What is a vegan ninja? Someone who eats vegan and is also awesome, basically.
Get to know some amazing people while they share what eating a plant-based diet means to them.
Meet Sapna Von Reich.
Sapna Von Reich is a certified Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) ‘Food for life’ Instructor. Her interests include understanding the subtle impact of food on our health, and in making tasty food that is healthy as well. She is certified in Plant Based Nutrition: Cornell University, NY and she is also a certified chef with Forks Over Knives Program.
After taking the PCRM’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program and applying it in her own life, her migraine headaches disappeared and her extra weight also dropped and stabilized to an optimal weight. She decided to then master the subject and spread the good word about how the food we eat can have such a positive influence against many modern diseases like diabetes and cancer. Her hope is for everyone to consciously change their lifestyle, eat healthy and fit in 30 to 60 minutes of cooking fresh and delicious meals at home.
Sapna has incredible insight into how to eat vegan, cook vegan and deal with veganism in a non-vegan world.
VEGAN FOR HEALTH
Six years ago, Sapna’s younger sister was concerned about the health of their parents. She researched how diet might be impacting their well-being and found a retreat for the 21 Day Kickstart in India to get participants started on a plant-based diet.
After 21 days, her parents’ diabetes was gone and Sapna was convinced. Her family had always eaten vegetarian but not vegan. Sapna says luckily there are many vegan options in India (where they still live) because vegetarianism is so prevalent.
The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine offers a 21 Day Kickstart online, which is the program that Sapna used to get started on her plant-based journey.
KIDS & VEGANISM
When Sapna went 100% vegan, she was concerned how her husband and children were going to respond. Over the course of years of eating a vegan diet, she has come to balance this concern fairly expertly.
She says that her family does not eat 100% vegan but does eat very healthy. While her family does eat non-vegan food on occasion, they also enjoys the cooking that she does, which is vegan. Sapna estimates they eat about 90% plant-based food.
VEGAN IN A NON-VEGAN WORLD
Sapna’s approach to a plant-based lifestyle is definitely ‘slow and steady wins the race’. She is both passionate about healthy, whole foods cooking and also knows that,
Life must go on.
For example, if she is invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, she will eat sides, such as sweet potatoes or other veggies which may contain butter or loads of cooking oil. Her trick for potlucks is to bring a hearty vegan dish that can serve as her entire meal. This way, she doesn’t have to worry about whether or not she will get anything to eat at the gathering.
Sapna says she’s,
Not loud about my diet.
She finds that people are less interested in eating vegan if you’re too loud about it. So, she cooks tasty plant-based meals, teaches others how to cook as well and is, as we say here at Plenty Vegan, ‘strict so she can be flexible’ in this non-vegan world.
Sapna has found that she can eat at most restaurants. She asks servers to put beans on top of salads to make them more of a meal and finds that most restaurants have balsamic vinegar and olive oil that can be used as a dressing instead of their dairy-based dressings.
She recommends really looking in the eye of your server and saying, “No butter, please,” to drive home that you don’t want butter added. Sometimes meals can be very oily but if you say “I’m allergic to oil, so no oil, please,” she says chances are they’ll use “at least 50% less oil.”
Baby steps, right?!
ADVICE FOR NEWBIES
Time and time again, Sapna shares that her passion is teaching people how to cook easy, delicious and healthy food. Even when she is just supposed to give a lecture about a plant-based diet, she brings some food that she can prepare. She feels that learning how to cook is the most helpful way to learn how to eat vegan. So, she recommends people take a cooking class.
One of the most interesting things that Sapna recommends for newbie vegans is to avoid packaged vegan foods – meaning, avoid buying a bunch of packaged vegan sausages, vegan bacon, vegan frozen meals, etc.
She feels this approach would mean a person would just have to learn a new diet again when they transition to non-packaged foods. She recommends just learning to cook simple, whole foods meals.
A rule of thumb that Sapna teaches in her classes is to eat a variety of foods. This rule helps to ensure that you are eating all of the minerals and vitamins that we humans require, without counting every daily value.
In fact, Sapna warns against a “single nutrient lifestyle”. She says that it is better to focus on eating a whole foods plant-based diet rather than focusing on each nutrient. For example, in theory one could use supplements to get those vitamins, but it’s best to get them from a whole foods diet.
Starting to eat vegan intimidates some people but Sapna recommends just focusing on adding more and more vegan and whole foods and you will see your diet change.
Sapna says she loves green smoothies. She loves them because they can serve as whole meals any time of day – breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Canned beans are her go-to. They are such a quick base for a meal and if you can get them with no salt added, all the better. She pops a can to easily make hummus, soup or a sauté.
Sapna says she feels blessed to eat vegan and thanks her younger sister as much as she can for introducing her to a plant-based diet. She knows how good the whole foods that she eats are for her body and that is enough to keep her excited and motivated about veganism!
Sapna is beloved by her students. Beyond being a great instructor, teaching meals that can be easily made in people’s own homes, she is also very approachable about her veganism. She say that,
Veganism is not a religion for me.
It is likely this very even attitude about her nonetheless strong commitment to a plant-based, whole foods diet that invites so many others to cook more or all vegan meals.
CONNECT WITH SAPNA
If you are in the Fort Collins, CO area, Sapna has two FREE upcoming classes at the Council Tree Library. They do require registration, so sign up if you are interested:
WANT HELP GETTING STARTED?
Download a vegan grocery list for beginners.