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Health Special: How to go vegan in Mumbai

With an increase in online shopping options and home chefs whipping up vegan-only delicacies, followers of a vegan lifestyle have a lot to rejoice. We share excerpts from the daily diaries of two Mumbai vegans

Following a vegan diet was an easy transition for 29-year-old yoga instructor and dancer, Rashmi Ramesh because she was a vegetarian. "For the first six months, it was difficult. I would crave for yoghurt and cheese. But it changed slowly. Today, I react to the smell of milk as a vegetarian would react to the smell of fish," she recalls, of her early struggles. Ramesh turned vegan nearly five years back, a year after her sister also started following the discipline. For Ramesh, it was more for health reasons. "People usually turn vegan to save animals. I started it because of certain health concerns and to make my body feel lighter. After all these years of following it, I agree with it more. The fact that it helps do your bit for animals is the big bonus," explains the Ramesh who specialises in yogalates and toddler yoga.

Vegetable

Also read: Here's how vegans can get calcium

What to eat
Ramesh tells us that being an Indian and a vegetarian will make it easier for several people to follow this lifestyle, as several vegetarian Indian dishes are dairy-free. "For my breakfast, I have a smoothie made from fruits, which is three bananas blended with the fruit of the season (mangoes in summer, strawberry, etc.). It gives me energy throughout the day," says Ramesh.

As for sourcing ingredients for the rest of her meals, online shopping makes it easier. Rashmi also makes her own cashew cheese and has peanut masala buttermilk for her yoghurt fix. "Wherever I go, my being a vegan is the big question. People always ask me, 'So, do you eat only ghaas phoos?'. For those planning to follow veganism, it is a lot more easier today as there are substitutes for everything. You can use olive, sesame or coconut oil instead of ghee or butter," she reveals.

At her Prabhadevi home, yoga instructor and dancer Rashmi Ramesh starts her day with a glass of fruit smoothie. pic/sayed sameer abedi
At her Prabhadevi home, yoga instructor and dancer Rashmi Ramesh starts her day with a glass of fruit smoothie. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Away from home
Ramesh was first worried about what to eat when she was planning to go to Germany for a few days, but to her surprise, there are several vegan cafes and restaurants. "They serve mock meat burgers and every possible dish you could name as vegan. However, such food items are processed, so I wouldn't recommend eating it everyday. Even in Mumbai, most restaurants serve dishes without butter, ghee or paneer. Very few restaurants have vegan dishes on their menu, which means pizza or salads without cheese for me. But I feel it will be truly vegan when you have a substitute for an ingredient rather than skipping it entirely," she wishes.

Management consultant Vasanth Ravula, who is usually on the move, tells us that vegan-friendly apps help him find eateries in  new places across the globe
Management consultant Vasanth Ravula, who is usually on the move, tells us that vegan-friendly apps help him find eateries in new places across the globe

Money matters
On whether going vegan is expensive, Ramesh shares, "We have a variety of oils available to use instead of butter. Soy milk costs a little more than regular milk. Almond milk is expensive; that's because it's made of nuts and the demand is less. I am sure when the demand increases this would change," she hopes.

Also read: Recipes for tasty vegan dishes

Vegan, and gluten-free cosmetics

cosmetic

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From meat-eater to veganism
"Veganism is a lot more than just following a particular diet. One has be aware and stay away from any product derived from animals," says 27-year-old management consultant Vasanth Ravula. Unlike Ramesh, Ravula was a non-vegetarian who loved meat and craved it initially.

He decided to change his lifestyle when he was in his 12th standard when he realised that a goat from his neighbourhood had been killed for meat. Today, Ravula stays away from leather, silk, wool, and anything that directly causes a lot of animal suffering and exploitation, he tells us.

It's easy
But Indian food has been a respite for Ravula, as he tells us that several Indian food items are vegan. "Living in Maharashtra, poha works for breakfast and South Indian dishes such as idli are wholesome and healthy to start your day with," says the frequent traveller.

Typically, Ravula would have black tea or coffee, but soy milk serves as a good substitute for milk and he also makes his own cashew milk. For those with a sweet tooth, Ravula adds that several dark chocolates available in India are vegan. Also, paneer, which is a staple vegetarian ingredient, can be switched with tofu.

When eating out in the city, Ravula tells us that most restaurants happily modify their dishes if you ask them to skip some ingredients. It's his travelling outside India that poses a problem sometimes. "There are vegan restaurants and cafes around the world now. But it sometimes gets difficult in countries such as China or Brunei, and South East Asian countries. But after a few days, you eventually end up finding a place to eat after you have evaluated your options," he shares.

Tips for aspiring vegans

>> To make your own cashew milk, soak a cup of cashews overnight in water and blend it with about four cups of water or as per the thickness required, the next day. Mix in ingredients such as vanilla or cinnamon for added flavour.

>> While travelling across the world, there are several applications such as happycow.net that help you locate vegan eateries.

>> Cereals can be cooked in peanut buttermilk instead of milk for breakfast. Traditional breakfast options such as dosa or poha are vegan when made with oil.

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