Every LOVE GOODLY box includes a recipe from Forks Over Knives’ chef, Darshana Thacker. Forks Over Knives, our healthy lifestyle partner, is focused on empowering people to live healthier lives by changing the way the world understands nutrition.
There’s nothing restrictive about Darshana Thacker’s concept of vegan food. A chef who helped develop recipes for Forks Over Knives books and apps, as well as those used in the company’s new online meal planning and cooking school, Darshana’s expansive view of flavors and textures has made cruelty-free converts across the nation. Darshana is a Natural Gourmet Institute trained chef who also teaches vegan Indian cooking in Los Angeles and hosts popular pop-up dinners in her Venice home. She’s is currently hard at work creating more than a hundred brand-new recipes for an upcoming Forks Over Knives book for busy parents, but she took time out to share her vision with LOVE GOODLY.
How did you get involved with Forks Over Knives?
When I moved to the U.S. from India, I was vegetarian and ate only dairy and eggs. But after I met a producer of the “Forks Over Knives” film and began to understand how the meat and dairy industry worked, I realized that was not something I wanted. It was an instant understanding and I just stopped [eating those things]. Then I started teaching vegan Indian cooking and developing recipes for Forks Over Knives.
Over the years, I was evolving as a vegan. It’s a process. You learn so much about your own preferences, what’s out there, your best ingredients. I began to understood the importance of eliminating oils from your diet. Because oils are pure fat, and it’s empty calories. You can use those calories by adding more fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and nuts into your diet. Then you’re getting more than just fat. You’re getting micronutrients.
So rather than having somebody else distill the fat out of something like a nut, you actually eat the nut and get the full nutritional benefit.
Yes. Exactly. It’s not a fat free diet, it’s a low fat diet. And it’s fat from its original source, like nuts.
So in terms of the transition, many of us have experimented with veganism and vegetarianism or gone back and forth, but it doesn’t necessarily stick. What do you think the turning point is for people who make veganism a lifestyle choice? What was it for you?
For me, it wasn’t a big struggle because the foundation of a healthy, plant-based diet is grains, starches and carbohydrates. We have been taught the opposite—that carbs are bad. But when you bring those back as a foundation of your meals you will find that you have enough energy, food sustains you longer, makes you feel full and satisfies you. People have this impression that vegan means just salads, vegetables, kale and spinach. You cannot sustain yourself on vegetables! That’s just not possible. And that’s one of the misunderstandings. When people try to eat that way that’s why they fail.
Because they’re not satisfied.
Because they’re not satisfied. Exactly. I call it a diet of abundance. If you see my pantry, it’s got so many ingredients. There’s so much that you can play with. This food is what you share with your family—this experience, there’s so much to enjoy.
Where do you shop for those ingredients? Do have to go to farmer’s markets?
I shop at all different kinds of places. Because I teach how to transition to this lifestyle, so the ingredients in my recipes have to be accessible to everyone. There are people who are on a budget, who live in an area where they don’t have access to farmer’s markets. I need to think about how they can be successful. That’s why I go to mom and pop shops, local markets, farmer’s markets, and health food stores.
Are you concerned about the accusation that healthy, fresh food is part of an elitist lifestyle, that you can only choose those foods if you’re at a certain socioeconomic level?
Yes! Actually I took two challenges. One was $1.50 per day for five days, and the other was $5 a day for 10 days. And just living on that budget, and I had so much food that I was sharing it.
That’s amazing! Okay so if I’m going to transition to the abundant diet that we’re talking about, what are the five things that I need to have in my house at all times?
Beans or lentils, and rice—grains—as well as starchy vegetables because they stay fresh and you can store them for a long time. Fresh vegetables and fruits, and a few spices. That’s a good way to start.
Perfect! Thank you so much for sharing with us. I hope this conversation can inspire more discussion of the abundant lifestyle.
Yes! This is a journey, you know? There’s so much to learn.