For Kris Carr, nourishment once came from fast food, cigarettes and Power Bars. “Before cancer, my favorite food was Diet Coke,” she says, “and cigarettes were fiber!”
It took a terrifying shakeup—a stage 4 cancer diagnosis—to prompt Carr’ s dramatic dietary shift from processed to plant-based. But, once on the other side, “It was like my taste buds came to life for the first time” she says. “I was blown away by how much variety was actually out there—and I didn’t know what to eat.”
With no small measure of confidence and a deep-seated love of the kitchen instilled by her chef grandmother, Carr, a New York Times best-selling author, director of the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer and author of the new cookbook Crazy Sexy Kitchen (Hay House), rebuilt her diet around healing foods.
Today, with her cancer stable, Carr leads a wellness revolution with the message that plants offer powerful nutrition. She spoke to Organic Spa Magazine fro her farmhouse in Woodstock, New York.
You’re a busy author, speaker and health advocate, but you always prioritize eating well. What are your tricks?
I wouldn’t go without brushing my teeth, and it’s the same with eating well. My energy really takes a nose dive if I don’t. To keep up with my work load and my commitments, I have to feel good. So I plan ahead and I carve out time to prepare healthy meals. When I’m on the road, I seek out restaurants that support my lifestyle. You’d be surprised at what you can pull together at a diner! It’s not as hard as you think. You just have to get creative.
So how exactly do you ‘plan ahead?’
On Sunday, I do my shopping for the week. I’ll wash my vegetables and put them in plastic bags or Tupperware. Then, when I’m ready to make juice, I don’t have to worry about prepping. Juicing is the main thing that I do for health every single day. I make enough so that I have a second helping in the afternoon, and some for my husband. Having a plan is ultimately the secret to success. I never go to the refrigerator lost. How many times do you open an empty fridge or cupboard, freak out and eat cereal for dinner or order takeout? I’m also not afraid to make mistakes. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves about cooking. But it’s just a recipe, and when we do it differently, or we take some risks, we may even improve it.
You collaborated with professional chefs for Crazy Sexy Kitchen. What are some of the cookbooks in your kitchen?
I have an arsenal of cookbooks that have taught me a lot along the way. I collect them and read them like romance novels. I love the cookbooks from the other chefs who contributed to my book. I love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Alice Waters’ recipes, Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet and Sarma’s [Melngailis] are great. Veganomicon is one of my tried-and-true cookbooks.
I don’t just buy vegan cookbooks. I can look at one that has meat in it, take the meat out, and use the recipe to learn how someone is using herbs, or other techniques I don’t know about. It’s great that we finally have such an amazing body of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks available. Ten years ago we didn’t have what we have now.
Food played a big role in healing for you. What foods were elemental
in your healing experience?
Juicing is the foundation of my wellness practice. People don’t eat enough raw food, and don’t get enough fiber. In terms of healing, if you’re sticking with plants, you’re doing a great job. I pushed hard to have one of the biggest salad sections I’ve ever seen in Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Some people are turned off by the ‘food is medicine’ approach to eating. How do you encourage them to change their diets for the better?
Food has the power to help you, and the power to harm you. But there is a big difference between food that is medicine, and food that tastes medicinal. The recipes in Crazy Sexy Kitchen are some of the tastiest plant-based meals that I’ve experienced. I also think people will be pleasantly surprised by the number of recipes that they are familiar with; we’ve just upgraded them. For example, the Save the Tuna Salad [vegan, made with hearts of palm]. It’s amazing. You’ll see things that you’ve grown up with, but they’re re-invented and innovative.
What are the first steps we can take to take to shift to healthier eating habits?
We associate food with comfort and love, and if you take away what you’re used to, you might feel deprived. I want to shift that belief and realize that we can have everything we want, in a healthier way. You don’t have to feel deprived—the dishes have just been given a makeover. My philosophy is this: eat more plants and eat less animals. And be willing to try something new. How did your palate change when you started to eat so many new foods?
My taste buds came to life for the first time. They were so deadened by too much salt, fat and sugar that I couldn’t really taste something unless it was over the top sweet or embalmed. As your palate develops and gets cleaner, you can taste subtle herbs and spices. It’s really exciting to sit there and say, ‘Hm, what’s in this? Let me break it down.’ It’s kind of like tasting a fine wine.
We also asked Kris to share a few of her favorite things with us, see her Kitchen Picks for Healthy Living here.