A Vegan Diet. The first time I heard the phrase I thought of some elaborate, expensive meal plan that the SoBo (South Bombay for everyone who hasn’t stayed up with the Internet) girls were currently pursuing–and something that I best stayed away from. I was happy with my mutton biryani and easy-to-get-in-every-restaurant meals.
This was four years ago.
Veganism, I feel, is not just a good meal plan for the body, but also a way of life that helps you give back to Mother Nature. I’ve learnt to see the benefits despite not being on the vegan diet myself–it’s an ongoing debate in my head and someday I’ll end up convincing myself. However, for many going vegan still spells expensive, unnecessary, and scary.
This is precisely why I cornered one of my friends while she was having her vegan–and may I add very tasty looking–lunch and asked her about her journey of taking up veganism and how it’s changed her life.
For Vanshika Goenka, the founder of Kool Kanya, an online community for woman, the decision to turn vegan may have sprung from a need to ease up her digestion, but ended up transforming her life.
Here is the good, bad, and ugly of her vegan adventure:
So how did you start your journey of eating only vegan food?
“Honestly, I did not really start the diet to be vegan. I simply did it because I noticed that dairy didn’t really agree with my stomach, and Indian diets are too high on dairy. So I did a seven-day elimination diet- no dairy at all and I immediately noticed a difference in my digestion. This is when I started thinking of going vegan. I mean there are so many alternatives to dairy available in the market, so why not have that instead and be kinder to your body, right.”
What were some of the challenges you faced with the change in your diet?
“I was always a vegetarian so the shift wasn’t too hard for me. However, I did miss some foods a lot. Like I loved curd–I had it with honey every day and I absolutely could not do without my dose of paneer. But I stuck to my diet and gave myself those seven-10 days to wean my body off the foods that I had been having before. I think it’s important to give yourself that time–you are not immediately going to love this diet. It will take time.”
So how did you deal with the paneer-withdrawals?
“Tofu (laughs). The funny part is that I don’t even eat it all that much these days. Plus is so easy to get alternatives right now. You can replace almost everything in your regular diet with vegan products.”
Be honest: how hard was it really?
“It was hard, but as I said, give yourself time. Also, most places in India, especially in the metros, are so accommodating. You just need to tell them no dairy and no meat, and they just get it. People are more aware of the diet now, and more than happy to accommodate your dietary needs.”
Tell us what your daily meals look like right now?
“I start my mornings with a cup of bulletproof coffee with coconut oil and after my workout, I drink my vegan protein shake with a banana and some cashew butter or oats. Lunch is normally a grain with some veggies along with either some tofu or tempeh. I even eat khichdi sometimes because it is a complete protein.
For my afternoon snack, I either drink a turmeric latte made with almond milk or munch on a vegan protein bar. My dinners are usually moong dal chilla with veggies.”
What are some of the cuisines you’ve grown to love after turning vegan?
“I love Lebanese food–you have so many options to choose from. I’ve also grown to love Japenese food.”
What are some of the changes you started noticing in your body?
“My skin got really, really good plus my digestive system got better after turning vegan. There was definitely less bloating. I was also more alert during the day.”
If you had to help someone understand the benefits of veganism what would you say?
“Honestly, it’s a choice you make. It’s going to be hard, but if you are really strong on the why–the reason why you are doing this–it’s going to be really easy to make the shift. I feel all of our addiction to certain foods is in our heads. You can deal with it.”
What’s the one big vegan myth you’d like to break?
“That vegan meals don’t have calcium and protein. Just Google the alternatives, yaar!”