You are what you eat
Next month marks my three year anniversary of making the decision to no longer eat meat and pursue a plant-based diet. Growing up in South Carolina where fried chicken and BBQ are considered staple foods, "bidding adieu" to a cuisine that was placed on my plate since a young child was no easy feat. When I began this meatless journey, I pursued a pescatarian diet two years before becoming vegetarian.
My family was very perplexed by my decision to forgo something I had been consuming my entire life. During family dinners, they would sarcastically say, "Oh, she doesn’t eat meat now,” with a funny intonation in their voices like my dietary choices were a running joke during my absence. It amazed them how during my entire pregnancy, I refrained from eating meat and how I do not plan to introduce animal byproducts to my son (while the choice is mine to make). However, once he is old enough to make his own food decisions, he can choose the two-piece and a biscuit meal at Popeyes like his dad occasionally does or he can pursue a plant-based diet as well.
This entry is NOT intended to criticize those who do eat meat. I am an advocate of people eating what they love, and if it is meat, then do you. We are all in control of what we put in and on our bodies, besides, in one of my favorite words by Sean Carter, "what you eat don’t make me shit, where is the love?"
After the release of the eye-opening documentary “What the Health,” which describes in depth our nation’s health and how big business influences it, I discovered that many of my peers were transitioning towards a plant-based diet without adequately preparing their mind, body, and spirit for the evolution required to sustain this lifestyle. Some people can stop eating certain foods cold turkey, however, with my grandmother being the infamous Louise Goodwin-growing up on her delicious and authentic soul food, which occasionally featured collard greens seasoned with fatback grease, string beans featuring a turkey neck, or the succulent Sunday rib dinners, I had to do some serious soul searching to reprogram my mind and body to make this change.
Who wants to eat BLAND food?
One of the most challenging components of transitioning and sustaining a plant-based diet is learning how to prepare healthy yet delicious food. Healthy can sometimes be synonymous with bland, dry and dull and the foods considered as healthy can taste that way. Also, some people think they will be persecuted if they forego meat but desire to eat it during certain occasions. Sometimes you will be forced to have flexibility with your eating choices. My husband and I travel frequently, and many times when we are out of the country, I adapt to a pescetarian diet so that I do not starve. You can be fluid with your diet spectrum. Sometimes you want a chicken wing during the fall tailgates, or you may omit diary except for those moments you want a scoop of vanilla ice cream to accompany grandma's homemade peach cobbler or somedays you may wish to have a heaping serving of mac and cheese with REAL cheese.
Another difficult component of this transition is allowing yourself to get too hungry because it is much harder to make "healthy" food decisions when you are starving. I know, we have all been there, it is 9:30 at night and despite all your dieting and attempts to eat healthier, you find yourself eating a large Chick-Fil-A fry and a warm cookie because you are starving and your journey to a healthier lifestyle has not hit rock bottom.
This plant-based lifestyle DOES have great menu options and you will be able to make healthy food choices that are still delicious but align with your new dietary goals.
Benefits of eating a plant based diet
While "plant-based" does not mean a strict vegetarian, it does mean the foundation of the diet rests upon foods that come from the ground, such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds. Listed below are some of the benefits of pursuing a plant-based diet.
1. Disease-fighting power- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day as part of a plant-based diet can have real benefits for lowering blood pressure and preventing a variety of chronic diseases. Also, the extra fiber and potassium intake can stave off heart disease, and when whole foods displace refined carbohydrates, it helps individuals steer clear of diabetes. The potent phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables can also help ward off cancer. As it turns out, you need about 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30%. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can be significantly influenced by a plant-based diet. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that diets rich in fruits and veggies can work to lower blood pressure significantly.
2. Contains Vitamins & Minerals- Plant-based diets can include a variety of colorful foods, which are packed with a variety of nutrients aside from the well-known vitamins and minerals.
3. Helps to Maintain a Healthy Weight- Overall vegetarians seem to average fewer daily calories when compared to meat-eaters, which may help them maintain a healthy weight and plant-based foods usually allow you to feel fuller on fewer calories.
Risks of a Plant-Based Diet
I would be remiss to not inform you of some of the drawbacks to a plant-based diet which I have experienced during my "meatless" journey. Some of the most common risks are inadequate protein intake, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
1. Protein Intake: Sometimes when you omit foods such as fish, poultry, or low-fat dairy products, then it can be challenging (though not impossible) to obtain the right amount of protein. When protein intake is low, the body will use up valuable protein stores in muscle tissue, where most of your calories are burned on a daily basis.
2. Vitamin B12 deficiency poses a considerable risk to plant-based dieters and the vegan population because this particular vitamin is only available in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Individuals following a vegan diet are recommended to take a B12 supplement to prevent deficiency over the long term. Some of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, fatigue, numbness and tingling in extremities, poor balance, and memory problems.
3. Plant-based diets are low in readily-absorbable iron. Often when individuals follow a vegetarian diet that does not include iron-fortified foods, iron deficiency can arise.
4. Other risks of a plant-based diet include the possible development of other mineral deficiencies due to decreased absorption - such as zinc, copper, and selenium. These minerals have much better absorption from animal foods, and consuming only plant foods may put an individual at risk for deficiency.
Private Chef, KALE YEAH
Failure to plan means planning to fail. Create a daily or weekly meal plan, if you don’t, you will most likely become hangry (a compilation between hungry and angry) which leads to poor food choices. Also, find For those that are taking steps to go plant-based listed below are a few steps to help your transition be as smooth as possible.
Hire a professional chef that specializes in preparing meals that are delicious and nutritious. The keyword is professional. Many people underestimate the convenience and satisfaction that can come from hiring. Also, a private chef can be more efficient and affordable than you think. Eating healthy can be taxing. Once you factor in your endless trips to the grocery store, the time you forgo to make mediocre or average healthy food, you can quickly invest in a private chef that can grocery shop, meal plan and meal prep for you and your family.
At the beginning of my husband's career in Nashville, Tennessee, I was introduced to a dynamic Chef named Adrianne Walker, or Abella, as she affectionately calls herself. Meeting Adrianne has been life-changing for my family and I. Not only is her food delicious, but she is also able to cater to my husband's diet, which occasionally features fish, turkey and chicken, and my diet which is more aligned with a vegetarian/vegan.
Interview with Adrianne Walker of A'bella Catering
I am fascinated with dynamic individuals who can use their gifts to produce greatness in the world. Read below why Chef Adrianne is well on her way to becoming one of the best private Chefs in the culinary arena.
1. What made you pursue this passion and become a professionally trained chef?
During my time at Tennessee State University as an undergrad student, when I cooked for my peers, many of my friends stated how they would pay for my food. One day, out of the desire to create a supplementary income, I started selling plates. This brought me great joy because while cooking for my peers, I felt like I was at in the kitchen cooking. It took me witnessing how EVERYONE of all ages and ethnicities loved and appreciated my food, for me to pursue my craft more seriously. During my senior year of college, after starting my catering business, I flew to Los Angeles to visit culinary schools and within two months of graduating from TSU, I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles. During my time in LA, I gained experience as a sous chef at a prestigious Caribbean restaurant and a senior living facility while still pursuing catering gigs. Since then opportunities have presented themselves in abundance from meal prepping for private clientele to large-scale event catering.
2. What is your greatest joy about cooking?
The positive feedback that I receive from my clients is priceless. It makes me happy to see people enjoy my food and when they rave about the success of their event due to my culinary creations. I am grateful for the ability to use my cooking skills to bring joy to someone's life, and this is a gift that I do not take for granted.
3. What advice would you give to up and coming female minority chefs?
Be prepared to stand alone. Men and people of other races dominate the culinary arts profession. Being a minority female chef requires a relentless work ethic to surpass the doubt of those that don't believe in your dream. To succeed, you have to have thick skin because many of your days will not be glamorous events and fancy plates. There will be people who don't believe you can cook because you are a woman, then there might be chefs who may hire you then want to fire you because your skill set intimidates them, you will feel overwhelmed at times, you might even feel overworked and underpaid. Some days you will be in a kitchen for 12+ hours or more. There will be blood, sweat, and tears! However, if this career is your calling and your passion, the reward of succeeding will trump any negative emotions.
To find more information about Adrianne Walker or to follow her journey visit @AbellaCatering