Lu Parker has made a name for herself in the Los Angeles news market and while you may know her as a credible source for accurate local news, I’m lucky enough to know her as a coworker and also as a very good friend.
On-air, Lu is the ultimate professional. Off-air — I can tell you firsthand — she is a free spirit; a sweet soul from the South who leads life with an open heart. When I met her about ten years ago, she was following a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, but recently, she became a vegan. Here’s an inside look at why and how she transitioned into eating a completely plant-based diet.
Q: You became a vegetarian as a teenager, right?
A: Funny you ask, because when I decided to stop eating red meat when I was 18 years old, I did not realize my new found eating habits would be defined. I simply knew meat did not sit well with me. Bacon was the first thing I eliminated from my diet. I read an article about how bacon is packed with saturated fats, and how unhealthy it is for your heart. I stopped eating it immediately and have never tasted it again. That was 30 years ago.
As a teenager, I grew up in a rural town in South Carolina, and our family meals were very heavy meat based. We ate venison, beef steak, duck, and even wild boar on a regular basis. Just writing that sentence seems super strange to me now. After I stopped eating bacon, I remember a few months later looking at a huge steak on my plate and realizing I did not desire or crave red bloody meat anymore. It was as if I had an epiphany, and at that time in South Carolina, I had no influences who were leaning me in the direction of a vegetarian lifestyle. I had nothing to base my decision on except I realized it didn’t make sense for me to spend time with and love animals during the day and eat them at night. So that was the beginning of my life as a vegetarian.
Q: Can you define the the meaning of vegetarian and pescatarian?
A: Being a vegetarian means you do not eat any flesh of an animal including red meat, pork, chicken, or fish. It is as simple as that. If you cut out meats but still eat fish, you are considered a pescatarian.
Q: You recently made the transition to a vegan diet. When and why?
A: It was for sure a gradual transition. I chose to begin eating a vegan diet in the Fall of 2014, and I am grateful daily I made the life changing decision for myself, and for the karmic energy of all animals.
It happened literally while I was serving as the M.C. for a vegan Thanksgiving event held at Farm Santuary, a place where farm animals are rescued and live their lives free from fear and slaughter. At the time, I was a vegetarain, not vegan. That day a couple of people shared their story explaining how and why they live a vegan lifestyle. They moved me to tears. One was Rich Roll, an elite athlete who eats and trains on a plant based diet. The other speaker was Gene Baur, the founder of Farm Sanctuary, who has lived by example for 30 years as a vegan before anyone even really knew what that word meant. At that same event, I had a heart to heart with my friend Mark Thompson, who at the time was a new vegan of 3 years. He encouraged me to be brave enough to research what dairy cows endure at the farms and how their babies are stripped from them at birth. It is said by those who work at the factories that the cows mourn for the loss every time. Did you know a dairy cow has to be pregnant to produce milk and when they are too old to reproduce anymore (like 4 years old), they are slaughtered? Those facts alone broke my heart, and then I began watching videos on YouTube to see more truth. I didn’t need to look at slaughter videos to understand what pain and suffering animals experience. I knew that already, but up until that day I was not able to allow myself to look at the dairy industry. Thank you Mark for encouraging me to open my eyes to what is really happening.
While sitting in the audience that day, I realized I would make the transition. I went back to the podium to introduce Gene, who by the way has been such a gentle, yet powerful influence on me over the years by just living his vegan truth and not forcing it on anyone. Before I introduced him, I told the crowd my story and announced that I would break tradition and not make my Grandma Parker’s banana pudding that year. I would attempt to make the family recipe vegan instead. That was the first step for me, and I have enjoyed every second along the way of learning more about eating a truly cruelty-free diet. I feel blessed to have been surrounded by so many conscious, enlightened people that day.
Q: What does vegan mean and what is the most difficult part of living that lifestyle?
A: Eating a vegan diet means you consume nothing that comes from an animal including flesh, eggs, milk or honey. As a vegan, I do not eat cheese, most breads, muffins and a majority of baked goods like cake and cupcakes because they often contain milk, butter and eggs. I also don’t consume milk chocolate, but I can have as much dark chocolate as I want. It’s a simple shift in making a different choice. The good news is there are all kinds of alternatives for us to pick from especially living in Los Angeles. Restaurants always offer some form of a vegan dish, and there are beautiful alternatives in stores from which to choose, especially living foods. By that I mean the food is not packaged, processed, canned (high sodium and GMOs), or filled with preservatives.
Eating foods that are alive and clean are super nutritious for the body and soul. Why would we choose to eat foods that are packed with sodium or genetically modified organisms or even something as simple as corn starch? Going off track here, I have become very aware of ingredient lists on products. I am also freaked out by corn starch, and I want everyone to realize the potentially harmful affects it has on the body. The product is used in such a wide variety of recipes including a lot of baked goods. Its primary purpose is to make things stick together during baking. Imagine what that is doing to your intestines? This video is a prime example of what it does inside your body.
Q: What’s been the most difficult part for you as you transitioned to a vegan diet?
A: Honestly, the most difficult part for me in the beginning was not being able to eat Cheez-It crackers anymore. I really struggled with that one early on, but now when I see the box, I see fake colors, and processed food. If you take a peek at the ingredients, there are nearly 30 that make up that product. Many of them are substitutes and dyes. Does that seem natural? It is the same for the majority of products we are consuming and more troubling, feeding to our children. For instance, think of M & M’s (another prior weakness)- What are those colors? Do they come from nature? No. Chemicals and dyes are used to make that candy and thousands of other pieces of candy attractive. Investigate before you ingest!!
Q: How has it helped you physically and mentally to eat a vegan diet?
A: Physically I feel great. I have tons of energy and no stomach issues that many of my friends complain about. Mentally, I feel grateful that I am able to make dietary choices that never bring harm to any living creature. I truly believe collectively as vegetarians and vegans we are bringing light to the ills of slaughter and animals living their entire lives in cages- even to the conditions dairy cows have to endure when their calves are stripped away from them at birth. It helps me sleep at night knowing that I am choosing not to participate in that lifestyle.
Q: How do you plan meals?
A: Each morning, I religiously drink tea with Chinese herbs and tonics. I also make a vegan protein shake every morning that includes a vegan protein powder, green powder, maca powder, flax seeds, calcium, coconut water, and ice.
At work during the week for lunch, I typically eat quinoa with a steamed vegetable and I snack on a small pack of almond butter mid-afternoon. Quinoa is super easy to make and it is a clean high source of protein. I add a non-dairy butter, cumin and pepper for taste. If not quinoa, I will buy a salad and use oil and lemon for the dressing. I also include lentils and beans in my diet for protein. Keeping the meals creative is important. There are many “living” foods to choose from to eat. Think green. Think fresh.
Q: Any advice for someone who wants to start trying to eat less meat and eat more like a vegetarian?
A: My best advice is don’t try and do it all at once. Start by making one day meat free. For example, Meatless Mondays. Then slowly try to do it 2 days a week and so forth. If you feel that you cannot handle a totally meat free diet, at least try cutting out red meat from your diet for a period of time. You will see and feel a difference. Also, find someone you know who is a vegetarian or vegan and ask them to suggest thoughts about why they choose the lifestyle, and ask about meal ideas. We love to share our passion and knowledge about eating a cruelty-free diet. If you have questions, I can always answer them on Facebook or Instagram. One other tip, find a friend to team up for the challenge and talk about it. Tell people. When we talk about something out loud, we are helping ourselves commit to it.
As for dining out, try and order a veggie burger instead of a real meat burger, or choose a salad with no meat and add avocado.
What about checking out a vegan restaurant? There are many in the Los Angeles area and around the country. Some of my favorites in LA are Crossroads Kitchen, Gracias Madre, Little Pine Restaurant, Cafe Gratitude, Beaming, and Lemonade.
And lastly, be patient with yourself. This is not a diet, rather it is a lifestyle. It can take time to adjust, but if you do your research, understand the benefits, and realize the message you will send by making this healthy and cruelty-free choice, it all gets a lot of easier. Good luck and the animals thank you!!!!!