Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.
That’s the motto of Turlock residents Sherri Villarreal and Tammy Jones, who “eat to live” through a plant-based diet that has changed both their grocery lists and their lives. The pair now share their knowledge with the community through their series of Soon2bhealthy classes.
Villarreal and Jones both adopted a whole-food, plant-strong diet after running into health issues because of poor nutrition, and now are the perfect pictures of health. Villarreal is down 35 pounds since embarking on her plant-based journey in 2010, and no longer suffers from the problems that plagues her before she changed her diet, like severe memory problems, joint pain and insomnia. For Jones, a plant-based diet resulted in a 46-pound weight loss, improved blood work and the reversal of pre-diabetic conditions and issues with her heart.
“I just love life again,” said Villarreal. “If I kept eating the way I was, I wouldn’t have been able to get that back.
Also known as the “Nutritarian” diet, a plant-based eating plan focuses on nutrient-dense plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and legumes. “Toxic” foods, such as salt, sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed and greasy, fried foods are limited and meat and dairy foods are restricted to less than 10 percent of one’s total dietary intake.
When Villarreal and Jones noticed their health improving, along with compliments from friends who had noticed their healthy lifestyle changes, the pair decided to start Soon2bhealthy and spread their plant-based wisdom to others. Through classes and an informational website, www.soon2bhealthy.com, the pair teach those looking to change their lives tips and tricks for infusing flavor into plant-based recipes, providing education, motivation and inspiration.
“The biggest thing I want to get across to people is that they feel like the sacrifice will be too great because we are so connected to food,” said Villarreal. “We’re connected to it because of our social interactions, because of our culture, because of our families.
“This isn’t about blame, this isn’t about shame. This is about learning together and making ‘better-than’ choices so that we can have optimal health, and guess what – losing weight is a great side effect.”
2017 was Soon2bhealthy’s first year of classes, but this year, Villarreal and Jones hope to up their efforts by providing staff retreats and in-service training for businesses, classes for groups and organizations and even more in-home classes that can be two, three or even four hours long. Job burn-out and stress were prevalent among previous class attendees, said Villarreal, so she decided to try and help those in the workforce make healthier choices, too.
Some of the topics covered in Soon2bhealthy classes include plant-based diet education, ‘better-than’ choice instruction, pantry and refrigerator makeovers, weekly batch cooking and online support.
Villarreal explained that ‘better-than’ options can come in handy when dining out, traveling or at holidays, and entail selecting a healthier option rather than the ones made readily available – for example, switching from a burrito at Chipotle to a burrito bowl without a tortilla can save about 300 calories.
For many, motivation for preparing meals and staying on track with healthy choices can slip away. Jones said that keeping her health in mind when deciding what to eat is one of her biggest motivators.
“I can only have so many milligrams of salt per day, otherwise I’m back on my medication,” said Jones. “What I’m eating is keeping me alive and healthy and active and medication free.”
Villarreal added that excuses are slim in Soon2bhealthy classes.
“Every excuse that people have given us in our classes, we’ve looked for a solution and said, ‘Here’s something that will work for you,’” she said.
Soon2bhealthy classes start soon, with the first, two-part course taking place over two Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22. The cost is $75 to attend both classes. On Jan. 20, Soon2bhealthy will host a workshop with a cooking demo from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the cost is $50. All classes will take place at Cornerstone Covenant Church, 4105 Crowell Ave.
On Jan. 25, Soon2bhealthy will also host a Trader Joe’s grocery store tour, where attendees can learn cost-effective ways to eat healthy, how to read food labels and more. The cost is $25, and the tour will take place at Trader Joe’s, 3250 Dale Rd. in Modesto.
For more information on Villarreal and Jones’ plant-based diet, or to find more classes, visit www.soon2bhealthy.com.