With the new year well upon us, many have set resolutions to adopt new habits and achieve certain goals. One popular resolution is starting a primarily plant-based diet or living a vegan lifestyle, which is why, on Jan. 13, the Herbivore Society for Peace and Justice (HSPJ) held a virtual discussion, titled “Transitioning to a (More) Plant-Based Diet.” HSPJ is an organization that focusses on reducing the consumption and use of animal products to foster more ethical and sustainable personal practices. Throughout the month of January, HSPJ is hosting a month-long campaign, known as Veganary, to educate students about veganism and plant-based diets.
The virtual event allowed people of all diets to engage in casual conversation and share their experiences with a plant-based diet. Students discussed their reasons for having plant-based diets, swapped fun recipes, and exchanged ways to stay motivated. Gabriel Yahya Haage, HSPJ’s Communications Head Organizer, shared some advice with the Tribune for someone new to veganism.
“Finding the right substitutes in cooking can make the shift a lot easier,” Haage said. “Connecting with a vegan community is quite useful, as they can offer advice, both about cooking, as well as other aspects of avoiding animal products.”
The decision to transition from a meat-based to a plant-based diet is the often easiest part, but the meagre plant-based options at most restaurants and fast-food joints can make it hard to adhere to one’s goals. Even students who have been vegan for years can find it challenging to maintain this way of life. As with any other lifestyle change, going vegan or vegetarian requires consistency and a support system to maintain accountability. Jasmine Coulombe, U3 Science, shared how she has maintained her vegetarian diet for 12 years.
“I always remind myself of why I initially became a vegetarian: To help stop animal cruelty. Watching documentaries and reading about animal farming and slaughterhouses really changed my perspective on eating meat,” Coulombe said. “However, it does get hard sometimes, especially at social gatherings. It’s important to remember that even if you fall off the wagon and eat meat, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Being vegetarian or vegan isn’t about being perfect, but rather just being more conscious of what you eat.”
The lengthy list of “can’t have” foods can be intimidating for new vegans. Cutting out meat, ice cream, and pizza deters many from going vegan because it feels extreme. Natalie Warren, HSPJ’s events head organizer, discussed the importance of transitioning slowly and finding a support system.
“I wish I was more open to having conversations with other vegans when I was transitioning,” Warren said. “I wasn’t perfectly vegan, so I felt bad asking for advice. In reality, it’s not about being the ‘perfect vegan’ or ‘100% plant-based.’ I spent a lot of time looking at YouTube recipes and vegan YouTubers. This helped to an extent, but I […] don’t have access to the same foods. I could have learned a lot more food hacks and advice from the people around me.”
For those starting their plant-based journey, HSPJ is a great resource for staying accountable, learning new recipes, or talking to other like-minded people. Since members come from different backgrounds, cultures, and diets, it offers access to a wealth of perspectives on plant-based living. HSPJ will be hosting plenty of virtual events for vegans, vegetarians, and curious meat-eaters in the coming weeks of Veganuary.
If you are interested in getting involved with HSPJ, send them a message through Facebook or an email at [email protected].