Welcome to Veg-toria!

Beautiful, fresh veggies at the Farmers’ Market on nearby Salt Spring Island!

Admittedly, the stereotypes about Victoria being a mecca for progressive, plant-based foodies aren’t too far off.

Motivated by a range of values including environmental sustainability, personal health, animal rights, and supporting loved ones, many UVic students choose to pursue a vegan or vegetarian diet to better align their daily lifestyles with what they whole-heartedly believe in.

As a dedicated vegan myself, I was thrilled to arrive at UVic in my first year and discover that all three of my randomly assigned roommates also happen to be vegan! What are the chances of that?! At UVic, probably pretty high.

Whether you’re already following a plant-based diet, considering starting the transition, or just had to Google the definition of ‘vegan,’ I invite you to enjoy this small sampling of the diverse thoughts and perspectives of some of our local herbivores.


  • Vegan for 3 years
  • 5th year Elementary Education
  • Favourite vegetable: Broccoli

Why did you originally decide to become vegan?

“I was vegetarian for a year prior to becoming vegan. I started becoming vegetarian on campus actually. With Village Greens (vegetarian cafeteria at UVic) it was a super easy transition because I didn’t have to think about it.

I was vegetarian all throughout my first year of university, and then I went back home over the summer and I just felt like I was being a bit hypocritical… I was mostly vegetarian for ethics, caring for animals, and saving animals’ lives pretty much, so I told myself  ‘I’ll be vegan when I move out of my parents’ place because then I can fully control what I eat and make my own decisions.’

So, when I moved out after the summer, I remember going to the grocery store and only buying vegetables and rice, and just things that I knew were healthy for me. It felt really great. The main reason I originally went vegan was animal rights, but as I’ve gone along the path of veganism, I’ve realized how much environmental importance there is as well, and health benefits too. I also have a lot more energy… I could talk and talk, but that’s basically it.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegan?

“I lost a lot of weight when I first when vegan. I lost about ten pounds because I realized that I was probably under-eating. A lot of vegan foods aren’t as calorically dense as animal-based foods like meat, so I had a lack of energy. I just didn’t feel like the same person.

My parents were actually like, ‘Dude, stop being vegan!’ and I was just like, ‘Hell no.’ So, that’s when I really started to focus on my health. I began consciously eating more, and especially more whole foods rather than processed foods. Now I entirely try to focus on a whole foods diet. That was the biggest hardship for me, just finding what my body needed. Take today for example. I’ve just eaten lots and lots of vegetables and nothing else, and I feel great!”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“I have a recipe in mind… from Oh She Glows, it’s an enchilada recipe with cilantro avocado cream sauce. I’ve made that for lots of people and they really enjoy it. I also make it for myself and I really enjoy it. So, that’s one thing… Generally, I don’t follow a lot of recipes, so another thing would just be like rice, beans, and greens. That’s what I do… rice, beans, greens, maybe some soy sauce or whip up a peanut sauce.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I was actually talking to someone else today who asked me the same question. I didn’t have very good advice though… I think just make sure to do the research about it. Hopping in to veganism or vegetarianism is great, but it’s important to know what to put in to your body.

Know the nutrients you need, know the amount of calories you need, because when you do eat the right foods you’ll notice that your energy will be much greater and you’re going to feel better, but it’s important to eat the right foods. Just eat lots of greens. Lots of green vegetables.”


  • Vegan for 2 ½ years
  • 1st year Biology/Kinesiology
  • Favourite vegetable: Carrots

Why did you originally decide to become vegan?

“I think it was about four years ago now that my Mum unexpectedly had a heart attack. There had always been a factor of heredity. Her dad had also had heart issues so it wasn’t too big of a shock, but she was only 45, so quite young at the time.

As a family, we adopted the typical Heart and Stroke Foundation diet… less red meat, more fish, more rice and vegetables kind of thing and became almost fully vegetarian. Then, we watched the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives’ and pretty much overnight, my Mum and I just decided to become vegan. It was like, everything out of the fridge…

My Dad says he’s ‘vegan by proxy’ so he still eats eggs or chicken when we go out to eat, but he always eats the vegan food that we cook at home and he definitely recognizes the benefits of being vegan.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegan?

“The thing that was the last for me to cut out was yogurt. There was a 3 or 4-month period of us being vegetarian before going fully vegan, and during that time I just ate so much yogurt for some reason.

I was eating yogurt for breakfast, and yogurt as a snack, and we would buy the big tubs of it from Costco… Thinking about it now, it was so much yogurt that I ate. There was even this small transition period where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m vegan, but I eat yogurt!’ One of my friends was fully vegan at the time, and she would kind of make fun of me for it. So yeah…biggest challenge: yogurt.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“Well, the thing I’m craving right now… So, last night I was looking at Instagram stories and five of the people I follow were making Mac and Cheese. I’m going home this weekend and I texted my Mum and said, ‘I need Mac and Cheese when I come home!’

I really don’t like the fake, processed vegan Mac and Cheese, but we do this one where we put cashews and carrots and potatoes in a blender and it makes a super creamy sauce. I just need creamy pasta right now for some reason! 

Also, we eat so much of anything from Oh She Glows. Especially the kale, quinoa, chickpea and shredded carrot salad.  I cook a lot at home,and often make chili or curry as well. The one thing that I eat so much of on campus is the Village Greens chili. Once I went 23 days eating it every day!”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I feel like for everyone it’s kind of different… you just need to figure out what’s good for you, and it also really depends on the type of personality you have. For some people, it would be good to gradually transition in to it, slowly taking things away, whereas other people can go cold-turkey and just stop eating all animal products.

You can even be vegan and just eat French fries and Oreos because they happen to be vegan, or you can be whole foods plant-based, which is what I tend to lean towards. Really, just educate yourself and find good, easy recipes. There’s this misconception that it’s really hard to be vegan, but you can literally just put a pot of quinoa on the stove and some veggies in the oven, and you’re good to go!”


  • Vegan for 8 months
  • 1st year Engineering
  • Favourite vegetable: Potatoes

Why did you originally decide to become vegan?

“I started becoming vegetarian about a year and a half ago. I essentially wanted to see if I could survive without eating animals. My ex-girlfriend was vegetarian at the time and it seemed interesting. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

After a month, I felt great, so I continued on. I began to pursue veganism because I just felt that the dairy industry was debatably as bad as the meat industry and they work side-by-side. So, I just felt like it was go big or go home for me. I originally wanted to help the animals, but now I know all the environmental facts… I researched it more and now I’m just all in.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegan?

“This is still a challenge for me now, but going to other people’s houses and feeling like I’m putting a lot of stress on them because of my diet. I don’t want them to have to go out of their way for me.

To find ways around it, I try to let people know ahead of time, or just carry food on me. I sometimes pre-eat, if it’s not too awkward… I don’t want to go to a dinner and already be full, but I’ll do that for other social events if I think I’ll be hungry and there won’t be any vegan options.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“Maybe like a tofu scramble of some sort… garlic, vegetables, sometimes hash browns. Every time it’s different, I really just throw things together. Or I always just have peanut butter and jelly, pretty simple.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I’d say do your research beforehand, so that you can really go in to it whole-heartedly, not just for a fad. And, I’d recommend tracking your food for the first bit, just to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.”


  • Vegetarian for 3 years
  • 2nd year Environmental Studies
  • Favourite vegetable: Cauliflower

Why did you originally decide to become vegetarian?

“It was just kind of a natural progression for me because I’ve always really cared about the environment and I never really ate much meat, maybe only once a week. But, the pushing point I think was watching a documentary, probably ‘Forks Over Knives’… it’s usually a documentary that pushes people over… I watched that and then I was done. I haven’t had meat since.

At that point I was also in a Social Justice course in high school where we learned a lot about the meat industry, and then I learned even more when I took Environmental Studies 200 the next year at UVic. After that, I was just all in.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegetarian?

“Definitely, it’s other peoples’ perception of it. Whenever I say I’m vegetarian, people react as if I’m going to attack them with kale or somehting, so then they start attacking me with questions like ‘Where do you get your protein?!’ So annoying.

In response to the protein thing, I usually just try to tell them about beans, and nuts and all that good stuff… you know, give them a little education on it. I also try to point out issues like food insecurity, to make them more aware that it’s not just about animal rights. There are so many different reasons for becoming vegetarian, including social and environmental concerns that most people just don’t know about.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“My favourite right now, because it’s just so easy and therefore optimal for my lifestyle, is that I just take any squash–right now a lot of butternut squash–then I cut it in half and roast it in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour or so. Then I take it out and stuff it with some steamed kale and other things, then I roast the seeds that I scooped out and sprinkle those on top. That’s really nice.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I definitely do. The one thing is that I feel like the commitment of the whole vegetarian or vegan label can be really scary for people, so it prevents them from even trying since they’re afraid that they can’t fully commit.

I would really urge those people to just begin to reduce their consumption of meat or animal products, but not to feel like they have to completely cut them out. It’s mostly in the reduction that matters. If you can cut them out, that’s great, but just don’t be afraid to start those gradual changes.”


  • Vegetarian for 12 years, now ‘Freegan’* for 4 years
  • 3rd year Environmental Studies, Sociology, and Human Dimensions of Climate Change
  • Favourite vegetable: Broccoli

*According to Wikipedia: “Freeganism is a practice and ideology of limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food. The word ‘freegan’ is a combination of ‘free’ and ‘vegan’.”

Why did you originally decide to become vegetarian/ vegan?

“When I originally stopped eating meat, it was definitely for the animals. I was eight years old, and that was really important to me, so it was the biggest reason. It is still important to me, but it’s no longer the main reason why I continue to eat this way.

The more that I’ve learned about the climatic effects of the meat and dairy industries, that definitely motivates me to not consume those products. The more you learn about how those animals are treated, it again plays in to the vegan for the animals argument.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegetarian/vegan?

“I actually don’t find it very hard at all. I’d say the only point of tension for me is when I’m in a situation where a meal has been cooked and shared and provided for me, because that in itself is something beautiful. But then if it doesn’t fit with my dietary belief system, it becomes a choice of whether or not to engage in the activity of eating that dish.

Often, I will eat the dish even though it’s not vegan, because personally, I find more value in sharing that meal than upholding this diet, in that moment. For example, if my grandmother made me some cookies that have eggs or milk in them, I’m not going to restrict myself from eating them because of a label.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“I really like fresh food. That’s just what I love. I’m a really big fan of all fruits and vegetables, I love smoothie bowls and salad wraps and stir fry. I’ve also been making a lot of soup because it’s winter right now. I’m definitely a ‘what’s in the fridge?’ kind of gal, and even beyond that, I’m more of a ‘what’s in the dumpster?’ kind of gal. I don’t really follow recipes and I don’t meal plan. I get what I can, and then I go from there.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“Mostly, just be creative. Also, do your research to make sure that you’re getting adequate nutrition. I know that can be a little nerve-wracking for a lot of people. There are amazing supplement products available if you feel you need them, but you can get everything you need from a plant-based diet with maybe just a bit of help in the B-12 department.

Try mixing all kinds of different veggies together; nuts are also my best friends. Meet other people who also care about the food they eat, then it becomes a fun thing that you can do together instead of a nerve-wracking experience alone in your kitchen.”


  • Vegan for 1 ½ years
  • 1st year Biology
  • Favourite vegetable: Sweet potatoes

Why did you originally decide to become vegan?

“Well, I have to say I decided after being with my current girlfriend (a long-term vegan) for a while. She gave me all the information I needed, although she didn’t necessarily try to sway me one way or the other. As I learned more and more, I couldn’t not do anything about it. I think the main reason is for the environment, but animal rights are also a close second for me.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegan?

“I would honestly say finding stuff to eat for breakfast. Other meals were really easy to figure out, but breakfast was so tough for a while. I feel like I have a pretty good grip on it now… I started making a lot of breakfast burritos every weekend when I lived at home, but being in residence now, it’s a lot of toast with hummus.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“I think that one of my favorite meals is a tomato barley risotto that I like to make, plus it’s a really good winter dish. I usually pair it with roasted Brussels sprouts as well.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I would say, transition slowly. That was the easiest way for me to do it. It took me about eight months to fully go vegan. For someone who thinks they could never go vegan, that’s probably the easiest way to do it.

I remember telling my girlfriend that I would never be able to go vegan, but here I am. I think that slowly weening yourself off certain foods one at a time is the easiest way to do it.”


  • Vegetarian for 10 years, now vegan for 3 months
  • 1st year Marine Biology and Environmental Studies
  • Favourite vegetable: Squash

Why did you originally decide to become vegetarian, and what’s motivated you more recently to become vegan?

“When I first decided to become vegetarian, I was only 8 (ish). All I remember is that I saw this movie that had a profound impact on my life, but I can’t for the life of me remember what movie it was.

I just remember being at home, I think it was a snow day, and the movie had a dog in it… all of these rescue dogs. I honestly could not even tell you the plot or what movie it was, but I was home alone, watching this movie that was clearly made for people older than 8 years old, and for some reason it had an impact on me.

At first, I was scared to ask my parents about becoming vegetarian because I was so young, so I would just not eat dinner and eventually my Mum was like ‘Yo, what’s up?’ She actually wanted to become vegetarian too, so we did it together. But when my Mum discovered she was allergic to soy, corn, and lactose, she decided she didn’t want to be vegetarian… so just me!

And now, I just became vegan recently. It was largely due to hanging out with a couple of new vegan friends here at UVic. I really love the way that they view food and there’s just a mindfulness that comes with how they eat, which I really appreciate. On top of that, there are flaws in every industry, not just the meat industry. There are definitely flaws in the dairy industry that I just don’t want to support.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegetarian/ vegan?

“When I first became vegetarian, probably the biggest challenge was that I was 8, and didn’t appreciate ‘the vegetable.’ Also, my Mum and I would always have spats. She would tell me that I wasn’t eating enough vegetables, so I would be like ‘Fine, I’ll show you what not eating enough vegetables looks like!’ Then I would just not eat vegetables because she told me that I should. So, that was probably the biggest challenge when I was younger.

Then, probably after elementary school, I started eating vegetables. Now, just on campus, it’s not knowing where anything comes from. There’s no ingredients listed on any of the food on campus, so I kind of think about that. Sometimes, your only option might not be vegan and it’s hard to be oblivious, but you’ve still got to eat. So yeah, looking forward to getting off campus and having more power over the food that I buy and eat.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“My favourite thing to eat is from Minimalist Baker, it’s their red lentil curry… it has coconut milk, curry, ginger, turmeric, maple syrup, and deliciousness. That, on steamed kale with a side of sweet potato fries topped with smoked paprika. And going to Green Cuisine! The lady who’s always there has started to recognize me. It’s like ‘Hi! I’m here way too often!’”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“I think for me, the thing that I was stuck not doing for the longest time, partially because I was so young, was that I still thought about food in the same way. I basically just eliminated a group of things that I didn’t eat. I eliminated meat, but I didn’t change the way that I looked at food.

As an 8-year-old, I guess that’s kind of fair, but if you’re going to step in to that realm of veganism or even vegetarianism, just think about food in a different way. Think about it as something that really nourishes you, versus something that you just put in to your body to keep you going.

It is so much more than that; it’s a beautiful experience, especially when you share it with people. I think that if you look at food as a beautiful thing and appreciate it as a beautiful thing, you can really just be more creative and… see what’s best for the world.”


  • Vegan for 3 years
  • 1st year Biology
  • Favourite vegetable: Kale

Why did you originally decide to become vegan?

“I originally decided to be vegan mostly out of my own selfishness… well, not selfish, I just felt like it was gross. I remember seeing blood on my plate when I was a middle schooler and just thinking to myself, ‘this shouldn’t be in my body.’

From there, it kind of turned in to veganism the more and more research I did. There wasn’t really a defining moment when I decided ‘I’m going to be vegan today.’ It was more of a gradual progression. Now, it’s like, why shouldn’t I be vegan?

There are so many reasons. Mainly for ethical reasons is why I stayed vegan and have been so rooted in what I believe in, but more recently, being in the Biology program here and learning more about the environment and what’s happening, that’s kept me pretty passionate about veganism as well.”

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first became vegan?

“The biggest challenge was iron. Iron and B-12. I just ate too many carbs and didn’t know how to replace the nutrients that had been missing from taking away animal proteins and products. So I wasn’t paying attention to what nutrients were going into my body and which ones weren’t, then that just went downhill into deficiencies.

After seeing a naturopath and a nutritionist and really talking about it, I started paying attention and being aware of what’s going into my body. I became inspired by what they would tell me.”

Do you have a favourite plant-based meal suggestion?

“I’d say, anything that can go in a bowl. Most of the time, that includes a really good grain of some kind, like pasta, rice, millet or quinoa. Yeah, a grain bowl.”

Any words of advice for someone wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet?

“Hmm, advice for little newbies. I’d definitely say to motivate yourself to stay plant-based, keep yourself inspired. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. That makes it more of a lifestyle on top of just a diet. And then, everything will fall in to place. You’ll get the right nutrients, and you’ll have the willpower to say ‘No’ and eventually you won’t have any desire to say ‘Yes’ to all the temptations of animal products or whatever.

Doing research, staying inspired… for me personally, the more I research and the more things I watch about, it the more passionate I am and the easier it is to be plant-based.”

Finally, I’d like to send a massive thank-you to Matt, Zoe, Ryland, Dorothy, Megan, Jacob, Maddie, and Sydney for taking the time to participate in this little plant-based project! It was so lovely to meet and interview you all. Peace, love, and vegetables.

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3 Responses

  1. CB says:

    What an excellent post, Hannah! Thanks so much for sharing and highlighting how easy it is to eat a whole food plant-based diet, and all the benefits that go along with it! I loved reading about each student’s story and journey to a WFPB vegan lifestyle! Super photos too! Keep up the good work.

    • Hannah says:

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed the read, and took some inspiration from UVic’s diverse vegans/ vegetarians! I had a great time interviewing everyone and hearing their stories as well. Thanks for your support!!

  2. Yamila says:

    Thank you for your post. I am currently transitioning so reading about this definitely makes me happier! <3 <3