Article: Eating a plant-based diet helps improve energy and keep off extra weight


As we begin a new year, I wanted to share a very inspiring story from one of my students and delicious recipes to bring you luck and prosperity!  At 19, I was 100 pounds overweight, my favorite meal was two McChicken sandwiches with ketchup, large fries, and sweet tea with no ice, (so I could get more tea). You could ask anyone that knew me and they would tell you, I was never in the kitchen cooking, I was always at the table, waiting. I knew that I needed to make changes, so I got rid of all the junk and stocked up on plants, and a year later, I was hundred pounds lighter and learned how to cook! I became so “into food” that I started to grow my own. Fast forward to now, I’m 22, maintaining my weight and a garden. I just finished one of the best nutrition classes in the country, am living a plant-based lifestyle, and above all else, loving every minute of it! I feel great!

There is no doubt that my plant-based lifestyle has been key to my health transformation, losing the excess weight and seeing my energy levels soar. I would never have imagined that changing what I ate could impact every part of my life. Although not everyone in my family eats the way that I do, at least not yet, it is so fun and rewarding to be able to experiment with our most loved family recipes and make them plant-based, so that we can ALL enjoy them! As Professor Hagenburger always says, “Love the foods that loves you back!” Two of those special recipes come from my great-grandmother, Hun.

When I think of my great-grandmother, Hun, I think about the kitchen and good food. We visit her in North Carolina once or twice a year and she always has food ready for us when we arrive and packed up for the plane ride home. She’s 93-years-old and still spends majority of her time in the kitchen. A few of her famous dishes are mixed collard greens and black-eyed peas. During this past visit, I showed her ways to make her traditional recipes plant-based so that we could all enjoy her cooking and improve our health. What surprised me the most was how open-minded she was about tweaking recipes she had been eating and cooking for years. She enjoyed the plant-based versions that we cooked together and frequently calls to tell me how inspired she is to eat better and how amazing it makes her feel.

Hun’s Cooked Greens

2 bunches dino or lacinato kale
2 bunches collard greens
2 bunches mustard greens
1 medium red onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic (~2 cloves)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic/garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
½ teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 Escabeche jalapeños (Makayla pickles them with peppers, carrots, and onions from her garden)
1-2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, (if you like it spicy!)

In a dry pan, over med-high heat, caramelize the diced onions and garlic, adding a few tablespoons of water or broth, if needed. Wash greens well, and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Add greens and remaining ingredients to pan with onions and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes, if you like the greens soft. Top with Hun’s Black-Eyed Peas!

Hun’s Black-Eyed Peas

1 pound bag of black-eyed peas, dry
1 medium red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water

1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt, or more to taste
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons granulated garlic/garlic powder
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
½-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Sort and rinse black eyed peas, then soak in a large bowl of water overnight in the fridge. Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Sauté onion in a tablespoon of vegetable broth. Once the onions caramelize, add the garlic to cook for ~1 minute. Add the rest of the vegetable broth and water and bring to a boil. Add black-eyed peas and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Add salt, if using, and remaining spices, and cook for an additional 35-40 minutes, or until peas are tender. Serve with Hun’s Cooked Greens!

The sky is the limit for Makayla Hopkins, as she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, runs Scarlet’s Farm (organic) and has a wonderful blog at

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work throughout the area and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV.

1 Response
  • Misty
    January 8, 2015

    Inspiring Story and a couple of delicious recipes to take with me! Thanks you!!

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