Why I Write About Food 016: Kimberly Espinel of The Little Plantation

Knowledge is power, and that's how Kimberly approaches her kitchen decisions. Not food labels, not fad diets, and definitely not depriving the body of culinary pleasures. The nutritional therapy student believes in a wholesome, seasonal, and mostly plant-based diet, but has no problem indulging in the occasional cake. Because a healthy lifestyle is achieved through moderation, not restriction. 

Tell us about The Little Plantation.
I started the The Little Plantation because I was really concerned about how our society's meat-heavy food choices were impacting negatively on our health and our planet. I knew that if I preached about it in long essays no one would take note, so instead I started the food blog, to give people healthy and delicious recipes as an alternative to the traditional meat and two vegetables. Over time the importance of creating beautiful photography to showcase plant-based food as best as I can has become more and more important to me. So much so that I gave up my 'real desk job' late last year to focus on food blogging and food photography alongside my studies as a nutritional therapist and my work as a yoga teacher.

How was the leap to full-time food blogging?
You know, it's funny how life takes certain twists and turns. I was working my desk job, teaching yoga, studying nutrition, writing the blog, being a wife, and a mom. In short, it was insane. I just wanted to keep my day job because I was afraid of the financial implications of following my heart and getting serious about the blog and food photography. Plus my identity had been my job for so, so long. Who was I going to be if I couldn't be defined by my 9-5? But deep down, I knew my job just wasn't fulfilling me anymore. And, as luck would have it, the week I handed in my notice I got my first paid food photography job and the rest is history, as they say.

Why do you write about food?
I feel actually that I write about my life as a mother and wife, about my thoughts and feelings, ups and downs as well as utterly mundane things that move me in one way or another. In fact the blog is kind of like a diary, a very public one, but a diary nonetheless. As it happens, food just seems to play a very large role in my life and so is always ever present in my stories. I started the blog one semester or so into my studies. Hence it's fair to say that my studies have influenced the recipes I've put out there.

What prompted you to study nutritional therapy? 
Motherhood. I had a close look at my son's diet and thought, 'this isn't good enough'. How can I make his diet healthier without making it stressful? Then I watched Forks over Knives and read every nutrition book I could possibly get my hands on. I started with green smoothies and juices, signed up to the course and have never looked back.

Can you explain what a nutritional therapist does?
Nutritional therapists use food as a form of medicine to support the body and optimise health. So for example, someone who suffers from insomnia may go to the doctor, get a five-minute consultation and be sent home with sleeping pills. In contrast, a nutritional therapist will try and explore in depth what the root cause of the insomnia is by looking at the client's adrenal function, liver function, work patterns, exercise regime, food intake, emotional well-being and so on and then devise an eating plan that will enable all of the client's body systems to work optimally and allow for a restful sleep.

A nutritional consultation takes at least 60 minutes and we tailor it to each specific client. So the cause and the food that will help address the issue will differ from person to person. But crudely speaking, insomnia is often related to the adrenals being out of sync as well as pressure on the nervous system. The adrenals love all B vitamins so I'd suggest people eat lots of (plant-based) foods rich in vitamin Bs. The nervous system finds it easier to relax with ample magnesium, a mineral often depleted due to our stressful, busy lives. I'd suggest people take baths with magnesium rich salt as the absorption of magnesium through the skin is fantastic.

How has studying to be a nutritional therapist influenced your food choices?
I think I'd done my homework before I started the course, so in effect little has changed. I was and still am mainly plant-based. However, the course has given me a much more in-depth understanding of nutrition and health, far beyond just food. For example, I no longer use any household cleaning products that aren't natural or organic and have gone completely off using tin foil in any way, shape or form. Heavy metals are not our friends. Aluminium is toxic to the brain and has been linked to Alzheimer's. There is no problem if you wrap it around a cold sandwich for on the go, but you shouldn't heat your food with aluminium wrapped around it as the metals leech into your food. Oh and don't get me started on deodorant. Furthermore, I'm now red hot on omega 3, vitamin D and cruciferous vegetables. Even more so than I was when I started studying three years ago.

You share mainly plant-based, vegetarian, vegan recipes and some raw food recipes on your blog. What's your food philosophy and what do you think of food labels? 
I use the words vegetarian and vegan a lot because it's often easier for people outside the food blogging world to visualise what that means, but I am neither a vegetarian nor a vegan and have been very open about that on my blog. I feel my style of eating is best described as a whole food plant-based diet, with a focus on local, seasonal and home-made food. This means that the vast majority of what I eat consists of in-season vegetables, locally-grown fruits, protein-rich legumes and deeelish grains. However I do eat fish on occasion, as well as eggs, bee pollen and honey and allow myself some none whole foods like sugar or chips when the mood strikes me.
I try not to be too black and white about things, especially because I need to cook for a growing six-year-old with his own likes and dislikes. Therefore, meal times shouldn't just be nourishing but also stress-free, delicious and fun and if that means the occasional pizza, so be it. 

What are you currently reading?
I am currently very into a book called How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger and Gene Stone. I must say, the title is AWFUL, but the book is AWESOME, so please don't be put off. Essentially it's about eating for good health; Dr Greger explores the main diseases affecting the Western world and details how you can pave a path that will make it unlikely you'll ever have to deal with them. Dr Greger is a really witty, clever writer who instantly draws you in. He breaks things down in such a way that even someone who isn't into nutrition or science can totally understand and enjoy his book.

Apart from that I recently got three new cookbooks which I'm thoroughly enjoying: Love Aimee x by Twigg Studios, Food52 Vegan by Gena Hamshaw and Near and Far by Heidi Swanson, the latter of which I've yet to explore in detail but am SO looking forward to.

What's your favorite recipe on The Little Plantation.
Firstly it's got to be one of my latest blog posts, The Vegan Matcha Pistachio Tres Leches Cake I made with Twigg Studios and Salvia + Limone. It is by far the most amazing cake I've ever made and it was a very moving experience to be a part of its creation. Honestly, sharing my home with two such talented and giving women is something I'll never forget. The second has got to be my kick-ass potatoes. It's one of the first recipes I ever posted on The Little Plantation. It's a really good example of the food I'm into, which is easy, delicious plant-based goodness that even meat-lovers will go crazy for. Finally, my winter rainbow salad. When people hear that I eat mainly plants they envisage really boring salads with limp iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomatoes. But that couldn't be further from the truth. And this salad kinda proves that point, saying to the world: "Boring? I don't think so." 

Question from Sue of My Korean Kitchen: What part of blogging delights you the most? (Click here to read Sue's interview)
Joint blog posts when I get to meet on-line friends in real life and create delicious, beautiful food. I've done a couple of those collaborations and felt I learned so much every single time. 

Visit Kimberly's website at www.thelittleplantation.co.uk
Recommended Recipes:
Vegan Matcha Pistachio Tres Leches Cake
Baked Potatoes with Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce

Winter Rainbow Salad