What inspired you to go vegan?
My journey to veganism evolved slowly. I stopped eating red meat as a kid, after I saw Bambi. In my early twenties, after years of struggling terribly with irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist recommended to me that I experiment with a dairy elimination. I felt immediate improvement. At this point, since I didn’t care much for eggs, I was eating a close-to-vegan diet, and I decided to give veganism a committed try. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Becoming vegan was much less challenging than I imagined it would be. In fact, it compelled me to expand my culinary horizons, explore cooking, and–after many years of eating disorders–to fall in love with food again. I never looked back.
Soon into my vegan journey, a friend invited me to volunteer with her at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s annual Thanksliving event. The event had a profound impact on me; for the first time, I made the connection between the animal foods we consume widely, and the beautiful, sentient non-human animals with whom we share this planet. That was the moment when I truly knew that I’d always be vegan. Today, I like to say that I became vegan for my health, and I remain vegan for the animals. I’m passionate about vegan food, and food writing is my favorite means of advocating for a vegan lifestyle. But for me, veganism goes much deeper than what we do or don’t choose to eat: it is a means of orienting one’s choices and behavior around nonviolence and respect for all living beings.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your eating disorder story?
Yes. You read more about my disorder and my recovery journey in this post.
Your blog used to be called Choosing Raw. Why did you stop eating raw foods?
A couple years after I became vegan, I discovered raw foods, and I was instantly hooked. I loved the color, the creativity, and the simplicity of raw food dishes–in fact, it was my enthusiasm for raw veganism that originally inspired me to begin this blog, hence the previous name of Choosing Raw!
Over time, my relationship with eating raw changed. For one thing, I was gradually able to see that the raw food emphasis on “purity” had contributed to dangerous orthorexic tendencies on my part. Even though I had never been 100% raw, I started to feel limited by raw cuisine, and I craved more culinary variety, experimentation, and possibility. Finally, I began my transition to a career in health care, and my education compelled me to critically re-examine the idea that raw foods are superior nutritionally to cooked foods. You can read all about my transition away from raw foods (and the name change of my blog) here.
I still really enjoy the fun and playfulness of raw food, so you’ll find some raw recipes and techniques here on the blog. You can also find a collection of my favorite raw and raw/cooked “fusion” recipes in my first cookbook, Choosing Raw, which offers simple advice on how to make raw food a part of the way you eat, without feeling the need to be 100% raw.
About My Work
Do you do recipe development, sponsored posts, or food photography?
I sure do! Email me to discuss opportunities: [email protected]
Can you tell me about your nutrition counseling services?
How did you become a nutritionist? Did you study nutrition as an undergrad?
Nope. I was an English major, and I spent most of my twenties working as a book editor. I’ve been fascinated by nutrition for as long as I can remember, but I definitely didn’t plan on making it a career.
I got my nutrition certification via a distance program, while I was still working in publishing. Soon after, I decided that I wanted to deepen my education and work in health care full time. Having never studied the hard sciences before, I completed a pre-medical, post-baccalaureate degree at Georgetown. I’m currently working toward my Masters in Nutrition and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, with the ultimate goal of becoming an RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist). Building a career in nutrition has been a long, hard journey, but I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve enjoyed the process.
About my Food Philosophy
Do you think it’s possible to meet all of your protein needs on a vegan diet?
I do! You can read more of my ideas for easily sourcing adequate protein in this post.
Do you recommend all or mostly raw diets?
For the most part, I think that a diet that includes both raw and cooked foods is most well-rounded, offering maximum variety and bioavailable nutrition. There’s no body of evidence to suggest that raw food is always nutritionally superior to cooked; in fact, cooking can release some anti-nutrients and make food easier to digest.
Of course, different things work for different folks, and it’s important that you do some exploration to see what works best for you. For me, adhering to a high raw diet proved to be too limiting. I needed an approach that offered me more sources of plant-based protein, more variety, and more cooked starches for energy. Today, I eat a lot of raw veggies, but I don’t aim to eat any particular amount of raw food.
Do you recommend supplements for vegan diets?
All vegans need to consume a B-12 supplement regularly, even if they’re eating fortified foods. It’s increasingly thought that vegans may also benefit from regular supplementation with DHA and EPA fatty acids. I really like Deva vitamins for both B-12 and DHA/EPA. Aside from this, supplementation is highly individual: it depends on your health needs. Chat with a provider about any additional supplements, such as Vitamin D, calcium, iron, or probiotics.
Do you include oils in your diet?
I do, in moderation. Unsaturated cooking oils–especially olive oil–are associated with reduced risk of certain diseases, and they may also have anti-inflammatory effects. A small amount of oil can also help to enhance the flavor and texture of food!
Oils are quite calorie dense, so many folks who are working toward a weight loss goal choose to focus on other fat sources. If you don’t eat oil, you’ll find a lot of recipes on the site that can be modified to be oil free. If you have a question about modifying a particular recipe, just email me: [email protected]
Do you eat faux meats?
I don’t rely on faux meats often, because for the most part I prefer beans and grains as the centerpieces of my meals. But I love the authenticity that faux meats (or products like Earth Balance and Daiya) can add to meals, and I think they’re fun to use once in a while. I also think that they can be very useful in the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet!
Are you gluten-free?
As of 2015, when both my GI doctor and my allergist recommended a gluten elimination that was ultimately helpful, I eat a mostly gluten-free diet. I don’t have celiac disease, and my lifestyle is not strictly gluten-free. Some recipes on the blog contain gluten, but many of them are gluten-free as written or can be adapted to be gluten-free.
What appliances do you recommend for people who are just getting started with cooking?
To get started with a vegan diet, you really only need a couple of pots and pans and a good set of sharp knives. As you explore vegan recipes, try to focus on simple dishes that don’t demand a lot of fuss. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of what appliances are the best investments for you. I find my Cuisinart food processor and Vitamix to be invaluable, and I use them both all the time. I recommend a food processor that’s 7 cups in capacity or higher. It will help you to create silky homemade hummus, delicious raw nut pates, cashew cheese, and to chop and prep vegetables in a snap!
Any tips for vegan restaurant dining or social gatherings?
Sure! Check out these posts:
How do you deal with people who are critical of your food choices?
I try to stay focused on my own values and beliefs, while also understanding that people who criticize often do so out of concern or lack of familiarity with veganism. Gentle conversations can be helpful for everyone. For more thoughtson social pressure and criticism, check out these posts:
What are some good vegan dishes to bring to dinner parties or make for non-vegans?
Vegan black bean and sweet potato enchiladas
Quinoa and black bean salad with quick cumin dressing
Smoky cauliflower and white bean toasts
Shaved brussels sprout and kale salad with lemon maple dressing and pumpkin seed parmesan
Whole roasted lemon tahini cauliflower
Polenta tart with garlicky white bean spread and roasted cherry tomatoes
Easiest vegan, gluten free mac n’ cheese with peas
Cheesy vegan quinoa and broccoli bake
What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants in New York?
There are always more arriving on the scene, but here are my all-time favorites:
Where do you find vegan clothing and footwear?
What tips do you have for people who are trying to transition to a vegan diet?
Take it one step at a time. If you’re inspired to go vegan overnight and you do and you’re happy, that’s awesome. But for some people, a slow and gradual transition works best. Start with small changes, like implementing a Meatless Monday into your routine, or making an effort to eat one vegan meal a day. See where these changes take you, and move at a pace that feels right.
Find community. Going vegan can be tough if you don’t happen to have family or friends who share your perspective. If you’re looking for more support, try seeking out vegan resources and community in your area. It could be a vegan meet-up, a supper club, or a vegan eatery with friendly staff. Or you can find community online, by reading food blogs and sites like the Vegetarian Resource Group, Choose Veg, and Farm Sanctuary.
Read up. Going vegan doesn’t have to be super complicated, but any major dietary change demands a little research and preparation. Before you dive in, take some time to read up on vegan diets and make sure you feel confident about the switch. (I recommend Vegan for Life and Becoming Vegan as great, all-purpose nutrition resources.) If you have questions, chat with your healthcare provider or a knowledgeable vegan nutritionist before you get started.
Have fun! Going vegan can be a wonderful opportunity to expand your culinary horizons, explore different cuisines, and feel invigorated with food. Read cookbooks and blogs to get inspired, and use this transition as a way to breathe new life into your meals!
Anything else? I’d love to hear from you.