Good morning! I know I don’t usually post on Tuesdays, but I’m flirting with the idea of daily blogging again. For now, anyway, I’ll do my best (which likely means until my Nutritional Epidemiology class starts in the fall….uf!). I’m finding that I have more to share with you and I just love the process of blogging and the resulting interactions with all of you. It’s a lot of work, but I find it’s one of my life’s most enjoyable activities.
For today, I’m posting one of the first interviews I’ve ever done, it was just published in the last week or so. I was approached several months ago by the editor of the newsletter for the Vegetarian Nutrition practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The interview was a written one, conducted by Amanda Sager, Maj, USAF, MS, RD. So far, I’ve had a great response from the interview and have had several people e-mail me or let me know they enjoyed reading it.
I can’t send you the link to the printed interview because it’s only available to members of the site, but I’m going to paste the transcript here. Do you see any surprises hidden in the interview? Yes, my friends, I’ve been keeping a secret.
Please tell us about your training background, and the nutrition-related jobs that you’ve held including your current job.
(Carrie): I am pursuing a career change to the field of nutrition after having had a background in healthcare fundraising and retail product development. After watching the movie Super Size Me in 2004 (where the filmmaker eats McDonald’s food for 30 days and records the impact on his health), I was inspired to think about my own eating habits. I then read everything I could about nutrition and became so passionate about the subject that I quit my corporate job and started taking the coursework to become a dietitian. I later applied and was accepted to the online MPH in Nutrition program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and I will graduate in the spring of 2013.
Carrie, how did you become interested in plant based nutrition?
(Carrie): In 2010, I read Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet and felt compelled to consider veganism after learning more about factory farming and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. I discussed my feelings with my husband and he was supportive of this change. I then immersed myself in learning the ins and outs of plant-based nutrition and re-learned how to cook without any animal products, but ensuring that both my husband and I were getting the right nutrition.
What version of a vegetarian diet do you believe is the most health-promoting?
(Carrie): I follow the “Eat to Live” program by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., who wrote the best-selling book with the same title. Dr. Fuhrman’s plan is based on the premise that green leafy vegetables are the ideal food for humans with the most disease-preventing compounds. So, he encourages high intake of greens, both cooked and raw, along with healthy whole-food fats from nuts, seeds and avocados, as well as beans, starchy vegetables, whole grains and plenty of fresh fruit. A key component of the program is the avoidance of oil, salt and added sugars. I started eating this way fairly soon after I went vegan and noticed immediate health benefits including relief from migraines and seasonal allergies. My husband also resolved his blood pressure issues after losing weight following the program and adopting a salt-free diet.
You are the creator and writer behind the popular blog, Carrie on Vegan; can you tell us about your motivations for starting a blog and what role it has in public health?
(Carrie): I started my blog in 2009 mainly as a way to share recipes with friends and family members. I then started adding information about my personal life and my transition to becoming a healthy vegan. In early 2011, I was committed to the vegan lifestyle and changed the title of my blog to “Carrie on Vegan” (the title is a play on words from the British expression “Carry on…”). As I’ve become more knowledgeable about public health, I have tried to incorporate some strategies into my blog to help people who are on their own health journeys. For instance, I encourage people to comment or ask questions on my blog so that there is a community spirit where we are all helping each other.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a blog? Any tips or tricks to make it happen?
(Carrie): It is important to be a blog-reader so you can get a feeling for what types of blogs are successful. I think blogs that incorporate the personal story of the author are more interesting and compelling to read than those that are strictly information-based. The most amazing part of being in the “blogosphere” is meeting other people who have similar interests. Some of my closest friends now are people who I “met” online and now know both in person and on the internet.
Have you always liked to cook and what are some of your favorite vegan meals?
(Carrie): I never, ever cooked growing up and rarely thought about what I ate until my early 30s. I fell into the typical pitfall of eating too much processed and restaurant food after moving away from home during college. When I met my husband, we got into the bad habit of eating out for many of our meals and, consequently, we both gained weight. I started from scratch (no pun intended) when I learned how to cook; I was the proverbial educated woman who couldn’t even boil water! I started learning by watching the Food Network and reading cookbooks. I also took a cooking skills class as part of my dietitian coursework and my interest and skills grew from there. Now, I am happiest when I am in the kitchen and I absolutely love sharing my creations (with photos!) on my blog. My favorite vegan meals are usually the simplest; steamed greens with beans and a tangy “cream” sauce made from blended hemp seeds or cashews is a great one – I call it Fast Food Beans & Greens. Another one of my favorite dishes is Avocado Chocolate Pudding made from blending avocados with dates, tofu and cacao powder (trust me, it tastes better than it sounds!). My most recent food interest and inspiration is the raw food movement. I have started using a food dehydrator and am loving some of the creations I’ve made including homemade kale chips and chocolate buckwheat brittle. I have even taken a few raw food classes from a local chef in my community and it’s so much fun!
What are your plans for the future?
(Carrie): I am focused on finishing my MPH and am at the beginning stages of my final project for my degree where I am looking at using social media to promote nutritional interventions (I am slated to write an article on this topic for the fall DPG-VN newsletter!). I am also finishing up the coursework to receive my CADE certificate to be eligible to do my dietetic internship and remain committed to writing and promoting my blog. I volunteer with two non-profit organizations, one of which is dedicated to animal rights and the other does research on high-nutrient diets. Lastly, I am at the beginning stages of developing a smartphone app where the vegan community can come together to share recipes.
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
(Carrie): I’m inspired by people who work to change the status quo, especially when it comes to our food culture in the United States and animal agriculture. My personal heroes include Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan (of Our Hen House), Neal Barnard, M.D., Michael Greger, M.D. and Joel Fuhrman, M.D. I’m also inspired by my husband, Alan, who always manages to maintain a positive attitude even in the face of challenges. Alan has always been my biggest supporter and I am grateful to him for that.
I hope you liked reading my interview, too, and learned a few things about me. Did you figure out my secret? It was only mentioned subtly, but it’s a big deal for me. See you back here tomorrow!