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Posted on January 23, 2019
Hello! My name is Erick Castro, and I run a New York City based vegan blog named @HowToBeVeganInTheHood, and I’m also a partner in Rip’s Malt Shop. I started the blog in 2017 simply because once I went vegan a lot of friends and family were always asking me what I eat. Society has this image on veganism which hasn’t been the best. Too often, people think a vegan diet is boring, unfulfilling, expensive and “protein deficient.” I wanted to show the world that you don’t have to be rich or be a specific type person to be on a plant-based diet and you don’t have to make a certain amount of money to be on a plant-based diet. You most definitely can live a healthy life on a plant-based diet.
I first made the decision to go pescatarian on January 1, 2015. A friend of mine in Queens, NY was always trying to get me to go vegan, and I simply didn’t understand it nor wanted to give up what I grew up eating. It wasn’t till after a few months later that I educated myself enough to realize the same fish I was eating was suffering just as much as the chickens do when they get slaughtered for human consumption. So what was I really doing, now knowing that both types of animals have feelings, deserve to live and honestly aren’t the best things for my body to consume. The hardest part about making the transformation was to relearn everything I’ve learned about food and health. My family is from Puerto Rico, so eating animals is something they’ve done for decades. To go against that wasn’t easy, but to this day it’s 100 percent worth it. Even today I still get questioned and joked on about it. But deep down I know they understand, and hopefully they’ll make the same decision too one day.
I have always seen food as something humans needed to have energy, stay alive and enjoy as guilty pleasures like sweets. I would eat food just because I was raised on it and simply because it was tasted good. Not knowing the power of food and the reality of what it really is. Anywhere you go around the world, people know fruits and vegetables are healthy for you. So I thought about it and came to a realization that food is more than just something you eat because it tastes good. You can fix a lot of things in your body just by being careful what you put inside of it. I watched documentaries, read articles and just soaked in as much as I can learn about the benefits of food and how it can touch so many aspects of our lives from physical and mental to even spiritual states. It was a big awakening for me, and I always be a student of food. I will continue to learn and unlearn every day about food.
Two things I wish I knew before going vegan was how cheap it is to live this lifestyle if you cook and how fun cooking can be. Everyone always told me eating vegan was expensive and that I won’t have enough protein and I’ll be eating the same salads and boring veggies every day. After a time, I realized I was actually saving money by cooking and having a lot of fun doing it which has opens a lot of doors for me. It made it easier to learn more about the benefits and how many different edible plants/vegetables there really are. Growing up in New York City, we have a basic of five or six vegetables we’re used to eating, but when you start exploring, you begin to find things like Dragon Fruits, Jackfruit, Romanesco and more. I was lied to a lot about veganism, but it’s not as difficult as people say it is. I honestly don’t find it difficult at all.
An easy go-to dinner that I like to rely on during busy weeks is baked potatoes with steamed veggies. I boil the potatoes before cutting them open. I’ll add some black pepper, sea salt and garlic powder on the potato before adding my favorite Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds so it can melt on top when I put the potato in the toaster oven. While the potatoes are boiling, I wash and cut up some mixed veggies to steam over a pot of water. Once the veggies are nice and soft and the Daiya cheeze is perfectly melted, you are set to eat a quick, nutritious and delicious dinner. This is something I share with my non-vegan friends, family, and they love it! This meal takes about 25-30 minutes, and you don’t use many pots or utensils so the clean up is even faster.
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