How to Become Vegan with Thea Justein
Graydon: I've been running around and it's so hot today. I'm having some blueberry juice and kombucha to cool down. It's hard to believe that it's still hot out in October! I'm so grateful for that. I love this hot and humid weather. And I also just picked up my vegetable basket here from Clear Water Farms. Look at these beautiful peppers! So speaking of vegetables...why don't you tell us more about you and what you do!
Thea: [laughs] For sure, so my name is Thea and I have been vegan for 3 years and I started an Instagram account called Plated Plants. I've been a vegan for about a year people kept asking me what I ate, so I just decided to start an Instagram to show people what I ate. I actually work in television, a completely different field but I've always had a passion for health and wellness. I just decided to have a career path in a different direction and have food as more of a hobby and something I love to do on the side. Creating Plated Plants has just been such a nice outlet for me. When I became vegan I was so passionate about it. I started off sharing healthy recipes but now it's grown and I also share tips on where to eat, which restaurants are great for vegans, what to avoid. And now three years later I've never looked back!
Graydon: That's great to know because we do plant powered skincare here so there's some nice synergy! So aside from your obvious compassion for animals which is huge for me too, can you share a little bit about your own health and wellness journey? It's easy to make the transition once you have the right mindset but it's still a big commitment.
Thea: I grew up loving meat and dairy. I couldn't live without animal products and didn't eat a meal without meat. In Grade 11 I started wanting to diet but I never had a good relationship with food, and it's hard when you're growing up when you want to lose weight.
Graydon: Yes it's so important to be mindful about food and what you put into your body.
Thea: I just never had that good relationship with food. Fast forward a couple of years, and I still hadn't gotten to a comfortable spot. I always went to bed with a bit of a stomach ache; always felt uncomfortable and bloated. It's actually a funny story, a year after graduation, I was working for a media company and helping out a YouTuber and helping her shape her content strategy. That's when I started really getting into YouTube and discovering health bloggers. So many of them were vegan. I dove into these videos at work and home and got addicted. They were all these beautiful, athletic, gorgeous girls who were eating so much food. I didn't have any vegan friends so I didn't really know about this world. Then I started watching these documentaries. The first one I watched was Cowspiracy and the next day I went cold turkey and became vegan. These girls just looked like they had such a good relationship with food and after watching these documentaries it all just suddenly made sense. I feel like I'm in such a healthier mindset than before.
Graydon: I think part of what you're getting at is being fully nourished and not depriving yourself. It's not about just counting your portion sizes. You can never have too many healthy vegetables and healthy fats. I'm not too much of a sugar or grain person but I'm a little bit older than you and I feel healthier now compared to my thirties. I have a birthday coming up and I feel so grateful to be well and having a good relationship with my body, and certainly as I've aged, my skin and complexion has changed but in a way it's gotten better. I had an eating disorder before and osteoporosis, but I've actually gained bone density in the past few years. I just feel so grateful to be a year older, be on this journey and a leader in the green beauty industry. My focus is skincare but I'm also all about food and it's the food that has been the inspiration for the skincare line.
Thea: Yes, it's taken me a long time to realize that what I put on my skin has a big effect on how I feel on the inside. I'm trying to use more natural beauty products now since it affects my health.
Graydon: Well we can definitely help you out with that! So do you have any tips for people who are struggling to make better choices for their life and how to get started in getting into veganism?
Thea: If everyone cut out three meals with meat per week and replaced them with plant based alternatives it would make a big difference. If someone comes to my page and decides to make a vegan pasta instead of eating chicken, that helps. Animal protein is not a necessity. A big myth is that people believe that vegans are protein deficient but it's possible to get protein from other plant based sources. If someone is looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle, I like to help and show them plant-based meals they can incorporate into their diet. It's hard to cut out meat.
Graydon: My son isn't vegan but his diet is largely plant based. He eats more black bean dip than anybody but he's still a nineteen year old boy, so if he still needs to add a bit of chicken to your salad then by all means go for it, but be conscious about where you get it from. I think factory farming is so revolting but there are people in my life who are not ready to transition, so what I try to do with family members is educate them about good places to buy animal protein.
Thea: A lot of people just don't want to hear about it so I don't push because I don't want to be a naggy vegan. When someone asks me why I don't eat something, I'll reply with, do you really want to know because I don't want to waste my time if they aren't really interested and rather not know the truth.
Graydon: We just passed Thanksgiving which is a plentiful meal, so I made a lot of rich dishes like a mushroom ragu, lots of root vegetables, and it was the ultimate compliment when my father said what I made was really good!
Thea: [laughs] For sure!
Graydon: So what message do you want to leave with our readers.
Thea: I would say just educate yourself about the environment and animal cruelty. Some people don't have a clue so it's important to keep learning and the less you will be inclined to keep purchasing that product. And once you learn, don't stop learning. Sometimes you might question why I'm vegan but then I'll rewatch a documentary or see or read something new that reignites my passion. It will influence you to make better decisions and what you buy.
Graydon: And maybe volunteer at an animal shelter!
Thea: Yes, that's also a great option.
Graydon: It's funny because you can't exactly put a dog on a vegan diet.
Thea: They say it's possible for cats though!
To watch the full interview check out our IGTV channel on Instagram. You can check out Thea's vegan recipes over on her Instagram page plated.plants