Six years ago, chef Del Sroufe, author of Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, was the portrait on an unhealthy vegan. Weighing in at about 460 pounds, he wasn’t eating any animal products–but he was eating processed food, baked goods, and loads of sugar and fat. But after a 10-hour class at the Wellness Forum in Ohio (where he’s now the executive chef), he realized that while it’s easy to be an unhealthy vegan, it’s just as easy to eat a healthy, plant-based diet.
Sroufe was kind enough to take some time last week to chat with me about the recipes and tools in the book, as well as the ways that every single person can easily and inexpensively incorporate healthy, plant-based meals into their diets–just by adding and subtracting a few ingredients. Being a healthy vegan has never seemed so accessible.
There are a lot of people, it seems, who see a plant-strong or vegan diet as difficult, expensive, or too full of pitfalls like the ones you’ve experienced, like eating too many refined products. What would you say to those people, who are critical of a plant-based or vegan diet because of experiences like the one that you had?
I think we all fall into this trap, and it’s one of the things that we all do, is we take any diet and we look for shortcuts. Our program doesn’t teach that, unless you have certain diseases, you have to go on a vegan diet, but if you do decide to go on a vegan diet, you have a lot more choices than you used to.
But your only real responsibility, or homework as I call it, is that you have to be a responsible, educated consumer. And once you become educated, it gets a lot easier. Because, I think that our diet really opens up–I eat a much wider variety of foods than I used to. I have more options available to me, because I think differently about food. My food is sometimes a little more simplistic, and sometimes it’s gourmet and fun, but it’s always healthy.
And one of the things that I’ve done and that I teach in my Wellness 101 class is to start where you are, look at how to make some of the dishes that you already make vegetarian or vegan, so taking out the meat or the animal products. And then another thing that we tell people to do is take out the oil. And it’s a really quick and easy thing to do, once you learn how to do it, that health-ifies the recipes that you already make.
So, starting where you are, you don’t need to throw out the whole cupboard. But you do need to learn to read labels. Like tomato sauce, for example doesn’t need to have oil in it, so you find an oil-free tomato sauce. That’s an easy one. Whole grain pasta is no different to cook than regular pasta. You know, a lot of those things are easy.