About 16 years ago, Evelyn Redcross became a vegan, a term used to describe people who do not consume any animal proteins, eggs, dairy or seafood.
She said it wasn’t intentional at first. One day she noticed she started losing her taste of beef, saying it was like eating cardboard.
Soon, she started to feel the same way about shrimp and fish, which were her all-time favorites.
Redcross then began to wean herself off animal-based proteins.
“One day I went from eating fish to not being able to take the smell or eat it. … It was done,” Redcross said. “It was almost like someone said, ‘Are you willing to give it up and take the leap?’ And I don’t know why that happened or how that happened — it just happened.”
Once it did, Redcross immersed herself in the vegan lifestyle by researching and learning how to maintain her new diet.
“I am not classically trained, but I took classes, self-trained and I managed a vegetarian restaurant (in Philadelphia) and those kinds of things,” she said.
The shift resulted in significant health benefits, and now Redcross wants others to feel as great as she does.
“And I want other people to do it for lots of reasons,” she said. “People just aren’t feeling well; they feel bad, and they go to their doctors, and they are not always getting the results.
“They want to be healthier, and there is a connection in what you put in your mouth and how you feel,” Redcross continued. “And if you can be on a plant-based diet or just reduce the amount of meat … within two weeks you will start to feel so much better. It is that fast — the body starts to respond that fast.”
Redcross is a certified instructor for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Food for Life program, which teaches people with diabetes, heart diseases and other ailments the importance of eating clean, whole and primarily plant-based food.
Redcross owns Evelyn’s To Go, a plant-based food company, and has partnered with Farmer’s Natural Foods in Hinesville to offer catering services and prepared grab-and-go meals. And she recently began offering plant-based cooking classes for the public.
“I do some consulting, and I coach people to eat healthier,” she said, adding that her mantra is “whole foods, low fat and plant based.”
On Jan. 22 and Feb. 3, Redcross offered her first class, called “Crock-Pot or Not: Soups, Stews, Meals for Winter Blues.” Participants learned her techniques and tasted each treat that she prepared, all of which were 100 percent plant based.
The first course was a spinach coconut fusion stew. Redcross followed that up with a bumpin’ butter bean couscous medley, a sizzling, saucy penne dish and pina colada cake for dessert.
Redcross demonstrated healthier ways of cutting out fats by sautéing certain ingredients in water instead of oil.
She said that when she does use oil, she primarily uses olive, sunflower, sesame, peanut or coconut oil, which provide the right types of healthy fats and are not genetically-modified-organism products.
Her demonstration showed participants how to cook the meals on the stove top, but each meal easily could be made by combining the ingredients in a Crock-Pot, setting the timer and walking away until it’s ready.
Participants marveled at the meals as several commented on how flavorful and rich the food tasted, awed that it contained no meat.
Redcross said not everyone can eat 100 percent plant-based and that typically not everyone wants to be meat free.
“But we try and incorporate more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and take it from there to try and improve their overall diet and health,” she said. “The burden on the body is so much less.”
She said several studies indicate that reducing animal protein intake and eating more plant-based foods can reduce or even eliminate certain illnesses.
Redcross said people can take gradual steps to eat healthier, which will lead to improvements in their overall health.
“They can take the meat portions and cut it in half or cut it in small pieces, and when they are making up their dish, they could put just a few small pieces so the flavor is there. But they are not getting nearly the amount compared to if everybody had their own cut of steak,” she said, offering an example. “Tonight, we made a dish that had a meat substitute, and there are meat substitutes that are very convincing. … The people here tonight thought they could have been eating ground beef.”
Redcross said those looking to eat a more plant-based diet should shop for organic, locally grown produce whenever possible.
She said some foods are commonly grown from GMOs and should be avoided completely unless they are grown organically or bought frozen and shipped in from countries where GMO products are illegal to grow.
Corn and soy products are the two top crops in the United States that are nearly 90 percent GMO grown.
“If it is soy or corn or certain items like that, there is no way in the world I am going to eat it,” she said. “And I loved corn on the cob, but I am just not going to have it. I prefer to have the corn that has the worm in it. Because worms will not eat GMO corn. They are smarter than humans in some ways.”
Redcross said eating plant-based, whole foods is much better than the quick, easy and heavily processed foods that many people eat daily.
She said should take the time to read food labels to see just how processed, sugar heavy or sodium latent store-bought food can be.
“Reading the labels is important; just because something says whole grain, it doesn’t mean it is whole grain. Unless you see it in the wording of the ingredient list, it could very well be just a part of their advertisement,” she said. “Same thing with the word ‘natural.’ And the ingredient list is important because it is always listed in the order from the largest amount to the smallest amount.
“For example, if you want to tolerate a little sugar but you don’t want a lot, you should look and see that the sugar is closer to the end of the list.”
Redcross said it became important to reduce meat intake because many of the cattle, poultry and pork farms are huge industrialized companies that feed animals with highly processed, GMO-tainted food. That taints the final meat products that are sold in stores for human consumption.
Meat eaters should research where their meats come from and try to purchase products from all-natural, range-free, grass-grazed and non-industrialized distributors.
Redcross’s next classes April 16 and April 27 will be all about comfort foods, featuring recipes for plant-based breakfast, pizza and homemade desserts.
On June 18 and June 23, she will offer a class called “High Energy, High Fiber and Raw Food Magic.”
Her final classes Sept. 17 and Sept. 29, called “Infuse International Flavors,” will feature Mediterranean, Asian and Indian meals.
The classes are held at Farmer’s Natural Foods in Hinesville.
Each class costs $20. Spaces are limited and can be reserved with a $10 deposit.
For more information about the classes, call 368-7803.
For more information about Redcross and her plant-based food company, go to www.facebook.com/evelynstogo, email email@example.com or call 912-388-1771.