This Juana’s Pretty Keen On Staying Green

Juana Manahan-Yupangco shares how it took some time for her and her family to go plant-based. But the changes were worth it!

A spike in her husband’s cholesterol was what pushed Mesa ni Misis founder Juana Manahan-Yupangco to go on a more plant-based diet. “He didn’t want to stay on pills. And even then, staying on those pills for a long time can damage one’s body,” Juana reveals. “So, we both decided to try going plant-based. The change was pretty gradual but it was challenging. For the first month, we went vegetarian and it [his cholesterol] went down. And when we went vegan, it went down even further.”

The Kids: “We’re Not Too Keen On the Green.”

Getting into a more plant-based diet wasn’t just changing the content but even how they perceived being on one. “My husband’s idea back then of a vegetable was a potato,” she looks back in amusement. “My kids also. Usually, vegetables to them were often served with a side of meat. So we had to do the change gradually.”

They started off with a rule that meat was something the family could have when they went out. Unfortunately, like most kids, they started exploiting the little loopholes in the said rule. “My kids would call up their grandparents and say, “Can you pick us up so we can eat hamburgers or steak?” Juana laughs. “Whenever we ate with my parents on weekends, they would really binge on the meat. So it was clear that rule wasn’t working.”

A Future Investment in Health

Eventually, Juana saw her efforts paying off. The appeal of going on a plant-based diet started to grow on the kids. “Besides explaining to the kids how going more plant-based was a future investment in their health, I needed to be a little stricter. Like when they would attend parties or go to someone else’s house, they brought their own food. But it’s paying off. Now, they make smarter choices like eating the cheese pizza instead of the whole bucket of chicken.”

Health has and will always be the root of Juana’s philosophy of going vegan ever since her change in 2017. “It’s a bonus that you get to save the animals and help ease climate change. But personally, it’s really more for health. I feel a difference in my body when I eat animal products or meat. Like, I’ll feel it the next day or the day after. I feel a little sluggish or there’s some sort of brain fog.”

The change in diet has also improved the performance of both Juana’s kids too! “My son is a Sabre fencer with Republic fencing. My daughter plays tennis and does gymnastics at school. And I believe what I teach at home about fuelling your body with the right food is finally showing, being even more evident in my son who has become more competitive in his fencing in the last year. He knows that a banana between matches is better than fries. He knows how to load his energy the night before his matches and knows to keep eating clean to maintain a good weight and maintain his agility. When he does have junk he immediately feels the difference.”

Sharing the Green Sheen

While completing her thesis for her Master’s in Global Nutrition and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh, Juana Manahan-Yupangco applies her knowledge to Mesa ni Misis to help raise and change nutrition standards in Filipino families. “If there are two things I want to change, it’s that going plant-based doesn’t mean eating nothing but leafy-tasting food. And that, even if a vegetable looks unsightly, it still doesn’t make it any less delicious and nutritious.”

In Mesa ni Misis, she overhauls the approach of the traditional feeding program. “We teach you how to cook; we teach you how to help yourself. In a lot of feeding programs, literally, food just gets shoved at you or you just get fed. With us, in our feeding program, you get the raw materials — the beans, the fruits, and the materials — and the seminar. We teach you how to cook it.”

The Choice to Change is A Challenge That Needs An Answer

Every choice leads to change and in being a parent, Juana Manahan-Yupangco has seen the benefits and challenges of both. “As a parent who tries her best to listen and understand her kids, there’s also that challenge in being firm and strict. I explain my reasons for the punishment and remind them it’s their actions that we disapprove of, not them,” she states.

Even with the choice of relying on technology, she knows how technology can be a double-edged sword. “Thanks to technology, we can constantly communicate with our kids and easily close the gap. But technology also gives them access to information which needs to be explained to the kids.”

The choice to change needs to be a joint choice which is something Juana discusses with her husband especially if it’s involving the kids. “I always ask my husband about anything to do with the kids. I’ll always call or text to ask what should be done so that we are on the same page. We also don’t burden our kids with adult issues. I feel it can be easy to do this when the kids get older to make them understand certain things because they seem mature. But they don’t truly understand yet,” she shares.


Photography ED SIMON
Art Direction MARC YELLOW
Shoot Coordination MJ ALMERO

Shot on location at HILTON MANILA


More about plant-based living? Check out these stories:

How Danika Nemis and Luke Landrigan Are Raising A Vegan Kid
10 Vegetarian Restaurants To Add To Your List
Sharing a Meal at Juana’s Table

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