Spark’s Linda Koskinen went vegan to ease her climate anxiety, but got a healthier, happier lifestyle as a bonus. Now she runs the blog Fan of this planet, where she posts her favourite vegan recipes to inspire others. Today, she shares the story of how she became vegan step-by-step, as well as tips for those who are interested in eating more plant-based food.
"I can’t remember the first time I heard about climate change, but I’ve worried about the state of nature for as long as I can remember. As I reached adulthood I realized that the best way to ease my growing climate anxiety was to act. Three years ago, I switched to a vegan diet, hence reducing my carbon footprint by 10%. Today, it’s a part of my identity and requires almost zero effort.
Switching to a vegan diet is one of the biggest lifestyle changes a person can make to reduce personal carbon emissions. However, if you want to make it a habit, I do suggest doing it step-by-step. My journey started when I left home and moved in with my boyfriend. I knew nothing about cooking but wanted to start eating vegetarian food once a week. Hoarding vegetarian recipes got me excited about cooking and soon I was at a point where most of our meals did not include any meat. A couple of years later I learnt that meat isn’t the only problem, but dairy has a high climate impact as well. So, I gave up my favourite treats — milk chocolate and ice cream — and went vegan.
This turned out to be a winning move not only for the planet, but also for me personally. I’ve gained a healthier lifestyle, a smaller carbon footprint, a cleaner conscious, and a sense of doing something meaningful. The thing is, me choosing this diet has an impact that goes beyond my own everyday life. I’ve made vegan food more approachable to people around me by inviting them to homemade vegan dinners, or just by eating vegan alternatives in their presence.
It seems like many people don’t know what it actually is that vegans eat. With concrete examples, people might find it easier to choose plant-based alternatives — and that’s one of the reasons I love to share my meals on social media. Receiving pictures from excited friends and family members of their first ever home-cooked vegan meal, or just vegan yoghurt they’ve bought, feels like an accomplishment to me.
People often ask me if it's not difficult to get all the nutrients I need with a vegan diet. The answer is; not really. As you probably know, vegetables, fruits and berries are full of vitamins and nutrients. According to Finnish nutrition recommendations, you should eat 500 g of these each day. However, not many of us manage to do that. A study from 2018 by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare found that only 14% of Finnish men and 22% of the women eat the recommended amount of vegetables, fruits and berries. In addition, 79% of the men eat more red or processed meat than recommended. With a diverse vegan diet (hint: eat colorful food!) it’s quite easy to reach recommended levels, and you’re likely getting all the nutrients and vitamins you need from food (except B12, which you can only get from animal products or, in my case, as a supplement). For example, beans and almonds are both great sources of calcium and iron.
At first I was worried going completely vegan would become a challenge, but since I had learnt to cook with meat-free recipes, it actually felt like a small step. There are loads of plant-based alternatives to dairy products available today, so switching to them was rather easy. If you’re used to building your meals around beef or chicken (which is quite typical in Finnish food culture), switching to a vegan diet might require a bit more imagination. Familiarize yourself with new food cultures — India, Thailand and Morocco for example — where plant-based dishes are part of everyday life. Learn to use spices (be generous!) and make field trips to different restaurants for new ideas.
What surprised me the most was how quickly I found new favorites replacing the ones I had given up. And if I went vegan today, I wouldn’t even have to: luxurious vegan ice creams and cheeses can be found in regular supermarkets these days.
To me, food is so much more than vitamins and nutrients: it’s enjoyable and exciting. Going vegan for the climate has made me appreciate food more and given a deeper meaning for every meal. This is something that I can do for our planet and I’m more than happy to continue this way of life."
Breakfast: ½ Chickpea omelette that I made the previous night
Lunch: Oumph & quinoa bowl
Snack: Chia pudding with berries
Dinner: Red lentil curry with brown rice (make a big batch and you got yourself covered fo days!)
Evening snack: Oatmeal with 2 tbsp of vegan protein powder, frozen berries, peanut butter and ½ banana
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