During the holidays, family and friends often gather around a host’s dinner table. World Vegan Month is in November—the same month as Thanksgiving. The need to plan Christmas menus is right around the corner, too. While soul food and meat-filled options may still dominate menus in some African American homes, vegetarian and vegan guests may find themselves wanting to feel included at mealtime.
Pinky Cole, an American restauranteur, is the founder and CEO of the popular Atlanta-based restaurant Slutty Vegan, has been a vegetarian most of her life. The reason is because her mother is a Rastafarian, according to Insider. Cole reportedly became a vegan in 2014. Vegans do not eat or use products derived from animals. Vegetarians traditionally do not consume poultry, meat, or fish.
“Studies show that Black vegans and vegetarians have nearly half the rates of cholesterol, hypertension, and unhealthy weight than Black omnivores. Eating whole plant-based foods is the foundation to living a longer, healthier life,” according to information provided on author and nutritionist Tracye McQuirter’s website. She launched a movement to encourage 10 million Black women to go vegan.
Like Cole and McQuirter, Dianna King stands among a growing number of Black women who have made healthy eating their business. But first, King embraced a reason to make a lifestyle change. She transitioned into eating a vegan diet after her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2016.
“His progression slowed after incorporating more plant-based meals into his diet. However, he passed away the following year. The experience made me more conscious of the importance of a diet to my overall short- and long-term health. However, plant-based foods were not accessible and popular during that time,” King said, explaining why she elected to make her own dietary changes. “I have more energy and overall better health. My skin is smooth. My hair is healthy. I have a healthy weight, and I am not malnourished. My health is not 100% perfect, but my diet has not contributed to any health-related problems.”
The entrepreneur who is a Georgia Institute of Technology alumna earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. She wanted to do more than eat healthier, so she did. Eat UNrestricted was a company King founded in 2021 with her co-founder Eric Thompson. The duo came up with the company’s name because their goal was to make a product that people could enjoy without being concerned about their food restrictions. King and Thompson crafted a creamy and tasty cheese alternative that is made primarily from carrots and potatoes called Better Cheddar. It took two years to perfect, and it is also allergen friendly.
Despite the momentum of a growing vegan movement, misconceptions about vegan food remain.
“A common myth about veganism is that it is bland, for white people, and that it will help you lose weight. There are plenty of tasty vegan meals and snacks out there to enjoy. Veganism is not just for white people,” King said. “Also, there is vegan junk food which is basically food that is good for the environment and animals but not your weight losing goals. So, please do not think that because it is labeled vegan, that it will help you slim down. However, it’ll help you become ‘slim thick’ though.”
King blogs about food and shares recipes via eatunrestricted.com. She offered insight about what people can do to make a tasty dish for vegan dinner guests. Her Quick Smacking Vegan Mac & Cheese with Shitake Mushrooms recipe is from the blog. King’s favorite recipe is easy to make, and is great to use for date night or during holidays, according to King. Better Cheddar also serves as a vegan cheese dip consideration.
Not everyone is ready to take a fulltime vegan leap, but nonvegans can still enjoy vegan meals.
“There is a new term now where people consider themselves flexitarian. They incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet compared to others, but they still eat meat and other foods that are not vegan. They may reduce their consumption by incorporating ‘Vegan Mondays,’ which is a day they just eat vegan foods. I would recommend people look into becoming a flexitarian as they transition in reducing their consumption of meats, eggs, and dairy,” King said.
The food enthusiast pointed out another method of making a transition to a vegan lifestyle by ‘veganizing’ favorite meals. Visit https://eatunrestricted.com/blogs/recipes/quick-smacking-vegan-mac-and-cheese-with-shiitake-mushrooms to find the Quick Smacking Vegan Mac & Cheese with Shitake Mushrooms recipe. The Better Cheddar product lineup is available via https://eatunrestricted.com/collections/new-collection.