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Going Green: 5 Women on Their Transition to Veganism

These women are making a difference with their diet.

Ever considered veganism? The shift is far from easy for most people, but it can be a highly rewarding choice. Here, we speak with five women about their journey going vegan – challenges, myths, and favourite dishes included.

Watch the Video: 5 Women on the Benefits of Going Vegan

Suzanne Saleh

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for?

A few years ago, my sister developed breast cancer, and it was then that I decided to learn more about adopting a healthier lifestyle. In my search for answers at home and during a solo trip to Nepal, I learned about the powerful benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I have been a vegan for three years now.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

The most popular one is, ‘Where would a vegan get their protein from?’ There are so many non-meat protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, beans, lentils, and quinoa. And the best part? You can get all the protein you need without the harmful saturated fat and cholesterol that comes from animal protein.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

My challenges initially came from my husband and some friends, as they felt that this change would restrict me from going to the same restaurants we used to go to. I also received a lot of comments that I would be weak, and that this way of eating wasn’t healthy. However, as time passed, I learned a lot more about food, how our bodies need certain macronutrients, and that I could easily get this from vegan food. Another initial challenge I faced included making sure I ate balanced meals, so I started to spend more time in the kitchen and experiment. 

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

For breakfast, I would recommend having some oats with plant milk, topped with berries and chia seeds. For lunch, chickpea and potato curry or stew with rice and salad works. For dinner, I would go for a hummus wrap with falafel and leafy greens, and fruit in between as snacks. 

Learn more about Suzanne at @suzannesalehwellness  and suzannesaleh.com

Hiruni Egalla 

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for?

Ever since I was little, I have always had a soft spot for animals and grew up caring for them. As I grew older, I started to realise that I looked down upon some animals and praised some, and it felt very unfair. When I was around 12, I decided to become a vegetarian, but as time went on, I got used to my diet and wanted to take it a step further. At the age of 18, with a lot of thought, I decided to become a vegan and completely avoid consuming any animal products. It has been a bit over three years since I completely went vegan, and it is the best decision I’ve ever made.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

One of the many myths I’ve heard about veganism is that I am not going to get enough calcium without dairy milk. That is completely wrong. A lot of leafy green vegetables are known to have plenty of calcium. For example, kale has been shown to have excellent absorbability compared to dairy milk. Also, other plant milk or alternatives of dairy milk can have just as much calcium as dairy milk. Calcium-set tofu is also a rich source.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

I faced a couple of challenges, one of them being that I had to try hard to not be misunderstood or judged. Sometimes, I feel that non-vegans can get defensive about their own food choices and feel uncomfortable. At the same time, getting the message out to some people can be hard while trying to avoid being stereotyped as a “vegan jerk”. It also gets difficult to talk about the reasons for supporting veganism without sounding like an evangelist.

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I would highly recommend a smoothie bowl. You can’t go wrong with fruit, and using frozen bananas makes for a thick and creamy texture. I would also recommend eating rice and vegetable curries. It’s easy to make and you can match the flavours to your liking.

Learn more about Hiruni at @hiruni.eg

Kate Lindley

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for? 

Going vegan has been a long journey for me. Growing up, I never really liked eating meat, but my family thought meat was an essential part of a daily meal, and milk was the only option I had for a beverage. The transition started in 2005, when I began to suffer from indigestion. My doctor recommended that I cut out all red meat and reduce consumption of dairy to reduce inflammation, which causes gastritis. 

As the years progressed and I moved from country to country, I witnessed how animals were being treated and I couldn’t agree with it. I began to rethink my values related to food. I decided to shift from pescatarian to vegetarian in 2014. I then shifted from vegetarian to fully plant-based in 2019. In 2020, I shifted from plant-based to fully vegan. I even stopped purchasing items that used animal products, including leather and suede. 

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

People usually believe vegan food is all expensive and “pretentious”, like a passing fad or trend. Rice, beans, lentils, and corn are all staple items in a vegan item. Are they expensive? No. This is a lifestyle with the objective of helping the environment and living compassionately with all sentient beings. 

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

Based on where you live, it can be tricky to find vegan options at restaurants. Some people aren’t aware of what a vegan diet/lifestyle is as sometimes, but not always, their food may be based on meat-eating traditions that have been passed on for centuries. Luckily for me, there’s quite a few vegan restaurants in Dubai now – or restaurants that offer a vegan menu at least. 

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I’d recommend trying stir-fries with fresh vegetables and tofu, salad rice wraps, cauliflower wings, vegan alfredo or tomato sauce with penne pasta. I also love kale caesar salad! Asian and Mediterranean cuisines have many delicious and nutritious meals. I eat a lot of hummus, tabbouleh, zaatar, rice, falafel, foul, and dal.

Learn more about Kate at @kindnesswith.kate

Cynthia Bernstein

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it for? 

My interest in veganism didn’t come from the right reasons initially. I had gained some weight and I was trying different diets until I found a vegan influencer on Instagram who inspired me. She made me curious about the reasons behind why someone would go vegan. 

And so, I started to read about it, follow more vegan influencers, and watch documentaries about it. I learned about the industry behind meat and milk – and it just all made sense. It was no longer about losing weight. Rather, it was about doing the right thing. I had found a purpose, a lifestyle with good motivations, and my eyes were wide open. I’ve been vegan for almost six years now and will never go back!

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

I’ve often heard things like, “If you don’t eat animals, they will overpopulate, and we don’t have space for them.” It’s very sad to see that humans can be selfish to the point that they think their place on earth will be stolen. I do believe that our planet is smart and can self-regulate itself better than us humans, with our overproduction and overconsumption of everything.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

For me, being invited for dinners or birthdays was difficult. Not everyone who I knew was familiar or accepting of the vegan lifestyle, so it was challenging to refuse a food item at a gathering. They would often feel bad because I would have nothing to eat, and I would feel bad for making them feel bad. But with time, it got better. It all comes down to how you explain it and how you show your family and friends how it can be easy to make small changes for you.

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

I would recommend you start with a simple meal that you know you will enjoy, and then explore more dishes. Nowadays, there are a lot of vegan products available in supermarkets as well. Personally, I love to make scrambled tofu with avocado toast, banana ice cream, açai bowls, warm porridge with delicious toppings, and lentil pasta with tomato sauce. 

Learn more about Cynthia at @aboutcynthia and @veganbycynthia

Victoria James 

Why did you decide to adopt a vegan diet? How long have you been doing it? 

In the last six months, I’ve taken the leap to being fully vegan after following a flexitarian model for the last 15 years. I chose not to consume animal products for my health, and for my wallet. I used to spend a lot of money, particularly here in Dubai, to buy animal products that I thought were of high-quality. I was already a decent-enough cook, so substituting animal products with plant products or making full veggie meals didn’t feel like too much of a challenge. I was able to lose 11kgs over the summer because of my diet.

What is one myth that you think people associate with a vegan diet? And why are they wrong?

I try to avoid using the term vegan too much, given its association to radicalism – I think it’s a myth that all vegans are radical! In my mind, this way of eating and this lifestyle is just common sense, and I don’t try to convert anyone. In most cases, I only disclose that I’m vegan when someone asks me why I’m not eating something or about weight loss.

What challenges did you face when you switched to a vegan diet?

I found the change easier given that I had already made several switches over the past few years, but I still find it difficult when travelling in this part of the world, particularly when it comes to buffet lunches at work events or staycations. My advice? Pack plenty of snacks. On a recent trip to Bahrain, I was able to pull together a lunch of rice and steamed vegetables from a buffet that I combined with some delicious vegan protein bars and snacks at the hotel. If in doubt, bananas are your best friend!

What dishes would you recommend to someone who wants to try switching to a vegan diet?

There really is no reason to put pressure on yourself to make a switch straightaway. I eased into it, and you can too if you wish to see a change. I love to cook with lentils, chickpeas, frozen veggies, and whatever is on offer at the supermarket. I recommend embracing vegan Indian recipes. 

Learn more about Victoria at @myveganplatedxb

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