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An Interview with Avocadamama
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Avocadamama is a vegan youtube channel run by Taylor Solomon and her partner Nathaniel Perales. The two have taken their passion for healthy eating to Youtube where they make tasty vegan dishes for even the laziest of millennial. This week we talked about veganism, La Croix, and making healthier choices on a budget.

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Dust Empires: Hi Taylor and Nathaniel! Tell us about yourselves.

Nathaniel Perales: We’re Avocadamama! I’m a photographer based in LA and Taylor is an actress from Cincinnati. We’re a vegan duo that fell in love 5 years ago. We both share values that align so much on food, nutrition and bringing people together. With Taylor’s quirky personality and my photography skills we decided to create something that will help people on their health path through this crazy world.

DE: When did you become vegan?

Taylor Solomon: I started about 3 years ago in January of 2014, but I wouldn’t say I was super healthy or as strict about it then. Now I eat a way more wholesome diet, way less processed foods and more ingredients without labels.

NP: I became a vegan about 4 years ago. My mom watched Forks Over Knives and it changed her life. I watched it too, was amazed by the knowledge, but didn’t really find the drive to shift my eating habits. After she showed everyone she knew the documentary, she started reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Dr. Campbell’s book The China Study (These are the two doctors that the movie Forks Over Knives is based on). Both of these books really helped her understand how nutrition and what we put into our body has a direct impact on our long-term health. I would go to her house for dinner, be amazed by how good her food tasted and discuss the benefits. After 6 months of hearing my mom talk my ear off on why it’s imperative for my health to eat plant-based, I finally picked up the book The End of Dieting by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and began to understand what a whole foods plant based lifestyle looks like and how easy it is.

DE: What are some of the major challenges you faced in the transition?

TS: Well for one, I worked at a steakhouse! So that made it extremely challenging because we would have family meal every day where they would feed us a buffet style meat, and 99% of the time it had meat or dairy or both! So I learned that I just had to pack my own snacks and meals instead of hoping maybe they’d have something vegan for me. Also, a transition that took me a while to understand was how to make sure I was fully nourished and not lacking certain vitamins! I’ve grown a lot in the past 3 years.

NP: One of the hardest challenges, not only in the transition, but with eating in general is not understanding what foods were nutritious and what foods were just filler foods. What you begin to find out as you start understanding what foods are more nutritious than others is that there is a lot of misconception out there. Unfortunately, in this country, food is a part of the capitalism machine and these companies are trying to get you addicted to their food and are willing to go to extreme heights to fool you into thinking their food is healthy so you keep buying it—not only companies, but the government as well with it’s food pyramid which is still very heavy on dairy, cheese and meat. So I started with The End of Dieting book. The book really goes into the specifics of what your body needs and why it needs it. It’s kind of like the sequel to any of the documentaries about plant-based eating out there. The documentaries are great as a starter in understanding why eating meat isn’t the best for you and this book is really the ‘how-to’ in understanding how you can change your eating habits for the the long run.

DE: What inspired you two to start Avocadamama?

TS: We’d been talking about it for a long time before we finally did it. It’s funny actually because our first episode is more of a review. It’s about the Beyond Burger patty, and we really didn’t make anything from scratch, but we filmed it anyway, and the way Nathaniel edited it was so funny, so it kind of took off from there. Avocadamama was already my Instagram handle so we didn’t have to think of a name!

NP: I truly think that plant-based eating is how we’re going to change the world for the better. It will make human beings live longer and enjoy a healthier life as we all get older. It also helps save the only planet we have. I’ve been having very existential thoughts about what my purpose is here on earth over the last couple years and I kept coming back to health education. Healthy eating and nutrition are things that I’ve been studying for the past few years and there is this terrible misconception that eating vegan has to be complicated, expensive and difficult, and that’s just plain not true. Taylor and I have toyed with the idea of making a food truck, restaurant or kombucha bar but none of the ideas really felt right. I’ve been formally trained as a photographer and have been going to UCLA for directing. Taylor is formally trained as an actress and feels super comfortable in front of the camera and is a phenomenal cook, so it was kind of a match made in heaven. I film and edit the episodes, and she comes up with the recipes, cooks and entertains in front of the camera.

DE: What’s some advice you’d give to someone who wants to switch to a plant-based diet?

TS: It’s not as hard as you think. It just takes a small mind-set switch but I always just think of a recipe I love that maybe has meat or dairy and I think, which veggies can I use to replace the meat? Or which dairy products can I use that are just vegan? It’s not very challenging to work around animal products. I understand certain areas in the US have less dining-out options than others. But we want to make veganism as available as possible in homes!

NP: Well, first and foremost watch and subscribe to our channel! Hahaha. In all seriousness, the first advice I’d give is to begin by watching a couple documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Fed Up, Cowsiracy & What the Health are great starting points. Then pick up The End of Dieting by Joel Fuhrman. That book really spells out what you should be eating every day. We’re going to be doing an episode on this in the coming weeks, but it’s as simple as this acronym: GBOMBS — Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries & Seeds. The combination of these foods every day will help you feel full for long and gives your body all the nutrients it needs. We have plans to help with this process on our website and our YouTube channel in the coming months


DE: Why do you think there’s a general aversion to veganism? How do you seek to change it?

NP: I think that there is a misconception about eating vegan that it’s difficult and more expensive than a non vegan diet. I think depending on where you live, it might be harder to find restaurants that cater to a vegan lifestyle but eating out at restaurants will always be more expensive anyway so that’s not really a valid excuse. It all comes down to education. The government and corporations making food, don’t care about how healthy you are, all they care about is that you’re spending your hard earned money on their products. That’s why our channel is based around eating a whole foods plant based diet. Not a processed foods plant based diet. Just because Oreos aren’t made out of animal product doesn’t mean they’re healthy to eat. That’s really what our our vision is: eating whole foods. Our recipes are all based on making the food out of real ingredients, not processed salty versions of them. In a recent episode, we actually show the difference between the ingredients of a prepackaged Vegan Meatball from the store and our Vegan Meatballs hand made. And guess what? Our vegan meatballs use about 20 less ingredients than the processed, prepackaged ones. We seek to change the misconception and educate people. Only through education are you powerful because than you can make your own intelligent choice on what goes into your body.

TS: I think Nathaniel really hit the nail on the head with that one. I completely agree with him! Also people really think that being vegan means taking away SO much from your diet, but really when you start eating plant-based you FEEL a worlds of difference in energy and fatigue!

NP: You also add so much into your diet, that you never tried before because you never thought of these types of veggies as options in your meals.

DE:How has a plant-based diet improved your life?

NP: To piggy back on things I’ve said before, it just feels good to understand what you’re putting into your body. I used to just eat, assuming that things were “healthy” for me. Like getting a cold cut trio Subway sandwich. I used to honestly think like, “Oh yeah, a cold cut sandwich, this is the healthiest option for lunch.” Well, in 2015, the World Health Organization released a study that reveals that cured processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs and sausages are a group 1 carcinogen, including them in the same category as tobacco smoking and asbestos. A type 1 carcinogen, that is linked directly to cancer! And Subway’s slogan is eat fresh. I wish that I would have known about this sooner. I don’t smoke cigarettes because it’s directly linked to cancer, why would we eat food that is as well?

TS: For me I just feel less sluggish and fatigued like I did before. Also, a huge salad will keep me full for HOURS because I put beans, grains, veggies, fats, all kinds of nourishing foods and its all in just a salad! How amazing is that?

DE: Who are some chefs that influence your cooking?

TS: I love Tal Ronnen! He’s a big influencer of mine because he cooks such amazing, gourmet meals that seriously rock. But honestly I don’t have a ton of favorite famous chefs, mostly I admire the other food bloggers and youtubers who come up with such fantastic meals on their accounts. I watch them make the most amazing foods, and I think, what an amazing community of people really pushing for change in the animal and health industry! It’s truly inspiring! One blogger off the top of my head is Oh She Glows, her stuff is so good.

DE: Many people claim that plant-based diets are expensive or have for low-income parties to maintain. What’s your response to that?

NP: I think it’s hard because people don’t know that there are alternatives to what they’ve been eating their whole lives. As human beings, we’re creatures of habit. We have trouble changing our ways. It’s easier and more comfortable to stick to something we’re used to than to take a chance. Even if that change could save your life. Most of our recipes on our show are made out of food you can get at the store for under $10 and feed 3-4 people. I don’t think that’s very expensive at all. What Taylor said earlier, whatever you would normally make, switch out the meat and cheese with alternatives, or better yet, just try it without cheese and use mushrooms or jackfruit as the meat instead! It’s all about educating yourself that there are other options.

DE: What’s your culinary specialty?

TS: We have an amazing vegan mac and cheese recipe. I would share it, but I’d have to kill you. No just kidding but we really kill it at family and friend barbecues with our mac and cheese. Everyone asks for it and it’s so killer. It’s the perfect blend of creamy and salty and the edges of the noodles get crunchy. It’s phenomenal. We probably will never do a recipe about it because it’s too good to give away!

DE:What are some of your favorite plant-based restaurants?

Crossroads Kitchen, Little Pine, Veggie Grill, Sage, Gracias Madre, Word of Mouth Truck, Cena Tacos, Plant Food for People!

DE: What’s your favorite flavor of La Croix?

Pamplemousse (DUH) What other flavor even exists!?

DE: What are your kitchen must-haves?

TS: Our food processor, a blender, a nice knife set, a cutting board and a steam pot. I’d have to say those are what I use the most. And avocados, but that goes without saying! In the next week, we’re putting together a page on our website that talks about what’s in our kitchen that we use a lot. You’ll be able to find the details at www.avocadamama.com !

DE:Where would you like to see Avocadamama go?

NP: I would love for Avocadamama to be a vegan cultural center. We want to be educators through nutrition and help people live longer by eating food that tastes great and that’s great for you. We have some plans in the works to help people on their journey to a more nutritious rich lifestyle.

TS: Yes we can’t wait to take this even further and really show people out there how great vegan cooking can really be and how much better you can feel eating it!

DE: Drop a tasty recipe, please.

This recipe is for our walnut tacos! The walnut “meat” tastes just like meat crumbles!

Ingredients for the “meat”:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water 2-3 hours
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne peper

Place all ingredients in the food processor or blender and pulse until nuts and tomatoes are blended and “crumbly” looking.

Recommended Toppings:

  • Avocado
  • Salsa of your choosing
  • Green onions
  • Cilantro
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Chopped Cabbage

For the base:

  • Flour or wheat tortillas
  • Hard taco shells
  • Chopped Romaine lettuce
  • Butter lettuce cups

Choose your base, add the walnut meat, toppings and enjoy!

 

Interested in learning more about Avocadama? Want to check out some of their tasty recipes?  Their soon-to-be live website is hereThe duo’s youtube can be found hereTo support their mission to bring healthy foods to the masses, check out their patreon. Taylor’s instagram can be found here. This is Nathaniel’s instagram.