Herbie of the Week: Leslie (She is in the food & wine business, makes it work and teaches others)

Meet our Herbie of the Week: Leslie!

An organic farmer in the food and wine business, Leslie entertains many omnivore guests. To introduce others to a more healthy lifestyle she incorporates plant-based dishes in her dinners. Realizing that she may not be able to change the way others eat, but she can set the example.

Leslie's story in her own words...

My story is an example of progress not perfection.

I come from a food-centric, Italian American family. My loved ones have decided that a life without salami is not a life worth living, and while they have made small strides in adding more plants to their diets, I have reconciled myself to the fact that I cannot change their belief system, any more than they can change mine. My acquired family is a bit more inclined toward healthy eating -- we are organic gardeners and focus our meals on what is local, seasonal, and what can be picked immediately prior to consumption -- however, being in the food and wine business, we are continually hosting feasts that highlight our local bounty, including cheeses, meats, and sweets.

While I aspire to become a full-on, low-fat, plant-based foodie, I struggle to make it fit into my lifestyle of endless entertaining, wine dinners, and events. I wish I could be more perfect with regard to my diet, but I feel like I have gotten as close as I can get while still participating in the lifestyle that is my family's business. Breakfast and lunch are always low-fat and plant-based. When I drive around from vineyard to vineyard, I am more likely to be snacking on clementines, tiny apples, and almonds instead of cookies and sweets. Dinner at home is always plant-based vegan, though I still use a small amount of oils -- too much to be a perfect happy herbivore, but a fraction of what I formerly used. Our friends and family will eat these dishes, sometimes enjoying them, sometimes passing them over. I find that richer dishes (such as a mushroom and walnut pate) provide a great conversation starter with guests who want to be more plant-based but do not trust it will be delicious.

When we attend events at friends' homes or wine dinners, I often request a plant-based meal beforehand. When that does not happen, I politely eat some of what was put on my plate. If we were welcomed to bring food, I will bring a plant-based dish to share, and take a rather selfish portion of it while still sampling the other items on the buffet. When you reject the food that a host has lovingly and carefully prepared for you, it can be interpreted as a rejection of them. When your business is dependent on breaking bread at the table with people who may not share your (as they would call them) "beliefs" about what is healthy or good, you can risk the relationships that make your business work. Friends who are ranchers, pig farmers, and cheesemongers don't want to be told that their livelihoods cause cancer.

My family has high cholesterol. Even growing up my cholesterol was 30 points higher than that of my adopted sister (who also happened to be overweight). My total cholesterol is 180, naturally, not great, but as good as I can get it in my current dietary configuration. Whenever I get that number and it is not as good as I had hoped, I re-double my efforts to remove all added fat from the food I prepare at home. I remind myself that English muffins have no fiber, but oatmeal does. I make the switch to even healthier alternatives wherever I can.

I read all the Happy Herbivore and other newsletters and I lament that I am not so healthy as ideally I could be. But I look around me and recognize that I am healthier than most. My weight is ideal, and unlike a lot of my friends and neighbors who need to starve themselves to achieve a perfect weight, I liberally eat foods that make me happy. I get my 10,000 steps every day. I could walk uphill endlessly. My diet is nutrient dense. My plates are always colorful. Most importantly, my relationships are sound. I am able to share the gospel of a whole foods, plant-based diet in a gentle, non-judgmental way that helps everyone get closer to their healthiest way of eating.

Thank you so much Leslie for sharing your plant-based journey with us!

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