The Healthy (Conscious) Interview: Dr Pamela Fergusson, RD
I had the pleasure of meeting Pamela last year at the International Congress of Dietetics in Granada, Spain. But before then, I had been following her on social. She is a dietitian with an inspiring take on raising a plant-based family…and the fitspo she posts makes me want to get moving!
Pamela makes living a healthy life seem so effortless – and necessary. What really got me was when she posted a while back that she could feed her whole family for about $100 per week. I figured I had to ask her for her secrets…I hope you find her as inspiring as I do!
Part of your path as a dietitian has been to work abroad in public health; how did that experience oversees change your perspectives on food and how we feed ourselves?
It made me appreciate so much the abundance we have here in Canada. When is the last time you had to hand-pound your grain into a flour using a bowl and heavy stick? Women in Malawi do that everyday. Often with a baby on their backs. I do miss the fresh mangos though!
What drew you towards a plant-based diet?
I was first drawn to a plant-based diet for environmental reasons, as eating plants is a much more efficient way for us to eat, rather than feeding plants to animals, and then eating the animals. We waste a lot of energy that way. As a dietitian I was, of course, also inspired by the health benefits we can get by eating plant-based. After becoming vegan, however, I became more aware of the ways that animals are treated in our food system and I no longer wanted to be part of that.
You have four kids and feed them an exclusively plant-based diet. What are some of your family’s go-to meals for a busy week?
Pasta with tomato-lentil sauce, chickpea coconut curry, sweet and smoky vegan chili, lentil tacos, loaded baked potatoes, sweet potato black bean burgers, veggie tofu stir fry. I often make a veggie chili on Sunday and serve it with rice or quinoa. I’ll use the leftover chili in the tacos on Tuesday, topped with salsa and avocado, and I’ll use the leftover rice or quinoa in a stirfry or in homemade veggie burgers.
I was kind of wowed when you mentioned that you can feed your family for $100 a week…I need your secrets!!
My main secret is pulses. They are so versatile and inexpensive. I have an electric pressure cooker and I tend to cook up a few batches of beans on the weekend so they are ready to pop into burritos, tacos, curries etc all week long. I also rely on sweet and Irish potatoes for healthy and inexpensive meals. Potatoes often get vilified and they don’t deserve their bad reputation. I can buy locally grown, organic potatoes for about $1/lb and they are delicious baked, roasted or mashed. I often put a bunch of veggies in bowls (peppers, sweet corn, greens) and offer a few sauces (chili, salsa, cashew cream) and let my kids pile those baked potatoes high.
Another thing, we eat hot breakfast most days. On the weekend I may make homemade vegan pancakes, but the other days it is usually oatmeal or sometimes buckwheat. One big yummy pot serves everyone and we have fun toppings like fruit, nut butters, hemp hearts and maybe some maple syrup. Porridge is more nutritious, better for the environment and less expensive than cold cereal.
What is your best advice for someone looking to transition to a more plant-based diet with their family?
Start with the foods and flavours you love. If your kids love peanut butter, they may enjoy tofu with satay sauce, or an African peanut butter sweet potato stew. If your kids enjoy fruit, try having a smoothie party where they get to create their own fun flavour and colour combinations.
Pamela will be speaking at Veg Food Fest in Toronto Sept 8-10…be sure to check her out on the Sunday! I will be there on Saturday, talking plant-based nutrition for gut health.
Learn more about Pamela on her website or her Instagram account!