In addition, we need volunteers to help run the NCVA table/booth at events. If you don’t know how to get started volunteering with the NCVA but want to help in a meaningful way, this is a good opportunity! One upcoming event that we may have a table at is Seedy Saturday on March 4th, 2017.

Term: on an as-needed basis (and when you are available)

5) Marketing

If you have experience with marketing and would like to volunteer your time and skills with the NCVA, this position is for you. This position could also be combined with the position of board member, or could be taken on separately.

6) Other Opportunities

We welcome people to suggest their own ideas for how they could volunteer. For more ideas for ongoing volunteer opportunities, please see our Current Volunteer Openings page.

If you are interested in volunteering in one of more of these positions, please contact the NCVA at

Thank you for your interest in making Ottawa a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable place!

Interview with Cee and Jacqui from Strawberry Blonde Bakery!

By Carolyn Harris
Cee and Jacqui are the owners of Strawberry Blonde Bakery, a vegan bakery that serves baked goods (vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free) to its eager customers! In this interview, these two ethically-savvy ladies explain why they do what they do and how they got here.
When and why did you decide to go vegan?
Cee – I grew up in a farming community and was always disgusted by the way animals were mistreated – in my early teens I decided to take a stand and went vegetarian (much to my Italian father’s horror), read Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation”, and went fully vegan soon there after. Also, my parent’s multiple genetic illnesses (cancer, heart disease) made it an easy decision to make.
Jacqui – I went vegetarian in University after seeing the film Baraka where there were images of baby chicks getting their beaks burned off, all in the name of efficiency for transporting them for factory farming. I was shocked and disgusted. I went home and told my boyfriend how upset I was and that I was going vegetarian. He laughed me off and told me I’d never last. Being the stubborn person I am, that only fuelled my fire. A few years later I went to the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair. There I learned about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries, and also how they’re intricately linked with the meat industries. I realized I couldn’t call myself a vegetarian if I still ate these foods. I vowed then and there to be vegan and never looked back.
When did you get the idea to start Strawberry Blonde Bakery? Have you always enjoyed baking?
Cee – I dropped out of University (sorry Grandma), and fell into a pretty deep depression and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I got a part time job baking at Auntie Loo’s Treats and discovered that I had a passion for baking. I took the opportunity to enrol in Algonquin College’s Chef Training Program. After I graduated from that, I enrolled in their Baking and Pastry Arts Program. All while I was in school, I participated in craft shows around the city under the name “Strawberry Blonde Cafe”. Though I was making some money doing craft shows, it wasn’t nearly enough to pay the rent, I got a job at Rainbow Natural Foods, a health Food Store in the west end, and there I met Jacqui. Needless to say, it was kismet.
Jacqui – I worked in the TV industry for a few years after completing Film School. While I loved the craft, I couldn’t stand the industry. I decided I needed a career change but had no idea what direction to go in. I took some time away from work to do some “soul searching” but that just turned into me baking all the time. Hahaha! I love baked goods, and at the time there was hardly any vegan options available in Toronto where I was living (there are loads now!). So I just kept baking. My boyfriend made a comment one day that I’m baking so much, I should probably just open my own bakery. What was a little comment turned into a big idea. But I knew if I was going to do it, I had to be equipped with all the information I could possibly get. I enrolled in the Baking & Pastry Arts Management Program at George Brown College. When I was finished, I relocated to Ottawa to be with my boyfriend. I started market stands selling my wares and was overwhelmed by the demand. In the winter when the markets were over I got a job at Rainbow Foods where I met Claire. Claire kept pestering me to bake together. I was reluctant, but then tried some of her vegan, gluten-free Queen Elizabeth cake and it was the best thing I ever tasted. I immediately knew she had to be my business partner, not my competitor. Luckily, we also discovered that we enjoyed baking together!
What is your favourite thing about running a vegan bakery?
Cee – Since we’re both vegan, it’s important to us to have jobs that reflect our lifestyle. Running a vegan bakery means that not only are we not harming any animals, but more vegan product that would not otherwise be available can be purchased because we exist.
Jacqui – It’s a lot of fun to get to work with one of your best pals. Also, the excitement of our customers when they see all the choices they have here at SBB, that they wouldn’t normally have… It’s just so fun to share in their enthusiasm.
What have you learned from your experiences with your bakery so far?
We’ve learned that this is going to be a constant learning experience and that you have to have a flexible attitude if you want to stay sane. Also, there are a lot of moments that will test your patience and you have a choice to either laugh or cry. We’ve learned it’s better to laugh!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion for vegan food into a career?
It’s going to be a looooonnngggg haul, but it’s very rewarding (if you’re willing to put in the hours). A passion for vegan food is great, but it isn’t enough – Sometimes running a business will trump the creative food part that fuelled you to start and you have to learn to like that too.
 What are your plans for the future?
Ahhhh, that’s for us to know and you to find out 😉
(Also for us to find out, because if we’ve learned ANYTHING from opening SBB it’s that no matter how much you plan, your plans will always swerve in a different direction and you have to just “go with the flow”.)

“The Marshall Plan” Movie Screening!

UPDATE: The screening has been postponed to a later date (the specific date is to be decided). We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused anyone.

On Saturday, February 4, 2017, at 2:30pm, join the National Capital Vegetarian Association in the auditorium of the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library for a screening of The Marshall Plan, a feature-length documentary on how one town is changing for the better as residents of Marshall, Texas are adopting plant-based diets, after their mayor Ed Smith went vegan to reverse his cancer diagnosis.

Here is the movie description, which can be found on the movie website:

“When Texas Mayor Ed Smith III was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he elected to forego conventional treatment in favor of a whole food, plant-based diet. The results were nothing short of miraculous: his cancer disappeared. He and his wife embarked on a mission to help their town and community adopt a healthier lifestyle based on plant foods. Their story is being told in THE MARSHALL PLAN. The documentary focuses on the transformation of one town into a healthier place when its residents adopted new eating strategies. The stories of Marshall’s residents are combined with interviews from expert doctors and researchers in the field of nutrition, and professional athletes.”

Come join us for an informative afternoon and snacks!

Admission by donation. No registration is required, but if you would like to share the event with your friends on Facebook, the event page can be found here.


Interview with Jo from Little Jo Berry’s!

By Carolyn Harris
This post is the first in a series of interviews with owners of local vegan businesses. To receive updates every time there is a new blog post, you can follow the NCVA blog by entering your e-mail in the sidebar to the right.
Jo is the owner of Little Jo Berry’s, a vegan café that serves treats, lunches, and coffee on Wellington St. West in Ottawa. When she was 17, she made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. Trained in specialty baking and having had experience working at Auntie Loo’s Treats, she opened Little Jo Berry’s in 2016. Here’s what she had to say about her experience being a vegan business owner…
1) When and why did you decide to go vegan?

When I was 17 I was living with my mother, and one day she came home and decided she wanted to start living a vegan lifestyle. In solidarity, I joined her. For the first year it was a lot of learning and experimenting. But once I became fully vegan there was no going back, I was so excited about it. The amount of new things to try with different ingredients, playing around in the kitchen, keeping animals safe and happy.

2) Have you always enjoyed baking? When did you decide you wanted to start your café?

In high school I actually hated foods class. I was explicit that all I wanted to do was sweep the floors and choose the music. But at home my dad was quite a chef, most of our bonding time was spent in the kitchen. I think it slowly and unintentionally made being in the kitchen very comfortable and familiar for me. However, I never imagined it as a career. Not until I got a part time baking gig at Auntie Loo’s. That was where I really started to grow as a baker. I started to dream of having a bakery in a sleepy little town by the sea one day. Sadly, Loo’s closed and that prompted me to put my goals and dream into motion. Slowly things began to unfold.


3) What do you enjoy most about running Little Jo Berry’s?

There are two things I enjoy absolutely the most:

1) my customers. Best people in the world. So many good, kind people support us and fuel us on a daily basis.

2) the few hours I take to myself in the kitchen every morning. Having time alone to create and try new recipes. Being able to practice what I am passionate about brings me so much joy.


4) What have you learned from your experiences with your bakery so far?

The most important thing I have learned is to be nice, always and to everyone. Especially when it is hard. Making the right decision and being respectful every time. We have so much luck and good things come our way at the shop and I like to think it has everything to do with our outlook and how we treat others.


5) What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion for vegan food into a career?

Get ready to work very hard. To feel exhausted and burnt out and run down. Get ready for all the feelings and pressures and to be overwhelmed. Know that that will come for you and to be prepared. Surround yourself with loved ones and treats and puppies. Take the appropriate steps to find support and self care. Taking time for yourself will make you so much stronger and ready for the next steps.

6) What are your plans for the future?

Our plans are simple, to continue to grow and nourish our ties with our community. To give back all the love we have received. Whether that be with new treats or different events, we want to create a home for our patrons.


Please join me in wishing Jo all the best for 2017!


Try Veganuary this January!

December is here! At this time of year, many people start thinking about what resolutions they want to make for the New Year. For those who have been thinking about going vegan, a website called Veganuary can help make that transition easier!

Veganuary (vegan + January) is a worldwide movement that supports people to go vegan for the month of January—the idea being, of course, that once you’ve tried veganism for a month, you’ll realize how easy it is and will want to continue as a vegan after the month is over. Veganuary’s colourful, user-friendly website shares the personal stories of other vegans, debunks common myths, and provides an online Vegan Starter Kit, recipes, and advice. They also have a support group on Facebook for participants to get advice, as well as a mailing list that provides additional support during the month of January. Oh, and did I mention that participants can get all this for free?

If you’ve been considering trying vegan but don’t know how (or when) to start, why not sign up for Veganuary right now?

If you’re already a vegan but still want to get involved, there are numerous ways to volunteer with the organization online—just send them a message using their contact form and ask for more information on volunteering. And don’t forget to spread the word about Veganuary a couple of weeks before January starts!

NCVA December Vegan Potluck

Hello everyone! Mark your calendars– on December 10, 2016 (just over a week from today!), we will be holding our next vegan potluck. The potluck runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Jack Purcell Community Centre in Ottawa. It costs $2 for NCVA members, $3 for non-members, and $1 for children to attend. All are welcome!

Please bring a vegan dish (that is, containing no meat, eggs, dairy/cheese, honey, or any other animal product) that serves 5 people, along with a serving utensil and a list of the ingredients in your dish. And don’t forget to bring your own plate, cutlery, and beverage!

These details can also be found on this event’s Facebook Event page.

Hope you can make it!

Canada Food Guide Consultation

Health Canada is consulting with the public as part of the revision process of the Canada Food Guide. They’re encouraging Canadians to fill out an online questionnaire about what should be changed about the Food Guide and the way it is presented.

Currently, the Canada Food Guide doesn’t even mention vegetarian or vegan diets. If you think that the Food Guide should do more to accommodate and emphasize the benefits of a plant-based diet, why not tell them that in their online public consultation survey? This stage of the consultation will remain open until December 8, 2016.

Here are some quotations that you may wish to give in your responses to the open-answer questions:

  • Dietitians of Canada: “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.”
  • American Dietetic Association: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
  • World Health Organization: “Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids.”
  • A study conducted by students at the University of Oxford found that if the world went vegan, millions of human lives would be saved due to dramatic reductions in the incidence of chronic disease: “A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (U.S.). … They found that adopting diets in line with global dietary guidelines could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits could come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths).”

You may also wish to suggest that Health Canada look at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “The New Four Food Groups”.