• Alyssa Piperis

My Day Trip in Los Angeles to Explore Veganism

My Veganism Journey - Starting at Square 1

After toying with the idea for a while now, I came to the decision over the last few days that I want to try out veganism. I know that saying the words “try out veganism” may be offensive to some people who don’t see veganism as a trend, but instead, a healthy, ethical, lifestyle, and I get that. But, I’m all about honesty, and honestly… I’m just trying it out at this point. I have mixed opinions, I’ve heard mixed opinions from others, and I don’t have enough knowledge to decide right now exactly what I want to do in terms of whether or not to cut out animal products completely, so I’m putting myself on a path of education and firsthand experience. I want to see the effects veganism has on my body, skin, and overall health. I want to see how it effects my energy. I want to do more research and hear both sides of the “Vegan vs. Non-Vegan” argument.

That being said, it’s been exciting and interesting finding cool vegan spots in Los Angeles. Although I’ve always loved eggs and cheese and the taste of meat, I do enjoy vegan food. I’ve never been one to complain about going to a vegan cafe, because yummy food is yummy food. And there’s lots of yummy vegan food, especially in Southern California. From SunCafe in Studio City (the Valley) to Cafe Gratitude in Venice (the Westside), there are so many great vegan options throughout LA. This week I’m on a mission to explore vegan markets and hidden gems.

Finding the Vegan Jackpot in Los Angeles

Today I took a fun trip to Follow Your Heart (short for Follow Your Heart Natural Foods Market & Cafe) in Canoga Park. I had never ventured off to Canoga Park before, so it was cool to check it out and, quite literally, get a taste of an unfamiliar part of town. This little place was so dang cool! Not only is it a market filled with seemingly endless food and beverage goodies, but there’s a little sit-down cafe in the back with a hostess to get you seated. AND there’s a whole section filled with trinkets and treasures— records and notebooks and beautiful scarves and singing bowls and bracelets and dreamcatchers and allllll the things.

I seriously felt healthy and energized just being there.

I’ve never used this term before, but I feel the need to use it now: “pleasantly overwhelmed.” That’s how I felt upon walking into Follow Your Heart. The aisles were stacked with a huge variety of items from essential oils and face masks to natural soaps and cleaning products to vegan/gluten-free/paleo snack bars, packaged meals, “cheeses,” “meats,” cooking substitutes, healthy snacks, and so on. I spent at least ten minutes in each aisle, going back and forth between items, comparing ingredients, and just getting excited about trying some new things.

I wanted to buy a few items across the board, and that’s what I did.

I got…

1.) Sprouted Crackers

Flavor: Kale

Company: Livin’ Spoonful

Price at Follow Your Heart: $6.99 | Price on Company Website: $6.34

Ingredients: Sprouted Organic Sunflower Seeds, Kale, Organic Lemon Juice, Organic Raisins, Organic Dates, Cilantro, Flax Seeds, Organic Garlic, Celtic Sea Salt, Organic Jalapeño Pepper

2.) A Healthy, Crunchy Cookie

Flavor: Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Time

Company: Chocolatl

Price at Follow Your Heart: $4.19 | Price on Company Website: $4.25

Ingredients: Cacao, Coconut Sugar, Puffed Quinoa & Millet, Cacao Butter, Peanut Butter, Vanilla Bean, Himalayan Sea Salt

3.) No-Meat Sausage

Flavor: Italian

Company: Tofurky

Price at Follow Your Heart: $5.09 | Price on Company Website: N/A

Ingredients: Organic Tofu (Water, Organic Soybeans, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride), Vital Wheat Gluten, Expeller Pressed Non-GMO Canola Oil, Water, Shoyu Soy Sauce (Water, Non-GMO Soybeans, Wheat, Salt, Culture), Organic Soy Flour, Sundried Tomatoes, Basil, Granulated Garlic, Sea Salt, Spices

NOTE: I think it’s important to share that I’m still trying to figure out vegan meats— what’s actually healthy and what isn’t. Just because something is “healthier” than something else doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy. At the same time, just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I’m a big reader of ingredients, and it’s been really hard for me to find vegan meats that are completely free of processing and artificial flavors. I’m still on the hunt, but I’ve found that Tofurkey is a better alternative than most other brands. So, I’ll be using Tofurky, at least for now. I’ve only tried their Italian Sausage flavor, and I’m liking it!

4.) Raw Sauerkraut

Flavor: Beat Kraut

Company: Pickled Planet

Price at Follow Your Heart: $8.39 | Price on Company Website: $7.50

Ingredients: Organic Cabbage, Organic Carrots, Organic Beets, Himalayan Salt, Organic Caraway

NOTE: I’ve been trying to eat more anti-inflammatory, probiotic foods like sauerkraut and beets, because they’re supposed to help acne and acne scarring, which I’ve been dealing with for a little over a year now. Click here to read about my skincare journey!

5.) Raw Tacos

Flavor: Nut Veggie Taco

Company: Oaxaca Raw Living Food

Price at Follow Your Heart: $9.99 | Price on Company Website: N/A

Ingredients: Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Cashews, Purified Water, Zucchini, Lettuce, Onion, Green and Red Peppers, Parsley, Coconut Flesh, Flax Seed, Green and Red Cabbage, Collard Greens, Carrots, Tomatillo Salsa, Garlic, Cilantro, Olive Oil, Jalapeño, Oregano, Cumin, Sweet Cloves, Cinnamon, Herbs and Spices, Himalayan Crystal Salt

(The tacos were really yummy! I added a little of my favorite guacamole from Trader Joe's just because I'm obsessed with it, but the tacos were great without them. :))

For My Next Trip(s)

I skipped out on the essential oils and cleaning products this time around, because I already have a handful of essential oils and natural cleaners and detergent, but it’s great to know I have so many options to look at in the future.

When I go back to Follow Your Heart in the future (which I definitely will!), I want to check out more of the vegan meats and cheeses and compare the ingredients so I can hopefully find some good, natural, healthy staples. I know I like cashew cheese a lot but haven’t explore vegan cheeses too much, so I’m excited to do that.

Welp, there ya have it! I discovered an awesome, healthy spot in Canoga Park and bought five different items for a total of $34.65. Not too bad at all! This is the very beginning of my journey experimenting with veganism, and I’m really curious to see where it takes me.

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