Written by Chef Allen Campbell
Without a doubt, I was born to be a chef. The ability to create recipes, menus, food concepts and to execute those meals for others (and for myself) has always come naturally to me. For many, this is not the case. I have gotten creative with this primal impulse to survive, and think that we should all be in touch with this instinct. We’ve grown up with the conveniences of modern times, which combined with a lack of nutrition education in our school systems, sadly results in food as an afterthought. I have taken this passion to a whole new level by asking myself a few basic questions everyday:
- What am I eating and where am I getting it from?
- What is the source of this food?
- What am I feeding my guests or clients?
- How are my food decisions affecting the planet and future generations?
My eyes were opened wide after I experienced a raw fruit and vegetable fast for a few days when I lived in Miami. A friend who happened to be vegan suggested it. Around this same time I also watched a few documentaries including Forks over Knives and Weight of the Nation. This is what it has taken to guarantee that I will never again, turn my back on: my health, the health of those I am feeding, or this beautiful place we call home, our planet Earth.
What will it take for you to make the decisions about your food priorities? A life-threatening illness? Unfortunately, I have noticed that frequently it is not until one faces serious health risks that they are actually willing to make such a change.
Does a plant-based lifestyle seem unattainable? Is it too far from the culture you’ve been surrounded by your whole life? I was raised in a very traditional American home where not only was meat the protein source of every meal, but like many cultures it was part of our identity.
I had to let go of this belief system to embrace this new lifestyle. I knew that if I wanted to live past the age of 51 (the age my maternal grandfather and uncle both died of colon cancer) I would have to do something differently!
Some Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Tips That Work for Me
Plan Ahead: When starting a business, an entrepreneur writes a business plan. If they do not know how to write one, they consult with someone who does. The same holds true for your life and your health, this is your business, so why not create a plan?
Example for those that work 9-5 Monday-Friday:
- Create a menu for the week
- Make a list and shop
- Prepare and cook your food for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
- Make a list and shop
- Prepare and cook your food for Thursday and Friday
- Make a list and shop
- Prepare and cook your food for the weekend
Eat Seasonally: When one shifts their mental approach, and begins to think of food as fuel to sustain life, as opposed to a hyper-tantalizing experience enjoyed by the tongue and the brain’s reward system, we can let go of the over-stimulating flavors that come with laboratory produced, overly-processed and refined foods.
I feel that this shift in our expectations related to what we look for while eating will help us choose foods for the purpose of nutrition. Then, we can become very content with, for example, a variety of braised greens with hearty stews made from legumes and grains.
Frequently throughout the wintertime (here in the Northeast US, when we may at times lack the availability of local produce) we can go to a supermarket and get imported produce flown in from who knows where. Simply being conscious of where your food comes from is a step toward practicing sustainability.
Educate: In my opinion, education is an extremely important step towards implementing healthy eating habits from an early age. I feel real food education should be incorporated into the public school curriculum along with English, Math and Science. Granting children the knowledge about how to nourish themselves and to make proactive decisions would dramatically change the entire food system, as well as the economy. Consumers would be less likely taken advantage of by large corporations. Toxic preservatives and additives would not be put in foods because these educated generations would not buy them.
Until that happens, please join in and share this message with your clients, patients, neighbors and even more importantly, the children around you. Don’t allow food to be an afterthought, shift it to priority status. Do this for your health and the sustainability of our Earth by simply planning ahead, eating seasonally, and educating the children.
Chef Allen Campbell changed his diet and lifestyle in 2009 while living in Miami. Taking care of his mind and body through exercise, organic stress relief and more importantly a plant-based diet, is now where his culinary philosophy originates. Chef Allen offers education through culinary workshops and personalized meal plans as well as hospitality consulting. Chef Allen earned his Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell and has recently authored the TB12 Nutrition Manual.