Eating the rainbow with Anthea Cheng, founder of Rainbow Nourishments

Anthea Cheng was always passionate about food and from a young age she wanted to make the world a better place. She moved to Canberra for work in 2011 and eventually realised she needed a change from her public service job. She wanted a career that would allow her to help people and contribute positively to the world.

In 2015, Anthea started an Instagram account, Rainbow Nourishments, where she would share her plant-based creations. Now with an Instagram following of over 92,000 people, Anthea has created a community and a career doing what she loves and helping others to live healthier and more sustainably. She has several ebooks, a cake business and she also hosts food workshops and events.

We got a chance to chat to Anthea to find out more about her inspiring story.

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1. How long have you been a vegan for?
Approximately 3 years!
 
2.     What made you decide to change your diet and lifestyle?
 

I first tried to go vegan when I was 14. I cut out meat, eggs and dairy from my diet as I disliked their taste, became aware of the impact it was having on my health and the environment. However, at that age, I was living at home in a meat-orientated environment and couldn’t maintain a balanced vegan diet with adequate food and nutrition. I wasn’t eating enough and was malnourished so my body started shutting down. Unfortunately, due to this, I went back to my pre-vegan ways (without dairy) but I knew that, one day, I would try it again.

Around 10 years later, I was living out of home and I endeavoured to have a lifestyle that had a minimal impact on the environment. I recycled everything I could, took shorter showers, walked almost everywhere, bought second hand clothes, used no plastic bags and the list goes on. Then the question hit me: If I’m conscious about the environment in so many parts of my life, why am I still choosing to consume meat and animal products? Why am I choosing to kill and torture animals? Why am I choosing to do all of those things to the environment?

I realised was still consuming animal products out of ‘convenience’ because I didn’t want to be a hassle to non-vegan family and friends. I re-evaluated my values, started to actualise my beliefs and became vegetarian, then vegan. As I lived out of home, becoming vegan was relatively easy. For once in my life, I felt great that I was doing something that I actually believed in. I felt ‘at home’ and ‘in peace’. Becoming vegan was one of the best things I have ever done for myself and the environment.

So, when people ask why am I vegan?! I just want to say “Well, why not?!”

(abridged version from my ebook)

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments

3.     What inspired you to start Rainbow Nourishments?
 
I have always been passionate about food. I grew up with parents who owned restaurants so we talked about food at the dinner table, on our holidays and in every spare second we had. There was a lot of pressure for me to open my own business, but I would always say “I don’t want a job where I just contribute to people’s obesity problems”. I needed a job or career where I helped people and made the world a better place, in one way or another. Rainbow Nourishments stemmed from my passion for food, my passion to help people become the best they can be and with my passion for sustainability and protecting the environment.

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments

4.     Tell us about when and how you first started Rainbow Nourishments.

I was born and bred in Sydney where I had a relatively happy life in Sydney and many wonderful close friends. I moved to Canberra for work in 2011 but after a few years, I was tired and isolated in my life in Canberra and with my public service job. I also contracted a few illnesses. In 2015, I created an Instagram account because I wanted to reach out to like-minded people. I initially created Rainbow Nourishments to share the ‘rainbow’ or variety of ways that I like to nourish myself and seek inspiration from other people. By the end of the year, I built a decent following and decided to take a voluntary redundancy from my public service job to pursue my food blog full time.

Within two weeks of quitting, I made a cake for a friend’s mother’s 60th, posted it on Facebook and started receiving cake orders from people all around Canberra! Before I knew it, I had a cake business! In addition, the food blogging and social media side of Rainbow Nourishments expanded and I eventually was able to make a living from it!

5.     What is your favourite thing to cook or bake?
 

To be honest, I love decorating cakes for customers. I love listening to the stories of each of my customers, chatting with them to design a cake and putting it all into action.

When I was really young, I used to help my parents decorate cakes for their business. I said that when I grow up, I would love to decorate cakes for a living. My parents laughed at me and said it was impossible or extremely difficult to do. Much to their surprise, I have been able to make a living through making and decorating cakes!

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments vegan cake

6.     Where do you find inspiration for your food inventions?
 
Everyday activities, Instagram, Pintrest. However, there are usually a million ‘weird’ thoughts that cross my mind everyday so most of my inspiration comes from a desire to express myself.

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments

 
7.     What is a staple ingredient you could not live without?
 
Bananas!
 
8.     What is your favourite thing about running Rainbow Nourishments?
 
Throughout my life, I’ve often been told by people to ignore my gut instincts and obey what they think is ‘best’ for me. However, Rainbow Nourishments has allowed me to gain confidence within myself and to really stand up for what I believe in. I love all of the interesting people I’ve met on the way, including other businesses, workshop attendees, cake customers etc.
9.     How do you like being based in Canberra?
 
I’ve lived in Canberra for about 7 years and still don’t feel like I’m a Canberran at heart! However, things that I enjoy about Canberra are the close-knit vegan community, living at the foot of various mountains and nature reserves and the lack of traffic.
 
10. What advice would you give to someone who would like to try veganism but is afraid of the challenges?
 
Everyone’s challenges with a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle varies depending on their current eating habits and lifestyle and the reasons why they want to go vegan. If a person feels like they’ll miss meat, dairy or cheese, I’d suggest trying plant-based alternatives. I’d also suggest that anyone who starts a plant-based diet should remember to increase the amount they eat in order to feel satiated and have enough fuel for their day. If a person is concerned about the difficulty of the transition, once you learn and find what you do like to eat, everything becomes easier.

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments

11. What do you usually eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
 
Breakfast is something normally packed with carbs otherwise I find that I get really hungry quickly! So breakfast may be granola with almond milk and fruit, rolled oat porridge with blueberries, buckwheat porridge, a smoothie bowl with granola etc. Lunch varies everyday depending on my work level. On a cruisy day, I’d have roast vegetables with some sort of protein such as chickpeas or tofu in a wrap or with a grain. On a busy day, I’d have steamed kale with canned beans with a cheesy vegan tahini dressing. Dinner would often be the same as lunch, a Mexican burrito, burger or stir fry. After dinner, I like having a smoothie with frozen bananas, raw cacao powder, cinnamon and almond or soy milk.
 
12. What’s your favourite restaurant or cafe in Canberra and why?

Sweet Bones, because I’d happily eat anything on their menu and it’s created a safe haven for me!

Eat Canberra Rainbow Nourishments

Find out more about Rainbow Nourishments:

Instagram 

Facebook

Website

Eat Canberra recently teamed up with Rainbow Nourishments and hosted a Wholefoods plant-based feast at Local Press Café on May 4thDue to the interest in this pop-up dinner, we are working on another one so please email us at eatcanberra@gmail.com to register your interest. 

All images are by Rainbow Nourishments on Instagram.