INTERVIEW: Kate Levins from The Nourishing Club

After her SOLD OUT Vegan Nutrition workshop at COMMUNE last month, we spoke to holistic nutritionist Kate Levins of Nourishing Club about her journey into nutrition, ethical eating and one of her favourite recipes.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with the Nourishing Club?

About 6 years ago, amidst studying Media and Communications at uni, I looked towards cooking as a creative outlet. I suppose I chose cooking because I've always loved good food and I was a poor student who couldn't afford to eat out all the time! 

I've always been a healthy eater and especially loved vegetables, however I used to have a huge sweet tooth and struggled to balance my blood sugar levels. 

At this time, there were a few key women who really influenced me (and still do); Sarah Britton who is a holistic nutritionist and writes the blog My New Roots and Tara Stiles who is owner and founder of global yoga brand Strala. These two women were writing about how food could influence your mood and using ingredients like quinoa and chia seeds and I was intrigued! I began experimenting in the kitchen myself to create healthier versions of my favourite sweet treats. I started a blog with my best friend where we documented these recipes, which was called Brunchfastclub (because brunch was our favourite meal of the day). 

Somewhere between beginning this blog and deciding to go vegan, I began studying holistic nutrition at Nature Care College, which only amplified my passion for healthy eating and sharing it with others through recipes and conversation. I continued the blog, an Instagram page and also started doing some freelance catering and running workshops alongside yoga studios and bulk food stores that approached different aspects of nutrition (digestive health, detoxing, plant-based nutrition and healthy eating). 

I finished my studies in 2016, but decided the blog and my growing business offering needed a name change... I didn't want to be pigeonholed into one meal (brunch). I really wanted to keep the word 'club' in my new business name as a tie-in to Brunchfastclub and 'Nourishing' seemed the like perfect additional word to describe my intention as a practitioner to nourish the bellies, but also mind and soul of my clients, and it really accurately describes the power the food you choose to eat can have! 

Nourishing Club is my business name and landing page for all I do; practice clinically as a holistic nutritionist, run workshops and private cooking classes, freelance catering, yoga retreat catering and recipe development. 

What made you make the change to a plant-based lifestyle?

About a year of experimenting and blogging later, while traveling overseas, I developed some digestive issues and was struggling to digest and absorb anything. In return home from my travels, I decided to take a look at my diet - the thing that seemed hardest to digest for me was animal protein. While experimenting with eating a more plant based diet, I also began reading up on what it meant to be vegan, its health benefits, impact on the environment and its gear in the direction of compassion. About a month later, I had decided to fully adopt this lifestyle, simply because diet-wise, I felt so happy and so full of energy, everything else was a bonus! 

What are some key steps people can make to start making changes towards ethical eating?

The ethical component behind a vegan diet is perhaps its most compelling benefit - as a result, it's been really widely written about and there is so much information available. Doing your reading and getting educated is my biggest piece of advice. 

I highly recommend reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book 'Eating Animals' and Michael Pollen's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'. These books address the ethical concerns within factory farming and the exploitation of animals in this industry. Whether you're vegan or not, I think everyone should know about the way in which the food they eat was produced. 

Obviously being vegan is not for everyone, but there are some ethical suppliers of animal products. I'd recommend looking up GRUB or Feather and Bone if you live in Sydney and are looking for an ethical meat option. I'd also recommend 'Egganic' eggs which you can find at farmers markets and specialty stores like About Life. 

At the end of the day, we vote with our dollar, so if you want to make a difference, we need to represent and support the producers who reflect what we stand for, even if it's more expensive. 

Your workshop at COMMUNE focuses specifically on the nutrition side of veganism. Why do you think it's important for people to learn more about nutrition when changing their eating habits?

The first question you get asked when you tell people you are vegan is "Where do you get your protein?" Which can be frustrating, because there are so many other nutrient concerns that worry me before protein intake! But I suppose that's why the question is asked - because there is cause for concern. Without planning and consideration, it is possible to fall short on certain nutrients, namely, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, omega 3 essential fatty acids, and protein. These nutrients aren't of as much concern to people who eat a standard diet, because they're present within animal products and often, easier to digest, absorb and assimilate. 

Before making the change, I think it's crucial to understand the ways in which you can continue to support your body by looking for plant based sources of these vital nutrients and making an effort to include them in your diet regularly.

So often, people I speak to who have tried to be vegan, give up because they replaced their meat intake with bread, or lived off vegetables alone. It's no wonder they felt constantly hungry, or fatigued, or their blood tests revealed deficiency - bread and vegetables alone can't provide us with everything we need! However, without the right education, how could you know that? And that's where a nutritionist comes in! 

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What's one of your favourite recipes to share?

I love demonstrating what a balanced vegan meal looks like, so I'm going to give you just that! My recipe for Tomato, Mushroom and Lentil bolognese is high in protein, fibre and minerals. It's also reminiscent of that rich, comforting nature the bolognese you had when you were a kid offered! http://brunchfastclub.com/lentil-tomato-and-mushroom-bolognese/

Find out more and get in touch with Kate for all your nutrition and vegan classes. Keep up to date with COMMUNE's events for future workshops.