10 Questions for a Vegan – Debi Chew

Meet Debi Chew, a Registered Nurse who also promotes healthy, vegan food and recipes through her YouTube channel Chew on Vegan and other social media  (links below).  In addition, she has a website – chewonvegan.com where you can also find her easy, affordable and healthy recipes. 

I first met Debi at an event held by the wonderful Loving Farm Animal Sanctuary, based in Paso Robles, CA.  Debi provided the delicious home cooked, four course meal that we all enjoyed while visiting the sanctuary.  I was immediately impressed by Debi’s cooking and her warmth as a person.

A little about Debi, in her words – 

As a nurse I get many questions about my lifestyle and choices. I love to cook and I am always happy to share my recipes with everyone. I had been vegetarian in my twenties but eventually went back to eating meat and dairy. As time went on, I wanted to return to a more plant based diet.  In 2008, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and went gluten free while still eating the standard American diet (SAD). In 2011, I watched Forks Over Knives, and after that, I went totally vegan but still ate a lot of vegan junk food.

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis and decided to eat a whole food plant based diet to help heal myself. I am happy to say I have been in remission since the beginning of 2013 and I even ran a 1/2 marathon that October.

So as you can see it was a long process to get to where I am today. I started a YouTube channel Chew on Vegan at the end of 2016 where you will find lots of easy, delicious recipes. I wanted to show the world how easy it is to eat a whole food plant based diet.

I want people to learn that their health is directly related to their diet. Remember what you put on your plate determines your fate. Eating a whole food plant diet is not only essential for a long, healthy life, it is essential to the health of our planet and all the other animals here on planet earth

Please read below for my q&a with Debi –

What originally inspired you to go Vegan? 

At first it was for health reasons. As I was getting older my blood pressure, cholesterol and weight were all increasing. I had watched Forks Over Knives and that convinced me to go plant based pretty much overnight. It wasn’t long before I started learning about factory farming and the environment. I no longer wanted to be a part of animals suffering and death and contributing to the destruction of our planet. That is why I say I am a vegan, not just plant based. For me it is a lifestyle not a diet. I have been vegan for 11 years!

How has Veganism impacted your life?

My health has improved! All my numbers are looking good.  I think being a vegan makes you a more compassionate person as well and you see the big picture of life.

What does a typical day look like – breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks?

I practice intermittent fasting for the most part and usually don’t break my fast until around 1pm. My meals are quite simple. I eat whole food plant based and avoid oil, refined sugar, and processed foods. I’m not saying that I am perfect…. I do indulge at times, but the bulk of my diet is pretty clean. 

For example, Lunch would be a huge plate of steamed broccoli, green beans and Yukon gold potatoes covered in my plant-based cheese sauce. 

For an afternoon snack I may have an apple with peanut butter. 

Dinner would be a green curry or tacos made of chickpeas and potatoes with a big salad. 

Dessert would be my cashew date cookies.

You mentioned you’ve been eating only a whole food plant-based diet for the last 8 months.  What does that look like for you?  How has this changed you?  Will you stick with it?

My goal is for half my plate to be veggies and the other half starch, this keeps me full and satisfied. I don’t believe in starving myself. I had read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall a few years ago but never applied it to my diet. But in the last couple of years I could not get the scale to budge despite going to the gym five days a week and I was so tired of having a spare tire around my middle. So, I decided to really commit to his program along with intermittent fasting. 

My goal was to lose 10 pounds and I ended up losing 15! This way of eating is so easy and basic. Once you learn about calorie density, you can put yourself in a calorie deficit without ever being hungry and eating huge plates of food. It is a win, win and I will stick with it.

Being a medical professional, how do you view Veganism and nutrition as it relates to warding off CoVid 19 and other illnesses?

Veganism and being plant based in general will help you by boosting your immune system. So, in that way even if you do contract Covid 19 your immune system will be better equipped to fight the virus. Now this is by no means a guarantee. There is too much that we do not know about this Virus. 

But let’s think about this for a minute. If you are eating a clean diet and by that I mean no animal products, no processed foods, oil or sugar and are eating plenty of veggies, beans, legumes etc. then you will be feeding your gut microbiome where 80 percent of our immune systems lives. You will most likely not have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity which would be compromising your immune system anyway. Going vegan or plant based would most likely improve your chances of fighting this virus. Of course, that is true of all disease processes. Your diet is the key to prevent these self-inflicted diseases as I mentioned earlier.

Can you recommend any favorite Vegan brands?

One of my favorite companies is Rocky Mountain Olive Oil company, I am in love with their balsamic vinegars. I use them in salad dressings, marinades, you name it. They have so many different flavors to choose from. I will be doing a giveaway with them in the near future so be sure to follow me on my Instagram @chewonvegan so you don’t miss out.

I also love ITcosmetics. They do not test on animals and their products are amazing! (Note, not all their products are 100% vegan, but the ones I use are.)  And I really like the Pacifica Beauty brand.

Do you have a favorite Vegan restaurant?

I have a few. When I am in LA, I love to go to Sun Café or Joi Café in Westlake Village.  Here locally, I love Bunn Thai Bistro and Oki Momo’s in the San Luis Obispo area.

What gives you inspiration? (person, documentaries, books, websites, cookbooks etc.?)

I am inspired by many people and it changes depending on where I am at mentally or spiritually.

On Instagram, I follow @highcarbhannah, @chelseamaecullen, @marriedtohealth, @angie.sadeghi. I get food and health inspiration from them. 

For animal rights, I follow @janeunchainednews, @paigeparsonsroache, @genesisbutler_, @NARD_nationalanimalrightsday, @thoseannoyingvegans, @peacebyvegan

For the environment I follow @gretathunberg

I think I’ve watched every documentary there is on veganism, animal rights and the environment. I check in with Dr. Michael Greger and his website nutritionfacts.org

I also love podcasts like Rich Roll, Lean with Plants, Plant-Strong with Rip Esselstyn, This Might Get Uncomfortable. There are more but those are my top ones.

Favorite animal sanctuaries or animal rights/environmental organizations? 

My favorite animal sanctuary is Loving Farm Animal Sanctuary. I have cooked for many of their fundraisers and they have a special place in my heart. 

One of my favorite animal rights groups is LA Animal Save.  I have been to a few of their pig vigils at the Farmer John slaughterhouse. Immensely powerful experience. 

I don’t have a favorite environmental organization. One of my goals this year is to become more involved in the environment. I feel I need to do more.

What is your best advice for those thinking about going vegan?

The first thing I tell people is to educate yourself on the subject. Watch Forks Over Knives, What The Health, Game Changers, Dominion. Learn a little something about nutrition. There are so many resources out there today at our fingertips. 

And know your ‘why’. Why do you want to be a vegan or plant based? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing to start with. Start by adding more veggies and less animals on your plate. There are so many great vegan cheese and meat alternatives now. Go easy on yourself. It may take you a while to totally get the hang of a vegan or plant based lifestyle but once you do you will never regret it.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Dr Wayne Dyer

To find out more about Debi and her recipes, please check out the following links:

Website – chewonvegan.com
YouTube – Chew on Vegan
Instagram – @chewonegan
Facebook – @chewonvegan