It’s crazy how small the world can be with most things happening for some reason or the other. When I lived in Kelowna, I had the great luck to have some of the best landlords I’ve ever had. And until recently, months and maybe even a year after I left, I find out that the household I was a part of as a tenant followed a Vegan diet!
Our latest post features an interview with Elisha Lonegren, a mortgage broker from Kelowna, BC, passionate about living a vegan lifestyle 🇨🇦
This post contains a ton of valuable advice about Vegan diets as part of daily lives, during pregnancy and now, raising two cutest of kids. There’s a lot to takeaway about Veganism and it’s positive impacts on overall health and our environment 🌱🥘🌎
Tell us about yourself
I am not any kind of influential person! I am just normal person who loves to eat good food and drink good wine. I’m 33 years old, I have two kids (2 and 4 years old), and I work for myself as a mortgage broker – so I’m busy! I was a dental hygienist for nearly 10 years, so I’ve always been into health sciences. I made the shift into mortgage brokering a little over a year ago, allowing myself to work from home with my soon-to-be husband. I love exercising, mostly to tame my anxiety and help me sleep better, but now that I’ve been doing it for so long, my body craves it. I believe what we put in, and on our body, is our ultimate medicine for health. And I love dogs!
So the purpose of this post is to discuss Veganism, how long have you been vegan for now and what motivated you to make the change?
I would call myself a “sensitive person”. Not in terms of emotions, but in terms of my body. I jokingly say I’m like the princess and the pea. I can feel even the most subtle shifts in my body and I’m hyper aware of discomfort. I remember when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t drink milk other than skim milk – because of its water-like mouthfeel. I always disliked sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese and basically anything other than ice cream and yogurt. I grew up with a hunter for a father, who always preached about using all parts of the animal, and for that I can appreciate. As I moved into my early to mid-twenties, I began noticing that my stomach would hurt after a bowl of my favourite ice cream – cookies and cream, mmmmm! I also started feeling nausea almost every morning. This was a time when my boyfriend would make me an omelet almost daily. As a dental hygienist I was wearing hypoallergenic face masks at work, and developed an eczema like rash around my mouth. It wasn’t terrible, but I’d have dime sized patches constantly coming and going. I attributed it to the mask I wore at work. Slowly, I would see these spots show up on my arms or my neck, chest, body. Not a lot of them, but a few at a time.
I was very fortunate to be working at a “biological” dental office in Vancouver where we had an array of patients and doctors who exposed me to alternative health practices of all kinds. Eventually I was led to have blood testing done for food sensitivity. This type of testing is typically done through a naturopath and is different from the “poke” testing at an allergist. I found out that I am on the severe end of sensitivity for all dairy and eggs. I also found out that these are some of the top allergens that MOST people have! How did I not know this before?? I was shocked, but also annoyed at myself for not connecting the dots. Being someone who was so in tune with my body, how did I not connect things like nausea after eating eggs, or a rash on my face and upper trunk to food? I even had a handful of occasions where I would eat ice cream and then be up vomiting all night, and STILL thought to myself “I must be lactose intolerant”. Little did I know, that was my body screaming at my to stop putting poison in it!
After I began cutting out eggs and dairy, all I was still eating was small amounts of chicken (I was very picky about that too), and fish. I began doing some reading.
I read the books “The China Study” and “The Kind Diet”. At the time these were some of the only books around relating to veganism. The China Study is super dry, but sooo informative about disease related to consumption of animal protein – mostly dairy. And The Kind Diet was a great introduction into easy shifts to make towards veganism and had a ton of recipes to kick start me in the kitchen. I had told myself that I would test out eating vegan, and if it didn’t work for me, I’d go back to eating some chicken and fish.
I never looked back! I can’t say I’ve had a squeaky-clean record. But I can say that taste buds change with time and the handful of times I’ve had a bite of lobster or crab, it has not tasted nearly as good as I remembered it to. And the realization came that its more about the sauce or seasoning than the meat. I don’t miss or crave anything non-vegan, I feel healthy, light, and always satisfied. I raise my kids vegan, and was vegan throughout my pregnancies and we are all thriving.
What do you think the most positive result of veganism is?
Over the years, my reason behind living a vegan lifestyle has shifted. I used to be focused on myself and my own health. Of course I’ve seen huge changes in my energy level, my skin, and my digestion. But most of all, my compassion for all living beings has grown.
My love for mother nature and our planet’s wellness has grown. Now I feel it is undeniably one of the best things we as humans can do for ourselves, loved ones, the planet and all animals.
Obviously the top reason for most people to become vegan is the animals being harmed in the food industry. What are some other reasons to go vegan?
Of course the prevention of harm being inflicted on animals is paramount for so many, and with that said, there are a lot of “junk food vegans” out there who do it for ONLY the animals – and that’s amazing. For myself, I live in a space where I feel the eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the foundation of my meals.
And I eat and love all the treats too, in moderation! If we nourish and love our bodies first, we will have the health and wellness to love all creatures (be them human or animal!).
What is one thing you wish people would know about being vegan?
It’s not as hard as people think!
Once you shift your mindset from “what meat am I making for dinner, and with what sides to accompany it?” to “what whole meal do I want to enjoy?” I gets easier.
Once you have your new go-to fave few meals to make during the week, just like anyone has, that becomes the new norm!
Lots of rumours and myths out there that vegans may not be able to get enough nutrients or protein because of all the foods excluded from your diet. There have been studies on both sides of the spectrum. Based on your personal experience, do you feel it is easy for you to keep yourself healthy and on track on a vegan diet?
Even in my pregnancies, when all women are faced with risks of low iron (not just vegetarians and vegans), my iron levels were just fine. There are soooo many more plant-based sources of protein out there that are very simple to incorporate into one’s diet.
Also, certain veggies when eaten with complimentary veggies are a complete protein already. I love tofu, but you don’t need to eat it to survive being vegan! Far from it.
There are so many other forms of protein naturally occurring in grains and veggies.
Does everyone in your family follow a vegan diet?
I was the lone wolf for many years! I also was very gung-ho in the beginning, preaching my opinion on anyone and everyone. Now I sit back, and realize that people will do what they’re going to do in their own time. Now, my mother, brother and sister-in-law are vegans. And on my hubby’s side, his mother, both his sisters and their spouses are all vegan. Along with my kids, and my mostly-vegan hubby – who has the odd non-vegan meals when he’s out of the house with friends.
Since you have two insanely cute kids, was it challenging to go through pregnancy being vegan?
Not at all! In fact, when you’re pregnant there are so many food restrictions – most of which are ALL non-vegan things. It’s crazy when you actually think about it. Aside from sprouts, all the high-risk foods that can contain contaminents or bacteria, and should be avoided when pregnant, are all meat, dairy and egg-based foods.
Maybe we, as humans, should be avoiding this food altogether if it’s not safe for our unborn babies??
My cravings were very different with both kids. Grapefruit around the clock with my son, and yam and green onion quesadilla’s with my daughter. These are both things I don’t usually eat, so it was weird for me to craze such random things! I think our bodies crave certain nutrients we need at the time so I think it’s important to listen to cravings – with moderation.
What did you see as benefits of being vegan during this process?
There are so many things to be stressed out or worried about when you’re pregnant, so for me, my diet wasn’t one of them. My trick for keeping nausea at bay was the opposite of what one might thing. I kept almonds in my pocket, and every 30-60 mins, I’d eat a few. Having something healthy and protein-rich helped me feel so much better than going on an empty stomach.
Knowing that my unborn babies were being fed organic, whole-foods, plant-based nutrition made me feel at ease.
What is your go-to meal that you think even people who aren’t 100% vegan should try out if they are looking to go vegan?
Oh my gosh, I should ask my hubby! He raves about my pesto pasta with roasted broccoli, my tempeh tacos, or my Caesar salad. I’m a BIG fan of roasted cruciferous veggies…we have something almost daily. Whether it’s in a bowl, on top of salad, or just on it’s own. My kids will eat a whole bowl of roasted broccoli on its own…olive oil and salt is all you need!
A few great people to follow on Instagram are @minimalistbaker and @ohsheglows. They have books and websites with tons of great recipes. There are so many more, but both these women make simple, tried and true options for everyone. They are my fave go-to’s for recipes.
Being vegan has this viewpoint that goes parallel with it, it can be expensive. Do you think this is true? Any tips for everyone to be vegan on a budget?
Absolutely the opposite! What’s the most expensive thing in the average person’s grocery bag? Meat or cheese most likely.
When you eat veggies, fruits, grains and tofu/tempeh it is super cheap. Don’t get me wrong, nuts can add up, as can bigger items like tahini or peanut butter, but there are great bulk foods stores for these items and they won’t break the bank.
Have there been times when people simply don’t understand your diet because they are completely against it?
Yes for sure. I find vegan gets paired with gluten free a lot. So many servers will look at me if I ask them what my options are on a menu and, for example, they’ll say “well, this is gluten-free…”. Or I’ll get asked if I eat fish, quite often! I’d have to say though, over the last 9 years, there has been such an explosion of available options for vegans, and much more knowledge surrounding the topic. Overall it just keeps getting better and better for us vegans!
Do you think there will ever be a period of time where we see a majority of people going vegan?
I sure hope so! At a minimum, if people can incorporate even a few vegan days a week, it would help mother earth, the animals, and their health so much.
Any other tips/recipes/advice you’d like to share?
My one big tip for people wanting to try it out: give it a shot, and if you have a few slip-ups, that’s ok. If you stick with it, it will get easier and easier, and eventually you’ll only crave delicious vegan food! Pick a few great restaurants with vegan options so if you don’t feel like cooking, you’re still able to stick with it. Pick a few easy go-to meals to cook. It all get easier with time! It’s about creating new habits, and new delicious food!
Thank you so much Elisha for taking the time and sharing all your personal experiences with us and our readers. As I manage this blog weekly, I do come to realize that it’s the people around us that we can learn from the most rather than having to follow someone who is influential. We have people all around us at all time who are rich in knowledge and are willing to share all they learn to help us better our lives for our planet and future generations