With more and more Australians turning to plant-based lifestyles, it’s likely that going vegan or vegetarian has crossed your mind at least once in the last few years. Recent findings by market research firm Euromonitor International revealed Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world, behind the United Arab Emirates and China. For those of us who love nothing more than a cheese platter to accompany a glass of red, your morning coffee with milk and a meat-packed Aussie BBQ, the thought of cutting out animal products can be pretty daunting.
We chat with Yoko Inoue, the founder of Melbourne’s organic, raw and plant based eatery Shoku Iku and speaker at this year’s Super Bloom Festival (April 13 + 14), a world-class wellness event debuting at Abbotsford Convent.
“My awareness around veganism started in 2010 when I heard Peter Singer speak at Federation Square. From an environmental and animal welfare prospective it all made sense to me. I had a baby then and I was interested in healthier way of eating and it felt right to eat more plant based diet.
Personally it was not hard to become a vegan. If it was not for the social and family pressure I would have gone vegan overnight. The hardest part for me was to navigate these emotional connections with others around me with my new way of eating and living.
I don’t like to say people “should” go vegan, but trying out or even just being aware of the impact you have with your food choices is an amazing start.
Even if you start with one day a week, one meal a day and if you set an intention to do it for a certain amount of time it is a great opportunity to understand where your food comes from and experiment with plant based cooking.
My five biggest tips for those considering going vegan for a month are:
- Eat more of non-processed foods including vegetables, fruits and non-oxidised fat
Fresh vegetables especially green leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients and vitamins to keep your body functioning in an optimal way. Fruits can add calories and are a great carbohydrate source for our active lifestyles. Find your favourite vegetables and fruits as well as experimenting with new varieties to keep it interesting. Whole food fats are amazing for our hormones, emotional grounding, brain and joint health. Choose raw fat sources such as avocado, activated nuts and seeds as well as olives.
- Plan your meals beforehand if you are a total beginner
My own go-to meals are always salad: easy and quick to prepare. But if you are after more filling meals and want to prepare beforehand, stews, hot pot, and extra wholegrain dishes can be made in big batches and stored in the fridge or freezer. You can always make extra for dinner so you have some left over for lunch next day. Nutritionally it is best to cook/prepare meals just before you eat them but we all have busy life and ideal doesn’t work for us all the time.
- Find your favourite recipes
My favourite recipes are my salad dressings. When you have great dressings and dip/cream to go with the salad it’s a joy to eat more vegetables! Try cashew cream by blending soaked cashews, water, lemon juice and seasoning. It lasts about 3 days in the fridge.
- Tell people that you are doing a vegan month so that they can support you
I think it is important to tell people so that you won’t have to get into a challenging situation where there are no vegan options available. It may even inspire them to join you!
I understand it can be really challenging if people don’t support you. Reach out to people who can support. There are plenty of us online!
- Reach out and form a community
If you live in a reasonable sized city there are meet ups and groups. And if not, there are plenty online. Do you know a cafe/shop/organisation that believes in what you are doing? If so, reach out to them to see if they take volunteer people. Attend the events to connect with likeminded people, events like Super Bloom are magnets for people who share similar values.
The challenges that you will face going vegan for a month will depend on you as a person. If you don’t have much support or likeminded people around you that might be the biggest challenge. You may find that you get the craving for certain foods. It is a good time to look at why you are getting that craving and experiment with new recipes. Make sure to be organised and have plenty of healthy foods around so you don’t get too hungry and reach out to something not ideal.
If your current diet is heavy on animal based foods and processed foods you may have hard time adjusting (emotionally and physically). I hear that a lot of people miss dairy but there are many alternatives these days.
I do believe it gets easier week by week. Your body and digestive system will start getting used to the new way of eating and longer you stick with this easier it is to put together your daily meals. When it gets tough, remember all the benefits! Personally I noticed the increased energy, clearer skin and feel of lightness. It is important to choose healthier, whole foods. Vegan foods do not necessarily mean that they are healthy.
So what happens if you fall off the bandwagon? Fall off and get up again! Please don’t feel guilty about it and remind yourself that what you are trying to do is long term.
For anyone looking for some tips making delicious raw vegan desserts and how to include more mazing superfoods and tonic herbs into the diet, please come say hello at Super Bloom Festival, April 13 + 14”