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Meet Desiree Rodriguez of Rican Vegan in Homestead

Today we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Rodriguez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Over six years ago, I was breaking out in hives and developing small patches of skin rashes randomly on my arms and legs on a daily basis and didn’t know why. I went to my doctor and they couldn’t figure out why this was happening to me either. Instead of trying to figure out the root cause of my problems, my doctor’s solution was to prescribe medication for it and basically just deal with. The medication wasn’t a cure for either of my symptoms, only a temporary solution to suppressed them. If I didn’t take the medication, my hives and skin rashes would return right away. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life taking medication but I didn’t know what was causing my symptoms to find a permanent cure.

One weekend, I came across several documentaries on Netflix that discussed where our food comes from. I began binge-watching as many of them as I could. A few of them featured people who had similar symptoms to mine but were much worse than mine. They showed how they were able to cure themselves by only eating plant-based foods and eliminated all animal products from their diet. I thought if they could heal themselves with just changing the way they ate, I could do the same to see if it works for me. I gave myself six weeks to try eating this way to see how it goes. If nothing changed and my hives and skin rashes didn’t go away during that time, then I would go back to eating the way I normally did, which basically was the standard American diet.

Within two weeks, I saw a big improvement and my hives and skin rashes were appearing less and less. I also felt energized and began losing weight. By the end of the six weeks, I didn’t have any more hives and skin rashes and was able to stop taking my medication. I figured out that it was my diet causing these symptoms and I couldn’t go back to my old ways of eating. That’s when I decided that I was going to eat a plant-based diet for the rest of my life.

Growing up in a Puerto Rican culture, there were certain dishes that I missed eating even though they were meat-based and usually fried making them very unhealthy. That’s when I thought why not try to recreate these dishes in a healthier and plant-based way. I started researching and testing ways I can make these dishes healthier without sacrificing flavor. These new versions were not only delicious but even my meat-eating family liked them too. That’s when I came up with the idea to start a blog to share my Latin inspired recipes with a plant-based twist in a with others called Rican Vegan.

In addition to sharing my recipes on Rican Vegan, I also provide tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle and review products that can make plant-based cooking easier to do. There is also the Rican Vegan YouTube channel where I create videos demonstrating how to make the recipes on the blog as well as taste and review many new plant-based food products in my web series called Bingin’.

My goal with Rican Vegan is to show that it is possible to eat delicious and flavorful foods on a plant-based that doesn’t require just eating salads.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the beginning, I had some people tell me that it was impossible to make Latin food healthy let alone completely plant-based. Since traditional Latin dishes are based around animal products and are fried and contain a lot of oil, it is hard for many who grew up in this culture to change that way of thinking especially if they were always shown this is way of cooking. I knew that it was possible because I was already doing it. I used it as my motivation to continue to create these types of recipes and to show others that not only is it possible to do but how it can be done.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Rican Vegan – what should we know?
Rican Vegan helps provide the knowledge and tools to anyone who is looking to live a healthier and plant-based lifestyle. I provide meal plans, recipes, coaching and teach cooking classes. I am proud when I hear feedback from people who are so happy when they can eat their favorite Latin dish in a healthier way again after they stopped eating the original version for a long time because of health reasons. What sets Rican Vegan apart is that I incorporate aspects of the Latin culture such as traditional ingredients and cooking techniques as part of the way I teach others how to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. It’s to show you that you don’t have to give up your culture in order to live a healthier lifestyle.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being able to understand that everyone has their own health journey that they are on and it may take some longer to change their eating habits. I know I can’t rush anyone into switching to a plant-based lifestyle because not everyone may be ready to jump in 100% especially in the beginning, when it’s all new to them. I was the same way. There were some foods I thought I couldn’t live without and knew if I rushed myself into eating this way without knowing what I could and couldn’t eat, I wouldn’t be successful. As more time went by and I learned how to cook with plant-based substitutes, I was able to eliminate them and completely commit to a plant-based lifestyle but it takes time to get there. I make it very easy to understand and show how to take those steps little by little at your own pace to make progress.

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Image Credit:
Basil Lewis, Alexander Ruiz

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