Vegan Chef Talks Plant-Based Diet at Lyon Canton Library Program
When Valerie Wilson decided to go vegan, she went cold turkey, no pun intended.
But while for nearly three decades she has lived a lifestyle that shuns the consumption of animal products, she doesn’t shun those that don’t.
Wilson, Westland resident and macrobiotic company owner MacroVal, simply welcomes everyone to try and find out what a healthier way of eating can do.
“After I stopped eating (meat and other animal products), it didn’t taste good anymore,” Wilson said. “Your taste buds change; they really do.
“A misconception is that other people think we’re always judging them, and I don’t care what anyone else eats,” she said. “I’m going to tell you about healthy whole foods. A lot of people think ‘there’s this vegan and they’re judging me’. They think vegans are crazy judging people. I don’t care.
Wilson is celebrating her 25th year of teaching vegan cooking and she will be teaching chefs from 6-7 p.m., Jan. 20, how to cook Millet with sweet vegetable ragout at the Public Library of the Canton of Lyon, 27005 Milford Rd. Registration is required on the library website. Both in-person and virtual options are available.
The author of five vegan cookbooks became a vegan in 1993 after reading “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins, a former heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire.
A blurb for the book says it draws “a clear line connecting America’s factory farming system to disease, animal cruelty, and ecological crises.”
Tips for trying a vegan lifestyle
Wilson encourages anyone interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle to read a book or watch a movie about factory farming.
This is one of Wilson’s recommended steps for adopting a vegan or healthier lifestyle if you’re not ready to give up meat. Here are the others:
- Start eating brown rice (and other whole grains)
“The first thing I say to my students to start them on a healthy eating journey is, ‘Eat brown rice, eat brown rice, eat brown rice,'” Wilson said. “Start a casserole and just eat it… Whole grains and complex carbohydrates give your body energy and are slowly digested. All of our ancestors, no matter where you came from, ate them. Most of people are hungry for whole grains and complex carbohydrates.
Dieters often think carbs are the enemy, she added, but those would be simple carbs, not complex carbs full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Inspect labels, advises Wilson, because white sugar is “in everything.” Ending the consumption of this simple carbohydrate will reduce inflammation and increase energy levels.
- Choose a month to try being vegan.
Wilson says to choose any period of 30 consecutive days to go meat and dairy free. It guarantees a better overall feeling at the end, if packaged processed foods are also eliminated.
- Attend a vegan cooking class.
Her final step is to learn how to tastefully prepare plant-based dishes, which are delicious when seasoned and cooked properly.
“It’s different ingredients with a different way of cooking and a different way of flavoring so they taste good,” she said. “I think cooking classes are valuable and important.”
She’s learned to make new dishes like fig bars to replace the fig Newtons she loved as a kid and mochi macaroni and cheese, which are vegan.
Thirty years after giving them up, Wilson said she doesn’t crave or miss meat, eggs or real cheese.
“After you stop eating it, it doesn’t taste good anymore. Your taste buds change, they really do change,” she said.
She also doesn’t miss the eczema or allergies she suffered from before transitioning to a macrobiotic, whole-food diet. She no longer has pain in her knees or other joints and has more energy than anyone she knows.
Wilson said a common misconception is that a vegan diet lacks protein. She gets plenty of protein, found in almost everything she eats, from beans and lentils to tofu, temple and mushrooms, as well as her many vegetables.
Another misconception, she adds, is that living on a vegan diet is expensive. It’s not if you really cook and buy frozen packaged meals or eat out regularly. Wilson advises buying large bags of non-perishable brown rice, quinoa or millet, as well as fresh vegetables.
Ultimately, cost savings are realized with better health and lower medical bills.
“Food is medicine and it balances out when you don’t have to take prescription drugs,” she said. “If you put your money into healthy foods and consider investing in health, you’re not spending more money.”