Incorporating Plant Based Diet Without Overwhelm with Claire Smith

We know pretty well by this point that a plant based diet can great for our health and the environment. However, the idea of making the switch can be quite intimidating for those of us used to eating meat and dairy. 

Meet Claire Smith, Maker, Baker & Founder of Teffola, who makes handmade artisan granola using the ancient grain teff which is grown on their 7th generation family farm, which they are pivoting from corn and soybeans to alternative grains and seeds. In this chat, she shares with us how we can incorporate more whole food plant based foods into our everyday diet to maximize the health effect without overwhelm.

Xi: Hi Claire, tell us why do you do what you do, and how did you get started? 

ClaireIt really started when my boss at my retail job told me I only "earned" 2.5 days of vacation after working my tail off for 6 months! I never wanted to be told when I deserved a break so I knew eventually I'd be my own boss. The quick answer to why I do Teffola is that I want our farm to pull through this pivot - we make products with ingredients we can source from the farm. We want to offer flavorful and good for the local economy products.

The longer answer is after a couple years of figuring it out and making mistakes and doing some inner work, I realized I've never truly felt like I belonged anywhere. I didn't fit in easily with the 9-5 job but also didn't see myself in so many popular entrepreneurs you see in media. So I've built my own world, career, lifestyle that fits me. I'm surrounded by people who encourage each other and have similar values. Our team creates products we're immensely proud of and reflect us. It's such an honor to get to build this and I'm grateful for it every single day.

Xi: That's incredible and I'm so happy for you! What was the most difficult thing you did in your business? And what did you learn from it? 

Claire: In hindsight, leaving my day job when I wasn't making enough money through Teffola to support myself was the most insane decision I've ever made. The pure audacity and blind faith still impresses me. It's led to difficult times but the immediate growth the business saw showed me that I had done the right thing. I can't say if things would look the same if I had held off for another year or two and tried to eek out a living doing both things.

Xi: That's so brave and inspiring! What you are doing with Teffola is amazing and I really enjoy seeing it. What's your work setting like? Do you work from home, and what are three things you must have when you do? 

Claire: I don't really work from home most of the time. Our kitchen or manufacturing facility isn't open to the public so it's a safe space where my office is. When I do work from home, I like to get dressed, light candles and make a second cup of coffee. And a to-do list. I am useless without it.

Claire behind the scenes

Behind the scenes at Teffola

Xi: A big part of designing our clothing is to allow women to be comfortable and confident in their everyday, so they can more easily navigate between the many aspects of work and life. Tell us a bit about what a typical day looks like for you and how you find balance between work and life. 

Claire: I can't be the only one to think balance between work and life is completely unrealistic. I prefer to think of it as harmony. There are seasons where life plays a larger role and the same for work. Recognizing the luck in this statement, but I don't consider this work in the normal sense - I'm living and pursuing my lifes purpose. No day is the same. I call and email stores to see if they need to reorder product. I work on our Brand Ambassador program and marketing initiatives with my intern. Our production team keeps in contact about quantities and when to reorder ingredients. I ship online orders and do social media to thank our growing following. It's never the same and that's precisely the way I want it.

Xi: I can related to that 100%! And harmony - I like it! So let's talk about plant based diet. What myths have you seen with people making the switch?

Claire: There's a lot of information out there that switching to a vegan diet is better for the environment and your physical and mental health. Oreos, Nutter Butters, Fritos & Pringles are vegan. If you're really looking for all the benefits of a vegan diet, you'll want to gradually incorporate whole foods into your routine. Whole foods meaning if there is an ingredient list, you know they all come from plants. Lots of companies are jumping on the vegan trend, but check that ingredient list!

Xi: Ah that's such a good point! Do you have any advice to help make the switch easier?

Claire: Instead of trying to make your favorite meat/dairy/egg meal vegan, try making brand new vegan meals. If cheeseburgers are your kryptonite, don't try to switch to vegan cheeseburgers! You're going to be disappointed. Instead, try a lentil and chickpea curry or a loaded sweet potato with all the fun vegan trimmings. Excellent cookbooks/blogs I can personally recommend: Ruffage (by Abra Berens - local brilliant chef!), Minimalist Baker, The First Mess, Oh She Glows, Deliciously Ella.

Xi: Ooh I can't wait to check those out. Thank you so much for that!
 Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Claire: I make a vegan product and am mostly plant based - my favorite plant based meals are the ones that don't resemble "meat" in any way. You can 
try all three flavors we have in the sample size for just $13 (this is available on our website :) ).

You can follow Claire/Teffola on Instagram @EatTeffola.

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