Amanda Forcella is the woman behind the incredibly inspiring blog and instagram, Mama Eats Plants. Together with her family of four, she lives a low-waste, vegan lifestyle in California, where she teaches gardening and works at a restaurant. Amanda’s enrouraging zero waste tips and articles have gotten us to completely re-think the way we view the trash we produce, specifically plastics and food waste (we’ll be talking more about this in the coming months). Amanada’s approach to vegan cooking and to the health of her family is equally as inspiring – just check out her documentation of her nine year old’s vibrant school lunches.
In this interview, Amanda tells us about striving to practice meditation in action, leaning on real, whole foods for simplicity in her diet, skincare, and lifestyle, gratitude as a means for staying on track with her self-care, how she approaches raising her kids on plant-based whole foods, as well as exercise, stress, and much more. Amanda also gives some very manageable tips for reducing waste in your day-to-day life. Pure gold!
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I love the idea of routines, but I rarely stick to one and tend to rotate through things- changing it up seasonally or as my body calls for it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to give myself the gift of going with the flow, and it feels so good. Everything in nature is cyclical so this makes sense to me.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
I find it essential to my mental health to wake up earlier than my kids (who thankfully are good sleepers) to get that little bit of alone + quiet time in the morning. I wake up and do a few quick, simple stretches (forward bend and childs pose) to get blood moving. Then I move out to the kitchen for some warm lemon ginger water and 10-15 minutes of meditation. I pack Carmelas lunch (you can see her whole food vegan lunches on the hashtag #carmelaslunch on Instagram) while the kids make their breakfast. After my daughter leaves for school, I practice yoga to ground down + set intentions for the day while my son colors or plays with my husband. I love using Ali Kamenova’s videos. I usually don’t eat breakfast until later in the morning- I’ve always been this way because eating in the morning makes me feel nauseated.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I take a quick warm shower and visualize the water picking up the stress, tension, worries, and energy of the day and carrying it down the drain. I’ve found that it’s a quick and powerful way to release and wipe the slate so I can start relaxing. I use coconut oil on my body to moisturize after the shower and rub a few drops of lavender essential oil into my feet and my ears which helps me to really relax deeply. I’ve found that cutting out tv before bed has really helped me sleep better- about 6 months ago we cancelled our Netflix and it’s been the best thing ever. Sometimes I do a nighttime warming drink or tonic too!
— Do you have any kind of mindfulness practice?
I do “traditionally” meditate for 10-15 minutes in the morning where i sit in stillness – the Headspace app is great for that if you’re beginning or need more guidance, but I’ve found I personally benefit more from practicing meditation in action. I strive to be present during daily life, especially while doing “mundane” tasks like laundry, brushing teeth, chopping veggies, washing dishes. Instead of letting my thoughts run wild and zone out during these times, I instead focus on the feel, smell, sensations, colors, of what I’m doing. This, I’ve found, brings me a deeper sense of satisfaction and happiness with daily life.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – I’m not a big breakfast person, so I usually have fresh seasonal fruit, a green smoothie, or Loni Jane’s burcha seed mix mix with homemade coco yogurt.
Lunch – a BIG raw veggie salad + an almond butter or tahini based dressing with heaps of my homemade sauerkraut and dulse. Or in winter, a big bowl of veggie soup with tons of garden kale wilted in and avocado.
Snack – I love celery + red grapes – the sweet + salty combo is so magical to me. Also, dates + tahini + flaky salt or air popped popcorn with aminos or nutritional yeast. I love a good 80-90% dark chocolate too.
Dinner – I’m a big soup person, even in summer time – so things like curries, soups, and stews are always a staple in our house + always greens – either cooked or a big salad. A big bowl of steamed seasonal veggies, potatoes, beans or tofu with a yummy dressing and lots of kraut or kimchi is so good too!
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I occasionally indulge in 1 cup of coffee in the morning, but it makes me feel terrible after (it amplifies my anxiety and irritates my joints) so I mostly omit it. I always drink 32 ounces of warm water with ginger slices + lemon first thing to start waking up my liver. I usually also drink a warm herbal infusion of nettle, hibiscus and raspberry leaf tea. The night before, I shake some dry herbs (maybe a 1/3-1/2 cup total) into a quart mason jar and then pour boiling water over to cover and let steep overnight. In the morning, I strain and then dilute throughout the day as a concentrate with fresh hot water. I switch up the herbs in the infusion depending on how my body feel, but I generally always include nettle for its deeply anti-inflammatory properties and high mineral content. I love ashwagandha, schisandra berry, spearmint, and gotu kola too.
— Do you have a sweet tooth and do you take any measures to keep it in check?
I have a HUGE sweet tooth and I’ve managed to cut it back significantly over the years. I used to stop on the way home from work and get a pint of ice cream and 3 or four candy bars and eat all of it in one sitting!! YES I was that extreme. Now I’ve recognized that sugar and gluten are both triggering foods for me, in that they both trigger arthritic inflammation and also that the more I eat of these foods, the more I crave and reach for them. Cutting them out 99% is what works for me. I substitute with whole plant treats like dates with almond butter or tahini, black rice cooked with coconut milk and vanilla + fresh mango + toasted sesame seeds, roasted pineapple, sautéed plantains, almond butter with apple, or 90 % dark chocolate – I love the bitterness.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I focus on whole, real food additions to my diet. My daily herbal infusions ensure an extra flood of minerals and micronutrients in combination with my organic fruit + veggie diet. My other go-to additions are Vitamineral greens powder, barley grass juice powder, and Vitamineral Earth. I take a B12, and also in the wintertime a vegan D3 which has K2 added in, when I don’t get much sun.
— What is your approach to feeding your kids? Do you try to guard them from all unhealthy/processed foods, or are you more relaxed about it all? Do you have any advice for parents who want to raise their kids to be comfortable with real, whole foods?
For us, this is just our lifestyle, what we believe in and what our kids are used to. I want my kids to have healthy foods for them to thrive, not junk foods that overwhelms their little immature systems. Personally, I see these foods as poison for our bodies. Would I let my child smoke a cigarette occasionally? No. I feel the same about highly processed, chemically altered foods like Doritos, sodas, and other snack foods commonly given to children. When we go to birthday parties and playdates I always talk to the parents before hand to let them know we’re vegan and make sure it’s ok to bring our own treats (and offer to bring enough to share if thats ok!). I always feed my kids really well before we go too so they’re not interested in the junk. I can’t control what happens when I’m not there, and I don’t worry about it. But at home, it’s business as usual and they love it! It’s my hope that they will grow up and think of “comfort foods” as baked sweet potato, salads, dates, coconut yogurt, kombucha etc. I think for parents hoping to transition, just keep trying – offer your kids all the veggies in all the ways and insist they taste it once, and don’t offer another option. “You don’t have to like it but you do have to try it” is our motto. Try fun things like dips, wraps, veggie sushi, healthy pizza, banana nice cream, etc. Let them pick out what they want to eat and try that week when you’re grocery shopping. Involve them in cooking it and plating it. Also, don’t expect your kids to be eating broccoli while you’re eating ice cream. Get the junk out of the house and get everyone on board if possible, it makes for a much smoother transition.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I practice yoga pretty much daily – either self practice or through videos with Ali Kamenova. Other than that, I walk and bike most places when possible and very occasionally run if I’m feeling that. I love Ali’s yoga because it’s a wonderful combination of intensity and stretching while also being gentle on your body and delivering serious results. She incorporates HIIT, resistance bands, kettle bells, and stomach vacuums into some classes which really keeps things interesting, fun and effective.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I love to exercise but I didn’t always used to be this way. I actually never really worked out until I was 24. At all! Then I intermittently went to yoga and the gym, but I just didn’t like it – it was a chore. But after my son was born, I found Ali’s online classes and it just clicked- I loved it and it was something that was sustainable for me as a mom. The classes could be done at home and I could choose short/long depending on how much time I had. I think you have to find what you love and what brings you joy – whether dancing, running, walking, cycling, rock climbing, weightlifting, barre, yoga, pilates, whatever – just find something that actually fits into your life.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
I think beauty is shown in your energy – your posture, your body language, facial expressions and grace in movement. I think the most beautiful features are the most unique – a strong, interesting nose, a peek of back or collarbone, a character giving gap in your teeth, freckles, an authentic laugh or a strong unruly brow. Beauty to me is being confident in what you have and not focusing on yourself. I always think of people like Lauren Hutton, Frida Kahlo, Anaïs Nin, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh – women who were/are unapologetically themselves.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
I keep it super simple, mostly taking care of it through my intake of fresh, whole, vibrant plant foods, plenty of clean water, and sleep. I don’t wear any foundation so I focus on keeping my skin calm and hydrated. I’m a huge fan of oils – I use coconut on my body after dry brushing and showering. For face and hair I like Cocokind’s chia or sacha inchi oils (both anti-inflammatory). I do facial lymphatic drainage every day with gua sha – it drains puffiness and brings circulation to the surface, resulting in a beautiful glow. I like to use a vitamin C and/or hyaluronic acid serum too, and a non toxic mineral sunscreen for day. Aloe is also a favorite – I put the jelly clear middle part in my smoothies and then rub the leftover jelly from the outside on my skin.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
My herbal infusions have made such a difference in my skin and hormonal health (completely tied together for me). Eating plenty of raw, seasonal greens and making sure I get enough fats, especially seeds like hemp/flax/chia, makes my skin feel and look best. Barley grass juice powder and the Vitamineral greens powder have been amazing for clearing up hormonal acne too – I got terrible acne after I gave birth and this, in combination with evening primrose oil, is so useful.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
My mom always taught me to leave my brows alone – I never plucked them terribly thin like a lot of my friends did and I’m so thankful. I always got made fun of in school for my thick brows but it was worth it! Natural brows are so beautiful.
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
The biggest thing I’ve learned to do in order to reduce stress is to modify my lifestyle. I like to help and it feels good to say “yes”, so I can tend to over schedule/overload myself with things. I’ve learned to simply say “no” to commitments even when it’s hard if I’ve already got enough going on. Also, actively seeking out moments of quiet in my day – just a minute or two here and there, pausing maybe after you wash your hands in the bathroom, before starting up you car, etc- and taking a few deep breaths and thinking about how insignificant your problems truly are in the grand scheme of things, and how beautiful life is.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
Get outside, connect back to nature, and move your body. I find that a good run, yoga, hike, or walk outside when you’re feeling overwhelmed can make a world of difference. Also – and this is harder – but spinning anything that happens to have a positive side. What are you learning from this? What’s the silver lining? How can you use this experience to grow in the future? How can you learn something about yourself and go deeper?
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
Honestly, I’ve found that our diet + lifestyle keeps our immune system really high, but if there is something coming on, I employ a two-pronged attack: oregano oil and garlic. The garlic, I trim off the pointy end of a smallish clove and put the cut end pointing into my ear (make sure the clove is too big to get stuck in the ear canal) and then place a piece of soft medical tape over it to hold it in place. Leave in place 12-24 hours and repeat if necessary. For the oil of oregano (different from essential oil, this is safe for internal use and is standardized to a certain % of active ingredient), I take 4 drops under the tongue and immediately drink a glass of water after, repeat every 3-4 hours until symptoms cease. It’s a super strong and effective antibacterial/antiviral. When I feel sick, I eat more simply to lessen the energy my body has to expend on digestion so it can use that energy to come back into balance. Turmeric orange juice is a go to. I love golden milk or a warm saltwater gargle for sore throats too, and a neti pot is fabulous for congestion or allergies.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
I definitely have to be active with self care. It’s really easy for me to fall into only serving others and neglecting myself so I have to be careful and notice when I’m slipping into old routines. My husband is so good and always gently reminds me when I’m not taking care of myself. He’ll tell me, “go outside, sit in the sun!” haha.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
I think the biggest thing for me is gratitude/appreciation. If you don’t like a part of your body, actively try to release that and bring your positive thoughts/energy there. For example, think how much you love your belly – it is soft, feminine, powers the digestion that nourishes your entire body, and can support a new life. Self massage and dry brushing are also great techniques to get you in touch with your body and loving it more. Also simply realizing that this body is just a vessel.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Going whole food, plant-based was revolutionary for my health and mental health, too. Eating high volumes of veggies and especially greens really transformed my digestion and my entire body and gifted me with so much more energy.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
I try to focus on what I do want instead of getting bogged down with negative thoughts or feeling stress about what I need to accomplish. Getting a good sweaty workout in, putting on some good music and writing out a to-do list of 5-7 manageable things to get done that day helps me get down to business. Also, just being kind with myself and realizing that this is normal. As in nature, in life there are always ebbs and flows. We can’t expect ourselves to be “on” and high energy all the time. Your productivity is not a measure of self worth.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
This blog post was revolutionary for me! Ali talks about self love, that you are both insignificant in the universe and also you are everything. Sounds a little woo woo but I had never thought of it this way: “Never think to yourself that you are so special, but also understand that you are very special. You are as special as everyone else and there is zero reason to feed your ego with things that your parents are guilty of telling you as a kid such as “You are the most special little princess on Earth,” “You are so pretty” OR the opposite “You are stupid,” “You are this, You are that” It’s all a part of the ego trap. “You are EVERYTHING AND YOU ARE NOTHING AT ALL.” Profound!
— What was your path to becoming plant-based and leading a generally healthy lifestyle?
My daughter was in preschool and she kept getting these chronic, recurrent ear infections. They would give her antibiotics and it would go away, only for her to get another one weeks later. It was a vicious and stressful cycle for all of us – the doctor said that if it continued, she might surgical intervention to widen the tubes in her ears. I started researching a lot on the subject and I found the link between dairy and ear infections so we cut that out for her and they completely stopped. It really opened my eyes to the power that food can have to heal us or make us sick. After I had Vin, my arthritis started flaring up so badly and I went deeper into a plant based lifestyle, learning about the importance of whole foods, fruit, and herbs. It helped so much and I felt amazing. Finally I got my husband on board, too, about 2 years ago and we haven’t looked back since! Being vegan is a huge part of our lives and has opened my eyes to so many other things I was unconscious of before.
— The amount of landfill trash your family of four produces over a few months can usually fit into a small mason jar. What was your path to the zero-waste lifestyle? Did it go hand in hand with going plant-based?
I became obsessed with zero waste after I randomly came across Bea Johnson, who lives a zero waste lifestyle in the Bay area, not too far from me. I had never thought about reducing waste before, just assumed it was an inevitable product of human existence. We would throw things away without a second thought and my eyes were opened finally! I was shocked when I looked around our house, town, stores, with these new eyes and truly saw the amount of pollution we create every single day just from packaging. But I jumped in too fast and it was frustrating, there was so much to learn and so many old habits to break, and I felt intense guilt every time I would make trash. It all became unsustainable for my life and I dropped it and we went back to our old consumption habits, except I kept using reusable bags and we started composting. Those I felt were manageable. Over time, I modified one bit at a time until we were here, making very little trash and living our values. I feel that zero waste does go hand in hand with veganism. Millions of animals, especially sea life, dies each year from plastic pollution. It’s one of the biggest threats to whales and dolphins, sea turtles, birds, sea lions, and so many more beautiful creatures. They eat it and it fills their bellies with bits of plastic and they starve to death slowly, or they get trapped in it. If you have the means, you should absolutely try to bring this practice of creating less waste into your life. It means everything for out planet and everything and everyone on it.
— Do you have any tips for someone who wants to take steps in the zero-waste direction but doesn’t know where to start? What are some more manageable actions we can all take to produce less waste?
Focus on one easy swap you could realistically make. Maybe it’s making for “no straw” in your drink when you go out, bringing your own bags to the grocery store, getting coffee or a smoothie in your own cup/jar, bringing your own silverware when you’re out and about, switching from paper to cloth napkins, buying bread from a local bakery or making it yourself instead of buying in plastic, switching to a menstrual cup or washable cloth pads instead of disposable, there’s so many different ways to produce less waste. Choose 1 and stick with it, keep it up until it becomes a normal part of your life. Then add on! Don’t let yourself be discouraged by the trash you do make – every little step towards sustainability is a HUGE win. For further reading, I highly recommend you check out Andrea’s website Be Zero which has tons of useful, manageable, easy to digest information.
— You are a big proponent of the fact that leading a healthy, plant-based lifestyle is not only inexpensive, but can even be more affordable than the average. Can you talk a bit more about this philosophy and how you manage to keep yourself and your family healthy on a budget?
Absolutely! Health is wealth and while I don’t mind spending more money on high quality food, it has been our experience since switching to a whole foods, plant based diet that our grocery bill has drastically lowered.
The way I buy food is to first buy everything I can at my farmers market – these are local, fresh foods and are way cheaper direct from the farmers than from a Whole Foods or other grocer. I buy almost all of my vegetables and fruits here, plus things like nuts, bread, olive oil, and soaps. Then I buy other items at my local co-op to fill in the gaps: usually things like grains, tofu, dried legumes, seeds, spices, cocoa powder/chocolate, and teas. Our staple foods are generally very low cost: potatoes, beans, squashes, oats, quinoa, rice, seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread for the kids, and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp, and sunflower are our favorites). We don’t buy things like: cookies, crackers, plant milks, plant yogurts, chips, juice boxes, candies, cereal, plant meats/cheeses, or really any processed/snack foods like that, which I find saves SO much money and has boosted our health SO much. Instead, for snacks and lunches, we simply eat whole foods. I make our own plant milk, coconut yogurt, and sauerkraut, which are all staples for us but are quite expensive at the store. Not one of them takes long to make, and they are so much more clean and delicious than their store bought counterparts.
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
I just started doing free “reduce your waste” community classes at a local refill shop to enable people to live more sustainably and I’m so excited! We just did the first one and the response was amazing. We’re talking about composting, making your own toothpaste, habit swaps and so much more. It’s been so fun to connect with others who similarly care for this planet. I met a few local vegans too which was so cool! Sometimes being vegan can feel super lonely.
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
Quiet time! My most luxurious time is being alone with no kids. Sometimes when my husband is home I will take off to the library for an hour and go to the “research” section where theres no talking allowed and just sit and read, write, or draw. It feels so amazing and I always leave refreshed.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. I highly reccomend this book. It talks about practices for reversing negative patterns, cultivating compassionate action, using painful emotions to expand wisdom and courage and so much more.
Piece of Art – Zanele Muholi’s self portraits. She’s an artist and visual activist in South Africa focusing on black transgender and gay identities and politics in South Africa.
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Yes! I would love to hear from Jinti Fell she’s such an inspiring lady traveling with her partner and little in a van in Australia. I’ve learned so much from her.
Photos by Amanda Forcella / this post contains Amazon affiliate links