How a Sausage Factory Worker Went Totally Vegan

Considering going vegan? Ask Mario.

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For years, Mario Fabbri worked in his father's Italian sausage factory in Chicago and ate meat and cheese with almost every meal. Today, he's the host of a YouTube channel called Trying Vegan with Mario, where he cooks with plant-based chefs making everything from chickpea popcorn to jackfruit meatballs. We were so intrigued by his dietary change that we had to know more. Here's what Mario has to say about eating sausage twice a day, his love for broccoli and why he likes Chipotle.

Q: From sausage factory to YouTube? Can you tell us how Trying Vegan with Mario came to be?

I grew up in Chicago working at my dad's Italian sausage factory and learning about food manufacturing. I would have cheese or meat in every meal. Then I saw one of my friends loose 100 pounds by switching to a nutrient-dense diet and it made me rethink all my food choices. I started doing research and learned that many diseases are preventable, or reversible, just by changing the way you eat. One thing almost all doctors could agree on is to eat lots of colorful vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. I learned pretty quick that Italian sausage for breakfast and dinner wasn't exactly healthy. Fast forward a few years and this is what inspired my show, Trying Vegan with Mario. On my show, I've learned the best ways to incorporate vegetables, nuts and legumes into food that tastes amazing and is easy to make. It's my mission to share those recipes with you!

Q: What are your top three favorite plant-based ingredients? Pantry staples, perhaps?

I have so many favorite vegan ingredients but three that I'm loving right now are broccoli, quinoa and oat milk.

  • Quinoa is a high protein grain that cooks like rice but is fluffier. It's a healthy ingredient that's easy meal prep. I make a massive pot of quinoa and peas to have in the fridge at all times. I re-heat a bowl and add whatever veggies I have around my house. I'll also add a little organic soy sauce which goes a long way in quinoa.
  • I love broccoli because it's wildly healthy. I used to hate broccoli so now I get incredible satisfaction out of finding ways to make it taste delicious.
  • As far as oat milk goes, oat milk is very frothy and goes well in coffee. I go through many different phases of vegan milk but right now I'm buying oat milk.

Q: You have worked with so many vegan chefs, who has made the biggest impact on you/your cooking?

This is a tough question because every guest on Trying Vegan with Mario has had a huge impact on me. If I had to choose, I would say that the segments with Dr. Joel Fuhrman have had some of the biggest impact. Dr. Fuhrman is a world renowned family physician who specializes in helping people reverse their deadly diseases by eating a nutrient-dense diet. He has literally saved thousands of people from horrible death by heart attack, dementia and other more. Dr. Fuhrman was one of the first guests on my show and he taught me about the cancer fighting properties of red onions. Now that I've learned the power of healthy food, I use that to inspire my recipes and future guests of my show.

Q: Some folks are just getting ready to eat more plant-based. What would you tell someone just getting started?

Here's two quick tips for eating more vegan food.

  • Go to Chipotle: Chipotle has amazing vegan options and is an easy way to get a filling vegan dinner. Try the Sofritas Burrito Bowl and treat yourself to guac instead of cheese or sour cream. This is a great meal to show you how eating vegan can be accessible. Eventually the goal is to level up from the vegan Chipotle diet, but this is a starting point.
  • Go Dairy-Free: This is an easy switch that can help you build a lot of momentum towards changing your diet. There's a lot of good substitute options in terms of plant-based milks and butters. A lot of people are lactose intolerant and this can work wonders for your health.

Q: Can you share a favorite recipe with us?

Blueberry Coconut Quinoa

Ingredients:

1 c quinoa
1/4 c almonds
3 tbsp coconut cream 1 lemon zested
2 tbsp syrup
2 tbsp coconut
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
Handful Blueberries & Strawberries

Directions:

1. Cook the quinoa. Bring 2 c water to a boil, pour in the 1 c quinoa, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed.

2. Toast the almonds and coconut in the oven at 350 °F for 2-5 min, or until golden.

3. Mix everything together.

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