Meet Caitlin Castineiras, Dickinson's Own Vegan Instagram Star!

It wasn’t until recently that I realized my friend and fellow Cooper Coven dweller, Caitlin Castineiras, had been hiding something from the rest of us (which, by the way, is really hard to do when you live with only 11 people). Since the first week of college, we had all known that Caitlin is a vegan and loves to cook; however, last week, we came across a new discovery: she has been a well-known vegan food blogger in the Instagram community for quite some time now! Her account Peacefully Vegan boasts thousands of followers – and incredibly high-quality food pics – and over the past year, has become a platform for her to reach out to vegans all over the world. Her Campus Dickinson sat down with Caitlin to discuss her insta-fame, favorite recipes and how navigating college with such a distinct lifestyle can sometimes be tricky!

Name: Caitlin Castineiras

Class Year: 2020

Prospective Major/Minor: Psychology or Food Studies

Hometown: Farmington, CT

HC: When did you become a vegan and why?

CC:  I became a vegetarian when I was 11 and a vegan when I was 14 because of my concern for animal rights.

HC: Was it difficult to adapt to a completely new lifestyle?

CC:  It was hard because I used to love hamburgers, mac and cheese, pizza and all those hardy dishes.  It took a few tries, but I don’t regret [making the change] at all. The longer I’ve been on the diet, the easier it has gotten.

HC: In what other ways have you had to adjust aside from your food choices?

CC:  Animals are used in many ways and I don’t think it crosses peoples’ minds until they ask and it’s explained. Besides avoiding all animal products and byproducts, I don’t go to the zoo, circus, SeaWorld or any other form of animal entertainment. I believe that larger species of animals such as orca whales or elephants should not be held in captivity. I also don’t wear leather, silk or any form of clothing made from an animal. The hardest part of being vegan is finding products that have not been tested on animals. 

HC: Tell us about your Instagram.  What inspired you to create a vegan food account?

CC:  There are many people that aren’t extremely educated about the vegan diet and I think their first instinct is to assume that we can only eat salad. Many people aren’t aware that it’s possible to make vegan pizza, pasta, pancakes, donuts and other foods. I created the account to show individuals all of the possibilities that are out there. You have to shape the vegan diet to best fit your own body’s needs. I also wanted people to know that they should feel comfortable asking me questions about being vegan. It may seem awkward for someone else, but I am more than happy to answer anything.

HC: Where do you get the content for your posts?

CC: Almost all the pictures on the account are mine.  There are a few vegan fun facts that don’t belong to me, but all pictures of food and animals are ones that I took.  I would say over 50% of the meals I post are ones from restaurants, and the other half I make myself!  I love finding new vegan recipes and I am always open to trying new things. 

HC: Are there any Instagram accounts that you like to follow and get inspiration from?

CC:  I follow a lot of vegan chefs – namely Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan chef who won Cupcake Wars! – along with many vegan restaurants and bakeries.  Some of my favorites include: Dunwell Donuts, Champs Diner, Vegan Treats, Peacefood Café, ByChloe and Candle 79. I also follow animal rescue groups and vegan makeup brands.  One of my favorite vegan makeup brands is 100 Percent Pure – their cosmetics are amazing! There are also many other vegan-friendly cosmetic brands that you can check out like ELF, Tarte, Too Faced, Urban Decay, Colour Pop and Jeffrey Star.

HC: What are some of your favorite recipes?

CC:  As I previously stated, I absolutely love Chloe Coscarelli.  If people are new to veganism or are curious about what vegan food tastes like, her recipes would be amongst the first that I would recommend. Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows cookbook also has great recipes. Personally, it’s my favorite one to cook from. I would recommend Liddon’s vegan macaroni and cheese recipe, as well as her margarita pizza recipe. In all honesty, you can’t go wrong with any recipe from those two chefs.

HC: What are some misconceptions that people have of vegans that you’d like to address?

CC:  I believe people make assumptions about vegans due to what they may hear or see on TV or from their friends. The assumption that we are very pushy and want everyone to eat the way we do. When I was in high school, a classmate told me that I was a “nice vegan.” I was slightly confused and asked her what she meant by this, and she explained that usually she saw vegans as people who wore “meat is murder” shirts and and tried to force others to live a different lifestyle. Later, I found out that I was the only vegan she had ever met. I don’t believe anyone should push their personal beliefs on others, but if people are curious about the diet, I at least want to share my thoughts and perspectives. It’s important to have everyone be aware.

HC: Has it been difficult to adjust to college cafeteria food with such a specific diet?

CC:  At Dickinson, I think they do an excellent job in making sure that there is vegan food readily available. The access that I have here to the food I can eat makes my life so much easier. 

HC: If anything, what do you want to see change in terms of dining options at Dickinson and why?

CC: As of now, I think Dickinson has been great about being accommodating; however, the one suggestion I would give them would be to triple-check that all labeling is done correctly.  There were a few instances when items were marked vegan, but actually ended up containing eggs. This was worrisome to me, especially since I ate one of them. I felt a little sick afterwards and later found out that the item did, in fact, contain animal products. I was a little frustrated, but I understand that mistakes can happen.

To see mouth-watering treats, follow Caitlin’s Instagram  @peacefully_vegan!