This vegan life: ‘It has become so much easier in recent years’

Holly White and Serena O’Reilly on the benefits and challenges of the vegan lifestyle

Holly White: ‘I love the way I feel eating this way.’

Holly White: ‘I love the way I feel eating this way.’

 

Holly White is as good an ad for a vegan lifestyle as it is possible to imagine. She positively glows with good health and enthusiasm and, using only plant-based foods, makes amazing dishes which would make you forget your love for meat in a heartbeat.

She interrupts her preparation for a video shoot to talk to Pricewatch about the virtues of veganism.

“It has become so much easier in recent years. In the past, I would have had to visit a couple of supermarkets and health food shops but now a good supermarket will have everything you need.”

She also says people in her wider circle have become more used to the notion. “They are more interested in it than anything,” she says. “The are more interested in what I eat than I am sometimes. I don’t bring it up or make a deal of it, but I will sometimes find myself introduced as: ‘This is Holly, she’s a vegan.’”

She started out on the journey for health reasons. Dairy products didn’t really agree with her and meat made her feel bloated to the extent that every meat-based meal felt like she had just eaten a full-blown Christmas dinner.

Not wishing it could be Christmas every day, Holly went in search of alternatives. She realised that she liked how she felt after meals that did not contain dairy or meat. “I love the way I feel eating this way, I prefer the way I feel when my diet is focused on plants and lighter ingredients.”

Cruelty

Animal welfare as well as environmental concerns cemented her move away from meat. “The scale of cruelty involved is not a conversation most people want to hear,” she says simply.

Ethics and health aside, she says it can also be a much cheaper way of living. “Lentils are an incredible swap for beef and four times cheaper. A lot of the vegan stuff also has a long shelf life so there is less food waste.”

There are downsides and she hates the attention asking for vegan food in a restaurant – particularly outside of Ireland where language barriers may exist – brings. “I know I am a bit in the public eye so this may sound strange, but I don’t like drawing attention to myself and that can happen sometimes if I am asking about a menu.”

As for things she misses – we are thinking cheese and ice cream for starters – she says she doesn’t fuss over it. “If I am missing something I think hard about how I can recreate the tastes but in a vegan way.”

Serena O’Reilly is a nutrition and lifestyle coach and a committed vegan of almost five years. She says many of the people she coaches have been to other nutritionists who push the need for meat and milk. “My starting point is that you can get the nutrients you need from a plant-based diet,” she says, although she does stress the importance of B12 supplements.

More doable

“My aim is to help people in the most sustainable way. My thing is not all or nothing, people should do it at their own pace, identify the foods they already eat and see what they can make plant-based. It is about making it more doable and enjoyable by swapping out things here and there.”

She actually reckons the eating part of veganism “is the easiest part”. And what it the hardest part? “It is the dealing with other people that is the challenge, getting that acceptance and support from other people.”

Like White, she doesn’t like the attention her dietary requirements can bring when eating in public. “It is tough. I often check ahead either on the website on by phoning the restaurant, but it is getting easier and it is becoming more accepted.”

She also says it is cheaper, although that depends on the approach you take. “The cheapest foods are whole plant foods. A tin of chickpeas is 29 cent, a 1kg bag of rice can be bought for a euro.”

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