Why We Went Plant-Based with John Gagliardi & Judi Bryan
Last week, we invited PBNM board members John Gagliardi and Judi Bryan to discuss their reasons for going plant-based.
Following his own health transformation, John’s goal is to educate and inspire others to do the same. John Gagliardi brings not only years of experience in traditional and new media, but also firsthand knowledge of the benefits of plant-based nutrition. In addition to creating and managing content for well-known catalogs and e-commerce sites, he has actively supported numerous non-profit organizations through his work with the Taproot Foundation, a volunteer organization that provides pro bono marketing services to NPOs.
Following decades of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) and experiencing a number of health issues and ballooning weight as a result, it came as a rude awakening when the documentary Forks Over Knives appeared in Judi’s queue on Netflix and she decided to watch. Not only did she choose to follow the dietary recommendations in the film, but one by one she saw her health issues vanish…and over the course of about a year, so did 85 lbs. A self-described “jack of all trades, master of none”, she’s been able to put in place and still manages the majority of systems we use at PBNM, both public-facing and internal.
What Kind of Food Did You Eat Growing Up?
Judi: I was raised by a single mom for the most part until I was about eight years old when she remarried. She was working that whole time so my breakfasts were whatever cereal bowl she left out for me. For lunch, it was sometimes a sandwich she made or sometimes a sandwich I made. It was all peanut butter and jelly; I had a lot of that growing up.
When I got older, it was a little bit more of the same mashed potatoes and gravy, peas or corn, and whatever meat she had in the house. That was it, and there was not a lot of variety.
When I got married, I kind of did the same thing with my family, although I expanded it. I had chili, pizza, and mock tacos. As I raised my kids, we got a little bit away from the mashed potatoes and gravy, but it was still not good. It was definitely not a good eating pattern anywhere.
John: The most common line at our dinner table was, “are you gonna finish that?” Similar to Judi, my mother was kind of sensitive to spices, so there wasn’t a tremendous amount of spices in the food. It could be kind of bland. She was a German cooking for an Italian guy, so there was always a lot of pasta. She would make a big pot of pasta, and nothing went to waste. When she would buy chicken, all the stuff that was inside the chicken would go in the pasta sauce, and then we would fish that out and have that with dinner, too.
Nothing went to waste, but we had a lot of meat and potatoes. Usually vegetables, usually a salad, but for breakfast, we would have sugary cereals with the little prize in the bottom you’d love to get as a kid. For lunch, it would be Oscar Mayer Bologna. My father’s strategy was to put giardiniera, or the ‘spicy stuff,’ on all his food so he didn’t have to share it with the kids.
I financed my college education working at restaurants, so that exposed me to different foods and new spices, but I wasn’t eating particularly healthy at that point either.
How Do You Navigate Family Gatherings Now?
Judi: My daughter-in-law tries really hard to do healthy stuff, especially when it comes to family gatherings. She tries to get the kids to eat more vegetables and fruit. I will say that when we have family gatherings, she always tries to make sure that there’s something that’s prepared that she knows that I can eat. So she’ll make mashed potatoes with the plant milk and no added butter. Everybody else is eating the regular potatoes, but she does keep me in mind. When I go to events, I always bring plenty to share – not that anybody will eat my stuff. I’m well taken care of when I go to family events.
John: They let me do my own thing, and that’s fine. They eat what they want to eat. I usually bring either something for myself, or – since I have to bring a dish anyway – I’m assigned the vegetable dish. So I’ll bring a vegetable dish that isn’t made with cream of mushroom soup and French’s onions. And usually, they like it. That’s really the key – it shouldn’t matter how it was prepared as long as it’s tasty. So that’s the key if you can make it tasty without having all that junk in it.
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