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VegFest Speaker Spotlight: Chef AJ

August 1, 2013

By Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer

If it's vegan but processed, is that okay?

“Your diet can be your undoing or your salvation,” Chef AJ warns in her book Unprocessed: How to achieve vibrant health and your ideal weight (co-written with Glen Merzer). She writes candidly in the first chapters about her childhood weight and depression and an 11-year battle with anorexia nervosa. Fortunately for her, food became her salvation.

With energy and enthusiasm, Abbie Jaye, better known as Chef AJ, teaches people how to cook meals from vegan, unprocessed ingredients that satisfy cravings. On her website, she posts quick and lively cooking lessons with the plant-based dietician Julieanna Hever for making things like black bean brownies and lasagna.

“Unprocessed” means anything Chef AJ can make in her own kitchen. Smoothies may be blended, but she does not consider them processed. Oil, however, and agave or other sweeteners are considered processed. Meat alternatives are also considered processed, but because of the ages-old method of making tofu, it makes the cut, even though it’s not something she makes in her own kitchen.

If she could encourage all Americans to consider making one change to their diets, Chef AJ would eliminate dairy because “it’s the most destructive to human health and also one of the most inhumane.” Dairy products are highly addictive, she explains, and casein promotes cancer.

Chef AJ will be offering two culinary demonstrations at VegFest and talking about how sugar, fat, salt, and processed foods in general can be addictive. She will show how to satisfy a sweet craving using only whole fruit, and you might be lucky enough to sample her Apple Pie Hearts.

Chef AJ has a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. You can watch her cooking videos at: ChefAJsHealthyKitchen.com

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