Jasmine Harman was a vegetarian for many years before taking the step to become vegan with the support of Veganuary and all it has to offer. So, we caught up with Jasmine to ask her about her reasons for supporting the campaign and her own journey into the plant based lifestyle.
You have been vegan for a while now, but what made you want to become an ambassador for Veganuary?
It was Veganuary that really helped me to make the leap from vegetarian to vegan, on the very first year that they began the campaign. So, becoming an ambassador is an honour and a privilege that I am very proud of. I think Veganuary makes it easy to try out a vegan diet without committing to it forever, so you know what you’re getting into. I also found other people more accepting when I said I was trying vegan for a month. It’s like “try before you buy” and for me, once I tried it and realised that I wasn’t missing out on anything, I wasn’t starving, and in fact I was feeling better both physically and emotionally, there was no looking back. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I only wish I’d done it sooner.
What is your most recent and exciting vegan find?
My most recent and exciting vegan find is the new vegan Baileys Almande. I think I probably bought half of the stock meant for the whole country. I have missed a cheeky Baileys at Christmas since I went vegan but no more! I can’t wait to surprise lots of people with it as a gift!
What vegan and cruelty free products can you not live without?
My new Pawj boots are amazing. They’re like uggs without the cruelty. Cosy, comfy, easy! I love them! My Labante handbags, especially my supersized work one which I get so many comments on, and it fits everything including the kitchen sink!
What is your favourite vegan dish to make at home?
So many to choose from... people are always impressed with my shepherd’s pie. It’s so easy and hearty, delicious and filling, everyone loves it, including my children.
Does your family follow a vegan diet with you? (if not, how do you negotiate the two different lifestyle choices?)
Most of my siblings and immediate family are vegan so family gatherings are fine. My children are vegetarian although they primarily eat vegan when they are with me. My husband is not vegetarian but I’m working on him 😜 we work around it by being completely vegetarian at home, and my husband is becoming more conscious of the ethics especially as the children get older and have a greater understanding of what happens to animals when people eat meat. It took me 38 years until I was ready to take the big step to veganism, so I have to have patience and understanding that it is not easy for everyone.
How do you cope when you are travelling? Are vegan foods easy to find when you’re working abroad?
It varies and can be hit and miss but even over the past 4 years that I have been vegan it has become easier. I was in Greece before Easter and the food was amazing because many people give up animal products for lent. In the Caribbean where I am now, most restaurants have Ital options which are suitable for a Rastafarian plant based diet. Even in Spain and Portugal so many more vegan eateries are popping up and most restaurants at least understand what it means to be vegan.
What sort of things do you eat on a typical day?
I’ll have toast or cereal for brekkie with sunflower spread or plant milk & fruit. For lunch I might have a wrap with salad and humous/ falafel/ sun dried tomatoes or soup and garlic bread (Sainsbury’s basics is vegan) or cous cous with stuffed vine leaves and gigante beans.
Dinner might be sausages and mash with veggies, Thai green curry, fajitas, or Sunday roast. I tend to eat food that is probably quite familiar to most people, it’s fairly easy to veganise most dishes.
Is there anything you miss from your vegetarian diet?
I had a cheese themed wedding, so cheese was the hardest thing for me to give up. There are a few passable alternatives and some really great products that I love (Tyne cheaze), but after a short while of not eating cheese, it actually smells revolting when you really pay attention.
I do miss the sociable way of eating a fondue with friends but it is a small price to pay.
Do you have any tips for people who are struggling to transition from the vegetarian to vegan diet?
Try Veganuary and see how you feel after a month. My experience was that once you’ve been off dairy etc for a little while, when you go back to it, it will smell and taste far less tempting than it did before.
Also for ethical vegetarians (like I was) educate yourself. Watch Earthlings, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks Over Knives etc. Do some research. You won’t want to consume animal products anymore.
Accept it may be a gradual process, phasing out things that were previously part of your life. Don’t beat yourself up, just be aware and mindful of the impact that your choices have on yourself and others and the planet.
Try out lots of alternative recipes, surround yourself with supportive people, treat yourself to a nice meal out in a vegan restaurant, or some lovely new vegan shoes or cosmetics.
Get online and find all the of wonderful vegan resources and support. All of a sudden, you’ll feel normal and you’ll wonder why on earth everyone hasn’t made the switch yet.
Get over cheese - this was the hardest thing for me. There aren’t many really great convincing cheese alternatives although there are a few passable ones. But after a short while of not eating cheese, it actually smells revolting when you really pay attention.
Finally, how important do you think it is for celebrities such as yourself to champion this lifestyle?
I think it is important to speak up for what you believe in, especially if you are in the public eye. I think people often imagine that vegans are pale, weak and thin so for them to see celebrities who are glamorous, strong, curvy, tanned, healthy and confident helps to dispel some of the stereotypes and misconceptions and make vegan mainstream.