You Say You're Vegan, But You're Probably "Plant Based". A Talk With @ThatsChelsea

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Netflix’s “What the Health” documentary about the food industry has encouraged (what seems like) everyone and their cousins to venture into a vegan diet. As a Pescatarian, transitioning into a vegetarian lifestyle, I understand the appeal. You should care about that you consume and use on your body. However, if you are truly considering changing your dietary preference it’s important that you get all the facts and have a plan (unless of course, you are able to hire a personal chef who can make you yummy vegan meals all the time). In addition, you should know the difference between a vegan lifestyle and a plant-based diet.

Food and Lifestyle Blogger, Chelsea Williams has been living off a plant-based diet for several years now. She is known for her holistic lifestyle and colorful plant-based recipes. Personally, she is one of my go-to people for recipe inspirations (and just inspiration in general), so it only made sense to speak with her about how to successfully transition into a plant-based or vegan lifestyle.

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What’s the difference between “veganism,” “vegetarianism,” and a “plant-based” diet?

“Veganism” is deeply rooted in animal rights. It’s more than just one’s diet. It’s a lifestyle that involves politics and ethics. Vegans eliminate all animal products from their lives. This includes bee products, leather, fur, wool, silk and ingredients derived from insects, like Carmine.

“Plant-based” is a diet comprised of whole, plant foods. One who is “plant-based” may eat vegan meals and may even be vegan by definition. However, there are plant-based foodies that are not vegan as they may still use other animal products even if they don’t eat them.

What inspired you to do start a plant-based diet?

I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease [in middle school], and since then I was very focused on finding ways to maintain my health and eat healthy to manage my weight and overall health. Over time, I discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet, and I haven’t gone back since.

How has altering your eating habits impacted your emotional, physical, and mental health?

Changing how you eat makes you change how you look at everything around you (cosmetics, clothes, cleaning supplies). It really introduces a new way of living and thinking and gives you this passion to want to create a community. For me, my mood has been boosted, I have more energy, and helps me combat the [feeling of depression] I can face as a result of my condition.

How would you recommend someone transitioning to a plant-based diet? 

Eat more food at home (for sure), figure out what you like to use to season your food (vegetable stock, red pepper flakes, etc.), eat less processed foods, and focus on eating at least one raw meal a day. Breakfast is the easiest way to incorporate a raw food meal. You can have a green smoothie or bowl of fruit and be good to go.

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What are "grocery essentials" for you?

Quinoa (for protein), vegetable stock (to add flavor to quinoa and other things), mushrooms, black beans, red onion, zucchini, and squash.

Speaking of essentials, what are some of your favorite recipes?

I love to bake zucchini and squash using olive or coconut oil. I also love using walnut meat in vegan tacos (it sounds crazy, but it’s amazing), and Buddha Bowls.

What’s a “Buddha Bowl”?

So, a “Buddha Bowl” is basically anything you want in a bowl (literally). I love brown rice or quinoa for my base and then add chickpeas, tomato, kale, and zucchini.

What have been some recipe failures?  

Oh, my goodness, in the beginning, I had tons of failures. My noodles and vegetables always ending up tasting funny. That’s why it’s so important to eat at home when you first start. When nothing tastes right, it’s so easy to want to eat out, but you can’t be dependent on the restaurants. As far as actual “failures,” I would say, I haven’t been able to master vegan strawberry shortcakes yet! It always comes out heavy. Also, even though I love it now, it took me so long to master making walnut meat.

Do you encourage your family to eat plant-based diets as well?

Yes, but everyone isn’t there yet. When I’m around I’ll cook for them. I’ve learned to go in with the mindset that I have to cook myself. Luckily, my mom will make sure that there are options for me; but I still will bring my own food from home with me at times.

Who would you not recommend a plant-based diet for?

Before changing your diet, you should talk to your doctor and figure out what is best for you. In the vegan/plant based/vegetarian community some can be very judgmental and harsh. People should do the best they can do with what they have access to. If you find yourself OBSESSED with what you are eating, an unhealthy relationship with food, it can do more harm than good – mentally. You may not be ready to transition if you find yourself fearmongering.This lifestyle shouldn’t feel forced.

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