Jessica Seinfeld Is Dispelling the Idea That Veganism Has to Be All or Nothing

The cookbook author wants you to take a part-time approach to plant-based eating.

Jessica Seinfeld Is Dispelling the Idea That Veganism Has to Be All or Nothing
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Food should make you feel good, says Jessica Seinfeld, the author of the forthcoming cookbook Vegan, at Times (Buy It, $21, But that doesn't mean following strict rules and never being able to have your favorites. Here, she explains how to make sometimes-vegan delicious and doable.

How did you come up with the "vegan at times" concept?

"I hadn't been feeling great for a while. I figured out some health issues that I had, and my doctor recommended that I cut down on dairy and meat. I started to do that, and I felt better right away. I had more energy and slept better, so I kept doing it. Yet if I was at someone's house and they were serving food with cheese or meat in it, I would have a few bites and not make a big deal about it. For me, that was a successful way of heading toward veganism. I'm not a full-time vegan — 90 percent of the time I am — and I don't punish myself if I have a bite of pizza with cheese on it."

People can be a little intimidated by the idea of eating vegan. Why is that?

"They think it won't taste good. Also, it requires reimagining your concept of what mealtime looks like. We're so used to having protein, a grain, and vegetables. A lot of times, I'll have a sweet potato with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for lunch, and I'm happy. But rethinking it can be a process.

"On top of that, food is emotional. It's connected to your family, rituals, and traditions, how you grew up, how your parents made you feel about food. Veering away from that can be overwhelming. Then add in the fact that there are people who will tell you you're not doing vegan right, or that it has to be done a certain way. Being vegan is a set of principles, and while that's great for some, it's off-putting for others.

"I run into this a lot: Vegans are very angry that I'm saying that you can be a vegan at times. To them it's a full-time thing or nothing, but I don't think that way. I believe there's a population of people who would like to try it, who are intimidated, and who don't want to be chastised. In the end, we all want to feel good, to make the planet healthier, and to be kinder to animals. But there's a different way of approaching it, which is what my book is about." (See: A Helpful Guide to the Vegan Diet for Beginners)

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Vegan, at Times: 120+ Recipes for Every Day or Every So Often

Vegan, at Times: 120+ Recipes for Every Day or Every So Often

Was it tough to persuade your family to eat this way?

"I'm not saying that my kids are fully on board, but they're definitely more open to it, and they eat way healthier than they used to. [My husband] Jerry started noticing that I was feeling better. One night I made my own meal and made him and the kids steak by request. He felt so sick after eating it that he had to lie down on the sofa. I was feeling great and full of energy. He realized at that point that there was a big difference between the way he was eating and the way I was eating, so why not try it?" (

What are your favorite vegan recipes?

"I have so many! The Sweet and Tangy Cauliflower Lettuce Cups in the book are easy and delicious. The Spaghetti and Meatless Balls [made with chickpeas and roasted vegetables] — I love spaghetti and meatballs, so I looked for a way to sub in something that felt like the same experience. The Buffalo Cauliflower is a huge hit at my house, even with my children. The baked beans are so yummy. The Glazed Ginger-Barbecue Tofu is also phenomenal — I'm going to make that tonight. Macaroni and cheese. That one was a triumph for me. It was one of the first recipes that my kids learned was vegan after they ate it. They were like, 'Wow, that's cool.' That dish was the gateway for them."

Share with us some of your go-to healthy ingredients and cooking hacks.

"Pasta. There are so many great gluten-free varieties. I love to cook with beans and make rich stews with them. Cauliflower. I use lots of nuts and seeds. And sweet potatoes. They're such an easy thing to keep in your house, and you can throw them in the oven, fry them, and do pretty much anything to them. (

"For cooking tips, set yourself up before you begin. First, read the recipe from start to finish. Set up your cutting board, get your knife out, assemble all your ingredients — I like to measure everything beforehand. Have everything organized and ready so you'll feel that if you start strong, you'll end strong."

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