guest post by Emma Roche
Emma Roche is a budget-and-health conscious cook who is certified in plant-based nutrition. Since starting PlantPlate.com in 2013, Emma has been working on recipes and articles to help show others that healthy eating can be both flavourful and affordable. Her first eBook, ‘Whole Food Plant-Based on $5 a Day’ is a comprehensive guide to eating nutritious plant-based meals on a budget. Here’s how she came to write it.
Eating a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet on $5 a Day
I first became conscious of the role diet plays in health at age 13, when I made the decision to be vegetarian. I naturally moved away from eating highly processed foods, and began eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. A few years later, in 2004, my interest in animal ethics led me to veganism, and I removed all animal products from my diet. However, my decision to ditch the dairy and eggs didn’t mean that I was avoiding unhealthy foods. While I still enjoyed plenty of healthy fare daily, the independence that came with being in my late teens (and having a part-time job) meant that I could afford to eat out a lot, buy a lot of not-so-healthy snack foods, and sustain my studying or socialising late into the night with the aid of energy drinks.
A few years later, at age 20, I moved from Australia to the UK to experience living in another part of the world. I was eager to save money so that I could travel through Europe in my months off, but was earning low hourly wages. I had to figure out a way to get by on a fairly meagre weekly budget, and so I shopped around at local supermarkets to find the best prices on healthy vegan items: beans, lentils, potatoes, brown rice, fresh and frozen vegetables, and affordable fruits, like bananas and apples. Knowing what I knew about food and nutrition, I figured I could meet my nutritional needs on about £14 per week ($20 US dollars.) This surprised me, as I’d never really paid an enormous amount of attention to my food budget in Australia, and never would have thought I could eat so well on so little! Inspired and determined to stick to my budget, I shopped from a specific grocery list each week, soaked and cooked my own legumes, batch-cooked dinners and lunches for the work week, and got used to planning my meals in advance. And I felt great. I was working shifts of up to 14 hours a day, running 5 kilometres each morning, and had plenty of energy for shopping, cooking, cleaning, and walking on my days off. I was sleeping better than I had in years as well. I realised that the simplicity of my diet made it easy to stick to, and that my strict budget was helping me to steer clear of junk food and empty calories.
As time progressed, I became more interested in nutrition and health, and tried to learn more about it. But the more information I read, the more confused I became, and the more I came to be swayed by dietary mistruths. I kept trying to adapt my diet according to something ‘new’ I had read. I would end up limiting or excluding grains and legumes, adding excess oils and fats in, or making rules about how much had to be raw vs. cooked- then ultimately caving to vegan junk foods and take-out as a result of feeling hungry or deprived. I was relying on sources that I have since realised were unsubstantiated and unreliable, and wondering why I didn’t feel 100%.
Then, in 2011, a friend told me about a new book called The China Study, by Dr T. Colin Campbell. He said it explained, amongst other things, that a plant-based diet could help to prevent chronic disease, and this immediately piqued my interest. I ordered the book, read it within 3 days, and was fascinated by the book’s findings and message. Here was a man who was recommending that I eat exactly the way I had eaten, almost by accident, a few years earlier. The book also made me realise that I had spent the last 3 years over-complicating my diet, and that I had not been relying on solid evidence when it came to information about nutrition and health.
A few months after I read the book, my (now) husband and I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, which gave us even more inspiration. We ditched the oil in our kitchen, replaced any processed and refined staples with whole-food counterparts, and I went back to cooking the way that I had years before.
In 2012, I became certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. In 2013, I started my website, PlantPlate.com (with the help of my wonderful husband!) so that I could share recipes, guides and resources to help others transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. During this period, we were living on a single income, and I was shopping and cooking for both of us on a budget of $45-$55 a week. I kept reading comments from people on website, blogs and social media who said they wanted to eat healthily, but didn’t think they could afford to; from heart disease and diabetes patients to parents of single-income families, pensioners, students, and others. I decided to focus my attention on helping people who, like me, wanted to eat healthily, but didn’t have a big budget for food.
And so in 2015, I started work on my first eBook, Whole Food Plant-Based on $5 a Day. My goal was to help make whole food plant-based eating more accessible to everyone, regardless of their income, occupation, and location. I realised that knowledge and planning are keys to success when it comes to healthy eating. By having the planning and budgeting taken care of, people could focus more on cooking and enjoying the food, making the transition to nutritious and budget-friendly eating that much easier.
The eBook was released in August of 2015 and is structured around a 28 day menu plan, complete with grocery lists, shopping guides, recipes, and daily preparation instructions. The eBook is currently being used by Dr Craig McDougall and his team as part of their program at ZOOM+Prime, a primary care facility dedicated to helping patients reverse chronic diseases using food and movement as medicine. A summer edition of the eBook will also be available from June of 2016.
In short, my journey has taught me that healthy eating doesn’t have to be about expensive superfoods, shopping at elite health food stores, or sacrificing more money that you can really afford to. I believe that simplicity and consistency are the real key, and that by enjoying a diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables daily, good health can be yours for as little as $5 a day. And the rewards that good health offers? They’re absolutely priceless.
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Check out my book, The Empty Medicine Cabinet, to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today’s common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on food versus medication in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today.