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The Delicious Dish from YumUniverse

YumUniverse: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful, Whole Food Lifestyle (BenBella Books, Inc.) riffs on author Heather Crosby’s YumUniverse blog, which champions a lifestyle short on gluten, long on plant-based nutrition and rich in tasty recipes and good vibes. (Check out her orange and pepita granola here and see for yourself.) But the wellness guru wasn’t always this health conscious. We chatted with Crosby about her vegetable turnaround as an adult, fall inspiration and how to take things one step at a time.

Q: Why did you want to write this book?

A: When folks decide to make a long-term dietary change, the key to success is approaching it as a lifestyle, not a “diet,” because our relationship with food has to be addressed—this can take a lifetime. We have habits, addictions and emotional attachments to food that are very powerful. I wanted to create the ultimate go-to book that provides people with the why, the how and the eats they need to find the wellness they want. It was my goal to help people creatively incorporate more plant-powerful foods into their routine, and I also wanted to make sure that these options would be gluten-free, since there aren’t as many plant-based and gluten-free cookbook options out there. The recipes are delicious. Good food is good food.

Q: You’re obviously pro-vegetable, but are there any that turn you off completely?

A: Can I say at one point in my life, all of them? I was a complete veggie-phobe well into adulthood, but when doctors told me that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life I realized that I’d have to turn the ship around myself—and my research indicated that I’d have to eat vegetables. So I started with kale, which was an untouchable plate garnish to me at the time, and figured if I blended it up with enough fruit I wouldn’t taste it. Eventually my palate changed and I started to crave kale, with less fruit. I can now say that after many late-night dinner standoffs over veggies as a kiddo, and avoidance as a young adult, I love every single one. That’s a true testament to the body’s ability to adapt and change.

Q: What three points about your approach do you really hope to get across?

A: Take it one kind step at a time. If you don’t want to resent the changes you’ll be making, be kind to yourself. You’ll make mistakes. Learn from them, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Once you master one goal, then add another. Repeat. Be accountable, stay prepared and make the time. Find a day or some time every evening where you can prepare for the following day or week. I offer many tips for streamlining this in the book, but if you have something soaked, cooked and ready in the fridge, you can throw together a quick meal. Eat a variety of colorful whole foods every day, like veggies, fruits and fiber-rich plant-protein sources like lentils, quinoa, beans and nuts. The more colorful your meals the more likely you’ll cover your nutritional bases.

Q: It’s fall. Favorite ingredient?

A: Butternut squash! You can make such a variety of recipes with it. I love to make soups, one-pot meals and even bake sweets like brownies with it. I also love pumpkin and apple treats—all these warming, comforting foods are like edible hugs to me.

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