Vegans of Ottawa – Jessica Godard

Photo credit: Jessica Godard

In this series, we chat with vegans from around the region to find out what it’s like to be plant-based in Ottawa, discovering tips and tricks for living a like a local – vegan style.

Jessica Godard was born (and mostly raised) in Ottawa and is currently living in Nepean. Although not originally her idea, she quickly became committed to the vegan lifestyle and has now been vegan for almost two years. We chatted with the bodybuilder about the ethical side of veganism, keeping things simple and owning your choices.

Ottawa Life: What inspired you to become a vegan?

Jessica Godard:  It was actually my husband’s idea to go vegan! He was interested in the health benefits of a plant based lifestyle. I was prepping for my first bodybuilding show and didn’t want to jump into veganism until after my competition. In those months, I did tons of research and came across the ethical side of veganism. It was the ethics which sold me on making the lifestyle transition.

Was it difficult for you to make the transition to veganism? Why or why not?

Once I realized I was making the transition to veganism due to ethical reasons, it was fairly easy for me to make the change. Of course, veganism is always a journey and there are struggles along the way, but it was fairly easy for me. It also helped that my husband went vegan at the same time.

What do you find to be the most challenging part about being a vegan? How do you try to overcome that challenge?

I find the most challenging part about being vegan is learning to be unapologetically vegan. I used to always think I was being an inconvenience at office lunches, dinners with friends, etc. However, I learned that my lifestyle is part of my identity, and that I should embrace it. And luckily for me, this attitude has always been well received by those around me!

What is the greatest benefit that you have gained from being a vegan and why?

The physical and mental benefits far outweigh anything else. I rarely get sick anymore (I used to be sick all the time!), and I find I don’t experience the brain fog or 3 o’clock slump that I used to.

Another great benefit is that I feel a sense of peace knowing that I am not contributing to animal cruelty.

What are your favourite vegan spots in Ottawa and why? What are your favourite things on the menu?

Oh my gosh, there are so many! To name a few:

  • Grow Your Roots: Vegan Eggs Benny
  • Asian Stars: Vegan Orange Chicken
  • Little Jo Berry’s: Basically everything this woman creates is pure gold.
  • I am also a HUGE fan of Pure Kitchen!

Where do you get your groceries in Ottawa? What does your grocery list typically include?

I shop at Loblaws college square for the most part, with a very occasional trip to Rainbow Foods. People have this misconception that finding “vegan food” is difficult! If your grocery store has a produce section, then you can buy vegan food!

Our list always includes tons of fresh veggies, tofu, beans and plant based milks (my favourite is cashew milk). A tub of vegan ice cream always somehow manages to slip in the cart, too!

Do you find that there is an active vegan community in Ottawa?

Absolutely! I met all my vegan friends through a vegan meetup. It is amazing that this is even an option in our community. The “Ottawa Vegan and Vegetarians” Facebook page is also very active, and I use it as a resource all the time!

What advice would you give to people interested in or thinking about going vegan?

I would recommend two things:

1 – Try to immerse yourself in the vegan community. I am so thankful that I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended that first vegan meetup. Though my family and friends are hugely supportive of my vegan lifestyle, sometimes it is nice to have like minded people to talk to.

And 2 – Learn cooking basics, and don’t overthink it. I do not eat elaborate meals every night, nor do I “veganize” every meal from my childhood. Most of my meals are just pre-cooked veggies thrown in a bowl with some sort of plant based protein and a sauce. And it is delicious and satisfying.

Take it day by day. Veganism is a journey and no one is perfect.

Jessica’s Vegan Essentials:

Vegan Snacks (Homemade or Purchased) – Larabars or Clif Bars.

Vegan Desserts (Homemade or Purchased) – So Delicious Salted Caramel cashew ice cream and ANYTHING from Little Jo Berry’s!

Sources of Plant-based Protein – Tempeh, lentils, tofu and Vegan Freak Chocolate vegan protein.

Blogs and/or Social Media – I am big on podcasts, and my two faves are “Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack” and “Our Hen House”.

Cookbooks and/or Recipes – “The Edgy Veg” and “Oh She Glows”.

Local Takeout Spots – Milano’s Pizza and Asian Stars.