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Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

30

Oct

2018

Jillian Harris

by

A Q&A with One of My Biggest Inspirations: Erin Ireland

Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing something really special with you, something that’s near and dear to my heart from someone who has been one of the main reasons why I’ve made so many lifestyle changes over the years. She’s certainly someone I look up to and I find her ridiculously inspiring!!

Today I wanted to do a little Q&A with Erin Ireland!! Many of you may already know (and follow!) Erin, but for those of you who don’t know who she is, I’ll give you a quick update!

Erin Ireland is the Editor of itstodiefor.ca, a site that aims to connect readers with the best vegan restaurants, recipes, and products in existence. and the owner of vegan bakery, To Die For.

Let’s dig in!

Tell us a little bit about your journey – what inspired you to make the switch?

 

For the first 30 years of my life, I ate animal products. During my college volleyball years living in South Carolina, I even referred to myself proudly as a carnivore (despite considering myself an animal lover). I did sometimes think about the animals and what they had to go through in order to arrive at my plate, but since everyone I knew ate meat and the industry was so huge and inspected by governing bodies, I figured the system must be just. In my imagination, the animals “lived a decent life” and in the end “probably didn’t feel a thing”. Then, I watched a documentary called Earthlings and my worldview changed forever.

Earthlings shows how animals are treated in industries from pet breeding to farming. Joaquin Phoenix, who narrated the doc, said, “Of all the films I have ever made, this is the one that gets people talking the most.” (Here’s a YouTube link to the free documentary, if you’re interested.) I realized that industries and government can’t be trusted to make sure animals are treated well.

It’s up to us, as citizens and consumers, to become aware and to participate in creating change. Similar to so many of you, I can barely watch slaughterhouse footage. My impulse is to shut my eyes when I see anything resembling animal cruelty. But watching Earthlings, I kept telling myself, “seeing this is a million times easier than what the animals are going through.” (To be
honest, I shut my eyes for most of it, but its message was received). Finally learning the truth motivated me to live in alignment with my animal-loving, peaceful values. I’ve found that nothing tastes as good as being vegan feels.

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

What have been your biggest hurdles?

 

Earthlings is what really opened my eyes, but before then, I think on some level I knew that once I dove into learning about animal farming, I wouldn’t like what I found. So, over a period of a few years, I had already been making gradual changes to my diet and habits. By the time I watched Earthlings, I just needed a little push… becoming totally vegan and an animal advocate
was easy. Learning new habits can take time, but don’t let that stop you from taking the first steps!

A hurdle for some who are transitioning can be social situations surrounding food (dinner parties, work events, family gatherings, etc). What I’ve learned is that communicating openly and in advance helps to minimize negative reactions from non-vegan friends, colleagues, and family. When it feels appropriate, I’ll offer to bring a dish to share, make restaurants suggestions, or contribute in some other way. Then, after telling people about my dietary choices, I purposely don’t bring it up again unless asked. I feel like this approach has led to many of my friends and family showing curiosity towards the plant-based lifestyle and asking about meal ideas and plant-based ingredient substitutions.

When people invite us over for dinner, they’re excited to show us the vegan meals they’ve created! I think one of the hardest parts of being vegan is knowing what animals are going through in the meat, dairy and egg industry and not being able to stop it. It can feel frustrating to realize that plant-based eating can actually be really delicious and satisfying (not to mention health- promoting) then having to wait for the world to catch on! Plant-based diets could solve so many global issues from climate change to animal cruelty to rampant lifestyle diseases, and I wish I could help everyone to see this. But I know that if I could go from self-described carnivore to plant-obsessed animal advocate, anyone can!

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

What have you found to be the easiest switch? And how can our viewers start tomorrow?

 

Fortunately, we’re living in a day and age where the vast majority of grocery stores out there have decent vegan products. And if they don’t, virtually everyone has access to age-old plant-based staples, like grains, beans, bread, peanut butter, hummus, tofu, vegetables… the list goes on!

As for the foods that were easiest to swap for animal-free versions, I’d say milk, ice cream, butter, and cheese. Plant-based milks have taken over dairy cases and are driving the dairy industry out of business. Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss ice creams are widely available and they’re amazingly creamy and delicious!

Locally in Vancouver, I’m obsessed with Umaluma Gelato. Their drunken cherry flavour is an all-time favourite of mine! When it comes to vegan butters, I’ve heard so many people say they find Earth Balance even more delicious than cow butter. It’s a no-brainer replacement, and also found at most grocery stores.

Lastly, cheese. If I did a blind taste test with dairy parmesan and VioLife parmesan (sold at Vegan Supply in Vancouver and Whole Foods in the States), I honestly don’t think I could tell the difference. It’s that amazing — and it grates well too! If you’re interested in my full list of dairy and meat alternatives, check out this post.

Substitutions aside, my best tip for going vegan is to focus on why you want to be vegan, as opposed to how you’re going to do it. By focusing on the animals, learning what happens to them, visiting sanctuaries and making the connection that they are here with us, not for us, you will be so unbelievably motivated to figure out how to go vegan, it will seem easy 😉

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

What made you decide to go from being vegetarian to vegan?

 

I’ve actually never thought of myself as a vegetarian. I pretty much went from hard-core meat eater, to ‘flexitarian’, to vegan. It’s hard to believe (and definitely not immediately apparent), but the dairy and egg industries are even crueler than the meat industry. For example, did you know that in the egg industry, male chicks serve no purpose (because they can’t lay eggs), so they’re ground up alive in a macerator the same day they’re born? That blew my mind. And, the females have a large portion of their beaks cut off with a burning hot blade without any painkillers. After two years laying eggs, hens’ fragile bodies are spent, can no longer produce enough, and are sent to the slaughterhouse. Scroll down for more about the dairy industry.

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

What are your best tips for raising vegan kids?

 

I’ve only just begun parenting (my daughter is two), so I’m constantly learning, but here are a few tips I know I would have appreciated if I was new to veganism at the beginning of my parenting journey:

  1. Know that plant-based diets are healthy in pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. In fact, vegans have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and obesity than non-vegans.
  2. Remember that doctors are not nutritionists and that most of them studied nutrition for a mere matter of hours. If they are recommending that your child consume milk, eggs or meat, they’re misinformed.
  3. If you’re worried about missing an important nutrient in your child’s diet, you’re not alone. I think all parents, vegan or not, stress about this sometimes. Daily multi-vitamins are a great way to ensure your child is getting everything they need. Just head to your local vitamin shop where there will be options.
  4. Don’t stress over the small things: if my daughter is at a birthday party and she wants a slice of the non-vegan birthday cake, I’ll let her, not because I think it’s okay for her to eat animal products, but because I don’t want her to end up resenting veganism in the long-run.
  5. If your child drinks cow milk and you’d like to wean them off, try mixing the cow’s milk they’re used to with plant-based milks. Add more and more of the plant milk until it’s the only thing left in the cup or bottle!
  6. If Roen had needed infant formula, I would have used a soy version (nutritionally, soy milk is the closest thing to breast milk). Past year one, if she had needed a ‘white substance’ in her bottle for comfort (she didn’t), I would have chosen soy milk.

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

Why is milk and dairy so bad?

 

I never fully understood how bad the dairy industry is until I became a mother. Growing up, I just assumed that all cows produced milk naturally, all the time. In the movie Meet The Fockers, actor Robert De Niro states that anything with nipples can make milk. It dawned on me that this was true. Rats, zebras, bears and any other mammal with nipples produce milk…for their babies.

We, humans, are the only species who drink the milk of another species. In order for us to drink milk, humans must artificially inseminate cows (who go through nine months of pregnancy, just like we do), and then take their newborn babies away from them (most often within 24 hours after birth) so that we can drink the milk. This is the case at all dairy farms, including those that are small, family-owned or organic. After four to six years of pregnancies and births, when the mama cows’ bodies are spent, their reward is a trip to the slaughterhouse where they’re killed for hamburger meat. If you’re as shocked as I was to learn this, watch this great clip from the BBC about a dairy farmer who’s trying to make some positive changes on his ranch.

Cruelty aside, there are also countless health reasons our family avoids dairy. As a kid, my mom never let me drink milk when I had a cold because it increased my body’s mucus production. Essentially, all the hormones found in milk were growing the virus my body was fighting. (Even so-called “hormone-free” dairy has hormones, because milk naturally contains growth hormones to turn baby calves into thousand-pound animals.) Later in life, I realized that milk can do the same thing to other more serious viruses, too. Going off dairy also drastically reduced the adult acne I experienced in my late teens / early twenties. If you’d like to read more about milk, here is a great resource from Dr. Neal Barnard on some of the myths about dairy that marketers have perpetuated for decades.

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

One of Jillian’s hardest tasks is finding quick, easy, and nutritious meal ideas that are kid-friendly. Where do you find your inspiration? What are your go to’s?

 

I’m not a big meal planner and I can’t say I refer to cookbooks much when it comes to cooking everyday family meals. My strategy is to stock my fridge and pantry with whole, plant-based ingredients and work with what I’ve got. I rely on some simple tricks to making foods delicious, like adding fat (vegan butter, avocado, tahini, oil), acid (lemon, lime, vinegar) and sea salt.

The standard ‘building blocks’ to our family dinners are:

  1. A grain, like quinoa, rice, grain-based pasta, farro, wheat berries or couscous.
  2. A protein-rich ingredient like tofu, lentils, chickpeas, edamame beans, black/navy/kidney beans or tempeh.
  3. Greens and veggies, like broccoli with vegan butter (a big favourite), steamed spinach, cucumber, asparagus or green beans.
  4. A yummy sauce, which could be as simple as olive oil and lemon juice or tahini mixed with water and tamari.
  5. A nutritious topping, like hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. There are so many different combinations of the above that result in delicious, kid and parent-friendly dinners.

Also, don’t feel like you’re always having to come up with something new and exciting. Stick to what you and your kid like. We have steamed broccoli almost every night! Same goes for quinoa, tofu, and avocado. Here are more ideas for what to feed your vegan baby.

Jillian Harris Q&A with Erin Ireland

Photo Credits: Cover Photo | Image 1 | Image 2 | Image 5

I hope that helps everyone! If you have any questions for Erin feel free to share them in the comments below and we will try to get them answered for you! If there are enough, maybe we’ll do a follow up Q&A!!

xo

Jilly

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  1. Kendall says:

    This was so great! I have a question though… How do you go about introducing a picky eater to a vegan diet? I always try to make my boyfriend new vegan dishes to reduce our animal consumption (and he tries them every time!) but because he’s quite a picky eater, he doesn’t end up loving the food.

  2. Kerri says:

    Love this! Erin Ireland was my main inspiration to go vegan (along with my husband and son) as well and I was introduced to her Instagram and website through you so thank you so much to the both of you! 🙂

    • Nicole says:

      Are the animals still slaughtered at the end?

      • Tess says:

        Hey Natalie!
        This couldn’t be more true. Thanks for shedding light on Canadian agriculture. 98% of our dairy farms are actually run by families, and there are tons of regulations that keep our animals healthy, happy, and in excellent welfare conditions.

  3. Natalie says:

    Very cool! Erin has some great recipes and is a great inspiration. I think one important thing to note in regards to farming is that regulations in Canada are much different than those in the US. Animals are treated differently here because there are more smaller, family run farms in Canada, and much more strict regulations for the animal’s care and for the product that consumers get. Bottom line – always good to do research first!! Many vegan posts I read are from Americans, and having grown up on a farm in Canada, I know things are a lot different here and cannot be applied across the board!

    • Alyssa says:

      It doesn’t matter where the animal is raised. The point is that we should not be killing animals for our consumption and greed.

    • Ashley says:

      Hi Nathalie,
      That’s actually not true. Canadian animal agriculture has similar cruel practices in dairy and slaughter houses as the US.
      As well, Canada has no transport laws which require temperature control for animals in the freezing cold or sweltering heat. Many animals arrive literally frozen alive in the winter or die from temperatures over over 100degrees, with no food or water for days.
      It is important that you do research this and actually watch the videos so as not to spread misinformation.

  4. Kat says:

    Great post! I love following Erin on insta. Her daughter is so adorable. Thanks for spreading the word about animal cruelty in the meat, dairy and egg industries. That’s also the reason why I went vegan last year 🙂

  5. Vanessa says:

    My son is so very picky.. And maybe that’s my fault.. but how would you go about transitioning someone who already barely eats the “not so good stuff” to vegan?!
    OH!! What’s your BEST alternative to scramble eggs/recipe ?!

    Thank youuu!! This has been eye opening. <3

  6. kim k says:

    So informative! Thank you.

  7. Ida On says:

    This was amazing Erin! Thank you for sharing this! Thank you Team Jilly For this creative blog idea! This will help out and inform a lot of people <3 #ForTheAnimals

  8. Marg Murphy says:

    Do you feed your dog vegan? Most dogs require a raw diet with meat as the first ingredient.

  9. Melissa says:

    I love trying out Erin’s recipes! They are super tasty. I do have a question, are you worried about high soy intake running the risk of affecting the estrogen- receptor as a woman?

  10. Pat says:

    Hi Erin,

    What are your thoughts on food for dogs?

    Trying to reduce meat consumption in my large breed dog but unsure what to substitute…..

    We don’t feed him packaged or canned. Make everything ourselves.

  11. Stef says:

    What if you could raise your own chickens, in your own yard in a coop, let them have their run of a fenced in area, and keep them happily until they die naturally. Would it then be ok to eat their eggs? I.e. not for sale or a profit, just for your own consumption, as and when the chickens lay eggs. Just wondering if this would be acceptable animal welfare. This article makes me want to give up eating eggs but wondering if there is an alternative way to raise them happily. Please no judgment, just an honest question.

    • Jesse says:

      I don’t eat animal products in part for animal welfare, in part for the environment, and also for health reasons. That being said, if o had my own happy chickens and they produced eggs, I would absolutely eat them once in a while if I craved one or it was convenient for a recipe. Otherwise, I would probably simply add them to my dog’s diet. I wouldn’t eat the chicken itself though as I wouldn’t be able to eat a being I have grown to know , cared for, and had gotten attached to..

  12. Angela Terzo says:

    I started following Erin after Jillian referenced her on her Instagram. I’d been wanting to go vegetarian for a few years but was fearful of his to deal with my family meals, social events, restaurants etc. After reaching out on Instagram on vegan websites I got some great advice and went for it. I did it overnight! Totally vegetarian. I’m working on going vegan but it takes a bit of time looking for alternatives.
    Thank you Erin and Jillian. Keep spreading the word. It’s catching on FAST.

    • Ashleigh says:

      Depends on what you’re making to eat! I eat a LOT of beans which are dirt cheap! Especially if you buy a big dried bag of them to make from. Tofu is also really cheap and really great as a substitute for dairy/cream in lots of recipes as well, not just as a meat replacement.

      Also cutting meat out of my diet saved me a lot of money I found, some substitutes (such as tofurkey sausages, beyond meat burgers) cost the same or more, but I usually stick to basics such as beans/tofu/grains.

  13. Abby says:

    Love this!! After following Jillian and following Erin on instagram… it has made me think a lot about the food industry. I will make some of my meals vegetarian (havent tried making a fully vegan meal yet) but one of the challenges I have is being on a student budget… would you say that vegan options are more/less expensive? Also, any helpful tips for meal preping or places to eat out to cater to a busy life style?

  14. Amanda says:

    Love this post, Erin! Veganism is the future ???

  15. Marie says:

    How do you get B12? Is this an issue?

  16. Robyn Kurtz says:

    I was also concerned about my kids resenting veganism, but I’ve found that my vegan kids (now 5) have never had an issue with saying no to non vegan food (clothing, entertainment). They’ve known their whole lives that eating animals (and byproducts) hurts them, and so they take the initiative to ask and decline. Kids really get it. Also Roen is adorable!!! My kids have the same Peace People sweatshirt 🙂

  17. Toby Van Es says:

    Very interesting. Opened my eyes for sure.

    • Tess says:

      Hey Ashley!
      Canadian and US agriculture are actually vastly different in the majority of sectors for many reasons. Canada actually does have several transport laws, here’s all the information if you would like to look http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/humane-transport/eng/1300460032193/1300460096845. I’m not sure what you mean about dairy products being full of hormones and cancer-causing hormones? This is by no means true and I would love to see the information behind this. If you’re going to watch slaughter videos then go for it, but if you truly want a good representation of what goes on in Canada make sure it’s from a recent reputable Canadian source.

  18. Ashley says:

    Canadian animal agriculture has similar cruel practices to the US in both the dairy, egg and slaughterhouses.
    As well, Canada has no transport laws which require temperature control for animals in the freezing cold or sweltering heat. Many animals arrive literally frozen alive in the winter or die from temperatures over over 100degrees, with no food or water for days.
    It is important to do research and watch the videos to truly understand what these animals endure.
    Also, dogs can absolutely survive and thrive on plant protein, cats cannot.
    And worrying about tofu or soy as having too much estrogen makes no sense when dairy itself is full of hormones and cancer causing growth hormones. Soy is a welcome and safer substitute.
    Erin said it best that watching animal slaughter videos and truly unblinding yourself to the horrors of animal agriculture, is the easiest way to make the switch to veganism.

  19. Emily says:

    Love this article and Erin has been a huge inspiration for me and my husband as we coast thru our vegan journey. I wanted to know your thoughts on soy and the opinions that eating it can cause infertility, stunted growth, hyperthyroidism…etc. Also, it’s super processed. We eat soy/tofu but these studies are always running through my mind. Would love your take!

  20. Jill says:

    Great post! After being introduced by Jillian’s IG, I started following Erin and watched her recommended docs last year and overnight went from a full on carnivore to a proud vegan – it was enlightening and eye opening! My husband and dog also converted to a plant-based diet and we are all healthy, thriving, and have more energy than ever. For those asking about their pets, unlike cats, dogs are scanvengers and are not built to eat meat everyday. My vet completely supported a plant-based diet for my large dog which she’s been on for over a year, and she is happy and healthy as ever (including her first year with no health related vet visits!) – talk to your local pet store if they stock Petcuren Gather (kibble) or Natural Balance (can+kibble). Also check out nutritionfacts.org for all plant-based health related questions 🙂

  21. Jacquie says:

    Love Erin Ireland, follow her religiously – same with Jillian and family. Any recommendations for meat substitutes for people who are vegan and gluten free other than tofu? I find it very hard to find things that are both. They are usually one or the other but not both v and gf. We eat whole foods and plants but sometimes we need more than salads or roasted veggies. And getting other family members on board would be easier if I had some sort of meat substitute. They dont like tofu and “meat” crumble is the only thing I’ve found without gluten. Any recommendations would be amazing and lifesaving honestly. Thank you!

  22. Gillian says:

    Thank you so much, Erin and Jillian! Erin, you are a huge inspiration and help for me as I transition our family to being fully plant based!

  23. Ashley says:

    Hi Ladies!

    I find you both so inspiring and have been following your daily lives on social media for a few years now! I personally loved this interview, thanks so much for all the wonderful information and insight. Erin, do you have any books on “Veganism” for children you can recommend?

    Thank you kindly,

    Ashley

    • gaby says:

      I am not questioning life choices people make. But..

      Doctors and nutritionists only study nutrition for “a mere matter hours” and we should not listen to them ( well, let’s not mention they base their opinion on serious research; have passed exams; etc )

      But people should not question the advice of someone who is a food reporter and references youtube videos and of course apply their advice for everyone from children to pets.

  24. Amanda Cameron says:

    Oh my goodness!!! I didn’t know that male chickens were killed the same day that they’re born because they can’t lay eggs!!!!! That is absolutely horrible!!!!! I don’t think I’ll be drinking milk anymore, but I’ve tried having soy milk and almond milk in my cereal, but I’m not too fond of the taste. Any suggestions?

    Thank you for sharing all of your information Erin :).

    Amanda

    • Courtney says:

      Oat milk is amazing!! It’s naturally sweet and creamy without any sweetener added. My daughter was the only one in the house who still drank cow milk because she really disliked the soy, almond and coconut milks she tried but oat milk she likes more than dairy!
      Here in edmonton, we can only find it in Save on Foods so far.

    • Tess says:

      Hey Amanda!
      This information actually isn’t true, not in Canada at least. When male chicks are born in the egg industry, they are actually raised as broiler chickens for meat, typically until 1-2 months of age. And they are definitely, DEFINITELY, not “ground up alive in a macerator”, they are taken to the slaughterhouse where they are usually stunned unconscious before being euthanized.

  25. Tess says:

    I’m all for a plant-based diet, but documentaries like “Earthlings” or other netflix/youtube videos are not reliable sources. Especially the fact that Joaquin Phoenix himself is widely known as a vegan, an animal activist, and campaigns for PETA, there is a tonne of bias in this documentary. Instead of relying on netflix documentaries and websites for your information, read peer reviewed scientific articles. Canadian agriculture is also vastly different than practices done in the US and other parts of the world. I’m sorry, I’m all about what Erin is trying to convey here, but her information is very skewed. Take the time to do proper research before you make such a drastic decision such as becoming vegan

  26. Leah says:

    His Q is for Jillian and Erin… I watch your stories and often gives me ideas for the gorclery store/ meals… but what I can’t help wonder is, if you couldn’t Have soy in ANYTHING, could you still do as well as vegan.
    I cannot have soy, severe reaction 🙁
    But the tofu I made was so good, so that was too bad!

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