13 Vegetarian/Vegan Olympic Athletes Who Inspire Us

Vegetarians and their diets are frequently stigmatized by others: “Not eating meat is unnatural! It’s weird! Vegetarians must be so weak and unhealthy!”

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Vegetarian diets are not just a frequent staple of healthy living, but are enjoyed by some of the fittest people on our planet. With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi just on the horizon, we are reminded that it is not only possible, but quite common to compete at the highest level of athletic excellence while remaining completely vegetarian.

U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO

Here are just some of the greatest Olympic athletes from around the world, past and present, who all reached their athletic success while living the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle:

    • Alexey Voyevoda – Russian bobsledder Alexey Voyevoda is a mountain of a man and a two-time Olympic medalist. He credits raw vegetarianism and healthy living to his high fitness level, and all eyes will be on this Sochi native this February.
    • Hannah Teter – Hannah Teter is a talented American halfpipe snowboarder who is Sochi-bound this year. This, after already medaling in each of the last two Olympic games. Teter has attributed her plant-based diet to giving her the renewed strength and energy to reach and stay at the highest possible competitive level in her sport.
Edwin Moses - Photo by Sports-For-Peace.org
Edwin Moses – Photo by Sports-For-Peace.org
  • Edwin Moses – Edwin Moses completely dominated the sport of running for eight solid years, from 1977 to 1987. Winning an unprecedented 122 consecutive races and more than his share of medals, Moses did it all on a plant-based diet.
  • Charlene Wong – Charlene Wong is a very accomplished figure skater, winning four silver medals at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships – all while meat-free. “It all started with my desire to be as lean and healthy as possible as a teenager around seventeen years old,” she confided in a 2012 interview.
  • Carl Lewis – Many are familiar with track and field legend Carl Lewis. Lewis’s storied career spanned multiple decades and multiple Olympic games. By the end of his career, Carl Lewis had won an astonishing 10 Olympic medals, nine of which were gold, and cemented his legacy as one of the fastest men to ever live. Carl Lewis is a devout vegetarian.
  • Ronda Rousey – Ronda Rousey is one of the toughest women in sports today, a heavy hitter in the UFC and judo Olympian. Rousey is the current number one pound-for-pound female mixed martial arts fighter in the world. Yet few are aware that she was also a strict vegan at when she made it big in athletics. However, Rousey has since begun eating meat as part of the Dolce Diet. That said, Rousey’s ongoing commitment to healthy eating has given her the edge to be one of MMA’s most dominant competitors, if not one of its most intriguing personalities.
  • Surya Bonaly – French-American figure skater Surya Bonaly is another athlete who adheres to a vegetarian diet. Bonaly was an unbeatable force on the ice throughout most of the 1990s, winning medal after medal, including five gold medals in the European Championships.
  • Chris Campbell – From his 700-pound leg presses to his crushing holds, Chris Campbell was the epitome of athletic excellence in 1992, when he became one of the oldest men to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. Campbell was just a few months away from his 38th birthday at the time, and credits ample helpings of his favorite dish – tofu stroganoff – for his great longevity in the sport.
  • Bode Miller – Skier Bode Miller won our hearts in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and again in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. But he also won five Olympic medals as well, all while being a strict vegetarian. In fact, Bode Miller has been vegetarian since birth, and is a leading advocate for sustainable organic farming.
  • Debbi Lawrence – Debbi Lawrence was a compelling figure in an often overlooked sport called racewalking. A three-time Olympian, Lawrence is proof that vegetarianism can benefit athletes from all “walks” of life, spanning all manner of sports.
  • Dylan Wykes – Canadian runner Dylan Wykes is one of the best distance athletes his country has ever produced. Preferring a diet rich in quinoa and lentils, Wykes does not eat meat due to ethical concerns.
  • Lizzie Arimtstead - Olympic Cyclist
    Lizzie Armisted – Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Murray Rose – Murray Rose’s swimming feats in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics established Australia as one of the world’s most dominating swimming powers. A winner of six medals, Rose was a vegan throughout his career and throughout his life, while openly crediting all of his success to his diet.

  • Lizzie Armitstead – Like Bode Miller, British cyclist Lizzie Armistead has been vegetarian since birth. Armistead was the pride of her nation during the 2008 Olympics in London, when she won a coveted cycling medal. All without, as she puts it, “eating corpses.”

As these athletes have demonstrated, athletic excellence is in no way contingent on the consumption of meat. As vegetarianism and veganism become increasingly commonplace, many athletes are finding that plant-based diets are not only possible, but can even give them that extra edge they need to succeed in high-intensity and demanding events like the Olympics. All of us at Vegetarian Nation wish the athletes – vegetarian and otherwise – the best of luck in Sochi next month!

Vegetarian Diet Makes #11 on 2014 U.S. News “Best Diets” List

The beginning of each new year brings about the promise of a fresh start, a chance to make good on our good intentions. For many of us, this means changing our diets to lose weight or to control certain health issues. Each year, U.S. News and World Report magazine researches major diet trends, compiling a list of the best and worst diets and rating them according to seven specific criteria: both short- and long-term weight loss, ease of implementation and use, nutrition, safety, and diabetic and heart health. A panel of health experts, including physicians, nutritionists, and food psychiatrists, carefully examines each dietary plan and ranks it on a scale of 1 to 5; all seven factors determine the diet’s overall score.

balsamic-caramelized-onion-mushroom-baked-potatoesU.S. News evaluated more than 32 diets for Best Diets 2014. The list is “designed to help consumers identify a diet that suits their specific needs,” according to Angela Haupt, Health and Wellness editor for the magazine. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension plan (DASH), developed primarily to combat high blood pressure through portion control and protein/carbohydrate balance, came in at number one. But both the flexitarian and vegetarian diets placed in the top third of this year’s list. Last place was awarded to the popular “Paleo Diet,” which was deemed too restrictive and difficult to follow to regularly achieve the desired results.

The flexitarian diet placed at #6 for 2014. Flexitarians follow a vegetarian diet most of the time, but with some flexibility factored in to allow for the occasional consumption of meat products. It is balanced, nutritious, usually results in weight loss, and is entirely customizable according to taste and health needs.

Vegetarianism placed 11th on the list. A vegetarian diet is nutritionally sound, aids in the control of diabetes, and is heart healthy if followed correctly – consisting mostly of plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables rather than high amounts of fats or sugars. It is restrictive in that no meat is consumed at all, and therefore requires a certain amount of planning. It can also be somewhat costlier to begin than a traditional mixed diet as you’re learning to modify your meals to not include meat and animal byproducts. However, the cost is quickly offset by its numerous health benefits, and by eliminating the cost of meat in the long-term from both your grocery bills and restaurant tabs.

Studies show that balanced, plant-based diets are instrumental in preventing heart disease, losing weight, and keeping blood pressure and bad cholesterol in check. Both flexitarian and vegetarian diets are deliciously varied, safe to follow, and highly beneficial to one’s overall well-being.

40 Vegetarianism Quotes (and counting!)

Ideas & Quotes About VegetarianismThese are some of our favorite quotes about vegetarianism as spoken by celebrities, philosophers, politicians, activists and other smart and influential individuals who have graced this planet. We are not alone in our pursuit of kindness to animals and the spread of the vegetarian diet. Enjoy these inspirational vegetarian quotes – we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Do you have a favorite vegetarianism quote? Add it in the comments below! We just might add it to this article!

  1. “Killing an animal to make a coat is sin. IT wasn’t meant to be, and we have no right to do it. A woman gains status when she refuses to see anything killed to be put on her back. Then she’s truly beautiful.” Doris Day, Actress/Singer
  2. “I’ve been a vegetarian for years and years. I’m not judgemental about others who aren’t, I just feel I cannot eat or wear living creatures.” Drew Barrymore, Actress
  3. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Linda or Paul McCartney, Musician
  4. “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” Paul McCartney, Musician
  5. “I became a vegetarian out of compassion for animals and to live as healthy as possible. I realized soon after that I was truly concerned with nonviolent consumption and my own health, a vegan diet was the best decision.” Davey Havok, Musician
  6. “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Pythagoras, Mathemetician
  7. “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” Leonardo da Vinci, Artist/Scientist
  8. “Animals are my friends. And I don’t eat my friends.” George Bernard Shaw, Playwright
  9. “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” George Bernard Shaw, Playwright
  10. “Thou shalt not kill” does not apply to murder of one’s own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.” Leo Tolstoy, Author
  11. “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.” Leo Tolstoy, Author
  12. “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.  I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.” Mahatma Gandhi, Political Activist
  13. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi, Political Activist
  14. “Ethically they had arrived at the conclusion that man’s supremacy over lower animals meant not that the former should prey upon the latter, but that the higher should protect the lower, and that there should be mutual aid between the two as between man and man. They had also brought out the truth that man eats not for enjoyment but to live.” Mahatma Gandhi, Political Activist
  15. “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist
  16. “What is it that should trace the insuperable line? The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but, ‘Can they suffer?'” Jeremy Bentham, Philosopher
  17. “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Author
  18. “Even in the worm that crawls in the earth there glows a divine spark. When you slaughter a creature, you slaughter God.” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Author
  19. “As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Author
  20. “People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Author
  21. “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Albert Schweitzer, Physician/Theologian
  22. “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President
  23. “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Thomas Edison, Inventor
  24. “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” Charles Darwin, Naturalist
  25. “You’re thinking I’m one of those wise-ass California vegetarians who is going to tell you that eating a few strips of bacon is bad for your health. I’m not. I say its a free country and you should be able to kill yourself at any rate you choose, as long as your cold dead body is not blocking my driveway.” Scott Adams, Cartoonist
  26. I can’t count the times that upon telling someone I am vegetarian, he or she responded by pointing out an inconsistency in my lifestyle or trying to find a flaw in an argument I never made. I have often felt that my vegetarianism matters more to such people than it does to me.” Jonathan Safran Foer, Author
  27. “Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory– disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.” Jonathan Safran Foer, Author
  28. “Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.” Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father
  29. “I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.” Henry David Thoreau, Author/Philosopher
  30. “Nothing’s changed my life more. I feel better about myself as a person, being conscious and responsible for my actions, and I lost weight and my skin cleared up, and I got bright eyes and I just became stronger and healthier and happier. I can’t think of anything better in the world but to be vegan.” Alicia Silverstone, Actress
  31. “I did it for political, moral reasons, thinking that I was making this great sacrifice. But it was absolutely necessary. I was not going to contribute to the violence in the world anymore.” Alicia Silverstone, Actress
  32. “Chickens, pigs and other animals are interesting individuals with personalities and intelligence. What people need to understand is that if they’re eating animals, they’re promoting cruelty to animals.” Pamela Anderson, Actress
  33. “When people ask me why I don’t eat meat or any other animal products, I say, ‘Because they are unhealthy and they are the product of a violent and inhumane industry.” Casey Affleck, Actor
  34. “I like animals – all animals. I wouldn’t hurt a cat or a dog, or a chicken or a cow. And I wouldn’t ask someone else to hurt them for me. That’s why I’m a vegetarian.” Peter Dinklage, Actor
  35. “If the entire world decided to become vegan tomorrow, a whole host of the world’s problems would disappear overnight. … With that one action of becoming vegan, you are quite effectively making the world a better place.” Moby, Musician
  36. “Thousands of people who say they love animals sit down once or twice a day and enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living, and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs.” Jane Goodall, Anthropologist
  37. “I would feel guilty that what was on my plate was walking around yesterday. Either I could live with that or stop eating meat. I choose the latter, and I’m happier for it.” Carrie Underwood, Musician
  38. “I think there’s something odd about eating another living anything.” Shania Twain, Musician
  39. “It practices respect and love for life all through the day. So three times a day, you make a decision to eat things that have not been killed.” Natalie Portman, Actress
  40. “Animals are nicer than humans and they’re conscious beings. If you stick your grandmother in an oven, she will probably be tasty. But is that any reason to eat your grandmother?” Morrissey, Musician
Do you have a favorite vegetarianism quote? Add it in the comments below! We just might add it to this article!

How to Become a Vegetarian

First of all, congratulations on choosing to become a vegetarian! Whether it’s for health reasons, ethical reasons, environmental reasons or all of the above, we commend you for making a positive decision to change your life, and the lives of many others. Contrary to popular belief, becoming a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re condemning yourself to a life of just salad. Here are some strategies for making the transition from omnivore to herbivore!

Method 1: Becoming a Vegetarian or Vegan Gradually

How to Become a Vegetarian

Some people choose to become vegetarians gradually. This gradual method of becoming a vegetarian is ideal for someone who has been a lifelong meat eater and mistakenly thinks, “I could never do this completely!” Believe me, you can! I’ve done it! The gradual removal of meat products can make the transition a little easier and make you less likely to rebound and binge. You could start by cutting out all red meat, then two weeks later cut out white meat, then after that remove fish from your diet. After that comes the surprisingly non-vegetarian products like gelatin and becoming more aware of what ingredients are in your food. As your diet becomes more wholesome and produce heavy, your body and mind will start to miss meat less and less. If you decide to take the next steps to become a vegan, you could begin by cutting out eggs, then cheese, milk and other dairy, and then for strict vegans any honey or other animal byproducts.

Method 2: Quitting Meat Cold-Turkey

“Cold Turkey.” Haha! See what we did there? Some people never consumed much meat, or are very familiar with cooking or vegetarian food, so quitting all at once is the right choice for them. It can be more challenging for someone who is accustomed to having meat and animal byproducts in their diet, but it IS doable. It takes strength, commitment and resolve. If you’re quitting all at once, we commend you and are here to support you if it gets tough!

Method 3: Becoming a Part-Time Vegetarian

Not ready to commit to the full-on vegetarian lifestyle? That’s ok. There are many levels of vegetarianism. We hope you’ll join us fully eventually, but in the meantime there are many ways to cut back your meat intake and start seeing the benefits of vegetarianism for yourself. Try “Meatless Mondays” – one day per week where you are guaranteed to go entirely meat-free in all your meals. After that, try cutting back to having meat no more than two days per week. Even that big reduction in meat consumption can have a significant impact on your health, your waist line, your pocketbook and the environment.  We hope that you start to see the many benefits of vegetarianism and decide to take the plunge full-time!



Prominent Scientists Sign Declaration That Animals Have Conscious Awareness

On July 7, several prominent scientists signed Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, which states that animals do, in fact, have conscious awareness. The basic tenets of the declaration include:

  • Research and data is rapidly evolving in the field of Consciousness study, and new non-invasive techniques are available to collect that data.
  • The absence of a neocortex doesn’t prevent animals from experiencing affective states (moods or emotions).
  • Artificial stimulation in animals of the same brain regions that affect emotional states of humans generate corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-humans.
  • Birds in particular demonstrated a “striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness” in their behavior, neuropysiology and neuroanatomy, especially in the African grey parrot species.
  • Hallucinogens have similar effects on animals to what they have on humans.

View the full Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness.

The document was signed at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals in the presence of British theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking.

Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Feta

Recipe Name: Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries & Feta

Vegan or Vegetarian Recipe for Israeli Couscous

Recipe Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 cups dry Israeli couscous
  3. 4 cups vegetable broth
  4. 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  5. 1/2 tablespoon chopped dry rosemary
  6. 1 green apple, diced
  7. 1 cup dried cranberries
  8. 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  9. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  10. 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  11. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  12. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/4 cup olive oil
  14. 1/2 cup feta cheese

Recipe Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to brown, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the 4 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes uncovered, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a large bowl to cool completely.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Arrange almond slivers in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, occasionally shaking up the pan to get even heating. Site aside to cool completely.
  3. Mix together the vinaigrette with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or substitute honey), 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  4. Toss the cooled couscous, chopped herbs, toasted almonds, apples and dried cranberries together. Add the vinaigrette and mix in completely. Serve topped with feta cheese (or leave it off if you’re vegan).

Additional Notes

Recipe modified from Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network. Original recipe here.


Feta Optional for Vegans

Preparation time: 25 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Recipe Rating: 4 Stars:  ★★★★☆ 1 review(s)

Vegetarian Recipe - Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, Herbs & Feta Cheese

Sorry, That’s Not Vegan: Surprisingly Non-Vegan Products

We vegetarians and vegans try so hard to be kind to animals and the earth by not eating meat and animal byproducts. It is our obligation and commitment as devoted vegetarians and vegans to do our best to live cruelty-free.

Some say it is nearly impossible to live a 100% vegan lifestyle. That may be true given the way animals and animal byproducts are used in everyday products, and how difficult it is to tell sometimes whether products and foods are completely vegan.

So here is a helpful list of non-vegan and non-vegetarian items that you may think are actually vegan to help guide you! (Some are more surprising than others)

Meat and Dairy Substitute Products

Don’t get me wrong, I love most of my meat and dairy substitute brands just as much as the next vegetarian, but many of their meat substitute products are not vegan friendly, and even some lactose substitute products contain dairy!

  • MorningStar Farms sausages contain egg whites and skim milk.
  • Boca Burgers contain egg whites, and some even contain cheese.
  • Soy cheeses often contain casein, from milk, but are “lactose-free” which is not the same thing as “dairy-free.”

Clothing & Fabric

  • Wool Blankets Aren't VeganYour leather or suede belts, shoes, purses and furniture are obviously derived from animals. While some say you should exchange these for vegan options right away, it is my personal opinion that you should use them until they are just impossible to use anymore, ragged with holes. That way the animal’s life is not wasted, and you can make the commitment to purchase only non-animal accessories and furniture in the future.
  • Your wool, partial-wool or down blankets, pillows and comforters are derived from sheep and goose byproducts. The animals shouldn’t be harmed in order to obtain the wool or down, but PETA will be the first to tell you that’s not always a guarantee. There is no way to know where the wool or down come from, so play it safe and go another route.

Miscellaneous Food Items

  • Trident gum and many other chewing gums contain casein
  • Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies
  • Canned vegetarian soups often contain honey
  • Junior Mints, Starburst, Skittles and similar candies all contain gelatin
  • Some Guinness and other brand beers isinglass in the brewing process

That’s a short list of surprisingly non-vegan products that have easy-to-overlook ingredients that are not, in fact, vegan. What are some other products or foods that surprised you by not being vegan or vegetarian? Share in the comments below!

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