How to keep the Veganuary challenge beyond January: Interview with Alisson Simmonds

Veganuary is a month-long challenge for everyone to try a vegan diet. Beginning with every new year and lasting for 31 days, this challenge started in 2014 and has grown rapidly since then, with over half a million people from 220 countries taking part in 2022. In the end, the UK-based non-profit Veganuary shows how our diet can influence the world and change it for the better.

Taking a look at Veganuary & veganism in general, we sat down with Alisson Simmonds, a Columbiana living in the Netherlands who is all about sustainability. What does it mean to be eating green, and does it need to be veganism? And what do you do when it comes to kids? We asked Alisson what her story is, so you don’t have to.

This is maybe a bit of a personal question at the beginning, but it’s important to ask. What is your general relationship with food?

Alisson: My relationship with food is good now. But it took me years to be in the state where I am now. I grew up in Barranquilla, a Caribbean city in Colombia. Being thin is the norm there. I had trouble with food because I didn’t want to gain weight. The worst thing is that my friends were all the same. As teenagers, our conversations were often about the latest diet or who had tried what pill to reduce weight. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great and healthy childhood, but my relationship with food was very wrong. Things started to change in my early 20s. I moved away from Colombia and started living on my own in Germany. Over the years, I started to learn more about food. And simultaneously, I started to feel more comfortable with my body. Thus, my relationship with food is now much healthier than before.

From diet culture to veganism: Have you tried veganism?

Alisson: Throughout my life, I have met and have friends that eat vegetarian. But it was back in 2016 that my partner and I started to eat mostly plant-based.

How has it been to eat only vegan food for you? What were your reasons to try this lifestyle?

Alisson: It all started back in November of 2016. I was already conscious about fashion and was into fair and ethical practices. I guess the next step was to be more conscious about food. One night, my partner and I were watching the film Before the Flood, and we felt the urge to do something. But it was a couple of days later, after we watched Cowspiracy, that we made the switch and started our plant-based journey.

What challenges have you encountered on the way if any? How did you overcome them?

Alisson: In the beginning, it was challenging to find restaurants with vegan options. But we could always make it in an Asian or Italian restaurant. Nowadays, that is not an issue anymore. Vegan and vegetarian options are becoming more normal.

What do you think about a vegan diet & babies, and kids? What is your experience with Luna?

Alisson: A vegan diet is not per se a healthy diet. But it can be if you eat the right food. I started to do the research when I was pregnant. And luckily, I had a great and healthy pregnancy – as well as post-partum time and breastfeeding time. When Luna started to eat solid foods, I made sure to give her a good amount of food rich in proteins, iron and vitamin C, and made sure to avoid added sugars. To date, we eat a great number of fruits, vegetables, and grains. We love food replacements to soothe cravings, but we try to keep them limited only to weekends. Luna is soon to be four, and so far, she has had a healthy childhood. She is not a picky eater, but like any toddler, she has phases where she eats well and phases where she doesn’t like anything.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of going vegan or vegetarian, for whatever reason - planet, animal welfare, etc.?

Alisson: I would recommend the following documentaries to help out made your decision:

  • The Game Changers
  • Cowspiracy
  • What the Health
  • Forks over Knives
  • Live and Let Live
  • Blackfish
  • Earthlings
What tips can you give for people to start? Anything you should have at home to make the transition easier?

Alisson: Something that helped me a lot was to print out and stick to my fridge sheets of foods rich in protein, iron, vitamin C. Also, to start following vegan accounts on Instagram and vegan blogs. It might look like a hard thing to do, but little by little, you will get used to the new lifestyle.

While challenges like Veganuary are crucial to spread the word about sustainable food options, and it’s definitely worth a try, choosing a healthy & eco-friendly lifestyle that works for you and which you can stick with long-term is always a good way to go.

If you are interested in Alisson and her sustainable journey, make sure to follow her on Instagram.

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