Vegan Diet: The Blueprint to a Healthy Lifestyle featuring Chef Daphne Cheng

I interviewed Chef/Vegetable Connoisseur Daphne Cheng about her journey from anorexia to becoming a vegan chef. She talked about how cooking helped her develop a healthy love affair with food.  Her story continues to inspire me to make incremental choices to have a more balanced eating routine. Her vegan cuisine is beautiful to behold and even better when tasted. She converted me from  “vegan is tasteless and not filling,” to please may I have some more!

Americans have an unhealthy relationship with food that goes to the extremes on both sides. We super size on the notion that more is always better. We are told to clean our plates because there are starving kids in Africa. On the other side, we hear the back-handed, “haven’t you had enough to eat [or] a moment on the lips a life time on the hips.” Then there is the temporary starvation or fasts – only eating nuts or drinking lime with cayenne. You have probably heard, “I am skipping breakfast and lunch so I can have a big dinner or enjoy the night out with friends.” We teeter totter from feast (gluttony) to famine (food deprivation). I noticed that at work, the first conversation of the day typically surrounds lunch options. I asked a friend why so? She replied, “it’s the only part of my day that I control not related to the office or work.” Control seems to be a core issue with food whether or not one suffers from an eating disorder such as: anorexia, bulimia, compulsive over-eating, binge or emotional eating.

For men, attaining the perfect athletic build can be just as dangerous as women’s fascination with being thin. Protein shakes and supplements seem to be “the” way for men’s fitness. Protein shakes can be a healthy supplement. However, like vitamins, protein shakes cannot replace the essential nutrients that you receive from eating from the food groups.

Hip hop mogul Jay-Z and his Mrs. Refined™ (Beyonce) embarked on a 22 day vegan challenge. However, he did not go vegan “cold turkey.” Jay-Z mentioned that a vegan friend had suggested that he try eating vegan for breakfast. Jay-Z had already been eating a vegan breakfast for a few months before he announced his 22 day vegan cleanse/challenge. If you want to follow Jay-Z’s blueprint to jumpstart your body and incorporate healthy eating habits, Chef Daphne has some tips and recipes. Your body and taste buds will thank you!

Daphne dessert

Mr. Refined™ (MR): Chef Daphne, what did you think of Jay Z’s 22 vegan diet?

Daphne Cheng (DC): I believe it was a great step and brought a lot of exposure to the lifestyle. I was a bit disappointed that he did not continue being fully vegan, but hope that he continues to incorporate more plant-based foods in his diet. While some people can make the switch to veganism overnight, for most, a slow, thoughtful journey is more sustainable in the long run. I personally never intended to become vegan, but through a gradual elimination of animal products with each new piece of knowledge I gained, I ended up where I am today over a two year process.

MR: I guess the big question when it comes to men’s fitness and vegan cuisine is whether vegan provides enough protein to increase muscle mass, particularly if you’re athletic?

DC: Actually, the World’s Strongest Man, Patrik Baboumian, is a vegan. Bodybuilder, Jim Morris, is vegan. There are many elite athletes who follow a plant based diet and perform very well, sometimes even better than their non-vegan counterparts. There are plenty of sources of protein that don’t come from animals, but it does require educating yourself about which plant-based foods are rich in protein. It’s the same effort for any athlete who carefully plans his/her food and exercise regimen.

MR:  For the meat and potatoes man, what vegan foods offers a nice alternative?

DC: If you feel that you’d miss the taste and texture of meat, Gardein is the best meat alternative I have had. Some have described their products as better than the real thing, an ideal version of meat. If you are more inclined towards less processed foods, legumes, seeds, nuts and grains are all rich sources. Lentils, beans, hemp and chia seeds, or buckwheat are great, to name a few.

daphne artichoke

MR: What recipes do you have for men who are timid about trying plant-based?

DC: For those who are afraid that plant-based foods will not be satisfying or filling enough, here’s a recipe for a hearty chili and cornbread [below].

MR: What tips do you have for our readers to incorporate healthy eating habits?

DC: Approach food like a game, be willing to experiment and try new things.

1.    Start slowly by simply incorporating more veggies and fruit. Don’t go in with the mindset that you have to eliminate certain foods. The negative feeling that you have to stop enjoying certain foods can be hindering, so think positively with the thought that you can eat MORE produce!

2.    The simple action of eating more produce will mean that by default, you will have less room in your stomach for anything else. After consuming the plant-based foods, you can still eat anything you normally would have, just less of it.

3.    Don’t feel guilty after eating anything, whether it’s your favorite “fattening” dessert or that extra piece of bread. Sometimes, if it is good for your soul, it is good for you!

For more information about Chef Daphne, visit her websit Chef Daphne shared her recipes for Vegan Chili and Cornbread.

Hearty Ginger Vegetable Chili

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, medium dice
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin, toasted and ground
  • 2 inches ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 lb fresh or canned tomatoes, medium dice
  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 cup kidney beans, cooked
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh jalapeños
  • 1 bunch cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin, stir to coat the vegetables, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker or pot over low heat. Stir in the diced tomatoes and beans, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the chili thickens and the flavors meld, about 8 hours on low or 6 hours on high.
  4. Stir in the jalapeños. Taste and season with salt as needed, and serve with fresh cilantro and scallions.


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 t sea salt
  • ¾ c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 2 roasted jalapenos, minced (optional)


  1. In large mixing bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, sea salt.
  2. In another bowl, mix water, olive oil, apple cider vinegar.
  3. Combine wet and dry mixtures until well combined, but avoid overmixing. Mix in corn, green peas, and jalapeno.
  4. Add corn and jalapenos.
  5. Pour into 8×8 baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Readers, if you are suffering from an eating disorder please consult with a professional and a nutritionist. As with any changes in your diet, consult your doctor or dietitian.

Ronda Lee, JD

Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She's a blogger for the Huffington Post and you can follow her musings on her blog, Ronda-isms- Good Bad & Ugly. She has launched her own snack mix, Auntie Ronda's Snack Mix. Her goal is to get her books published.

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