The Green Queens
It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of a vegetarian diet seemed to mean to entail a lifelong commitment to tofu with bland vegetables on the side. Most vegetarians made the choice for ethical reasons due to their love of animals and this seemed to be enough to sustain what many of us saw a sacrifice of the palate. However in recent years, evidence is growing that our traditional diet of meat and two veg, could be at the core of a lot of our degenerative diseases. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to cut back, there is the overwhelming impact that the farming of meat is having on the planet.
These are facts that most of us are becoming more aware of, yet the task of making the switch to a more plant based diet seems altogether too daunting and time consuming, in an age when time is already such a strained commodity.
The Green Queens are looking to change your mind about any pre-conceptions you might have about a plant based diet and show you just how easy and tasty it can be. They strongly believe in the ability of your diet to heal your body and they don’t say that lightly, they have the scientific training to back it up. We spoke with them to find out what exactly The Green Queens mission is about.
What is that The Green Queens do?
The Green Queens are Deirdre Finn, Sharon Quinn and Annmarie Burke, three lifelong friends who have each had a very different journey to health, and are passionate to share our education and experience to help others achieve optimum health.
We created our Wellness Workshops to promote plant-based living based on a scientific approach to nutrition and optimum health. Combined with yoga, the workshops are a relaxing and informative day. We treat our clients to a delicious plant-based lunch and snacks, and share the science behind the strategies we use ourselves to enjoy life-changing improvements in our health. We are Mammies with young kids so we understand if people are going to make a change it needs to be realistic, sustainable and suit the rest of the family too.
Deirdre, you have a background in science. What is it about your background that brought you to a plant based diet?
I have a PhD in Organic Chemistry and Pharmacognosy which is the study of the natural medicines in foods. I also have a BSc in Biochemistry.
Having studied extensively in this area, I know a lot of the scientific research that exists on the phytochemicals in plant-based foods and the role they play in the biochemistry of our cellular health.
I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years and what has always sparked a big interest for me is that many of these synthetic drugs that are on the market are derivatives of natural components from plants sources grown on our earth.
Combining this with having a real passion for nutrition and what really is the ultimate nourishment for our bodies right down to our cells, I am studying the Hippocrates Lifestyle Medicine Couching course which ultimately reinforces my decision on adopting a plant-based diet and the benefits it has on our health and vitality.
Some people are still sceptical about the role that nutrition can play in treating illness and maintaining health. As a scientist, what can you point to in order to help convince people?
We are made up of trillions of cells and there is a plethora of scientific research, studies and literature as well as personal experiences and living examples of the power of nutrition in treating illness and maintaining health. I think that the Western world we live in is highly focused on pharmaceutical drugs to “fix” us when we get sick and there`s not enough emphasis or education on the natural medicines in foods. We have so much convenience processed foods and treats on hand that real nutrition and healthy food preparations are dismissed too easily.
Science and common sense tell us we are what we ate, we are literally the sum of what we ate yesterday, last week, last year. Our cells are constantly regenerating and repairing and they can only use the fuel we provide them, so if we are eating junk, our cells will be made from junk. Our cells need proper nutrition to thrive and stay healthy, protecting our bodies from premature aging and disease.
We respect the power of nutrition during sports training, pregnancy and the effect nutrition has on a growing fetus but then completely discount is power and effect on healing our bodies! Madness!
Sharon, what brought you to plant based living?
I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for three years now and before that I thought I was living a healthy lifestyle. But in 2016, shortly after the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease.
I wanted to educate myself to understand how this had happened and what I could do myself to give myself the best chance to heal, so I researched extensively, always focused on the science, research and documented evidence. Hundreds of hours of research lead me back to the same place…food as chemistry and the power of a plant-based lifestyle on the body’s ability to heal. Common sense told me my body needed optimum nutrition on a cellular level and this doesn’t come from processed food, meat and dairy. Overnight I moved to a plant-based diet and my objective was to restore my health by flooding my body with nutrients through a plant-based diet.
What are the benefits that you have both seen from a plant-based diet?
Dee: I have been on a plant-based lifestyle for more than two years and hand on heart can say they benefits are numerous. I would have a green juice daily made of celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, leafy greens and green powders. During this time, I have not had a single cold, sinus infection, cough or flu and I have two young kids in creche and school who bring home all the germs with them! Before going plant-based I would have picked up a lot more bugs but now I feel that my immune system is so strong and well supported that I don’t get sick. In addition to this, I feel my digestion is so much more efficient, my skin glows, my hair shines, my nails are strong, my eyesight is perfect and energy is improved. I believe that the healthy appearance on the outside is reflected inside as well as from a plant based living foods diet.
Sharon: Moving to a plant-based diet had a positive impact on both my mental and physical health. Taking control of my health and overdosing with raw nutrition has resulted in a massive improvement in my overall health. Physically, my weight stabilised to my ideal body weight, my hair grew strong and fast, my memory sharpened, brain fog lifted, gut and digestive issues I’d had for years went away and I have tons of energy.
Deirdre, you are a mother of two. How easy is it to have your children adopt a plant based diet?
Deirdre: I try find a way to win with the kids, either by getting them to eat more vegetables and variety of them, eat less red meat and ensuring their snacks are healthy and treats are reduced. I think keeping it as stress-free as possible is important but it definitely is challenging and creativity is required to make the meals fun!
Sharon: A plant-based diet just means eating more fruit and vegetables! My kids are not vegan, we just don’t eat meat three times a day. We all want the best for our kids so I just give them a variety of fruit and veggies. We have a rule that they have to try one bite of something new, if they don’t like it they don’t have to eat any more this time, and we’ll try it again in a few days.
Cooking healthy meals may mean more time in the kitchen because I make a lot from scratch. This is the way our grandparents cooked, it just sounds like a pain because we’ve got so far away from cooking and so used to convenience. I batch cook and freeze so mid-week I have food ready to go. I’m always sneaking greens into smoothies and extra veggies into pasta sauces to up the veggie count.
The idea of a plant-based diet can seem daunting, with perceptions that is more expensive and time consuming. How can we incorporate a plant-based diet easily into our lives?
Eating a plant based diet is actually cheaper then eating a typical diet made up of ready – made, processed, meat heavy food. Our shopping trollies are mainly filled with fruit and vegetables (which are cheaper than meat) to make salads, pasta dishes, soups, roast vegetable dinners, veggie burgers, smoothies and juices.
To give you an idea of how affordable it is – our favourite vegetable noodle soup costs less then €2 to make and is a family favourite. Chicken noodle soup, by comparison is €3.50 to make.
I think the biggest challenge is changing our way of thinking about meal planning. We tend to think about the meat as the main star on the plate and the vegetables as the accompaniment. All you have to do is think about it a little differently. Make the baked potato or the Cajun spiced cauliflower the main event and add a delicious salad or garlic roasted vegetables.
How can people ease themselves into it?
Baby steps! Incorporate more vegetables and salads into your meals at first and then slowly start to replace one meal with a plant based meal, this could be soup or salad for lunch for example.
As you experiment with recipes you can begin to crowd out the animal products with more nutritious plant-based food. As you start to feel the benefits you will want to do more!
The trick is to strive for progress, introduce one small change per month and comfortable with that first.
In our Wellness Workshop, we talk about the chemistry of food and what happens when you up your plant intake and decrease animal based foods. Knowing the reasons why are a powerful motivator. We also have lots of tips and tricks to getting started.
What are the healthiest things that people can immediately start incorporating into their diets?
One of the healthiest things you can do is to introduce a fresh green juice into your diet. We make the ‘Green Queens Mean Machine Green Juice’ at our workshops, consisting of cucumber, celery, lemon, ginger, spinach and some apple for sweetness. Everyone at our workshops love it! This juice contains tons of goodness from vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and 16oz costs approx. €1.50 to make. Juicing with a high veg content is liquid nourishment for our bodies and it is a very easy way to up our nutrient intake. Juicing extracts 90% of nutrients from food which are absorbed by the body within 15 minutes.
Another health promoting action you can take is reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet. There is scientific evidence on the association of meat and dairy with diseases. We discuss this in detail at our workshops.
Aside from the diet, stress from busy lifestyles has a massive impact on our health. Doing something stress-free everyday such as yoga, meditation or just some personal time would also be very beneficial to health and wellbeing.
How important is it that nutrition is incorporated with a holistic approach to mind, body and soul?
Diet and food is only one component of health. And while it is the foundation, the mind/body connection is so important. Beliefs, inner attitudes and emotions all influence our lifestyles and thus, our physical health.
We know stress has a massive influence on our physical wellbeing. This is why we have incorporated Yoga practice into our workshops. Yoga calms the mind and releases stress in the body. Our Yoga is suitable for all levels, whether you are new to yoga or experienced. The pranayama breathing techniques have physical benefits too, great for headaches and clearing the mind. We aim to address all aspects of wellbeing in our Workshops!
Annie, what brought you to become a yoga teacher?
My yoga journey first began in my 20’s, I attended numerous yoga classes and workshops but never committed to regular practise.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first child that I started to feel a real connection and develop a true understanding of the power of yoga. The pregnancy yoga class I attended, empowered me and helped to remove any fear I had associated with labour. Simple postures that helped open the hips or turn the baby proved so beneficial, not to mention breathing techniques to calm the mind and relax the body.
A few months after giving birth, I found myself looking for an avenue to help relieve the anxiety and stress I was feeling as a new mother, which was manifesting itself both physically and mentally. A friend of mine, recommended a yoga teacher and this introduction was life changing. Her style of teaching - kind, compassionate, warm and inclusive was evident in every word she spoke and every movement she made on the mat. She embodied all things Yoga. Through her I discovered yoga is a path to self - care, self- acceptance, self- love and ultimately joy. My passion was awoken and I enrolled in a Yoga teacher training course in the Yoga Santuary, Malahide, Co Dublin
What health benefits have you seen and felt from practicing yoga?
Post pregnancy I suffered from hip pain and lost full rotation in my neck and right shoulder. Yoga greatly aided my recovery. Simple and gentle movements brought alot of relief in those first few months. Eventually through a mindful daily practice I regained full mobility.
As mentioned above I also suffered from stress and anxiety post pregnancy. Yoga helped me find peace and clarity. I use yoga on a daily basis to help me deal with life’s difficult situations, in a calm and focused way. Yoga has thought me not to sweat the small stuff. It has helped me to be grateful for what I have been given in this life and not to be jealous of others.
As a busy mother of two, working full time, there are days when I do not get to take time for myself. Those days are stressful, exhausting and overwhelming. On a day that I take even 10 mins out to mediate, breath or holds a few postures, I find peace, stillness and serenity even when everything is falling down around me.
What can people expect at your workshops?
Our Workshops are a fun, interactive day event, packed with valuable nutritional knowledge, yoga practice and living proof of the power of healing foods based on principles of the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We venture behind the scenes of nutrition and discuss how to nourish our bodies at a cellular level with the optimum fuel for healthy living including the power of juicing and plant-based food. As well as lifestyle tips and tricks, we uncover simple changes you can implement straight away which have the most powerful positive impact on your health.
We stretch and relax with some gentle yoga, pranayama breathing techniques and meditation throughout the day. If you have the intention to improve your health, address a health challenge, feel more vitalised or want to know more about the consequences of the foods we eat then this Wellness Workshop is for you
Where can people get in touch with The Green Queens?
People can reach us on Instagram:@the_green_queens and on Facebook: thegreenqueens. You can also contact Dee on 0861943285.