How did you become plant-based?
My food journey has been one that was completely unexpected but has been very beneficial for me and my family. I grew up a being a very picky eater who’s diet mostly consisted of southern cooking including fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and biscuits. About two years ago I began researching the pros and cons of eating meat and dairy and began developing my own opinions on why being a plant based eater is best for one’s health. I read a scientific research book called The China Study during the start of my journey and it changed my world. I began to understand health from a medical, scientific, and overall health perspective.
In 3 words, describe your cooking style.
Healthy, Simple, Beautiful
What is the most important thing most folks could do to eat healthier?
I get a lot of questions about how and why I eat and cook the way that I do. My number one response is always, “My primary thought when I eat is to supply my body with as many nutrients as I can for the good of my health. Second, I want it to taste good, really good! And third, I want my food to last.” So people should ask themselves the question “why do I eat?” Do I eat for comfort? Do I eat because it feels good? Do I eat to make me full? And in order to be healthy all the time, the answer needs to be “I eat because I want to do my body good.” We have to change our mindset from looking at food as just a means to make our stomachs full but more as a means to nourish, supply, and accelerate our bodies.
What is the trickiest part of cooking/following a vegan/vegetarian diet?
When I cook the food that I love I am able to be creative and that is exactly how I look at my culinary journey, as my creative outlet. So I wouldn’t necessarily say that there are too many tricky things about following a plant-based diet when cooking except when baking. I grew up baking with my mom and still love to do it. But learning how to bake with out some of the more common baking ingredients can be a bit more tricky.
That being said, it is more difficult to eat out. I have to ask a lot of questions about menu options i.e. how is the food cooked, what oil do the cooks use, and always, is there any butter in this?
I try not to make a lot of substitutuions when I eat out because I like to try what the chef has created so I usually try to find a dish that meets all of my eating requirements.
Do you ever eat meat/ dairy? When and why?
I don’t ever eat meat or dairy. I grew up on the coast of North Carolina so when I am near the coast I will eat fresh fish. I haven’t had butter, cream, milk, or cheese in years and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon. I don’t feel that dairy provides any nutritional value to our diets so I choose not to eat it.
What are 3 ingredients you always have in your fridge?
Almond milk, Kale, and Nut Butters
Name 3 of your favorite restaurants in Nashville and why.
Bar Taco is one of my very favorite restaurants in Nashville. They are very accommodating to a plant-based diet and their food is really tasty. It is never loaded with oils or dressing and is always good food prepared simply.
Epice is a close second. When I eat at a restaurant I want to feel good about what I am eating, just the way I would if I were eating at home. The food at Epice makes me feel great but also gives me a cuisine that I might not be able to prepare at home. Their menu is very vegetable-centric and the seasonings and spices are always spot-on!
Two Ten Jack has the best ramen I’ve ever had. I get their yasai shoyu ramen which has burnt corn, collards, and the most amazing vegetable broth. I love that they are passionate about making the best quality cuisine that they can and truly care about their food.
Where do you typically shop and why?
I go to the grocery store almost every day, I absolutely love it! It’s not unlikely that I will visit Turnip Truck, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes all in one day just to get the best deals and the best ingredients. I love Turnip Truck because it’s local and I can find some local goodies like some produce that I might not find anywhere else. I also love their soups, the Lentil Soup is my favorite, I’ll make a special trip just to get a bowl of it. I love Whole Foods for their bulk section. I can get exactly the amount I need and not have to pay for packaging or any extras. Whole Foods is also a great lunch spot when I’m short on time. Trader Joes is great for some packaged foods that the other stores might have a bit of a higher price tag. I get Organic Spinach there for a couple dollars cheaper than I would elsewhere. I also love their greeting cards! Trader Joes is kind of like my Wal-Mart, it’s a one stop shop where I can buy laundry detergent, dog treats, and almond milk all in one place.
What is the main reason you eat/cook the way you do?
Nutrition. I want to supply my body with as many nutrients as possible so that I may be the best version of myself, always. Everything I eat has nutrition in it, even if it’s a chocolate chip cookie. I want to be sure I build myself up instead of tearing myself down and the first place to do that is with food. Food is the most powerful source of medicine that we have so I choose to use it to cure my body. If I’m feeling a little sluggish, I will eat something to counter-act that feeling and almost immediately I start feeling better.
Why should readers visit/subscribe to your blog.
I believe that our lives should be happy and healthy through all aspects. Our happiness and health starts with food and then continues from there. We should live each day with mental, physical, and emotion balance and A Happy Healthy Heart teaches people to do just that. Being healthy isn’t just about food. It’s about thinking happy thoughts, being kind, using healthy products in our homes, and exercising, it’s an all-encompassing effort that takes a little bit of thought. But by subscribing to my website others will learn that life can be exactly what you hope for it to be, as long as your entire self is healthy.
How/why are you qualified to do what you do?
I experienced a lot of things before the age of 18 that most people may not ever experience in life. I had life struggles that needed to be dealt with and I found that the best way to handle it was with a happy heart. I have always been a positive person and think that life is much easier when approached optimistically. This translates into the food I cook for me and my family, as well. It makes us happy and healthy. I have never been formally trained in nutrition or cooking but that does not mean that I can’t do it. It means that every day I need to learn more and better myself to the best of my ability but in the end, as long as I am doing what I love, it’s worth every bit of it.
Is there a book that you think everyone should read or is particularly insightful or helpful?
When I first started my plant-based journey I read a book called The China Study. It was extremely insightful. I learned why and how in the most scientific way why eating a plant-centric diet is best. It changed my world and if you have a heart for learning, it will change yours too.
What is a surprising thing that most people don’t know?
Eggs have nothing to do with dairy. They are sold in the dairy section of the grocery store but are not technically considered a dairy product. Dairy is a product of the mammary gland of mammals. Basically, it refers to milk and anything made from milk, like cheese, butter and yogurt. I eat eggs because I feel that they supply nutrients to our bodies. My husband and I have our own chickens that we get our eggs from but will not eat eggs anywhere else unless we know exactly where they came from. The eggs that are sold in most restaurants and grocery stores come from chickens who have been mistreated and fed improperly. It is really important to know where your eggs come from so that you are not eating something that could harm your body.