The veganism and plant-based movements have proven to be unstoppable trends and although the lifestyle may not be for everyone, it is certainly a topic worth exploring.
In the Q&A below we chat to the creative Mira Weiner about the vegan and plant-based lifestyle, where to begin if you’re considering joining the movement and she shares her favourite local and international plant-based foodies to follow.
How is veganism different from being vegetarian?
Veganism is a lifestyle choice and not just a dietary requirement, whereas vegetarianism is a dietary choice. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but not eggs, fish, chicken or meat where Lacto-ovo vegetarians will consume both dairy and eggs but not fish, chicken or meat. Veganism means living a life that is cruelty-free and not consuming animal-based products or products containing animal-derived ingredients.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the vegan diet?
Veganism and the plant-based movement is an unstoppable trend. It has become a fast-growing movement globally and so the misconceptions are constantly being changed and challenged. Having grown up as a vegetarian in a country and society that is very meat orientated, especially culturally, it was definitely a challenge. I remember often being offered chicken as a ‘vegetarian’ substitute because culturally it wasn’t well known or understood as what vegetarian meant, let alone veganism. Veganism is also not just a dietary choice but a lifestyle where you are committed to living a life of being as cruelty-free as possible, this is across all purchases and lifestyle choices including skincare, makeup, medications, household cleaning materials, clothes, cars, décor, furniture, etc.
I think a combination of the current pandemic as well as various documentaries including the well-respected David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet has really forced us to seriously reflect on our lives and the choices we make on a daily basis. It has really brought home the devastating effects and environmental destruction that we have had on our planet, ecosystem and the lives of all beings. I am pleasantly surprised to see how many people that I never thought would consider this lifestyle, incorporate more and more plant-based foods and cruelty-free lifestyle choices into their lives.
It is absolutely possible to eat delicious, nutritious and nourishing vegan food that is good for the planet, animals and our bodies. I think that is the greatest misconception is that so many people aren’t aware of the incredible benefits to their health and wellbeing without having to sacrifice the flavours that they love.
Do you have any advice for those considering switching to veganism?
Absolutely, just do it! Start where you are with what you have, I think people often overcomplicate things. It’s like starting a new fad ‘diet’ on a Monday, don’t make eating more plants so difficult or complicated. Keep it simple and just start with small steps incorporating more plants into your daily diet. You can do this by starting small with #MeatFreeMonday, or make one meal every day that is 100% based on plants and no animal products. You can also swap out your dairy-based products like milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream for plant-based alternatives. Even just starting with your milk, there are so many substitutes on the market from oat, organic soy and rice to almond, cashew hazelnut and coconut milk. Experiment to find your favourite one, making homemade oat milk is probably the most economical option!
Support the local food industry, there are lots of restaurants, catering businesses and home delivery services that offering vegan options or whole vegan menus. If you’re able to this is a great time to support this industry, they need it!
I think it is important to note that we are all different and our bodies are unique, we all have different nutritional requirements and that is so important to remember. I am a firm believer in kindness over cruelty always, there are so many vegan products entering the market. Not all of them are necessarily “healthy” which I think is a miss conception about veganism – a lot of vegan food can be heavily processed and packed with toxic oils, refined sugars, preservatives and genetically modified ingredients. If you are looking for the benefits of health and wellness then you want to look at a whole foods plant based diet.
Learn to listen to your body and what it needs, if you simply ‘veganise’ your current diet by swapping out animal-based products for vegan-based ones such as plant-based diary and fake vegan meat substitutes, you may not get the nutrition that your body needs and eating this way can be very expensive as well. I find the best way to eat in the beginning is with simple foods that are economical and not hard to find. I like to look at my plate and divide it into sections: ½ veggies, ¼ wholegrains or starches, ¼ protein (beans, legumes, organic soy, etc). Then you can add healthy fats to your meals in the form of marinades, dressings, sauces, nuts or seeds. I also like to treat myself to delicious snacks so that I don’t feel deprived. If you have a sweet tooth there are lots of lovely plant based desserts, puddings and treats to incorporate as well. I don’t view veganism as a diet but a lifestyle choice, if it is new to you then you want it to be something that is sustainable for you.
3. Which foods can be used as protein replacements?
We are all different and have different nutritional requirements, on average we don’t need as much protein as we think we do. Yes, it is important but I think there is often way too much focus on this. There is a protein in many foods including vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. It is important to eat a varied diet so that you get vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plants are powerful – there are so many athletes, sports figures and bodybuilders who are 100% vegan.
Some protein sources include quinoa, organic tofu/tempeh/edamame beans, beans, legumes, seitan, peas, chia seeds, hemp seeds, spirulina and various nuts.
What is your favourite thing about being vegan?
I love knowing that I am making choices that are from a place of kindness and compassion. That my plate is free from cruelty and suffering. I have been vegetarian since the womb and giving up dairy was a challenge for me, I have only been vegan for the past 3 years and it was definitely the best decision I have ever made!
I also used a combination of plant-based nourishment and holistic therapies to kickstart my personal healing journey from adrenal fatigue, burnout, anxiety and panic disorder. I truly believe in the saying by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” I am extremely passionate about inspiring people to eat more plants but also about the rise of whole foods – as we become more aware of what we fuel our bodies with and the vital role that food plays in not only our health but also our healing. I enjoy creating in the free-from food space focused on allergy-friendly foods that are free from gluten, toxic oils, GMO foods, refined sugars, preservatives and artificial flavourings. I love recreating my favourite meals that heal instead of heart and showcasing how food can be truly nourishing and nutritious but also most importantly, delicious.
We truly can change the world through our kitchens, little kitchens and big kitchens across the globe. One meal at a time, one bite at a time, one kitchen at a time ☺
Below are some of Mira’s favourite local and international plant-based foodies to follow: