Vegan Teen Interview: Jóhanna Malen

Country? Iceland

At what age did you become vegan? 14

Why did you become vegan?

I have always loved animals but it wasn´t until few years ago that I realised completely that the meat on my plate had once been a living being. Two years ago I started to consider vegetarian food and reducing my meat consumption. In June last year, when I was 14 years old, I completely stopped eating meat. A month later I stopped eating eggs and milk because of the horrible treatment of animals and then I simply didn´t find it very palatable to drink the breast milk from another animal species.

Were your parents supportive of your veganism? What concerns did they have about it? How are your parents involved in your veganism? Do they cook for you or do you cook for yourself?

My parents had their doubts at first when I took out dairy; after all milk is a large part of the diet of Icelanders and they think it is a cure for all ills. However, when my parents saw how good I felt on this diet, they  became very supportive and today they are just wonderful and understand my decision. Their main concerns have been the classic ones such as where I can get all the necessary amino acids and that I get sufficient calcium, but by showing them where I get the nutrients that I need, they no longer have doubts. My decision to go vegan has changed the diet of the family to some extent, but not much, at this point.  Before, we almost never had plant based meals but now we often have food that I can eat and everybody likes, though sometimes I have to cook my food myself, but as can be seen on my website I love cooking, so it doesn´t matter.

How do your friends react to your veganism? Are they supportive? Did veganism change your social life? Have you ever been teased about it?

My friends have taken this well, although of course some are more curious then others about veganism. Since I always bring food with me to school, I also often get questions about what I am eating and what´s in it. Veganism has had zero impact on my social life because I can do all the things that I could do before, only now without cruelty =). I have not been teased because of my decision but I also don´t tell everyone about it, unless they ask.

What do you do to make sure you stay healthy on a vegan diet? Do you take any supplements? Do you count your food servings?

I try to eat as varied food as I can and take supplements b-12, d-2 and multi-mineral, and some days, in addition, I track the nutritional content of my meals on Cronometer.

What’s a typical breakfast for you? A typical lunch? A typical snack? A typical dinner?

In the morning I usually have a large smoothie or breakfast cereal with almond-, rice-, or oat milk. Lunch is very varied, often some vegetable burgers or balls, potatoes or barley and a salad, plus  ketchup. I frequently snack in between meals, usually mostly on fruits, though I also enjoy vegan cakes and bread regularly and I love all kinds of puddings as can be seen on my website. A typical dinner also varies, like lunch, I often have pasta, sushi or burgers and then indian food is very popular in our household and then we cook the same food for the whole family.

Are there any other vegans around you, in your family or at school?

No, I don´t know any other vegans, unless the ones I meet on Facebook. It can be challenging, but fortunately the internet often comes to the rescue.

Do you have any advice for other vegan teens?

Don´t let others tell you what you are supposed to do and be considerate towards others and their food habits.

What do you do for fun? What are your after school activities? What are your favorite subjects in school?

I really enjoy music and both play the violin and sing, so much of my free time goes into that. In addition, I paint, hang out with my friends and family and then I like cooking and baking. I am usually very busy after school, I go straight after school to short sports and most days of the week I practice music after that. My favorite subjects are short film making and English.