Plant-based Student in Malaysia? It's easier than you think!
Hi, my name is Jaspreet, and I am vegan for the animals. I've been vegan for about a year now. I remember watching a documentary (the dominion) on YouTube, it was a 2 hours long, animal brutality video, and after that I told myself, I just had to be vegan! Veganism is a little different from plant-based, as vegans believe in no animal exploitation at all, while plant-based focuses more on the diet itself.
Often when people hear that I'm vegan, so many questions come to their mind, first it's always, “How do you survive as a vegan in Malaysia and as a student?”. Every journey you take in life isn’t easy at the start but when you have it figured out, it all falls into place. Just like my vegan lifestyle, I know it was the right thing to do and that I will have to put in my hard work to ensure I sustain myself.
I struggled a lot in the beginning, like anybody, I had to do so much research about plant-based nutrition and tasty dishes to cook. In my house, everyone eats meat and when I took the bold step to change my life my parents were shocked, but they supported me in the end. My sister eventually became vegan too after a few months. I learnt how to cook for the both of us and what foods could make a balanced diet for vegans.
There are a lot of rumours about vegans e.g. they don’t get enough nutrients, vegans will suffer from a lot of health problems etc. This could easily make one panic and give up on maintaining their daily vegan food intake. Honestly, I would like to advise anyone that is stepping into the vegan or plant-based life, not to be too worried about your macro, micro and especially your protein intakes. It's so easy to get protein even on a plant based diet, with proper planning. Did you know that half a watermelon has 11g of protein? Exactly! These are the few facts that I personally learnt when I became vegan.
So, eventually I stopped worrying about my nutrients but I do practice having a balanced diet, which means sufficient carbs, protein, greens, fruits, fats and even a little bit of sweets. However, after a while, I did realise something different in my body and of course the right thing to do was to see a doctor. Later on, I was told that my iron levels were very low for a young girl like me and that I had to take iron pills as well as multivitamins. Now, many people would tell me “Oh just go back to meat lah, not good to take meds”. Regardless of being a meat eater or a vegan, it is important that we take vitamins to nourish our bodies and I was not quitting my vegan beliefs.
My friends, wonder how students can live a vegan lifestyle and truth be told, it's actually way easier for students! Another false rumour that many people believe is that “Vegan Life is Expensive”. I can proudly and factually tell you that isn't true. If you buy the alternative meats or imported foods, then YES, a hundred percent, definitely it is expensive and unhealthy to always consume those.
Like I’ve mentioned, you just need to maintain a balance of everything in your diet. As students it's super easy because, firstly we tend to cook our own foods, secondly normally vegetarian or vegan options in cafeterias are often cheaper. Yes, some vegan restaurants are expensive but that’s because of demand and supply, let's not get into it. When I go out with my friends, thankfully they understand my lifestyle and they immediately offer to go to a vegan friendly place. I normally live in Nilai as my university is there and you can't really find a specialty vegan restaurant but there are many Chinese vegetarian restaurants that you can indulge at. Just remember to clarify with the chef there shouldn’t be eggs, oyster sauce, cream, belacan, and anchovies.
As a vegan student, I have the habit to cook my own food and I rarely eat out. When buying groceries for my cooking, it's purely just whole foods, which means tofu, fresh vegetables, and some fruits. Once in a while I splurge on the alternative meats, or even some vegan cheese. If you’re on a tight budget, living with whole foods ingredients is sufficient to provide you the nutrients you need and keep you full. 2 of my favourite vegan food/recipe creators that I love following are : @goodlifegan and @maxlamanna
I buy groceries once every 3 weeks or so, and I normally spend about RM180, to feed 3 people. To me I think that is very reasonable and affordable. Even when I eat out at a vegetarian restaurant near my campus, I buy some rice, and 2 sides of vege, the total comes up to RM4 (its chap fan – mixed rice – economy rice), which is way cheaper than the meat options. So, vegan lifestyle is actually easily manageable by students, in fact I think it is catered for students.
Other than food, veganism also covers clothes as well as skincare and make-up! As for my skincare, I always use natural products and I practice zero-waste, so I normally buy in bulk and tend to just refill it once finished. I normally do my zero waste grocery at @abitless. My personal favourite vegan skincare shops are :
Cleanser - Sukin
Toner - The Body Shop (offer refill)
Moisturizer - Root Remedies (zero waste)
Nowadays, there are many vegan inventions, even in Malaysia, which are surprisingly super affordable. Some unique Malaysian vegan inventions I stumbled upon lately are :
Femizinc - vegan feminine spray to hydrate your lady part.
ColoursOfIndia by RheyShaz - really soft vegan silk saree, bought for Diwali hehe
I believe in the saying “if there is a will, there is a way” and it's true, if you are disciplined and stick true to your values, you will be able to achieve anything. I am not perfect, in fact I personally believe there is a lot more for me to learn, read, and experience, and I will continue this journey to hopefully inspire more people to become vegan 😊
Written by Jaspreet Chauhan.
Enjoyed reading this blog post? Check out Jaspreet's IG: @spongebob_jkc