Each month we post conversations we have with cool people who live mindfully whether it’s living with less or being healthy without doing harm to others. This is not an interview series but more a down-to-earth catchup over a casual cup of tea.
This month we had the opportunity of getting to know German couple, Alena and Lars from Nutriciously, a place where you can learn how nutritious and delicious plant-based food can transform your life. This talented duo launched their blog shortly after ours and have been putting out some great work over the last year. Their message is strong and their articles are filled with actionable advice.
The couple also have great complementary skills and interests. Alena is extremely passionate about nutrition and music and Lars has a background in computer science and has a technical approach to his writing style. They have both been vegetarian from a young age and have been vegan for over five years.
In this conversation we discuss why they started Nutritiously, what inspired them to become vegan and how they have dealt with the social challenges of living life a little differently.
What inspired you to start Nutriciously?
We wanted to show the world how simple and delicious healthy eating can be. When we both decided to change our diets a couple of years ago, veganism seemed both very complicated and restrictive to us – and it took some time for us to discover that it’s very much the opposite. This whole process should be a lot easier for other people who want to move more towards a healthy plant-based diet and reap its great benefits.
We feel like this lifestyle change has transformed our bodies and minds quite a bit, and wished everyone could experience the same benefits. Unfortunately, there are so many mixed messaged out there about what’s healthy or what’s not and many people are confused – rightfully so! The simple truth is, a whole food plant based diet is the perfect human diet, has been out there for a few decades now and needs to be spread.
This is why we wanted to create this virtual space filled with well-researched information on vegan diets and natural, conscious living. A good life really is that easy! On top of regular blog posts and pages about the basic principles of healthy eating, we also created a free email course in transitioning towards a plant-based diet that offers step-by-step guidance. There’s also a colorful smoothie recipe book which can be downloaded for free to start adding more delicious vitamins and minerals into your diet right now.
One day, we hope to be able to work on this project full-time, since it’s our passion and we do believe it takes a lot to make a really good impact on the Earth and its inhabitants. Lars is trained in web designing and programming, Alena is trained in nutrition and loves to read books or watch lectures in order to stay up to date – so this is why we do believe that we can ultimately create a business out of our talents which will sustain our minimalistic lifestyle.
Do you remember your turning point in your life when you decided to become vegan? Or was it more of a gradual process?
We were both born in 1989 and became vegetarians at the age of 6 or so when one day it dawned on us what this piece of meat on our plate used to be. Funnily enough, we didn’t think about being vegan until we were around 20 – all of which, mind you, happened before we even met.
Lars was inspired by a few books on health and longevity to ditch all of the animal products. He had been struggling with an array of health problems and felt more like 70 year old man instead of someone in their twenties. This made him want to turn his life and fate around and become more youthful and energetic again. At first, it was solely a dietary change for him and he was ‘cheating’ here and there on his new regime.
What made it especially hard was that he instantly tried becoming a fully raw vegan for perfect health – but after a few failed attempts on staying raw, he decided to just stick to healthy whole plant based foods. It was a few years after his diet changed that he looked more into the ethical aspects of veganism and watched videos about animal agriculture which really had a huge impact on him. It made him stop participating in any form of exploitation, including buying leather or animal-tested shampoos, going to the zoo or wearing wool.
As for Alena, she has been an ethically passionate vegetarian throughout her teens and was devastated to find out one day (while watching a random PETA video) that cows don’t ‘give milk’ just like that and what was really going on behind the scenes. Within a few days, she binge-watched all she could find about the dairy and egg industries, as well as their negative impact on our health and environment, until she felt sick to her stomach.
But since she was still living with her parents and some foods like cheese or chocolate seemed too irresistible sometimes, she went back and forth for a few months (especially while travelling the US). Soon after that, she moved into her own place and went grocery shopping for herself only – and has been vegan ever since.
What really kept her going and motivated was watching documentaries like Earthlings and Forks Over Knives, as well as countless speeches on YouTube by activists and plant-based doctors. The truth had to sink in eventually. Her diet evolved from eating vegan chocolate and white bread to fruits and vegetables only, until she found her perfect balance eating a whole food plant based diet.
All of this being said, we really understand that it’s not easy to change a habit, even after you’ve seen and understood all the consequences and impacts. It’s okay to take your time in order to shift your diet, it’s a transformational process for both body and soul.
What benefits have you seen and felt since becoming plant-based?
In short: we became totally different people. Aside from losing some weight effortlessly, we also felt increasingly more energized and wanted to move around more. There was this huge drive inside of us because we were suddenly connected to something that felt so right and good – every other way of living and being became very strange to us and we wanted to start showing people that there’s more to life.
It’s great to be in alignment with being conscious and kind, virtues which we all originally possess. Our increased ability to focus led us to want to get into personal development, question our beliefs and habits, as well as creating the life we truly want. This also meant decluttering our mind with meditation and our space by throwing things away or selling them. We had so much stuff and it was a great feeling to share, giving others what they need, while at the same time having more room to breathe and move.
Our skin improved as well and hair loss stopped and regrew, digestion improved and we had a huge desire to care for our bodies, to work out or simply have a wellness routine. We also became more outgoing and wanted to connect with other like-minded people. We started to travel more and discover beautiful parts of the world – Lars for example went on a one year trip to Australia and Thailand where he explored great vegan food, nature, and most of all himself. This of course came with a shift in his mindset and priorities. All in all, we truly believe that if you change what you eat, you can change almost everything that’s not working properly in your body.
What would be your top three tips to someone who is looking to become vegan?
First of all, education is so crucial. And we don’t necessarily mean that you need to become a nutrition expert. But to understand that you can live a very healthy life, meeting or exceeding all of your nutritional needs (except for B12) on a whole food plant based diet. If you want to choose to keep eating processed food, you can eat vegan versions of chips and cookies – but don’t expect your health to get any better. Knowing why you don’t want support the exploitation of animals and actually taking a look at pictures and videos which show you the truth is an important step as well.
Get educated about all the positive impacts a vegan lifestyle has on you, others, all the animals and our planet. This gives you a huge boost of motivation and you’re prepared for any and all questions coming your way from people who are either curious or criticise your lifestyle change.
Secondly, don’t drastically change your diet from one day to the next because you’ll most likely struggle after a while. Stick to plant-based foods which you’ve always eaten and liked – fruit, bread, avocado, potatoes, pasta with marinara sauce, bean burritos or Indian curries over rice. These foods make you feel satisfied and nourished while at the same time seem very familiar. The key to a sustainable vegan diet is simple meals, whole foods or minimally processed ingredients. These are most convenient, cheap and nourishing – and actually humans have been eating over thousands of years, sustaining us quite well. If you want to dive into the world of raw food or juices that’s fantastic, but make sure to do your own research and don’t blame veganism if this way of eating doesn’t make you feel your best or it’s not sustainable. There are many types of vegan diets and you will eventually find the one that suits you best.
And lastly, find like-minded people who will motivate, educate and inspire you. It’s so easy nowadays with the internet! Just head over to your favorite social media platform and start looking. I remember YouTube being very helpful as there are quite a few people who made either very informative and witty videos on this topic or showed random meals they were eating. This gives you such a great insight into the colorful world of veganism – and can also make for great friendships. Forums are another place to find vegan people or even websites like meetup where you can find like-minded people in your area. Having these connections makes it so much easier to stay vegan, especially if you have a lot of resistance from your friends and family.
Have you felt resistance from close family and friends because of your lifestyle choices? If so, how have you dealt with it?
I would say we’re both very lucky and didn’t have to deal with a lot of resistance. Alena’s parents were pretty open and interested about it and her mum changed her diet towards whole plant-based foods a few years after her and so her dad only eats a few animal-based snacks here and there at home.
Lars’ parents were a little more sceptical as to whether his fully vegan diet was healthy but that was mainly because their knowledge was obsolete. Both being born and raised in small villages, they used to rely on animal-based food for survival back in the day so they thought it was still necessary to consume this type of food. To cut them some slack, Lars and Alena were both eating an almost entirely raw vegan diet, which, granted, seems a bit restrictive. Nowadays we eat a primarily whole food, cooked and raw vegan diet, it’s a lot easier. His mum often cooks something very simple which we really enjoy and even participated in a vegan cooking class!
Last Christmas, we decided to plan and cook almost every meal for 3 days when we spent time together with the whole family – and they loved our healthy vegan dishes, most of which nobody had eaten in that way before or believed it was really vegan. So that was a huge success!
When you hear the phrase, ‘less is more’, what comes to mind?
It makes sense in so many aspects of life. When you have/do/be less of one thing, most of the time, the opposite can become more too! So when you worry less, you can smile more. When you procrastinate less, you work more. And when you eat less processed junk food – you eat more whole foods.
Having less things or responsibilities often means having more time, what you do own requires less maintenance and brings some peace of mind. We actually don’t need much in order to be happy – and honestly, it can make you feel free if you only own a handful of necessities. Material stuff does not equate true wealth and often times, experiences are a lot more valuable too.
As mentioned earlier, Lars went on a one year vacation to Australia and Thailand a few years ago. He took only one backpack full of belongings – and he had the time of his life. Experiences, connections, adventures were far more valuable than the 5 shirts he brought. If more people were thinking like that, we wouldn’t have the problems we face today, which could ultimately destroy our whole planet and every living being. If we could all cut down on our wish to consume and waste so many things, our resources would last much longer, leaving behind a better world and healthier inhabitants.
Personally, we don’t own many things anymore. When we moved in together, we drastically cut down on stuff we wanted to take along on our journey and life together. We gave so many clothes, books and even furniture away – this actually made the path for our lives a lot clearer and less messy. We value what we own very much and we also love to have a nice amount of space in our apartment where we can move around. Plus, cleaning a room has become a 5 minute effort now!
We also think before we purchase. It’s important to give your money to companies who create quality products that weren’t made by slaves or unethical materials. The way to afford them is by buying very fewer things. Especially with the situation here in Germany, all of the refugees coming in, we see that other people could need what we have plenty of, so it feels right to give away what we don’t really need.
What is your vision for Nutriciously?
We want to continue publishing articles on healthy plant-based eating, debunking common myths, giving hands-on advice and coming up with our own recipes. Getting more into food photography is a huge goal since we can actually show people all of these different delicious meal options. And we want this to be as simple as possible – nutrition is a complicated and controversial topic for most people so the best we can do is save them some time, effort and frustration.
We also plan on getting even more educated and certified in plant-based nutrition so we can start coaching people and have even more credibility. What we try to focus on in the future is the ‘why’ behind what people choose to do or believe about themselves – because when you want to change something about your life, you often run into blockages and sabotage yourself. So this mental aspect is crucial for creating lasting change and building healthy habits.
And to let you in on a little secret: we are currently working on our very first product which we would like to offer sometime this spring for people who would appreciate some further information and guidance. Knowing why something is right and good for you is so crucial because your motivation isn’t always the same. This will also include a lengthy meal plan with recipes and much more hands-on tips.
One day, like I said earlier, we would love to do this full-time and move around, see many places on this beautiful planet and leave some inspiration anywhere we go. This might still take a while but it’s worth all the effort and heart we put into it.
How can people support your work?
You can follow us on social media like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, where we post daily information and inspiration. Feel free to re-post and share everything you see there! If you like to have one of our freebies, you’re welcome to join the inner circle and get some additional support from us. You can go to our website and either join our free 6-part course in transitioning to a plant-based diet or download our smoothie ebook for some tasty inspiration. And if you feel like you’re up for some more guidance and hands-on advice, you can get our soon-to-be-released product on healthy eating and weight loss.
We love to connect with like-minded people and build a community of conscious, kind, inspiring and healthy individuals. So please feel free to contact us in any way, let us know about your struggles and successes – we might even feature your story on our blog to further inform and motivate others. So help us to help you!