I’m not a vegan, but I’ve come to love plant-based foods a lot. In fact, I wish I could have more of them. :)
Thanks to online stores like Souley Green – “Singapore’s first vegan and cruelty-free mart” launched in 2016 – we can now have our fill of reasonably priced plant-based and cruelty-free products in one place. And through Jaslyn Goh, Souley Green’s founder and owner, we can also get suggestions on how to improve our eating habits, and make more sustainable and ethical choices.
Jaslyn has made it her mission to show us that going plant-based and cruelty-free doesn’t have to be bland, limiting, repetitive or overwhelming. So if you’re like me, and you’re looking for more ways to use environmentally friendly items, promote animal welfare and enjoy tasty, plant-based meals, Jaslyn’s tips and experiences will help. :)
#1 Tweak things to suit your needs
“Back then, I was really strict about where I was eating and what I was eating. For example, if a place served meat, I would avoid it because of cross-contamination,” Jaslyn reveals.
But she’s since made some adjustments. “Over time, I started to become more flexible and just opt for the vegetarian options, or ask them to cook vegan for me,” she admits. “It makes it so much easier to dine out, especially with family and friends. Because of this, I managed to take away all the unnecessary stress.”
The same goes for whatever destination she’s off to. “I’m super flexible – I just do what I can and eat plant-based as much as possible,” she maintains. “Travelling is meant to be an enjoyable thing, and I don’t wish to put any pressure on the people I’m with, or have them worry about what I can or cannot eat.”
Her Instagram posts (check out @jaslyngoh) now reflect this. “I enjoy making my smoothie bowls, pancakes and waffles, and I try to document and share all of the cafes I go to and show people how abundant the choices are. And if anyone has any questions or wishes to find out more about the vegan lifestyle, I am always happy to help guide them through.”
#2 Take small but sure steps
“I always try to incorporate cruelty-free and sustainable products into my daily life,” says Jaslyn.
“For example, I use a bamboo toothbrush, my skincare is cruelty-free (except for my moisturiser, until I find a cruelty-free option that doesn’t break me out or worsen my skin’s condition), and I bring my own cup out to Starbucks.”
#3 Scout for reliable vegan stores and restaurants
The vegan food scene has grown (“It’s easier to get a cup of soy latte now,” Jaslyn confesses), so it’s not as hard as before. And then of course there’s Souley Green. :)
“Back when I first turned vegan, there weren’t much food choices in Singapore. Now there are so many cafes and places offering vegan options,” she observes.
“Also, we had to jump from one store to another to get groceries and staples, not forgetting to check each label. This actually led me to start Souley Green – I wanted to give people a platform to shop for everything vegan, and provide the convenience of getting everything with us. I’m still trying to work on this by including more household items.”
#4 Choose quality
“A lot of people tell me that vegan products are expensive, but that’s only because the ingredients are usually natural and sometimes organic. Most vegan brands actually source out their ingredients from sustainable and ethical farms,” Jaslyn declares.
“If you were to compare this aspect with factories that heavily mass-produce ingredients (adding weird chemicals and stuff), obviously un-natural food would be cheaper. At the end of the day, it’s up to the customer to decide if they wish to skimp on price tags or invest in their health.
“Of course, you don’t have to pay S$7 for one pack of soy milk – that wouldn’t be wise,” she stresses. “But people need to understand that there’s always a reason why regular milk can be priced at S$2 a pack while soy milk is at least S$4 a pack.”
#5 Liven up your vegan dish
Plant-based or not, a meal will only turn out boring if you allow it. :) Here’s what Jaslyn does to spice things up:
1. “I add pepper, chilli, garlic or onion to everything I’m cooking. Chilli is a must for me, but optional for anyone.”
2. “Style it up if you have the time. Pretty food does make anyone happy, doesn’t it?” :)
3. “Have something different each time. For example, if you’re always having rice and veg, how about changing it up and having noodle soup, scrambled tofu, a burrito bowl or spaghetti? Then you wouldn’t feel like there are so little food choices.”
4. “Cook with a variety of sauces and seasonings. On Souley Green, we sell Thai-inspired flavour sauces and bacon seasoning. When I feel like having an Asian stir-fry, I use those sauces. When I feel like having something simple but still with flavour, I sprinkle on the bacon seasoning.
“We are also the sole distributor of Nature's Charm – a brand from Thailand that creates tons of vegan alternatives and bestsellers like coconut condensed milk, coconut whipping cream, duck confit and dessert sauces (chocolate fudge and matcha are my faves!).”
5. “This may not be connected to livening up a vegan dish, but I really wish to add it in here. Take it slow and not jump into a vegan lifestyle straight away. I took one month to cut off my daily staples (like eggs and salmon). While others can do it the next day, if you’re not able to, I highly recommend transitioning slowly and giving your taste buds some time to adapt to the changes.”
Want more food ideas? Jaslyn often creates new dishes in her kitchen and posts it on Instagram. :)
What we can learn from Jaslyn and Souley Green
I’m also curious about veganism and the vegan lifestyle. Each vegan’s journey is different, and Jaslyn has learnt some lessons about hers. Here, she shares how much she’s changed and improved along the way. :)
#1 Select your approach
“When I first started becoming vegan, I advocated heavily about this lifestyle on my Instagram.
“But after a year or so, I felt that it wasn’t really the way to inspire people. Moreover, it made me look very preachy and unapproachable – which wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to show people how eating plant-based doesn’t mean you only eat grass or salads, which is how people heavily stereotyped this lifestyle.”
#2 Be kind to yourself – and give yourself a break
“I actually just got back to social media after months of staying away from it (my @jaslyngoh account in particular). For a period of time, it was so toxic for me because I was constantly comparing myself to others. I was constantly worried about how my feed looked like, if my photos were as pretty as others’, and if my food styling was as great.
“Also, back then, Instagram was such a great platform to connect with other vegans – but everything seemed to change when the friends I made on this platform quit. I made a couple of international friends, and when I went to Australia, I actually met them in real life in the different states I went to. It was such an amazing experience! I’m not sure if I can still do that now.”
#3 Lead the charge
“I learnt that if you want to be a change-maker, you shouldn’t be afraid to let people copy you. Though it sucks that it was your idea in the beginning, at least it shows that you’re doing something right so others would follow the way you do things. Just keep your unique identity and never be afraid to flaunt it.
“I think what makes everyone different is the way we shine and the vibes we give out. Competition is not the way to go if we wish to build this community and make a change.”