It mystifies us at IQS HQ why some people still insist on stereotyping vegans as thong-wearing, pale-skinned, dread-locked lentil-munching hippies. Plant-based diets have been around since the 5th Century BCE and vegan diets have been found to offer protection against certain degenerative conditions, including heart disease. Vegan diets also tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and phytochemicals – so why the condescension?
Today, we put the hippy stereotype firmly to rest as we interview Brenda De La Piedre, also known as One Hungry Mami, our favourite vegan on the interwebs – and not a dreadlock in sight.
How long have you been vegan?
I just recently turned my first vegan birthday at the end of July.
What is your eating philosophy?
I’ve always believed that being in a position where you are able to choose what goes into your body is a great privilege, and for that I am truly grateful. So it makes sense to me that I would eat the best foods available that will not only fuel my body, but also nourish it. My food philosophy is that food should be simple, easy to prepare, and as close to the way that nature intended it to be. For that reason, I eat mostly raw plant-based foods.
Everyone is different so I think it’s important to remember that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, so listening to your body and what it’s telling you is important. I don’t think you can do that if you are clogging it up with refined foods, full of man-made chemicals that have little to no nutritional value.
Why have you chosen to embrace this way of life?
It actually started as a 12 week challenge that I set myself after a rather indulgent trip to the USA. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and the way food impacts our lives, so for me it was more a way of studying the effects of a plant-based diet on my own body, rather than just reading about it. The longer I did it, the better I felt. My energy levels went through the roof, and for a working mum with two toddlers, that was such a bonus! It’s definitely been a journey and I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the process. People ask me if it’s hard not eating animal products, but to be honest, it’s not. The only thing I miss about my past life is eggs. Whilst others thrive on a vegetarian or paleo lifestyle, I had tried them before and they didn’t work for me.
Why did you start the 8-Week Program?
Again, another self-imposed challenge. I’m just one of those people that always has to be doing something, trying new things. My husband always jokes that I can never sit still, even on holiday! But honestly, as an individual who eats mainly raw food, fruit is such a major part of my diet that trying to give that up for eight weeks is a real challenge. I don’t normally eat refined sugar but fruit is definitely my weakness. It almost feels like a spiritual thing for me, like I imagine lent or Ramadan to feel like for religious folk.
What’s your favourite I Quit Sugar recipe?
I really like the Coco-Nutty Granola. I’ve found it a lifesaver, especially when I’m craving something sweet. I just sprinkle a few tablespoons over some natural coconut yoghurt and it fixes my craving up quick smart.
How are you enjoying the Program so far?
I think it’s a great Program, especially if you are trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle. It really does give a lot of information and really good tips on nutrition and healthy living in general. Like Sarah’s first book, I think it’s easy to follow and well researched.
What’s the hardest thing about being vegan while trying to quit sugar?
Not being able to have fruit! I am a girl who can eat a whole watermelon in one sitting and has six bananas for breakfast if I’m in a rush… seriously!
How do you make sure you get enough protein?
I make sure I eat a variety of plant foods… and plenty of them! Green leafy vegetables like kale, silverbeet and cos lettuce make up a large part of my diet in just about every meal. I also eat raw nuts and seeds, lots of sprouts and add superfoods like spirulina, chia & goji berries to my meals. I also include some protein-rich cooked foods like quinoa and legumes, and tempeh (fermented soy bean) on occasion .
What’s the biggest misconception about being vegan?
That we live on tofu and lentils, and that we are pale and tired all the time because we lack iron. I’m sure the latter would be true if you lived only on those two foods! Having said that, I think it’s important to have your bloods checked yearly, just to make sure you stay on track. You don’t have to be plant based to be deficient, so I think that rule should apply to everyone.
How do you keep fit?
I like to run and do body-weight exercises. Nothing beats a long early morning run, when only a few are awake and all you can hear is nature and the sound of your breath. It’s my meditation as it’s the only time my mind is not racing. Keeping my body fit and healthy is my way of saying thanks to it for carrying me through this life. It’s given me two amazing children and for that I’m beyond grateful.
Does your family follow a vegan lifestyle?
That would be awesome, but no. My husband is a meat lover and that’s cool. I’m not opposed to people eating meat, it is their choice after all. I also don’t expect my children to all of a sudden stop eating the animal foods they enjoy because I no longer do. For me, choosing to be wholly plant-based was a personal decision based on my own journey in this universe. I know they are my children, but they do not belong to me, they belong to themselves. I feel my role as a mum is to nurture them and help them develop in a safe and loving environment whilst giving them choices. If my daughters turned around tomorrow and said they didn’t want to eat animal products anymore, I’ll support them, just like with anything else I guess. My main focus is keeping them healthy and thriving so home cooked meals with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are always around. I leave the animal protein prep for the hubby!
When and why did you start you blog?
I started the blog just before I started my journey, and it was a suggestion that someone made to me on social media after I told everyone I was doing a 12 week vegan challenge. It was my way to keep myself accountable and to document what changes were occurring, if any, in my body and mind. Kind of like an online journal, if you will.
It has now become a way of sharing the recipes that I’ve created along the way and connecting with other like-minded individuals. I have to say, I never thought that anyone would actually read my ramblings, so to have so much support for the blog and on Instagram has been mind-blowing. There is such an amazing community out there and I’m glad that they have adopted me!