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I recently reconnected with a college friend of mine, Julie, who now lives in Miami. She saw on Facebook that I had a cookbook published and wanted to pick my brain about how to find agents and publishers, as she was in the process of writing a cookbook herself.

I happily shared with her the information she wanted and she updated me on her life since college. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with a benign tumor on her optic nerve that left her legally blind in one eye. The tumor was inoperable, and the treatment suggestion was radiation.

Before agreeing to radiation, Julie began to look for alternative solutions. She found promising studies on the effects of diet and nutrition on shrinking tumors. Thirty days after beginning a plant-based diet, rich in whole grains and without processed sugars, she surprised her doctors with regaining part of her sight.

A few months later, Julie was given a more serious diagnosis of nonhereditary breast cancer. She received the recommended treatment of surgery and radiation. Since receiving the treatment and continuing her plant-based lifestyle, her cancer has not returned, and she has now completely regained her eyesight.

She left her career in international business to start a company where she consults with people advised to change their eating habits (such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases or other chronic disorders) to help them implement a plant-based lifestyle.

Her premise is that vegetarian cooking can be creative and fun, with menu ingredients much more appealing than the stereotypical tofu and canned veggies. Corporations also seek out her assistance to teach their employees the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle as it maximizes employee energy, minimizes employee sick leave and reduces health care costs.

We have had several long conversations where she has given me some plant-based ideas I had never considered. She is a big proponent of reducing processed sugar intake.

One thing she suggests to all her clients is the importance of having a low sugar breakfast. She says that when you eat a high sugar breakfast, shortly after that, your sugar drops significantly, or crashes, and then it sets up your body to crave sugar the rest of the day. I have included here her go-to breakfast recipe for overnight oats that she recommends to all her clients.

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She also suggests we all think of food as medicine. When you pack for a trip you always pack your medicine, and she suggests packing food as well.

Other tips she gives her clients are:

  • Eat the rainbow and aim for five bright colors on your plate at every meal.
  • A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Take the time to think through your food plan for the week.
  • Aim for

3/4 of your plate to have bright, colorful vegetables and fruits, and 1/4

  • of your plate to have a 100% whole grain. If you chose to add a heavier protein like an animal product or beans/legumes ... add it on top of your 100% whole grain.
  • If you are going to fill 50-75% of your plate with bright colorful veggies, then 50-75% of your grocery cart should be filled with veggies.
  • Minimize the number of packages you open to eat. Food comes from farmers — not factories. Eating “whole foods” is key to improving your health.
  • All plants have protein! According to the American Academies of Science, you only need 10-20% of your daily calories from a protein source.
  • Aim to eat three balanced meals and two healthy snacks a day to stabilize your blood sugar, keeping cravings at bay.

I don’t plan to go completely plant-based with my diet, but I would like to cook vegetarian more times a week than I currently do for better health, improved energy and cancer prevention. In fact, that is exactly what Julie recommends for meat eaters, a gradual approach.

She recommends starting with small changes, maybe making one more meal a day plant-based. Why not try adding a few meatless meals to your week?

If you are interested in checking out her business, the website is nymv.org and she has an Instagram and Facebook page under “Not Your Momma’s Vegetables”.

Sarah Long is the author of the cookbook “College Cooking 101: Fast Food Without a Kitchen.”

You can contact her at SarahHLongAuthor@gmail.com and follow her on social media on facebook @SarahHLongAuthor, Instagram @CollegeCooking101, and Twitter @SarahHLong1.

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