It started with cookies. My first experience with vegan baking was in early 2020 while quarantining during the pandemic. I was really missing my friends and work family, so I decided to bake for them as a fun way to connect. A few of my friends are vegan, and I wanted to be sure they also received some delicious treats. I was a little nervous about the vegan baking substitutions but was excited to bake something that was truly inclusive.

I tested a few recipes and landed on a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe that substituted butter, eggs, and milk with applesauce, coconut oil, and coconut milk. I delivered the treats, and my friends told me they were delicious. My husband and I are not vegan, but we also loved the cookies. They quickly became a favorite recipe that I made for many friends, both vegan and nonvegan.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies on cooling rack
Vegan chocolate chip cookies

From Vegan Baking to Personal Wellness

Eventually I moved from vegan baking to other types of cooking, implementing more vegan and vegetarian meals for my family. I paid attention to how I felt after eating beef and realized that it almost always made me feel tired and sick. I tracked what I ate and realized that certain foods would make me feel lethargic and cause headaches. I also switched my health goals from trying different diets to finding balance.

I recently received a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and am altering my eating habits to help create a healthier life for myself. This means less gluten in my diet because it can cause inflammation. I didn’t know when I was experimenting with gluten-free and vegan baking recipes that it would be something I would need to implement in my own life. While I was feeling compassion toward friends and clients for their health struggles, I was unknowingly preparing myself for my new eating regimen.

Through changing my eating habits, exercising more, and tracking my food, I have noticed something other than weight loss. I feel better, not just physically but also mentally. My mood is more in balance, I sleep better, and I am more present for my family.

The diet culture has many slogans and mantras about food. “You are what you eat,” “Food is fuel,” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and “What you eat in private is what you wear in public.” Some of these sayings have stuck with me and not always in a good way. I believe we should be teaching our children and ourselves that food is health. Not everyone will feel the same way while eating the same food, and we should eat food that makes us feel good. I might not feel good while eating dairy, beef, or a lot of bread, but someone else may not have issues with them. We teach our children at a young age that if something hurts you, then don’t do it. The same should apply to food. If it is harmful, don’t eat it.

I am still learning what is best for me as a whole. I will continue to explore more vegan, gluten-free, and other allergy-friendly options with my baking and cooking. In a year’s time, I hope to not only feel better in my body but to feel better as a whole being.

Mother and son baking and decorating baked goods in the kitchen
Lara and her son baking and decorating together.

Generations in the Kitchen

Some of my fondest memories as a child were in the kitchen learning how to mix, knead, measure, and combine ingredients that would magically turn into something delicious. I am now creating similar memories with my 2-year-old son. His face radiates such joy as he helps me bake muffins and cookies.

While teaching my son to bake, I also want to teach him healthy eating habits. Having struggled with weight and health, I want to help set him up for an easier life of healthy food choices.

If you would like help implementing more vegan days for you or your family, this resource from Whole Foods Market is helpful. You will also find a plethora of books, podcasts, blogs, and recipes online.

Turning Dreams Into Reality

Lara's Cakes and Bakes logo with four different cake designs
Some of Lara's specialty cakes

Earlier this year I was encouraged to pursue a lifelong dream. I launched a new business, baking and decorating cakes and other treats. From the beginning, it was important to me to be inclusive. I wanted to provide gluten-free, vegan, and other allergy-friendly options. Many of my clients have ordered vegan chocolate chip cookies. I tested them with gluten-free flour because a client requested it, and those cookies are now one of my best sellers at the local farmer’s market. I’ve made a few changes to the cookies I sell, but here is the original vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe that started my vegan cooking journey.

About the Author

Lara Arnold has served at Unity World Headquarters since 2015, currently as a web designer. She also owns Lara’s Cakes and Bakes, where she shares her passion for baking and decorating.

Lara Arnold smiling in front of a wooden door at Unity Village


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