411: Mamasezz: the Miracle of Food-based Medicine

Meg Donahue & Ashley James


  • How MamaSezz plant-based delivery started
  • Benefits of eating beets
  • Eating a whole food plant-based diet helps in healing
  • How Mamasezz delivers meals responsibly
  • Testimonials from customers: lost weight, unhooked from food obsession
  • HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired
  • Importance of planning meals and snacks

In this episode, Meg Donahue shares with us how she started MamaSezz, a whole food plant-based meal delivery company. We learn the different struggles that they faced and how it became an opportunity for them to create healthy foods delivered for people with different lifestyles. We also learn how their company values people from their customers to their staff and even our environment.


Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health Podcast. I am so excited for you to hear today's episode. I feel like everyone should listen to at least the first 20 minutes. Oh my gosh, Meg's story is amazing and so inspirational. If you're struggling with health problems, if you have a family member that’s struggling with health problems get them to listen to this. I'm really, really excited to impart this information because we have to get this out there. People need to know that there's a way for the

m to heal their body using food that almost looks miraculous. The results are almost, it's almost a miracle. The science is there and it's been proven. So really, enjoy today's episode. Please share it with those you love. Now, Meg is giving us, is gifting one of the listeners $169 package. So you can go to the Learn True Health Facebook Group for the next week or so. We're going to have a post after I publish this. We’ll have a post on the Learn True Health Facebook Group. You can comment and you can get a chance to win $169 package of whole food plant-based delicious food that'll be shipped to you for free. So, one of our listeners is going to win that.

Now Meg is giving all of the listeners $15 off. So, you can use coupon code LTH on her website, mamasezz.com. That’s MAMASEZZ.com. You can also look in the show notes of today's podcast as all the links to what Meg does is going to be in the show notes of today's podcast at learntruehealth.com. So get the $15 off coupon using the coupon code LTH. Excellent. Be sure to go to the Facebook group for your chance to win this beautiful package that Meg is gifting us. Thank you so much for being a listener. I'm so excited to get this information out there. I can't wait to hear what you guys think of this episode after you listen to it. Then come into the Facebook group and let us know what you think. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day. 

[0:02:19] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health Podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 411. I am so excited for today's show. We have on with us, Meg Donahue. She's the co-founder of mamasezz.com, a national plant-based meal delivery and lifestyle company. MamaSezz is MAMASEZZ.com. I love your website actually. It's really cute and all the food looks so delicious. So, I'm really excited to talk to you today about starting a company focusing on helping people who are super busy to also eat in a healthy way. I think that's a really unique niche to get into.

Image Source: MamaSezz.com

[0:03:12] Meg Donahue: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here, Ashley. I love the work that you do.

[0:03:15] Ashley James: Awesome. So, I'd love to just dive right into your story. You are an entrepreneur, you're a speaker, you're a writer. What happened in your life to make you want to start a plant-based meal delivery service?

[0:03:31] Meg Donahue: It's a really good question. It was not at all on my radar, I'll say that. I was a pretty healthy junk food, meat-eating, dairy eating, grew up in farm country person. At 50 I had had my first child and she was a preemie. During that time, my mother who was 80 also got sick. I'm just giving the back story so you can kind of have a setting for it.

[0:04:03] Ashley James: I want the back story.

[0:04:04] Meg Donahue: Are you sure?

[0:04:07] Ashley James: I'm in awe of you right now. You got pregnant at 49?

[0:04:11] Meg Donahue: I did. It was awesome but at 26 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night and my legs were just double their size. They had just felt like somebody had taken a hose and just was pouring water into my body. I called my doctor and minutes later I'm at the hospital. I had acute preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure and edema, this massive swelling. So, I was 25 weeks at the time so it's a very delicate time for babies where their lungs and their eyes haven't quite developed and there’s brain development. So, they said, “We're just going to ship you to the local the regional big hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock here in New England and just kind of put you in a room to be quiet and dark until and right up as out as long as we can and try and get another week and a half.”

[0:05:12] Ashley James: Is there a reason why the room had to be dark?

[0:05:14] Meg Donahue: Yeah. Because it's really interesting. It's when sound and light can raise your blood pressure. So, you're just trying to be very calm. So, during this time my family of course wanted to visit, my partner was with me, but there are no outside visitors. So, actually my mom was also very sick. She got congestive heart failure. She was 80 and had been kind of in and out of the hospital at that point herself. She said to my sister, she lived two states away, “Hey. I’m going to drive to go see Meg or you're going to take me or I'm going to walk.” So, my sister said, “I will take you.” So, she showed up and by this time I had gained, in that week, 65 pounds of water weight. My head was swollen up like Dick Butkus. I don't know if you know him, but he was a football player from the 60s. I had slits for eyes. It was a very intense time.

So, my mom was in a wheelchair and my sister brought her to the door. I’ll never forget. I looked over and she got up out of the wheelchair. My mom, her whole life up until she got sick, had been what we would consider a really healthy profile person. She played tennis, she golfed, she was active, she read, she had a lot of friends, good family life. So she had all of those elements that we – she wasn't overweight, she was fit-looking. So, prior to her getting sick and being pretty much unable to walk more than 10 feet, she was that person. 

So, she showed up at my hospital room door. I looked over and she got out of the wheelchair and it was like she was when she was 40 again and that kind of vibrant energy. She came over to me. My head was really like a basketball. My back was so swollen. It was just a nightmare. She grabbed my hand and she leaned in and she said, “You're a fighter. You're going to be okay and your baby's going to be okay.” Yeah. I didn't have any reason to believe her at all because at that point everyone was preparing for the worst things that can happen. There are a lot of them, but I did.

Sometimes you just believe your mom. At that moment I did. She went back and kind of collapsed into the wheelchair. My sister took her out of the room and they were going to go get a cup of tea to get her and then get her back to Maine. Moments later, my blood pressure spiked so high they said, “No. You have to have the baby now.” So, they wheeled me in and I gave birth by cesarean to a little over a pound preemie. Yeah. Very tiny. I said, “She's perfect just very small.” So, I had this baby and then I still kept getting sick. Normally, preeclampsia, once you have the baby that cures it. Then you're on the mend, but I had more complications. On top of that my mom collapsed because all of it was just too much. So, she was in the ICU. So, we're on three different floors in the hospital.

[0:08:49] Ashley James: Oh no.

[0:08:51] Meg Donahue: I know. It was nuts. We were there for three months. My daughter was in the NICU for three months. For her, she ended up doing phenomenally well. She has no residual impact of the big scary things from being a preemie. She's tall and she's eight now. But we were all in different like NICU, ICU, cardiac ICU for my mom. I was in the high-risk ward for after pregnancies for a while, but we were there for three months. So, during that time, I rented a hotel suite because it was far away from my house and would stay there. My mom would come in and out of the hospital and stay with me. I realized there's no way she's going home. She can't navigate her day. She can't shop, she can't feed herself, she can't do these things. She was just kind of rapidly going down.

So, while I was up there, we renovated a little garage apartment in my house. I said, “Mom, why don't you just come home with me for a while. Really what I knew and from what doctors had said, there's nothing more we can do. She has less than 10% heart function, kidneys are failing. What happens is your lungs, because your heart can't pump fluids and your lungs fill up and then you have to go in and your lungs. So it's just like this ecosystem that isn't able to, it collapses. That was her body. So, I think she was just too weak to say no. Because it was like a separate garage apartment, it's like 500 feet from my house because she's very proud and private, she said okay. We just brought her home and the same day that I brought my little daughter Annie home three months later.

So, I had this little preemie who was in quarantine for two years because her lungs were very fragile, which meant you know nobody came over unless they had every shot in the world and Purelled themselves. Then I had my mom. My mom was not getting, there were a lot of trips to the emergency room. I'd call my brothers and sisters. I'd be like, “This is it.” They'd all come in and she'd kind of just limp along. So one night up, feeding Annie and I couldn't reconcile how can this incredibly healthy person, now at 80, all of a sudden everything goes. It just doesn't make sense and who’s survived it. So, I just researched that who survived this level of, just googled it. That was congestive heart failure. I came across Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who wrote the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

[0:11:48] Ashley James: I love him. I had him on the show. I just love him. 

[0:11:51] Meg Donahue: Beautiful. Yeah. He's wonderful. T. Colin Campbell as well and the work there and a lot of other people, but Dr. Esselstyn's book I just bought it and said the next day, “Okay, we're doing this.” So, I started cooking her these meals, these very tiny, I mean they're like bird-sized meals, whole food plant-based. So, soups and smoothies. So, over the course of like four or five months she started to get better and that she wasn't getting worse. She could walk, then started to walk around her apartment. When I say apartment it's maybe 15 by 22. It's not a big place. Then she started to walk outside and could walk up and down our driveway. We're saying, “Something's going on here.” The color came back to her face. If she went back to Maine it was going to be hospice care. That was that, but she had come to Vermont. So, she was that level of sick. Then all of a sudden she's starting to get healthier. Then within a year, she's 80. So, then by the time she's 81 she's starting to drive again. She joined the senior center because we're in a new state. Then she joined the pool because she likes to swim so she started swimming three and four times a week. Over the course of three to four years, her heart function went from less than 10% and dropping to the low end of normal. She's doing great. She's going to be 90 this year.

[0:13:40] Ashley James: Oh my gosh, I'm crying. I'm so happy. Oh my gosh. She's still here.

[0:13:45] Meg Donahue: She’s here. She learned to play the uke. Her big first goal once we realized you're kind of out of the immediate woods here, it doesn't look like you're going to die next week, she said, “I just want to be able to see Annie walk.” Now, Annie is over at gram’s house, her little apartment because she still lives with me, every day. She sees her grandchildren every day. I see her every day. We have fun. She shops. She's really active. So, that whole experience really woke me up because I also started eating this way because I was cooking for everyone. So, everyone in my family me, my partner started eating this way. I had arthritis. I was a lifelong athlete and I had arthritis in my hips, which is kind of like older athletes feel just like oh yeah something's going to give. The knee, the hip. So, I just had accepted it, but then I woke up one morning and I woke up because I was not in pain. I thought, “Oh my goodness. Could this be the food too?” Sure enough, inflammation is what causes it.

So, these things just totally captivated me. So, I went to Cornell and I did their course work on it. I called all the doctors. We had previously a background in natural and organic food. My partner had a very large organic bread company in Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and Bic. So, we had sold that. So we thought we were out of the food business but realized, wow this food is miraculous in that when you go from foods that are hurting you to foods that heal. That's all you need to do. You don't need to exercise a ton. All these other things you don't have to do right at the beginning to give yourself a baseline of health. All of these illnesses that we are oddly thinking that it's normal like type 2 diabetes, obesity especially obesity in children, hypertension, other forms of heart disease. A lot of cancers are preventable or at least mitigated by just shifting your diet. I thought, “How do we not know this?

So the deeper I went in and I wasn't too naive to the side of food that is food marketing that creates a very palatable taste profile, which is high fat, high sugar, high oil in a lot of foods. That our food had moved from real food, which has some salt and sodium in it, some sweet to it to really hyper super-sized palate and that people were hooked on it. We had actually even moved away from food. It's like the whole derivative market. Remember when the market crashed it was all about derivatives because it was a derivative of a derivative. That's really what our food has become. I just got on fire that this is such a simple solution. Everybody, everybody benefits. The planet benefits, people benefit, our economy benefits because we're not crushing the health care system, relationships benefit. So, we started making these. We said, “Let's do it. Let's start making these meals.” Did a lot of research for about a year to how do you get a taste profile with whole food plant-based meals. 

So, there's no additives, there's no preservatives in our food, which is really common in vegan foods. A lot of vegan junk food. Preservatives and chemicals to give it either a taste or to keep it on your shelf longer. We said, “We need to get away from that if people are really going to have our food and have the experience where their body gets to just be flooded with nutrients and thrive.” So, we spent a lot of time with food scientists and chefs and we came up with, I think, some products that they're familiar. I said, “If my football-playing brothers like this, then it passes.” I needed them to not going to like, “Oh, it’s a salad.” We wanted to be very open because I came to this, I was clueless. It's shameful how clueless I was, but I was. I wasn't a bad person, I just didn't know. So, shaming didn't help me because we had those friends who are like, “Oh, you’re going to eat that tuna?” Then wreck the whole dinner. I said, “I don't want to be that person because I know people come to something when they're laughing and happy and they feel good. So, let's create that type of company where if you're not wholly plant-based that's fine, just have some of this and integrate it in your life.” Then for people who are sick, if you have a heart disease I say don't mess around, why would you? Just go all in, see what happens. 

So, we really created foods that fit anybody. Wherever you're entering into a plant-based or if you've been eating vegan and plant-based your whole life or if you're just starting or if you have a specific illness, we try to create a product and we curate them into bundles that will suit you. I think it's worked out pretty well. We partnered with the American Institute for Cancer Research for people who are going through chemotherapy and treatment because we know that having good food handy and ready-made because our food is already made, you just have to heat and eat it, is a huge benefit when you already feel sick. We have a heart-healthy bundle. We work with Dr. Esselstyn to create that. We worked with TrueNorth. So, we picked some really key people and then develop some bundles specifically for that.

We work with, I don't know if you know Dr. Jamie Dulaney, she's just a rock star. She's a cardiologist. She said she traded in her scalpel for her spatula. She has a lifestyle and wellness practice. She's also an Ironman athlete. She said, “There are some specific things that we need as athletes when you're plant-based that you can't always get.” So, we created some custom products. We have this beet product, which I have to send you because it's like rocket fuel. You put it in your smoothie with a little juice and a banana and increases stamina. Any research on beets will tell you this, but decreases inflammation, increases stamina, increases endurance. A lot of high-level athletes love it. So, that was her secret weapon. She started pounding our beet. We made it with her and then we made a performance bundle for athletes that need a little extra. Different nutrients, different vitamins and a little more for more calories. So, that type of thing. That's our story. That's how we got here and how MamaSezz came about.

[0:21:02] Ashley James: I love it. I was crying the entire time about your mom. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, she's still here and she was at 10% a heart and her kidneys were failing.” Sounds like she had COPD.

[0:21:18] Meg Donahue: Oh yeah.

[0:21:20] Ashley James: That was her at 80 and all the MDs gave up on her. They all said go home to die, go home to hospice. We really have to wrap our brains around this. We have given over our power and our medical authority. We've given over our decision-making to these MDs that we put on a pedestal.

They are really well-intended people. They are highly educated. They really do want to help, but it's like asking a plumber and check my car engine. They're not trained in how to heal the body. They’re training how to manage drugs and manage symptoms and sort of just keep us alive with allopathic medicine, but they're not trained in school about nutrition and healing the body. It blows my mind. 

So, all the doctors and all the times she went to the ER and all the time she was in the hospital, MD allopathic drug-based medicine was not going to get her healthy. It was just going to maintain and sort of just keep her from dying. Then she comes home and eats your whole food plant-based no salt, sugar oil, cooking and it's delicious and she was eating food that was dense in nutrition and optimally designed to heal the heart. She's here years and years and years later and she's driving and she's active and she's having the quality of life that some 70-year-olds don't have. Just blows my mind.

[0:23:00] Meg Donahue: It's really true. I remember one time when I was in, at this time I didn't really know, but I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, she's a heart patient. Why are they giving her tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? That just seems wrong.” I didn't even know all that I know now. This was before we had the company. It was crazy. What I think happens, she has a story of her doctor. Because earlier, before all this, she had had a pacemaker. He said to her, “You're never going to feel as good as you did before in your life.” It stuck with her. She's had a lot of doctors but that particular one just stuck. She goes, “What a horrible thing to say to somebody.” It turned out to be so dramatically wrong. But I think that if a lot of people, a lot of doctors and I think it's changing a lot but I think that they have the tools that they have to work with. 

Nutrition is a very difficult thing to control. You can control a pill but you can't control what somebody eats. People aren't great at self-reporting. So, I think that they are trying to hedge their bets and rightfully so because they have an oath to do their best. If what they're seeing is somebody who may or may not follow through and then they die of a heart attack or I can give them a stent and then they can hopefully change their diet. That's what I see a lot. I've run into some flat-out resistance to it, but a lot of it is that an abundance of caution and an understanding that most people aren't able to comply. That was one of the reasons that we said let's make it so flat out easy to do this that people can get over that initial hump that first month. That first two months. Because our products are not like a meal kit or anything. They're more like what you would stock your fridge with. So, you get your almond milk, you get whatever other things and you get your MamaSezz products. You can eat them just as they are or you can mix and match them with other things and make other meals. That's what we wanted. To make it so easy for people that the multi-ingredient things are already made for you.

We do veggie burgers you can put whatever you want on a veggie burger. We do the chili, we'll do the lasagna and we have a great new breakfast bundle coming out with frittatas and flatbread. It's all gluten-free. There's no flour. It's amazing, but to make it super easy for people because that's what we saw in a medical profession that doctors were really wary of. It was accurate because it is hard to comply especially when you're not well and you have habits and probably addictions to different sugars and flours and foods and things to comply. So they hedge their bets and we try and help on the other end. Okay, go ahead. Keep taking medication, but do this as well and have your doctor monitor your medication so you can wean off the things. That was really what happened with mom because we didn't know what the heck we were doing but all of a sudden her blood pressure dropped like a stone. I’m like oh my god. What we realized is because she was getting better, her blood pressure, she had high head high blood pressure, dropped but she was on blood pressure medication. So it dropped too much. We have to like scrape her off the floor and then got her blood pressure medication adjusted as she got stronger and stronger. It went down and down. It was a weaning process.

[0:26:58] Ashley James: Wonderful. So, she's off of medication now?

[0:27:01] Meg Donahue: Yeah. She had had like a genetically high cholesterol. Some people just produce more cholesterol. So, she's on something for cholesterol. She had had a thyroid issue. So she still has a small amount of that. So it's like everything is on a– initially, I have master's degrees and I had to have a spreadsheet just keep track of her medication. When she first came it was just insane. She's on B12 now. She does D, some vitamins and things like that. Then she has a few of the other ones, one for the thyroid and then a cholesterol. 

[0:27:42] Ashley James: So, she's on two prescription medications instead of an entire spreadsheet of prescription medications?

[0:27:48] Meg Donahue: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[0:27:51] Ashley James: I love it. We had a similar testimonial from, in the Learn True Health Facebook group we get testimonials all the time from listeners by listening to the show and following the advice of people like Dr. Esselstyn who's been on the show. My listeners then report back. We had one woman who took pictures of her old medication and her new medication. She went from something like nine or ten bottles down to two bottles. She changed three things in her life, things that she learned from the show. She changed three things. Most of those meds were pain meds. She says, “I am now out of pain.” She's out of pain. She's goes, “I'm going to start exercising now because I'm out of pain.” This is the quality of life that people can have by shifting their diet.

[0:28:47] Meg Donahue: And you. You're bringing that message to them. I mean, that's what we need. Somebody who can bring quality content to people that's research-based. We knew we wanted to be grounded in research and that's what you are where you're bringing people. This is real. It actually works. You can always test, know if a diet works not by whether you lose weight or not or if you have more energy, but if you get your actual physical numbers done. So, that's we tell people is like, “You might want to do keto but what I would do is get all of my numbers done first and then six months later get them done again or a year later and follow it.”

[0:29:26] Ashley James: I like that. I like that you brought that up, that testing. That's exactly what happened to me. Through the last 15 years or so, I have reversed type 2 diabetes, chronic adrenal fatigue, chronic infections for which I was on monthly antibiotics for, polycystic ovarian syndrome and infertility. I had five basically diseases and I reversed it with food and supplements and lifestyle changes. That's why I started the show because I learned so much from Naturopathic doctors and from these holistic doctors. I thought this is crazy. The world needs to know this. The world needs to know that just switching to organic made my chronic monthly infections go away. One change, just one. I didn't even give up sugar. I didn't give up dairy. I didn't give up meat. My first change back in 2008, 2009 it's like right around 2008. It was right when Netflix started streaming the first health documentary. The first health documentary said shop the perimeter and buy organic. We were still eating the standard American diet. I did more shopping the perimeter and I chose organic and within that month my chronic infections went away. I just turned to my husband I'm like, “If I can change one thing, something so big by changing one aspect of my food.” Yeah. 

That began my journey into just diving in because I'd been going every month to the MD and they just kept giving me drug after drug after drug. How many years could I have lived on countless antibiotics? I would have had to be on antibiotics for the rest of my life just constantly. Would I still be here? I mean, I might have died from cancer or something because my immune system was clearly not working.

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

[0:31:21] Meg Donahue: Yeah. It sounds like it had just, probably which is a healthy response to a lot of toxins. Your body's like forget it, we can't do this, alert, alert. Luckily, I don't know how you had the wherewithal to find it, but luckily you did. That's amazing.

[0:31:41] Ashley James: Divine intervention. It was. It was definitely.

[0:31:43] Meg Donahue: Yeah. I hear you.

[0:31:45] Ashley James: There's a lot of that. 

[0:31:47] Meg Donahue: We’re angel driven, you know. We say that. I think it was right around that year when we were doing this. We had done this. I did a public art show and it was called watching angels because our town had been hit by floods. It fires. We're a small town in the hills of Vermont. You wouldn't think there'd be floods but there was this massive flood that went right through the town. So, I did this art show called watching angels where I got artists from all over the world to send in angels. It was outside. We would put them in weird little places or curious places with a message, an uplifting message. Then we had these two big 24-foot gratitude boards in town where people could go write what are you grateful for. It was amazing, Ashley. It was like this vortex. We kept it going for 30 days and we documented it. What we had said was that was kind of like it just dropped into my mind. I was drawing one night and this whole idea just came into my head. I was like, “I'm not really a public artist but okay, I guess I'll do that.” 

So, I just kind of found my way through and it turned out to be this really remarkable thing for the town, which was cool and I was glad to be a part of. The same feeling happened when MamaSezz really coalesced into an idea that we're going to do this. I was sitting. I got up early. I was sitting at my breakfast table. It was like this idea just came down and the whole thing. I said, “Okay.” That's what we're going to do. Here we are two years later.

[0:33:35] Ashley James: Wow. I know that feeling of –

[0:33:38] Meg Donahue: I had a feeling that it would resonate with you like, “I’m going to what?”

[0:33:42] Ashley James: Yeah, because there's no safety net. There's no one there to catch you. There's no paycheck. You might put your whole life savings into it. I mean, when you're starting a business, it might be years before you get paid. So, it's like there is no safety net. You could be, and you are so bold, you're launching- I mean this country wants McDonald's. What are you thinking? People want to eat fast food. What are you thinking? So, you're going against the norm. You're really going up against the norm and you're saying, “I bet that there's there are enough customers out there that desperately want a pre-made meal service that is going to help them heal their body.” That is so bold because most people, not the listeners obviously, but the majority the people want–they don't even think about health. It's not even in their consciousness to think about it. So you really we're taking a huge risk to create a plant-based meal service that is designed for athletes, designed for heart patients, designed for weight loss, designed for the different kind of niches, but that it's super healthy clean food. When the majority people out there just want to go through a drive-thru. 

So, that was bold of you in that moment to say, “I'm going to launch this,” because you could have failed but you didn't and I love it.

[0:35:22] Meg Donahue: Well, thanks. I think too you might be giving me too much credit. I don't know if I thought about it. I think you might probably measured it as clearly as you might have. I would have gone like, wait a minute. I think it's the same thing that galvanized you is when you've had your life just really transformed and you can see how amazing it is. Then I just felt like giving it away. It just felt like I have a golden ticket. Anybody who had like type 2 diabetes. I don't want to be the person who's like talking to their ear off about plant-based food. I said, “Well, maybe I'll just create a company and then we can get,” and this is the lifestyle part is it was really important that we have solid information for people because there was so much woo-woo kind of not accurate science. Maybe an accurate message but backed up by kind of not strong arguments or science. So, we decided early on that we're going to invest a lot of our time and efforts also into creating solid information for people because I wanted it. I ended up really just having, it's a life or death situation for me. So, I was highly motivated but not everyone hopefully has to come to it being that motivated. They can just come to our site and go, “What is nutritional yeast? What do you do with it? How much B12 do I need?” Get those initial answers done and really find well-documented, well-researched information.

So, that's the other part of what we do because it's not all about food. Food just kind of gives you the platform to then go lead the rest of your life. There's a lot of other things that can go into that.

[0:37:19] Ashley James: Food gave your mom ten years plus, right? Of quality living. She went back to swimming. She went back to driving.

[0:37:34] Meg Donahue: She travels.

[0:37:36] Ashley James: She travels. She's super healthy. It gave her her life back. Food can give us our life back. I want us to stop thinking about, “Well, but what about my bacon? What about my meat? But I love cheese.” Just stop thinking about that. Let's say if we add up all the hours of the day that we spend eating, okay it's an hour a day. You're suffering for 23 hours a day from whatever illness and you're worried about the one hour a day that you enjoy your cheese? I mean, this is what I struggled with. It took me a while to kind of come around because I had to wrap my brain around. I realized, I came to the realization that dairy was hurting my health. I had to do a break from dairy and see if cutting out dairy would help. The hardest thing to let go was cheese because my husband and I would eat a brick of Tillamook Cheese every weekend. It was the big kind from Costco. Seriously, it's the size of a foot. We would sit there and we would like, that was our you know. It took us a weekend and we'd eat it. I mean, we would kind of look at each other like, “Where's the cheese?” “We already ate it.” It was a huge break. It's like the size of my head.

Cream in the coffee. I had to kind of have a come-to-Jesus talk with myself and go, “Okay. So what? So what I don't enjoy my coffee like I enjoy my coffee-less? So what? So I find something else to snack on instead of cheese. I am suffering right now and I don't need to.” So, I had to buck up and try a different way of eating. Then all of a sudden I had these huge results. I'm like, “Okay. It's worth.” But I went through a struggle. It took me a while to transition. I slowly transitioned. I slowly ate less and less meat and more and more plants. My husband however, he went vegan overnight. He just woke up and just said like everything in his being said, “I never want to eat meat again.” Since I'm the cook in the house so I have to cook now I have to figure out how to cook plant-based, okay. So, that helped my progression into the plant-based world. 

What I found is that I had more energy in one week of eating more plants than I had eating all the meat in the world. We were raised to believe that meat gives us energy. We’re raised to believe that meat makes us feel good. So, I was surprised because I thought for sure I'd feel shaky and weak because again, I lived as a diabetic for many years. I was afraid of carbohydrates. I was afraid that eating yams or potatoes or grains, whole grains or even vegetables. I was afraid of vegetables for many years because I was afraid of carbohydrates. Really, I had to face all these fears and all these beliefs about food. I had to examine them and go, “Is this science-based? Is this based in reality or can I reorganize my thinking about food because I'd never tried eating just whole foods?” Okay. Stir-fry with no oil and there's easy way to do it. Sauté a bunch of vegetables. Really delicious. You use the spices I love. Put it over some brown rice. All organic of course. Make my own tahini sauce or something. Make my own lemon garlic sauce or whatever I want. So delicious. I thought for sure I'll be hungry in an hour, I'll be shaky, I'll be weak and it was the opposite. My energy lasted longer. I just began to feel better and better.

I told you this before we hit record, but yesterday I had for breakfast, actually it was really an early start because I woke up just after 4:00. So, sometime in between 4:00 and 5:00 I made a big bowl of homemade sprouts and a big bowl of sprouts with avocado and homemade sesame sauce like a tahini sauce. I had that for breakfast and then I didn't eat again for about 8 to 10 hours. I can't remember exactly when I had breakfast because I know I woke up at 4:00 but I basically didn't eat again until 2:00 PM. I kind of looked around going, “Oh, wow. I'm just starting to get hungry now.” That wasn't me in the past when I was a meat-eater. I had to eat like every three to four hours or else I'd be ravenous. So, I always thought I had to have meat to feel satiated. So, this is just a big, big shift to go, “Wait, I just ate plants and I am more satiated and eating me actually caused me to be hungry more often.” So, I had to constantly face my belief system about food and go, “Okay, I'm looking at foods to heal my body.” Is my belief system and also my desire for oh is it going to taste good because I just talked to a client yesterday and I was talking about broccoli as an example. I said 100 calories of broccoli is like two and a half cups broccoli. So, just to give a comparison, it's very filling and nutrient-dense, but it's volumetric. It's low-calorie but big volume so you can eat a lot of a non-starchy vegetable, feel very good, you're getting all these nutrients. She goes, “Yeah, but that'd be boring.” I was like, “Yes, exactly.” People are worried about eating healthy because it's boring, but it doesn't have to be. 

[0:43:14] Meg Donahue: Yeah. I think that you've touched on so many important points that we've seen with people transitioning to eat this way. One of the ones that you said is you had to kind of come-to-Jesus moment. If you have a health issue, then that's usually where the rubber meets the road. I say to people, “You're going to need to make a decision about what you want to do here and accept that there will be some things that are different than what they what used to be. Just do it for today. Then when tomorrow comes do it for tomorrow. Add more things, more good stuff to your plate and have the meats or the dairies be smaller. Then add more of this amazing buffet of possibility over here that are plant-based, it's colorful, rich amazing foods. Eat those first and then eat the other.” When you can flip it that way and just kind of wean the others away, you allow your buds, which takes some time to change because we've really been just kind of saturated with the idea that you have to have massive amounts of salt, sugar, and fat for something to taste good. A potato chip is a good example of that. That the reason they taste so good is because those elements are so so high and it's addictive. That's why you can eat just one. It's not because that particular taste is so unique and amazing. It's that combination of those elements are so amazing.

So, it takes a while for your taste buds to readjust, but like you said, when you begin to have the benefits and can allow yourself that, it so outweighs the other. I totally get that for people who grew up eating a certain way, changing can be difficult. There is a point where you make a decision, well, what do I want to do? If you can know that on the other side of it is not like food that's just going to be blah the rest of your life because I think that's the fear or I'm never going to have enough protein, but to do what you did which was to really allow yourself the experience of it and then to be reflective enough to say, Well, was that true? Did I really have an energy drop? No, I didn't. Am I really starving? No, I'm not. Did that taste bad? No, it tasted good.” To let yourself do that enough so that your body is like, “This is what I crave, I don't crave the other anymore.” That happens. That happens to everybody. It takes about, they say, 66 days to really ingrain a habit if you do it consistently. Everyone would like it to be three days but it's really, that's just our physiology and our psychology. It just takes some time and to give yourself that time. The gift of health we call it because you know the benefits are just so profound even if you don't have an illness, especially if you don't have an illness. Just to be able to live your life with that level of sustained clear energy with a focus is really just amazing. That's how we're meant to live. When you can read all the ingredients and you could grow them in a garden of our food, but for a lot of foods that we see, there's just absolutely no place that they are found in nature. They're found in a lab. It's not surprising that our bodies don't process them or recognize them that well.

[0:46:55] Ashley James: How long have you been offering MamaSezz? How long have you been shipping meals?

[0:47:04] Meg Donahue: We launched in February of 2017. Pretty quickly, made the decision to ship nationwide. So, we ship fresh. It comes in a cooler. This is another thing that bothered me when we first started. I wanted to see what other company was doing, how they did it, what worked and what we could glean from it. What I ended up with it was a garage full of just boxes and ice packs and liners. I thought, “This is crazy. So much of this is just going to land up in a landfill.” Talk about being the ugly American. I'm going to get these ten meals and I'm dumping all this in a landfill. We need to crack that nut.

So, we decided right off the bat that this is something that we have to create a model that handles that. So, what we do with a two-tiered approach. The first thing that we do is we give you a shipping label and we take everything back. So, you get your box and all of your stuff and then you just put your ice packs back in, unless you want them, and the liners and you just ship it back to us. We recycle and reuse all of it. The other thing that we're doing is, I grew up in part on the ocean in Maine and realized that our oceans are really getting hammered. What can we do to help raise awareness about that and also monetize potentially taking the plastic out of the ocean? So, we said, “Well, we could probably make boxes, shipping boxes out of ocean plastic.”

[0:48:45] Ashley James: Oh, cool.

[0:48:46] Meg Donahue: Yeah. So, that's our under the wire project that we're working on now is to pull the plastic from the ocean, pelletize it, make boxes out of it. Because that you can reuse and reuse. You can do 50-60 trips with that. Then when the box is no longer usable, you can repelletize it and make a park bench out of it. So, that's our idea, our second idea. Our first is of course we take everything back because this is it. We get one planet, one life. Maybe it was after the 50-mark in my life and then seeing how fragile it was for my daughter and then at my mom at her stage in her life is that it is so rapid and so fast. What am I going to leave for my children? What kind of world am I going to leave? What kind of environment am I going to leave? Are they going to be struggling with things that I never even could imagine? How do we set a tone in a company that can leave it better than when we got here or at least stop the burn? So, that is a big part of who we are and why we do what we do.

[0:50:04] Ashley James: Brilliant. So, you have been shipping out since 2017. In the last few years, you must have testimonials. Can you share some that are in the forefront of your mind?

[0:50:20] Meg Donahue: Yeah. We have so many customers. This is because startups are tough, at least food businesses, it's a difficult business. There are a lot of moving parts when you make your own food. We don't outsource our food to others, to a co-packer, which a lot of companies do. We do it all ourselves. We have a brilliant plant, brilliant shipping facilities, but there are a lot of moving parts. So, what keeps you going is knowing that what you're doing matters. That it's impact is somebody's life in a really positive and in many life-changing way. So, we hear from our customers every day. We came out with a weight-loss bundle and I had resisted it for a long time because I didn't want people to just focus on their weight and not on their health. But what I realized is that weight is sometimes what gets your attention. If this is the way we can get people's attention and then they end up having this health and the weight drops off because it always does when you’re plant-based. So, we developed a weight-loss program. The most moving pieces are people who have had life-long 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds that they have lost and gained back and lost and gained back and been caught in this struggle, which is an excruciating struggle because every day, for every meal you're measuring it against, am I my gaining weight or am I losing weight? Am I gaining weight, am I losing weight? Do these pants fit, don't they fit? When you get up in the morning, am I bloated, not bloated?

So, this whole massive amount of energy that is sucked up by how much do I weigh? What they, a lot of people have believed is it's their psychology is somehow off.

[0:52:12] Ashley James: Or they blame themselves. They blame themselves. I was too weak. I couldn't do it.

[0:52:17] Meg Donahue: I had a crummy childhood. I had something. All of this stuff, maybe those pieces are true, but what we know is that there's flat-out science that says if you put too much sugar, fat, salt and other chemicals in your body it'll alter your body chemistry and so that you begin to set up a craving in there that is just like any other addiction and you are powerless to it. So, what you need to do is to get that out of your system and let your body heal. When you do that you will lose weight naturally because you will no longer be in conflict with food. So, we'll get messages from people and they’re ecstatic about the 10 or the 15, 20, 30. We've had people lose 65 pounds on a program. That is wonderful because to be released that. But the number one thing that is so moving is that they tell us, to a person, I have unhooked from food obsession, which means that the weight issue is you're done. You paid that electric bill. You don't have to go back to it. You're not going to be next month. If you keep eating a plant-based diet, you're not going to be in conflict with food. You're not going to have to get up and think, “Should I eat this or shouldn't I?” All of that energy and it's not just women. So many men have it. They suffer differently than women, but it's still a struggle. They might go to the gym more or women too, an obsession with working out, which has to do. I used to do in college, it helped get through college. I worked in gyms. I remember, it was during the early 80s. When they first started putting calorie counters on treadmills. The population of our gym changed from men to women.

Women would come in and it was not to get fit but all of a sudden the marketing had shifted. So, where if you could workout you could burn off last night's whatever. That's what happened, is working out became a way to get rid of calories as opposed to a way to get healthier. If working out did not burn calories, people would not do it for the health reasons. They just wouldn't. That is what happened. That's what happened and marketers got it. Now you'll see everything has a calorie counter on it. Everything tracks, “Oh my goodness. Are you burning calories?” I can say I am never ever. I don't count a calorie. I don't think about calories. This is somebody who when I was in my 20s had a pretty significant eating disorder. So I was all that. I was as hooked into food as you could get. It's gone. Just gone. That is the piece that is the most moving.

We've had a woman in her 50s, she lost 65 pounds. Then the transformation of her life because her orientation was no longer about food and my own weight and my inability to lose weight. Those are really gratifying.

[0:55:30] Ashley James: Being at peace with food for those who have suffered emotional eating, overeating, binge eating or food addiction. It's over 10% of the population has this. It occupies every minute of the day for them. I know because that was me. You're right, whole food plant-based diet has given me peace in my body. I interviewed Dr. Ellen Goldhamer, the founder or co-founder of the TrueNorth Medical Center.

[0:56:01] Meg Donahue: Yeah. We work with him.

[0:56:02] Ashley James: Right. Yeah. You mentioned him or you mentioned the TrueNorth Medical Center. He co-authored the book The Pleasure Trap. I really recommend reading it or listen to it because Chef AJ narrated it. I love her. I've had her on the show twice. He talks about the pleasure trap. He talks about the hyper-palatable foods in our society that really have hijacked our brain and hijacked our ancient survival mechanism. Because 1,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago or 10,000 years ago, 100,000 years ago however long it was that we were evolving and growing and being here on this planet. Whatever your belief system, everyone believes we've been here at least 5,000 years depending on what religion you're a part of, but we've been here long enough. That back when there weren't restaurants. Maybe we had to hunt or forage or gather whatever. That the body, we would go through times of famine. 

In order to survive the famine, our ancestors had to gorge on high fructose fruit when it was in season. That's why fructose is the only carbohydrate that doesn't, actually the only macronutrient that doesn't trigger the satiety mechanism in the brain. So, what that means is you could not imagine drinking a liter or two liters of coconut cream or whole dairy. Whatever it's called, whole milk. If I were to hand you two liters of, I don't know what the conversion is in American, gallon? Whatever what the unit.

[0:57:51] Meg Donahue: Like two gallons. 

[0:57:52] Ashley James: Two gallons. Okay. If I'm going to hand you two gallons of high-fat milk and tell you to chug it you would be like, “Are you going to pay me a million dollars?” Maybe, but that doesn't sound appealing. You drink a glass of high-fat coconut milk and even a glass would be too much. It's just too much. But if I were to give someone two liters of a soda-pop like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, a teenager would down that in a day and have no problem. They would definitely have problems like sugar high, but the fact is that something with fructose doesn't trigger the satiety mechanism. So, they use fructose in foods to make us consume more of it. Because we were meant to gorge heavily on fruit and never fully feel full so that we could gain weight so we could survive the famine. So, that was healthy back when it was in a whole food form. Then they took fructose and they isolated it and highly concentrated it and they put it in all packaged food. In some way or another, most potato chips have some form of sugar in them along with the other things that trick the brain to make us want to have more and more and more of it.

So, our brains from a very young age, have been hijacked by these Frankenfoods. As well as the marketing. I've discussed this on the show before. It hit me, when I was a child and I'd watch Sesame Street or whatever. Whatever that had commercials because I don't know if PBS has commercials but whatever kids show I'd watch. The commercial would come on, it would be a Kellogg's commercial or there'd be Cheerios or there'd be Lucky Charms or whatever with all these fun, childlike characters. You'd get a prize or there'd be cartoons on it. So, it would be this very friendly, calming thing for a child. It wasn't threatening. It was something that looked delicious. It was something that was comforting.

So, you grow up going down the aisles seeing your familiar friends on these boxes and seeing all the familiar logos on all these highly-processed foods. It isn't threatening to your neurology because you grew up with these brands. Our neurology is threatened by something new in an unconscious level. Especially for food and especially for children, they don't like new things. But we grow up as adults and now we're buying the same brands that we have been essentially brainwashed to trust because we grew up and they were part of our childhood. So, we just kind of blindly trust so much of the food that's on the shelves and on our plates and in the drive-thru because they were able to market to us our entire lives. It's like 1984. They're able to just George Orwell our brain and hijack us.

So, we have to kind of pull ourselves out and go examine our belief system around food. I had to ask myself, “Why do I want to eat this? Really. What is motivating me? Why do I want to build my cells? I have 37.2 trillion cells. Do I want it? The next bite I'm putting into my mouth, do I want my body to be made out of this food?” Like some kind of potato chips right, as the example we come to. “Do I want to take oil, highly-processed oil, GMO, with pesticides and some fried potato chip with heterocyclic amines,” which is carcinogenic. It's a massive carcinogenic compound that happens when you take certain foods and process them in high heat and then highly concentrated salt and sugar and MSG and other chemicals. “Okay, do I want to build my cells that are going to support me in health? Do I want to build my brain with this food, build my immune system with this food?” If we looked at every single bite we put into our body and we ask ourselves, “Do I want my eyesight, my eyes, the next cells to make my eyeballs, do I want them to be made out of this food? Do I want better eyesight or worse eyesight?

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash


[1:02:17] Meg Donahue: You're nailing it. It is not logical. I think that's one of the things that's really baffled me in my own life is that I've make a lot of decisions that they aren't logical. I know that the times that I make those decisions are usually something's going. I'm hungry so we tell people, we call it HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. That address those things. First is hunger because it's very hard to make a good food decision when you're hungry and there is something that is going to taste good and give you the boost that you want. You might even intuitively know it like it's a cookie or those types of really sweet type things or chips that are fast and they give you a jolt. So, if you can avoid being hungry in the first place with whole food plant-based foods, it's much easier to not want things that are bad for you we found. Because you're right, it makes no sense, even when you're informed, that people still make bad decisions. 

So, well knowing that we say, “Well, give yourself a little bit of a break.” Don't make yourself be hungry just like you wouldn't make your baby be hungry. They'd give them really good food. If your baby was angry you'd kind of pick them up and go, “Hey. It's all going to be okay.” You can do the same with yourself. Lonely, of course with young children. You wouldn't just stick them in a room alone. You nurture that need as well. Tired, of course, I think most people are working more than they have at this time in our lives. Just phenomenal stress financially, physically in our world that we’re so interconnected. I don't think we can [Unintelligible] of being in a very connected and wired world for amazing as it is. How much of our energy and mental focus it gets kind of distracted and chewed up by that, which then leads to a kind of like trying to catch up when you get out of it. 

So, those are the parts of the lifestyle that we try and address that putting good food in your body is the number one thing. It's a whole lot easier to make decisions when you have that in your body, but to understand that there's all these other pulls that you're just going to do stuff. If you know any, you probably know a lot about recovery from alcohol and other addictions that it makes no sense that somebody would lose their license, lose their children, lose their job and then still go do something that was so damaging to themselves. We know that that is because there's an active addiction going on. Once you can get that out and then give people the tools to deal with that time of recovery of when you're no longer, when you're learning how do I live differently and how do I make different decisions. So, that's a part of what we really focus on as well are to give people the other tools to go from consistently making bad decisions to making fewer bad decisions around food, to making good decisions and have some compassion for themselves.

[1:05:46] Ashley James: One thing I would add to your HALT, I love it, is hydrate. So maybe hungry and hydrate.

[1:05:53] Meg Donahue: That's cool. Yeah. That's perfect because hydrate would be one, number one and then a hunger. Because a lot of times I think I'm hungry and I'm just thirsty. I don't even know the difference.

[1:06:07] Ashley James: I've done a lot of work with the thirst mechanism. It's strange, a lot of people think they're, “Oh, well I’m not thirsty so I'm not dehydrated.” It's far from the truth. In fact, thirst is sort of like, you know when your car says, “Okay, I'm about to be out of gas,” but you actually still have like 50 miles? My car does that.

[1:06:31] Meg Donahue: Right. Right.

[1:06:31] Ashley James: Okay. Thirst happens when the tank runs out and the car all of a sudden just stops. We're like, “Oh, we need more gas.” That's when thirst actually kicks in. When we are below empty and we actually needed to have sort of drinking water 50 miles ago. 

[1:06:51] Meg Donahue: That’s a really good analogy.

[1:06:52] Ashley James: Yeah. I just came up with that.

[1:06:53] Meg Donahue: That is so good. That is really good.

[1:06:56] Ashley James: Whereas hunger comes when our tank is like 60% still full. Our body's like, “Okay. I just made some room in the stomach. You can eat now.” We eat more calories than we need because our brain, for all the years that we lived without restaurants and without grocery stores, we didn't have access to regular meals. So, our brain was desperately seeking calorie-dense foods in order to not die. So, now that we have access to constant supply of food, our brain goes, “Fantastic. We can be 400 pounds and we will never die of starvation.” That's your brain’s job is to try to get all of us to be 400 pounds because we have a constant access to fuel. Our brain loves gaining weight because it wants us to survive the famine. We don't need to eat three or six meals a day. We're being told now that we should eat, “Eat six meals a day.” We don't have to, but we definitely want to get nutrients in us.

There's 90 essential nutrients the body needs. The body needs omega fatty acids, which we can get from plants. The body needs protein or in the form of main amino acids, which we can get from plants, an abundance of it and all the amino acids. That's my pet peeve is when people say, “Oh, but you have to eat meat because there's certain amino acids you just don't get unless you eat meat.” Oh man. That was my first myth. I totally believed that. That was the first myth I busted for myself doing the research. We need 60 minerals, which we can get from, it's a little bit harder to get all our minerals because of the farming practices. But if we eat organic, and sometimes we can supplement with a trace mineral if we are deficient. Eating plants is going to ensure that we're getting more minerals than eating animals because animals don't make minerals. Cows don't make minerals. Cows don't make calcium. Cows get their calcium from their feed. Then you could take supplements so we can just skip the middleman and take our own supplement or eat lots of greens.

So, we need 60 minerals. We need two essential fatty acids. We need 16 vitamins. We could definitely get all the vitamins from plants. I went through and looked at all the nutrition. I was like, “We got to get this dense amount of nutrition in us, but we don't need to eat 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 calories a day and a lot of people are.” I know that I was constantly hungry. I had to work on that. What's going on? My hunger mechanism was just constantly out of control. Whereas I never felt thirst until I was incredibly dehydrated. So, the hunger mechanism can kick in when we're still 60% full. We have to sort of check-in with ourselves saying, I love your thing, check-in, is this really hunger or am I angry, lonely, tired?

I have a sign on my fridge that I made that says, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how hungry are you?” Because I check-in with myself and I go, “You know what, it's a three. I probably need a glass of water.” So, checking in and having that self-awareness has really helped me because I would have totally got in and had a snack because you know what, it's fun to eat. There's a word, and I don't remember the word in Japanese but I love this word. There's a word in Japanese that means I eat not because I'm hungry but because my mouth is lonely.

[1:10:32] Meg Donahue: It's true and eating is fun. We have a thing where we say, “If you think you're hungry have an apple and if you don't want eat an apple you're not really hungry, you might want something else.” But I'm a believer in being prepared especially when you're starting to shift things because our mind is really tricky. It’s just going convince me of something that I'm going to regret later. So, we try and prepare ourselves. I tell people, and we do this in the weight loss and in other things, one, we have drink water before every meal. It's shown, if you're trying to lose weight if you can drink 16 ounces of water before each meal and a green salad, you're going to lose up to 22% more than you would otherwise. So, that's an incentive, but you also are getting those things. You were hydrating.

Then to plan. You don't have to be maniacal, but when you're doing something new, it's a lot on your brain to make a decision every single time you have to eat or might be hungry. So, go ahead and give yourself a break and plan out your meal. So, we help people do that. We specifically plan snacks, because what happens is exactly what you said, “Yeah, I'm hungry. I think I'll get something.” Then the know chips are there or whatever. You stop for gas because food is everywhere. It wasn't when I was growing up. You got gas at a gas station. You didn't get dinner, which is what you do now. So, food is everywhere.

There's so many times you have to decide, will I eat that or won't I because it's everywhere. So, we pre-make those decisions. Plan your snacks. Plan your snacks. So, make sure. Just like I do my kids when I pack their lunch. I know they're going to get hungry so I give them a great snack. They look forward to it. Then they're not hungry and they come home and my kids are super healthy. So, I do it for myself. Plan your snacks. Like, “Oh, cool,” because food is also very sensual. It's so fun and it's such a big part of our lives. So many wonderful things happen around a table and around cooking and around eating that you don't want to take that away to make sure that you're actually really are enjoying it. It isn't like taking you over.

So, that's why we plan snacks so that you get that. Great, this is a treat, cool. Food is a treat, but make sure it's a real treat not something that you're going to like, “Oh, why did I eat that?” It's so over that. It feels like so 90s or 2010. I don't know but that whole, “Oh, I shouldn't have eaten that.” Well, I did. That can take so much energy. So, just plan for and give yourself. Then when you get in the habit of it, it just makes sense. We plan for so many other things in our life that really don't impact us in the same sort of way. So, if you just plan, “Hey, this what I’m going to eat this week.” Don't feel bad if you don't do that, but just know that it's there like you'd put gas in your car because I have a long drive. So, I think I'll put gas in my car. I'll plan to do that. it's just that kind of reorientating our thinking so that you're super taking care of yourself in a way that you would for somebody that you just love beyond measure and let them to never feel thirsty or hungry or tired or any of those things. To care for ourselves with that same affection.

[1:14:13] Ashley James: On the weeks that I have planned out the meals, I have such low stress that it made me realize how, so I'm the cook in the house. We have a four-year-old, who's almost five, and I have a husband. So, I'm responsible for, and we also have a cat, but I pre-order. We actually get the cat food shipped to us so he's taken care of. So I have three people I have to feed every day, me, my husband and our son. The three of us. Being responsible for my food is stressful enough because I have such, for many many years have focused so intensely on healing my body and getting to a weight and healing my liver and all the complications that have come up. I've had so many results and I'm still working on my health. There's no tip of the Mount Everest of health. We're all still getting somewhere. We're all still improving our health.

So, my consciousness is around how I can in a way that brings me the most health and then I have to feed a four-year-old and then I have to feed a husband. Everyone has different palates. Everyone wants to eat at different times. Everyone wants different portions and wants different ingredients. We also have food allergies in the house. If I'm working, then my husband's with our son. My husband, he tries his best but I feel like I'm more responsible for creating healthy meals than anyone else in the family so I take it upon myself.

On the weeks that I've planned ahead and I have pre-made food like on a Sunday. I'll take half a Sunday and just make a ton of food and have it all packaged up and have it in the fridge. The rest of the week, there's a level of peace in me. It was like I just came out of yoga class but all week long. I just can't believe how much peace I have in my body because there's something in the back of my brain like a constant worry about, “Okay, what am I feeding my son? What am I feeding my husband? What am I going to eat next? What am I cooking? What am I cooking? What am I cooking? Oh, I got to go to the grocery store. Oh, we just ran out of this. Okay. My son's hungry. Okay, I got a feed of a snack.” It's just this constantly worrying in the back of my mind that just takes up a ton of energy. I don't even notice I did it until I did an entire week of meal prep. That voice didn't even need to be there. I couldn't believe how much energy it took. I just wonder for the listeners. Because even if it was just for me, like if I didn't have to worry about other people, I still would be thinking those thoughts like, “I got to go to the grocery store. I have to make sure I cook this. I got to make that salad. I have to steam my two pounds of vegetables. I got to pre-soak my beans.” I hate it when I go to cook beans and I haven't pre-soaked them.

[1:17:10] Meg Donahue: Exactly. That's why we started the company. Because with that level of stress and if you're trying to eat healthy and you're eating plant-based, it's a lot. We're busy and we have other things. It’s not like you're just home and all you have to do is plan meals. But it’s still a lot.

[1:17:30] Ashley James: No, we’re busy.

[1:17:32] Meg Donahue: Yeah, we’re busy. So, that's what we said. It's a lot easier. We said, “Wouldn't it be great to have a personal chef without the awkward small talk?” The food arrives. It's there in the fridge. I know what I'm going to have for breakfast. I know what I'm going to have for lunch. I get a meal plan that tells me suggestions. If you have a family, we have a family bundle and with a very hearty kind of familiar taste profile. So, it's not like these are crazy weird things. But at any time, I could go in the fridge and I know I could get a MamaSezz chili, I could get a MamaSezz Moroccan stew, or a MamaSezz veggie burgers. All of our soup freezes well too, but it's all there. You always know you have it. Because it's that level of stress, that's when hungry, angry, lonely, tired that's when things tip. We make decisions out of expediency. It's totally understandable because we're getting crushed by the amount of stressors that we have. It's real. It's not like a made-up and we just got to suck it up and get better at it. It's real. There's so much going on with families and work schedules and just timing of things. It's just like, “Oh, I forgot this. I got to go to the store.” That sets everything back a half hour and that means the evenings, so you know.

That's what we try and alleviate is that juggernaut of stress so that you can just go about living your life and enjoying really good food and it's there for you. If you want to make something else of course you can, but you have the basics there at any time.

[1:19:17] Ashley James: I love it. Back around 2013, I was doing a job that took up so much of my time. It was like 12 hours a day. There was no me time at all. It was just a project. It was going to be a few months. I basically just had to pour all my waking hours. I'd wake up and immediately start working. I had to pour all my waking hours into it and I was very passionate about it, but it was something that I couldn't even afford to cook or to even go out to eat or anything. I had to put all my time into it. So, I started googling a meal delivery service or whatever. Uber Eats wasn't around at the time, luckily. I ended up finding some kind of delivery service, sort of like yours, but not. It wasn't plant-based. I wasn't plant-based at the time but I was eating paleo. This company did paleo meals. Because we were gluten-free at the time. We were trying to eat whole foods as much as possible. So, we did it for about three months. I mean, obviously not your delicious food, but just the ease of having meals delivered that were already made that I could just heat up either on the stove or in the oven. I don't do microwave. I know some people can or choose to. I don't choose to. That was it. I didn't have to think about it. I really enjoyed it. I found less expensive than if I had gone out to restaurants. More expensive obviously than if I cooked it for myself, obviously. I felt as though it was a good investment. It helped me get that project done, which was helpful for us, obviously. So, I thought, “Wow, this is really cool.” I considered continuing to do it. But then I had the time, plenty of time after that to be able to cook and our diets changed. I always thought that was really interesting.

So, we did it for three months and it really helped us get over the hump. I thought that that was a great resource. They were just sort of coming out these meal kits or whatever. This was totally pre-made food. They give you a little card that says, “Here's your breakfast. Here’s your lunch. Here’s your dinner.” Then there are other companies. I've tried one since, that have prepackaged ingredients and you kind of have to mix them together to make your meal. I tried a vegan one. It was the most complicated thing ever. I got, oh my gosh. The things taste good, but I had the hardest time. It was a big box and it came with 40 different packages. It wasn't organized. Then they give you this recipe list and you have to find each package. There's not like find the blue package or find the red package. All the packages are black and white and you have to read every single freaking all 40 of them to find the tamari or whatever. Then you have to read them all again to find the jackfruit. Oh my gosh. I got kind of pissed off. I ended up just mixing and matching the ingredients and just cooking them. Just cooking them on stove whatever it was because I couldn't. I felt like I was given a Lego set with the wrong Legos. There's no way that there's a jackfruit. Oh man. They gave me too many jackfruits or they didn't give me enough tamari or whatever.

I just felt that that was a real bummer because it actually came recommended by a Naturopathic friend of mine. She was like, “Oh, this is the best of the world.” I think she just loves it because they have some kind of brownies or something. I'm not into desserts as much as I used to be. So, I was like, “Well, I'm interested in the health food.” So, that was really annoying. Then I have friends who get the meal delivery service where they send one box a week. They give you all the ingredients. They give you a recipe and you have to cook it yourself. So, it really doesn't save you any time.

[1:23:43] Meg Donahue: It stresses me out.

[1:23:50] Ashley James: Yeah, right. It doesn't save you any time, but it does kind of I guess save you a trip to the grocery store. That's nice. They give you a recipe, but you still have to cook it all yourself and it doesn't really help you for all the other meals. It's just more of if you have time and you sort of want a hobby like I would like a cooking hobby, but I'd like someone to do all the shopping for me. I want to be given the recipe kind of like a surprise, you're making this recipe this week. That's kind of fun if you want a hobby and you have a lot of time. So, there's different companies out there that will ship you food depending on how much time you have. The people who have the most amount of time I guess is the meal delivery service where it's just a box of raw vegetables from a farm. I've done that before because it's cool to buy directly from a farm. You're supporting local agriculture. You're getting from a local organic farm. That's really sustainable and beautiful. Or you have to go to the farm itself and pick up your box. That's also cool. That's different because you still have to do all the thinking and cooking yourself.

Your way of doing it, you have really clean ingredients. You're working with doctors that regularly heal heart disease and other major diseases like diabetes and also help people with addiction and weight loss and those things and athletes. So, you're working with doctors to design, making sure that the nutrient profiles are optimal for health. Your focus is on health. That your food is delicious. Also your food isn't weird like some weird vegan thing because I'm totally into the weird vegan thing. I've just embraced it all, but I can see my tempeh would be a bit threatening. My sprouts and my sauerkraut might be a little weird for people. But you're like chili and everyone gets happy about it. So, your foods’ delicious and it's familiar. There's zero stress because it just gets shipped to you.

I'd like to talk a bit about sort of logistics. Is it in plastic? Is the plastic BPA-free? How do you prevent leaching from plastic into food? Have you looked into that? I'd like to know that because that was a big concern for me when I was buying it. Is it organic? Is it non-GMO? When you cook, do you cook with cookware that doesn't have nonstick like Teflon? How strict are you guys when it comes to the being non-toxic?

[1:26:17] Meg Donahue: Nitty gritty?

[1:26:19] Ashley James: Yeah.

[1:26:20] Meg Donahue: We're pretty fanatical, I think.

[1:26:22] Ashley James: Nice. So am I.

[1:26:23] Meg Donahue: Yeah. The big issue is plastic. The number one rule when you're making food for people is you don't want to harm people. You don't want it to be dangerous. So, you don't want any microbes that could harm people getting into the food. Plastic, unfortunately is the most effective way to do that. Glass can work but glass is also very dangerous in a production facility because if you drop a piece of glass, shards can go anywhere. So, we have zero glass in our production facility. Most high-level production facilities don't. We use recyclables. We also take everything back. So, if there's anything that somebody doesn't feel like they want to, even though all of our ice packs are recyclable, some people just don't want to do it. We take it back and we recycle everything appropriately.

Our facility is really, it's probably like a surgical suite to some people. We are fanatics. It's a cleanroom. You can't get into our plant unless you go through a cleanroom. You are scrubbed down. You're definitely in surgical scrubs, all of the production. We worked with labs to say, how do we make this food so that it is not- what we're trying to do is to inspire health. Every point, what can we do to do that? So, I think on those I think we're doing a good job. There's always places where you can do more. So we do as they come up, we try and address them. I think for organic, we were one of the first organic breads in the country. Vermont Bread Company back in the 80s when people were saying you can't have organic bread because you need to put chemicals in. A bread will rot on the shelf. So, we figured out a way to do that. So, organic is hugely important to us. We really respect the certification. What we know in our sourcing is we are 99% organic. There's one or two items that occasionally you can't get 100% organic. Local farmers, they might be a farmer in transition. Which is a real issue, farms that were not organic who are transitioning to. There’s a three-year period where they're really doing amazing things and it's costing them a lot of money. So those are the farmers that we end up buying for those products that at that moment we can't source.

[1:29:11] Ashley James: I love that. I love that you're supporting farmers that are transitioning. I wish there was a certification that we could put on our food that's like, “Pesticide-free. Farmer transitioning to organic or something.” I don't know. Some acronym.

[1:29:25] Meg Donahue: Because they’re just amazing those people. They’re really putting a profit, an easy profit on hold and hoping that they can make it through this period and then regain it or at least break-even. It's really noble work. So, we try and support there where we can. We're keen into regenerative agriculture. We work with Dr. Ron Weiss down in New Jersey who has this amazing, I don't if you've ever talked with him but I would definitely. I'll give you his information. He's brilliant. He's an incredibly compassionate man. He bought this huge farm in New Jersey. He's doing a lot of this work of turning from non-organic to organic. Is very keen on regenerative AG because like you referenced earlier that the nutrients in our food, even organic food today compared to organic food 50 years ago does not have the same amount of nutrients. So, we're kind of destroying our topsoil. So, how do we address that? He's doing some beautiful work with that. He's just he's a wonderful, wonderful, brilliant guy.

[1:30:41] Ashley James: Oh my gosh. I love it. Just the fact that mamasezz.com is organic or like you said 99% organic, that in of itself is worth getting your pre-made food delivery service just to ease the people's minds. Okay, I know I'm not eating pesticides. I know I'm eating really clean food. On top of that, you're eating really healthy food that’s also delicious. Five years ago even when I wasn't plant-based, I would have prescribed to your food delivery service because my focus since 2008 has been eating organic because it made such a big difference in my immune system. I'm sort of an organic snob when I go grocery shopping. My little son when he was two would be like, because kids are parrots, he would say, “Is it organic? Is that organic?” It's so cute. I'm like, “Yes, sweetie. You can have this apple. It's organic. There's so many times when he'll be like, “Oh, I want grapes. Momma, I want grapes.” I'm like, “Oh, they're not organic.” Then he just stops. He's like, “Okay.”


Photo by Chitto Cancio on Unsplash

[1:31:50] Meg Donahue: He gets it. He gets it.

[1:31:52] Ashley James: You definitely don't want to eat grapes when they're not organic. Yeah, he gets it. It's like, “Okay, we're eating organic.” Then we'll go, “Okay, let's go find you something to eat. Let's go find you an organic banana or something else. Let's go find you something else.” Then he goes, “Okay.” So, it's not about you can't have food. It's about let's make healthy food choices. He doesn't want the chemicals in him, because we talked about it at a kid level.

[1:32:17] Meg Donahue: It’s true. Kids intuitively get it. They really get it and they're very honest about it. They're very, “Yeah, but I like this. It tastes good.” We talked a lot in schools and things like that and our own kids, but they get it. We, not we're organic and so just because if you’re organic your non-GMO. We also, I think something that people underestimate is the impact of preservatives. Even citric acid, we don't use citric acid. We use our own system to package the food so that it has a long shelf life without preservatives or any chemicals. You nailed it. Why would you put chemicals in your body?

So, one of the things when I talk about being a lifestyle company is we realized, wow, so we're not eating any chemicals but look at these creams that everyone's using. Almost every cream you have, even if it looks organic, has some sort of chemical where actually if you put it in a beaker, you would never pour it on your skin. You would just like forget it.

[1:33:25] Ashley James: Cosmetics, right. I interviewed a woman who makes cosmetics at home. She sells them on Etsy. She healed herself from alopecia. Actually, when you buy cream from her you have to keep it in the fridge because it's made from scratch. Yes. It's so divine her cream. You would pay $200 a jar for this cream in a spa. This cream is so luscious. It's so affordable. Her name is Emily. It's Remedies by Emily. That's it. Etsy store, Remedies by Emily. I’ve had her on the show twice.

[1:34:04] Meg Donahue: That’s so cool. I would love to talk to her.

[1:34:06] Ashley James: I can hook you up.

[1:34:07] Meg Donahue: Yeah. We’re coming out with a cream line. What we say is, the more of us doing this good work, because there's so much bad stuff out there, the better. So I never feel like anybody in this space is a real competitor because there's just so much opportunity. So we like to support anybody. But we felt so strongly about it. We said, “Let's develop a cream line that is as clean and amazing as our food line.” Because people are what they put in their body and on their body. So, that's coming out. I was just thinking that might be something good, a fun sample to give all of your listeners. I know we talked about some other things, but that might be something that we could do because we're launching that soon. You just feel better. When you see my mom's skin, I'll send you a picture of her at 90, it will blow you away. It's amazing. She uses it every day. She's a skincare snob. She is just is, but she looks amazing. So much of it you've nailed it is why would you put something on your body that one wouldn't eat or you wouldn't want in your body because your skin's your largest organ. It absorbs everything. It has to go through your liver. So, it was a natural progression for us to do the skin cream as well.

[1:35:33] Ashley James: It's true. We often think that the skin is this impenetrable barrier. I've interviewed her several times. I want to hook you up with Kristen Bowen as well. Kristen Bowen was 97 pounds having 30 seizures a day in a wheelchair. I'm going to send you that episode. It's my first episode with Kristen. Now she's totally healthy. She has a concentrated magnesium soak from the Zechstein Sea. You go get your blood tested for your magnesium levels and then you do a challenge. You get one jug of her undiluted concentrated magnesium soak. You soak your feet in it, just two ounces of her concentrate in some water. You soak your feet for an hour a day and then you go back and get your blood tested. 76% of people are fully self-saturated that they completely have beaten the deficiency. Then the other people need to do it for like another two to three months. Then there's a small percentage people that are still or magnesium deficient and that then actually it sheds a light on a underlying health issue that's burning through their magnesium. So, it actually helps them to discover, like go deeper with their Naturopathic doctor and discover what's going on. But they could have gone the rest of their life and possibly breaking down because there was an underlying health issue burning through the magnesium.

[1:36:59] Meg Donahue: That’s brilliant.

[1:37:00] Ashley James: So, yeah. So, 76% of people get the full cell saturation in one month. That's totally transdermal. It's through their skin. Now I was taking a magnesium. I was taking 600 milligrams of a liquid magnesium supplement, which I felt good every time I took it so I knew I was absorbing it. I could feel it. I took it for 10 years and I still was magnesium deficient. I did her magnesium soak and it was so life-changing for me. So, I was like how is it that I've been taking an oral supplement and eating tons of vegetables and I'm still magnesium deficient? So, I absorbed all my magnesium from her soak. So, our skin absolutely can absorb things depending on the size of the molecule. Even shampoo. You can put chemical shampoo on your scalp. Even though it's only there for like a minute or two, they can find it in your bloodstream and it's harmful for the body and the liver. So, yeah. So cosmetics of all kind deodorants and everything we put on our skin, plays a role in harming us or could actually help us and heal us.

[1:38:05] Meg Donahue: Help us and heal us. Exactly. That's beautiful.

[1:38:09] Ashley James: I love it. The most important thing is food because we build our cells from food and hydrate. Then the second most important thing is reducing the amount of chemical exposure we have. So, I love that your food is organic. I love it's non-GMO by default because it's organic. When you cook the food are you making sure that this facility is they're not using Teflon, they're not using things that off-gas or add any chemicals to the food?

[1:38:37] Meg Donahue: Yeah. In a production facility, the cookware is a little bit different. So, it's pretty high-tech some of the things that we do, which are cool. We worked early on with a lab. The lab scared me to death going through and what could possibly happen. There were a few long days where we’re like, “Well, how the heck are we going to do this then?” Some of it requires just a bigger investment.

[1:39:14] Ashley James: Can you give me an example of what you had to invest in? Because you could have cut corners. I'm really getting a feeling that your ethics and your love for people, your love for your customers. That you're willing to go the extra mile, work with a lab, spend extra money that you didn't necessarily have to. Because we have been duped by all the food companies out there. They cut corner. Every restaurant we go to chooses the least cost full way to prepare the food. Restaurants aren't going to make a profit if they're choosing the most expensive, most high-quality ingredients unless they're charging an arm and a leg. So you always have to balance profit and what's going to cost you. But the fact that you took a year to really make sure that the food was safe and clean and non-toxic and filled with nutrition and the right nutrition. Can you give me some examples of the hurdles that you could have cut corners on but you chose not to because you honor us as your customers?

[1:40:14] Meg Donahue: Sure. I think one of the very basic is the level of cleanliness and that seems like that should be a no-brainer. If anybody's ever worked in a kitchen for a restaurant and then you clean up at night and you put stuff in the fridge. So if you take that and raise it to the level of you are going into a surgical unit with somebody who is having open-heart surgery. How meticulous are you going to be about making sure that there are no germs and that there's no way that that person is going to be harmed? That's how our kitchen is run. We have whole days that we clean before, we clean after. It's very time consuming and probably more expensive than most that at the baseline you need to do.

Then how we package things. Some of it is proprietary so I don't talk too much about it. I'm happy to talk off the air, but we went through a lot to make sure that our food is safe and that we have a good shelf for it. We test our food. That's the other thing. There are so many good companies out there that do this as well. I do think that most entrepreneurs, they get up in the morning and they don't think, “How can I rip people off?? I think they're thinking, “How can I pay my payroll?” So there are some very tough decisions that somehow people make. You can't always nail it and keep the doors open. I think more times than not, that's what happens for people. There's a scope creep with those where they kind of snowball.

So, we had a little bit of a luxury of having had a business and then having a little bit of time where we could begin to make some decisions. I think that there are so many people doing great work too, but we knew. Our co-founder and my partner, Lisa Lorimer, had such a strong background. There is not a more ethical business person that I know of. Anybody who has worked with her over a 30-year career will tell you that. That is just who she is. That's how the whole organic bread, it was squishy white bread when she started her bread company here in a goat shed essentially in Vermont. Then it became this national business. It's built on that kind of, if you do the right thing, I mean she wrote a book about it. Dealing with the tough stuff. How do you deal with these difficult decisions that entrepreneurs face and to do it as ethically as you can. To deal with the times sometimes and how do you deal when there's conflict and you can't always do everything that you'd want to do 100% just because we're all human.

For safety to deliver for people, what we said we're going to deliver, that's our bottom line. There's no sense being in business if we're not going to do that. We're in our 50s. This was something that we could have had a much easier road going forward. It matters to us. So, if we're going to do this for real, we really want to have an impact. There's no point at all in cutting a corner because we gain nothing. Then we have a business that means nothing to us and it's not helping people. That's really where we come from. I think we do a good work. Our employees love us because we treat them well. We pay livable wages. We give people benefits. We did that. Another decision we made early on that it's a tough decision because that's cut straight into your profit, but we said you want to be able to have a vacation, buy a home and not stress if you're in an entry-level job. So, we try and pay a livable wage. We do pay a livable wage and we give full benefits to people. Those are the other parts of a company that matter to us because they’re people and it's relationships. That's why we do it at all.

[1:44:54] Ashley James: I love to vote with my fork. It makes a really big difference.

[1:44:59] Meg Donahue: That’s so cool. That's a great way. That's a great way of saying it.

[1:45:02] Ashley James: One of the first documentaries that helped me on this journey had a speech by the original founder of Whole Foods. He said, “Vote with your fork.” They outlined this change in the dairy industry that years ago there was this weird hormone given to animals that then we would consume. It wasn't good for us. It wasn't good for them. Was it like the HRR whatever? I can't remember the name of the hormone, but basically, if you look at your milk now, if you look at all your dairy products now, there's this thing that says No and there's like HRR something something. No added hormones. Why is it? Why is it that that hormone was taken out of the dairy industry?

The consumer, and this was over ten years ago. The consumer began to become educated and voted with their fork. One of the largest buyers of dairy is Walmart. I didn't know that, but you know Walmart's huge because they have grocery stores. Walmart, because they saw their customers didn't want to buy the dairy with that, they were like turning their noses up at it, that Walmart was one of the companies that helped to get this hormone taken out of the dairy so their customers would keep buying their dairy. That kind of shocked me because you'd think it would have been like Whole Foods or someone that actually cares about the environment or something like that or cares about health.

Basically it was about the profits. Like, hey, customers are not voting with their fork. That's why I say vote with your fork. I vote with my fork. I'd rather pay 50 cents more for something non-GMO or organic or whatever. It's not a big deal. It's not going to break the bank, but you know what I am, or local. Let's say pay 50 cents more for that bell pepper because the farmer two miles away grew it rather than shipping it in from Chile or whatever. That money, in the grand scheme of things, is not going to hurt that you paid a little bit more, but you just supported and you just voted, you just said, “Yes, farmer. I want you to succeed. I want you to keep thriving as an organic local business,” for example. So, if you can afford it, as a consumer if you can afford it, vote with your fork. Don't buy products that the companies you don't believe in, the companies that are harming us. Buy products from the companies that are helping us.

I love shopping at Costco. I feel like there's this little halo above my head when I go there because Costco takes care of their employees. You talk to the employees their badges say like, “I've been here since 1999.” You talk to those employees who've been there a long time and ask them like, “How does Costco treat you?” versus Walmart versus working at other companies. You'll be really surprised. They are very happy. They have good retention. Yeah, it's hard to work there. It's a warehouse. It's hard work, but the company pays better and values the employees. I believe that every human on this planet deserves to be happy and like you said, they deserve a living wage. So, if someone can afford it they should buy from MamaSezz because you're supporting a company that supports your health and support its employees. It's just like this win-win situation. There's no conflict of interest. It's all about like, “We want to help you because you want to help us and you want to help others.” I'm just very congruent here in your level of ethics is wonderful. I love it.

Walk us through what it looks like to be a customer. So we go to the website. Now, you've given us $15 off, that's really cool, with the coupon code LTH. Listeners can go to learntruehealth.com/mamasezz. Use coupon code LTH, get $15 off. They can check it out. They can try it for themselves. Walk us through. So someone goes to the website for the first time. What happens? What should they do?

[1:49:27] Meg Donahue: Sure. So, when you get to our home page you'll see that we have some featured bundles, which are probably our most popular meal bundle packages. They're based on what most of the people are buying. So if it's a weight-loss bundle or a peak performance or a chef's choice, which is where we put together a variety of meals and that you can have that on a subscription every week, every other week, every month or just pause it and have it once. So, you'll see that our initial products are there or you can buy things ala carte or look at all of our specialty bundles. So, primarily once you get to our collections pages you'll see that we try and curate the food in ways that will serve you. So, if you have a family, we have a family bundle and a meal plan so it makes it super easy. You can just go to whatever one suits your need. So, if you're alone and you just want meals just for me that's great. If you want just breakfast, we have a breakfast bundle. If you want to just put together your own bundle you can do that from all of our ala carte products.

The easiest way is probably buying a curated bundle. Then you just click, “Yes, I want this.” What you'll get is, you go through checkout, but when the food arrives, it'll arrive if you order by 8 PM on a Sunday, it arrives the next Thursday or Friday. It arrives fresh because we make it all fresh. So, this isn't like sitting in a warehouse and then we pluck out when somebody bought. You order it and then we're going to make it fresh that week for you and send it to you. So, it'll get to your house on a Thursday or Friday, It'll come in a box that is like a cooler box with ice so you don't have to be home. FedEx will deliver it. All of the meals are packaged. They're center of your plate food. So, some companies they'll give you like a TV tray, like TV dinners that had a meat and then a salad and then a dessert and it's all on one plate. So, that's not our model. We're much more encouraged kind of a more engaging with your food. So, we will give you a bag. We have some things in stack bags.

So a stack bag of lazy lasagna that's two servings. You take out your servings and you heat it up on the stove or microwave if you like to do that. Then you'll have your lazy lasagna. We'll give you also suggestions of other ways things you might want to add to it. So we'll do that with every single product, but when you get them they can go right from the box into your fridge. They're ready to eat or you can freeze them. You can follow our suggested meal plan or mix and match it however you want. You have meals that are based on what you need. So, if you have a heart condition, we have a heart-healthy bundle. If you’re a performance athlete or a weekend warrior and you want to not feel the aches and pains of inflammation on a Monday, then you eat our bundle. You'll bring down that inflammation, which is great and it increases performance. We work with a lot of, lot of athletes who really do well with what we have.

Some of our most popular ones are the get me started, keep it going bundles, which are just kind of regular meals that are the staples of what you’d have in kitchen when you eat plant-based. That are time-consuming and kind of distracting to make. So, we really thought about what are the things that you would replace the pizza and mac and cheese of when you're not plant-based. That kind of easy food that is really super fulfilling. Everyone's going to go, “Yeah. I want that.” So, those are what we want. We want to stock your kitchen with MamaSezz foods so that you'll always have those meals there just like you always have almond milk or whatever your other staples are. You always have your MamaSezz veggie burgers. You always have your MamaSezz ricotta bake. You always have your MamaSezz marinara because we make an amazing marinara tested by Italians. That's what we do. We go with the people who really know it and say, “Does ours measure up?” If they're like, “This is so lame.” We go back to the drawing board and we've had a few of those. We've had a lot of failures. Oh my God.

[1:54:04] Ashley James: Well, that's when you know you're succeeding because you have to experiment in the kitchen to be able to adjust it. Now, marinara is typically vegan or plant-based anyway but what you're saying is it's oil-free and it doesn't have sugar in it. It doesn't have processed food in it.

[1:54:22] Meg Donahue: Exactly. No preservatives.

[1:54:24] Ashley James: No preservatives. Yeah. So you're really making like an authentic, real one.

[1:54:29] Meg Donahue: It is like you just got it out of like somebody grabbed their stuff from their garden. You know that difference. Then they put this thing together and you're sitting outside and you're eating and it's so fresh. The taste just pops differently in your mouth. Your body knows. It just responds to it differently. Anybody who's had fresh food has had that experience where there's just devoid of any of the other additives, preservatives, little chemicals, citric acids, little like, oh but it's organic citric acid, whatever that goes into food. When it doesn't have that, it tastes amazing and your body responds differently. That's the bar for our food is that we just want it to have that fresh taste that you can open it up and you eat it and you feel great and it's easy. It's super easy. It had to be easy. We had to solve that problem.

[1:55:27] Ashley James: Love it. What about people with allergies? You obviously are dairy-free and egg-free and gluten-free. Those are like some really, really common food allergies, but what if someone's allergic to corn or they're autoimmune so they're avoiding nightshades. Can they look at the ingredients or do you have a hypoallergenic package?

[1:55:46] Meg Donahue: Yeah, you can look on the ingredients. All of our products have an ingredient panel so that you can pull up and see. We are, like you said, gluten-free. We're not nut-free so we tell people. If they say, “Hey, I have a nut allergy.” We just say, “It would not be safe.” Even if you're having products that don't have nuts in them. We use cashews. We don't have peanuts and things like that. We use cashews. You still can be some cross-contamination in a facility. So you just don't want to risk it. We would much rather people not buy our food, not have to worry and not have a reaction that nobody could foresee. So, we just tell people no with the nut allergy. It's so serious nut allergy because those are a big deal.

Nightshades, we do have some people who are really kind of growing and an understanding of how that can be a sensitivity. We haven't parsed it out. That might be a good idea for us to do. You can definitely look through and see which ones fit your profile. All the nutritionals are right there.

[1:56:55] Ashley James: Yeah. Maybe come up with an autoimmune package that's focused with a lot of anti-inflammatory foods and spices and then no nightshades or like no or low grains. That's temporary. We can heal autoimmune disease. If you go to an MD, most of them will say, “You have it for the rest of your life. You have to be on XYZ medication for the rest of your life.” It's not true. I've interviewed dozens, dozens of people who've reversed and no longer have autoimmune disease. You can reverse it. It does take being very diligent with your diet. There is a diet, it's almost like a cleanse, it's like a detox, that you go through where you really focus on not eating any foods that trigger your immune system but also healing the gut. So, for some people temporarily, they need to eat like an autoimmune, grain-free, nightshade-free, high antioxidant diet for about a year. Then also eating fermented foods to help heal the gut. They just go through this transition. I've met so many people that after eating that way, they're able to slowly add back foods. They've already healed their gut. Now their body doesn't react to grains anymore. Their body doesn't react to nightshade anymore.

There's a mountain of evidence suggesting that we can use food as a major component to healing autoimmune condition. So I love that that you're so focused on creating different packages specifically for people that are looking to heal something. So people with allergies could easily go through and see the ingredients. You have different packages for weight loss, for heart health. For athletes and you also have family packages. What about kids? So, if I were to buy, how would I or how would one of the listeners with kids who wants to take some of the stuff that you're sending and put it in their lunches because it's just going to save them? Because the amount of stress I have when I have to pack lunches in the morning. So, do you have packages for helping families to pack lunches for their kids?

[1:59:02] Meg Donahue: Yeah. What do you pack for lunch? Sure. So, I have two kids. I pack their lunch every day. It is, again, a little bit of a planning. The foods, what we say is, kids might not like all plant-based foods because they can be sometimes picky. They usually like one, two, three, four. So, we'll identify those. In the family bundle, we've got some really kid-friendly items that the kids love the lasagna. We have a little veggie loaf that the kids love. It's like little burgers. You can make burgers out of it or meatballs if you want to. The kids even like our chili because it's not hugely spicy. Frittata, our frittata kids like. Everyone loves this particular product. It's a high-protein breakfast bar. It's like a blondie brownie but it's no processed sugar. It's made of beans and chickpeas. It is like the go-to. My kids love it because it gives them that steady burn. There's enough sweet so they're like, “Yum,” and it's a treat. It's not a bar filled with junk. It tastes like this really yummy brownie, not as sweet. You get the nice steady burn. They absolutely love that. That's a great thing to pack because you know your kids are getting protein. They're getting all these nutrients. They're getting that feeling like they got a really cool treat and they did. So, that's one that we pack for kids too.

 Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

[2:00:47] Ashley James: I love it. Is it sweetened with dates or fruit or how does that work?

[2:00:50] Meg Donahue: Yeah. This one is dates. So dates. We make our own date syrup. So, you get the extra nutrients because they're not skinned.

[2:01:01] Ashley James: I love dates.

[2:01:05] Meg Donahue: I know. They're delicious.

[2:01:07] Ashley James: They're so great to cook with. I visited a date farm once in California, just a few hours outside of Las Vegas. It's fascinating. They're a beautiful fruit that grow in the desert. They're beautiful. They grow in a place where no other life seems to exist. Then these trees pop out of nowhere in an oasis and they're able to just make the most beautiful sweet fruit. They're so nutritious. They're so great for energy and for baking and for replacing sugar. So I love that. That's really cool that you guys make your own dates syrup.

It's very exciting because so many listeners just don't have time. They don't have time. They want to eat healthy. It's also so overwhelming especially if someone's facing a health issue or they worried about they’re having to cook for many different people. I mean, there's just so many concerns and you really take care of them. Like you said, by Sunday night they just click, okay I want this and then it arrives on Thursday. It takes care of the majority of their food for a week. Can they become subscribers that it just automatically arrives? How does that work?

[2:02:24] Meg Donahue: Yeah. We really resisted subscriptions for a while, but we just found that our customers kept asking for it. So we said okay. We make it super easy to subscribe for whatever cadence works for you. So if it's weekly or bi-weekly or monthly or once a week and then you don't want to order for another two months. You have really a lot of control over how it comes. But to be able to reorder the things that you liked easily and just have that kind of, okay on Fridays my meals for the week show up. I know what I'm going to be eating. I have this great meal plan. So, that part of my life I don't have to think about. I can focus on all the other cool things that I like to do or have to do in some cases. So, that is how it works. Our ala carte can also be on subscription. If you have some ala carte items you want on subscription you can do that as well.

[2:03:18] Ashley James: Very cool. Is there anything I haven't asked that you want to you answer?

[2:03:24] Meg Donahue: You've been amazing. I was just thinking people are so lucky to have, because I know, entrepreneurs know that there's a lot of heartache, there's a lot of passion and awesome things about doing things on your own. There's also, as you referenced earlier, there's a fair amount of stress and can be hard. To do the work that you're doing and bringing really high-quality messages to people. You vet people. You do the work and you spend the time. It's really a wonderful service that you’re offering to people. I'm sure you have thousands and thousands of fans who know that as well. I just want to thank you for that because it does matter. You have a great sense of humor and to be able to bring this message to people in a way that is fun and enjoyable and it's not so hard. That's kind of like where, “Eat your fruits and veggies. Go outside and play and your life will be better.” That's our motto. This is mama's kitchen. We're just going to take care of you. We're going to give you what you need. Don't worry about it. As long as you tell us what you need, we'll give you exactly what you need. We have that affection. You have that same sense. You're doing work that is it's noble work. So, I really appreciate it.

[2:04:49] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much, Meg. The feeling is mutual. I'm definitely passionate about spreading this information because you don't even know how good it feels until you do it. I was just constantly shocked while I was making the transition to eating more and more plants. I did it over a period of time whereas my husband just did it overnight. He said to me about three to five days into being vegan, and again he came from a carnivore diet. His entire life was mostly meat, very few plants. Most meals were only meat. That was my husband. Then he just woke up and said, “I am never eating meat again.” That came out of nowhere because he had a joke. He would say, “I eat vegans daily,” was his jokes because cows are vegan. He actually only pretty much only ate beef. It was just beef breakfast, lunch and dinner and coffee. That was his diet his entire life and energy drinks and ice cream. That was his diet when I met him. He came up, it was his decision. About three to five days into it, somewhere in the first week, he turned to me while he was eating. He said to me, in all dead serious he said, “If you had told me that this food,” plant-based food, “would taste this good I would have done this years ago.” He's constantly in awe. No oil, no salt, no sugar. I'll use Bragg's Liquid Aminos or something. We use seasoning. It doesn't taste like tasteless. There's salt. Naturally occurring salt in the food, but it's not like adding tons of the table salt. It's no oil, no processed food, no sugar, tons of plants on his plate. It tastes amazing. It tastes really good. He's always in awe of how good it tastes. He always like jabs me a bit because once in a whiles we'll go to restaurant, of course vegan. He goes, “Why do we go? We just paid $50. Why do we go out?” The next day we're going to be eating like lunch or dinner and he goes, “This tastes so much better than that. Why did we even go out?”

[2:07:11] Meg Donahue: It’s true.

[2:07:12] Ashley James: That food was covered in oil and covered in a bunch of other stuff. It's nice to go out to dinner, but it's never as good as real like whole food plant-based no processed food. So we did. We neuro-adapted. It does take a little bit of time to neuro-adapt to it when you’re used to potato chips or whatever. I can't believe how good I feel and I want the world to know. Also, I tried being vegetarian before and I felt horrible. What was I eating? I was eating vegetarian subs, vegetarian pizza. I was eating just processed food. So a lot of people I think have maybe had an experience with not eating meat or eating some form of vegetarianism and it really failed for them. Then they say, “Oh, well vegetarian’s not healthy. I didn't feel good. Meat makes me feel better.” So, don't even associate whole food plant-based with vegan or vegetarian. It's totally different. It's cutting out processed food. Even if you are still eating some meat and you're just adding more and more plants because that's what I did.

[2:08:22] Meg Donahue: That's great. That’s a really good strategy.

[2:08:24] Ashley James: Thank you. I learned from Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I had him on the show. His thing is the Nutritarian approach. If you're still going to eat meat, okay. Eat more and more plants, more plants, more plants, more plants. It crowds out. The plate becomes fuller and fuller with nutrient-dense foods that heal your body. Then eventually I would have meatless Mondays. Then I just have one meat meal a day. Then all sudden it became one meat meal a week. Then also of a sudden I just stopped. It just stopped. I turned around and went, “It's been weeks since I've had meat and I actually don't feel like I need it. I actually feel better without it.” The occasions when I did have meat the next day I felt horrible. So, it's really just listen to your body, eat more plants, eat less processed food, eat more real food and keep eating more real food, Keep noticing you feel better eating more real food.

I'm not here to tell people that they don't ever have to eat meat again because I think that's very threatening to some people. I am saying though, whatever diet you prescribe to, eat more real food, more plants. If you want the extra support, I think that the MamaSezz food delivery service because it is so focused on healthy food in a way that's going to decrease your stress and give you more time. Oh my gosh, I just think your business is wonderful. I love it. You're giving our listeners $15 off using coupon code LTH. I think that's fantastic. Of course, the links to everything that Meg Donahue does is going to be in the show notes of today's podcast at learntruehealth.com. Meg, is there any final advice you'd like to leave with us to wrap up today's interview?

[2:10:06] Meg Donahue: Maybe an observation is that if you're on the fence and not sure or you know people in your life is that what I found has worked best is a very compassionate approach to other people and to give them really good food and let them experience it. Like you said, it's very similar to what Joel Fuhrman said that as you change, the things that are not good for you will naturally go away if you are consciously adding more good things to your plate. That's really our ethos is eat your fruits and veggies. Go outside and play. Enjoy your life. Life, it's spectacular. To have the energy like you did when you're a kid like when you just got up from dinner and then you went outside and you play because you felt so good. You didn't have to like go lay on the couch like you'd eat an opossum or something and had to digest it. That's the feeling that we know and that's, Ashley, that you know and we want people to have. Is that joy of life where food is a part of it and enhances it and gives you energy to really experience life to the fullest.


[2:11:34] Ashley James: Brilliant. I love it. Eat your fruits and veggies. Go outside and play. We'd say that to our kids and then we should start saying it to us, to ourselves. Go have fun. Eat your carrots and go have fun. You're giving away a package that's worth $169, I believe, to one lucky listener. I'm going to make sure I add this to the beginning of the show as well and put it in the show notes. So one lucky listener. So I want all the listeners to go to the Learn True Health Facebook group. We're going to put a post thereafter this episode goes live asking what you loved about today's episode. What did you learn? What did you love? Why you want to be the winner to try MamaSezz? Yeah. Then we'll pick a random. I will pick a lucky winner. That would be really awesome. Thank you so much for giving every listener $15 off using the LTH coupon code. I think it's really cool. Thank you for choosing one lucky winner to receive a package. This has been awesome. It’s wonderful having you on the show. Thank you so much.

[2:12:41] Meg Donahue: Thank you so much. It has been beautiful to be here. I really appreciate it.

[2:12:46] Ashley James: Be sure to go to MamaSezz.com and use the coupon code LTH to get $15 off. Visit the Learn True Health Facebook group so that you could be one of the lucky winners to get the $169 package of delicious organic whole food plant-based food.

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Ashley James

Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing

Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.

In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!

The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine


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