*hey friends! today i’m so excited to kick off a new series on going home to roost: the VEG articles- inspirational stories from around the globe. i find it so inspiring to meet other people eating a plant based diet, and feel incredibly lucky to have this amazing online space to meet, greet and discuss with others about the issues we care about. this series is meant to inspire you and enlighten us on how people from all over the world make eating this way possible. please read on, grab a few recipes and join the conversation! xo, bonnie
Being vegan in a country in which the main industry is farming, New Zealand has quite a few challenges for someone like me who is vegan. I have been vegan for almost two years and made the transition from consuming animals to veganism after investigating the link between the uses of animals and the treatment of these animals in Western society. This was when I really started to learn and understand how my own actions influence the lives of not only my own, but others too.
The benefits from becoming vegan have been absolutely amazing. Firstly, I feel better ethically. In terms of my health, I have experienced more energy, stronger hair, longer and healthier nails and fewer breakouts on my skin. The main thing that has surprised me about this is the amount of energy. I used to suffer from extreme exhaustion, often causing days where I would miss University. Now, I’m more alert, exercise a lot more and I generally feel more energetic and vibrant!
The hardest thing for me about veganism was dealing with the comments about how my diet misses out important vitamins and minerals found only in the body of an animal. If the comment arises (which it does almost once a week), I always refer to the food pyramid and how plant-based eating is the most important food group and I discuss how the process of keeping a food journal has helped me keep track of my vitamin and mineral intake.
The easiest thing for me about becoming vegan was finding recipes to experience. Vegan recipes are everywhere nowadays; just look at your local bookstore or online for recipes that are vegan and start experimenting! You’ll find that the foods you already eat are able to be adjusted to become more yummy and healthy, just without animal products.
An average day for me eating is full of yummy foods! Breakfast is my own muesli which is made with oats, dried berries and nuts with some almond milk. Lunch is often a simple green salad with a bean salad. My afternoon tea is always either pumpkin seeds or homemade chocolate chip cookies. Dinner is quite varied; tofu, edamame and vegetable stir-fry, vegetable curries or a tofu and vegetable soup is often what makes my dinner special. I drink water, chai tea or green tea.
Vegan food; it is more about salads and leafy greens. Living in New Zealand, foods that are made specifically for vegans are 99% non-existent. Major supermarkets and even specialty produce stores do not have products for vegans. (Vegetarian food, yes.) Therefore, I make 99% percent of the food I consume and the 1% is for special stuff. If you don’t have access to readily available vegan foods, think about foods you already consume and make them vegan. Something as simple as a fresh salad is beautiful anytime. If you don’t like salads, try finding pasta that doesn’t contain egg or milk, add some kale or spinach, add tomato and zucchini with some pasta sauce and you’ve got a lovely dish. Tofu is not everyone’s taste but it is definitely something to try at least once. Almond, hemp, soy or any other milk is a yummy alternative to dairy; I drink almond milk and I never feel ill like I did with cow’s milk. The important thing is to not rush the process – it is important to take notes and find out what works best for you and your taste.
My favourite recipe is; Tomato and Eggplant (or anything) Linguine.
1 large eggplant (if in season) thinly sliced.
375g dried vegan pasta.
2Tbsp olive oil.
250g cherry tomatoes.
Any other vegetables you want; zucchini, capsicum, spinach, kale.
1 bunch of parsley.
Cook vegetables except tomato on medium heat. Grate lemon over vegetables and add juice. Cook pasta following packet instructions until tender. Drain water completely. Cook tomatoes on medium heat until they start to soften. Add other vegetables and cook for a further five minutes. Add parsley and serve!
My advice for anyone who is thinking about becoming vegan is RESEARCH. Books and the internet were my greatest resource for finding out information about becoming animal-consumer free. “Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet” by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina is a book that helped me understand the different types of food that I could eat. Organizations such as Leaping Bunny and PETA both have lists on their website of products that do not test on animals and do not contain animal derived products. This list has changed my life; veganism is not only about not consuming animal products through food choices but also being aware of daily products that can be made using ingredients of an animal. The idea that being vegan only means not consuming animal products through food is the most common misconception people have assumed throughout my veganism.
Being vegan in New Zealand is not as easy as some other countries such as the US. We do not have faux meat or specialty stores stocking vegan items. Often, I purchase vegan food and household items online from animal rights organizations in New Zealand and cosmetics from my local drugstore. I travel to Australia about 6 times a year and finding vegan products is completely the opposite of New Zealand. There are many vegan restaurants and specialty health/vegan stores in the cities. When travelling to new places, I will ask around or research specialty stores that may have products for vegans. If both fail, I always have my go-to food; salads, tofu, vegetable bakes and other yummy food.
The inspiration that keeps me from returning to a life of animal consumption is the knowledge that the treatment of animals in society is cruel and unfair. I’ve learnt a lot since becoming vegan and I know that I could never go back to my previous lifestyle. There are challenging times but I always think about how people before my time such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Franz Kafka all advocated a plant-based diet. Knowing that people from centuries ago believed in the same thing I do today, has helped me continue this inspirational journey.
a huge thanks to stephanie for sharing her story and recipes with us! if you’re interested in sharing your story about eating a plant based diet with GHTR, i’d love to hear from you. just email me!