Veganism Is How I Connect to My Values as a Wellness Activist

Author and activist Haile Thomas shares how plant-based eating keeps her grounded and one of her favorite recipes for warmer weather.

July 20, 2021
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Photo by: Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

In 2014, after serendipitously coming across an article about the benefits of eating plant-based, I decided to take on the challenge of embracing a vegan lifestyle to see if I could survive without my beloved cheese. For decades, the image of plant-based living has been projected through whiteness, privilege, and in many cases, unhealthy diet and weight-loss culture. But I was intrigued and excited to challenge those narratives through my experience.

Growing up in a heavily meat-based Jamaican household, I was surprised to discover a whole new world of culinary exploration and joy in creating plant-powered versions of my favorite recipes. I even unearthed some ingredients and recipes native to my own culture. (Many African and Black foodways include plant-based food traditions that date back centuries.) As I continued to adjust to a vegan diet, I gained more energy, mental clarity, and comfort in my body, and, perhaps most importantly, an even greater awareness of the world around me.

I learned about the damaging effects of animal agriculture and the grave mistreatment of the many Black, indigenous and people of color producing and processing our foods. Pretty soon, it became impossible to separate the impact of my actions from the wellbeing of our planet and the life on it. Veganism became a way for me to align with my values instead of just an interesting "healthy eating challenge." On my journey to concious and compassionate consumption, increased awareness and more joyful living, plants have been my greatest ally.

Our relationship with food can be defined by its necessity, but it is clear that how we nourish ourselves may hold one of the most potent opportunities to form deeper connections with ourselves and the world around us. Mealtimes are endlessly infused with purpose and meaning. In one bite, we can experience the flavors of culture and tradition, creativity, comfort and healing, cherished memories, gratitude for the resources and people that made our meal possible, and, of course, simply the taste of survival.

If you've been plant-curious for quite some time, this is the perfect time for exploring intentional and intuitive eating. As the weather gets warmer and a wide variety of crops are ready for harvest, you might find yourself craving more plant foods in rhythm with the seasons. Don't be afraid to take some time to tune into your body and ask what it may need to feel nourished and grounded! One of my favorite recipes from my cookbook Living Lively, perfect for tapping into the reviving energy of the season, is my Carrot-Chickpea Quinoa Bowl with Maple Harissa Dressing! It's a light and refreshing salad with just the right amount of bite, smoky spices, and a hint of rich maple sweetness.

Carrot-Chickpea Quinoa Bowl with Maple Harissa Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Roasted Chipotle Chickpeas:

  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

Salad:

  • 1 bunch baby kale
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups peeled and shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (cooked according to package instructions)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Maple Harissa Dressing

Maple Harissa Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon harissa spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions:

To make the chickpeas: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Pat the chickpeas dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Toss them with the olive oil and salt to taste. Spread them evenly on the sheet pan and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crispy.

Transfer the chickpeas to a bowl and immediately toss them with the garlic powder, paprika, cumin, turmeric, and chipotle powder. Set aside.

To make the dressing: In a small blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.

To make the salad: In a large bowl, toss the kale, arugula, carrots, and parsley. Drizzle with the olive oil and use your hands to massage the vegetables for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Mix in the cooked quinoa, red onion, sunflower seeds, and the dressing.

Divide the salad among four bowls and top each with chickpeas. Drizzle the bowls with extra dressing and enjoy!

Excerpted from LIVING LIVELY by Haile Thomas Copyright 2020 by Haile Thomas. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Haile Thomas is a 19-year-old international speaker, wellness and compassion activist, vegan food and lifestyle content creator, and the youngest to graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach at age 16. She is the founder/CEO of the non-profit HAPPY(Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth), which empowers youth through holistic education and addressing the need for free/affordable plant-based nutrition and wellness education in underserved/at-risk communities.

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