Well-known for highlighting the many benefits of a plant-based diet, Kathy Freston has appeared on national television shows Ellen, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Talk, and The Martha Stewart Show.
Now the New York Times best-selling author of The Lean is at it again: She’s teamed up with young-adult fiction writer Rachel Cohn to release a game-changing new book, The Book of Veganish, which gives teen and young adult readers all of the tools needed to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Mercy For Animals was lucky enough to sit down with Kathy to discuss her new book.
What inspired you to write The Book of Veganish?
I kept hearing from so many people who wanted to live a healthy, happy lifestyle sans eating animals, but were foiled because they thought it was just too overwhelming to figure out and maintain. I wanted to take the stress out of it and make the journey a fun and chill one. I wanted to create a beginner’s guide for the veg curious so that every question would be answered and every issue addressed. That way, the shift happens organically and easily, and it sticks.
Can you tell us exactly what you mean by “veganish”?
“Veganish” means you get that eating plant-based is good for you and good for the animals, and you’re getting there. It implies that transitioning away from animal products is important to you, but you don’t want a label to narrowly define you because you might “mess up” or you just need to go at your own speed. “Veganish” means that you’re trying your best to align your values — kindness to animals, responsibility for your health, and a concern for the environment — with the food you eat. Your intention is to be a person who doesn’t eat animal stuff, but you don’t want the pressure to do things perfectly.
How is this book different than your typical vegan cookbook?
Making great food is just half the battle! There’s so much more to going plant-based than just deciding not to eat animals. How do you date (or marry) someone who is not on the same page as you? What do you say when someone makes fun of you or taunts you for not being 100 percent pure? What are the perfect swaps for eggs or protein? What are the quick and up-to-date responses to the barbs that will inevitably come your way: You will grow man boobs. You’ll get sick and weak. What would happen to all the animals if everyone suddenly stopped eating them?
There are so many questions a beginner struggles with, so Rachel (my co-writer) and I wanted to put all of this guidance in one place so that the journey is both informed and enjoyable. And then, of course, there are 70 super easy, delicious recipes accompanied by beautiful color photos that will likely be some of your go-to meals and snacks for life.
A lot of the information is user-generated too. MFA young folks share how they made the change and why their lives are so much more meaningful because of it. It’s incredibly inspiring to look into their lives and see how everything — weight, body build, mood, and energy — has hugely improved since moving to a plant-based diet.
Your book is informative without being overwhelming. How did you approach the text and recipes in order to strike this balance?
I just write like I want to be talked to: intimately, respectfully, and with enough information that people can make their own decisions.
As for the recipes, Robin Robertson, the chef who wrote them, is a genius, so it wasn’t hard. We wanted to have meals and snacks that were hearty, delicious, and accessible (meaning they don’t require a lot of time or money).
A whopping 12 percent of millennials identify as committed vegetarians, which is a major increase over their predecessors. To what do you attribute this jump?
So many factors are converging at the same time:
- Millennials live online, and they see undercover videos of how animals are “processed” for food, and it’s disgusting. It’s literally hard to stomach that stuff.
- There are so many seriously great meat alternatives that it makes eating animals seem ridiculous. Why have a ground-up cow or chicken when you can have a plant-based version of the same traditional burger? The alternatives taste the same or better, so they’d prefer to forgo the ick.
- Millennials are on to Big Food and they are not interested in being pawns for their profit. They don’t believe the advertising hype like older generations did.
- There are a slew of athletes and gorgeous celebrities that attribute their prowess to a plant-based diet. (And who doesn’t want to look like David Carter or Emily Deschanel?)
- Instagram has made food and inspiration totally accessible. There’s a steady flow of really smart and cool posts that keep pushing the movement forward.
- Most importantly, millennials want to have a meaningful life. They are not just about pursuing money or success; they want to change the world insofar as the environment, animal welfare, and human health are concerned. And leaving animals off the plate is one of the most effective ways of doing that.
I love this generation. They are Game Changers.
What are some of your favorite meals that are healthy and easy to make?
- Cranberry and Almond Butter Overnight Oats for breakfast
- Sweet potato and red bean hash for lunch (Sometimes I add in kale or top it with grilled tofu or a veggie burger.)
- I’m also crazy about the No-Tuna salad sandwiches.
- Buffalo Cauliflower Bites for snacks (They’re not only insanely delicious but also healthy!)
- For dinner, my fave is Pasta and White Beans with Creamy Pesto Sauce (protein-rich!).
- The Chocolate Almond Banana Soft Serve is my go-to for dessert; it’s super easy to make and I don’t feel guilty eating it. I save the guilt for the Chocolate Mug Cake (but hey, you have to live a little!).
6. What do you see in the future of veganism and animal rights?
I see that in a few more generations we’re going to look back as a culture and be horrified by what our elders ate and how they celebrated saucing up “lamb loins” or “ribs from a baby’s back.” We’re going to scratch our heads and wonder why humans were so awful to animals when all the good foods were already there right in front of us.
But specifically, I see “clean meat” grown in breweries sans animals for those who still like flesh, plant-based chicken in the butcher’s aisle of every grocery store, and By Chloe replacing those worn out golden arches. Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Gardein, Kite Hill… These will be the staples in every kitchen. It’s already happening.
If readers took away one idea from this book, what would you like it to be? What impact do you hope the book has on readers?
Every good thing begins with an intention, an idea for change. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when you take steps toward your goal — in this case being someone who doesn’t eat animals — things begin to take shape. How great you look and feel energizes you; you find your way to new restaurants and menus; you start feeling that your life has meaning and you’re making a difference.
My hope is that The Book of Veganish is the book that will serve the veg curious; it’s for anyone already on board to give to that friend who has expressed interest and just needs to know more.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I LOVE you guys at MFA for doing the Great Work!!! And THANK YOU for introducing so many cool young people to me so that we could feature them in the book! XO
Click here to get your copy today!