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Meet Tracy Childs of Veg-Appeal/PlantDiego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tracy Childs.

Tracy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
VEGGIE BEGINNINGS – I’ve been interested in food, nutrition and cooking for as long as I can remember! One of my first jobs was making novelty-shaped cakes for neighbor kids’ birthday parties. I have also always loved animals, so becoming vegetarian back in the late 1970s as a teen was a natural. Even though I grew up in Encinitas, which is a mecca for healthy food now, I didn’t know any other vegetarians until much later in my life. But the idea behind the movement fascinated me from the beginning, so I read every book on the subject I could find! Flash forward a “few” years to 1990 when I heard about veganism.

Curious, I did some investigating, read even more books and determined that there was no such thing as cruelty-free animal products. Since I had already been phasing milk and eggs out of my diet for health reasons, the transition was pretty simple once I put my mind to it. But I soon learned that if I wanted tasty vegan food, I was going to need to make it myself! At the same time, my husband, Steven, and I were starting a family, so I took on the challenge of creating a nutritionally sound plant-based diet that we could all enjoy. I won’t say it was always easy, but no one went hungry and I learned to be very creative in the kitchen!

FOODIE OUTREACH – I am a long-time follower and member of one of the pioneering nutrition as medicine organizations, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. In 2004, I heard about their Food for Life outreach program, created to teach people to prevent a recurrence of cancer and minimize the risk of it ever occurring with a nutrient-rich whole-foods, plant-based diet. Unfortunately, just like most of us, cancer has been way too prevalent in my family, so I was already searching for an answer to prevent it for myself and anyone who would listen. I was one of the first to apply and go to Washington DC for training to become a certified Nutrition and Cooking Instructor and I started teaching in local hospitals in 2005.

In 2009 I founded my current company with partners, Veg-Appeal (I’m now the sole owner, and I have been very grateful to have amazing partners helping to run the company over the years). Through Veg-Appeal, I share the joy of creating fun, simple recipes made from whole, unprocessed plant foods. These days I love specializing in creating creamy dishes that you would never guess are completely plant-based, low-fat and oil-free! Vegan cheeses are my specialty! One of the greatest rewards in my life is showing people that it’s not that difficult to create tasty, nutritious meals completely from plants! Taste-testing the recipes we create is always the highlight for participants!

FINDING COMMUNITY – Over the years, I have searched for the community in the vegetarian/vegan world. I yearned to feel more comfortable in my skin and go to events/potlucks where I needn’t worry about finding hidden animal products in my food.

It’s been truly heart-warming to see how many people are being mindful about what they are eating, especially after taking my classes. Many of these folks are faced with the same problem I was, not having people in their lives on the same path. In 2015 I saw a momentous opportunity to join a grass-roots movement after seeing the documentary PlantPure Nation (about the plant-based health & political movement).

Soon after, I started our very own PlantPure Pod, PlantDiego! We are a 501c3 non-profit and have a great team of volunteer leaders. With so much interest in veganism and plant-based diets, we are excited to be the go-to local organization, providing leadership, educational and community opportunities to anyone along the path toward a plant-based diet. Since we began, PlantDiego has been growing steadily.

We have over 20 people in our leadership group that I call on to organize events and volunteer, along with over 2200 members of the PlantDiego-PlantPure-Pod meetup group. We have had some extremely successful events including vegan food tastings with local and national sponsors, documentary screenings and a 500-person rally featuring Nelson and his father, famed nutrition researcher, T. Colin Campbell.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of my best friends in high school used to say, “Tracy tries harder.” I’m was never sure at the time whether I should take it as a compliment or not, but I can now say, after all these years that “persistence” is my middle name! Educating people on food and health have always been a huge passion, so no matter the obstacles, I keep on trucking in one direction. Yes, it has been difficult, not having a marketing team/budget and having many transitions and changes in my professional life.

Teaching cooking and nutrition is a LOT of work: shopping, setting up a kitchen in conference rooms, prepping and creating food, educating on the nutritional advantages, serving, cleaning it all up. It all takes a lot of time, planning and energy. There is not a lot of financial rewards, unfortunately, for the amount of effort that goes into what I do. I want to keep my classes accessible and affordable. And many times, I offer reduced rates and scholarships. The reward of having people improve their health, meanwhile helping the planet and the animals is my reward.

And as Steven says, “If you help one person, you have done a great thing.” I’m happy to say I have helped many people over the years! The biggest obstacle is not having a permanent place (teaching kitchen) to teach and help people with cooking and nutrition. I have long been on the look-out for locations and ideas for partnership) Right now, I teach at many different locations, all over the county. It’s nice that I reach a great many people, but sometimes I wonder how sustainable it is.

The fact is, I could definitely teach more classes if all of the equipment and condiments were located in one place and I didn’t have to remember and stress about every last item! I have been “doing it all” for many years from planning, marketing (including website updates), to fulfilling. It’s tough being a “jack of all trades,” but I’m grateful to be able to do what I do. My life certainly is not boring and I’m always learning – so I am very appreciative of every opportunity that comes my way.

Veg-Appeal/PlantDiego – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I maintain Veg-Appeal to help people transition to a healthier lifestyle through better food choices. I specialize in the nutrition and cooking aspect using the idea of Food as Medicine or Plants over Pills! The science is clear that a whole food plant-based diet can prevent or reverse many if not all of the conditions that Americans commonly suffer from.

I take it as a challenge to recreate the tastes that people are used to, using healthier techniques and whole plant foods. Getting away from processed foods (including oils) can help people reach their health goals quickly – in fact, I usually recommend that, if they have a serious health condition like diabetes or heart disease they should make sure they ask their physician to monitor their medication more closely because the need for it may rapidly decrease. I specialize in showing people that healthy food can taste delicious and they can easily stick to their healthy eating plan.

Other vegan cooking-class companies don’t always have health & nutrition and food as medicine as the #1 focus, so I’m proud to say that Veg-Appeal is the go-to company if you are suffering or recovering from an ailment and you are searching for a way to reverse your condition. Many doctors are now asking their patients to eat better to combat the disease which is an excellent trend! I hope they will send them my way.

What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes?
In the short term, I’m offering a new program called “Evolve Your Palate” which is an in-depth program to learn all about plant-based cuisine and food-prep techniques. Most of us were conditioned from an early age to eat rich foods, that are not health-giving. It takes only 21 days to form new habits and taste buds, so this program will help, along with creating early success in the kitchen, no matter the skill/experience level.

Exciting new programs are coming! PlantDiego is working with PlantPure Nation’s Healing America Together movement to create grassroots change by spreading the idea of plant-based nutrition to certain sectors of society to heal the planet, it’s people and avoids needless animal suffering. San Diego has been chosen as the pilot city to work with our local health care system. We’ve created a colorful tri-fold, printed brochure for doctors to learn about the many resources that are now available, so they can learn and then guide their patients who are choosing or can greatly benefit from this lifestyle.

To find out more and find locations to pick up the brochure to deliver to your own physician, please visit the Healing America Together website (link below). With more doctors on board, we will be poised to guide people and show how this lifestyle can easily fit into their own routine. PlantDiego is training coaches to help and Veg-Appeal is ready to offer group classes to lead people in understanding the science which will then empower them to make better food choices.

PlantDiego will launch a crowdfunding campaign with the ultimate goal of creating a plant-based lifestyle/retreat center to meet the needs of our growing conscious-minded community. We’ll need training in sustainable living, fitness, cooking, business & leadership as well as increased social opportunities. The time has come to wake up, join forces to change our course for the better and food choices are the #1 thing we all have control over.

Plans are in the works for San Diego’s first locally run plant-based health conference. We are looking to get many of the leaders, both local and national, in this health movement to come to town speak. Stay tuned!


  • Enter “PLANTS” at checkout and receive 10% off on any order from Veg-Appeal (group classes/meals, in-person coaching/cooking)

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Image Credit:
Joe Dusel Photography

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1 Comment

  1. Marina

    August 24, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Loved this article! Tracy is such an inspiration!

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