TORONTO – Sarah Britton’s food transformation started when she ate a tomato picked from a vine that was packed with more flavour than anything she’d ever tasted.
She chronicles that discovery and subsequent journey to a plant-based diet in her new book My New Roots (Appetite by Random House).
The subtitle is Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season, and Britton says they not only taste delicious, but every ingredient supports good health and prevention.
“Eating healthily doesn’t have to be boring or associated with sacrifice,” she said.
“One of the most amazing things I’ve learned is that when you eat this way you don’t have to count calories. You don’t have to worry about fat grams.”
Now 32, Britton says she was overweight when she was younger and often berated herself for her food choices.
“This has just liberated me so much from that and my body has completely come into the shape that it should be in just naturally … I spent so much energy feeling really bad about what I was eating. Now I feel so free from that because I can eat whatever I want whenever I want,” said the Copenhagen-based author during a return visit to Canada to promote her book.
“Every single calorie is really good for me and I don’t have to worry about it anymore, which is just the most liberating thing. Food is supposed to be a joy and a pleasure, and if we can free ourselves from the shackles of all this negativity that’s around food, wouldn’t that be nice?”
Growing up in Toronto, Britton ate processed, packaged and sugary foods – “my parents didn’t love cooking” – and quickly decided she didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all day after graduating from design school in Montreal.
An interest in the environment inspired her to attend a five-week workshop on organic farming in Arizona. The five weeks turned into a year.
“I’ve never experienced such a profound transformation in my life. I completely changed. My energy level skyrocketed, my skin cleared up, I slept better, I had tons more energy. I could just think clearer. I literally say I woke up for the first time in my life because I realized I’d been living in a mental fog for 23 years and I thought that was just what people felt like.
“When I finally started eating properly I could not believe the difference it made.”
Back in Toronto, she studied at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition and became a Certified Nutritional Practitioner.
The farming stint taught her the importance of growing food organically. The course taught her what food did in the body.
“We know how our phones work, we know how our cars work, we know our computers inside out, but we have no idea what our liver does, we have no idea what our intestines do…. We are so disconnected from our bodies and we’re in them our whole lives. And to not understand how they work is quite shocking to me.”
When she moved to Copenhagen to be with her Danish husband – they met on a street corner in New York when he asked her for directions – she discovered she couldn’t legally practise holistic nutrition.
So she started her My New Roots blog in October 2007 to share her thoughts about plant-based eating along with the results of her culinary experiments. Her debut book, which ranges from simple recipes to long-term food projects, stemmed from that.
Talking her way into a job in a restaurant opened the untrained cook’s mind and skills to many ways of being creative in the kitchen.
“Even if you don’t want to eat vegetarian, just keep it whole and natural,” she said.
“If you can invest just 20 minutes a day you’ll see such a world of difference in your health and how you feel. I think that’s pretty invaluable. I know it can be a stretch for people, but that’s my advice.”