This article was first published on 8 January 2021. It has since been updated with the addition of recipe demonstrations for interested vegans or the vegan-curious to try out.
When Mansi first heard that a friend of hers had turned vegan six years ago, she was baffled. At the time, she believed that being vegan meant restricting your diet to just raw vegetables and fruits.
Today, she doesn’t just know better; she, too, has adopted a vegan lifestyle. In fact, she is now a plant-based restaurateur and an advocate for veganism — a far cry from the past.
Mansi’s transformation didn’t happen overnight. While she has always had a cursory awareness that veganism existed, she never quite knew what it entailed. Like many others, she held many misconceptions about veganism, including that vegan food only comprises salad, and that veganism was just about food.
In fact, it was only a couple of years later that Mansi had her epiphany. The watershed event? A documentary titled Cowspiracy.
Cowspiracy sheds light on the animal agriculture industry and the ongoing cruelties behind it, exacerbated only by the increasing scale of production over the years. Horrified by the animals’ plight, Mansi took it upon herself to further research and eventually, was convinced enough to make the switch.
Despite her conviction, going vegan wasn’t an overnight affair. Instead, it took Mansi months of careful preparation and work before she made the full transition. Even then, the journey wasn’t always a smooth-sailing one and she had her fair share of struggles.
Bumps in the road towards veganism
When asked about some of the main challenges faced when she embarked on this journey, Mansi said, “It can be an isolating journey”. This is especially so at the beginning when the community surrounding you might not share the same lifestyle choices or understand why you made such decisions.
In particular, Mansi struggled with eating out as many restaurants at the time did not know what veganism was or found it too much effort to change up their menu to provide a vegan alternative for her. Additionally, Indian culture places a large emphasis on sharing food, something that she wasn’t able to do as readily once she turned vegan.
Mansi was also on the receiving end of negativity and skepticism during her journey. However, she acknowledged that oftentimes, these comments come from a place of ignorance rather than ill-intent. To these individuals, she urged them to be less defensive, more open-minded, and to do their own research on animal agriculture and the vegan lifestyle.
In fact, she went as far as to say that “there is irrefutable evidence out there that [veganism] is a healthier way to eat and [better] for the planet. It’s the most compassionate way you can eat. It’s not propaganda, it’s just fact.”
It is with this conviction in mind that Mansi has stood firm to her choice and continues to advocate veganism today. While she understands that these struggles can serve as a barrier to people adopting a vegan lifestyle, she also believes in a simple solution: changing your mindset.
Think green, don’t just eat green
Instead of viewing becoming vegan as “taking away from your diet”, Mansi recommends that you view veganism as a way to better and add value to your diet.
Mansi admits that before embarking on this journey, she held several misconceptions, such as how she would have to make many compromises to her lifestyle and sacrifice many of the foods that she loved (such as ice cream).
However, her journey has made her realise that this was not the case at all. Instead of being restricted, she realises that a vegan lifestyle has actually forced her out of her comfort zone, pushing her to constantly innovate her cooking and find new recipes and ingredients to try out.
Moreover, going vegan isn’t just a one-way street that only benefits the environment; it has many perks for your health and psyche as well!
The perks of going vegan
Beyond the long-term health benefits such as a lower risk for diseases like diabetes and obesity, going vegan has also greatly improved Mansi’s mental state.
Since going vegan, she has realised that she has started to be more conscious of her behaviour. According to her, “once you start caring about one thing, you care about all the other things associated with that”.
While her move towards veganism was first sparked by her compassion for animals, it later expanded into a general love for the planet. Thus, she was encouraged to adopt more sustainable lifestyle practices beyond just leading a vegan lifestyle.
Going vegan in Singapore
Mansi’s journey has also been helped by the plethora of vegan options that have exploded in Singapore since she arrived here two years ago. In the past couple of years especially, alternatives to non-vegan foods have increased multifold, and being a vegan in Singapore today is as easy as it can possibly be!
When Mansi first made the transition into a vegan lifestyle, she had to give up some of her most-loved foods including ice-cream, chocolate, and cheese. Today, plenty of vegan alternatives for these items can be found easily in Singapore supermarkets and artisanal stores. In particular, Mansi recommends Oatly ice-cream for a delightful vegan treat that is just as good (or even better!) than the real thing.
It also helps that awareness of veganism in Singapore is quite high, and most restaurants and eateries here are willing to cater to vegan customers even if it might not be a part of their standard menu. Mansi mentions that while she does still do a bit of research before eating out with others, she has found that restaurants are generally kind about your preferences and will do their best to serve you.
Better yet, vegan food doesn’t even have to be expensive! Vegetarian stalls in hawker centres are aplenty and as long as you avoid ingredients like egg, many of them serve food that are wholly vegan. (Of course, if you’re looking for a fancy vegan meal, expect to also pay fancy prices!)
Advice from a seasoned vegan-teran
Looking to go vegan? Take some advice from a seasoned veteran:
- Take things slow. There’s no need to make an overnight switch to veganism. It’s okay to take your time. Make small changes and find out what works for you.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are no perfect vegans. There’s no need to beat yourself up if you end up eating animal products by mistake. Instead, the most important thing is to just keep trying to be better every day.
- Find a support group. Vegan communities are everywhere and there’s a thriving one right here in Singapore. While Mansi did feel isolated in her vegan journey at times, she is grateful that she had a supportive family and a friend who was also embarking on the journey alongside her. Having a vegan community also aided her in the transition as she could ask them for advice on things like how to shop or what to ask waiters when ordering food.
- Continually educate yourself. There are tons of resources out there covering an array of topics related to veganism. A list recommended by Mansi herself has been included at the end of this article for your reference.
- Perspective is key. You have to discover your own motivations and stick true to your own beliefs. Mansi recounts feeling apologetic when she first started transitioning to a vegan diet and was out with friends. However, she later realised that these are her beliefs and values, and they are ultimately beneficial for the environment. Thus, there was no need to feel apologetic for her choices.
To help out new vegans or aspiring vegans, we also asked Mansi for her must-haves in her pantry. She recommended two items: coconut milk and nutritional yeast. The former, she describes as her Hail Mary. It is incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, across a whole range of cuisines. Simply substitute any recipes that call for cream or milk with coconut milk and you’re good to go!
The latter is a popular vegan ingredient that is incredibly rich in Vitamin B12 (usually found in meats). It also has a savoury umami flavour that goes amazing with almost all Western dishes.
Mansi’s favourite recipe? A simple vegan cream cheese dip that consists of soaked cashews, garlic, salt, lemon, and nutritional yeast blended until smooth. It’s chock full of flavour and so incredibly simple — so make sure you give it a try!
While Mansi used to believe that veganism was an extreme lifestyle choice that was unfathomable in her books, she has now come around to realise that veganism is ultimately a very simple thing — it’s just about “being kind to animals and other beings”.
Interested to learn more? I debunk myths about veganism here.
If you’re keen to try out a vegan lifestyle or just expand your food horizons, do also check out these recipes recommended by Mansi and Pooja (the founder of vegan platform Eat, Roam, Live and Nourish, an online vegan marketplace). We promise, they’re so delicious that you won’t miss the meats!
- Improving health or lifestyle: What the Health, Forks Over Knives
- Fitness-related: Game Changers
- Ethics of veganism: Dominion, Earthlings
- Overall environmental impact of animal products: Cowspiracy
This is a prelude and the first part of an introduction to TheHomeGround Vegan Channel. Over the coming months, we will be releasing additional content about vegan lifestyles and introducing resources for rookies and established vegans alike.