Hi and welcome to Veggie Quest—I’m delighted you’re here! I’m Lee, a 30-something freelancer and future dietitian loving my real-food, plant-based diet—including loads of slimming and sassy vegetables.
I launched Veggie Quest in 2010 following a breast cancer scare (read more below). When I stick to a whole-food, lower-fat, plant-based plan, my breasts—and the rest of me—feel better than ever.
However, I know first-hand that eating more veggies and whole plant foods can be tough at times, especially when it seems like the world is conspiring against you! Whether from stress, social pressure, or straight-up cravings, I’ve slipped back into the quagmire of refined, junky foods more times than I care to count. Thankfully, though, I always manage to climb back out—in part because I feel better when I eat plants, but also thanks to the kindness and support of readers like you. (You’re wonderful!) As a result, my passion is helping you (and me!) love a veggie-rich, plant-based diet that slims and nourishes your body while delighting your taste buds.
I do this by sharing tips and developing easy plant-based recipes for making healthy eating delicious and fun! (Click here to learn more about what you’ll find on Veggie Quest.)
Embracing evidence-based eating
While I’m an adventurous cook and recipe developer, I’ve also studied biology and nutrition extensively. I earned my bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!), completed graduate coursework in nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill, and earned a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. I’ve also completed a didactic program in dietetics at the University of Maryland, which is the first step towards becoming a registered dietitian. I’m passionate about learning how food can protect your health while making you look and feel fabulous, and nothing makes me happier than sharing that information with you.
So I do my best to stay current on nutrition: I read up on new research, network with professionals, and attend conferences to learn the latest.
That said, as much as I love nutrition now, my journey from fake food to veggie-centered fare was anything but a straight line—and fraught with peril along the way…
My story: from SAD and scared to happily nourished
SAD: How I used to eat
I confess: I used to hate vegetables, as you can read in my very first post. In fact, for most of my life, I ate the Standard American Diet (SAD!)—meaty, cheesy stuff like pizza and chicken and dessert almost every night, with some veggies on the side so I could still feel virtuous. When I went out on weekends, I sometimes drank more than a gal should, then hammered that hangover the next morning with bacon and eggs. I knew I should eat better, and of course I wanted to lose weight, but I just wasn’t motivated. I mean, I was only in my twenties, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Breast health havoc
Then at the ripe old age of 30, I had a breast cancer scare. My biopsy results blessedly came back benign, but they showed I could have increased risk down the road. So I met with a breast surgeon and asked her what I should do. She gave me a little health advice, but basically said to watch and wait.
Now, I’m a worrier on a good day; “watching and waiting” isn’t really my thing! Instead, I researched the heck out of nutrition and breast cancer risk. I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, checked out countless research papers (including some of the papers referenced in The China Study), and explored vetted websites like the American Institute for Cancer Research and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Eventually, I concluded I needed to minimize alcohol, processed food, and animal products, while building my diet around whole plant foods—especially cancer-fighting vegetables!
So, with some trepidation, that’s exactly what I tried to do. However, shortly into my new health kick, I realized that a woman could only eat so many boring salads and sauteed greens before going insane. So in an attempt to branch out, I launched Veggie Quest, with the goal of trying—and liking—every vegetable in the grocery store. I posted recipes and tips, dropped 5 pounds effortlessly, and everything hummed along swimmingly.
Off the wagon and under the knife
Then I fell off the wagon. It’s a long story, but I stopped exercising and went from being nearly vegan to eating a meaty, sugary, high-fat diet without many veggies. When I went back to my breast surgeon for my quarterly checkup after 4 months on my meaty new diet, she informed me that a lump that she’d been keeping an eye on—which had been totally stable before—had doubled in size in those same 4 months.
I was terrified. A suspicious breast lump doubled in size—in only 4 months?
Within a week I was under the knife, having the lump removed and biopsied. A few sleepless nights later she delivered the news: benign! But it wasn’t all roses: The cells she took out were beginning to look more ominous.
Taking control with plant-based nutrition–especially vegetables!
Needless to say, I started working out again and got right back to a whole-food, plant-based regimen, including lots of vegetables! I ditched added oils almost completely and tried to stick to lower fat foods. In fact, for the most part, I’ve eaten that way ever since. It’s been over three years since my last surgery, and so far all reports are clear. (Fingers crossed!)
Better still, as I’ve gotten healthier, Veggie Quest has, too. Gone is the cheese, and most of the oil. In fact, all the recipes on Veggie Quest are now 100% vegan (I nixed some of my early recipes/posts which included cheese, and I’m in the process of revising others). Most are also low fat, and all are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep you looking and feeling fantastic.
Beyond being a whole lot less freaked out about the Big C, there are major benefits to eating lots of veggies on a lower-fat, plant-based plan. Once I got back on track, I lost 10 more pounds without counting calories! In fact, I’m back at my high school weight. And when I stick to the plan and keep my stress levels in check, the breast pain I’ve struggled with since my teens eases dramatically.
Better yet, the people I love are benefiting, too.
My tall Texan husband, Jeff—formerly known for his steak-chowing prowess—joined me on the plant-powered plan for moral support. (Thanks, handsome!) Well, he’s dropped 35 pounds and his borderline high blood pressure has come down to normal. Not too shabby!
My parents are getting on board, too. When I made the switch, my mom also ditched most animal products and started eating more veggies and less processed food. As a result, she’s lost over 85 pounds! My dad’s also eating less meat and dairy—and more veggies—these days. My family even helps out with Veggie Quest now, whether testing recipes, giving feedback, or writing the occasional post.
That said, eating a whole-food, plant-based diet isn’t always easy, and I won’t lie—I’m far from perfect. But here on Veggie Quest I try to tell it like it is, while sharing recipes and tips to make looking good, feeling great, and loving your vegetables deliciously easy!