“My food choices make me feel good”
A vegetarian at the age of five and a vegan for the last nine years, Alexandra Robinson refers to both her values and her health when she talks about the positive impact of her diet.
The 28-year-old American, who is forging a career in the health policy sector, says although veganism is becoming more mainstream and plant-based choices more common, she’s still often asked where she gets her protein from.
Tell us how you became a vegetarian at such a young age?
I tend to have a different story than other people who had a lightbulb moment. My family say I came home from kindergarten and said: “Guess what mom, I’m vegetarian now!” She thought I would forget in a couple of days. But I didn’t.
I guess around that age you start to realize a hamburger is a cow so maybe that’s why it was normal to me. I never felt that by not having meat on the plate, a dish is incomplete. I’m the only person in my family with an alternative diet and it didn’t feel like a choice, it felt like who I was.
Why did you want to become a vegan?
It was a quick decision – I tried a vegan diet for a month and just never stopped. But as environmental movements have become more active, it’s helped me to figure out the why – what the impact is and why I wouldn’t go back.
I like to know the issues around me and want to live in a better world. My diet and the food choices I make is something I can control and it’s a way I can make a difference. I am not automatically a great person because I am vegan but it has a positive impact on the planet.
What’s the impact of your diet on your health?
I’ve always felt really good with my diet and never felt my health has suffered because of it. I love fruit and vegetables and I get excited to eat when I come across foods that are accidently vegan or vegan by creation. So, a lot of Indian dishes where plant-based is already part of the food culture and I can eat a dish meal without changing anything.
When I tell people I’m vegan, the usual response is: “Oh, I couldn’t do it, I love cheese too much.” The other knee-jerk reaction is: “How do you get your protein?” It’s easy to get defensive and not spend enough time finding out how you can be at your healthiest on this diet. I have started following a lot of vegan fitness coaches who try to get an athletes’ amount of protein per day on a vegan diet. I’ve learned a lot from them about what I can do better and think about protein portions in every meal.
Do you still get reaction to your diet and food choices today
Well, it’s been a long time since someone has tried to convince me otherwise. There’s been a huge shift over the last ten years. Going to restaurants used to mean having to ask a lot of questions – that doesn’t happen so much anymore.
In the past, there were perhaps times I felt uncomfortable expressing that I was vegan but I have never been an evangelist and tried to change other people’s minds. I just love my diet and I love the way I eat.