Michelle Rojas-Soto is Managing Director of Better Eating International, a new nonprofit dedicated to vegan education through targeted videos and other support materials. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to California in 1997. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and four children, ages 5 to 11.
I switched to a plant-based diet in March, 2012 as a result of watching ‘Forks Over Knives’. The night my husband and I watched the documentary on Netflix, I had just gone food shopping and filled our refrigerator with blocks of cheese, yogurt tubs, a dozen eggs and frozen meat. The documentary convinced both of us that eliminating all animal products from our diet was the right thing to do for our health and that of our children. But still, I was SO angry that I would no longer be able to eat the things that gave me so much pleasure, like eggs, cheese and yogurt. So I chose to truly savor all the flavors in my refrigerator one more time before saying goodbye to them.
As the refrigerator emptied, I was left to wonder, how would I now feed my family? I checked out several library books on vegan cooking, to get ideas, and I purchased some that I thought best reflected our tastes. It was a major adjustment for our family of six, to say the least. Within a month, and without expecting it, our tastebuds adjusted and we discovered an explosion of flavor with vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains and spices. And what’s more, I noticed health improvements in myself and in my kids within weeks, which have lasted to this day.
My short-term experience with plant-based eating made me very curious about the ethics of diet with regard to animal rights, social justice and environmental stewardship. Two books in particular helped me significantly: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, by Melanie Joy, and The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. Cowspiracy and The China Study also provided me with important important food for thought.
My journey in veganism is a work-in-progress. Five years since making the switch to vegan eating, I continue to read and talk with people who know so much, I have visited two farm animal sanctuaries, I check what my clothes and shoes are made of, I watch out for animal products in hair and skin care products, and I research companies before buying their products and services.
I have the pleasure and the honor of sharing what I learn with my children, which is a beautiful experience of discovery and critical thinking for all of us. Books like The BFG, Charlotte’s Web, The One and Only Ivan, and That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things, have helped us have conversations about veganism, mainstream messaging, value systems, and how the choices we make shape us and those around us.
I am very excited to work at Better Eating International in helping my fellow moms, Blacks, Latinos, scientists, social justice advocates, busy professionals, and all of my good neighbors in this global village discover veganism and how it will deepen their connection to everything and everyone they already care about.