A Vegan Chat With nutritionist Bonnie Chivers aka The-Well-Being.
After a devastating family tragedy and loss, Bonnie ventured down the rabbit hole of holistic health to find answers. Through this journey, she discovered the incredible book the China Study and the benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet for overall health. In this feature, we chat to her about this journey and what she can now tell us about living a healthy plant-based life. Enjoy the chat!
Tell us about yourself and your journey towards nutrition and health-focused work?
I started to become interested in health and nutrition after my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Someone suggested I read ‘The China Study’ and from there on in I was extremely focused on using food to help prevent disease, rather than promote it.
As time passed my dad became quite unwell and my 26-year-old cousin was also diagnosed with bowel cancer (neither were genetic strains). Their journeys ignited my passion even more and I had endless conversations with my cousin about how we felt that lifestyle factors, particularly stress (which, like a poor diet, causes inflammation) probably had a huge impact on their health. It’s often people realise these things when it’s too late – which was the case for my dad and cousin – but I hope that sharing their story and motivating people to eat well and live well will make good of my family’s loss.
People often question if you can be 100% healthy on a plant-based / vegan diet, what are your thoughts on this?
You’ve got a much better chance of being 100% healthy on a plant-based diet compared to most other diets! I always prefer to use the term “PLANT-BASED” because there are a number of people eating very poorly on a vegan diet. Your diet should be based around the consumption of plants – nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit, whole-grains, and healthy plant oils – and not consist of fad-vegan products that more closely resemble a science experiment than something produced by the earth.
It is important to transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet in an informed manner and prepare for the change – otherwise, I guarantee you’ll be eating too much pasta, and very little protein and iron. If needed, seek the advice of a nutritionist or dietitian that eats this way themselves. It is really important to keep on top of your protein and iron intake, and a Vitamin D and B12 supplement is always handy; and for older people, closely monitoring Vitamin D and calcium is really important – but that goes for everyone, not just those eating plant-based!
You cook and prepare great food on social media, what is your go-to plant-based dish?
I love pan-frying some tempeh and veggies in the morning and piling them on top of some bread. For dinner, I am a big pasta lover!! I always use fresh tomatoes and vegetables to create my own sauces and try to make sure I always include some protein in my pasta dishes, whether that be legumes, beans, tofu or tempeh.
Who are some plant-based chefs or individuals you look to for inspiration?
I tend to cook based on what I bought at the Farmers Market or what is in the fridge – so I often hunt for recipes by searching for vegetable, not a particular person. In general, though, I love Andrea Hannemann (earthyandy), Ellie Watson (elsas_wholesomelife) and Simon J Hill (plant_proof) – I highly recommend the Plant Proof podcasts!!
You are inspired to help people live healthier lives, what can someone feeling stuck do today to start the process of eating for better health?
Start small and make some manageable changes. Write down a few habits you want to change i.e. eating less junk food/going for a walk 3 times a week. It’s really helpful to identify what obstacles might stop you from achieving these changes and work out ways around these before they come up. Evaluate/adjust your goals each week and soon those small changes can result in a massive lifestyle shift.
Top 3 superfoods or ingredients for health (in your opinion)?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Green Vegetables and Beetroot Juice.
You travel around a little, favourite eatery(s) in Australia and locally?
We tend to stick to what we know, to be honest. I do love Urban Projuice in Albert Part and two cafes in Williamstown called The Grinders Story and Kodama. Also, we have dinner most weeks at Village Cantina in Yarraville – love it!!!
Who inspires you?
Anyone who is living their life to the fullest. It’s so hard to balance work and life these days and people who manage to do so really inspire me!
Where do you see your work in 3-5 years?
I will have just finished my PhD so I really have no idea. We’ll see where the journey takes me!
Who should we interview next?
Ben from Calm Farm Hemp Milk.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Bonnie! There are some great takeaways here for everyone. To get more tips and follow Bonnie’s journey, you can follow her HERE.