It’s a polarising term with love and hate in equal measures, but with more and more people moving to a plant based diet, I wanted to know more. As you may know from my previous posts, I try to follow a largely plant based organic diet to be a ‘sustainable eater’ . I am not currently a full time vegan but I am intrigued! I wanted to talk to Shannon as I follow her on Instagram and I love her posts. She eats what I would call ‘real everyday food’. I find a lot of vegan pages are very salad based, lacking in what I would call comfort food and something really satisfying. Shannon kicks that trend and was happy to tell me all about it…
How long have you followed a vegan lifestyle?
I have been fully vegan since January 2015, so over 3 and a half years. I was vegetarian/trying to be vegan for a while before that.
What does living a vegan lifestyle mean to you? Is there a set definition of veganism you follow?
Doing the least harm to animals by not consuming or using animal products, using animals for entertainment, and considering the environmental aspects of veganism too.
When it comes to food, I find its more textures rather than flavours that I have missed. Can you recommend any vegan comfort foods when you really want something comforting and satisfying.
I love pasta and bread so anything that involves those are amazing to me. I love mac and cheese, spaghetti bolognase, pasta dishes. I love foods I ate when i was young like lasagne, garlic bread, pizza – all the “less healthier” meals! I like to just google what I want to eat and add vegan to the end, for example “chicken pot pie vegan” and you will find lots of recipes to follow or get ideas from.
Do you find eating out a challenge? How do you cope with a limited menu choice?
I did find eating out a challenge but this was years ago! Now so many places have vegan options, or if they have no set vegan options know what vegan is and will make something. There has been a massive boom in vegan options and most food places I can think of have a vegan option – there is sometimes only one or two options so you sometimes have to take what you get. I try to go to only veggie/vegan restaurants because I don’t eat out very often, and like to support vegan places.
I think veganism is becoming a much more accepted way of living, but how do you cope with negativity to your lifestyle choice?
It has totally become a much more normal thing in the past couple of years…. But there are still so many people that think of being vegan as being a hippie – which is so untrue. There are so many different types of people that chose to be vegan, for so many different reasons. The only negativity I face is when people brush off the fact that veganism is a massive movement (10% of the UK is vegan!) and don’t want to see the importance of it.
How do you find the choice of vegan clothing and cosmetic brands available on the market, can you recommend any go to brands
I am super into buying clothes secondhand ever since learning more about the impact of the fashion industry on people and the environment. So I always try to buy from charity shops before buying something new. However some things I always buy new and they are usually from sportswear companies and high street brands, that are not vegan retailers. I find vegan retailers are much more expensive than these brands and for me right now I cannot pay like £50 for one piece of clothing! For makeup, I buy cruelty free and vegan, which is super easy to do. I stay away from brands like Mac, Maybelline, Rimmell etc because they are cruel to animals. I buy from companies like TwoFaced, BarryM, Elf. I am branching out into zero waste makeup and hope to one day make my own cosmetics, but at the moment am on the hunt for plastic free foundations and mascara, but am finding it difficult to find these with a reasonable price tag.
For someone considering a vegan lifestyle, what would be the first steps you would suggest they take?
For a vegan lifestyle: educate yourself about the meat, dairy and egg industry by watching documentaries, reading books, and following activists on Instagram and YouTube. I really love the documentary Vegucated and the book Eating Animals. Once you start learning about the horror of these industries you will probably be really angry, want to shout from the rooftops, and preach to everyone around you, but try to refrain. Looking back on when I first went vegan, I definitely needed to chill out and realise that I had only been vegan for 5 minutes and people will not respond well to calling them names for eating meat! Don’y worry about the things you have that are non-vegan like leather shoes, Mac lipsticks, wool jumpers – just don’t buy any things non-vegan. Having a few days of the week that are “vegan days” is a good idea – this is how I became fully vegan: I ate vegan 1 or 2 days a week and eventually I was totally vegan. One of my favourite YouTubers NikkiVegan has so many great tips on how to transition to being vegan – I still watch them almost 4 years later!
For a vegan diet: add more variety to your diet by not taking things off your plate, but by adding new foods that you wouldn’t normally eat. For example, adding extra fruit or nuts to your usual breakfast or adding a portion of greens to your lunch/dinner. Follow people on Instagram who inspire you to eat vegan, and don’t try to copy people living on the opposite side of the world to you! When I first went vegan, I was aiming to eat like girls in Australia who ate only fruit and 2 litre smoothies – I hated it, my digestion was awful, and I thought “vegan food is the worst!”. Try to eat what you usually eat but make it more “healthy” and experiment with what you like. I recommend buying Deliciously Ella’s cookbooks, or getting her app, because she is what really inspired me to eat better!
Finally, I’ve noticed from your Instagram you are trying to cut back on your plastic waste, do you think the vegan community supports the zero waste movement?
Yes and no.
The vegan community is split into so many different ways of eating and living: you have vegans for animal rights, vegan for the environment, vegan for health, and then you have different levels of vegan and stages in life eg people with busy jobs, with kids, students etc. I think because veganism has become so much more popular in the past year or so, companies are bringing out more vegan options than ever before; these are usually wrapped in plastic and so we are buying these products because we want to support vegan companies, even if they do contain plastic. For plastic-free July I pledged to stop buying snacks that are in single-use packaging, and instead make my own – I saved so much money, ate healthier, and saved on so much waste. But it’s difficult even to eat healthy because foods like green leafy vegetables and berries all come in plastic packaging in supermarkets, and these foods make up a big part of healthy diet.
The vegan community are already being environmentally sustainable from not eating meat and dairy, which contribute the most out of any industry to global warming. So I think some vegans aren’t actively trying to reduce their plastic waste/be zero waste because they are already having a great impact. But for me, not eating animal products isn’t enough – the devastation from plastic going into oceans and killing animals is so difficult to ignore (especially now since the fight on plastic is all over the media). So I think the next stage is merging the zero waste movement and the vegan movement to make a super-sustainable super-movement.
Thank you so much to Shannon for speaking to me, I have found her answers really helpful and its certainly helped me make so better choices and broaden my horizons on eating a plant based diet. You can find Shannon on Instagram @plantbasedshannon and her blog planbasedshannon.wordpress.com
Are you vegan or plant based? Please comment below with any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear from you!