What’s your name and who are you?
Hi, I’m Nalin and I’m the co-director of YAY! Foods.

At this moment, where are you writing from?
I’m sitting on my deck at my home by the ocean, surrounded by treetops and with a sea-breeze blowing gently over me. It’s nice.

When did you make the switch to veganism and why?
It’s weird, without thinking about it I suddenly found myself clicking ‘join’ to a 30-day vegan challenge that popped up on Facebook five years ago. I panicked and thought ‘what have I just done?’, but I went for it and it was awesome! It was so much easier and more delicious than I had imagined! During the 30 days I realised I had been ignoring the small voice inside me that had been trying to tell me that I felt bad whenever I cooked or ate meat. When I did the challenge, that voice was finally allowed to be heard, and I suddenly realised how great it felt to live in alignment with my true core ethics. It felt so good to live in a way that didn’t cause harm to animals and as I learned more about animal agriculture, my motivation to go vegan grew.

Where did you find the inspiration to start YAY!Foods?
I had always wanted to be in control of my own life and own my own business. After a particularly horrendous employment situation that left me feeling bad about myself, I thought ‘That’s it! I’m done!’ and decided to finally go for it. The idea evolved over time, and my amazing sister joined me and we stepped on the path together.

Do you have a personal motto and if so, what is it?
I have two mottos! My first one is ‘You never regret a swim.’ I live by the ocean and it’s true, you just don’t. You always feel amazing when you get out, no matter how cold it is! My second motto is ‘You can’t go wrong with fried dough.’ So many of my favourite foods, like dumplings and fresh jam doughnuts, are just a variation on dough being fried. It’s the actual best.

What makes the perfect vegan party food?
The perfect vegan party food is a tray of fancy vegan cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which is my favourite cookbook (and really the only cookbook I have used multiple times). Who doesn’t love a batch of amazing cupcakes?

You’ve nailed pies, pastries, cheese, and even lasagna, what’s next for YAY!Foods?
We have so many things coming in the next year! 2019 is the year of expansion for us. We’re super excited to be trialling two new pie flavours at the Big Vegan Market at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne this May.

What advice do you have for someone who’s considering changing to a plant-based diet?
Oh, I have lots of advice! Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. A period of transition is ok and arguably may lead to a more permanent change as long as veganism is your actual goal.

Make sure your fridge and pantry are full of easy, delicious snacks and meals. Having a big tub of hummus on hand always (Yumi’s 1kg is our staple), with crackers, olives, etc, makes things easy. Being prepared means you’re not going to stress out when you’re hungry and question whether you can make the shift. Plan and cook ahead! Don’t freak out if you have cravings for non-vegan food. I had cravings for months, I struggled a lot with cravings because of food habits. You just need time to create new food habits. Let yourself indulge with vegan treats in these times, so you don’t feel deprived.

Don’t get too hung up on having legumes or tofu at every single meal. It all balances out, as long as you are eating lots of fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes across the week. You don’t need to stress that the bowl of pasta you are eating doesn’t have a massive protein source!

What’s one way we can check we’re getting the proper nutrients on a vegan diet?
The easiest way is to get your blood tested every year. This is a great way of knowing how you are absorbing nutrients and what you may need to focus eating more of. Also look at your body for signs of deficiency: are your nails flaking/breaking easily? Are there spots on your nails or new groves? Is your hair falling out? Are your muscles cramping? Do you feel tired? Are you getting unexplained numbness or tingling in your hands/feet? Many of these symptoms can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency so be sure to get your levels checked.

You’re going on a road trip and you have a desperate need to stop for fries, who are you travelling with and what’s your LOTF order?
I’m travelling with my 11-year-old daughter – we go lots of places together and she is my ultimate travel buddy! We order onion rings (her favourite), Shoestring Fries with Mexican topping, an Original Burger with Beyond Meat patty, a Spicy Burger and a Tijuana Hot Dog, because we just don’t know when to stop!

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