You probably already know Evanna Lynch from her role in the Harry Potter series as Luna Lovegood, the quirky-yet-charming student who ultimately helps Harry, Ron, and Hermione in their quest to take down Voldemort. Now, all these years later, actress Evanna Lynch has a new quest: To help make eating vegan as accessible, easy, and fun as possible, with The ChickPeeps, a weekly podcast that answers your burning questions about a plant-based lifestyle. She hosts with a healthy dose of humor in an effort to show that vegans are just regular people working towards a better future. Lynch took time to talk with The Beet about her seven-year journey away from animal products, how it has impacted her life, and advice for those who are just dipping a toe into the plant-based life.

Q: When did you go plant-based, or vegan?

Evanna Lynch: About 7 years ago now–2013 was when I read the book Eating Animals and that prompted my whole vegan journey. But it took me a while to fully make the transition because I found it really challenging at first. It took me a few attempts to make it stick and learn how to do it in a way that felt abundant and healthy.

Q: Why did you go plant-based or vegan?

Evanna: I use the term vegan because my motivation is animals. I went vegetarian at the age of 11 because I was so upset by the idea that animals were used as food and that my dinners involved bloodshed. But I continued eating dairy products because I didn’t think animals suffered for those products. It was that book, Eating Animals, and the work of charities like Veganuary and PETA that taught me that any time an animal is exploited for their milk or eggs or coat, their welfare will always be a lower priority than profit, and that they will be seen and treated as commodities, not individual sentient beings. So they almost always suffer and the easiest way to be sure you’re not funding and supporting this suffering is to embrace veganism. I believe animals deserve equal respect as humans, that their lives are their own and our only role in their lives should be as caretakers and companions, where they need it. The more I read about veganism, the more I realized the lifestyle fit with who I am. I feel a lot more comfortable and at peace with myself since I made this transition.

Q: What do you love about being vegan?

Evanna: I absolutely love the community. I have so much admiration for people who dedicate their time and their creativity towards helping animals and helping other people make compassionate choices. I think when we assume the role of caretakers of animals and this planet, rather than their oppressors or overlords, we tap into the most beautiful, powerful aspects of human nature. So being part of a community of people who want to heal and nurture the planet rather than exploit its resources is the most rewarding and inspiring part of being vegan. I’m so grateful for this community and for how the activists who’ve been doing this for decades welcomed and encouraged me in this work.

I do genuinely prefer vegan food now! I didn’t use to like animals but that’s because I wasn’t eating with people who knew how to cook vegetables right. Now I can’t get enough of plant food, I eat better than I ever did when I was a vegetarian or meat-eater.

Q: What do you find challenging about beinig vegan?

Evanna: I think the hardest part is dealing with the fact that so many people still eat meat and don’t think about the animals - and the vastness of the problem of mass animal slaughter that goes on every day. When I hear those numbers or watch that footage I feel traumatized and hopeless. I think I manage the sadness quite well and generally am an optimistic person but beneath that, there is an undercurrent of horror and disillusionment that I can’t shake. Sometimes I watch movies like Babe or Charlotte’s Web and feel myself hurting over one fictional animal’s story, so the fact that millions of animals are going through so much worse every day without any love or comfort, that is a true horror story and I find that hard to sit with if I allow my mind to wander. I really try to focus my mind on the people who care deeply about animals and on the animals living freely in the wild or in sanctuaries but the scale of animal suffering really gets to me some days.

Q: What is your favorite Breakfast?

Evanna: I love a creamy banana smoothie in the mornings! I usually go with 1 banana, a handful of blueberries, a tbsp of flax seeds, oat milk and a scoop of Vivo Life protein powder. The Vivo vanilla protein powder is so delicious, it will make you want to get out of bed in the mornings!

On the colder mornings, I’m happy with oatmeal and raisins with a swirl of agave or brown rice syrup. I’ve got a major sweet tooth so these are my go-to breakfasts. I find savory breakfasts utterly confusing and strange!

Q: Why did you start your podcast The ChickPeeps? who do you hope you will reach?

Evanna: I started it because I remember how it felt going vegan, how overwhelming and stressful and lonely it felt at times, and I wanted to provide an upbeat, fun, inspirational resource for new vegans to support and sustain them in their lifestyle.

I also noticed that vegans are usually thought of as being too serious and sanctimonious, that they lose their individual personality to angry animal rights activism and that’s absolutely not the case. I wanted to show people that you can be vegan and still be yourself. You don’t have to wear an aggressive slogan T-shirt or even be an animal rights activist. So a big motivation for starting the ChickPeeps was to show that vegans have a sense of humor too and are just regular people who object to animal oppression. I think the more we can normalize veganism the more people will be attracted to it.

A few of my favorite episodes are my chat with psychologist Melanie Joy about being an effective activist, the episode with the plant-based cooking duo, The Happy Pear, about finding community, and I always enjoy our informal group chat episodes where myself and the other cohosts get together to answer people’s vegan questions, and play games, like our most recent episode.

TB: What advice would you give someone starting out?

Evanna: I would advise them to use the ‘crowding-out’ method! That’s the method I used to go vegan. Erik Marcus, the founder of vegan.com introduced me to that and he explains it in more depth on the website. It’s a method but it’s also a mindset. Rather than thinking about what you ‘can’t’ eat on a plant-based diet, focus on what you can eat. It’s not helpful to think of it as restrictive, and I guarantee you there are so many amazing vegan foods and recipes that you have not tried or got used to yet. The crowding-out method advises that you introduce lots of new vegan foods to your diet before you cut out any animal products. So, for example, I continued eating dairy ice-cream while I was looking for a new vegan ice-cream. I tried lots of flavors and brands and didn’t give myself an ultimatum of quitting dairy, but over time my tastebuds adapted to plant variations and I found products and brands that I genuinely loved the taste of, and after a while the animal products just kind of fell out of my diet. I didn’t need them or miss them with the crowding-out method. That to me is the healthiest and easiest way of doing it.

I would also encourage anyone starting out to find a community of vegans, or at least do it with one friend. One of the most difficult parts of veganism is feeling alienated by others, or that you don’t belong anymore. It can make you feel resentful of other people for not understanding your views. But having people you can talk to about this lifestyle and your choice to be plant-based or vegan provides a lot of solace, and inspires you to keep going during difficult moments. That’s essentially why we created The ChickPeeps - to provide a sense of community and friendship to other vegans. So I would recommend you subscribe and listen to the podcast.

Q: What do you wish you had done differently?

Evanna: Nothing, to be honest, I’m really happy with the way I did it because it’s stuck so to me that means I did it in an intuitive way and I learned from my setbacks. I suppose I wish I’d discovered the crowding out method earlier, rather than trying to eliminate all animal products overnight. It was too stressful and triggering of past food issues to try and undo two decades of eating habits and social conditioning in one go. I think it’s great if you can go vegan just like that with no repercussions on your mental health but personally, a more gradual approach worked better for me.

TB: Who is the person in your life who makes it harder?

Evanna: I don’t have anyone close to me who makes veganism difficult now. It took some time to convince people that this was a healthy and serious choice at first of course, but now my whole family accepts and supports it and they eat vegan several days of the week. They’ve seen the positive impact it had on me and my diet and they all love animals so they understand it. But that’s from several years of diligently educating myself on the ethical and nutritional aspects of this lifestyle, which is something I continue to do. I want to continue to show people that veganism is accessible and enjoyable. But no, everyone close to me who matters understands and respects that this is a big part of who I am. And if there ever are any difficulties or people who criticize me, it is nothing to what animals in factory farms or fur farms or testing laboratories go through so I’m never going to complain.

TB: And how do you deal with that friction, if there is any?

EL: I tend to just block people who criticize me for my lifestyle choices or activism now. I could argue with you, I feel confident I’d convince you but that’s not an effective use of my time. There are so many people who are sympathetic to the plight of animals and want to help and would like to try veganism but feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the challenge and I’d much rather spend my time offering them help and support than lending my attention to people who actively seek me out to lecture or criticize me. Some people feel energized by arguing but I absolutely don’t. It wipes me out and depletes me and as an introvert, I have to be mindful of how I spend my energy. So I put it into positive, educational and inspirational resources like The ChickPeeps. And I really only take criticism from people who I know deeply care about and understand me.

TB: Why do you think others should go plant-based?

Evanna: I don’t really like the word ‘should’ in this context. I don’t think you should go vegan out of a sense of obligation or from a place of guilt. My acting teacher used to always say ‘don’t should on yourself’ as a way to remind us to be present and to act on impulses, and I try to abide by that same practice of not shaming or berating myself. Don’t let anyone ‘should’ on you either, going plant-based is a very personal decision and one you should make from a place of inner knowing.

I would say if you have that voice, that niggling sense that a vegan or plant-based lifestyle might suit you then follow that and don’t let society or your family or friends talk you out of it. Nobody close to me told me I should be vegan but once I felt that pull and followed through, my life opened up in numerous. I met so many kindred spirits, my health improved in ways I didn’t know it could and I let go of a lot of anxiety around food that had plagued me for years. It really healed my dysfunctional relationship with food and connected me with dozens of fascinating people. So if you are reading this article and you’re curious about veganism it probably means there’s something in your soul that connects with suspects it might be a positive lifestyle choice for you so I would urge you to follow that call.

TB: Any words to live by? A mantra?

It changes with the seasons and according to whatever book I’m reading! But I am fond of the one I mentioned above, ‘Don’t Should on Yourself’ so let’s go with that!

TB: What is next on your slate?

Evanna: We are knee-deep in season 3 of The ChickPeeps which I’m really enjoying, and we have many more exciting episodes to come. I also have a vegan beauty box company that I run with some friends, Kinder Beauty, and that has been expanding and growing in lockdown at an exciting rate. I would recommend any business owners

I’m also writing a book that will hopefully be out next year. It’s not about veganism but I’m not ready to share what it is yet either!

The ChickPeeps is available on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and all major podcast platforms.

Sandra Oh and 20 Others It Might Surprise You to Learn Are Plant-Based