What is your food philosophy?
Our food philosophy is to find foods that make you happy!
What inspired you to become vegan?
With high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and heart disease in our family tree, we decided 4 years ago to take control of the lives we want to live, not just for us, but for our children. We were inspired not just to live, but to thrive. As you get older and your metabolism slows down, you start to pay attention to the way your body reacts when you eat certain foods.
What’s always in your fridge?
Lettuce, watercress, a variety of mushrooms, various plant milks (my daughter calls it water milk), Kimchi, soaked chia seeds, coconut yogurt and refrigerated nuts. I can live off these for months!
What’s always in your pantry?
Almond milk, my concoctions of nut butters, rice, potatoes, legumes and lots of seasoning. We love mixing flavors from around the world and bringing them into our homes. Favorite seasoning right now is a Senegalese blend of lime peel, saffron, fennel, garlic, turmeric, anise and crushed dried onions. It goes on everything.
What do you turn to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?
Photography is my first love that I’ve been blessed to turn into a career. I’m Inspired by people, the beauty of colors, form and shapes. Music. We always say that there is a soundtrack for everything. Every meal. Cooking tastes better with the perfect soundtrack. Afrobeats, R&B, Hip Hop and jazz.
What are your thoughts on how food relates to beauty?
Beauty is wellness. If we were to take away all the branded products in the world and all that is left is plants, trees and fruits, life would still be amazing. Nature gives us everything we need to thrive. Every plant and fruit serves a benefit to the body and our gut health. Making the right choices affects your body inside and out. When you feel good internally, it shows externally!
I’ve heard you say, “Wellness is not just about taking care of your body but also having a sound mind.” What tips do you have for managing stress and anxiety?
Meditation is a practice I got into about 2 years ago. Being a mom and entrepreneur, life can get very hectic. For me, it’s evolved into a mandatory activity. It helps me to stay aware of my thoughts, choices and responses to stress. It also reminds me to be kind to myself. I usually wake up very early in the morning before my kids are up to get some alone time. I love “Meditation Minis” podcast by Chel Hamilton. It’s a series of short guided meditations to help calm anxiety and overcome negative thinking. She’s amazing!
Can you tell us a bit about some of your favorite fruits, the benefits and favorite ways to incorporate them into your diet?
I swear by jackfruit and papaya! I use the papaya seeds as a body scrub (mixed with prickly pear and coconut oil). We grow soursop and dragonfruit. The remainder of our exotic fruit offerings are from our partnerships with local organic farmers in The Caribbean and Florida who grow their fruits on non-gmo soil without pesticides. One of the best ways to eat fruit daily is to put it on your salad. Homemade dragon fruit jam is a staple in my house and my children love it!What advice do you have for someone looking to transition to a plant-based diet?
Take it one week at a time. A majority of the VGN AF community transitioned from pescatarian before taking the full dive into a whole food plant-based diet. I jumped head first into veganism due to issues with my blood work and at the advice of my doctor. I went months feeling sluggish, extremely low on energy and sometimes dizzy and I simply wanted to live a better quality of life. I’m 40 and the main issues for black women are heart disease and diabetes. After months of research and tests, I consulted with a Naturopathic Doctor who helped show me that these issues can be reversed with a vegan diet, proper nutrition and exercise.
We really admire the work you two are doing to bring affordable health store pop-ups to low income neighborhoods, can you share a bit about this project and why this is so important?
Our greatest vision is to help eliminate food and health disparities in Black communities. Our country’s current food system simply doesn’t work for African American communities. In many low-income communities, deliberately designed food swamps are the norm. They are filled with fast food chains and bodegas that sell highly processed junk and chemically addictive foods. There was a study conducted by the US Health Department in 2010 that directly tied racial and socioeconomic disparities to obesity and diet related diseases. My business partner, Udochi Igbokwe alongside her private sector partners are creating sustainable VGN AF pop ups across the country to make health foods, clean supplements and exotic fruits accessible for low income communities. Our pop-ups will be designed to create community enhancement support for areas often neglected. We are in a revolutionary time right now and the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in our communities. Food systems that oppress minorities need to be addressed and changed, as those most affected are low income, black and immigrant communities.
Can you share some of your tips for eating healthy on a budget?
We always say that you can eat well on a vegan budget for $6 a day by doing 2 things: buy in bulk and buy generic brands. Depending on where you live, generic brands will help save you lots of money especially on pasta, legumes and potatoes (buy fresh, chop and freeze for future use).
It’s also very important to devise a PLAN ahead of grocery store trips. Being a budget savvy shopper is key! Another secret of mine is that I shop at the local and international stores. They have the best deals on produce and gluten free items.