Soap Star Tracey E. Bregman Shares Her Plant-Based Journey
Since 1983, fans of daytime television have known the Emmy-winning actress Tracey E. Bregman as the glamorous redhead Lauren Fenmore – now Lauren Fenmore Baldwin – on The Young and the Restless, and in before that on The Bold and the Beautiful in the '90s.
Outside of the CBS studios, the real-life Bregman has been a vegetarian since she was a young girl, and she now follows a mostly vegan lifestyle. Bregman loves to work out, hike, and do Pilates and has served as a spokeswoman for a vegan makeup brush brand. Her career spans guest appearances on such iconic shows as The Love Boat, Fame, and The Fall Guy."
Bregman talked to The Beet about the plant-based lifestyle she loves.
The Beet: When did you go plant-based?
Tracey E. Bregman: I grew up in London, England. At age 8, I made the connection [between animals and my food]. In London and most places in Europe, you go to the butcher for your meat. Even at age 5, I wouldn’t go into the butcher because of the smell and the animals hanging up along the wall. It was too much reality in my face. As a young child, I always had an affinity for animals, but it’s called a hamburger – not ground cow!
I guess when I was standing there one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I said to my mom, “That’s it!” At age 8! And not only that, but I went raw vegan. So my poor mom – home of the meat pot pie, and I was in private school, so in a private school, and I refused to eat anything – not even cooked vegetables. Of course in London, they love mushy vegetables.
My mom was a rock star! She said “Okay,” and never made me feel bad about it. She gave me all my vegetables raw, and to this day, I still eat all my vegetables raw. I like to roast them too, but I'll eat anything raw.
The Beet: Were your parents supportive?
Tracey: My mother made me separate meals and also lots of salads. And then when we moved to the United States, everyone thought I was weird. Because while everybody was eating peanut butter and jelly and baloney at school, I was eating cucumber sandwiches on whole wheat.
No one knew what to do with me. But my father was ahead of his time, healthwise. So he got it. And I really have to credit my mother for never once making me feel bad about my decision, and that’s a hard thing.
It was very funny when I think back on it. We’re talking about a time when McDonald’s had started to really get popular, and everyone was going out to fast food. So no one knew what to do with me.
But once people realized that I would bring salad over, I became the hot ticket to have for dinner. I came to the states in the middle of fifth grade and suddenly I was like the hot ticket in grammar school.
The Beet: When did you go from vegetarian to mostly plant-based?
Tracey: I was only vegetarian because I didn’t know about dairy back then, and in high school when they gave you the hot lunch, all I could eat was the dessert. The only thing I could eat was like the strawberry mousse.
I’m sure I felt relief that I wasn’t eating animals, but once I made the connection [about the harmful ways they made dairy] it never left me. That’s why I live on a farm now – because I need room for everything. I live on a farm in Nashville, and I fly in to shoot [The Young and the Restless].
The Beet: What's been your biggest triumph or biggest challenge as a plant-eater?
Tracey: My biggest challenge is when you get invited to dinner or a dinner party, and no one asks you if there are any allergies or eating differences. That���s when I know I have to either bring my own food or eat prior.
And I don’t have a problem with that, but I’m always afraid of offending the hostess or the host. I got invited to a chili party one day. And no one asked if there were any eating differences. And I went, “Oh okay. So what I’m going to do is make my own vegan chili and bring it, so I’m eating what everyone else is eating.” And I think my only fear is that I just don’t want to offend somebody. I don’t want to be in a situation where I can’t eat either.
The Beet: Do you have a favorite vegan snack?
Tracey: I love the Beyond Meat Hot Italian Sausage. I also love their meatballs. So I will … throw some olive oil in a pan and sauté the meatballs, and just do a vegan marinara. That to me is such a hearty, quick meal. I also am obsessed with Misha foods - the black truffle spread. Oh my God. I almost cried Sunday when they said they were out of it.
You can get it at Whole Foods or the farmers market. I get Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Everything Bagels and then you put that on it – Oh my God!
The Beet: Do you have an easy vegan recipe that you like?
Tracey: You know, I do a lot of things from scratch. But I’m good at holidays; but I’m not good at, “I would make myself that.” When I’m in L.A., I’m ordering from Crossroads Kitchen and Nic’s on Beverly all the time. Nic’s on Beverly is amazing, the best vegan food, in my opinion.
The Beet: What are your typical breakfasts, lunches, and dinners?
Tracey: I start with hot water and lemon. I usually just drink some espresso in the morning. For lunch, I love a good avocado toast. Dinner is probably the kale Caesar from Crossroads. That would be a typical day.
The Beet: You have a grueling schedule. How do you manage to eat vegan?
Tracey: You start early in the morning, and sometimes several episodes are shot in one day – I always order the day before, or whatever I didn’t finish the day before, I bring. But we’re really lucky because we shoot next door to The Grove, and there’s the Veggie Grill there. So I can run over and pick up something literally, right outside the gate.
The Beet: Do you often bring your breakfast with you?
Tracey: I always get up before work and eat. I get up about an hour and a half before I have to leave for the studio. Because I need time in the morning – I need time to eat, have a little espresso. I always walk into the studio ready to go.
The Beet: What advice would you give to somebody going plant-based?
Tracey: My dear friend Kathy Freston has written six books on veganism. So she says something that I think is really, really important.
She uses the phrase, “Lean in.” So when someone says to me, “OK that’s it. I’m going cold-turkey vegan, or even gluten-free, what I say is, ‘Lean In.’”
I think if you do something all at once that you’re not used to, you can feel like you’re being deprived. So Kathy says to "lean in" and start once a week. And then move it to twice a week and keep going. So I always suggest that – make a slow and gradual changeover.
I also always say to people, I’ll go shopping with you. Because I’ve spent all these years honing what I think is really amazing. I love to go shopping with people and turn them on to great products because if they try something that’s not great, that can turn them off of veganism completely.
My son Landon is encyclopedic. He honestly should have his own blog as to where to eat, what to order. He’s the best orderer ever. And what I love about the fact that we’re both vegan – I’ll say, “I’ll have what you’re having.” As long as it’s vegan, I can eat it.
His blog should be called “I’ll Have What You’re Having." Because he’s really adventuresome and really loves to try new places as I do. But I can be a creature of habit. And so, he gets me out of that.
Because I stopped eating meat when I was 8, I stopped because I don’t like the taste of meat either, and I’ve lost the taste for it. So I don’t need anything that tastes like meat, because that will actually turn my stomach. I had the hardest time eating Beyond Meat for the longest time because it looked too much like it. It took me a long time to be able to eat it.
The Beet: Do you think there are a lot of people who think, "I can only do this if I have something that really tastes like a burger."
Tracey: That’s why there’s vegan fish and vegan chicken. Now, it wouldn’t be my first choice, because I don’t need anything to taste like that. Although at Crossroads, they have this chicken sub that Landon ordered me a couple of weeks ago and I was like, “My God, this is really good!” Again, opening my eyes to different things.
Now, I’m trying to get my 89-year-old mother to eat more plant-based, and it’s tough. The thing that cracks me up is, our entire childhood, everyone says, “Eat your vegetables! Eat your vegetables!” And then when you’re an adult, and all you do is eat your vegetables, everyone thinks, “How are you getting your protein?”
And I’m like, “Have you looked at the protein content of actual vegetables? Do you know what I’m eating compared to what you’re eating?” And I don’t have the saturated fat, or the processing, or all of that. That’s very funny.
I always get the question, “How do you get your protein? How do you do this? How do you do that?” And so I have to open them up: What vegetables have protein? Quinoa, cup for cup, has more protein than meat.
The Beet: Have you inspired several people to go vegan?
Tracey: I think because I cook more for my mom when I’m home and because I’m roasting vegetables all the time and making salads, she’ll eat more plant-based. And she’s always surprised how satiated she is.
I roast vegetables for a lot of my friends, and they said, “Oh my God, I’ve never had vegetables like this. It tastes so good.” Now they are cooking for their kids – that always makes me feel good.
The Beet: Do you also like tofu, or is that too meaty?
Tracey: I’m not a huge tofu lover. I’ve had a couple of tofu dishes that have been okay, but it’s not my go-to. And I just bought Jessica Seinfeld’s new book, Vegan, at Times, so, I’m going to start doing some of her recipes. And I know she uses a lot of tofu, so I am going to try it!