Chat with a vegan: Dreena Burton, cookbook author and fascial stretch instructor

Chat with a Vegan: Dreena Burton, cookbook author and fascial stretch instructor

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, Emma Levez Larocque sat down and spoke with Dreena Burton. Dreena is a plant-based cookbook author and a yoga and fascial stretch instructor based in Vancouver, British Columbia. We hope you find her experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Dreena across multiple platforms:

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

How did your vegan journey begin?

I kind of just went through this period in my teenage years where I noticed I wasn’t feeling so good, and that’s when I really started to pay attention to what I was eating.

I was constipated a lot. My digestion didn’t feel good. I was starting to have joint pain problems in my early twenties and I came across a couple of books that opened my eyes. One was Diet for a New America by John Robbins and the other was Fit For Life. Both really opened my eyes to dairy, big time to dairy, and also to not eating meat, and phasing it out. So that’s how I moved into it, was phasing it out. There’s that magic time of about, I think a month, they say to really let the body change and adapt and your palate to open. And that happened for me.

It’s been over 25 years, but I can’t imagine having lived any other way. It was so obscure at the time. And I think living out West gave me a little more opportunity to feel that was accessible because there was more interest in it in the area that we live.

How did you get started writing cookbooks?

I was led into my cookbooks, I’d say largely, from moving out West. And at the time, my husband’s father had had a heart attack and his cardiologist in St. John’s recommended a plant-based diet, which was really unheard of.

I had been working in a marketing position in St. John’s and my heart was not in it at all. I was just like, I cannot see myself doing this for the rest of my life. People said to me, you know, when you talk about food, you light up. I was like, of course I do. Loved it since I was a kid. I knew my parents-in-law were needing help with recipes, and that’s when I just started to sketch things out myself. I wanted to create recipes that I felt like they could use, and they were healthy, whole foods, very low in fat for what health conditions they were going through.

That was the start of it for me. And then I kind of grew with it with every life change in a way, because the next book involves after having our first daughter and trying to incorporate more foods to feed her and those concepts.

How did you start teaching yoga and fascia classes?

 I felt great in my body through food, through diet. That removed a lot of pain and discomfort in my body up until about my 40s. And then things started to change where I was feeling like my joints were hurting and my body just the things I love to do like cooking, for instance, even caused me pain. I thought maybe I’m just missing something like alignment, how to align your body.

So I took yoga and I wasn’t sure if I was going to teach. To me, it was just to learn, but something kind of pulled me into wanting to teach.

So, I just kind of kept on that journey in the background and I was teaching at a studio. But the joint stuff didn’t go away and it was irritating to me because I felt like I’m doing everything right.

And then I came across this work to change your fascia, which really has changed my life because I don’t have the pain anymore. When I talk about fascia work, this is working at the tissues on a deeper level from the inside out. It’s a movement practice, but it’s not yoga.

Everything that we’ve done in our life has shaped the quality and health of our connective tissue. And we want to keep it healthy because if it’s not, it’s dense and dry and not pliable as it should be. It restricts the movement of the limbs. So this is why you have pain. When you can free up the fascia, then the limbs move better. You feel better in your body. And so it’s a really simple formula where you move to create the change from the inside out. It’s the most interesting form of movement that I have.

After a couple of months, I noticed, wow, I can turn my head again. I was like, wow, my tissues feel really different and I’m feeling good in my body again.

So when I started to feel shifts in my body, I can’t explain it other than I felt a draw to it. Just like when I started writing recipes, I felt a draw to it and I’m feeling that with this work.

I’ve had classes that I’ve been running online and now I’m soon to launch a site called Fascia Flo and running zoom classes and video recordings for people to also take.

How do you think healthy veganism and movement are connected?

I feel they’re so interconnected. I feel like you really cannot live well with only one. So let’s say that, because eating a vegan diet, if you’re not really paying attention to the health properties of that vegan diet, if you’re relying a lot, a lot on, we all eat some processed food. If you rely a lot on processed food, then you’re not going to feel good for it.

But similarly, if you’re not moving your body, then you’re also not going to feel good for it. And some people move their bodies all the time and don’t really pay attention to healthy diet. And that, you know, can cause stagnation and issues later on. And also people eat super healthy, but don’t really pay attention to the movement.

We are animals, after all. Species all follow a certain way of eating and they all move. We’re not meant to be as sedentary as we are, and you know, we have to work, we have jobs, we have these things, but we also have to pay attention to what we need to do to balance that out when that is part of our life.

I think when you’re following a plant based diet, you tend to then pull in all these other elements of wellness along the way. If you stay with it, right over time, you want to learn more about this part of wellness. All these little things start to kind of come in and movement’s part of that to me.

What inspires you?

I feel like learning inspires me. I mean, that sounds kind of corny in a way, but I’ve never really idolized people. I’ve looked up to people like I, I would love to meet Dr. Campbell one day. And people who’ve, who’ve taken a different path. even though it was so challenging for them to do so, that’s very inspiring. But also just seeing, you know, people do the things they want to do despite their challenges.

That growth of a human that’s possible is what’s inspiring, and knowing that it doesn’t stop, you know, you remember being in your twenties thinking you know everything, and then you get to your thirties and you think you still know quite a bit. And then you get to your forties and you’re like, I don’t know, I think I’ve got tons to learn. And so you really can keep learning and it’s exciting to keep learning.

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Emma Levez Larocque of Plant-based RHN and featured Dreena Burton.

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Chat with a vegan: Derek Simnett, nutritionist, YouTuber, and athlete

Chat with a Vegan: Derek Simnett, nutritionist, YouTuber, and athlete

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, PlantUniversity’s Brighde Reed sat down and spoke with Derek Simnett. Derek is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner based in Parksville, British Columbia. He also runs a YouTube channel called Simnett Nutrition where he talks about how to live a healthful vegan life. We hope you find his experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Derek across multiple platforms:

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

Why did you go vegan?

So, I went vegan because of my love for animals. So, it started out as me learning about the animal agriculture industries and how terribly the animals were treated, and I just started to wanna honour my love for them. So, I started to eat more grass-fed meat, and I started to find the free-range eggs and that sort of thing.

Not only did that become expensive, but I started to learn that I wasn’t really saving any animals’ lives. In the end, they were maybe having a slightly better life, but also, there’s some loose regulations around those terms. Let’s say that. So, as I continued, I just started to eat less of them.

I started to feel better and eventually they just completely got off my plate. There was definitely a time where I could not look at what was on my plate and not see the animal that it once was. And I knew once that started happening, every time I thought, ah, I need to completely give this up.

And along with feeling better and starting to perform better, I just thought, ah, this is definitely the way.

Did going vegan inspire you to start a YouTube channel?

I started my YouTube channel to actually bring traffic towards the nutrition consulting services that I was offering at the time. Because I figured what a better way to let people know who I am and give a little bit of free information out there, you know, then start a YouTube channel.

So that’s what I did, but the YouTube channel kind of took off and I decided I really wanted to do that because I figured I could reach a larger audience than doing the one-on-one consulting. And that is how, that’s how it all started. So, it, yes, it kind of did in a sense. I wanted to show people how to live a healthful vegan life.

What do you talk about on your YouTube channel?

My YouTube channel is mostly focused on helping people make healthy, plant-based foods taste good. We can talk all day about the, you know, the minutia and the details and this study says this and this and that, but really, we know that we have to be eating more whole plant foods and a lot of people just don’t know how to make them taste good or they don’t know how to cook them.

And that’s where a lot of people stumble. So, I do that, but I do talk about how much we should be eating, proper supplementation, and that sort of thing as well.

How do you stay in shape as an athlete?

It’s funny hearing someone call me an athlete, but yeah, I guess I am, you know, I do that, I do activities every day. I live a healthy and active lifestyle, so I do definitely go to the gym every single day or at least, you know, five or six times a week. But another big part of me staying, uh, healthy and fit is to exercise outside of that.

And it’s just going for bike rides, you know, jogs. I try and do some sort of movement every day, if not twice a day if I can. The gym is like my main thing though. And there I do a lot of calisthenics and weight lifting.

How do you think being vegan impacts your training?

The one thing that I noticed right away when I went vegan, I was a runner at the time and I had a lot of joint pain in my ankles and just really all over my body. And I noticed quickly that I didn’t have that and I also recovered a lot faster and I could then go for longer runs sooner.

So that was sort of the first thing I noticed. And now I feel like it’s the same thing. I recover really quickly. My muscles hardly ever get sore, so I’m able to continue to train quite often. I don’t get sick very much. So, I think just, you know, a bunch of different reasons.

What’s a day of eating like for you?

Well, I wake up, usually I’ll have warm water or some lemon water, and then I’ll have a bit of toast and peanut butter or maybe just some fruit. Then usually after that I’ll go to the gym. Sometimes I’ll have a cup of coffee in between that, if I don’t have that jump in my step that I like to have.

And, then after that come home, I’ll have a smoothie or just some leftovers, and then I’ll have usually a small lunch, which could be something just like, oh, probably more, more leftovers, like a small stir fry or something like that. And then for dinner, basically the same, but such a wide variety of foods, whether it be, you know, pastas, like I said, stir fries, lots of tofu, tempeh, beans and lentils.

We absolutely love cooking a bunch of stuff in the Instant Pot. So that’s one of my favorite things to do, make stews and chilis and that in there.

What do you eat after a very heavy workout?

Usually a smoothie is what makes me feel the best. I’ve tried to switch it up and eat other things, but I know that smoothies always make me feel best. For a post-workout smoothie, I’ll have a few bananas in it, and then I will have a cup or so maybe two cups of frozen berries.

I’ll have some ginger. I will have some turmeric in there, a little black pepper to help with inflammation and recovery. And I’ll have a scoop of plant-based protein powder and then some sort of source of omega threes like usually either flax, chia or hemp seed in there. And then I try to get some greens in.

Cilantro is one of my favourite. I know people find that weird in a smoothie, but it’s one of my favorite things to have in there. But also, like parsley. And if I don’t have that, handful of kale or just any sort of mixed green.

What’s your favourite vegan protein?

So as far as food sourced protein, that would definitely be tofu or tempeh. I just never seem to get tired of those. Another one that I’ve been eating a lot lately is actually from a British Columbia-based company called Big Mountain Foods. And I’m not sponsored or anything by them, but I love this product that they have.

And it’s actually a soy free tofu, and I believe that they’re the first company to do this least in Canada and they’re making a tofu out of fava beans. And it’s amazing. It’s a really high source of protein and it’s very similar to tofu.

What’s your favourite hack to make cooking easier?

Definitely making large batches of the calorie rich sources of food at one time. If I’m going to have rice and you know, broccoli and maybe some tofu or tempeh for dinner, I will make a whole bunch of rice rather than just making enough for that meal. And then I have some for the next day. And the same thing goes if I’m cooking potatoes or sweet potatoes, squash, lentils. The Instant Pot has been a huge help for us. I don’t like to meal prep because I get tired of eating the exact same food over and over again.

I don’t like to see this thing sitting in the fridge that I know I’m going to eat like four days from now. But, I know if I have something that I can just take a scoop or something of, and then kind of create a meal around that, that’s always really nice for me. So that’s probably the best hack I have.

What advice would you give to a new vegan?

The biggest mistake that I see new vegans make is they just don’t eat enough calories. It’s because whole plant foods are just not as calorie dense as the animal foods.

So, what I usually recommend or I suggest to people is that they check out a total daily energy expenditure calculator. It’s a lot of words, but it’s a T D E E calculator and that takes in both your basal metabolic rate, but also the energy that you expend throughout the day, whether it be at work or at your activities.

You have to plug in like your age, your height and all that sort of thing, so it’s quite accurate. Then if your goal is to, you know, gain weight, obviously you want to be a hundred, 200 calories above that, if you want to lose weight, a hundred to 200 calories below, and then go into a program like Chronometer or MyFitnessPal and track your calories from there. You shouldn’t have to do it for long because you really can get a good idea of how much you’re eating after just a few days of doing it. But I think that’s a really good way.

And then also you can see sort of the nutrient breakdown to see if you’re getting all your nutrients. But I don’t track very closely myself. I just make sure that I eat enough foods from a variety of plant sources every day. Include a few higher protein sources like tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans. That sort of thing.

And yeah, that’s kind of my best advice.

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Brighde Reed of World Vegan Travel and featured Derek Simnett of Simnett Nutrition.

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Chat with a vegan: Pamela Fergusson, Registered Dietitian

Chat with a Vegan: Pamela Fergusson, Registered Dietitian

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, PlantUniversity’s Brighde Reed sat down and spoke with Pamela Fergusson. Pamela is a Registered Dietitian who owns a private practice in Nelson, British Columbia. We hope you find her experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Pamela across multiple platforms:

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Pamela Fergusson, a Registered Dietitian. I have a Ph.D. in nutrition and I have a private practice. I live in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, and I run my practice from here. I see people from across Canada and also internationally too. I specialize in plant-based nutrition and I am vegan, but I see all types of eaters. Generally, the omnivore clients that I see are usually looking to transition to more plant-based and I always help my clients move in the direction of being more plant-based. We have so much evidence that it is an optimal way to eat.

For fun, I’m very fortunate. I live in the beautiful Kootenay region of B.C. We live in such a gorgeous place, full of hiking, swimming, beaches, and amazing skiing in the winter. And I try to take advantage of that as much as I can. I have four children. Three of them are still living at home, so I’m a busy person with a business and also a busy family and I have a beautiful dog as well. Life is busy, but when I have the opportunity, I’m outdoors. I’m also very passionate about yoga; I try to go to yoga five or six days a week.

When did you become vegan and what was your motivation?

I get asked this all the time and to be honest, I cannot remember the exact time that I went vegan, but I think it was around nine or ten years ago. Before that I was a vegetarian for a long time.

I originally went vegetarian in university after reading the book Diet for a Small Planet. I went vegetarian partly for environmental reasons, but also this idea that was put forward in that book that we have enough calories on our planet to feed everyone, we’re just distributing them poorly. That was compelling for me as I was interested in eating lower down the food chain so that we do not squander our food resources.

Much later on, I became fully plant-based and it wasn’t until then that I switched on more to the ethical issues so I decided to be fully vegan. I was motivated by the environment, and I was somewhat motivated by health. But once I made the connection with animal suffering, that was what took me from 90% of the way there to a hundred percent and fully committed.

What was easy for you when you went vegan and what was more of a challenge?

I have to say I do have a little bit of an advantage that I am a Registered Dietitian. I have a Ph.D. in nutrition, so I went vegan feeling quite confident that I would be able to cook meals that I would enjoy. I had been a vegetarian before for a long time, so I already had some expertise in preparing plant-based options.

Probably the more challenging part was bringing my children on board. We transitioned the children over a year. The kids had been omnivorous before that. We went very slowly with the kids so they felt on board with the transition and just moving at the pace that was comfortable for them as their taste buds adapted and as their identity adapted.

My kids eat a plant-based diet at home and make their own decisions outside the home. They have varying levels of commitment to or interest in being vegan. At home, they are fully plant-based and they enjoy plant-based food.

What are some nutrients that vegan children need to make an effort to get?

Key nutrients for vegan children include dietary fat. Children, particularly younger children, and toddlers require a lot more fat in their diet than adults do. This is not an age group to be eating low fat. They should be enjoying sources of fat like nut and seed butter; hummus is a great one because it’s providing healthy fats as well as protein.

Don’t hesitate to use some oils when cooking for children. If oils are something that you use in your household, you certainly can use those in preparing foods for your children.

Protein is also important. We don’t need to overly worry about protein, but we certainly wouldn’t want to get into a pattern of feeding children mostly only fruits and vegetables. They do need to be getting a few protein-rich sources a day like beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, and meat alternatives are also an option if your family includes those.

Nuts and seeds are also sources of both proteins and healthy fats.

Next, we can consider some of the micronutrients like iron, a key nutrient for kids. Iron deficiency is common in children, not only for vegan kids but actually among omnivorous children as well. We do need to think of iron-rich foods in plant-based options, those again are a lot of the high-protein foods. Beans, lentils, and greens also are good sources of iron and tofu is a pretty good source of iron too.

Finally, calcium. I encourage all plant-based families to offer a cup or even two cups of plant-based milk to their older children each day. If you have a baby or a toddler who is consuming breast milk or formula, then you may be waiting until they’re old enough. Talk to your dietitian or pediatrician to introduce plant-based milks. For school-aged children, pre-schoolers, and certainly teenagers, including a cup or two cups of plant-based milk that’s fortified with calcium each day will help them to meet their calcium needs.

Calcium is well distributed across whole foods in a plant-based diet as well. Dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, particularly sesame seeds, so tahini and tahini dressings are a good source of calcium, or once again hummus.  Green veggies and leafy greens as well as tofu, beans, and lentils are good sources of calcium. The combination of choosing mostly whole plant-based foods, along with fortified plant-based milk; I would underscore that.

Although those are key nutrients for plant-based families to consider, they’re really just the nutrients that are important for growing children, and these are certainly available on a plant-based diet.

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Brighde Reed of World Vegan Travel and featured Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD.

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Chat with a vegan: Rian Peters, recording artist

Chat with a vegan: Rian Peters, recording artist

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, PlantUniversity’s Brighde Reed sat down and spoke with Rian Peters. Rian is a recording artist based in Vancouver, and a vegan of many years. We hope you find his experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Rian on Instagram at @iamtheliving and @livingplantfoods, or on his website.

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Rian Peters, I am a recording artist. I go under the stage name I Am The Living. I’m based in Vancouver

Why did you become vegan?

I became vegan because a friend of mine sent me a video a few years back and I decided to watch the video, and when I watched the video, it really resonated with me it sparked something inside of me that I would never forget. He was talking about veganism and, the reasons why it’s good for the environment and good for animals, and for your health to turn vegan. There were some images that he showed within the lecture and yeah. I just built a newfound type of compassion and empathy for other living beings. So after I felt that I told myself I can’t continue to consume animals.

What were you concerned about when you went vegan?

To be honest, I didn’t really have any fear, I just felt that it was the right thing for me to do. It was more so just the gradual steps, a lot of people can go cold turkey, excuse the pun. But for me, I decided I’d take it to step by step. That really helped me on my journey to where I am today.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about going vegan?How do you get your protein?

I would just say to them just be confident in your decision and also take your time. But at the same time, if they feel like they’re just ready to cut out certain things from their lifestyle when it comes to what they eat then, go for it. If they’re a bit more on the edge about it, not too sure of what to do take gradual steps. So, just take your time with it and know that this is the best thing for you to do for your health first and foremost, and for the animals, because if you’re not consuming animals, then the animals don’t have anything to worry about.

Yeah. It’s taken me to a place that I never thought I would ever get to. The foundation of my nutritional intake is a raw frugivore lifestyle. I eat an abundance of, natural whole fruits. This is a huge part of what I eat on a daily basis with tender leafy greens, juices smoothie bowls. I stick to uncooked foods. That’s where I’m at right now. I didn’t start that way though. But now, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been to in my life. I’m very happy with how I feel and the energy that I have.

Do you miss eating animal products?

I sometimes still get that question, but I remember when I did transition, a lot of people asked me if I had missed the animal products. From the start, I didn’t miss animal products at all because I knew that it was the best thing for me, for my health, and once my senses started to change and adapt to the foods that I that we are naturally supposed to consume, I didn’t miss the smell or the texture or anything to do with animals.

What benefits have you experienced going vegan mentally, physically, and emotionally?

Absolutely. All of those three. Everything just went onto another vibration. It’s the best I’ve ever, felt inside and out. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

When I was a lot younger I never had this amount of energy and freedom. I feel like sometimes the foods that we eat can really hold us down mentally and spiritually and physically.

What’s your favorite food?

My favorite, my number one favorite vegan food has to be the mango. Fruit is definitely my number one go-to. The creator created mangos for us to eat, you can just grab it off a tree and eat it. That’s my top fruit.

What do you cook when you’re trying to impress?

So there was a time I had a really fun gathering with a bunch of vegans. It was like a potluck, people brought, different foods and I decided to prepare some plantain wraps. They’re literally just made from raw plantain, I blend it up in the Vitamix add a little seasoning, and spread it out on the dehydrator trays, leave them in a dehydrator for a few hours and you can use them as a burrito wrap. So the plantain wraps definitely were a winner.

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Brighde Reed of World Vegan Travel and featured Ravi Boghan.

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Chat with a vegan: Ravi Bohgan, entrepreneur, body builder, and supercar enthusiast

Chat with a vegan: Ravi Bohgan, entrepreneur, body builder, and supercar enthusiast

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, PlantUniversity’s Brighde Reed sat down and spoke with Ravi Bohgan. Ravi is an entrepreneur, app developer, body builder, and supercar enthusiast who is passionate about plant-based eating. We hope you find his experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Ravi on Instagram at @vegainsonline.

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

Where are you from and what are you passionate about?

I’m a dad to three children, and two lovely dogs as well. I’m married and living in Chilliwack, BC. We are entrepreneurs. We run a marketing firm, an online marketing firm – email and Facebook – a lot of stuff with Google, Facebook, that kind of thing. We also are launching a brand new app in the automotive industry in September targeted at the automotive enthusiast. We’ve also developed a completely different type of GPS than the world is currently using.

I’ve always grown up very into sports. I don’t get to play as much, but I still keep very active in the gym. The last competition I did for men’s physique was back in 2019. COVID ruined a lot of the shows but I still do photo shoots prepping for just men’s physique promotion.

Our other personal hobby is the automotive world, which is where we developed the app for I’ve developed my supercar out of a Mercedes AMG. The whole concept of it was veganism.

I have owned that car for four years. I always didn’t like that I couldn’t find a high-performance vehicle without leather in it. So I decided to take the car because I still wanted a four-door. After all, I take my kids with me to every car show and car event that I go to. We ripped out all the leather from inside the car and we replaced it all with Alcantara which was expensive. We branded it Vegains, which is my bodybuilding name Vegains online. So I branded everything Vegains inside and we turned it into a full show car.

It sparks a lot of conversation at the different car shows. And, when I get into it and talk about how the interior is redone. It’s not tuned on gasoline anymore, it’s tuned on ethanol, which is a plant so it’s fully vegan. It gets a lot of conversation started and we win many trophies at different shows.

How did you get into bodybuilding and how did that turn you vegan?

I moved back to Canada from England when I was 18. I was very thin, I only weighed about 120 pounds being just under six feet, which is common for the British lifestyle. All my cousins were all farm boy builds, very wide, a lot bigger than me. I wanted to gain some size, fit in, and defend myself against my cousins who would push me around. 

I started working out, not knowing what I was doing though it was more ego-lifting. I was young and immature and I just enjoyed being at the gym.

I trained throughout my twenties. I didn’t learn how to work out properly until I was 27. I met a bodybuilding coach who taught me how to lift properly, taught me a lot about nutrition, but more the traditional fitness way of eating, keto lifestyle, high protein, low carb days, that kind of thing.

And while I saw results, when I turned 29 going on 30, I got sick. It came from food poisoning from either chicken or cheese, we never could identify it. But my bodybuilding took a turn for the worse.

Everything went downhill, food poisoning lasted about six weeks. It wouldn’t go away. I had doctor appointments, MDs, and naturopaths, but nobody could identify it besides the fact that I had lost about 20 pounds in weight, nothing was healing. I couldn’t digest food anymore. I went on a journey after the MD agreed with my naturopath saying it appears I was allergic to animal proteins. At that point, I had no idea what vegetarian or vegan even was.

They said, I needed to change my lifestyle and go plant-based to heal my gastrointestinal system, which I did with the help of my mom cooking lots of traditional east Indian food – lentils, quinoa, garlic, ginger, and a lot of really healthy things.

I ate no junk food, no meat, and no animal products at all. When I got healthy again, a different coach asked me to start eating chicken again and eggs and train to compete the next year to gain everything back. I had a moment where I went to cook a chicken breast and I cooked it and sat down to eat it and I couldn’t eat it.

Not because at that point I had made any sort of ethical connection. It just looked disgusting. I went back to my lentils and I went back to my chickpeas and went back to eating that way which he wasn’t happy with because he was more the traditional bodybuilder. He said, okay, how about fish? I decided to eat fish. After two months of eating specific tuna, salmon, and cod, I got mercury poisoning. I went through a nine-month detox after that was officially diagnosed and got my reflexes back.

Then I started to make the ethical connection shortly after that, just comparing things with my dog Lola.

How did going vegan improve your life?

I just felt better-being plant-based and started to question everything about the fitness industry based on, what my MD and my naturopath said I probably got sick due to the aggressive keto dieting. They educated me on a lot of topics the fitness industry will never educate you on.

I was shocked to hear it all went down my own rabbit hole of research, which lined up everything that I was taught by the MD and the naturopath.

How do you get your protein?

I use Ergogenics protein powder. They have a hemp protein powder so I use that in my smoothies. I use hemp seeds in my smoothies as well, along with peanut butter. So it’s very easy to get a smoothie up to 40, 50 grams of protein to what my current coach still wants me to hit per meal.

My other sources are vegan meats, Yves Ground Veggie, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Burgers, I’ll have one, I go out to eat at restaurants. I still use it in my meal plans at home as well, more of the healthier sources would be tempeh, tofu, lentils, and chickpeas.

You kind of get protein from everything. Like when I write out all my meal plans with macros and the calories involved in them, so I can understand and envision what I’m intaking. So like when I’m making my meal plans and I add in even the rice that I’m having or the bread with the gluten protein along with the soy milk when I’m having smoothies or even a bowl of cereal, it all adds up very quickly. So hitting protein amounts is very easy. When somebody asks me in the gym, where do I get my protein?

I relay that question in a different way to say, do we even know how much you’re supposed to in terms of how much protein per day, based on your body weight and your activities and your goals in the gym?

What’s a typical day of eating for you at the moment?

So for breakfast in a general off-season meal, I do a large hash brown veggie meal. The protein source will be like the Yves Ground Veggie and tofu mixed. Sometimes, tempeh diced in just to keep a diversity: hash browns, then, veggies I’ll have like zucchini, spices, onions, garlic, and any veggies I have on hand. I do stick with the majority of low-fiber veggies. I found going plant-based originally, I didn’t need that much fiber in my diet, so I don’t eat broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus every single day just once or twice a week. I stick to low-fiber veggie foods throughout the day which helped my gut stay consistent and just continue healing. 

For lunch, I’ll make a smoothie. I’ll have a large smoothie, chia, hemp, soy milk, my protein, peanut butter, and a greens powder also from Ergogenics and then a pre-workout meal, I’ll usually make a small sandwich and then I’ll have simple sugars, like a bowl of cereal with some light granola in it so it’s higher, simple sugars and lower in fat. Doesn’t need to be high in protein, it’s just so my body has that energy at the gym to fill up the glycogen in the muscles and have a great workout. Post workout I’ll usually do another smoothie with cream of rice.

Again, get some simple sugars to heal the body, heal the muscles, and get, the energy it needs to start recovering. 

For dinner, we’ll usually do some type of rice bowl with tofu, whatever protein source we’re eating as a family, I’ll do something similar to that. And then before bed, I’d usually make a peanut butter sandwich to make sure I’ve hit my macros for the day.

Because I generally eat a lower fat diet. So I started adding avocado toast, peanut butter, chia, and hemp, to my meals, especially in the off-season. Use more of the fat content to help gain some weight and make sure I have enough calories to keep scaling and then when I look to cut in the summer, it’s very easy for me.

What’s your favourite meal?

My favourite vegan meal would probably be my wife’s Shepherd’s Pie with the gravy, or she makes a heck of a Mushroom Wellington, it’s an occasion meal. It takes a lot of effort to make, but it’s just absolutely incredible.

What’s your favourite restaurant in Vancouver?

I’d probably say Chi Vegan. Yeah, we became good friends with Chi, the actual head chef. She’s amazing. The food there is fantastic as well.

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Brighde Reed of World Vegan Travel and featured Ravi Boghan.

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Chat with a vegan: Natasha Tatton, owner of BReD

Chat with a Vegan: Natasha Tatton, owner of BReD

As part of our “Chat with a Vegan” series, PlantUniversity’s Brighde Reed sat down and spoke with Natasha Tatton. Natasha is the owner of BReD, a plant-based bakery in Whistler, British Columbia. We hope you find her experience and advice helpful no matter where you are on your own plant-based journey.

You can follow Natasha on Instagram at @eds_bred.

If you’re interested in learning more after reading this blog post, you can find great resources on the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform and subscribe to get free plant-based recipes and be notified when the next interview is posted.

Can you tell me who you are and what it is that you do in Whistler for work and for fun?

I’m Natasha and I am the co-founder of BReD, the Sea to Sky corridor’s only vegan bakery. I run it with my husband, Ed, who makes the bread. We’re most famous for our organic sourdough bread. I run the front-of-house section. I also do a lot of the finance and marketing work for the business and everything else that needs to be done.

For fun, I enjoy snowboarding in the winter, hiking in the summer, and anything else that gets me outdoors, like kayaking, going for a run, and sharing good vegan food with people.

When did you become vegan and what was your motivation?

I became vegan in the year of 2014. It wasn’t an overnight thing for me, it was a gradual progression. I had been a vegetarian for many years and when I came to Whistler I got a job at Whistler Blackcomb Ski School in the kitchen, which meant cooking for 800 ski instructors and kids every day. 

It was the first time I’d ever had to cook meat and I really didn’t enjoy cooking the meat. I was preparing food like wieners and pot pies and the meat and dairy products were really low quality too. At the same time, a juice bar opened in Whistler village. I would go there every day to eat and chose smoothies or juices to cleanse my body a little bit. 

As the ski season went on I noticed that my colleagues at ski school (who were eating the food that I was told to cook) started to put on weight, and became more depressed and spotty whereas everyone at the juice bar was glowing and they were all basically vegan. 

I realized that I wanted to be more like them. I got a job with them in the summer when ski school was over. I became a raw vegan chef and quickly started experimenting at home with vegan food.

That year, I started to watch vegan documentaries, such as Cowspiracy and Food Choices and I had my eyes opened to not only how catastrophic a non-vegan diet could be for our health, but also the environment. As time went on I learned more about how our diet impacts animals. I guess I went vegan for my health, and to look good and feel good as well as for the environment, but I stay vegan for the animals.

What was your biggest surprise when you became vegan?

My biggest surprise when I became vegan was learning the versatility of foods like nuts. I never really knew that you could make milk, butter, creams, and all those dairy substitutions with cashews and any other type of natural seed. I started making cashew cheesecakes. These desserts were really trending then and I got into making my own plant-based milk too.

What has becoming vegan brought to your life?

I think there’s a shift in consciousness in people after they’ve been vegan for a while. It sounds quite hippy-dippy, but I’ve heard a few other people remark on this as well too. You start to see animals in a different light.

Not that I was eating meat, but to be honest, I was vegetarian because I just didn’t like the taste of meat. I still wore leather and I still ate dairy products and eggs. I hadn’t made a connection between the animals that I was using and what they were going through to get on my plate.

Now, I look at animals as brothers and sisters and I’m more empathetic to them. I love watching the birds whenever I’m just walking down the street and I always look out for the crows. Before I went vegan, I wouldn’t have even noticed them and if I had noticed them, it would’ve been because they were making a loud noise and I probably would’ve been irritated by that. So I’ve just found a lot more compassion towards and an interest in animals since becoming vegan.

What did you eat yesterday?

For breakfast yesterday, I had watermelon in the morning. It’s really good for the body to get digestion going. Then I had a fruit smoothie a bit later in the day with some berries, banana, and coconut water with a few superfoods chucked in for fun. For lunch, I had leftover burritos with cauliflower and quinoa and for dinner I was emptying the fridge. I had some leftover Oh She Glows nacho cheese dip from an Oh She Glows cookbook with sautéed potatoes, some avocado that needed to be eaten, and some sprouts because I love growing my own sprouts. That’s it!

This interview from PlantUniversity’s “Chat with a Vegan” series was hosted by Brighde Reed of World Vegan Travel and featured Natasha Tatton of BReD.

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