This is the time of year when everyone is thinking about making changes. Like many other St. Louisians, you may be looking to live a healthier lifestyle. Enter Caryn Dugan (aka STL Veg Girl) with the Center for Plant-Based Living in Kirkwood. A cancer survivor who transformed his own life, Dugan shared some advice for those who would like to eat more fruits and vegetables but are not sure where to start.
Is there a recommended first step to change your diet and incorporate more plants? Support is everything. Talk to your family first. Tell them what you think and get their input. Then sit down with your support system and look through a cookbook to see what looks good. Find a cookbook that really matches the way you like to eat. Maybe it’s Thai; maybe it’s American – whatever it is, listen to what you think you liked and start making the meals.
Are there any special cookbooks you would suggest for beginners? That forks over knives the series is really good. It goes from beginner to novice and it’s not super scary. Lindsay Nixon also has a number of books called Happy herbivores, with recipes that are even more beginner-friendly.
You also recently launched a YouTube series for beginners? Early in the pandemic, I started Plant-based fast cooking show. There are 67 sections. For a period of time, I published a new episode every Tuesday. Each episode lasts five minutes and contains only one recipe made with seven ingredients or less. It seems to have helped many people.
What would you suggest if someone only has the time or money to make one plant-based change to their diet? Set yourself up for success when you go to the grocery store. If you just keep replacing the foods you’ve always been given, where will the change come from? If it’s in the house, it’s in your mouth. We need to go to the grocery store on purpose and make sure we have a list from the recipes in the cookbooks that we have read. It can be overwhelming – it was overwhelming for me. It’s just taking it step by step. Then try making a full plant-based meal a week, and batch it so you can eat it several times during the week.
What veggie has a moment this year that looks like kale and Brussels sprouts in recent years? Cauliflower. It’s a beautiful vegetable. You can mash it together and make a kind of mashed potatoes. You can steam it, bake it, sauté it, put it in a soup, blend it … It has some real mileage to it.
It is easier to find fresh ingredients when it is warmer outside. What about in the winter? You can still visit winter markets and find products, but do not poop frozen foods. I always make frozen vegetables, frozen spinach, even frozen, shredded kale … Sometimes frozen foods are even better than the fresh stuff. They are picked at their highest and lightning-frozen to lock in nutrients. You do not have to [start a plant-based diet] in the summer. If you’re trying to turn yourself around in January – like everyone else – go to Dierbergs, pick up organic squash and make your own zoodles. Your body will still thank you, whether it is January or July.