Or when did you realise that you wanted to make more ethical, sustainable and cruelty-free lifestyle choices? In Lee Ting’s case, it happened when she was young. She remains steadfast and dedicated to this day – even co-founding plant-based café Soul ALife as a way to spread the word about veganism, animal welfare and, of course, good food. She’s proof that it’s never too early or too late to improve our habits, add to our knowledge, and explore other options. We can learn from her values, experiences and tips – like how to eat healthy and vegan in Singapore.
With Lee Ting, the seeds of veganism took root in her heart and mind during her teens.
First, she found out that a friend was vegetarian. “I got envious and wanted to try vegetarianism too,” recounts the animal lover. “But I couldn’t because of my family and my love for fish. I disliked beef and pork, but had a soft spot for fish.”
Second, she began watching vegan food recipe videos on YouTube. But there was a bit of a mix-up. “I didn’t know what ‘vegan’ actually meant. I remember watching my first ever vegan YouTube channel, ‘CookingWithPlants’, and thought it was a vegetarian channel – that ‘vegan’ was short for ‘vegetarian’.” Lee Ting was 16.
There’s a difference (Photo by Thomas Quaritsch)
It was also during this period that she tried eating vegetarian dishes. “I wasn’t able to commit to it full-time, as I really loved fish and didn’t have the motivation.”
Third, Lee Ting happened to click on a video by a vegan YouTuber who spoke about veganism, and about how our eating habits affect animals and cause them to suffer.
It was a revelation (Photo by Raul Varzar)
“From there I watched (the documentaries) Earthlings and Forks Over Knives. I couldn’t see animals the same way anymore,” she admits. “I couldn’t forget how the animals were kept in such horrible conditions.”
That was it – she decided to become a vegan. She was 17.
She met with some opposition
Which isn’t unusual. Lee Ting’s family, for one, voiced their objections. “Of course, when I first told them that I wasn’t going to eat meat, fish, milk and eggs anymore, they were really against it,” she narrates.
“They were mad and we fought quite a bit. They felt that the lifestyle was too restrictive and that I wouldn’t be able to get enough nutrition from just plants. I wanted to prove them wrong, that I could also thrive on a plant-based diet.”
She had no doubts (Photo by Katrina)
So she gathered as much information as she could. “I started to learn more about the health benefits of veganism, and how to eat well on a vegan diet. My role model has always been Dr Michael Greger,” she enthuses. Dr Greger is an American physician and vegan who wrote the bestseller, How Not to Die. (To find out more about the book, as well as other must-reads about veganism and the ethical, cruelty-free lifestyle, click here.)
In the process, Lee Ting was also able to try out a couple of approaches that suited her needs.
“Throughout my journey in veganism, I definitely went through many different types of vegan diets – mainly the high-carb, low-fat diet. But it wasn’t the optimum diet for me – I started to lose way too much hair and had irregular periods,” she states.
“It was only until I added a lot of healthy fats from nuts and seeds that I started to feel better, had less hair fall, and had regular periods. Now I’m a full advocate for healthy plant fats, especially from nuts!
They’ll always come in handy (Photo by Maddi Bazzocco)
“I learnt through my mistakes; I didn’t just listen to any one ‘guru’ on the Internet – I became my own health guru, doing what I feel is best, and being the best vegan version of myself.”
Just don’t forget to consult with your doctor before embarking on any diet or lifestyle change. 😊
A few years later
… and Lee Ting, now 21, is a proud vegan who’s decided to run and co-found Soul ALife – which she describes as a “100% plant-based café that offers wholesome, nutritious and complete meals that are free from palm oil, MSG and trans fat”. It’s her way of offering vegans and non-vegans healthier, tastier options.
“The coffee beans we use are fair trade and organic. Our juices are cold-pressed and 100% with no added sugar,” she stresses.
They only have the best (Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez)
“We aim to provide delicious yet nutritious food for everyone that feeds their bodies and souls well. We try to create our food in-house as much as possible to avoid unwanted preservatives from processed foods.”
You’ll love their homemade mushroom patty. “It’s one of our bestsellers, and we make it from scratch with love,” she announces. “We also make most of our sauces and dressings in-house – our Beetroot Hummus being our customers’ favourite, and our specialty.”
Did you know that you can also boil, pickle and roast beetroot? (Photo by Monika Grabkowska)
On the lookout for more inspired vegan dishes? Visit their outlet at Changi City Point (which is about to turn a year old on 14th March 2019) for a good and filling meal today.
Wise words to live by
Lee Ting practises three habits to maintain her vegan mindset and lifestyle, and they’ve always served her well. We hope they’ll do the same for you. What are yours?
1. Do your research on vegan food and eateries around Singapore
“You’d be surprised to realise that there are many vegan eateries in Singapore! You can enjoy all of your favourite foods, vegan style.
“Most hawkers and food courts in Singapore will definitely have a vegetarian stall, so it’s not difficult to eat vegan out. There’s vegan burger, pizza, ice cream, you name it.
“Many non-vegan restaurants have now also added a vegan menu, so it’s not difficult to dine out with your friends and family. As long as you know what’s vegan and what’s not, it’ll be easy.”
Do they have what you want and need? (Photo by Stella de Smit)
2. Have an open mind
“It’s always important to have an open mind towards non-vegans. Not everyone is ready to take that step into veganism, so we should always remain respectful with those who are not. This will make your journey as a vegan so much happier and more peaceful.
“When you show respect and an open mind to your non-vegan friends and family, you’ll see that they’ll treat you the same way.”
3. Learn to cook your own nutritious vegan meals
“Dining out might be too expensive. Being vegan is actually not expensive at all if you know how to cook your own meals. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Have some brown rice with tofu, chickpeas and broccoli, and drizzle it with homemade tahini sauce. It doesn’t cost any more than $2.
“Learning to cook your own plant-based meals is the most realistic way to keep your wallet and tummy full.”
And from observing and enjoying Soul ALife’s food bowls, we’ve also come up with fun and similar ways to create those pretty plates at home:
1. Make a rainbow
The more colours you can incorporate into your dish (thanks to different vegan foods and ingredients), the better!
Here’s Soul ALife's Buddha Bowl…
2. Add texture
When there’s a range of fluffy, creamy, chewy, crumbly and crispy profiles from nuts, veggies, beans, rice, noodles, fruits and hummus (among others), you’re bound to get a different experience with every spoonful.
3. The sauces, pastes and dressings matter
They help season your dish for even more flavour. Get yours here at Souley Green.
4. Look at your plate or bowl as a canvas
Have fun figuring out where to place your foods and ingredients. You can arrange it by colour, size or shape, go round until you reach the center, or divide it into two or multiple “areas”. Don’t forget to sprinkle some sesame seeds too.
… and Rainbow Soba
5. Be conscious of your servings
Eat just enough for you and your family, and avoid waste!