This month’s interview is with a friend and ally of EatUrVeggies.com. I’ve enjoyed learning more about registered dietitian Jill Nussinow, also known as growing vegetable enthusiast: The Veggie Queen, and you will too!…
Elisa Rodriguez: Jill, what’s your story? What led you to become The Veggie Queen and how long have you lived a vegetarian lifestyle?
Jill Nussinow: I have been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. I became a vegetarian because I didn’t like meat and continued as a vegetarian for many other reasons, including the animals, the environment and health.
I was a vegetarian for many years and then became vegan when I realized that there was more to vegan eating than including eggs and dairy. Let’s just say that I have been a vegetarian, and then vegan, for about 30 years.
My son was vegan until age 5. I feel good about giving him a great start on life, filled with lots of organic vegetables.
I got into teaching cooking when I was doing individual counseling and looking for more ways to share my knowledge. Once I started teaching, I loved it. I first taught at cooking schools and then at Santa Rosa Junior College, where I have been for more than 20 years.
I was given the name The Veggie Queen about 10 years ago at a cooking school in Sonoma. It was just easier to refer to me as The Veggie Queen than try to pronounce my last name. The first time that I heard that term “The Veggie Queen”, I knew that it described me well and I adopted it.
E: How has vegetarianism affected your life throughout those X number of years?
J: When I was in college it was very difficult to be vegetarian as the cafeteria did not serve any specifically vegetarian meals and there weren’t options such as the salad bar. At one time, I opted out of the meal plan and just shopped for food that I kept in my small dorm refrigerator. I ate better that way.
I used to feel like an outsider but now being vegetarian or vegan is much more accepted, and more people are aspiring to do it. I went to school from 1st grade on with Michael Pollan and he calls vegetarians “enlightened eaters.” I’d like to think that is true.
The first cooking class that I taught in 1986 was vegan. The food choices have certainly improved and expanded over the years and you can now get something to eat almost anywhere, even the convenience stores – not that I shop at convenience stores.
E: As a dietitian, an author, a culinary educator, speaker and teacher in the McDougall program in Santa Rosa, CA – what is your opinion on the role of nuts/seeds and whole grains in a whole food, plant-based diet?
J: I like nuts and seeds and think that if people do not have a weight issue that including small amounts of nuts and/or seeds daily is just fine. They keep people more satisfied and add interest to food. I certainly recommend that people eat sources of Omega 3 fatty acids such as ground flax, chia, hemp and walnuts on a regular basis. The biggest issue with them is how much people often eat.
Regarding grains, I recommend that people eat them but mostly as whole grains rather than bread or pasta. I especially like recommending gluten-free whole grains because many people eat too much wheat. It seems as if a good number of people have gluten intolerance or Celiac issues so grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat and all types of rice work well for most everyone.
E: What place does oil (as a processed food) have in a whole food, plant-based diet?
J: I think that people ought to use less oil since it is a source of very concentrated calories, and rely more on fats from foods such as nuts and seeds, olives and avocados, which also ought to be consumed in moderation if calories are an issue. Most people are getting plenty of calories but not necessarily enough nutrition so the more nutrient-dense choices are generally better.
A little oil on your food is probably OK unless you have a reason to avoid fat and are following a diet such as McDougall, Fuhrman, Esselstyn or Engine 2 plans. I teach people how to dry sauté, which is a great method for adding flavor without fat.
E: What inspired you to become an author and why did you choose to publish electronically?
J: I became an author because I kept telling my classes that I was writing a book. I did that for about 3 years and then I finally started writing. I did not initially publish an ebook or PDF download. But I then realized that some people preferred that method and started offering the book that way. The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment cookbook is arranged according to chapters so each chapter is available as a download, as is the entire book.
E: What other publications would you like to share with readers?
J: I have a monthly email newsletter that always includes at least one recipe. Often, though, there are 2 recipes: one raw and one cooked or pressure cooked. I also have a blog on my website with a number of posts.
E: What is the main message you’d like viewers to take away when reading the Veggie Queen and interacting with you and your work? What is your ultimate career goal?
J: Eating more vegetables every day in a delicious way is a good thing to do. I want them to feel as if I am there with them encouraging them to give vegetables a chance.
I am pretty much living my ultimate career although I’d like to step it up a notch, where I am speaking once a month to large groups and classes, do one-on-one in-depth classes with select people, and I will of course continue to write articles, blog posts and books.
Image Source: Jukka Zitting/Flickr