Sometimes it can be tricky imagining eating vegan yourself if you don’t know any vegans. Well, that’s what the Plenty Vegan Ninja interview series is all about. Meet vegan vegetarian folks who explain why they eat the way they do.
This week we’re getting to know more about Hayley Diep, aka Health Nut Hayley.
It was great to hear how she incorporates mostly vegan meals into her routine but sometimes deviates. This is an option for eating vegan that isn’t talked about enough but is very welcome here at Plenty Vegan.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU EATEN VEGAN?
I’ve been vegetarian for 4 or 5 years now and an on and off vegan in the meantime. Recently, in the past year or so, I’ve decided to gear more towards a vegan diet.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO EAT VEGAN?
It’s a long story. Perhaps I should begin with why I became a vegetarian first.
During the summer after my freshman year of college (beginning of sophomore year) I returned home to discover that my mom was now a vegetarian. In addition to that, goats had infiltrated the neighborhood to graze on tall grass, and they were so darned cute! I wondered how anybody could eat such cute animals. Then I realized that I was eating chickens and cows and whatnot, and they were animals that were kind of sort of cute. I figured that I should just go vegetarian since it wasn’t fair that I was choosing to not eat some animals and was eating others.
Later on, as I became more exposed and educated in nutrition and health, I realized that having a mostly vegan diet would be better for my health. Eating mostly vegan, I’d have to be very conscious about what foods I was consuming and pay attention to whether or not I was getting enough of my necessary nutrients, something I wasn’t exactly doing beforehand.
I also learned that by having a mostly vegan diet, I could eliminate or considerably decrease my chances of getting many chronic diseases that plague a large portion of our society’s population. Since I enjoy leading an active lifestyle and have seen firsthand what diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer could do to my loved ones, I was certain that I never wanted to ever have to deal with any of those diseases. If eating a mostly plant-based diet would at least slightly limit my likelihood of ever getting those diseases, I figured that it would be worth it!
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT STARTING YOUR VEGAN JOURNEY?
For me right now, I think it is eliminating cheese from my diet. I love to occasionally indulge in macaroni and cheese or share a cheese plate with my family and friends. The good thing is that these foods are for special occasions only and I don’t frequently eat them.
The other challenge that I have is getting enough iron and B vitamins that are mostly found in animal products. Again, it’s all about really planning out my meals and making sure that I’m getting enough of everything every day.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW VEGANS?
Take it slow. You don’t have to go vegan all at once. I’ve tried going vegan all at one time before and ended up eating only cereal for a whole week. I became a ‘vegan’ all wrong and actually became unhealthier because I was eating more vegan processed foods. I gave up pretty much after that one week.
By suddenly shifting your eating habits, you end up craving the foods you’re giving up even more, and so I really do think that the most important thing when trying a new lifestyle is to take it slow.
This time I’m gradually phasing animal products from my diet and am healthier in turn. I’m eating higher nutrient dense foods, and am constantly trying to become more educated in how to better my eating habits.
Another important tip for new vegans is to read books and articles. Read up on health and nutrition from a variety of sources so that you’re always getting the full picture. Writings are often slightly biased, no matter where they’re from, and so by reading from a variety of sources, you eliminate that bias and can get clearer facts.
Also, to all you new vegans out there, get used to eating lots of beans, lentils, and a plethora of colorful fruits and veggies!
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR: TRAVEL, EATING WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, EATING AT RESTAURANTS – TIMES WHEN IT MIGHT BE MORE DIFFICULT TO EAT VEGAN?
Nowadays many restaurants are vegan or vegetarian friendly, and so I haven’t had too much trouble eating vegan at restaurants. If you do find yourself unsure if something is vegan, you can always order salads without dressing or plain pasta. There’s usually something they can accommodate you with.
How do you stay motivated to eat vegan?
I want to be the healthiest and best version of myself, and so that’s one way that I remain motivated. I know that by eating vegan, I’ll be healthier and more able to perform at my best athletically and mentally.
But I truly do believe that life is about balance and having fun, so if you’re going to break the vegan diet for a day or so, it’s not the end of the world.
If you have kids – what should parents know about feeding their children a plant-based diet?
I don’t have kids, but I’m a teacher and I do think that it’s important to make sure you’re giving your children enough of their essential nutrients to grow. Calcium, B vitamins, and occasionally iron may need a little more meal planning since they’re more easily found in animal products.
Other than those few nutrients, every other vitamin or mineral can be easily found in plants! I’m quite sure that parents will have healthier and perhaps even calmer children when they’re on a plant-based diet. They’re also preparing their children for a healthier lifestyle in the future and reducing their chances of becoming overweight, getting a cardiovascular disease, becoming diabetic, etc.
What are some of your favorite vegan meals/food?
Ooh, I love everything. It’s so hard to choose. I think vegan chili, salads, soups, HUMMUS, and grilled veggies are some of my top foods. I just can’t get enough of any of those things.
Anything else we should know?!
I personally think that having mostly a vegan diet has helped me become a faster runner and all-around athlete. I feel like it makes me feel more energized! I’ve never ran a half marathon so fast until this year, where I’ve barely eaten anything not vegan.
So yeah, don’t believe people when they tell you that you can’t get enough protein or enough energy as a vegan. You definitely CAN!
How can people get in touch with you or check out your work?
I try to be responsive with my e-mails and love when people stop by and leave comments.
Vegan Vegetarian Eating
I love hearing stories like Hayley’s. She is approaching eating vegan in a very reasonable way. She incorporates mostly vegan meals into her diet and when she eats cheese, that doesn’t throw her off course – she eats vegan at the next meal.
The prospect of eating 100% vegan can be overwhelming. What about trying just to eat significantly MORE vegan to start and going from there?
If you are interested in eating all vegan, a B-12 vitamin is definitely a good idea. I’ll be posting more on this topic but message me if you want more info now.
How is your (mostly) vegan eating going? Comment below or tag Plenty Vegan on Instagram!
WANT HELP GETTING STARTED?
Download a vegan grocery list for beginners.