Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle with Vegan and Beyond
Sipping her green smoothie from a mason jar and rocking an adorably fun dress from Vaute Couture, a vegan clothing line, Marissa Podany is the quintessential vegan. As we sit in the warm, spacious lobby of Garden of Mind in Lawrenceville, she shares her excitement about the vegan lifestyle, which she adopted at age 18.
After doctors diagnosed her with chronic fatigue in her mid-20s, she couldn’t find anyone who knew how to care for her condition. So, she decided to take her health into her own hands and begin a holistic healing regimen. “That’s when I really discovered the power of plant foods and just how nourishing they are,” she says. “When I started to feel such reverence for the gifts of the earth, I got into meditation and other mindfulness practices. I was just waking up with so much joy every day, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to just keep this to myself anymore!’”
From there, her passion for veganism took a professional turn. To help others experience the same happiness being vegan brought to her life, Podany launched Vegan and Beyond. The venture creates a platform for the vegan lifestyle coach and educator to inspire others with her personal story and teach the importance of veganism in general — since adopting the vegan lifestyle protects animals from “basically being turned into commodities,” fights against diseases, and improves the environment.
The reason why my business is called Vegan and Beyond is because veganism is not the end all be all,” Podany explains. “It’s not just important to have [food] that is vegan and doesn’t contain animal products, but we want to make sure it came from an ethical source.”
The all-encompassing program offers guidance to veg-curious and health-conscious individuals who want to make more compassionate choices in their lives. Through three or six weeks of sessions, clients will learn about the vegan philosophy, its benefits, and how to create tasty vegan meals. A deeper understanding of the lifestyle and the clients’ true selves are also explored, a process that is tailored to each individual and their specific goals. Even if questions or concerns arise outside of their sessions, Podany is available to provide round-the-clock support.
“People who are trying to make these positive changes in their lives often get caught up in the perfection of it. If they slip up, it’s devastating,” she says. “I try to emphasize as often as I can that there is no such thing as perfection.”
By creating a judgement-free zone and reminding clients that no two people reach the same endpoint the same way, Podany provides unwavering encouragement as they embark on these incredible journeys.
“There are two things that are most important when you’re making a change or transition: act with integrity and do the best that you can at any given moment,” Podany says. “That’s when the huge shifts are going to happen. You’re not only going to be affecting your personal self, but also the world around you. You’re sending out those ripples into the world, and it’s really amazing to watch that happen.”
As her positive message continues to spread throughout Pittsburgh, Podany hopes to expand her reach and opportunities at Vegan and Beyond. Whether it’s by hosting wellness retreats or creating eco-friendly products, she’s ready to embrace every upcoming adventure with a smile. “Whatever comes, it’s all good,” Podany says. “And it’ll evolve organically, I’m sure.”
Check out two of Marissa Podany’s favorite vegan recipes for the spring:
Fennel Apple Orange Juice with Mint
1 medium bulb of fennel (Chef’s note: If your fennel still has the fronds attached, feel free to juice them, too!)
1 gala apple, peeled if not organic
1 orange, peeled
½ large cucumber or 1 small cucumber, peeled if not organic
2 stalks of celery
4-8 mint leaves, to taste
- 1. Wash, peel (if necessary), and cut the fennel, apple, orange, cucumber, and celery to fit your juicer.
- 2. Run the produce and mint leaves through the juicer. (Chef’s Note: If you don’t have a juicer, blend the ingredients in a blender, then strain through a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or fine mesh strainer.)
Photograph from Marissa Podany
Raw Ruby Noodle Salad
For the beet slaw:
1 package kelp noodles
1 medium beet, shredded
2 small zucchini, shredded
3 medium carrots, shredded
Packed ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
Packed ¼ cup parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
Fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste
*Yield: 10 cups
For each salad:
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh-cracked black pepper
1 cup beet slaw
¼ cup unpasteurized sauerkraut
½ avocado, sliced
Pepitas, to garnish
- 1. To prepare the beet slaw, rinse the kelp noodles well and allow to drain. Mix the shredded beet, zucchini, and carrots in a large bowl. Snip the kelp noodles with kitchen shears or chop them to break the nest of noodles apart. Add the noodles into the bowl of shredded vegetables, and mix in dill, parsley, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Use the slaw immediately after or let it marinate overnight to become more flavorful.
- 2. To prepare each salad, lightly dress the arugula in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper, to taste. Place a few handfuls of dressed arugula on each plate, then top with beet slaw and sauerkraut. Peel and fan out the avocado, then place it on the side. Garnish with pepitas.
Photograph from Marissa Podany
+ To supplement her one-on-one sessions, Podany offers monthly Vegan 101 workshops to the public at Garden of Mind. Each one includes a basic primer on the vegan philosophy and a cooking demonstration, which both reflect a specific, often seasonal, theme. The December workshop, for example, covered how to survive the holidays as a vegan and taught attendees how to make a delicious holiday dish using only vegan ingredients.
Years of working in kitchens taught Podany her basic cooking skills, but she considers herself to be more of an intuitive cook. “I don’t follow recipes,” she admits. “I just put things together, and they end up tasting pretty good.” The natural development of her incredible dishes allows them to be tailored to suit guests’ preferences and even food allergies. “That comes up a lot,” Podany explains. “People say they have food allergies so they can’t be vegan, but I’m like, ‘Yes, you can!’ I was on a very restricted diet when I got sick, and I managed to stay vegan the whole time. So, I have a lot of tips and tricks up my sleeve.”
Don’t miss the next Vegan 101 Workshop, “Green Vegan,” on March 5 at Garden of Mind!