Marilyn Peterson was inspired to become vegan over 30 years ago out of a sense of compassion for the suffering of animals and the unnecessary suffering of humans who follow a Standard American Diet. Today, she is a chef, consultant, teacher and author. Her book, Vegan Bite By Bite, helps others transition to a vegan diet.
Vegan Mainstream: Begin by telling me about your book Vegan Bite By Bite. What is the book about?
Marilyn Peterson: The book is about how to transition to a plant-based diet. It has 10 chapters and contains over 100 recipes, six week-long menu plans, shopping lists and shopping tours. For the shopping-tour section, I write about how I took people to a natural foods store as well as a traditional supermarket to find healthy, vegan foods. I was amazed that the stores had so much organic food–organic and vegan. It was an eye-opener. The book also has interviews from medical doctors and people who have made the transition. It also has cartoons, illustrations, pictures and much more!
VM: Who would benefit from reading Vegan Bite By Bite?
MP: This is a book I feel absolutely everyone can benefit from. Vegetarians can benefit from reading the book because it can move them to become vegan. The vegan reader can benefit because it’s not enough to be vegan. Being a healthy vegan is what counts. Also, the recipes are kid-friendly and family-friendly. They will improve the quality of your meals.
VM: What inspired you to write your book?
MP: Students in my cooking and raw food classes kept asking me for a book. That really was the beginning. However, what really motivated me was my compassion for animals and my opposition to the conditions that are created due to an omnivorous lifestyle.
VM: How long have you been vegan for? What initially motivated you to make this choice?
MP: I’ve been vegetarian for 43 years, and I’ve been vegan for over 30 of those years. I have a high percentage of raw in my diet. I became vegetarian when I was in my early 30’s. I was in a relationship that ended, and I went to a party. At the party, I opened the fridge to get a beverage and when I opened the door, I saw the animal parts in packages in their blood. I was suffering the end of a love relationship, and I identified with the animals’ suffering. By the time I closed the door, it had changed something in my mind. I knew I would become vegetarian, and it became my work. The whole story is in the book. I call it “the refrigerator epiphany.” As far as vegan goes, I realized that it was healthier for me to become vegan, and that’s why I made the choice. On a deeper level, the animals that provide dairy are certainly living under horrific conditions, and I just didn’t want to contribute to that any longer.
VM: How did your health change when you became vegan (or raw)?
MP: I felt a health change at all three stages. Before I became vegetarian, I would eat a meal and feel so sluggish. I had the energy of a couch potato. Once I started eating vegetarian and letting go of animal products, I had more energy. When I became vegan, I also noticed a shift. I had better elimination. My skin looked even better. People would make comments about how radiant my skin looked. At the time, I was a colon therapist, and I could see the difference in the eliminations. So, I had several reasons for becoming vegan.
VM: What type of services do you offer? What city are your classes in?
MP: I teach classes in the Los Angeles area, and my favorite classes to teach are raw foods classes because I think I can really get creative and teach that creativity to others. I especially like to teach the transitional diet, which can include going through a person’s kitchen and weeding out certain foods and taking them to a natural food stores to teach them how to shop. The first thing I do is consult about how they are eating. I find that even with the vegan diet, there are times when a nutritional lifestyle can be tweaked. A common thing I see is that some vegans don’t eat enough whole foods.
VM: What foods (vegan or non-vegan) would you recommend people steer clear of?
MP: I recommend that people certainly stay away from animal products. If they are vegetarian already, then drop the dairy. For all people, stay clear of processed and genetically modified foods. Buy organic and from your farmers’ market where food is local and fresh. The prices there are right, and if you have that opportunity, grab it.
VM: What advice would you give to someone trying to transition to a vegan diet? A raw diet?
MP: I would recommend that they buy my book Vegan Bite By Bite because it has everything you would want to know about how to make the transition. The book has the voice of a personal coach. I have tried to hold the reader’s hand as they walk down the path to improving the quality of their lives.
The internet is filled with so much information that a person can Google “dairy farms” and you have enough research at your fingertips for you to understand. When I wrote the book, I thought it was important to lay a strong foundation on why people should transition to a vegan diet. I wrote a chapter called “Truth or Consequences: Meat and Dairy is Scary.” I wrote another chapter called “Karma,” and I think these two chapters really provide an understanding of why the vegan diet is healthy. The information is supported by interviews from medical doctors that you’ll also find in the book.
To order a copy of Vegan Bite by Bite, click here.