If you haven’t heard of her, Lauren Toyota has been shaking up the internet and what it means to be vegan, on her YouTube channel and blog, Hot for Food. She and her boyfriend John create and post impressive recipe videos on their channel, proving that anything can be made vegan.
While previously working in the entertainment industry as a VJ for Much Music, and later as a host and producer, she is now a full time YouTuber/Blogger. As a vegetarian myself and someone interested in plant based eating and cooking, I reached out to ask her a few questions about this lifestyle, what she likes to eat and tips she has for college students.
NK: How long have you been vegan and why did you decide to make the change?
LT: I went vegan on Jan 1, 2010. I transitioned over a couple of months but by that date I made a promise to myself to eat fully vegan! I was vegetarian for a long time growing up and went back to eating an omnivores diet and basically I just never felt good. I didn’t think I could ever go vegan because I loved cheese, but again, it just made me feel awful.
So once I watched Food Inc. and Earthlings, and read a few books on the subject I decided I couldn’t go back to my old ways. The fact that I loved animals and was eating them never sat right with me either so I had to make the change!
NK: Can you give us a few easy vegan substitutes for non vegan foods?
LT: Raw cashews blend up super creamy and make a great cream or milk substitute. You can use the cashew cream to create vegan alfredo sauce, sour cream, cheesecake, and many other things. They’re my personal favourite! We make a mind-blowing nacho cheese sauce from cooked potatoes and carrots which omnivores always find delightfully better than actual processed queso cheese!
And pea protein is now used to make a lot of the vegan meat substitutes on the market whether its chicken or ground beef. It’s high in protein and when seasoned properly and combined with other plant based ingredients it can really satiate any meat eater.
NK: What tips can you give vegan college students or those thinking about making the change?
LT: I think you just have to start implementing the changes you wish to see! Yes, it’s going to require a little more planning on your part to eat vegan while on campus, but the result is you’ll have more energy, feel better, and probably save money. Student meal plans are often expensive and don’t offer the healthiest food options from what I’ve come across.
Start eating all vegan lunches or dinners and work your way up from there. You don’t need to feel the pressure to have to make drastic changes overnight. Little steps are much more sustainable and will help you get used to the changes you’re making without overwhelming you.
NK: What are the best ways to be vegan on a budget?
LT: Buy in bulk, but seasonal fruits & vegetables, stick to whole foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes) – the junk food is what is going to be more expensive and have less nutrient dense calories to keep you full! For certain packaged goods you might be used to buying, it will be cheaper in the long run to make things like granola bars, muffins etc. from scratch. Then you can also freeze them! Also to help you stay on track with the vegan diet, meal plan with friends. Having someone to be accountable to can help motivate!
NK: Your recipe posts and videos are impressively done. Do you have any tips for food photography/videography?
LT: I’ve always liked natural light and find it the easiest to shoot in. When in doubt just go overhead with food photos. That angle usually always looks good! But I literally knew nothing when I started the blog and the youtube channel. So you just have to practice and play around. John and I both learned how to use cameras and editing software on our own and anything we couldn’t figure out we hit up google so anyone can do it really!