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With Food and Love is a seasonally inspired vegetarian and naturally gluten-free food blog. Sherrie is a certified health coach and is training to be a plant-based chef. She also has an online three-week veggie-powered program called 21 Days to Lean and Green.
I am so thrilled to have Sherrie Castellano of With Food and Love here on the show today.
(*All photos are Sherrie’s.)
On How Food Played a Role in Her Health and Wellness:
I guess I’ll start when I went to get my undergrad degree. I studied sociology and women’s studies. I was a typical grad. When I was done, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was really into myself and just living young and not worrying about too many things.
So I moved out west and I lived in Denver, Colorado for about five years. Through the time that I spent there, I didn’t always feel my best. I probably partied too much and made some bad decisions along the way but I also didn’t treat my body very well with food. I was on a very high, refined, super-processed junk-y diet and energy drinks and all of that. Through that, I was not feeling very good. I was struggling a lot with digestive issues.
Towards the end of my stay in Denver, I started teaching special education. I worked at a school that was mostly specialized in helping children with autism and on autism spectrum. Through that experience, I realized that most of these kids were on specialized diets. That was something that was new to me. This was before the whole gluten-free explosion.
When my physician suggested that I go on a gluten-free elimination diet, and I did, I felt a little bit better. But I was still not eating really healthy foods. I was eating gluten-free alternative foods; gluten-free breads and pastas and processed crap. I was really just switching crap for crap.
It did seem to do something or at least it ignited a spark inside of me that I started realizing that what you’re putting in your body really does make a difference.
Shortly after I first went gluten-free, I moved to Philadelphia with my then boyfriend who’s now my husband. The road trip across country, I went back to eating gluten just because it was really convenient. We were eating fast food and I was still not feeling great. So then when I got to Philly, I probably went maybe a week or two and something happened where I was really indulging and I got really ill. So I knew at that point, I needed to make a life-lasting decision.
Around that time, I started also really getting into food documentaries. Forks Over Knives came out shortly after that. I also had a good friend that was just finishing school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She introduced me to that.
I guess it was all these little pieces of the puzzle that finally came together. When I enrolled in nutrition school, I started my blog as a way to document my journey.
On Basic Ways to Start Eating Healthier:
I think the first thing for someone that’s really new to this is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. I think that there’s just so much information out there right now that it just oversaturates everyone’s mind.
You don’t know where to start and should you be paleo or vegan or whatever. Everyone is just so different. I think what’s most important is finding what works for you, eating real food, mostly plants, mostly vegetables, and work your way from there.
I’ve always really loved veggies so I don’t think that I’ve ever had to struggle at that. I feel lucky for that. Well, there are two things. You could just really start getting out of your comfort zone and go to farmer’s markets and trying new foods that you never had before.
Really, when in doubt, just roast vegetables with some olive oil and some sea salt and it’s amazing. So really, just step out of your comfort zone and push yourself in that direction. Or something you could do whether you love it or you hate the idea of it, but by drinking a smoothie in particular, a green smoothie every day. That’s a really great vessel to pack the nutrients in. You can put flax seeds and hemp seeds and chia seeds and all these healthy omega-3 and then also leafy vegetables.
On the Biggest Misconception of Having a Healthier Diet:
Something I hear a lot from clients or from potential clients who contact me and who might be apprehensive about signing up for my program or have more question is that it’s more difficult and more time-consuming.
That might be true. But I think the bottom line is you make time for the things that are important to you. So if you want to eat better, then you’ll make time for it. If you’re really not into it or ready for it, then you won’t and you’ll just keep finding excuses.
On What a Plant-Based Diet Means:
I think it’s just a nicer way to say vegan. I think that plant-based is just that. It’s mostly plants, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, basically a vegan diet. I think that vegan can be a little alienating to most, and I think it has a little bit of a negative stigma so I think plant-based is a nicer way of saying that.
But overall, plant-based eating, so I don’t eat 100% plant-based. Realistically, I shoot for 90%, but sometimes it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, maybe, it’s more 80 or 70 depending on what I’m doing at that time in my life. So I think eating plant-based or striving to eat plant-based is eating mostly plants or all plants and minimizing your animal consumption.
I think it’s not as hard as most people think. As far as protein goes, there are plenty of options that you can choose that are plant-based. My favorites are any kind of bean or lentil.
In the beginning of the week, usually on Sundays, I do a food prep power hour too. I prepare a big batch of lentils that I’ll have all week. I’ll be able to throw dinner together easily because I have that cooking out of the way.
Healthy plant-based proteins are really key to feeling nourished and full, I guess. As far as dairy is concerned, that’s a touchy subject. But I don’t think really as adults, we need it in our diets. That, you can do without if you want to.
There are some concerns of eating strictly plant-based like getting enough vitamin B12. I actually had a vitamin B12 deficiency not too long ago. It was during a really stressful time of my life when I was moving to St. Louis. Your body depletes B vitamins, I guess, more easily when you’re stressed and worried. So I didn’t realize what was going on. Through maybe my diet and my lifestyle at that time, I was more susceptible to becoming deficient in B12.
You can only get that in animal products. So if you’re a strict vegan, that’s something to be aware of and that you would want to supplement.
On Some Resources to get Trusted Information on Health and Wellness Through Plant-Based Foods:
There’s so much information online. Some of my favorites or a good place to start maybe would be forksoverknives.com which is a complement to the documentary. Kris Carr is a great source of knowledge. I like her a lot. I like what she’s doing for the plant-based community. There are so many vegan blogs. On my website actually, I have a links page and the vegan ones are marked. That would be a good place to start.
On Her 3-Week Online Program, 21 Days to Lean and Green:
Lean and Green is the program I launched after graduating from nutrition school.
I was originally coaching mostly in person one-on-one. But I found that through the community of my blog and the community I had already built, I was meeting a lot of people more virtually than anything. The really cool thing about Lean and Green is that you can be a client and live anywhere in the world. I’ve had clients anywhere from South America or Germany or Sweden. That’s been a really cool thing for me that I’ve been able to connect with all of these people on this common ground of health and wellness.
The other thing is that a lot of my clients come to me for totally different reasons. Some people will come because they want to go gluten-free and I have personal experience doing that. That will be maybe their motivation. But others might come because they’re overweight and they want to shed some pounds, and this is a good way to kick-start that. So it really depends on why you’re coming to me in the first place.
The program is three weeks and it’s plant empowered so everything that you eat is plant-based. So lots of legumes and beans, seeds, veggies, smoothies, soups. I don’t really focus too much on counting calories and that thing. It’s mostly just counting nutrients and nobody goes hungry.
It’s not a juice cleanse. It’s really gentle on your body. The other bonus of the program is that through the program, I open up this confidential Facebook group. Anyone that’s in that month’s program can be a part of that. That provides a sense of community and accountability that you’re going through this thing with other people and you’re not alone. That’s another aspect of it.
For about the last year, I’ve been doing it about once a month. I have some new spring and summer projects coming up soon so I might take a break for the next few months. But yeah, my goal is to launch one every month. And so far, I’ve done that.
The program itself is structured in the way that I have all of their learning resources and information already put together. Each week, they get sent a packet of information. It’s accumulative so it builds on itself. But also, since they’re all coming to me for different reasons, I work with them individually so they’ll each get a 45-minute Skype session or phone call. During that time, we personalize what their meal plan generally will look like and what they’ll eat. If they have any dietary restrictions, we work around those.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t watch a lot, but really I love Top Chef.
I love anything also that Anthony Bourdain does. I have a crush on him. My husband and I watch a lot of No Reservations reruns.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
There are so many food blogs that are so great. Some of my favorites right now are The First Mess. Laura’s Blog is fantastic; really great photography and sense of style.
My Darling Lemon Thyme, Dolly and Oatmeal. There’s a new blog, I think, called Sobremesa. Yeah, that’s it. I think I’m pronouncing it the right way. A girl named Amy writes it. She’s got some really fabulous photography. She’s great.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
Most of the people I follow on Instagram are food-related. I keep it pretty simple. I don’t follow a ton of people. I follow one of my friends. Her name is Kristen and her handle is @happysleepyfolks. She is super inspirational and has a new little baby. She’s always posting super precious little moments. I really enjoy her feed. Also, Ruthie Lindsey which is the same thing. It’s not food-related but her story is incredible. She’s just also very inspirational and posts beautiful pictures.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
Maybe this garlic press that I found in Italy that’s this vintage piece. My husband worked really hard to clean it out and make sure it’s good to use. That’s probably my most treasured.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I don’t really love mushrooms. I’ve slowly been trying to teach myself to eat them but I don’t think there’s anything that I used to not like and now do. I’m working on the mushroom thing. I feel like it’s something adults like and that I should be eating.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I like The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, which is new to me in the last few months. It’s amazing. It breaks down all different kinds of flavor combinations and what goes with what. It’s a great tool and resource for everyone, but definitely vegetarians.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
The Barr Brothers are my favorite band. Their latest album Sleeping Operator, that one.
Keep Posted with Sherrie:
I like Instagram the best. That’s my most fun.