Before you dismiss Jessica Murnane as yet another clean eating advocate, take note. For Jessica – wellness guru, podcast host and creator of the One Part Plant movement – shifting to a plant-based diet didn’t come easy. After being diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis – a chronic and painful condition – she decided to overhaul her diet and focus on eating whole, plant-based foods. Within months, she began to feel like herself again and avoided having to undergo a hysterectomy.
Preferring to label her diet as plant-based rather than vegan, her outlook on both food and life is one many are starting to embrace. We sat down with the blogger and author to discuss everything from making plant-based meals the whole family will love to her store cupboard essentials.
How did you get into a plant-based lifestyle?
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis (a condition where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus – mine moved up to my liver) and was advised to undergo a hysterectomy. As scary as it was, I agreed to move forward with the surgery because I thought it would end my pain. But soon after, I received an email from a friend saying she had read that a plant-based diet could help endometriosis. Despite having a less than perfect (and no-where near plant-based) diet, I was desperate and decided to try it. My symptoms dramatically decreased within weeks and I never got the hysterectomy.
What’s been the hardest aspect of the transition?
Being honest, it’s all been tough – I cried a lot at the start but mainly because I had no idea how to cook, creating foods I actually enjoyed was the hardest part. I didn’t want boring bowls of steamed broccoli and wasn’t someone who naturally likes green smoothies. So, I worked really hard in the kitchen to recreate my favourite dishes in a way that worked for me – this is a central aim of my cookbook, making change easier for people.
For those looking to make a change, is there an easy first step?
Try following the One Part Plant philosophy – having one plant-based meal per day, which is pretty feasible. Instead of saying, “Tomorrow, I have to eat only plant-based,” say, “Tomorrow, breakfast, lunch or dinner I’ll eat a plant-based meal.” Often, one turns into two and then two turns into three and you start noticing a difference in how you feel. I respect people who can just go cold turkey and make the change to a plant-based lifestyle, but that’s not the case for everybody.
And how do you make sure you get enough protein?
Quite simply, I eat a lot of plants – pulses, nuts, seeds and veggies. After workouts, I make sure to drink some protein-packed shakes, too. But I think it’s important to know how much protein we actually need to survive. Protein is so hyped right now, from dog food to ice cream, anytime I watch TV or read a magazine someone is telling us to eat more protein, but everyone is different and it’s rare you hear of someone being protein-deficient. Some of the strongest mammals in the world are plant-based – if a gorilla is getting enough protein from plants, I probably am too.
What about feeding a family – any tips for sneaking in plant-based meals?
Make food your family already loves, but in a new way. You can’t expect to go from zero to kale smoothies in a day. If your family loves cream based soups, substitute cashew cream (blend cashews and veggie broth); or if your family loves cookies and cakes, try using natural sweeteners instead. Be patient and keep trying new things.
Try to get your kids involved in the process of cooking, too. Let them press the “on” button on the blender or let them stir the ingredients in the mixing bowl. If you make them feel proud of what they’ve created, they’ll be more inclined to try the finished product.
On a Similar Note
What are your store cupboard essentials?
Essentials make up a big part of my book, where I list the ten things you’ll always find in my kitchen. If I have these stocked I know I can cook something quickly with just some fresh veggies. My top four are probably: pulses, nut butter, veggie broth and tahini.
Any go-to speedy meal recommendations?
At least once a week, my family has whatever veggies are in the fridge and a spicy, creamy nut butter sauce thrown over some rice. The sauce takes minutes to make – just whiz together some nut butter, veggie broth, lime juice, curry or buffalo sauce, and a little tamari and then heat it up with the veggies on the stove.
What’s your favourite plant-based recipe?
Really, anything that’s easy. If it requires hours of prep time or exotic ingredients that I can only find at a random speciality grocery store, I’m not making it. My favourite recipes usually involve some sort of curry sauce or easy, comforting soups. Snack-wise, I am addicted to my Buffalo Sauce White Bean Hummus, which I make pretty much every week – try slathering it on tortillas or just eat by the spoonful when hunger strikes.
What’s your best-kept kitchen secret?
Almost everything tastes better with hot sauce and avocado.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people making when going plant-based?
Believing there are these hardcore rules you have to follow or thinking you’ve failed if you eat a piece of cheese or bread. This isn’t about being perfect, it’s about eating foods that make our bodies feel good. Figure out what works for you and roll with it.
Any advice for eating out?
Choose the restaurant. Whenever I’m on one of those day-long email chains about making plans with friends, I always chime in with restaurant options before anyone else can. It’s never a strictly plant-based restaurant, but it’s one that I know everyone can find something on the menu.
Lastly, what’s your top tip for someone considering a plant-based diet?
Find foods you enjoy and work with your budget. Just because you see someone touting bee pollen sourced from some exotic island with fancy bees it doesn’t mean you have to eat that, or that you’ll even like it. For example, I don’t love turmeric so I don’t really cook with it. Experiment, mess up your kitchen and yes, you might make something you don’t like, but then you’ll try again the next day and find something you love.