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Vegan Living

Q&A with Lauren Toyota: How to Level Up Your Vegan Meals

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lauren toyota header

We chatted with cookbook author Lauren Toyota, who was once named Canada’s Most Influential Vegan by IMPACT Magazine, about eating vegan.

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Tell us about your journey with veganism. When did you decide to adopt a vegan diet and what inspired you?

I decided to adopt a vegan diet because I always had a feeling that eating animals and animal products wasn’t good for me, and also because they didn’t make me feel great physically. My turning point came around in 2009 when I watched the documentary Food, Inc. and read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. These were the most important influences for me in deciding to make the change and finally go for it. It took time, about two to three months, for me to transition out of an omnivorous diet and into a vegan diet.

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What was your experience like adjusting to a vegan lifestyle?

I was pretty excited about the challenge going vegan presented me with. I saw it as a way to challenge myself to give up foods that I was addicted to because that is what it was. As humans, we eat habitually and are generally socially conditioned to eat certain things. And, truthfully, we don’t really think outside that box. So, when I started to transition to a vegan diet, I actually took it as a fun opportunity to branch out, explore new vegetables, learn ways to cook vegetables and prepare things that I never had before.

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What is one of your personal favourite recipes from your bestselling cookbook, hot for food all day?

I’m a big fan of the coconut pecan biscotti recipe. I personally love creating sweet recipes and I nailed this one. Not only does it make a great treat to turn out around the holidays, but I feel it really is as good, if not better, than a biscotti that isn’t vegan! It tends to be a big misconception that all good desserts must contain butter and eggs and I am out to prove you wrong!

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What vegan recipes would you recommend to someone who has never tried vegan food before?

I’d love for people to try my recipes, starting with my latest book, “hot for food all day.” It’s a great entry point for achievable, easy comfort food that you can eat every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also teach people how to level up their leftovers so they can reuse them in a way that’s not monotonous and boring, but that’s actually exciting — transforming leftovers into new meals.

If someone has never tried vegan food before and starts with my recipes, they’ll find that there might be a couple of pantry items that they’re not used to seeing — things like nutritional yeast or miso paste — that I use in all of my recipes. Grab these and get started. Trust me, they won’t go to waste as they show up in many of my recipes and will be used consistently no matter where you get your vegan recipes. Adding new spices will be key to building a vegan pantry and I always like to remind people that these are flavour boosters — things that are going to make your food tasty and not bland.

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