Eating Green & Feeling Great with By Any Greens Necessary’s Tracye McQuirter

August 26, 2015

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John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the D.C. edition at the Green Festival and we are so honored and lucky to have with us today Trayce McQuirter. Trayce, welcome to Green Is Good. Trayce McQuirter: Thank you so much. John Shegerian: You are a woman of my own heart. You have been a vegan for many, many years. I want you to share your story. You have a website called Trayce McQuirter: Right. is my website, my business, my book. John Shegerian: We are going to talk about all these things. Trayce McQuirter: Great. John Shegerian: Talk about you, though. Trayce McQuirter: OK. John Shegerian: Where did you grow up to start with? Trayce McQuirter: I’m from D.C. Born and raised in D.C. John Shegerian: And were your parents into green or something? How did you get into being so conscious about everything? Trayce McQuirter: Well, my mother was pretty health conscious. Growing up we did not have dessert every day, it was once a week. We didn’t have a cookie jar. We had whole wheat bread and Total cereal, skim milk, that kind of thing. So she was health conscious. We were still eating meat and dairy. John Shegerian: OK. Trayce McQuirter: So I went to Sidwell Friends School from third through 12th grades here in D.C., and my seventh grade teachers wanted to have a vegetarian camping trip and I thought this was a horrible idea so I wrote a petition to protest it. I got overruled and we had a horrible vegetarian camping trip. So that was my introduction. Fast forward seven years, I’m a sophomore at Amherst College in Massachusetts and our black student union brought Dick Gregory to campus to talk about the state of Black America. John Shegerian: Wow. Trayce McQuirter: And instead he talked to us about the plate of Black America and how unhealthfully most folks eat. John Shegerian: What a great guy. Trayce McQuirter: And he is fabulous. And this was 1986, and what really got me about his lecture was that he traced a path of a hamburger from a cow on a factory farm through the slaughterhouse process to the fast food restaurant to a clogged artery to a heart attack. And I never heard anything like that before in my life, and that was the spark. That was the spark that led me to do my own research and then to eventually become a vegetarian and then a vegan. John Shegerian: That’s awesome. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: So that was the spark – Dick Gregory. Trayce McQuirter: Dick Gregory did it. John Shegerian: I love that guy. And so you have been a vegan now for almost 30 years. Trayce McQuirter: Thirty years, yeah. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about your practice. When did you launch that website? Trayce McQuirter: I launched that website in 2008, but I have been teaching people how to go vegan for 25 years. John Shegerian: Here in D.C.? Trayce McQuirter: Here in D.C. Actually, all across the nation and other parts of the world as well. Different continents. So I went on to get a graduate degree in public health nutrition from New York University, but before that my sister and I started one of the first vegan websites in the 1990s, and it was the very first one by and for African-Americans. So we were doing this for a long, long time and I had a whole other career and decided that I actually wanted to change careers. John Shegerian: Which was what? What were you doing? Trayce McQuirter: I was a museum director. John Shegerian: Wow. Trayce McQuirter: And my sister is a historian – and still is – and we were teaching vegan classes. I did a series on whole foods, and all around the city, churches, health fairs, just food demos and talked about what we were doing and why we ate this way. So I eventually changed careers. John Shegerian: And your sister teaches with you? Trayce McQuirter: No, no. My sister is still vegan, and she’s raising her daughter vegan and my mother has been vegan; we all went vegan 30 years ago, but they are not doing this as a profession. John Shegerian: And is mom healthy? Trayce McQuirter: Oh, my mom is fabulous. She should be here tomorrow. John Shegerian: Oh, OK. Trayce McQuirter: My mom is 78 and still has her hourglass figure, works out six days a week and has no health issues whatsoever. John Shegerian: And have all her cognitive abilities? Trayce McQuirter: Oh absolutely. And she looks 20 years younger. John Shegerian: So she is a walking example. Trayce McQuirter: She is a walking example. John Shegerian: Of veganism. Trayce McQuirter: Absolutely. John Shegerian: Wow, that’s awesome. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. John Shegerian: So OK. So you have been teaching. First, let’s talk about this book. Trayce McQuirter: OK. John Shegerian: The book is “By Any Greens Necessary.” When did you write this book? Trayce McQuirter: I wrote this book in 2009, and it came out in 2010 and it went on to become the No. 1 recommended vegan book on the Huffington Post. It has done really well. Basically, this is a how-to guide. It’s like a bible. It’s a beginner’s guide to how and why to go vegan, so everything is in there. In the subtitle I targeted black women because this is the first book to do that. And while we are fabulous, we also happen to have the worst health statistics in the country, and so as a black woman, as a nutritionist, as a vegan myself, I really wanted to reach black women and be an example and expert telling them – telling us – how and why to eat this way. John Shegerian: That is just great. So this book is one of the top-selling books in this space. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. John Shegerian: And it goes along with your website, which is the same name as the book. Trayce McQuirter: Absolutely. John Shegerian: And the website is on a regular basis putting out information. Explain some of the things if our listeners and our viewers want to have a tool to help them live a healthier life. Explain the kind of information you’re putting out on your website. Trayce McQuirter: Well, I have a weekly blog, a free weekly newsletter and I give expert tips and advice and recipes, everything about veganism. And it goes beyond how and why to do it in terms of food. I also talk about everything vegan, so I talk about clothing and I talk about climate change. I talk about animal activism, animal rights. That kind of thing. So it’s really everything about veganism. My entire life is vega,n so this is what I share. John Shegerian: Obviously, Trayce, when you started this, when you heard Dick Gregory’s wonderful presentation. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah, it was fabulous. John Shegerian: I mean, what a great testimony to him. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. John Shegerian: You were early. You were early in this whole thing. Trayce McQuirter: I was early, but I have to tell you that – I definitely was early. This was 1986, right? John Shegerian: Amazing. Right. Trayce McQuirter: But when I was deciding to transition, I took my junior year away. I went to Kenya one semester and then I went to Howard the second semester, and it was there that I discovered that there was this whole group of African-American vegetarians and vegans that had opened the very first all-vegan restaurants in the nation’s capital, in the city. And they had done this in the 1980s, and so many of them had become influenced by Dick Gregory from the 1970s. Dick Gregory actually became a vegan/vegetarian because of his non-violence practice based on the Civil Rights Movement. So there were people who had been doing it long before me. There is a large stream of African-Americans in particular that have been vegan forever. It’s just not the majority and we don’t hear about it often but as I became vegan and did the history with my sister we discovered this and we knew nothing about it. So I consider myself standing on shoulders of vegan giants who have been doing this work. John Shegerian: True. You’re right. But now mainstreaming. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: I believe people like Dre. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: Or Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Bill Clinton. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: They’re making veganism now much more. Trayce McQuirter: Much more mainstream and popular. John Shegerian: Hipper. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. I think we’re reaching a tipping point honestly. John Shegerian: You do? Trayce McQuirter: I really do because the sheer numbers of people eating plant-based foods on a regular basis – whether they’re all the way vegan or omnivore – still they are still eating more plant-based foods. So I think, in the next 10 years, we’re going to really see the shift happen where most people are going to be doing this regularly. John Shegerian: They have to. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: I mean, the science is the science. Look at your mom, 78 years old. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: You said hourglass figure. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. And no health issues. John Shegerian: In New York – where I’m from – juicing is a big deal now too. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: And I remember about a year ago being in a juice store in Manhattan and in walks Cicely Tyson. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. Yes. John Shegerian: I mean, I literally. Trayce McQuirter: Vegan for a long time. John Shegerian: Vegan for a long time. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. John Shegerian: And her eyes and my eyes caught each other, and I mean, there in front of me was one of the greatest living legends. Trayce McQuirter: Absolutely. John Shegerian: In Hollywood. But I mean, living up the real – and I have since seen her in vegan restaurants in Manhattan, as I have seen Gloria Steinem and so many other great leaders that are really just trailblazing the way like you are. Trayce McQuirter: Thank you. John Shegerian: On this very important movement. Trayce McQuirter: It is very important. And when I was in grad school in New York, I ran into Cicely Tyson and Gloria Steinem and so many other folks. And it’s wonderful. It really gives you this surge to see folks who are that well known embracing the lifestyle for so long. But yeah, it’s really crucial. At this point I don’t tiptoe around the issue anymore. John Shegerian: Right. Trayce McQuirter: We don’t have time. There is no reason for people to be unhealthy and to be dying from their diet. It’s ridiculous. It’s not necessary. John Shegerian: It’s not. Trayce McQuirter: It’s just lack of information and resources. John Shegerian: It must have made you so excited when Michelle Obama came to the White House and made the Get Moving Campaign her thing, her campaign. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. Yeah. I have been there twice. I have met her. She has my book. She is just… John Shegerian: She is into it. Trayce McQuirter: She is into it. She is just into healthy eating, period. John Shegerian: Right. Trayce McQuirter: And she is such a role model not only for the food but also just the fitness using herself. We have never seen anyone like her, and I don’t know that we will. She has totally changed the paradigm. John Shegerian: Just recently my son had mentioned to me – and he is a vegan. Trayce McQuirter: Great. John Shegerian: Yeah. We were just talking about later shows we have been watching and he said, “Hey, have you seen that new show on Netflix?” I think, Grace and Frankie or Frankie and Grace. Jane Fonda is on it. Trayce McQuirter: Yes. John Shegerian: And there you have another. Trayce McQuirter: She looks fabulous, doesn’t she? John Shegerian: Oh my god. I turned it on, and I am like, “This woman hasn’t aged.” Trayce McQuirter: At all. John Shegerian: And she was – again, just like Michelle Obama – one of the trailblazers in fitness. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: And here she is in her 70s, and she’s still got it going on. Trayce McQuirter: Exactly. And what more proof do you need? John Shegerian: That’s it. Trayce McQuirter: Really. It’s true. I hope to be that. I hope to look that that then. John Shegerian: Oh, I bet you will. You have it. I mean, obviously. Look at you now you look like you’re 25. So first of all, for our listeners and our viewers who have just joined us, we’ve got Trayce McQuirter on with us. She is the author, speaker and public health nutritionist and also the author of “By Any Greens Necessary” and the founder of, the website. Trayce, let’s break down veganism for our listeners that want to get involved, because taking the first step is maybe the hardest step in the whole journey frankly. Talk a little bit about some of the fallacies that are out there that really are just urban legends that don’t exist in terms of. Trayce McQuirter: Protein. John Shegerian: Protein. Who has died of lack of protein in America in modern times? Trayce McQuirter: Right. It’s nonexistent. Protein deficiency is just nonexistent in our culture. I mean virtually nonexistent. So that is a meat industry propagated myth. John Shegerian: Right. Trayce McQuirter: But we have research now to show. I mean, there have been studies of omnivores, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, vegans, vegetarians, how much protein they get and everyone gets more than is recommended, and vegans in particular get 70 percent more protein than the RDA suggests. John Shegerian: Well, let’s give a real life example. Where do you get your protein in your daily diet? Just so our viewers and listeners can hear that. Trayce McQuirter: Sure. So in the morning I have a green smoothie after I workout and I usually put in some kind of nuts – a half a cup – or some ground hemp seeds or flax seeds. That right there just from the nuts or seeds is going to give me 15 grams of protein. John Shegerian: Wow. Trayce McQuirter: That’s the morning. Then I may have something for lunch, like, there will be a kale salad, I may have a vegan burrito. For dinner, I may have a stir-fry, and that is going to have some kind of beans or maybe some grilled tempeh or some – what else do I have? Sometimes I have pizza. Chocolate mousse I make and I sprinkle nuts on top of that. So I eat really great and wonderfully, and I don’t worry about protein. I know that I’m getting more than I need. John Shegerian: Got you. You mentioned chocolate mousse. Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. John Shegerian: Being a vegan doesn’t mean giving up the fun in your diet. Trayce McQuirter: No. No, no, no. Not at all. And the thing that people need to understand is that we don’t have t leave our tastebuds behind. We should know by now that healthy food can taste delicious. And we are already eating plant-based foods all the time as omnivores. We eat fruit, we eat vegetables, we eat grains, the spices that we season the chicken and fish and other meat with, those are plants, those are herbs and oils and flour. That’s vegan. And I always tell people, “If you can make a dead bird taste good, you can make wholesome delicious plant-based foods taste great.” John Shegerian: That’s funny. We mentioned juicing a little while ago. Juicing or blending, what’s better for our viewers and listeners? Trayce McQuirter: They both have their place. For everyday, I would say blending because you need the fiber and it helps the glucose and the fruit sugar from the smoothie enter your bloodstream more slowly. So that is everyday regular maintenance, sustenance. Juicing is good for variety in your diet but also if you’re trying to detox or you are trying to do a cleanse or have some rapid weight loss, but it’s not something that you should rely on. Blending is what you want every day. John Shegerian: Let’s talk a little bit about eating well but also on a budget. Trayce McQuirter: On a budget. Absolutely. John Shegerian: Can you explain how this doesn’t have to be an expensive journey? Trayce McQuirter: No, it doesn’t. It can be an expensive journey, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about staple ingredients. You want to cook for yourself more than eating out – that is going to save you money – and when you cook for yourself, you are going to have staples. You are going to have fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts. Those kinds of things are ingredients, and you want to get those from the bulk bin. You don’t want to get them packaged. When you get them from the bulk bin they may be like a dollar a pound, and that is going to be your protein source. Whereas if you get meat or fish or chicken that can be up to three dollars or more a pound, so you’re getting ample protein, better protein and it’s a third of the cost. So you want to buy from the bulk bin from any store that you go to. Start there. And in terms of vegetables, you want to eat organic as much as possible if it’s available, if you can afford it. If you are wondering about – for example – an avocado that is organic be $2 or $2.50 and a non-organic one can be $0.99. Avocados are not sprayed, so you can get the non-organic one. And to find out the list of what you can buy non-organic go to, which stands for “Environmental Working Group.” John Shegerian: Wow. Trayce McQuirter:, and they will give you a list of, I think it’s 48 fruits and vegetables that you can get that are non-organic but are technically organic. John Shegerian: Are a lot of these resources found on your website? Trayce McQuirter: They are on my website as well, absolutely. John Shegerian: That’s great. Talk a little bit about the issue of eating healthy, being a vegan or moving towards a healthier lifestyle and social justice. Talk a little bit about your take on that. Trayce McQuirter: OK. Really quickly what I like to tell people is that “nobody wants to be unhealthy,” right? Nobody wants to raise their kids, unhealthfully. John Shegerian: That’s right. Trayce McQuirter: We all want to eat healthy food if we have access to it, if we know about it. So we want to be healthy, we want our kids to be healthy, and yet, we are among the unhealthiest people on the planet. Why the disconnect? The reason is that we are systematically misled, misinformed about what is healthiest to eat. Forget about food deserts, that’s a whole separate issue. You may have the information and you may want to eat healthier, but there are no resources in your community – that’s what we mean by “food deserts.” But even to get to that point where you know about healthy food and you know what’s healthiest, we are just not taught. Most doctors get three hours or less of nutrition in their four years of medical school – and it’s not plant-based nutrition. I have a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. I went to a program that was not plant-based. I had to form my own studies within my department, and the reason is that the USDA does not accredit plant-based nutrition master degree programs. So this is the food industry, the USDA, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry all determining that profit is going to trump being healthy. So this is what we are dealing with. This is social justice issue. It’s not just that “oh, we’re addicted to McDonald’s” or that kind of thing. We are systematically led to eat unhealthy junk food. The advertisements that we see on TV – 70 percent of those are for junk food. Junk food or processed foods. What do Americans eat the most of? What they see advertised. That’s by design. Food advertising is the biggest industry in the country. So there is a lot that we’re up against in trying to eat healthy, but we are being successful. There are people, there are colleagues of mine all across the country who are fighting this and who are doing a good job letting people know that they have a choice. John Shegerian: And look at the rise of healthier brands like Chipotle. Trayce McQuirter: Absolutely. John Shegerian: Versus the fall of McDonald’s and other brands that just didn’t want to come along for the ride and didn’t want to modernize. Trayce McQuirter: Exactly. The food industry is going to have to change. It’s just like the cigarette industry, the tobacco industry. They fought it tooth and nail but eventually they lost and the same is going to happen with the unhealthy food industry. John Shegerian: We’ve had on our show our good friend, Ethan Brown, the founder of “Beyond Meat.” Are you excited about all the new products that are coming out that are able to give us good healthy plant-based eating options? Trayce McQuirter: Yeah. A lot of people are against what they call “faux meat” or “vegan versions” of things. John Shegerian: Yeah. Trayce McQuirter: I see these as bridge foods. I really do. When I became vegan 30 years ago, I ate these kinds of foods a lot because I wanted the same taste and texture. John Shegerian: Sure. Trayce McQuirter: And so yes, these bridge foods are going to help people get over the hump. It’s not necessarily a place to stay all of the time. John Shegerian: Right. Trayce McQuirter: But yes, it’s great. And it also helps to save animals’ lives and save the planet. John Shegerian: Right. Right. What about tofu? There has been a lot of information recently about soy products and its interaction – hormonally speaking – with our bodies. Good or bad or explain your thoughts on tofu. Trayce McQuirter: The research is consistent over the past three decades about soy. Soy is helpful. It is not harmful. If you have breast cancer, it can help extend your life. It can help prevent breast cancer. But we are talking about tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame – the baby soy beans. John Shegerian: OK. Trayce McQuirter: We are not talking about vegan pepperoni or vegan ice cream or vegan cheese, these kinds of highly processed high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar foods. John Shegerian: Got you. Trayce McQuirter: We’re also not talking about the amount of tofu that would replace a piece of steak. We are talking about maybe a deck of cards – that size. John Shegerian: Moderation. Trayce McQuirter: Or if you don’t want to eat tofu or soy, you don’t have to. It comes from one bean. There are hundreds of beans we can eat so you don’t have to have soy. John Shegerian: Got you. Are you working on a follow-up book to this? Trayce McQuirter: I am right now, and it will be out by the fall of next year. John Shegerian: And what are the topics that you are tackling this time? Trayce McQuirter: This time it’s going to be more personal about my journey and my experiences looking at the change in veganism and activism for the last 30 years. Then it’s also going to be a how-and-why-to based on what has changed since I published the book five years ago. Also, there are going to be 100 recipes and they’re all going to be based on natural sweeteners and whole grains. John Shegerian: And people hire you to come talk to their companies or help them with their health and nutrition? Trayce McQuirter: All of that. I speak all over at festivals, at conferences, at offices, churches, health fairs. I do food demos. I teach cooking classes. John Shegerian: And what are you doing here today at the Green Festival? Trayce McQuirter: Tomorrow I am going to be speaking on the main stage about the three biggest myths about going vegan. John Shegerian: Which are? Give the three biggest myths. Trayce McQuirter: The three biggest myths are vegans don’t get enough protein, that it’s not going to taste good and that it’s too expensive – the things we just talked about. John Shegerian: You hit all three of them. Well, that’s wonderful. Trayce, we wish you continued success. Trayce McQuirter: Thank you. John Shegerian: For our listeners and our viewers out there, please buy Trayce’s top-rated book “By Any Greens Necessary,” or go to her website and sign up and get involved and take the first step to being healthier. Trayce McQuirter, you are making the world a better place and are truly living proof that green is good.

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