Eating more plant-based meals is the fastest way to shrink your carbon footprint. And beyond helping Mother Earth, you’ll also improve your own physical and mental health.

Our very own founder and CEO, Nicole Centeno, shares why she created a vegan company, and the benefits of plant-based eating.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Nicole! Are you vegan?

Nicole: No! I’m not vegan, but I veg a lot!

Splendid Spoon: Why did you make Splendid Spoon plant-based?

Nicole: I understand the struggle to maintain balance: there are always delicious temptations around. There’s times, I want a chocolate croissant, steak frites, and mezcal every day. But eating like that makes me feel sluggish, my digestion gets weird (I’ll spare you the details), and my skin breaks out. Splendid Spoon’s meals act as veg-heavy speed bumps throughout my croissant-loving life. I want to shift the balance in favor of the food that helps me feel stronger and energized. I need help with that everyday, at least once a day.

Splendid Spoon: Where did your interest in plant-based eating stem from?

Nicole: Ready for a trip down the rabbit hole of my mind? I’ve always had a moral dilemma with eating meat: I enjoy it, but I’m conflicted about eating an animal that’s been raised solely for my enjoyment. My dad’s a hunter and angler — I contemplated only eating meat that I or my family had hunted. This made me think about what it was like when humans had to hunt for their food. Read: less steak frites, more foraged vegetation.

I explored ancestral methods of eating and came across research such as Blue Zones (studies on the world’s longest-lived cultures), which showed that long-lived communities eat lots of vegetables and plant-based proteins (like our hunter-gatherer ancestors). From a health perspective, it was clear that eating less meat and more plants was a simple idea that’s stood the test of time.

Splendid Spoon: What’s your favorite thing about running a plant-based company?

Nicole: Besides my team and how fun it is to create products and build a brand, my favorite thing is pretty self-centered: it helps with my own eating habits! Eating mostly plant-based is a priority for me, but the only way I can stick to it is making it my default. Having Splendid meals in the fridge means I’m always covered and never hangry!

Splendid Spoon: Splendid Spoon is all about the impact of small changes. How much of an impact does eating more plant-based meals have on our planet?

Nicole: It’s true — you don’t have to be 100% plant-based to make an impact. This article sums up how powerful a few plant-based swaps can be:

“If Americans traded their beef for beans […] that would free up 42% of U.S. cropland. […] Even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed — and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese — this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the [2020 greenhouse-gas emissions] target.”

I’m #teambeans :).

Splendid Spoon: How has Spooning improved your health?

Nicole: As soon as I started eating more plant-based meals, my digestion and energy levels improved, and I felt less aches and pains (I have a history of back pain associated with scoliosis, as well as various joint sprains from running). Another long-term shift has been a reduction in stress. When I prioritized plant-based eating I stopped worrying about the minutiae of my meals, and focused on eating mostly veggies. Simplicity is everything.

Splendid Spoon: What do your non-Splendid meals look like?

Nicole: I’m pretty routine-oriented with my Splendid meals, so it’s only dinner and 1–2 meals out that are not Splendid. Most days I have a Splendid Smoothie for breakfast, a Bowl for lunch, a Drinkable for a snack, and a veg-heavy dinner.

When I eat out I’m pretty lax: I want to experience a chef’s creativity [Nicole trained as a chef at the French Culinary Institute. — Ed.]. I order what I want for my main and if it’s light on veggies, I order a veg-heavy side or appetizer. I almost always have dessert when I’m out — I love chocolate, pavlova, and am a sucker for tiramisu. Overall, I focus on veg-heavy eating 85% of the time.

Splendid Spoon: How do you make your food shopping more eco-friendly?

Nicole: Being mostly veg-focused simplifies my approach to being eco-friendly too. I keep my priorities simple: lots of whole fruits, veggies, and grains. I try to buy local and organic, but I don’t stress if that’s not always possible. I’ve basically outsourced 50% of my meals to Splendid Spoon, and since that’s all plant-based, I have confidence that my actions are aligned with my priorities.

Splendid Spoon: Where do you find plant-based recipe inspo?

Nicole: At the end of the day, I’m usually hungry and stressed: I just want to enjoy time with my kids. I love cooking, but I also relate to how annoying it can be. I keep my recipes simple: lentil or bean bowls, leafy wraps, crispy rice bowls, or polenta, all piled with organic produce and sometimes animal protein or eggs. I don’t cook from recipes because following directions detracts from my creative process and I get annoyed! I think that’s why I’m an entrepreneur. I get visual inspiration from One Part Plant, Sugar Detox Me, and Gjelina.

Splendid Spoon: What’s your fave plant-based indulgence?

Nicole: Fine and Raw chocolate, with a tequila cocktail coming in a close 2nd!