“I was born a picky eater, so it was inevitable that I would grow up to be choosy about what I eat,” jokes Nola Ro, curator of Vegan for Beginners and Sumptuous Vegan.
But her shift toward a vegan diet actually kicked off in response to health problems. “At age 17, I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and was advised by renal specialists to change my diet,” Ro recalls. “After years of battling symptoms, I finally got serious about my food journey around age 25. The transition to plant-based eating lasted more than 10 years, but now that I’m here, I’m confident that I’m not turning back. I feel better when I avoid meat and dairy, so this lifestyle is a no-brainer!”
Today, Ro taps her many years of experience to help others navigate the vegan switch with her company, Sumptuous Vegan. “I present monthly Vegan for Beginners workshops, offer e-books, and prepare individual meals for those in the New York City area who crave delicious vegan food,” Ro explains. “I realize more and more people are interested in learning what vegan eating is, and some are ready to transition. I cater to those folks with Sumptuous Vegan.”
Yes, it's vegan! Nola Ro pairs portobello steaks with caramelized onions and tomatoes atop quinoa and red potatoes.
Q: What do you think are some common misconceptions about vegan consumers and/or vegan diets?
One common misconception about vegan consumers is that eating vegan is an automatic gateway to good health. With any diet/lifestyle, it’s always essential to choose the right foods. Vegans eat junk, too. The key is moderation in everything we consume. Another misconception is that vegan food cannot sustain the body to perform strenuous activities. I offer an e-book (Eat Vegan & Workout!) that dispels this myth. I explain that protein and other nutrients are available in the fruits and vegetables we love eating.
Q: How can pizzerias and restaurants do a better job of communicating their vegan offerings to customers and reach the vegan community?
I believe that the vegan community has a strong word-of-mouth movement. But vegan eateries can rely on that too much, alienating new vegans who are not yet in touch with any support communities. In terms of what restaurants should know when catering to/accommodating vegans: seasoning! Many cooks don’t realize that while we avoid meat and dairy, we’re still very interested in flavor!
Q: Why do you see vegan eating as not just a trend but a full evolution of our eating habits going forward (even among meat eaters who are incorporating more plant-based foods)?
Choosing to avoid meat, dairy and animal products is a conscious choice. Any choice that requires precise consistency provides an opportunity for individual growth. As a collective, we are actively choosing to revolutionize how we teach the people of the future to eat.
Q: What strides have you witnessed in vegan food options over the years, and what do you want to see or predict for the future of this space?
I am impressed by how creative we have become in providing fun foods in many varieties. The future is vegan!
Return to articles