Jill Ovnik, president and founder of Vegan-Gal.com, produced the “Change Your Food, Change Your Life” DVD to offer the average person insight to healthier eating. Ovnik’s DVD is enlightening and entertaining. The eighty minute DVD is full of helpful information and tips that range from grocery shopping ideas and smart restaurant choices to step-by-step recipes that can be created at home.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to be talking about a number of things and I have a special guest, Jill Ovnik. We’re going to be talking about vegetarian diets, of course, and one of the things is about children. Right now, we’re hearing more and more about how kids are getting more of the adult chronic diseases (like diabetes and obesity is increasing amongst children) and it’s really not that unreasonable to imagine that it’s happening, especially with some of the things our government are doing today. For example, the food and nutrition board had a report in 2002 and their recommendation was to reduce regenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer. We can consume up to 35% of our calories as fat, 35% of our calories as protein, and up to 25% of our calories as added sugars. And in an article that’s in our latest REAL newsletter, T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn talk about what you can eat to meet those nutrition guidelines and for example: for breakfast – you can have a cup of Fruit Loops, a cup of skim milk, a package of M&M milk chocolate candies, fiber, and vitamin supplements. For lunch – grilled cheddar cheese burger. Dinner – three slices of pepperoni pizza and a 16 oz soda and a serving of Archway sugar cookies. That’s not healthy and that’s what they’re recommending for our nutrition guidelines. It’s crazy. Okay, so, I want to welcome our guest today, Jill Ovnik. Are you with us?
Jill Ovnik: I am. Hi Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thanks. Thanks for joining me and I’m sorry we had a little confusion earlier ago but it’s all going to be great. So, talking today about food. That’s what I always talk about.
Jill Ovnik: My favorite subject!
Caryn Hartglass: Mine too! So, you have this great website vegan-gal.com and a great DVD that’s really helpful to people. Tell me, how did you get started on the vegetarian path?
Jill Ovnik: Well, I was about 170 lbs, so that’s about 40 more than I am now and had been on the diet roller coaster and was just feeling really sick and tired of being sick and tired of being on that roller coaster. And a friend came to stay with us who was older than I am and she was very trim and had all this energy and she was just kind of running all over while she was staying with us for a few days and I was just really annoyed. So, I wanted to know how she did that and she took me to the bookstore and for once it wasn’t about diet. It was about vegetarianism. It was about… Fit for Life was one of the books I read. Billy Ray Boyd wrote a little book: The Vegetarian in You.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know that one.
Jill Ovnik: I think that was a key book for me and I made a mental switch at some point in reading this stuff. One was environmentally. I thought, I think I could care for the environment more than I had the willpower to just do this for health reasons. So, the environment was a huge issue in all the ramifications that I was learning about with all the meat eating. And the other thing was…Yes, it was to stop thinking about my weight and it was to start thinking about my health because I had two small children and who cared what I looked like to them! I needed to be there. So…
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that’s a very subtle but interesting point to shift your purpose or what you’re going to concentrate on rather than always thinking about pounds and pounds and weight and think about what you can do for your health.
Jill Ovnik: And it has stayed my goal for these last 12 years is for my health and just coincidentally the weight has come off and stayed off.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you look great at least. I haven’t seen you in person but on the dvd you do. So, you’ve been doing it for 12 years?
Jill Ovnik: Yes and I didn’t… It went vegetarian first for about four years and then was strict vegan for a long time. And progress not perfection is my motto. I’m not perfect but as long as I keep the health goal in mind then I do okay. I’m very happy with this lifestyle. It’s been a… and that’s what I get so excited about. It’s just the food tastes so good and when I’m teaching my classes, the people are just shocked and amazed how good it is.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you bring up another good point and that is: we all do the best we can and none of us are perfect. And when you’re moving to a plant-based diet, you shouldn’t feel restricted or guilty if you go off the path. The point is to stay on as much as possible but not beat yourself up if you do something that you shouldn’t do. You should enjoy everything that you’re eating. Whether it’s good for you or not, you should enjoy it.
Jill Ovnik: I agree so much and to be loving towards ourselves. One of the gals from How it All Began said in that cookbook, “There’s no vegetarian police out there” and it kind of helped me too with some of the guilt and shame if I had to slip. And now, if I do dabble in some of that stuff that I know is not good for me, my body usually does a pretty big revolt and will kind of give me some pretty strong signals too, so that helps.
Caryn: It’s funny you quoted that thing about no “vegetarian police” because I had some friends about a couple decades ago. They used to call me the vegan police and maybe I was a little more hard-lined back then. I’m a lot more easy-going now but people also when they see you eating the way you do and you stick to it they, those that aren’t doing it, get a bit defensive. I find that from time to time, but maybe I did deserve that title, I don’t know.
Jill Ovnik: I would do the same thing where I was a little more militant in the beginning for sure. Yep.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, sometimes it helps when you’re making a change to really do it with a lot of passion and that helps you stick to it, but anyway, let’s talk about great food. So, you’re teaching classes? What are you…?
Jill Ovnik: I teach cooking classes for the Cancer Project which is a non-for-profit organization out of Washington DC and they’ve been around since 1992 with their non-for-profit status and they do something really unique in that they bring this food for life nutrition, education, and cooking class series to all sorts of different venues, hospitals. There’s about 80 of us teaching in the United States. Marilu Henner was one of the instructors for awhile and when she was on The Apprentice, she was trying to raise money for Dr. Barnard or the Cancer Project. So, it’s a fabulous organization and I’ve just been really enjoying that.
Caryn Hartglass: So, you teach in hospitals or some other program does?
Jill Ovnik: Yes. I’m right now doing a series at the West Michigan Cancer Center. A lot of the cancer centers welcome us. Yes, we’re kind of wherever we can go. Sometimes our classes need to get paid for, so it sort of depends what the venue is and what the situation is.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m really happy to hear that because most hospitals are scary places and no-one should have to go there because a lot of people unfortunately don’t come out alive and aside from all the infection and some poor practices that are going on, the food that they serve you is just incredible. I went through my cancer period and I was always trying to get healthy food while I was in the hospital. And it would just floor me sometimes when they would be serving pork sausage to a cancer patient. It was incredible. So, did they look for you or do you go to them?
Jill Ovnik: I go to them and I’ve been lucky with the one cancer hospital in Kalamazoo, I think. I’ve been at another hospital where it wasn’t very welcoming. I was teaching to a group of dieticians and they were pretty close-minded about the non-dairy and we don’t follow along with those guidelines of the American Dietetic Association and what hospitals feed people, so it is good if we can get into the hospitals – those forward thinking hospitals that are offering all sorts of extras to their patients. I think there’s enough sick people going around that hospitals can ease off and allow those who are interested to pursue a plant-based diet. I think they get pretty scared as if we’re going to put them out of business, but I think there is quite a few sick people yet to help.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, unfortunately, it has a lot to do with money.
Jill Ovnik: Oh yes.
Caryn Hartglass: So, it’s interesting you mentioned The Cancer Project because I just saw an email today about the five worst package lunchbox meals. The Cancer Project did an analysis and so I want to talk about being a mom when feeding kids a little bit more, but here are some very popular convenient foods: Lunchables Maxed Out Cracker Snacker Stackers, Lunchables Maxed Out Combo Turkey and Cheddar, Combo Ham and Cheddar, Lunch Boxers Pizza. There are all these different convenient lunch foods that a lot of kids like to have because the other kids have them and they all want to be the same but they’re just loaded with 1600 milligrams of sodium.
Jill Ovnik: You’ve got to look for the real food in any of that stuff, don’t you?
Caryn Hartglass: Is there any? [laughter]
Jill Ovnik: I mean, yes, I know. I don’t think so.
Caryn Hartglass: And then it’s all packaged in plastic which can leach in and add other goodies to the food.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, I’ve never bought that for my kids. They’ve never had a snack pack lunch thing from me.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, you have three kids?
Jill Ovnik: I do have three, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: How old are they now?
Jill Ovnik: My boys are 15 and 13 and my daughter is 6.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so you started this about 12 years ago. So, your youngest was about 3 and you’ve been well on your way since your daughter was born. So, how has it been with them and how do you feed them and how do they like it?
Jill Ovnik: Well, the boys… I was a stay at home mom when I did this transition and so when the kids would come home from school, I was ready to go with cut up fruit and hummus or they even liked the sushi. Just cucumber… We were near a Wild Oats – Whole Foods bought that out – but they even made the brown rice sushi and my boys would eat all that good stuff. And I think when children are hungry, I mean, that’s a pretty key factor. I knew if I could get them right after school, my chances were really good and then I’d make them a really healthy meal. And so I went through many years of doing a really good job and unfortunately that’s not the same way it is now so much. I’ve since been divorced and now trying to work and raise the three of them on my own and just being a lot busier and the boys being old enough to go get their own junk food down the road with some of their own money and all that, so it’s different. My daughter still eats better than the boys, I would say, and my dinners are pretty regimented, so I never cook – I cook vegan and they’re used to that and it’s funny when I…. To this day it kind of cracks me up if I have like spaghetti and meatballs: “Mom is this a real meatball”?
Caryn Hartglass: And they ask you still?
Jill Ovnik: Sometimes they ask me. I don’t know why because they probably taste good and they like it and they eat, but I feel pretty good about my dinners and pretty good about our schedule. But I’m not doing the kind of job I wish I was but we can only do what we can do.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, but… whatever the situation is that we’re in, we do the best we can and I think you’re a good model for a lot of other mothers that need to work and have a busy schedule. But there are still things that they can do even if families aren’t completely vegetarian. I mean, we talk about just reducing your meat consumption by 20% and what a tremendous impact that can have on health and environment. But when you’re presenting what you think is important to your kids – whether they get it now, they’ll probably get it later.
Jill Ovnik: I really believe in that “Example isn’t the only thing, example is everything or example isn’t…” Yes [laughter]. And I always tell people “Save yourself first.” A lot of the women in my classes are concerned about their husband and we all have to really ultimately take care of our own bodies, so I’m setting that example for my kids and I feel pretty good about that
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s such a good point. I don’t know what made me think about this but I think about when we take a plane and they tell you that if the oxygen pressure drops, that thing is going to drop, and you should put your mask on first before you put it on your children because you’re of no use if you can’t take care of yourself and you can’t breathe or something happens or whatever, but it’s so true with everything. You need to take care of yourself first. You need to be a model and they’ll get it. It’s hard with teenagers.
Jill Ovnik: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Because they’re so influenced by everything that’s going around them.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, there was this stage where they thought it was the coolest thing they were vegetarians. I mean it was like, but they were much maybe six years old, seven and they thought it was so cool. And yes things changed, but yes, I have all faith that my children will come around to this lifestyle at some point.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, even if they don’t come completely, they eat with you everyday or close to it I imagine, and you’re putting some good healthy food in them which will make a difference in the long run. You’re probably familiar with Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child?
Jill Ovnik: I haven’t read that one but I have read another one of his books.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Okay, well they’re all pretty much the same but Disease-Proof Your Child focuses on how important it is for children to eat well and how it affects our lives as adults. And that so many diseases that we have in our older adult life came from our childhood and a lot of people don’t realize that and there’s more and more information about that coming out. And so the better you can feed your kids as children, the better off they’re going to be as adults.
Jill Ovnik: Definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: So, when you teach, do you have some favorite recipes when you give cooking demos?
Jill Ovnik: Yes. I do classes on my own too and some of them are posted on my website; they’re really easy. I’m really, especially at this point in my life, interested in easy recipes and through my newsletter, the last few times I’ve sent anything out recipe-wise, it’s been three ingredient recipes. I’m not too big into measuring either so I think it’s… but I love cookbooks. I have 500 cookbooks but what I cook the Cancer Project cookbook classes – they have a wonderful cookbook. I think the whole thing is downloadable off of their website
Caryn Hartglass: I’ll check that out.
Jill Ovnik: They’re very generous with their recipes and you can get a free recipe from them every Monday too by signing up at their website.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s their website?
Jill Ovnik: It’s cancerproject.org
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Great. That sounds great.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, I think people love like the hummus smoothies. We make a veggie curry, stir-fries. The new book has garbanzo bean burgers. That’s on my mind because I haven’t made those yet.
Caryn Hartglass: That sounds good!
Jill Ovnik: Everything is good! I mean, I made a pumpkin pudding last week and a fruited apple sauce with a little Tofutti ice cream on top and it was nice and warm and vanilla-y. Oh – have a fabulous salad dressing recipe and I’ll just tell you because it’s so easy and I’m really into it right now. It’s just 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar, a tablespoon of ketchup. Of course, get the Muir Glen organic ketchup; it’s so yummy. And I think a teaspoon of mustard (like just Dijon) and then just whisk those up and if you have a nice quality balsamic that’s very sweet, it’s so delicious. Oh, garlic! Got to have a little bit of minced garlic in there; I think a clove.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that sounds good. That sounds really good.
Jill Ovnik: Oh, it’s awesome. I mean, you just don’t miss the oil and that’s another thing I really try to… I don’t cook with oil at home. I don’t cook with oil in my classes at all. I don’t think it’s necessary. You can sautee with any number of things like the vinegars, salsa, soy sauce, just even water, veggie broth, pineapple juice, orange juice. You just need a little something liquid in the pan so that things don’t stick.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Jill Ovnik: I’ll often say “If you drink a glass of oil.” I mean, that doesn’t taste so good.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and at a 120 calories a tablespoon, nobody needs it.
Jill Ovnik: No, it’s the most calorific dense thing we can eat and it doesn’t help our bodies in any way from what I’ve read and understood.
Caryn Hartglass: We occasionally saute with tea.
Jill Ovnik: Oh, neat.
Caryn Hartglass: And there are a few teas. I really love tea and the whole almost ceremony of sitting and having a nice pot and a nice cup. I’ve tried a number of teas and some of the ones that I don’t really care for to drink – some of them have a smoky flavor and some of them have almost a chicken broth-like feeling to them. And so, rather than drink them, we saute with them.
Jill Ovnik: Oh, that’s interesting.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Jill Ovnik: What one tastes like chicken broth? Can you remember the name?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it was actually. There are some green teas that are toasted. Sometimes they have… They all have strange names and I can’t think of them off my head, but I’ll remember and tell you offline. And then there’s one, it’s like this smoky Russian Lapsang tea and it gives a smoky flavor. So, if you want to get that meaty smoky flavor, sometimes that’s a fun tea to cook with.
Jill Ovnik: That’s a great idea and I really enjoy tea as well. Especially in the winter and with a little sweetener. That helps sometimes curb the sweet tooth.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So, what else did I want to talk about with you? One of the things that I liked about your DVD was you sitting in a restaurant and you want to show how it’s easy to order in a restaurant and how many options there are. And so you ordered like 20 different things. I mean, clearly, I don’t think you were going to eat all those that day and I think there’s always this thing in the back of my mind like “Oh my god, all this food is wasted, you’re going to have all these different things to go.” [laughter]
Jill Ovnik: Oh, it all got eaten.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure it did, but people when you first start to talk to them about this diet, they feel like they’re going to be deprived. That it’s so limiting and the only thing I’ve experienced is that it’s opened the world of food.
Jill Ovnik: I agree 100%.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so much more variety in the food that I eat than in the foods that other people eat. Well, the other people – the non-vegetarians.
Jill Ovnik: I so agree. I remember feeling so sick and tired of what I was going to do with chicken again and just feeling really creatively stumped in the kitchen. And I completely agree with you that in the last 12 years, I mean, the whole world of food has opened up. It’s just a beauty in the variety and it’s the seasonings and it’s the combinations. Also, I think your tastebuds change a little bit and I think those natural foods start to just have an appeal that maybe they didn’t when we were younger. Took them for granted or I don’t know, but…
Caryn Hartglass: Well, if you’re going to make your own food or at least eat food that isn’t highly processed, you’re not going to be getting a lot of fat and you’re not going to be getting a lot of salt. Both of those things really numb your tastebuds.
Jill Ovnik: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: So, when you back off on that and your tastebuds get to recalibrate almost. All of a sudden, all these foods have flavor.
Jill Ovnik: Right and people go through that sort of withdrawal just like with any addiction. If you are really trying to get off of processed foods, it is like affecting your body like a drug. And so, foods really can taste really bland for awhile until you go for few weeks without them.
Caryn Hartglass: And there are lots of things that you can do to make things not so bland when you’re transitioning or even afterwards. I like using lemon juice a lot and then some of the vegetables actually have a lot of sodium in them. I don’t know why they put so much salt in tomato juice because tomatoes are loaded with sodium.
Jill Ovnik: And celery too.
Caryn Hartglass: And celery! Sometimes… I mean, I am so salt-sensitive now. If I have a dish that has a lot of celery in it, it really tastes salty to me. But celery’s a great food because it gives you a lot of minerals and electrolytes.
Jill Ovnik: Yep, there’s so many fabulous recipes. It’s very exciting. I’m doing a retreat weekend this weekend. This will be my third one and I’m probably… I’ll probably have 10 different dishes of every meal.
Caryn Hartglass: So, tell me about that. Where is that going to be?
Jill Ovnik: Right by the beach here in Michigan in south west Michigan on the big lake Michigan. It’s South Haven. It’s a lovely town and we have rented this gorgeous 7 bedroom 5 bath home and then another house down the street. We will do exercise and yoga and have some speakers coming out. One gal who is a registered dietician and she’s going through culinary school right now and she’s went vegan and lost 85 pounds. She’s coming to talk to the group. So, it’s really fun and it’s all about the food to me. No one leaves my retreat not having a complete understanding that this is no deprivation here. This is abundantly wonderful way to live.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that idea. I love that idea because so many people they say “Well, how do you do it?” and “What do you eat?” and the best way to do it is to show them.
Jill Ovnik: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: And show them in a lovely space. I hope you have great weather.
Jill Ovnik: Oh, thank you. Yes. Even if we don’t, I have a lot of programming for them.
Caryn Hartglass: So, can I ask what you’re going to be preparing or is that a secret?
Jill Ovnik: Oh, no. I’ll tell you. I’ve put together a cookbook together for almost everybody coming too. Let me see if I have, oh okay. Friday night we have a Southwest sweet potato bisque, tofu walnut balls in barbeque sauce, a vegan taco salad, chipotle potato salad, coleslaw with pineapple and coconut, and banana dream pies. And then hummus smoothies and easy bean salad. Do you want to hear more?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, are you making these all yourself?
Jill Ovnik: I have a chef friend who’s helping me a little bit, but mostly I am taking the load.
Caryn Hartglass: Well.
Jill Ovnik: I’m doing french toast Saturday morning with a berry apple sauce, oven potatoes, seven grain cereal in the crockpot with fresh fruit, English muffins à la mode, and banana pudding.
Caryn Hartglass: What are they à la mode with?
Jill Ovnik: This is a recipe now that, I mean, is just super simple and I just wanted to show them something, so I’m going to sort of demo that. But if you get some nice whole wheat English muffins (maybe the cinnamon raisin kind), toast them a little bit and put a little bit of applesauce and some thinly sliced apples and some walnuts and a little cinnamon sugar – it’s a really nice breakfast for the kids or even grownups on the run.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a great idea. It’s almost like a little apple pie.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, it’s really quick and easy. I had it at a restaurant and it was kind of more a little sugary-fatty but this is my lighter version. Saturday lunch, we’re having a spinach salad with my grandma’s secret salad dressing that used to be full of oil and I’ve taken out all the oil, zesty pumpkin soup, cassoulet with millet crust and white beans, quinoa with green beans and ginger soy sauce, Oak Street tempeh mango chutney salad, and these brownie squares. These fudgy brownies that should have won some sort of prize. They are just phenomenal.
Caryn Hartglass: To live for, right?
Jill Ovnik: Huh?
Caryn Hartglass: Chocolate to live for.
Jill Ovnik: Oh my god, yes. They’re made with black beans.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh wow.
Jill Ovnik: And no-one would ever know and the frosting. The frosting is like a secret. I don’t want to tell you. It’s not my recipe, so I probably…
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you.
Jill Ovnik: And then Sunday. Somebody just came to my door. Sorry Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s okay.
Jill Ovnik: Sunday, I have a Planet Hollywood Chinese salad, potato salad with dill, kale crisps. I don’t know if you’ve ever done those in the oven?
Caryn Hartglass: No.
Jill Ovnik: Have you taken kale and just put a little vinegar. Throw in maybe a little bit of oil just to get the vinegar and some seasoning sticking and stick them in the oven and bake them until they become crisp like a chip and they are so delicious.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that sounds really good.
Jill Ovnik: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I just wanted to say for a minute that we’re with Jill Ovnik and she has a great website vegan-gal.com. Is that how you say it?
Jill Ovnik: vegangal.com
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, but there’s a dash in it right, isn’t there?
Jill Ovnik: If you google it, it’ll come up either way.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay. So, you can google Vegan Gal okay.
Jill Ovnik: Or if you google Jill Ovnik: OVNIK.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So, you lost a lot of weight on this diet which isn’t really a diet. It’s a lifestyle. Were there foods that you weren’t eating before or wanted to eat that you can eat now?
Jill Ovnik: Can’t think of anything.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Just curious. I mean, I know somebody who loves peanut butter and he never would eat it before because he thought it was fattening. And now he doesn’t mind eating peanut butter anymore.
Jill Ovnik. Oh… Well, I would say that I’m never conscious of maybe like the avocados or the nuts or the peanut butter or that kind of thing. I’m just maybe fortunate and probably because I don’t cook with oil and I don’t splurge that much with fats in general. I don’t really count anything.
Caryn Hartglass: But that’s part of it. That you don’t have to count and you don’t have to worry because when you eat this way most of the foods are high fiber. They’re filled with water. You can eat a lot of them and it makes you feel full and you’re not getting a lot of calories.
Jill Ovnik: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s why it works.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, it’s a very simple way to live. You just, get into your routine of what tastes good or what you like if you keep building on your recipes and that’s what I try to help people do. There’s so many great websites out there for free recipes… NutritionMD.org is a wonderful website. It lets you print out the shopping lists.
Caryn Hartglass: NutritionMD?
Jill Ovnik: NutritionMD.org
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great. Yes, there are a lot of websites. I’m overwhelmed, and that’s really encouraging because we’re not just a few lonely people out there, it’s a growing movement and more people want to eat healthily. Do you plan on doing another DVD?
Jill Ovnik: Not at the moment, I’ve been thinking more of a cookbook. But, I guess I haven’t really thought too much about how to market that at the moment, so. But a lot of people have asked me about a cookbook. And I’m probably in front of enough people that would be interested here and there. I guess there are so many good cookbooks out there, but I think mine would really focus on the easy kind of things. So, there probably would be a market. Easy, easy, easy.
Caryn Hartglass: So, outside of your immediate family, how has the rest of your family been with your lifestyle change?
Jill Ovnik: Well, I don’t know if I talk about that in the video, but it has been difficult over the years with my mother and my mother in law, whose now since past away. It was a tough thing for us to go through because I think both of these women, and women in general, associate food with love, and cooking with love. It’s one of the ways we give.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Jill Ovnik: And, so they felt rejected by me, and I understood that. I tried to handle it the best I could, all the while feeling all that passion and excitement over, “hey, this could save your life; it could save the environment”. There are so many great reasons to look at changing your lifestyle. But over the years everyone’s mellowed out.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s good.
Jill Ovnik: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Food is so important in everything that we do. The title of the show is It’s All About Food because everything we do is related to food, whether we realize it or not, in our relationships, and with our families, and holidays and occasions are always centered around food. So, it can be challenging.
Jill Ovnik: I also feel that there’s such an emotional component with your diet. I mean, it is research and factual. But one thing I get very excited about is Dr. Antonia Demas did some work with use offenders. So, they were kind of in a prison environment and she came in with a whole foods cooking class. And, the transformation in the journal of one of these young men that she read the journal entries of. I think his name was Willie, and I actually read the journal entries after because I got a copy of it. At the beginning he thought he was going to just die on this diet of healthy foods. But, slowly he was talking about “hey, my grades are getting better” and “I did really great at basketball today”. He started doing so much better and feeling so much better. I was just amazed at his writing, how it had changed. He talked about feeling calmer. And, wouldn’t it be great if we had a society that felt calmer?
Caryn Hartglass: Did he say that?
Jill Ovnik: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you brought that up. I remember hearing about that some time ago and I forgot about it. It’s really hard to know what’s actually going on. Is it just by eating healthier foods and you feel better physically. Certainly when people consume some of the wrong things they have a higher rate of depression and so it can be a portion of that. There are other theories that when we consume animals, especially animals that have not been treated very well, we’re consuming their fear, and their suffering, and their pain, and we feel it to some degree, and violence. I don’t know that we’ll ever have those answers, but there certainly has been a lot of information that points to the vegetarian diet being a peaceful diet.
Jill Ovnik: It’s changed me. I attribute a lot of my spiritual growth towards getting rid of the dead animals, to be quite frank.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, when you open that door and you realize that you don’t have to kill to live. If not consciously, subconsciously, that has to have an impact.
Jill Ovnik: Absolutely. I think that as children most of us don’t have that instinct towards killing and eating animals. We read the little fairy tale books, and farm and, pet the animals, and look into their eyes. Then this thing is presented on our plate and we don’t make the association. I think Harvey Diamond said this funny quote about how “if you put a toddler in a crib with an apple and a bunny, and he plays with the apple and eats the bunny, I’ll buy you a car” and it’s true. It’s our instinct. As children we probably not go in that direction, it’s just the culture that we live in. If we lived on an island and we ate bugs, we’d be used to eating bugs. And we live in a culture where we’re raised with meat. So, to get out of that mentality takes a little back-tracking and a little brain-washing sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: So, has there been a lot of talk over where you are about the swine flu? Which they’re not calling it the swine flu anymore.
Jill Ovnik: Oh, is it not?
Caryn Hartglass: Because, apparently, some of the pork producers and others don’t want it to. It’s hardly proven that it’s linked to the pork farms and so they don’t want it to affect their sales.
Jill Ovnik: No, we don’t have any cases close by that I’m aware of. And I’m kind of out of the loop news wise too.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good for you. I support that.
Jill Ovnik: Really?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I absolutely do. I believe, it’s a personal thing, but when we surround ourselves with positive activity we only create more positive activity. And when we listen, and read and focus on a lot of violent negative activity, it only creates more. It has to do with that love attraction thing that people talk about. So I think it’s healthy. Not to be unconcerned because, we all want to do our part, and I think you’re doing a great part with all the things that you’re doing by helping people move to a healthier place and feeling better about themselves, so kudos to you.
Jill Ovnik: Thanks
Caryn Hartglass: And we all need to do our own part. We can’t change anyone. People can only change themselves. We can’t control people, we can’t change all the horrible things that are going on in the world, but we can make a better place in our own lives and with our families within our communities.
Jill Ovnik: “Let you be the change you wish to see in the world”. I love that quote.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly!
Jill Ovnik: I think Dr. Weil talks about it on one of the books I read, Spontaneous Healing. He mentioned that the news was counterproductive sometimes. So, he kind of gave me an okay to not really buy into the evening news every night and all that stuff. So, I agree. I don’t need that negativity, it’s just too negative.
Caryn Hartglass: It all kind of ties in to everything. I want to say it’s all about food, and that it ties to food. And, somehow I’m going to try to say what I want to say to food. But, in the news, for example, they try to drum up a lot of fear. And, even the swine flu, for example. Is it really something we want to be concerned about or not? It probably is. But, the point it: all this fear is frequently drummed up, and that creates a lot of stress. And people that are especially not living on a healthy, immune-boosting, health-promoting diet are going to be affected a lot more by stress and then they’re going to need all the drugs that you hear about on commercials to manage their blood pressure and all of these other things. So, one thing is linked to another. Sometimes I wonder if they’re drumming up fear not just to have control, but also to keep us not well.
Jill Ovnik: A very philosophical point.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, it’s all connected and I think it’s fine that you don’t watch the news, or are not plugged in to the news all the time.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re very welcome. So, when you’re teaching these classes, are there some questions that people tend to ask more than others?
Jill Ovnik: A lot of them ask the same sort of questions about where you get the proteins. The soy is one of the big questions right now.
Caryn Hartglass: Another thing that people are given a lot of fear about.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, people are really questioning soy and if it is okay if they have the breast cancer positive receptor.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you tell them?
Jill Ovnik: I read. Usually with the cancer project they have a little blurb in the back of their book. It’s basically boiled down to the latest research showing that a couple serving a day is fine, and is is showed to be helpful, all across the board, even with breast cancer.
Caryn Hartglass: A couple of servings of the simple soys.
Jill Ovnik: Correct. And we talk about that. The more processed soys are certainly something that you want to limit.
Caryn Hartglass: So, those simple soys are soy milk, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and miso.
Jill Ovnik: Correct.
Caryn Hartglass: Did I leave anything else out?
Jill Ovnik: Don’t think so.
Caryn Hartglass: Those are all good foods. And, then there are the other soy foods. There are so many things you can do with soy. I don’t quite understand it, but it’s such an amazing food. So then, there are the other ones that aren’t so healthy, but they might help people transition. Or on a holiday, for example, when you’re used to traditional foods, like July 4th, and you want a hot dog. Some of those meat analogs that are made with highly processed soy and protein soy; I don’t think it’s so terrible if you have them occasionally.
Jill Ovnik: Right. To me, it’s better than the real thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, it is better than the real thing. It absolutely is.
Jill Ovnik: A little girl just came home from school. Let’s see if I can get her something healthy to eat.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So, does she eat what you want her to eat? Do you have any challenges with her?
Jill Ovnik: Yesterday I gave her the choice of an apple or an orange. She chose the orange, so she’s good. She’s a good eater. But she gets candy from the brothers, and grandma, so I just got to do what I can. The best I can.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I guess you want to go and take care of her now.
Jill Ovnik: It’s okay. If you have a few more minutes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I’d love to hear about how to feed six year-olds.
Jill Ovnik: How to feed six year-olds.
Caryn Hartglass: Does she have some favorite foods?
Jill Ovnik: She loves hummus. We love it. We almost always have hummus in the house. And it has been like a staple for years.
Caryn Hartglass: We love hummus.
Jill Ovnik: I’ve started to make my own much more in the last few years and then we always have salsa. We have those baked tortilla chips. And, that’s just a wonderful creamy combination with the salsa and the hummus or the rice chips. That’s one healthy thing that we have around here. I don’t know, peanut butter and jelly. What else do we like for a healthy snack, Jollie? Oranges, pineapples. I don’t know what it is but if you get them when they’re young, they still really do eat a lot of what you put in front of them. And she definitely does eat more. She loves beans. And one of my favorite things for a snack is, I don’t know if you’ve seen this on my newsletter but, if you just open up a can of garbanzo beans and drain them and rinse them, and then you juice a lime over that and if you have some cilantro otherwise, you don’t need to but, some cumin. Some nice, wonderful cumin and the lime juice, and little cilantro too but it’s so good.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m so hungry, and talking about all these foods is driving me crazy. I love the combination of lime juice and cilantro.
Jill Ovnik: Yay!
Caryn Hartglass: It’s so good on salads, an on everything. Just incredible.
Jill Ovnik: Yes, I sort of don’t get the whole not liking cilantro thing. But I know some people don’t. So I try to accommodate.
Caryn Hartglass: Somebody told me recently it was genetic. That there’s a gene for not liking cilantro.
Jill Ovnik: Really?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I haven’t read it but I heard it. I will have to look into that. And so if you are one of those people, there are a lot of other things, but I’m sorry for those who don’t like cilantro. I have a terrace in my apartment in New York, and I was trying to grow things during the spring and summer just because I think there’s something in us that really thrives on growing food. And, so I grow whatever I can and this time I didn’t plant anything and all this stuff is just coming up on it. So I have fresh cilantro and dill, and something I’m not quite sure of what it is just yet. It looks like a squash but it might be a melon. Because I compost as well and then some of the seed from the compost just start growing in my planters.
Jill Ovnik: That is awesome.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s really fun. There’s nothing like fresh herbs.
Jill Ovnik: They make all taste good.
Caryn Hartglass: So, do you let your daughter eat whatever she wants when she’s at a party or an event with other kids?
Jill Ovnik: I do. I guess, I think, I just ate so much junk when I was growing up and I feel like “Well, I made the decision on my own”. I guess I’m not going to go down that road. I’ve never been a super strict mom in any way.
Caryn Hartglass: But, that’s okay. I think the point is that in the last 20 years we’ve been going overboard, where the foods that used to be considered special foods for special occasions are now everyday foods. When I was a kid, soda was something we had at a party or event. Now kids have it at breakfast! And, so, it’s okay if we save those treats for special occasions. And it will make the special occasions even more special. But having them every day, it’s killing us.
Jill Ovnik: It’s really staggering, when I read about what’s in it, it doesn’t stick with me all the time and I’ll re-read something about soda. Oh my gosh, it’s so bad.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well it’s bad in many levels. We were just at a food festival in Brooklyn, this past weekend, which was really a lot of fun. It wasn’t a vegetarian food festival, and so I was there waving my plant-based food flag. But, there was somebody there, some organization about killer coke talking about how it’s not only unhealthy but talking about the bad things that corporations do in third-world countries in terms of how they treat their people. How a lot of people who have limited budgets, especially in the third-world, tend to spend some of their needed food money on coke, instead of things that have nutrients. It’s a sad story there.
Jill Ovnik: It’s very sad, and it’s sad that we have to pay so much for fresh raspberries, for example.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I remember when I was a kid and I lived in the suburbs. Before they over-developed that area, there were fresh raspberries and blackberries that grew wild. And there was nothing like just roaming around and casually eating a few raspberries as I roamed around in the woods. Such an ideal memory and setting. But now raspberries… I usually get them frozen, they’re cheaper that way.
Jill Ovnik: Can I ask you some questions?
Caryn Hartglass: Sure!
Jill Ovnik: I was so curious about when you had cancer, and how that all… maybe your viewers have heard it before.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m planning on doing a full show on it. I’m not quite sure when I’m going to do it but sometime soon. And it certainly was shocking. I was on a health path most of my life. At fifteen I decided I didn’t want to eat animals, and then when I was thirty I became vegan, and then in my mid-forties I was raw for a couple of years, and I was a big fan of Dr. Foreman and eating green, and doing whatever I could, and exercising. So, it was really surprising. I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but I have two theories: One is that I worked as a chemical engineer for twenty years, so I was surrounded by a lot of toxic things, and I also used a lot of tampons as a teenager, which have dioxin in them, and they don’t get enough press about how dangerous they could be. And there are different ways to use them that I’ve learned about since I’ve stopped using them. I did all the wrong things. I think that that had something to do with it. And then, as I’ve mentioned before, the idea that there are things that happen to us as children that affect us later on in life. I certainly ate a lot of dairy until I was thirty, and that’s connected and correlates very highly with breast and ovarian and prostate cancers. Also, there might be something genetic that was in my grandmother and mother that passed on to me that I’ll never know. But, I believe in two real key things that are really essential for a long quality life. That is a healthy diet, which includes lots of greens and a green juice religiously every day, at least a sixteen-ounce green juice of a variety of different vegetables. I’ve lightened up a little bit on all green, I moved over to adding a few carrots and bead to sweeten it up a little. But when I was being treated I was really vigorous into bitter green all the way and meditation. At some point I’m going to do a program on that too because it’s really important to be clear about what you want and be clear to yourselves. All the fifty, a hundred trillion cells that are living in your body. You’re the empire of your universe and what you say goes, but you have to make it really clear what you want. That only happens through meditation. So, I’ve learned a lot, I’ll write a book and I’ll do a show on it, and I thank you for asking. Sometimes I think I got to learn what I learned so that I could tell other people about it.
Jill Ovnik: Well, sure. It’s always lessons we find in everything.
Caryn Hartglass: But, I don’t like some of the terminology that they use for cancer patients. I don’t like to consider myself a cancer survivor. I think it was an experience I had, a challenge. We all have challenges of so many kinds and you get through it and you live. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Okay, so I really thank you for talking to me today. This is Jill Ovnik from vegangal.com and I’m Caryn Hartglass, and this has been It’s All About Food.
Jill Ovnik: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye!
Transcribed by Carol Mock and Martina Castro Vallejo 9/21/2017