A student recently reached out to me asking if I could answer some questions for a project she was making for Veganuary, so I wanted to share those with all of you!
Here are her questions and my answers:
When did you become vegan?
What was the main reason you decided to go vegan?
I stopped eating red meat when I was 10 and all other meat when I was 13. After spending more than 10 years as a vegetarian and learning even more about the reality of food production in the U.S., I used the timing of my first year out of college and first year living in NYC to make the transition to veganism. It’s been awesome to explore NYC through a vegan lens.
Why was it important to you to go fully vegan instead of just being a vegetarian?
In high school and college, I started caring more about what I was consuming and how those products were created. I wanted to live a cruelty-free lifestyle and become a more conscious shopper. I won’t go into details, but once I learned things such as the conditions for dairy cows and various health concerns about dairy, as well as learned more about plant-based nutrition, I knew I needed to go vegan.
Did you find it challenging at first to get used to the lifestyle? E.g. finding vegan clothing and places to eat out etc.
Definitely. There are clothing items I like when shopping that I can’t purchase because they contain leather and suede. There are restaurants I don’t like to go to anymore because they don’t cater to vegans. My first year as a vegan was a lot of “Oh I like that….oh wait I can’t have that.” But now it’s easier because I have a better idea of what to stay away from, and I’ve learned about companies that DO have vegan/natural/eco-friendly products. So it’s just about learning and re-focusing. Instead of relying on old favorite stores, brands and recipes, I just had to find new favorites. Even though the process of transitioning to veganism was challenging, it was also a fun exploration.
What was the hardest thing to give up and how did you overcome this?
Mac n’ Cheese. I gave it up by experimenting in the kitchen and making my own vegan cheeze sauce using cashews and nutritional yeast. I also found some frozen and packaged vegan mac n’ cheese products from Earth Balance, Annie’s and Amy’s that I could rely on for quick meals. Plus, I found some restaurants in NYC where I can order vegan mac n’ cheese, such as by CHLOE, M.O.B. and S’MAC. Now I don’t feel like I gave up mac n’ cheese because I have so many vegan options that are delicious.
Do you think that companies and brands accommodate for vegan customers well? Or is this something that still needs to be improved upon?
Many restaurants have gotten better in offering full vegan meals on the menu, and some fast-food restaurants are even adding vegan items. However, companies still have a long way to go and should keep adding items and testing new products with customers. Wendy’s in the U.S. recently tested a veggie burger in just a few states; so seeing businesses like that giving meatless burgers a try is promising for the future.
What are your favourite vegan companies?
I love the vegan products from Amy’s Kitchen (not all products are vegan). I also like ALOHA, Vegan Cuts, Earth Balance and Hilary’s Eat Well.
As for more girly things, have you managed to find any vegan make up brands/products? What are your favourites?
I love the skincare products and candles from Pacifica. I also like discovering new beauty products from the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box.
What is the best thing about being vegan, in your opinion?
Trying new food. Right now is a great time to be vegan because it’s considered trendy, and eating plant-based is becoming more mainstream. I see new vegan food products coming out or a new vegan dish added at a restaurant every month.
Could you list some of your favourite substitutes for the non-vegan food you used to love?
Earth Balance Sour Cream and Onion Flavor Kettle Chips and Amy’s Dairy-Free Lasagna
Finally, Do you have any words of encouragement for those thinking about becoming vegan?
Don’t feel like you have to be a perfect vegan. If you make a mistake, don’t give up. Instead, praise yourself for taking steps toward eliminating animal products and keep trying! There are so many vegan products, restaurants, and role models out there. For me, researching about the vegan lifestyle online, browsing vegan recipes on Pinterest and trying new products from the grocery store was a great lesson. I used to buy every hummus brand imaginable, and now I make my own. I used to be nervous that I wouldn’t get enough calcium, but now I know how to get it from plant sources like hemp milk, soy and greens. Just keep trying new vegan food and learning about the lifestyle, and eventually it will become easier.