Hello, I’m Andrea and I have been a dietitian at The Vegan Society since 2021.
I grew up in Birmingham, and at the age of sixteen began working in a hotel kitchen. I always had a passion for being involved in cooking and experimenting with different ingredients. After eight years of service as a commis chef, I decided to enter the area of nutrition and went to college with the aim to study dietetics at university, combining my love of food and cooking with nutritional knowledge and helping others. I was the first person in my family to attend university, so it was quite overwhelming doing it alone as a mature student.
During my time at university – totally unrelated and mindlessly scrolling on social media procrastinating about doing my coursework– I came across a snippet from the film Earthlings. After watching such disturbing footage, I knew straight away that I couldn’t go back to eating meat. For anyone who has watched this documentary, you’ll understand. I became pescetarian and a few months later, something told me to watch the whole film. After discovering some of the horrifying truths within the egg and fishing industry, I decided to commit to a completely vegan lifestyle in 2014.
I didn’t know anyone else who was vegan at the time, and was of course often questioned by my friends, family and co-workers – always being the butt of vegan jokes in the hotel kitchen, where I remained working part-time throughout my studies. Luckily, I wasn’t fazed by this, and would just reply with, ‘If I can live well without exploiting animals, then why wouldn’t I choose this lifestyle?’
My vegan journey
The longer I continued on my vegan journey, I noticed more and more people showing an interest; maybe after they realised that I was serious about this way of life and that it wasn’t ‘just a phase’. I always tried to remain non-judgemental with other people’s perceptions of veganism and personal lifestyle choices as I know this can often create a barrier between ‘us and them’ and the cognitive dissonance is evident – I mean I’d lived this way for 28 years.
My work as a dietitian
In 2015 I graduated with a dietetics degree under my belt and began working for the NHS. Since graduating I have worked in a number of specialist areas including adult learning disabilities, weight management and hospital food services, and have found my catering and dietetic skills are incredibly valuable in supporting my role at The Vegan Society. Working in this field, it is clear that poor nutritional planning and lack of public health resources play a huge part in the global pandemic of chronic diseases such as cancer, fatty liver disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Plant-strong diets are at the forefront of public health strategies to tackle such issues, increasing fibre, fruit and vegetable intake and reducing saturated fat, sugar and salt. I believe that well-planned vegan diets are the answer to many health crises, from human to planetary health. We know that they already have the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, which are the leading causes of death for most. It is also well-evidenced that eating a plant-based diet is the single biggest way to reduce an individual’s environmental impact, reducing green-house gas emissions by almost 50%.
By spreading the vegan message through health-focused education we have so much potential to change the lives of many; from saving non-human animals who have for so long been used as commodities, to persuading policymakers to change the way they view balanced eating. The British Dietetic Associations and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics both acknowledge that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages, so our message is certainly not a novice claim.
As with all lifestyle changes, it takes some time, planning and consideration, and I know it’s not realistic for everyone to make these changes overnight, but I hope that my love of vegan food and nutrition can be shared and appreciated by all. Here’s my Cauliflower Cheese Mockaroni, an all-time favourite for those with a FOMO on cheese.
For more information on vegan nutrition check out our resources at vegansociety.com/nutrition