Local Vegans Weigh in on Secrets to Their Plant-Based Diets

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Veganuary — when an individual goes vegan for the month of January. Now, January is currently in full-swing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still try your hand at a vegan diet for the rest of the month or even actually try to make the vegan switch entirely. The team at Hoboken Girl spoke with six local women who have adopted a vegan or plant-based lifestyle to share their top tips + tricks on going vegan and why they chose to do so. Keep reading for their stories and some tips on how you can incorporate more plant-based foods into your life. 

local vegan lifestyle

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only — please consult a physician before starting any type of lifestyle change or diet.

Ewelina Rosochowicz of The Vegan Warehouse

ewelina vegan

What does being vegan mean to you? 

Veganism completely changed my life! From the way I eat and consume products to running a vegan business and dedicating my days to spreading the mission.

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan since 2010, so a full decade now.

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I really believe it is the most compassionate way to live my life. I love the way it makes me feel inside and out.

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

Getting educated. You need to first understand why you want to make the switch and really solidify the why. You can come back to this motivation when things get hard! 

What is the hardest part about making the transition?

Realizing how many things include animal products. It’s not just the cheese or chocolate, it’s your face wash, your laundry detergent, and most beauty products you own. This realization was what brought me to start The Vegan Warehouse, which takes out all the guesswork for consumers by providing verified vegan products in all life categories. 

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?

“But plants have feelings too.”

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who is trying to cut animal products out of their diet?

Go at your own pace and make it work for your lifestyle. I think veganism and the vegan community, in general, can be a bit intimidating for beginners, and I really want to change that. I personally believe that everyone’s journey to the lifestyle is different — some of us transition overnight and others take months or years. My biggest advice to you is to veganize your life step by step. Start with the things that are easiest for you to give up and work your way up. 

Are you a fan of cooking? If so, where do you do your grocery shopping?

Absolutely! I’m all about meal prepping to set myself up for success each week. I have a few favorite lunches and dinners that I prepare on Sunday night to always have something quick on hand. I usually get all of my basic ingredients at the Hoboken Trader Joe’s and my superfoods from our store’s selection.

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally?

I love Ali Baba for dinner and Turning Point for brunch — they both have some great vegan options!

What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere? 

The Brick Hoboken Pizzeria just introduced an entirely vegan menu. I’ve been loving their traditional vegan pizza!

Are there any other thoughts you want to share?

Being vegan over the past 10 years I’ve noticed a huge shift in people’s perception of the lifestyle. I used to encounter lots of push back and misunderstanding around my choices and now I see a response of interest and engagement. I think that with the growing environmental concern within our society we are all starting to question our contribution to the problem. Switching to veganism for just one year can save 119,000 gallons of water, so truly every choice you make matters! 

Alyssa Fasciano of @animal.babe

alyssa vegan

{Photo credit: @animal.babe}

What does being vegan mean to you?

Being vegan has so many meanings for me, but in a nutshell, it means no animals harmed. I always loved animals but I knew I needed my heart, head, and stomach to align with my morals. 

How long have you been vegan?

It’s been a decade! Best 10 years of my life. Admittedly, I’ve fallen off the wagon for fish before, but I just hop back on. I always stress to people that these things will happen. It’s progress, not perfection. 

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I grew up being a huge animal lover and always felt very connected to all walks of life. In my early 20s, I really connected with my spirituality and part of that was being authentic. I couldn’t continue to eat beings that I also wanted to pet and snuggle, the two couldn’t co-exist in my life. I also couldn’t imagine hunting them for myself, therefore I decided it wasn’t for me anymore. I’ve never looked back. 

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

The first step I took, and I tell everyone to take is doing your research. Everyone needs a “why” — whether it’s for health reasons, ethical ones, or both, the motivation you need is in books, documentaries, podcasts, etc. For me, it was watching videos of what animals endured in the food system as well as learning about inflammatory foods like meat and dairy effects on the body. Once you do that, giving up one animal product at a time and supplementing properly is important. It takes time to let your body adjust and detox, so it’s more than okay to do it over an extended period of time.

What is the hardest part about making the transition?

For me, it was telling my family. I’m first-generation Italian, my family used to own Margherita’s since I was a wee one. I grew up on my dad’s fresh mozzarella and my nonna’s Sunday meatballs. Refusing my family’s food was almost disrespectful until they fully understood where I was coming from and that it wasn’t a diet or phase. My nonna now fully supports my eating choices and makes me incredible eggplant every time I come over. Any time you’re making a change it can take your friends and family a little while to process. Prepare yourself for a little heat and remember your “why.” They’ll back off or sometimes be influenced by you!

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?

Definitely that vegans eat junk or are protein deficient. It’s frustrating sometimes that people assume I eat nothing but tofu dogs or impossible burgers. I eat very consciously and protein has never been an issue for me. You should do your best to eat the rainbow. If you have colorful plates of veggies, fruits, nuts, and legumes, you won’t have to track your protein. I promise. I’m turning 33 next month and I’m in the best shape of my life, I accredit my diet to this.

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who is trying to cut animal products out of their diet?

[Do it] slowly! I think we can get caught up with the labels — vegan, plant-based, carnivore. Try to drown those labels out and focus on your relationship with food and your body. As you cut out each animal product and supplement it with a plant-based alternative, your body will thank you. You’ll have more energy, your skin will look better, your digestive system will start to function properly. This will encourage you to keep moving forward. I tell people they can use the term “eating consciously” during their transition. Slow and steady wins the race. 

Are you a fan of cooking? If so, where do you do your grocery shopping?

Oh yes! It’s funny because I was never good at cooking meat. Now I work for vegan Chef Chloe Coscarelli and cooking is the most therapeutic part of my day. I have so much fun vegan-izing all my old favorites. Vegan baking is honestly one of my biggest passions.

Whole Foods is where I spend most of my time off of work. I always think I’m going to meet my husband there. In the warmer months, I try to go to farmers’ markets. Trader Joe’s has a great vegan guide and products, too. 

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally?

In Hoboken, I’m a big Alfalfa or Simply Juiced girl. In Jersey City, I love Subia’s or Frankie in downtown JC. 

What are your go-to spots elsewhere?

Vegan sushi from beyond sushi in NYC; vegan pizza from Porta Jersey City; everything from the Joyist in Montclair; everything from Good Plans in Montclair; and Bang Bang cauliflower from The Crosby Montclair.

What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere?

The pea dumplings with tofu béchamel from Frankie will make you a believer. I also love the vegan ramen from Miso Ramen in downtown Jersey City. Hoboken, for vegan dessert, has to be the cookies from Shaka Bowl or Tri berry crepes from Simply Juiced. 

Are there any other thoughts you want to share?

In a day and age where everyone seems to know the newest nutritional trend, I just wanted to say I’m so proud to be someone who has stuck to this way of life for as long as I have. I can confidently say this is the best I’ve ever felt inside and out. It has made me a happier, healthier, and more confident person. This choice has stood the test of time for me and I’m thrilled to be able to guide people into this lifestyle — I’m thankful that people trust me enough to take my advice. 

See More: 10| How to Go Vegan in Hudson County with @DoodyFreeGirl

Jeannine Morris of JeannineMorris.com

jeannine vegan

{Photo credit: Falcon Griffith}

What does being vegan mean to you?

This is a very difficult question to answer simply and if going by the full definition of veganism, then I’m only partway there. When you truly embrace a vegan lifestyle, you don’t eat, wear or use animal products. I personally don’t eat meat, fish or dairy, however, I’m not fully vegan by this meaning. I use a lip balm with beeswax in it and still wear my old Vince leather jacket. I’m conscious of my purchase decisions and try very hard to rock vegan leather and use vegan products when possible.  

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for 14 years.

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I first became vegan 14 years ago, because I was interested in eating as clean as possible and read a lot about factory and fish farming, added hormones and how the meat and fish get to our plates. {I’ll spare you the details.} For the past couple of years though, beyond the health reasons, I’ve been very into animal activism and don’t believe in the inhumane treatment of animals. I’ve visited sanctuaries, volunteered at shelters, and the more I learn about the emotional and mental capacity of farm animals, the more I try to use my online platforms as a space to protect them and give a voice to those who don’t have one.  

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

Know that you don’t have to do it all at once. I recommend enlisting a nutritionist to help you make the transition so that you can focus on all you can eat to find your protein, etc., instead of stressing out about what you can’t eat anymore.

What is the hardest part about making the transition?

When I first went vegan, I wasn’t educated about how to create a well-balanced, plant-based meal. I became unhealthy from quitting meat, fish, and dairy cold turkey and had to take time to re-learn how to eat. I was surprised to find out how much protein you can actually get from plant-based foods. 

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?

People assume that I’m thin simply because of my veganism, which isn’t true at all. I eat clean, yes, but I also work very hard to maintain a fit figure.

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally?

I love Shaka Bowl, Quality Greens, Karma Kafe, Charrito’s, and Bare Burger.

What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere?

I’m a sucker for a good smoothie! Also, almost anything Indian.

See More: A Guide to Indian Food in Hoboken + Jersey City

Jen Gonzalez of Doody Free Girl

jen gonzalez

{Photo credit: @jacklynlune.photos}

What does being vegan mean to you? 

To me, being vegan means living a healthy lifestyle that does not involve the unnecessary exploitation of animals. This means eliminating animal products {primarily meat and dairy} from the diet as well as from the wardrobe {leather and fur}.  

How long have you been vegan? 

I’ve been in and out of veganism for the last 12 years. I recommitted about three years ago. 

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle? 

Originally, I chose veganism for vanity reasons. I read a book called The Raw Food Detox Diet, which drove home the idea that health and beauty begin and end in the gut. Meat and dairy are both cause digestive stress, which can contribute to weight gain, dull skin, and disease. Now, knowing more about the environmental and spiritual implications of the meat and dairy industry makes veganism the obvious choice for me.    

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle? 

Being clear on your reasons for transitioning is key to staying on track! Originally, I went vegan for vanity reasons. Vanity is fleeting, as was my commitment to veganism. But recommitting to veganism for reasons bigger than myself makes it less of a commitment and more of a fulfilling lifestyle!  

What is the hardest part about making the transition? 

It’s so easy these days! There are substitution foods in every aisle at the grocery store and new vegan restaurants and creative recipes pop up every day.

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?  

“Ewwwwww!” But to be fair, I wasn’t raised vegan, so I am very understanding when it comes to judgments and hesitations {especially when it comes to vegan cheese}. I was definitely once a nay-sayer myself. But now so many unsuspecting people are becoming educated on the benefits of veganism thanks mostly to some groundbreaking Netflix documentaries like What the Health and Game Changers that I believe acceptance is at an all-time high.

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who is trying to cut animal products out of their diet?

Start filling your plate with 80% vegetables. Start trying 100% vegan restaurants to get inspired. I find that most people are surprised at how little they miss animal products.

Are you a fan of cooking? If so, where do you do your grocery shopping? 

I love cooking sometimes — I’m more a fan of my boyfriend cooking for me. He went to culinary school, so I get spoiled with gourmet vegan [food] regularly. We generally grocery shop at Key Food and P&K Market in Jersey City, Basic Organic Market in Hoboken, and Whole Foods in Weehawken. 

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally? 

Subia’s Vegan Cafe!

 What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere?

I’m addicted to the breakfast wrap at Subia’s Vegan Cafe. Tacoria has an amazing Brussel sprout salad {specify vegan and ask for the vegan chipotle on the side}, as well as Brussel sprout nachos. I love the vegan salad at Honey Grow in Hoboken and the Guadalupe Burger at Bare Burger. Koro Koro has the best miso soup and I love their vegan rice balls, especially the Indian! I’m obsessed with the Chana Saag at Vaibhav and the Ghobi Manchurian at Honest in Jersey City. 

Read More: The Best Healthy Meal Delivery Services in Hoboken + Jersey City

Jennifer Rossano of NeuroticMommy

jennifer rossano

What does being vegan mean to you?

Veganism is so much more than a diet, it’s a way of life really. Being vegan to me means that I acknowledge that all living things are sentient beings. I believe that you should treat all beings with kindness and compassion including humans. Even humans who don’t agree with your lifestyle choices or who choose to live a different way of life. Being vegan does not mean you’re more worthy than others or that you’re living a better way of life. I do not believe or condone the holier than thou hierarchy because a true vegan judges no one. Everyone in every walk of life does the best they can and I think if you label yourself vegan then that’s what you’re personally trying to do, living the best life for you.

How long have you been vegan? 

I’ve been vegan or plant-based since 2013.

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I chose the vegan way of life initially for health purposes. I learned that the diet itself which is without meat, dairy or any animal bi-product will lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, inflammation, heart disease, along with other health concerns like obesity. It helped me heal through a lot of healing both physically and mentally. Through that, I then learned how being vegan helped the animals and earth and I learned more ways in which I can contribute to healing the planet and do my part as best I can.

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

The first step is doing your research. Learn about veganism whether you’re doing it for health reasons or environmental reasons, being a voice for the animals, etc —  just educate yourself on it. Being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. I know people personally who went vegan and got really sick because they did it irresponsibly. As with anything else you need to know what you’re doing. Get a health care practitioner, nutritionist, or health coach on board if you can for guidance and structure. Living this way is not and should not be intimidating and it’s very easy to achieve, but we are all so uniquely different with different needs we also have to be smart.

What is the hardest part about making the transition?

I grew up in Hoboken and am Puerto Rican and Italian, so my childhood was all meat and dairy. I never looked at what was in my makeup or how and with what my clothes were made. Those things weren’t even a thought in my head. So if you weren’t born into veganism then it’s inevitable to miss the things you grew up on. Cheese is always the biggest one. I agree with the masses on this one though, vegan alternative cheese stinks and they mostly just take like chemicals. I like to make my own cheese and I stick to brands that use quality ingredients.

Also, generally, people are used to having meat with every single meal. At first, you may feel like something is missing on your plate or your plate is not complete and this is all OK, you’re breaking out of old habits. You have to get used to the idea that your whole plate will be a mix of veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds, among other things. We’re also in a time that there is a vegan option for anything non-vegan that you may miss. You can give those a go as well, but I say try to at least more so than not, to stay away from the vegan processed stuff. That is just as bad as the non-vegan processed stuff. So again just to reiterate, veganism does not mean healthy. And remember — Oreos are vegan.

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?

In the very beginning what’s annoying is people’s general opinion on it without really knowing much about it. You get a lot of “where do you get your protein from?” or “I could never be vegan, I love cheese too much.” 

My favorite always is when they say vegans have an agenda. I am always curious to know about this agenda and how it’s bad to want to live a healthier way of life and help out the animals and planet. But what I learned from that is when people hear that someone is vegan they automatically assume they themselves are being judged so they get defensive. With me, this is not the case but I know it can be with others because again there are people who think they are better than you if they’re choosing to live vegan. In my opinion, they are no better than a butcher because the whole point and concept of being “vegan,” per se, is to live life without judgment, harm no one, and do your very best. So basically to stay in your own lane. I don’t know if you got this yet but since I am only human I get very annoyed with people who claim to be more woke than others because they’re vegan. Veganism may not work for everyone and that’s OK. People need to be respected either way.

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who is trying to cut animal products out of their diet?

Take it one day at a time and don’t beat yourself up over any slip-ups. Jumping right into it can lead to a severe detox, [it] happened to me, and it can scare you off. Go into it slow and steady. Start off with your nutrition then start looking into your beauty products, cleaning products, clothes, shoes, etc. Every little bit counts so do what you can in your own way, let go of the guilt. Don’t follow people on social media who make you feel bad about yourself because you’re not living like them. Appearances are just that, appearances.

Are you a fan of cooking? If so, where do you do your grocery shopping?

Yes, I’m a fan of cooking but I wasn’t always so don’t get discouraged. Since starting NeuroticMommy I like to think that I made cooking vegan less scary and less intimidating. I make what I grew up on and what I love. I like to think I take the leg work out for people and make their lives easier by creating recipes they know, love, and enjoy. I shop at four different places to stay on budget as we’re a family of four. My first stop is Trader Joe’s, they have the best priced organic produce and other items like ACV, avocado oil, vegan ramen, and so much more. After that, I hit up WholeFoods, Basic, and ShopRite {which has a ton of options now too}. Sometimes I go to ShopRite first depending on what I need. But I have to say I’m very happy with ShopRite because they now carry a lot of what we get for an affordable price so we’re not breaking the bank.

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally?

I mostly cook so I don’t really have a go-to spot. But I’ll name some of the places I hit up once in a while where I know I can get a vegan meal. HoneyGrow, BareBurger, Madison, Chipotle, Qdoba, Simply Juiced, Acai Ya Later, Pizza Republic for their vegan pizza, Illuzion has a great Pumpkin Tempura Roll, Karma Kafe, and Bluestone Lane.

What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere?

My favorite vegan-friendly place with all their dishes is down in Redbank called Good Karma Cafe. They are fully vegan and the food is off the charts. When I go into Manhattan, I love Blossom down on Carmines.

Are there any other thoughts you want to share?

Don’t feel bad about your life choices, just do the best you can each day. Remember when going fully vegan to do it safely and responsibly. Social media is good for inspiration and recipe ideas but don’t take health advice from anyone. Only you know what’s best for you so do that. If you’re not taking care of you, then you’re really no help to other living things and the planet. What I always tell my readers is to take from me what will work for you. There is no one size fits all. It’s like saying everyone would look good with the Rachel haircut and we all know {in my best Maury voice} that’s a lie.

Elle De Jesus, Beauty Educator + Digital Creator

elle de jesus

What does being vegan mean to you?

Being vegan now has a totally different meaning to me than it did when I first transitioned. Today, being vegan for me is truly conscious living. Consideration and compassion for the earth and all living things. I am not a poster child for this way of life but I take small steps to enhance and improve on it every day.

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve recently made a year. I started off pescatarian about three years ago, then vegetarian, and vegan just last year.

Why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

Being vegan was never part of the plan for my life. The exact opposite in fact. But a few years back, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It ignited a deep dive into the black hole of truth about our food and nutrition and I happened upon many documentaries, one being What The Health. I’m a very by the book person and I don’t like the feeling of being lied to or manipulated. As crazy as it sounds, once I learned the truth, I felt that the food industry had been doing just that my entire life so I made the decision to break that generational, cultural cycle. Just strongly believe that simply because we’ve been living a certain way for years, doesn’t mean it is right and should not be changed.

What’s the first step, in your opinion, to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

I’ve been blessed to have many friends and loved ones in my personal life and supporters/followers online ask me this question and I always say the same thing. My answer is to find your “why.”  It works for practically everything in life. Figure out your reason for going vegan. Is it for your health, for the planet, for the animals? All of the above? Whatever it may be, remembering your “why” throughout that journey will keep you on the right path. My “why” has changed multiple times throughout my journey but it continuously keeps me going.

What is the hardest part about making the transition?

Discipline. Point blank. The main reason why remembering your “why” is so important! Personally, I lack discipline in things I am not passionate about. I was never much of a cook, I never meal prepped, I never cared about reading the ingredients or nutrition facts on anything {I assumed everything was good for us because otherwise why was it being sold to us?}, but I eventually completely adjusted and it all became second nature.

What’s the most annoying thing people have said about your veganism?

Honestly, I couldn’t possibly pick just one thing. The thing is, I was once that person. I didn’t know any better and used to speak from not what I knew but from what I was conditioned into thinking and believing. So as annoying as it is to hear people tell me that I’m wrong for living this lifestyle or that I’ll die from malnutrition, I used to think the same. So I try to have as much patience as I can and put myself in their shoes to then try to open up their minds.

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who is trying to cut animal products out of their diet?

Take your time! When I made my decision to transition out of animal products, I went cold turkey and cut them out the very next day. But I also wasn’t prepared, didn’t do my research and was totally winging it. I now tell anyone interested to start with an animal-free day one day out of the week like a meatless Monday or dairy-free Tuesday or cruelty-free Wednesday {which would be all animal products at once if you feel that you’re up for it}. Once you get into a routine, you can start to add another day to the week and slowly but surely you’ll be animal product free all week. No one is asking you to go cold turkey like I did. It’s too rash and I wouldn’t recommend it. Take your time to get it right.

Are you a fan of cooking? If so, where do you do your grocery shopping?

Like I previously mentioned, I was never into cooking. My type of cooking is trying my best to follow and not totally screw up a recipe I find online or in a cookbook. I’ve always been super lazy in the kitchen and would constantly opt for instant meals. Going plant-based changed that for me {something I never anticipated}. I try my best every week to cook/prep meals that will keep me on track. I’m at a point now where I know what I like and have my go-to recipes. And trust me, they’re all as simple as can be. Every now and then I make the effort to find and try new things to expand on.

Luckily, we’re at a point now where plant-based options are being more readily available and accessible in most grocery stores. My personal go-to stops every week are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Where’s your go-to spot to eat locally?

Oh man, literally as local as it gets because it’s like 15 mins away from my apartment, but Seak is Edgewater is my jam. I love Thai food and their Thai eggplant with tofu is absolutely everything and more!

What is your favorite vegan-friendly dish in Hudson County or elsewhere?

I don’t think I have one favorite dish or spot for that matter, but to be honest, I’ve also become pretty disciplined with refraining to eat out these days since I’m big on saving these days, but on my treat days, I’ve definitely got my go-to spots.

Veggie Heaven for incredible vegan Chinese food, By Chloe and anything by Chef Chloe Coscarelli in general, Subia’s, Tea NJ, Montclair Vegan, Good Plans Cafe in Montclair, Joyist, John’s of 12th Street for amazing vegan Italian, Bare Burger is always a nice “fast food” option, PS Kitchen, Red Bamboo, Beyond Sushi has great vegan sushi, Peacefood Cafe, and so many more but I’ll stop there.

Do you have any vegan lifestyle tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by:

Arielle is a born-and-bred Jersey girl and like a true NJ native, half her diet consists of bagels and the other half pizza. As a graduate of both American University and City, University of London, she’s been a passionate writer ever since she wrote her first “book” in the first grade. When she’s not furiously typing away at her keyboard, she spends her time ticking places off of her “to travel to” list, trying any and all new foods, and trying to stop herself from spending too much money at Zara.