Meet Brenda De La Piedra, the busy mum, nurse and author of One Hungry Mami.
How would you describe your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is that you must eat the foods that make you feel best. What works for one doesn’t work for another so if the way you eat makes you feel nourished, and happy in mind and body, then you’re on the right track. I believe that food should be simple, easy and as quick as possible. Being time poor, I know how important it is for busy people, especially busy mums, to make nourishing healthy meals that don’t take forever. I think this is why raw foods appealed to me. Having said that, I don’t think that cooked foods don’t have a place in my life, I do eat them still, but they are just not as prominent as raw foods.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to adopt a raw, gluten, dairy and sugar-free lifestyle?
I have always been interested in health-related things and never really into ‘fast food’, but when I dissected my diet before going plant based, it was rather unhealthy. I ate lots of sugar, in the forms of cakes and biscuits etc. I also ate a lot of dairy and high fat foods. So, after a rather indulgent trip to the USA, I decided to go plant based as part of a 12-week experiment. It’s been a journey and the longer I did it, the more I learned about myself. I was actually able to listen to my body and what it was asking for. So slowly, I started to cut out the things that I could finally feel were having a negative impact on me. That’s when I cut out gluten and refined sugars.
Have you noticed any changes to your health and general wellbeing since adopting this lifestyle?
YES! Like I said previously, I’m more in tune with my body and what it needs.
I’m not tired like I used to be and even if I only get four hours sleep, I can still get up and feel reasonably normal. I also have better digestion and my elimination patterns are always regular. I know that might not be a tasteful thing to talk about but, getting rid of bodily waste is important and keeps your body from re-absorbing the very toxins that it’s trying to expel, so for me, getting your digestion right is where it’s at and a plant based diet has done that for me.
All that chopping, blending and grating must take a lot of time. As a busy mum and nurse how do you manage?
You just do it. I don’t really think about it to be honest. Like with anything, if you love it and you can see the benefit in it, then you do it. Besides, cooking takes time, and eating salads or blending a smoothie is really not as time consuming as that!
Do your daughters and husband follow your eating plan?
When I decided to become plant based after the 12 week experiment, I did it based on personal choice. My husband’s personal choice is to consume animal products. As parents, we are in a partnership and that means that we have to compromise. My daughters were not brought up plant based, so I didn’t feel it was right to all of a sudden make them stop eating animal products because I had chosen that it wasn’t a good option for me. My aim with them is to always provide healthy fresh food that is home-made. When they are home with me, their meals are mainly plant based, but if they’re begging me for a tuna sandwich I won’t say no. I hope one day they choose the plant-based lifestyle, but I want that to be their choice.
A lot of your ingredients come from the health food store rather than the supermarket. Why is this and is it expensive?
Simply because the supermarket doesn’t stock it, but I have to say that this is improving. I think in general, people are becoming more aware about their health and are seeing that eating clean, healthy food, regardless if it’s plant based or not, is beneficial to their wellbeing, thus the increased demand for supermarkets to stock more of these products. Apart from a better range, health food stores can sometimes be cheaper, especially if you buy from a co-op. You can also find specials on organic fruit and veggies and it’s a nice way to meet like-minded individuals. I also get some of my goods through the internet, which makes it that little bit cheaper.
What’s your one can’t live without ingredient?
Gee, just one? That’s really unfair! But if I had to choose just one it would have to be bananas. I know they get a bad wrap for being full of sugar but when I did banana island (where you only eat bananas, tender greens, celery and cucumber), I felt amazing! Plus they are delicious and versatile; smoothies, chopped up, made into ice cream, baked if you wanted to, fried (without oil of course), seriously, the best!
What was your most spectacular recipe fail?
A raw chocolate polenta cake. It was heinous, and I’m still reminded of that by my family. I tried to convince myself that it tasted ok because I hate wasting food, but it really didn’t and in the end I had to throw it out.
Such a strict eating plan must play havoc with your social life? Do you ever eat out and how do you adapt to those situations?
Initially it can be hard, and you don’t want to be the ‘difficult’ customer but most restaurants now have a vegan option and the majority of places when I’ve eaten out have been really accommodating. I think it’s important not to be too precious about it. Whilst I would never compromise with it being plant based, if all they have is a vegan dish that is cooked, I’ll eat it and enjoy the experience.
Any tips for our readers for readers thinking of following in your footsteps?
There are so many different philosophies out there it can get very confusing. My advice is to read everything. What works for one person may not work for you so trying to base your diet on that of another is not always a successful venture. The best things are being kind to yourself and eating a diet that is clean. Ask yourself; is this going to serve my goals and me? If not, then why are you putting it in your body? If you want to try going plant based, maybe try and eliminate one animal food product at a time and see how you go. Try and focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t and make the most of those ingredients. Eat with intention and always be present. It’s amazing how good food tastes and how fulfilling it is when we actually take time to savour it rather than wolf it down without a thought. And most importantly, have fun with it. It’s meant to be an enjoyable experience and a chance to nourish your body.
See Brenda’s delicious mango chia porridge here.