10 years ago I moved to Australia and got a fresh perspective on my ‘American’ way of eating.
Everyone around me was running the beaches of Bondi, looking fit and gorgeous. I started asking the questions and looking around at what people were doing and more specifically, what people were eating. And it did NOT involve chowing down on Kraft Mac and Cheese and a big steak every night for dinner.
Slowly I started the transition to a mostly plant-based lifestyle and haven’t looked back.
When I decided to do an episode on this topic, the first person that came to mind was my good friend Nathi Toro.
Why? Because she’s been on her own health journey and is dedicated to empowering people to take back control of their health – starting with what we eat.
There’s a lot of questions that come to mind and Nathi helps answer them in today’s episode.
- Why eating meat isn’t always the best source of protein
- Where you can still get a good source of Vitamin B12
- What options you can choose to eat when out with your friends or traveling
- The one thing that will keep your plant-based lifestyle economical and affordable
- A few of Nathi’s personal favorite resources to help you on your plant-based journey
If exploring a plant-based diet is on your mind, we truly hope these tips help you on your journey.
Have questions? Leave them in the comments on the blog – we’ll be standing by to answer your Qs :)
Links to food we recommended in the video:
- Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- Vitamin B12 liquid
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chlorophyll capsules
- Hemp hearts
- Nutritional yeast
- Hemp seeds
- Chao Cheese
- Ripple Milk
1:05 – The Bottom Line.
Define what being a vegan means or plant-based lifestyle and why it’s the good way to be?
2:11 – Benefits of going plant-based.
When I switched to plant-based, the first benefit I saw was a clear mind and better skin.
3:28 – Where do you get your protein from?
We actually eat way more protein than we need, so if you think about the quality of protein in plant-based foods, it’s better than animal protein because it doesn’t have the fat.
4:50 – Where do you get Vitamin B12 from?
It’s very specific where we can get the vitamin B12 and the only ways that I’ve found are if you eat a lot of mushrooms.
6:54 – Food recommendations for starting a plant-based diet.
Keep it simple. Eat what you enjoy.
8:35 – In a grocery store, where should I go to find the food I should eat?
Stick to the outer aisles when shopping.
10:30 – How could we make a plant-based lifestyle more affordable for everyone?
I think it becomes very expensive when you start adding all the crazy superfoods, but sometimes you go crazy and when you’re adding the superfoods in your diet, you want to start with one at a time.
12:25 – Tips on what to eat when going out with friends?
When I’m at a restaurant, I usually don’t even look at the menu or I just look at the sides for the most part.
13:45 – How to prepare when switching to a plant-based diet.
One thing that I’ve noticed with a plant-based lifestyle is that you have to be consistent and you have to be disciplined…
Hey, guys, it’s Lindsey Victoria here from A Life Well-Balanced. Have you been hearing the words ‘Plant-Based’ or ‘Vegan’ popping up in conversations and wondering what all the fuss is about? Maybe you’re wondering why on Earth anyone would cut meat, cheese, and dairy from their lifestyle? If those are your questions then this episode is for you. I’m so excited to be interviewing a good friend of mine, Nathi Toro.
Lindsey: Thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Nathi is a Plant-Based chef here in Miami and she studied under celebrity plant-based Chef Matthew Kinney. She’s currently an educational trainer at Plant Lab which is a world-class plant-based culinary school, so if you ever decide to take one of their many cooking classes, she may just be your instructor. So welcome Nathi, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Nathi: Thank you, Lindsey.
Lindsey: I’ve been wanting to do this interview for a while, so I’m glad we’re finally nailing this down. When I met you, you really opened up my eyes and my world to a completely plant-based diet and that it can be fine and not boring and it’s very good for you. I guess I want to start the interview with can you just define what being a vegan means or plant-based lifestyle and why it’s a good way to be?
Nathi: Thank you for having me here. For me, the idea of plant-based is it has to be something connected to nature. It has to be something wholesome and natural, no additives, nothing processed. Basically, we eat everything that doesn’t come from an animal. You can go into a little bit of an extreme and not use anything containing animal products or any derivatives.
There are many tiers of being plant-based or vegan. The more wholesome and plant-based and clean fruits, veggies, legumes, grains, anything that pretty much grows from the ground is what we eat.
Lindsey: Okay so things that come from the ground.
Nathi: Yes, it’s very simple. If it doesn’t grow in the ground and comes in a package, don’t eat it.
Lindsey: Yeah, a very simple way. You’ve been plant-based for how long?
Nathi: Almost 8 years.
Lindsey: Okay and can you tell me some of the benefits that you’ve had from going plant-based?
Nathi: When I started being plant-based, it was from one day to the next. I wasn’t very healthy (not necessarily that I was unhealthy). I was eating the American way, which I never grew up with. My background is Latin American and I’m from Colombia and we ate a lot of veggies and fruits. But when I moved here, there were a lot of these new chocolate bars, cinnamon buns, and ice cream. So I started eating that and because of that, I became unhealthy.
When I changed to plant-based, the first benefit I saw was a clear mind and better skin. It was an interesting glow that I saw, it was instant. Also, I started doing a lot more exercise and I saw that there was a lot of benefits from that, and obviously with that, it came to the point that my athletic performance became better and that led me to the point of now being a plant-based chef.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. So you had quite a bit of a turn – probably what a lot of people do – a similar story, I guess, when people decide to go plant-based. One of the main concerns that I hear from people when you talk about a completely plant-based diet is “Where do you get your protein from?”
Nathi: Absolutely. That’s what I get every day. Even teaching classes or eating with people, they’re like, So where do you get your protein?
Unfortunately again, going back to the American diet, we actually eat way more protein than we need, so if you think about the quality of protein in plant-based foods, it’s way better than animal protein because it doesn’t have the fat. It might have more carbs and that’s something that I’m okay living with because I’d rather have the complex carbs than eating the fat diet and also including meat in my diet.
For us, eating a lot of green vegetables contains a lot of chlorophyll which cleanses your liver, cleanses your blood, but also has protein. Obviously, to have a complete protein, you have to add a lot more things like legumes, quinoa is a plant-based protein, hemp hearts, hemp seeds, to make a complete protein. If you add all of those into your diet and your daily meals, you’re going to have a complete protein as well as adding different nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds have a lot of protein as well, so adding all of those you’ll have more than enough protein to go by.
Lindsey: That’s right. Cool. We’ll make sure we put a list of those which she’s just described for the video so you have them. The next question which I’m sure you hear a lot is vitamin B12.
Nathi: I recently started researching more about B12. I personally supplement with B12. I take a vitamin D supplement and you have to. Unfortunately for vegans, it’s very specific where we can get the vitamin B12 and the only ways that I’ve found are if you eat a lot of mushrooms. What I mean by a lot, is A LOT, unless you find shiitake mushrooms that are dried. They do contain a lot of vitamin B12, but they have to be sun-dried. It has to be done a specific way.
Lindsey: So not fresh shiitake mushroom?
Nathi: They do have some, but a lot less. You have to have about 2.4 mg of Vitamin B12 in your daily diet. About 1.5 cups of dried shiitake mushrooms might have 1.4mg. Fresh may have 0.4mg so you have to eat a lot.
Lindsey: You would need a lot of cups!
Nathi: Yes. Ideally, you want to supplement. You can find other ways to possibly supplement. There’s a couple of seaweeds I recommend, but there’s also research that says that you can’t really absorb it so much because it’s not bioavailable for our digestive system. You can still add them into your diet, just be mindful that you might definitely have to supplement.
Lindsey: And there’s a lot of good supplements out there I think that are recommended.
Nathi: Exactly and also nutritional yeast, which I know is the biggest thing now. Some of these things are obviously a trend, but nutritional yeast does have vitamin B12, but it has to be enriched with Vitamin B12 because it’s naturally available to natural yeast.
Lindsey: So you have to look for that on the label to see. You’ve given us a lot of examples of these sort of vegetables and things that we can eat for Vitamin B12 and protein. What do you recommend we start eating if you decide you want to go a plant-based diet?
Nathi: What I tell everyone that asks me about this is keep it simple. Eat what you enjoy. If you know that you enjoy spinach, then just eat the spinach. If you enjoy fruit, just enjoy the fruit. Obviously being mindful and as long as you stay away from processed foods and start implementing a lot more of the veggies. I personally love root vegetables like carrots and beets.I love them, but some people don’t. So just find what you like. Otherwise, it’s going to be a phase and you’re just going to hate it and not do it again and go back.
Going back to that question – it’s also the reason why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it just for a trend, then it’s going to pass like any fad diet. I was prone to injuries before. I’m getting better with my injuries now because I trained so much. It depends on what your ‘Why’ is and what the purpose of your plant-based diet is. And start with one change a week, adding something into your diet that you didn’t know before that you never tried before. It makes such a big difference. And you might like it you might not but as at least you’ll try it and see if you like it.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s a really good tip I think. I’m mostly vegetarian but I have been implementing more plant-based, meaning trying not to eat as much dairy and cheese. So for me, I’m not ready to completely give that up, but I’m doing the same thing that you’re talking about. You do a little bit at a time and you choose and decide that don’t need to eat as much of that. It’s whatever fits with your lifestyle.
When I go into a grocery store, I get overwhelmed very easily. Sometimes I don’t know what where to look in the grocery store. So when you walk into a grocery store, where should I go to find the majority of plant-based or other vegan brands like what that you recommend?
Nathi: It happened yesterday. I was with a client and we were walking and she said, “Where do I go?” and I was like “Just stick to the produce, stick to the outer sides of the grocery store.”
Pro Tip! Stick to the outer aisles when shopping.
The only aisles that I go to are condiments and oils because I do believe fat is the fuel of the brain, so I definitely do have my olive oil and my coconut oil, or avocado oil. I’ll stick to that aisle and then everything else on the outside. There are a couple of brands (I’m a chef so I cook all day) that if I’m on the go that I recommend. There are a couple of good brands for Pea Protein milk like Ripple.
Lindsey: Yes, I’ve seen that one.
Nathi: There’s a good vegan plant-based supplement for cheese, the brand is called Chao and it’s not made with soy which is great. It’s made out of a coconut. Obviously, you have to be mindful when you’re eating anything processed because it has all the preservatives and it can be a little bit more caloric. So if you’re not exercising and you’re supplementing with other foods then it’s not necessarily gonna be as healthy for you. On that note, being vegan you can also be a super-junkie. You can snack on potato chips all day long and popcorn and all these things. So ideally just staying on the outer edges of the supermarket. I’m not a nutritionist but always read your labels. And if you have a question, you can reach me.
Lindsey: Yeah, we like conversations. Leave comments below and ask any question.
Nathi: Of course.
Lindsey: Now that we’ve talked about the plant-based substitutes and things that you recommend, do you think this is an expensive way of life? How could we make this affordable for everyone, because I know that when you choose to shop organic or if you’re looking at the latest brand that’s on the shelf, things can add up and I just wanted to hear some tips if you have any?
Nathi: Going back to keeping it simple. At first, when I became vegan, I wanted all the superfoods and I bought everything organic and everything with crazy prices. I’m not saying organic is not good, it is. If you can’t find it, don’t stress yourself. It also comes in the mind and it’s going to be healthy for you. Just wash it, put a little bit of vinegar and it’s good to go. It’s going to nourish your body anyway. I think it becomes very expensive when you start adding all the crazy superfoods, which by the way I’m a super advocate of superfoods, but sometimes you go crazy and when you’re adding the superfoods in your diet, you want to start with one at a time. You don’t want to add like 20 to your smoothie because you don’t know which one is giving you which benefits. You don’t know. Maybe you react badly to one but you don’t know which one it is.
So I will say just keep it simple. Start with fruits and vegetables and add some nuts and then go from there. Nut milk, if you don’t want to make it at home I don’t blame you. Sometimes it can be tedious and you forget and you go back to the easiest, but just buy an unsweetened, nothing added Almond, Pea, Flax or Hemp milk. Just stick to the simple. If you think about it, it’s probably cheaper than buying meat.
Lindsey: That’s true because meat can be very expensive, especially if you’re going for the Grass-fed and organic. I hear that a lot. It’s expensive.
Nathi: Yeah, if you compare the two, plant-based is definitely cheaper if you keep it simple.
Lindsey: Okay so simplicity. Life is about simplicity.
Nathi: It’s better.
Lindsey: It’s true. Now here’s the next topic. A lot of people want to know about is “What about my social life? What do I eat when I’m going out with friends to a restaurant or I’m having an event and sometimes that’s not available?”
Nathi: Okay tip number 1. I eat before I go anywhere, either a snack or a small salad or whatever I can get my hands on, fruit, depending on the time. When I’m at a restaurant, I usually don’t even look at the menu or I just look at the sides for the most part. Restaurants nowadays, especially here in Miami, are pretty open to plant-based and they might have some options. I try to always pick the sides, all the veggies. I try to do the salad just with olive oil and vinegar and lemon.
Again, I’m not at all on a diet, I’m just trying to eat as much plant-based as I can. So by all means, this is not a diet. It’s just more being aware of the sides and then I’ll just pick that. Just a side of veggies and a humongous salad with avocado, if they have it.
Lindsey: That’s actually a really good tip because I never really think to look at the sides, so perfect. A lot of restaurants have sides and veggies and you can get nice roasted asparagus and ask them to put it all together. I love that.
Nathi: It’s super simple.
Lindsey: Alright, now I want to talk about traveling because I love traveling. I know you’ve been traveling a lot. I was on a trip recently in the middle of Texas and let me tell you… I was thinking “What on Earth do I eat on a road trip?” What do you think, do we need to pack and prepare?
Nathi: Ideally yes. I mean definitely, one thing that I’ve noticed with a plant-based lifestyle is that you have to be consistent and you have to be disciplined because it’s easier to get sidetracked with things that give us comfort from what we ate when we were younger. By all means, I haven’t been plant-based forever, so if I see some pastry that I grew up eating, I’m going to lean towards that just because it embedded in my brain. I ate it for so many years. So I try to pack as much as I can. But if I don’t have anything to pack, usually if you’re in the middle of like Texas, say you go to gas station and sometimes they have fruits, a banana, carrots or they have nuts. They’re not the best nuts, but better than eating the potato chips. Water and coconut water, I’ll stick to those.
Lindsey: Let’s say that people are more intrigued and they say, “Alright, I want to have a more plant-based lifestyle”. What are the steps that we should follow and then I would love for you to give us some resources on websites, books, anything that you can recommend?
Nathi: When I started, I just get anything that I could get my hands into, books and definitely documentaries. I know there’s one that recently came out last year, “What the Health”, that revolutionized the world of plant-based and how many people saw the industry of plant-based, it’s a good one.
There are other ones that I recommend and I have it here, The China Study and this book (I’m going to read from the back because it’s interesting). It says, if you want to be healthy, change your diet. Unfortunately because Americans, and it’s just the way it’s been for many many years, we don’t necessarily know how to eat. It’s become more of an industry than actually feeding our body and we’re the richest, yet the unhealthiest in the world. So making those little changes. This book will open your eyes. It talks about the bad, the good, the best and how to actually implement. It’s from Tony Campbell which I absolutely love and his son. And they actually have another book that actually has a more condensed plant-based meal plan.
Lindsey: Okay, a lot of these will probably have a meal plan.
Nathi: Yes this book is amazing. This book, she is Julie Morris. I absolutely love her and it’s one brand that she uses a lot which is called Navitas. That’s like a superfood brand, very clean. They gather all those superfoods from the source and she has five different books. My absolute favorite one is the smoothies, mainly because it’s easy. If you don’t like so many veggies, you can just add bananas and blueberries and you can add a lot of things. She has great ideas on her website, which I really like. You can make them from the green to the most fruity ones and everything in between. So this one I recommend as well.
And obviously our website at school that I teach, Plant Lab. We do have a blog and we have a lot of resources obviously. Our kind of cooking is a little bit more gourmet and more elevated however we do have everything for everyone on the blog.
Lindsey: Yeah, I was looking through the site the other day and it’s nice, beautiful, it’s clean and easy to read. That’s what you need.
Nathi: Yes and Matthew Kenney’s book, which I trained under him. I absolutely love the way that we’re changing the future of food and it’s a revolutionary idea of how plant-based should look because unfortunately when you eat, you eat when you’re high sometimes and it has to look beautiful, so this book also is one of my favorites. And then for the other resources, I guess we can put some other ones on the notes below.
Lindsey: Yeah, I’ll make sure that I have links to those books below, specifically that she’s recommended, so if you want them you can get them on Amazon. Nathi, you’re also a great resource for anybody who wants to be plant-based. Make sure you check her out – @chefnathitoro on Instagram and your website nathitoro.com. We’ll put links for all of that and we would like to also give you a resource that will list the resources, as well as some brands or some tips of what you recommend, like a guide of going into a plant-based lifestyle. So we’ll have that down below. Do you have anything else you want to say in terms of this plant-based lifestyle?
Nathi: For anyone out there that wants to start, just take it easy, enjoy the ride. It might be bumpy. One day you might be like, “What am I doing?” Just enjoy it, keep it simple, and be kind to your body, be kind to yourself. Don’t stress. There’s no labels. You don’t need a label and just go with the flow. If one day you fall off the wagon back, get back up again and it’s a process that’s never going to end. That would be my last thing to say. Enjoy the ride.
Take it easy and enjoy the ride.
Lindsey: Those are really great words and thank you for closing with that because I totally agree and I think that it’s about keeping it simple, exploring and being open. Honestly, it’s about being open. It’s about being open to exploring different ways and different styles of eating.
I want to thank you so much for coming on the show and talking with all of my viewers. As always guys, if you like this video or you want to share it with somebody, please do. We always love feedback and seeing videos being shared and I want to turn the conversation to you guys.
If you’ve explored a plant-based lifestyle or are interested in exploring it, I want to hear how it’s been going.
Put your answers in the comments. Let’s get a conversation going about what people think about this lifestyle and if people are actually enjoying it.
Hope you guys have a good one and we’ll see you next time.
What about grains? Like couscous, quinoa, rice, etc… I find that I mostly follow a pescatarian diet (not strictly) but I LOVE! Grains. How do they fit into healthy eating?
Hey Megan! Glad you got a chance to watch! This message is from Nathi – For grains, yes you can include them in your diet, but she recommends in moderation, especially if you are using white grains like rice. She also recommends mixing them with fats. Rice with avocado. Quinoa is a complete protein but she recommends mixing it with nuts.