Her work as a certified chef and instructor in the raw food movement has given Meredith Baird Figone a unique set of skills and understanding of the benefits of plant-based ingredients that stretches far beyond what is typical in most culinary schools. She is the co-author of three books, Raw Chocolate, Everyday Raw Detox, Plant Food and is the sole author of her newest title Coconut Kitchen. She is also the founder of Nucifera Body--a raw, plant-based, multipurpose skin balm that draws on the healing properties coconuts as well as the belief that what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it. A brand-new mom, she lives in Venice, CA with her husband and daughter.
What's one practice, goal, or purpose that helps you get out of bed each day?
This sounds a little funny, but there are a lot of simple tricks for making your life nice and bringing beauty into the day-to-day. I’ve learned that it’s not a money thing, but rather about taking time to be mindful. Thinking about how to spread that message through my work and writing definitely motivates me.
What do you eat to feel healthy?
When I was first pregnant, I tried to feed myself the things I thought I should be eating—green juice, fermented foods, all the usual suspects. But my body kept rejecting them. What I was craving was dairy and other foods I hadn’t eaten in years. I listened to my system because I knew that was what the baby needed, and it made me feel so good. I really believe that good things that come from being present and paying attention, and this was definitely an interesting exercise in that.
Whose advice have you taken recently? What was it?
I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan, and I really love his new Netflix show, Cooked. It helps you understand food by looking at it in a historical way. I also love WomanCode by Alisha Vitti. That book helped me connect my period cycles to the rest of my life. For instance, you have times of the month where you’re more detail-oriented or more communicative, and Vitti explains not only why, but also how to optimize for where you are in the process.
What's made a difference in how you feel lately?
Taking care of myself with proper supplementation has been vital to my pregnancy. In particular, I’ve been paying attention to mineralization. Iron’s a big one. I’ve been taking desiccated liver pills, which sound really gross, but they’re absolutely packed with iron and make a huge difference in how I feel.
What's your absolute favorite healthy meal?
I like to use a mandolin or spiral slicer to make vegetable noodles, and then I’ll make fresh pesto or curry and load this dish up with whatever you like- tempeh, fish, eggs, or other protein. For lunch every day, I have a huge avocado with sauerkraut, olive oil, and any sprouts or greens in my fridge. I’ll serve that with nori, which is not only antimicrobial, but also a great natural source of minerals.
What's the most mind-blowing thing you've learned as a chef and wellness expert?
I recently read a book called The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. It was eye-opening to learn the science of just how essential fat is to our diet. So much of what Teicholz writes reflects my own discoveries over the years. Growing up, we were all getting so much messaging that fat was bad, and when I first graduated from college and moved to New York to cook, I jumped on the vegan and raw food trains. Almost as soon as I did, my skin started getting really dry and flaky. So I started doing my own research, and I began to understand that I needed so much more fat in my diet to reduce inflammation, build collagen, and make my skin glow. Getting the cultural history from the book of how we lost our way with this important information really got me. For example, one of the points that I found really fascinating was that heart disease really didn’t exist until the FDA started pushing for things like margarine over butter. And I see this reflecting in my own family history: My mom’s side was more affluent, got all the trendy-at-the-time stuff like margarine, and ended up with heart disease. My dad’s side was less well off, made do with butter, and wound up much healthier.
You recently launched a product line built on coconut oil. What makes you love it so much?
I first came to it through cooking. Coconut oil is one of the only vegetable sources of saturated fat, and saturation is key to cooking because that’s what increases an oil’s stability. When you cook with olive oil, which is a monounsaturated fat, the heat actually turns oil rancid, and you lose all the good properties. This doesn’t happen with coconut oil. Plus, it’s good for you on many other levels; it’s full of antiviral and antifungal properties that are great for fighting infections. So that was my point-of-entry.
And how did you conceive of the product?
When my skin got dry, I was experimenting with everything and I found that using coconut oil as a moisturizer really evened out my skin tone, but I needed more than just coconut oil for moisture. So, I started experimenting with other oils and essential oils like borage oil, moringa oil, kokum butter, and mango butter. My product is a combination of all the oils that have been most effective for me for different reasons.
Any healthy apps you love?
When I was trying to get pregnant, I used an app to track ovulation called PD, for period diary. And through my pregnancy and even now, I used the What to Expect and the Bump apps. They are good at letting you know what's next and that what is happening is usually not unique or out of the ordinary, even if they can feel a little corny.
There's always a new healthy food trend in Los Angeles. Any practice or item you've gotten behind?
I eat like a Californian and pretty much get into it all. What starts as a trend here has a way of trickling into the mainstream. I think my neighborhood restaurant Gjusta bakery really sums up the California food movement right now. You can get lattes with freshly made nutmilk, green juice, all types of seasonal salads with farmers market produce- and everything from a fermented grain bowl, to a sausage biscuit made with grass fed meats. They make it all good.
If you could give new-mom entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’m probably still figuring this one out. Slow down would be the most obvious thing to say, but I’m not practicing what I preach on that one necessarily. For me I would say it has been to not lose myself, or feel guilty about wanting to work. Taking care of yourself and getting enough rest/ recovery is obviously very important- and I’m doing that, but I’m also starting to understand that being a mom is just a new part of who I am. I’m still a creative, still an entrepreneur, still a worker, still like adult time, social time, etc. and I don’t have to give that up. Just one month ago I thought I’d never be able to meet a friend for lunch again… and last night we met friends for dinner!