We came across Vinita’s profile on Instagram (@ vinitacontractor) and once we began scrolling, we couldn’t stop! We were amazed at her active participation in the vegan community and wanted to know more about her beliefs and how she became vegan. That’s when we reached out to her and jumped on a call to know more about her lifestyle and the story behind her healthy choices! She came across as a very passionate person and we could see how she’s embedded her personal beliefs and values into her career. We tried our best for that passion and drive to come across equally well in this article so we truly hope you enjoy reading about Vinita’s life story.
VINITA CONTRACTOR. She’s a certified nutritionist!
Vinita Contractor is a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach specializing in plant-based nutrition. She has a dedicated website where she provides her services, ranging from offline to online nutrition & lifestyle coaching to DIY online programs. She wants to make health accessible and simple so that everyone can make better lifestyle choices and put their body first. She is passionate about empowering people and we are glad to say that she has empowered us through her dedication and commitment to her personal mission.
Can you give a brief overview of your background?
I was brought up in a very health-conscious family. My dad was someone who was like the epitome of moderation, always exercised, always stayed active, ate homemade food. He told me not to eat ketchup because it has color and this was in the 80s. My mom also was ahead of her time in the sense of very little oil, a balanced diet, and stuff like that. So I grew up in a family like that and always gravitated towards taking small courses and things to do with how to be healthier. This was before I became a mom.
When I became a mom I definitely didn’t want to give my children readymade cereals and readymade food. Professionally, I was a commerce graduate and I was in banking. After that, I got into education and did my B.Ed. I was a teacher at the American School of Bombay and then when I had children I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope with high-pressure work and raise my children the way I wanted to raise them. When you’re going against the tide when it comes to doing it the hard way, you need more time. It’s as simple as that. You can’t do it in that quick fix kind of way.
How did you come to be a nutrition and lifestyle coach?
For a long time, I was “the mom” amongst all my friends who they would ask for recipes and how do we make this better, and things like that. Then, when my family and I turned vegan 7 years ago I felt the need to qualify and educate myself because I wanted to ensure that my children’s nutrition was on point and they didn’t lack anything. I felt that I had a lot of information but didn’t have the credentials so whatever was possible in our restrictive Indian system where you can’t go back to doing nutrition as a full-time degree without going to a full-time college with children half my age (haha), I did that.
Do you notice any common behaviors among people when you consult them around their lifestyle choices and sustainability?
Is there any resistance to starting a vegan diet?
Generally, my website is where people get my information from and most of them are already aware that I do plant-based nutrition specifically. So I don’t have to convince them as much. They’ve already come to me knowing that they want to try a plant-based diet. Of course, there are some who are very attached to some milk products like ghee, dahi, or something so I get them to understand why I prefer this approach but I don’t get them to commit to a 100% if they’re not comfortable. I say that you do as much as you can because it’s not an all-or-nothing approach. I think if I were to talk to family or friends they would be more resistant that’s what the general population is like who doesn’t want to change. But people who come to me they’ve already decided that this is something they want to do.
When you turned vegan, were there any challenges you faced in the journey?
Yeah yeah. I turned vegan almost 7 years back. Friends and family were concerned. My family was concerned whether it was too restrictive because I had small children aged 7 and 9 years but we weren’t imposing this diet on them. They themselves had made the decision to do it. My friends eventually got around it and since I made this my work, my family then took it seriously too. There were no questions asked after a point which is why I wanted to take care that I studied nutrition closely so that I’m not making any mistakes.
One other challenge was making everything yourself. At the time that I became vegan, you didn’t get that many ready products. I’m definitely a believer that if you have the resources, time, and support to make home-based food then that will always rank higher nutrition-wise. The availability of products has made the transition easier but one should be mindful of the additives and preservatives present.
Do you see your customer base to be a lot of parents coming to seek advice on their children’s nutrition and diet plan?
I’ve had a lot of parents whose kids are into sports. They wanted to try a vegan lifestyle to see how they could up their game. Also, a lot of kids who come to me with their parents are kids who’ve been diagnosed with some sort of intolerance to dairy. In India, I still feel that though we don’t live in a joint family system so much in the urban space, there’s still a lot of inputs from the mother and mother-in-law for her child. I don’t find that many general people come to me saying that I want my child to be vegan. Usually, it is the mother or the father or both who are already vegan and want their child to be on a healthy vegan diet as well. These are generally the three scenarios in which parents come to me for a consultation about their children’s nutrition plan.
Is a plant-based diet common or popular among any one type of demographic based on your client base and your experience with nutrition consulting?
I get a lot of pregnant women. Some are brand new meaning that they haven’t been vegan earlier but now want to be vegan when they are pregnant while some have been vegan but now as they’re pregnant they want to ensure that their nutrient profile is met with and they are getting all the macros and micros. So on my website, I have a special thing for moms and children so if you’re a nursing mom, breastfeeding mother, pregnant or postpartum woman, I have a section catering specifically to that category of women.
I had a vegan pregnancy myself. So I had tuned vegan without knowing it 13-14 years ago. I didn’t know back then that that was vegan but I had cut off dairy, meat, and gluten as well which is not a part of vegan. I had a fantastic pregnancy compared to my firstborn. After that, I continued being vegetarian. Milk was also something that I didn’t like so I got back to it in very small quantities but I can’t count myself vegan for that brief interim period. But for a woman who is considering it, I wanted to share my personal experience with it.
What are your thoughts on the vegan space in India? What might be some obstacles moving forward for new brands and new individuals entering the space?
The scene is definitely changing but are we there where it's going to be as mainstream as what we commonly see, we’ve got a long way to go. Because milk and milk products have strongly ingrained in our culture and our food habits. In terms of the obstacles, two things come to my mind -
- Cost - Till the time that demand doesn’t go up to where vegan products can be at par or at a very slight premium (not 2x the price) compared to their non-vegan counterparts, the cost will be a hurdle.
- Packaging & Environment Impact - If everyone starts having almond or soy milk and avocados and all of that then there are implications to that as well.
What impact do you want to create through your brand?
Umm, I think people have accepted illness, accepted health issues as part of normal life. People find it hard to take control of their health also because we don’t live in an environment that promotes health. Everything is about pleasure or quick fixes or just doing what everybody else is doing. And in all that you forget that being healthy is not that complicated. All you need to have is the focus and awareness that the body can heal itself and you just need to fuel it accordingly. So I think there is a lot of potential not just in what I do specifically but anyone who works in the space of health or holistic understanding of how a human being works which is not just food. It is far more than that.
Even with COVID, people are realizing that ultimately it comes down to how well can your body handle it and I hope this brings about a greater need to see what is my control and then work on that. I find that empowering and motivating for someone like me that yes there will always be people who’ll want quick remedies but there’ll also be people who will try everything and realize that at the end of it they’re still not feeling their best or their vibrant selves. They’re not living the life they’re entitled to live and therefore will want to try harder.
If there is ONE piece of advice you can give to someone beginning or wanting to begin a vegan lifestyle, what would it be?
Just to eat more fruits and vegetables and move more.
SLICC’s FAVOURITE HIGHLIGHTS.
- Don’t be all or nothing - It’s not an all-or-nothing kind of decision so you don’t have to take this kind of approach when switching to a vegan diet. Reduce gradually as per your comfort and pace.
- Being healthy is not complicated - Make the switch now. You just need to have the focus and ability to fuel the body appropriately. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, complicated, or effortful.
- Think beyond just quick fixes - In today’s fast-paced world, everyone is looking for shortcuts and quick fixes but when it comes to healthy choices for your body, it’s better to be more mindful and not take the easy road.
Vinita is an inspiring individual and we hope you enjoyed reading about her journey gained some insights from it as well. She’s an expert in the field so if you’re considering trying out a vegan lifestyle, do keep her in mind!