What it is like to be vegan in: The Netherlands
In this fourth article in the 'Vegan in the World' series, in which vegans from all over the world explain what it is like to be vegan there, Mirjam Reijnders tells about her experiences of being vegan in The Netherlands.
Interview with Mirjam Reijnders from The Netherlands
How many people live in The Netherlands, and how many of those people are vegan?
There are approximately 17 million inhabitants, 150.000 of those are vegan.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan for more than 5 years.
Why did you decide to become vegan?
I decided to go vegan initially for my health after watching Forks over Knives. But soon after I found out about the horrific ways animals are treated and the impact of eating animal products on the environment. So these two reasons became a pillar in my conviction too.
Tell me a little bit more about your family. Are they vegan? What do they think about you being a vegan?
My father is a vegetarian, my mother rarely eats animal products and my brother is vegan at home and a flexitarian outdoors. I was raised mostly vegetarian, so my family is very open to alternative ways of eating and they were very respectful towards my choice to become vegan. And they very much enjoy my cooking. 🙂
Is it difficult to be a vegan in your country? Why (not)?
It is very easy to be vegan in The Netherlands because there are a lot of vegan products available in every supermarket. Also, there are many restaurants that are vegan friendly, and the amount of fully vegan restaurants is rising too. The Netherlands is also a country that is pretty modern in terms of embracing deviant lifestyles, so most of the vegans I know mostly get curious, neutral, or positive reactions from others when they talk about veganism.
What are some of the challenges you face in your daily life as a vegan? What do you do when you go out with friends or visit family?
I eat a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet without sugar and oil and a little salt. It is almost impossible to find these types of meals when I go out for dinner, so I preferably limit those occasions which actually makes going out for dinner extra special. And when I do go out for dinner, I really enjoy it and I don't worry about the oil and sugar but I do make sure that I don't eat too much of it. When I visit friends or family they always put in an effort to cook something that fits my diet, and often I volunteer to help them out which is a lot of fun.
Can you describe what you eat on a normal/average day?
I start my day with porridge or a smoothie bowl with berries, banana, oatmeal, cinnamon, ginger, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. I usually snack on some dried fruit and nuts after my workout. Lunch is usually a bowl of soup, a green smoothie, or a buddha bowl with rice or bulgur, veggies, legumes, and of course lots of spices. And for dinner, I love to make big bowls of curry, pasta, or a stir fry with sweet potato and peanut sauce.
What is your favorite vegan dish from your country?
The Netherlands has a pretty boring food culture, but I love our winter squashes with potatoes, kale, carrots, and onions topped with some crispy and spicy tempeh or tofu.
“Most of the vegans I know mostly get curious, neutral or positive reactions from others when they talk about veganism.”
Can you recommend a restaurant where you live?
I live in Woerden which is close to Utrecht. Utrecht is packed with vegan restaurants, which can be found on Happycow and Google Maps. My favorite restaurant in Utrecht is Sunshine, a small Ethiopian cafe. Just ask for a vegan assembly and be amazed by the bags of flavor you'll receive! And in Woerden my favorite restaurant is De Smaak van Vietnam, which is a small Vietnamese restaurant.
Do you have a recipe and would you like to share it?
I adore vegan curry! Fry some onions until they start to caramelize, then add curry spices, garlic, freshly grated ginger, red pepper, a bit of water, and a dash of soy sauce. After 2 minutes, add in lots of chopped vegetables and tempeh cubes. Stir everything together so the spices are mixed through and then add 400 ml of coconut milk. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook some grains like wild or brown rice, buckwheat, or quinoa. Stir in the grains after the veggies are cooked long enough for your liking. Also, stir in some canned legumes. Let the pot stand for a couple of minutes after mixing everything and then: 'eet smakelijk'!
If you have a vegan business or work at a vegan business, can you tell us something about it? What is the business, when did it start?
I'm a holistic life-coach and trainer and a plant-based nutritionist and chef. In my coaching, I help people eat more plant-based or help them make the transition to a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet. I also give workshops on healthy plant-based eating. I started my business, Equilibrium Training & Coaching, in May 2020. It was the best decision I ever made!