My vegan story

I’ve wanted to write a post called my vegan story for some time now, but I’ve been putting it off because it’s not that easy to write. There’s too much to say for one post, plus I know lots of people hate the topic. Please, don’t understand this as me telling you to go vegan because I’m not (despite of the picture). I’m just trying to be informative here, hoping that stories like this one can be an interesting read, and can open your eyes to things you’ve never thought of before.

Somewhere in Valencia, September 2018

My reasons

There are more reasons for me going vegan, but the first and the most powerful one was my love for animals – all animals. I’ve seen videos of the conditions in factory farms years ago, but I refused to think about it, despite of how much the videos got to me. I’ve always had reasons not to go vegan: it’s not healthy, vegans are annoying, Greek yogurt is life. The truth is that a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how much of what you put in your body, while vegans can, of course, be annoying if they try to force their beliefs on people in a violent way. And Greek yogurt… well, it’s delicious, but I don’t miss it anymore and I’m sure there’s a vegan alternative somewhere out there.

The second reason is the environment: if you haven’t heard, eating less meat benefits the environment. By not consuming animal products you cut your greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and preserve species and their habitats (I’m not going to link studies here because I intend to do another post with actual data, but feel free to google it – there’s a lot of info out there).

The third reason is health. I’m obviously not a nutritionist, but I know I feel better eating plant-based. I feel lighter after meals and good in general.  I’ve always liked fruit and vegetables, but going vegan made me start consuming even more of them, discover new pulses and grains, and learn how to cook diverse and simple meals.

Before

I’ve never been a meat person; I’ve always been known as the one who complicates when it comes to food (and that reputation isn’t gone or anything). But I ate meat or at least fish most of my life: there were periods when I ate more of it and periods when I ate less; at times I liked certain types of meat and at times I didn’t, I even had a »pescatarian« period at some point. I developed a taste for eggs in the year before turning vegan (I was living in London and my flatmates ate a lot of eggs, so I followed suit). I’ve always liked dairy too; I wasn’t as crazy about cheese as some people are (hi), but I loved Greek yogurt and all kinds of sweet treats that contained milk.

I had been thinking about veganism on and off for years, but I always dismissed the thought because of the reasons I mentioned above. Then I tried it once in London for about three days, but I felt hungry constantly and was craving tuna, cheese and Greek yogurt, so I gave in. Little did I know that I simply wasn’t eating enough.

The transition

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but last year in the first week of October, just when uni started, I decided to give it a go again. I said: one week. And this time it was successful: I didn’t feel hungry and I didn’t miss non-vegan food because I read a lot about veganism before, during and after that week. I knew that I had to eat more because plant-based food is generally lower in calories, and I had the necessary motivation because I read about all the benefits.

The week passed, and I kept going, but it wasn’t perfect, and I have no intention of lying about that. I can proudly say that I haven’t eaten fish or meat in more than a year, but I can’t say the same for eggs and dairy. There were occasions when I had something vegetarian in the following months. The reasons were different: not wanting to complicate in a restaurant, eating at my boyfriend’s parents’ house and wanting to be polite, travelling and not finding anything suitable or wanting to try local food, or just giving in to something my mum bought or made, or to something someone else was having.

I feel like I’ve thoroughly made the transition only a couple of months ago, even though I’ve been eating almost completely plant-based for the past year. A couple of months ago I decided that it was easier for me to stand behind this way of life if I’m 100% in it.

The reactions

They were different and everything from typical, surprisingly nice and very stupid. Some people feel somewhat offended when someone’s vegan, as if it were criticism pointed directly at them. I’ve never told anyone to go vegan and I have no intention to, despite of what the sign in the pic above says. The way of eating is a personal choice after all.

So, I’ve had all the possible reactions from my friends, family and complete strangers: people asked me where would all the cows go and where would we plant all the salad if the world went vegan, people were worried about my protein intake, they asked whether I could eat beans, but then some also cooked a completely vegan dinner just because of me, or baked something vegan because I was coming. And then I also heard (and am still hearing) all the possible jokes, which isn’t that bad; I like to laugh, even if it’s about me.

Living among non-vegans

I, sadly, don’t have any vegan friends, and have met few vegan people in my life. Everyone I love, care for and spend time with is omnivore, and that doesn’t make me love them any less. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like it if they ate less animal products, of course I would. But I’m not forcing them; I just explain things when they ask me, I cook and bring vegan food, and I post things. I’m sharing my belief and my interests, as other people share their own.

I think it’s important to understand that eating fewer animal products DOES have an impact, and a positive one: on animals’ lives, the environment and quite possibly also on your health. It’s crucial to realize that every individual has an impact every day, with every little thing we choose to eat, and consequently buy. All of this is sending a message to the market.

So…

I’ll stop now because this is beginning to sound like vegan propaganda, and I promised not to do that. Let me just say this one last thing: vegans (or at least vegans with a mentality similar to mine) aren’t trying to make anyone go vegan because they think they are superior as people and everyone should be like them. All we have in mind is that more people eating less meat equals less animals suffering and harm to the environment. Our goal is to stop pain and death, and we know we can’t do it alone. Consequently, some plant-based people might get aggressive, mean or plain rude. I hope I’m never like that, my goal certainly isn’t to be. I don’t think it brings any good to anyone.

It’s important that people realize we’re not criticizing them – how could we? Most of us used to think and act just like you, at least I know I did. All that mattered was the taste, the price and the convenience. I ate animal products, I thought vegans were rude hippies and I laughed at jokes about them (which still happens). Overcoming that and understanding that I, as an individual, influence the way things are, taught me to look at food differently. I’d never go back – going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

5 VEGAN BREAKFASTS

If I had to pick one kind of food to live on for a while, I’d pick bananas. I love them because they’re so versatile, so sweet, but still healthy. I never, ever, unless I really don’t have a choice, have a banana free breakfast. You get the point: bananas are life. So here are 5 vegan breakfasts (or lunches or dinners, no limits there) featuring BANANAS.

Note: when I say cup, I mean any cup, and not the standard American cup measure. It’s just for the sake of proportion.

Porridge with mashed banana

You can make oats without adding the banana, or you can simply add slices of it as a topping, but I really recommend mixing mashed banana into the oats because it makes them sweet and creamy. If you’ll be using classic rolled oats (not instant), you should soak them overnight or at least for an hour before using them, or just cook them longer, as they are harder. You can only use a cup of liquid if you prefer firmer oats, and up to two cups if you prefer them more runny.

Ingredients

  • a cup of oats (the size of the cup depends on how hungry you are; just keep in mind that oats expand)
  • a cup and a half of liquid (water, plant-based milk or a combination of both if you’re me)
  • one ripe mashed banana
  • a spoon (or two) of chia seeds/flaxseeds
  • cinnamon to taste

Instructions

Mash the banana in a bowl (if you’re using the microwave) or in a pan (if you’re using the stove). Add in all your remaining ingredients and microwave it for about two minutes, then give it a stir, then microwave the oats a bit more, for about thirty seconds. It takes about this long for me when I’m using the highest power (it might differ depending on your microwave and on what you consider cooked oats). They should be slightly firm but still creamy; you should be able to stir them. On the stove it might take a minute longer, you should cook them on low temperature and stir all the time; be careful not to burn them (I’ve done it too many times).

Toppings

You can use everything, basically: a piece of dark chocolate, frozen/fresh berries, any sliced fruit, nut butters, nuts, seeds, you can drizzle it with maple, agave or some other syrup or add a spoon of »nutella«. My personal favourite is mixing a spoon of cocoa, a drizzle of coconut nectar and a tiny splash of soy milk in a small cup and microwaving it for about 30 seconds (no more because it will boil and you’ll turn your microwave brown, happens to me about every other time). Then I just pour this over my porridge and that’s it! Be careful not to burn your tongue; porridge doesn’t cool down quickly (which is why I sometimes add a splash of soy milk on top). It is, however, the most filling, delicious and healthy breakfast ever, and my favourite during winter.

This was oats, mashed banana, soy milk, water, chia seeds and cinnamon, topped with a piece of 85% chocolate and a drizzle of maple syrup. It was more on the dessert side, to be honest.

Nice cream

My favourite breakfast in the summer or whenever I feel like eating ice cream! I think I actually enjoy it more than regular ice cream, maybe because I’m a health freak, or at least that’s what they say. The first thing you need to do is slicing a couple of ripe bananas (the riper, the better) and storing them in your freezer overnight or at least for a few hours. The second thing you need is obviously a regular blender (smoothie maker) or a stick hand blender.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 ripe frozen bananas
  • a splash of »milk« or a couple of spoons of yogurt (not necessary, but I prefer my ice cream a bit softer)
  • any flavour that you desire: you can add cocoa powder, fresh/frozen berries, cinnamon, nut butters, vanilla…

Instructions

Blend it all in a blender or in a bowl with the stick hand blender until smooth. You can add any topping you like and you’re done! Just be careful not to get brain freeze.

2 frozen bananas, a cup of blueberries, 2 spoons of soy yogurt. Topped with walnuts and chocolate sauce made of cocoa powder, peanut flour, coconut nectar and soy milk (in the microwave).

Yogurt with banana

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. I used to love Greek yogurt with banana slices and honey; so I veganized it.

Ingredients

  • soy or any other plant-based yogurt
  • sliced banana
  • any desired toppings: more fruit, nuts, seeds, syrup, dried fruit, granola etc.

Instructions

Mix it all in a bowl and enjoy!

Additional recipe for the homemade granola that’s pictured below

Ingredients

  • oats
  • cinnamon
  • nuts
  • some kind of syrup (any)
  • chopped dates

*The quantities are a personal choice and depend on how much of it you want to make and on how sweet you want it. Also, the more syrup you add, the stickier it will become. I usually use about 2 cups of oats, a random amount of cinnamon, half a cup of nuts, half a cup of dates and a quarter of a cup of syrup. I sometimes also throw some seeds in there.

Instructions

Mix it all in a bowl, adding the syrup in the end and mixing it well again. Place the granola on a tray lined with baking paper and bake at around 160 degrees Celsius for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven. Don’t forget to check on it, it burns quickly. When it’s done, add the chopped dates and cool everything down. Store in closed jars/plastic containers.

Homemade granola, soy yogurt, sliced banana, sliced strawberry.

Warm Weetabix with banana

You can, of course, eat this cold (as it’s meant to be eaten lol), but I like the hot version since it’s getting cold outside.

Ingredients

  • 3 (or more) Weetabix biscuits
  • one ripe banana
  • about a glass of plant-based milk
  • cinnamon
  • topics of choice

Instructions

Very easy: mash the banana in a bowl, add the biscuits and the cinnamon, then the milk. Mix it all and the biscuits will get from dry and disgusting to mushy and nice. Microwave for about two minutes and here’s your alternative to porridge! Top with whatever your heart desires and enjoy.

Tip: eating cold Weetabix with milk, mashed banana, frozen berries, some kind of liquid sweetener and cinnamon is also amazing and my favourite version for the summer.

Weetabix with mashed banana, cinnamon and soy milk, topped with the banana leftovers, some roasted almonds, raisins, and a piece of super dark chocolate. Featuring my broken bowl from a Chinese shop in Valencia (I broke it about 2 minutes after buying it). Good times.

Sweet potato »toasties« with stuff (including banana, worry not)

This might take some more time, unless you have leftover baked sweet potato, so perhaps it’s better making it four lunch or dinner if you’re in a rush in the morning. You can, of course, just make the sweet version, or just the salty (which would exclude bananas, sadly), but here are the ingredients for both. Also, you can just use regular bread if you’re not feeling adventurous.

Ingredients

  • one smaller sweet potato
  • one banana
  • nut butter of choice
  • jam of choice
  • hummus
  • smoked tofu

Instructions

Cut the sweet potato into slices that are about a centimetre thick (sometimes it only means cutting it in half) and bake them in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius for 20 to 25 minutes. (I hear that some people use a regular toaster for them, but I haven’t tried yet, so I wouldn’t know. I tried microwaving them once, because that’s apparently also a thing, but it took ages and they weren’t as good as they are from the oven.) Spread the nut butter and then the jam on one piece and top with banana coins. Spread the hummus on the other slice and top with slices of smoked tofu. I know it sounds bizarre but it’s seriously delicious, I kid you not.

Well, this contains exactly what’s described above.

I hope this post about 5 vegan breakfasts gives you ideas on what you can make with bananas, and what you can generally eat for a vegan breakfast (regardless of whether you’re vegan or not). This is not where the options for meals featuring bananas end at all, though, so expect more on that topic. 😀