Swann Adams, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, was diagnosed almost six weeks ago with Type 2 diabetes.
She knew that her family’s health history, her personal history and weight played into the diagnosis.
Adams had tried traditional weight loss programs – losing weight initially before plateauing, then eventually gaining it back. She felt helpless.
She started her own research into weight loss options and narrowed her choices to bariatric surgery or switching to a whole food, plant-based diet.
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“Traditional weight loss programs work for some people – Weight Watchers, Adkins, etc. But I was associating diet with deprivation,” she said.
Swann turned to a CPCP colleague, Trisha Mandes, lead nutritionist and then-director for Columbia’s Cooking. Adams knew about the science behind plant-based diet but thought that it was all about plants – and not for her.
“I love cheese!” she said. “I thought I was facing a life sentence. Not even my doctor was sure if a plant-based diet was for me.
“I had weighed my options. Bariatric surgery offers great remission for diabetes, but is invasive, has side effects and there’s always the chance for a relapse (in weight gain and diabetes). The plant-based whole food diet has a good remission rate, is non-invasive and it’s not a fad.”
Enter Mandes. Her work at the University of South Carolina focused on the affect of plant-based nutrition and a whole food diet on chronic disease prevention and reversal. Studies have shown that a cleaner diet – eating fewer processed foods, more fresh vegetables and fruit and whole grains, no oils or cholesterols – can help prevent or reverse high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
“Ninety-one percent of South Carolinians are not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Mandes. But, now that spring and summer produce is beginning to flood the markets, it may be the perfect time to transition into a plant-based lifestyle, she said.
She knows that it is a struggle for parents – and most people in general – to get healthy food on the table night after night. There’s no time to cook, and many find it easier to order take-out or pick up fast food on the way home.
Mandes and her husband, Chef Erik Hoffman, are working with clients in an in-home meal preparation program, in which the couple creates up to a week’s worth of meals for individuals and families who want to switch to a plant-based diet.
With the plant-based diet, there is no portion control, said Mandes, adding it is not a fad diet but a lifestyle choice.
Mandes and Hoffman are taking traditional recipes and re-working them into plant-based versions as part of a new business, Trisha’s Table.
The healthy meals-to-go business launching later this year will provide ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat meals for people to pick up on their way home. Mandes launched her website www.trishamandes.com with tips and information about incorporating a plant-based diet for individuals or for the family.
“When I heard about eating and feeling stuffed off of just veggies, I thought ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’,” said Adams. But after just over four weeks on the plant-based diet, Adams said she has lost 15 pounds and the transition to the new lifestyle was easier than she thought it would be.
“I have two kids – 8 and 9 years old. The kids didn’t have to eat the food but they had to at least try it.” She and her husband have a deal that whatever he wants to eat outside the home is OK, as long as it stays outside.
Mandes showed Adams how to shop for healthier alternatives in regular grocery stores. Soy crumbles that mimic ground beef sell for around $3.25 a pound at Kroger in Irmo.
Adams’ kids have adjusted to the new diet and even have favorite recipes – her daughter loves the low mein vegetable stir fry with teriyaki sauce and her son likes Morningstar chicken and fries.
There is an adjustment period that you have to allow for, Mandes said, but with the new lifestyle there is no limit in the amount of good carbohydrates Adams can eat, and Adams doesn’t think twice about having second helpings of the plant-based recipes.
“This is not the cardboard, steamed vegetables I thought it would be. I can eat whatever I want (on the diet) and however much I want and it’s very hearty, very filling meals.”
“Opening up your mind and trying new things is the hardest part for people,” said Hoffman. “Culinary trends have been moving in this direction for years.”
His goal – and Mandes’ – is to get people to be more conscious about their health and eating healthier (less animal protein, more plants on the plate) and how diet and nutrition affects not just the individual but everyone in society.
Coconut Infused Quinoa
Yields 3 cups
1 cup white quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup canned coconut milk or cream
Mix water and coconut milk in a medium pot using a mixing spoon or whisk. Bring mixture to a boil, add quinoa, stir, cover pot with lid. Immediately turn down heat to low. Set timer for 15 minutes, do not lift lid off the pot. After 15 minutes, remove pot from heat and let sit, covered, for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, lift lid and fluff quinoa with a fork. Serve.
▪ Coconut infused quinoa can be served as a quick breakfast with sliced bananas, dates and crushed walnuts
▪ As a salad tossed with a spring mix of lettuces, diced mango, pineapple or papaya with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and cilantro for garnish
▪ Substitute vegetable broth for water in preparation for an even healthier, low-fat meal ingredient. After preparing recipe, try mixing in a baked sweet potato or a black bean, onion and yellow pepper saute with sliced tomatoes and fresh sweet corn nuggets. Top off with cashew sour cream and salsa for a filling and healthy meal.
Vegan Sour Cream
Yields 2 cups
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water, drained
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water
Place cashews, lemon juice, sea salt and yeast in a blender or food processor. Blend on high for 5-7 minutes, slowly adding water and scraping down the sides as needed, until mixture is very smooth and creamy.
Transfer mixture to a mason jar or other airtight container. Sour cream can be stored in refrigerator up to a week.
www.trishamandes.com is Mandes’ official website containing information and tips about living a plant-based, whole food lifestyle. Signing up for the newsletter provides readers with Mandes’ Free Resource Guide including Mandes’ favorite recipe sites and a guide to healthy eating in Columbia restaurants.
Trisha’s Table is the personalized healthy home cooking/meal delivery service by Mandes and Chef Erik Hoffman. Later this year, Mandes and Hoffman launching a pick-up service for members. Meals will be prepared in the kitchens at Let’s Cook Culinary School, 1305 Assembly Street, and available for clients of Trisha’s Table.