What if committing yourself to doing some vegan meal prep on the weekend, using only whole foods plant-based ingredients, could mean something as profound as healing yourself from a disease that’s been dogging you for over 20 years? That’s what happened to Vegan Meal Plans subscriber Katie, and I am truly excited to share her story today.
Katie Parsons is a real estate director from the South of England, and also mom to a 6 year-old. She has been a Vegan Family Kitchen newsletter subscribers for almost four years. A few months ago, she kindly accepted to serve as a tester for my Plan & Prep Habit Builder program, then decided to stick around as a meal plan subscriber. I have since had the pleasure of getting to know her better. Her wonderful story of fighting back Crohn’s disease through a steady diet of whole foods, plant-based meals struck me as such an inspiring journey!
Eating vegan food is great, but to experience improvements in our health, including preventing or reversing disease, eating a whole foods plant-based diet is the way to go. That’s where a bit of organization and planning goes a long way…
Katie accepted to answer a few of my questions about her health transformation and vegan meal prep habits.
The whole foods plant-based way to a healthier gut
Brigitte Gemme: Hello Katie, thank you for accepting to be featured in a blog post. My goal is to inspire others to become super-preppers like you, and eat more plants to improve their health. I think you’re a tremendously inspiring example of the healing power of plants… and of the benefits of being a bit more organized than average.
Katie Parsons: Thank you! ☺️ I do hope to inspire others to be a healthier version of themselves
BG: You have been a subscriber to my newsletter since January 2017, almost the beginning! What triggered you to look into cooking more plant-based meals back then?
KP: I’ve had Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), since I was a teenager. I’m now 40. Back when I first found out about the Vegan Family Kitchen, my symptoms had started to flare up again for the first time since my surgery five years previously. I had been frantically researching how to help myself without going back on medication, and I had read that some recommended a plant-based diet. Back then, I did not understand that it needed to be a whole foods plant based diet, and I was unknowingly using plant milks with emulsifiers in them. I’m convinced that’s why it didn’t work for me, and I had to have a course of steroids and start immune suppressant drugs.
BG: It was more recently that you decided to give plant-based eating another chance. How did that come about?
KP: I follow two chefs called Steve and David Flynn, also known as The Happy Pear. They started to collaborate with a gastroenterologist named Dr. Alan Desmond for their “Happy Gut” course. Dr. Desmond is successfully treating patients that have IBD with a whole foods plant-based diet and I wanted to experience this for myself. I decided to subscribe to your meal plans to keep me focused and eating 100% healthy vegan food.
BG: What did your life with Crohn’s look like before you made this transition?
KP: For much of my life I pretty much tried to ignore it and lived in denial. I did not believe that I would be one of the 50% people with Crohns who end up needing surgery… until I was admitted and ended up with emergency procedure for a perforated intestine. Even after that, I carried on in hope that it would just go away as they had cut the bad bit of my intestine out… until the symptoms returned. Which is why I was so keen to make it work when I found out there was a possible solution.
BG: May I ask what you mean by “the symptoms”?
KP: Sure! For people with IBD, there is no discussion that is off limits. We need to get rid of the embarrassment of talking about normal body functions! In October, I started to get pain in my lower right abdomen daily. It wasn’t terrible, but it was every day. I recognized the warning that things were heading in the wrong direction. I also had loose stools at least once a day.
BG: That sounds awful. What happened to you once you started following Dr. Desmond’s advice to go 100% whole foods plant-based?
KP: The results were almost instant – far more dramatic than I was expecting! Within 48 hours of cutting out all meat, dairy, and processed foods, the pain vanished, and I started doing the best poos of my life! It makes me smile even now: it’s a simple thing for healthy people, but for those like me with IBD, smooth gastrointestinal transit is not something we take for granted! Inflammatory bowel disease affects 1 in 120 people in the United Kingtom. That’s a lot of people who could see the same improvements as me by switching to a WFPB diet. I’m passionate about sharing that information far and wide.
She’s a vegan meal prep wizard!
BG: What’s your meal planning and prep routine at the moment?
KP: I buy my groceries on the Friday or Saturday for the week ahead, sometimes using online delivery or click and collect. Then I do the prep on Sunday with some good tunes going. Some weeks, if the day runs away from me, I end up doing the prep over Monday and/or Tuesday, or even as we make the meals each day. One way or another, I always follow the plans.
BG: What difference does it make for you to have a plan for the week ahead and to prep a bit on the weekend?
KP: It is really good for my mind (as well as my tummy) to know that I have support and guidance to prepare a week’s worth of healthy food.
BG: What do you do about breakfast, lunches, and snacks?
KP: We are a family of two adults and one child, and the plans feed four people, so I always have leftovers which I often eat for lunch. For breakfast, I eat a variety of different options like porridge, fruit, pancakes, tofu scramble, and enjoy trying recipes I’ve seen on Instagram or from my favorite cookbooks. It is the same for snacks, I like trying things like different bliss ball combinations. My easy go to would be edamame beans, fruit or crudités with hummus. I also really enjoy finding healthy versions of things my daughter requests like ice cream (we make nice cream from frozen bananas) and pancakes (we use oats, bananas and plant milk instead of flour and eggs). I feel that it’s important to teach her how to be healthy from a young age so perhaps she can be spared the health issues I have had to deal with.
BG: Your husband is not as keen as you are to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet. How do you manage your food differences at home?
KP: I cook what I want to eat and what I feel is the most healthiest choice for all of us. He adds some meat to the meal if it suits him and if he can be bothered! At least, he is still eating a wide variety and we find this works for us.
BG: Based on your personal experience, what are the benefits of using a tool like the Vegan Family Meal Plans (and/or the Mini Vegan Meal Plans)?
KP: I think it would be a lot easier to slip from my healthy eating lifestyle if I wasn’t following the meal plans. They keep me on the straight and narrow!
BG: What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of eating this way?
KP: I imagine that when lockdown ends and we are able to dine out again, ordering at restaurants might be trickier! The many months I’ve had at home have given me a great foundation and I know what to look for and what choices to make. My friends are super supportive so I don’t envisage a problem when I can finally see them in person and share a meal together again!
BG: What’s your favorite Vegan Family Kitchen dinner recipe?
KP: How could I pick just one?! One of the first weeks back in 2017 the meals were based around black beans and sweet potatoes. My husband still fondly remembers the neatballs (as apparently it was the only meal he truly liked in three months 😂) and I remember being wowed at the simplicity of red onions and lime when I had a jacket sweet potato topped with the black beans and sour cashew cream. Sometimes it’s the little things that really work! (I’ve just checked back and apparently that was the first meal of yours I ever made!)
BG: What would you like my readers to take away from this interview?
KP: There are so many benefits to being plant based; for the animals; the planet, and our own health, but I’m most passionate about reaching others suffering with IBD. I’ve had Crohn’s for over 20 years and I’ve asked the consultants* many times over the years if what I eat will make a difference and always been told no. It is amazing to finally hear physicians like Dr. Alan Desmond providing us with the tools we need to help ourselves. Perhaps if I’d have found him sooner I could have avoided surgery altogether but I guess we’ll never know for sure! I’m am just happy that between him and Vegan Family Kitchen, the symptoms I had vanished almost overnight. There’s no better motivation than that to keep going! When I last had a calprotectin (inflammation) test in 2018 my level was 906. A healthy person should score less than 50. Over 200 indicates active IBD. At the end of December after 2 months of being whole food plant based my level was just 6. Plants for the win!
BG: Thank you Katie for generously sharing your story with us! I also hope this post inspires others with IBD to seriously experiment with eating a 100% whole foods plant-based diet for just two weeks to see if it makes a difference. I will personally be thrilled to help by providing the recipes, and I encourage them to follow you on Instagram for more inspiration! Follow Katie on Instagram here.
* For North Americans, a consultant is known as a specialist. Dr. Desmond is a gastroenterologist.
Would vegan meal prep help you with your health issues?
My name is Brigitte Gemme, and I am Chief Meal Planner here at Vegan Family Kitchen. I am not a physician nor a dietitian, and I do not dispense health advice. Based on my personal research, I believe that eating a diet focused on plant-based whole foods can be an asset to prevent and even reverse many chronic diseases. If you have suspect that this may apply to you, and choose to give that way of eating a go, I’m here to help with the practical aspects: how to eat a broad variety of whole foods plant-based meals… without stressing out or spending our lives in the kitchen?
What I do is create vegan meal plans using plant-based whole foods that will make it easy for you to decide on “what’s for dinner?” Every meal plan includes:
- 5 different dinners per week,
- a shopping list,
- and a list of vegan meal prep steps you can take on the weekend to make weeknights less stressful.
The meal plans are easy to adapt for oil-free, salt-free, and gluten-free diets, and to accommodate most allergies. They are available in a “family” version (feeds 4 people) and a “mini” version (for 1-2 people).
In addition, I recommend that you consult with a plant-friendly physician and/or dietitian – feel free to ask for a recommendation in the comments below.