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Vegan Lifestyle – Everything You Need to Know About a Plant-Based Diet

Curious about embracing the vegan lifestyle? Or maybe you already dabbled with no-meat, no-animal byproduct dishes, but want to know how realistic it is to commit to the lifestyle. It’s been linked to weight loss and improved health. Either way, you’re not alone. In fact, a growing number of Canadians are becoming vegan (one in 10 consider themselves vegan, according to Dalhousie University).

But do you have to be single without the responsibility of feeding a family, be rich enough to shop at Whole Foods on the reg, and the willpower to go out with friends and not order a single thing on the menu?

The vegan lifestyle isn’t as strenuous as you might expect, says Olivia Biermann, author of Liv B’s Vegan on a Budget. With more than 650,000 fans, the Halifax, Nova Scotia influencer can be found on YouTube, Instagram and on her blog

“A lot of people are learning about the benefits of including more plants in their diet, whether for ethical, health or environmental reasons,” says Biermann, about the growing popularity because of the diet’s impact on health and fitness and weight loss. “Also, a lot of celebrities are fans of veganism, and tons of vegan cookbooks have been hugely successful in recent years.”

Here, she busts the myths that living a vegan lifestyle is a chore. In fact, she explains how easy it can be – with a few dietary tricks.


Vegan Myth: The vegan diet is about avoiding certain foods

It’s true that the vegan lifestyle is about avoiding meat and dairy. But being vegan is not about deprivation – it’s the opposite, says Biermann. “When my meals were centered around meat, there wasn’t much room for trying new things or experimenting with new foods.” But that has all changed. “The biggest impact [from veganism] has been on my love for food. I eat such a diverse diet now that I never did before going vegan. Now that I’m vegan I love everything- all vegetables and all flavours. Food just tastes so great.”


Vegan Myth: The vegan lifestyle is expensive

Biermann does admit, especially in Canada, that shopping for vegan foods can be tough. “The biggest challenge has always been wishing we had access to more vegan brands and products. However, this has actually forced me to learn how to make my own versions of these foods- vegan cheese, sauces, seitan, baked goods, ice-cream, et cetera.” She covers much of this in her new book. (See below for her Strawberry Citrus Smoothie recipe.)


Vegan Myth: You need a lot of time to prepare home-cooked vegan meals

The same thing could be said about macro diets or weight loss plans. But the strategy with vegan cooking is the same: batch prep. She plans her meals for the week by cooking grains ahead of time, chopping veggies, and making a few different sauces. “I can mix and match meals throughout the week but still save time in the kitchen.” She recommends stocking your kitchen with a food processor, blender, a big frying pan, a sharp knife, a whisk, and some mixing bowls.

Her staple meal: steamed mixed veggies, pan-fried veggie patty, topped with chili sauce and served over rice.


Vegan Myth: You’ll gain weight from all the vegan carbs

“You can definitely eat a carb-heavy vegan diet, but you can also eat less carbs and more fat-protein if you wish,” says Biermann. “There are lots of vegan foods that are lower in carbs. Also I think consuming whole grains, like brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat, is a good way to consume carbs because they have the added fiber.” (Of course, with any change in diet, weight can change either way on the scale, but a personal trainer can help with that.)


Vegan Myth: Vegans have no social life

A vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean a life without friends or force feeding your family foods they don’t want to eat. Vegan food is very delicious, and many restaurants. In fact, Biermann has created tons of videos that perfectly fitting of fun times with friends and family, from vegan movie snacks, vegan restaurant picks, school snacks, shopping at Walmart and more.



Image: Brilynn Ferguson

Strawberry Citrus Smoothie

Smoothies are a go-to breakfast for me. They are quick to make and super nutritious, and they can be different every day, depending on what you put in them. Since this is a light smoothie, I like to have it along with something else, such as Chickpea Scramble or pancakes.

Serves 2

Time: 5 minutes

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) orange juice
2 tbsp (30 mL) ground flax seeds
1 cup (250 mL) frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana, chopped

Pour the orange juice into the blender. Add the ground flax seeds, strawberries and banana. Blend on high speed for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses and serve.

Olivia Biermann’s Tip: If you are looking to make this smoothie a bit more filling, try adding a serving of protein powder or 2 tbsp (30 mL) chia seeds before blending. Both options will give it more staying power and keep you fuller longer.

Recipe excerpted from Liv B’s Vegan on a Budget.