To know me is to also know that I am the biggest fan of Beyonce. My fandom goes way back to Destiny’s Child concerts with Solange singing backup. I can belt out any song from “Dangerously in Love” to “Lemonade” word for word.
So when the Queen puts out a call to action, I usually answer. Last week Beyonce announced the launch of “The Greenprint Project,” a new vegan lifestyle initiative in partnership with her husband Jay Z.
The hook? Any fan who makes an earnest effort to adapt to a plant-based lifestyle can enter to win tickets to their concerts for the next 30 years. I’m sold. I consulted with my girl Shaneka Valdez, owner of The Veg Switch-up and a hardcore vegan, to help me curb my snickers and Cheetos obsession before the winner is announced.
32 Letter: What do you think of Beyonce and Jay Z’s vegan challenge?
Shaneka Valdez: I think the challenge is a great idea because it gets people curious about veganism. Sure their typical challenge is 22 days but in that time frame, someone might decide to do further research and possibly stick to the vegan diet. It might sound like all hype at first, but one thing it does is get people talking.
32: How long have you been vegan?
SV: I started out eating a vegetarian diet in September 2017 and then began transitioning towards a plant-based diet around March 2018.
32: What inspired you to take up the vegan lifestyle? Was it a particular person or life event?
SV: I originally went vegetarian to see if it was something that could fit into what I considered my already healthy lifestyle at the time. I started out doing a personal 30-day challenge and since I really only ate seafood and chicken beforehand, it turned out 30 days wasn’t hard at all for me. I kept going and along the way, I watched countless documentaries, read a few medical journals and after a while, I decided that I wanted to go completely plant-based. I was already eating about 90% vegan anyways but still classified myself as a vegetarian.
32: What misconceptions do you find yourself consistently dispelling about being vegan?
SV: Oh my goodness where do I start? I would say everything from vegans not being able to get enough protein to showing people that I eat a whole lot more than just salads every day.
32: How could someone who loves burgers, chicken, and ribs as much as I do tip-toe into the vegan pond? What tips could you give to get them prepared?
SV: I would first say to sit back and think about why you want to do it. Are you doing it for health, the environment, the love of animals, or even all three? You are better able to stick to your goals if you know what they are and why you are doing it in the first place. Next, I would say to do a little research. Watch a few documentaries, join a few meetups or online groups of similar interests and read some books on veganism. Now when it comes to eating the best advice I can give is to keep it simple. Think of all of your favorite meals and challenge yourself to switch out ingredients to make it vegan. You can try switching out dairy milk for a non-dairy alternative, butter for non-dairy butter and so forth.
32: How do you deal with people who have negative things to say about being vegan?
SV: I think the greatest thing about living in a 1st world country is that we have the choice to eat whatever we want. If someone chooses to be negative towards my choice to be plant-based I kindly remind them that I’m not forcing them to eat anything I have and leave it at that. Now if they show interest and have questions beyond that I am more than happy to answer any they might have.
32: How were you able to educate yourself about veganism? Books? Podcasts? Health gurus?
SV: I went all in and watched documentaries like What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Cowspiracy, Vegucated,
32: Do you think being vegan is just a trend?
SV: Although there are some who may have jumped on and off the bandwagon after watching “What the Health,” I don’t believe being vegan is a trend. It is a complete lifestyle choice that doesn’t just affect the food you eat, but also the clothes you wear, the makeup you put on, even the type of personal [hygiene] and hair care products you use.
32: Did you experience any major positive or negative physical changes after adopting a plant-based lifestyle?
SV: I feel great. Now don’t get me wrong, being vegan doesn’t equal healthy and at first, I was so overboard eating the meat substitutes that I actually gained a ton of weight for the first time in my life. I kept thinking to myself how am I gaining all of this weight after giving up meat? I had to remember that even though they are vegan foods, they were still processed foods and I have since learned to cut back on them. Eating more healthy meals has given me more energy, mental clarity, I sleep better, and I don’t have that heavy, weighed down feeling after I eat a meal anymore. I’ve also changed my mindset on how I think about food. I no longer eat to please myself or other people. I pay more attention to the cues my body sends and I nourish it accordingly.
32: What’s your go-to vegan meal when you’re in a rush?
SV: When I’m in a rush I like to keep it simple and make either a veggie pasta dish like spaghetti or some seasoned roasted veggies and potatoes. I’m pretty efficient at making those in 30 min or less.
32: How can people learn more about your platform?
SV: I started The Veg Switch Up last year to just document my journey as well as share some of the foods I’ve tried eating out or make at home. My ultimate goal is to be a resource and help coach people who have an interest in transitioning into a plant-based lifestyle. Currently, I can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter