- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vegetarianism is no longer a fringe movement as more than 3 percent of adult Americans call themselves vegetarian, according to a 2009 Harris Interactive poll.

In some regions (the West) and among some groups (young adults ages 18 to 34 and women) the numbers are even higher.

Mindy Kursban, a D.C. lawyer and self-described “vegan lifestyle impresario,” says the number of vegetarians is growing fast for three main reasons: increased awareness of animal cruelty, a wish to improve personal health and a desire to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

“And the fourth reason is it tastes really good,” says Ms. Kursban, who has been a vegetarian for 18 years. She lists several positive impacts she has seen on her health as a result of her plant-based diet, including losing about 40 pounds.

A few years ago, Ms. Kursban turned it up a notch, going from vegetarianism to veganism, which, unlike the former, also eliminates animal-based foods, including dairy and eggs, from the diet.

But she doesn’t cook - much - and so has taken it upon herself to compile a list of local restaurants - mostly in her hometown of Bethesda - that provide tasty vegan offerings. A Web site is in the making, she says. Until then, she shares some highlights with The Washington Times:

“There are so many vegan choices out there now,” Ms. Kursban says. “In fact, almost every restaurant in Bethesda now offers vegan or vegetarian choices.”

She particularly likes restaurants such as A Passage to India, where the vegan choices, while clearly labeled, are integrated into the menu instead of being listed on a separate page, she says.

“It encourages people to try and discover vegan menu items,” she says.

But it’s not only fine-dining and ethnic places like A Passage to India that offer vegan choices these days, she says. Even chains such as Le Pain Quotidien (www.painquoti dien.com), an international bakery with seven locations in the D.C. area, offer a wide variety of vegan salads, soups and tartines. All vegan selections are clearly labeled.

Ms. Kursban’s recommendation? “Try the tofu salad or quinoa salad along with the black bean hummus or avocado tartine,” she says.

Among other restaurants - chains and not - that offer clearly labeled vegan choices are Jaleo (www.jaleo. com) and Sweet Green (www.sweet green.com).

There are even burger joints that offer a plant-based version of the American favorite. Among Ms. Kursban’s recommendations: the Burger Joint (www.burger jointdc.com) and Hard Times Cafe (www.HardTimes.com).

For an even longer list of local vegetarian restaurant choices, see www.Vegdc.com; and for more info on the nutritional and health aspects of the vegan diet, see www.nutritionmd.org.

If you are more inclined to cook it up yourself, the vegan must-have cookbook is the best-selling “Veganomicon,” by Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

• Gabriella Boston can be reached at gboston@washingtontimes.com.

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