Anthony Thomas is a private chef in Washington who knows the power of healthy eating. He adopted a plant-based diet after a serious health scare 14 years ago. To share his insights, he has since self-published several cookbooks, the latest developed with his four-year-old daughter while the family was in quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic. Called The Little Vegan Chef , the illustrated cookbook has simple recipes that children can make under adult supervision, and Thomas stresses the dishes do not appeal only to kids. Hummus, asparagus zucchini tacos, vegan Caesar dressing, and lemon Dijon vinaigrette are among the recipes. “These are very short, precise recipes that are kid friendly, but you still need a parent supervising,” Thomas, 33, says. Keen to promote the benefits of veganism to anyone with an interest, Thomas has good advice on how to transition to a plant-based diet. “I encourage all my clients to at least try it once. I had a young man go raw vegan just to try it out,” recalls Thomas. “He started in August 2019 [and] he felt so great seven days in, to this day he is still a vegan.” Thomas’ own journey to a plant-based lifestyle began in 2006, when he was 19 years old. One morning, he had trouble waking up. His sister found him unresponsive and called for an ambulance. At the hospital Thomas learned he’d had a seizure. The teen was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins to the brain, disrupting the flow of blood and oxygen. Left untreated, AVM can lead to a brain haemorrhage, brain damage or stroke. In his case, the blood vessel was leaking blood and Thomas needed immediate surgery. “The doctor told me the operation would take eight hours, but it turned out to be 13 hours,” said Thomas. “Afterwards I had to learn how to walk, talk and balance again” – which he grasped within two weeks. He also took medication for the seizures. Before this scare, Thomas had not been eating healthily; he had been eating fast food three times a day, every day. Poor diet, lack of exercise in childhood a ticking time bomb – how to live longer, healthy lives “Two weeks before, I had Chipotle [a burrito] for lunch, but my blood pressure skyrocketed,” Thomas recalls. “I didn’t feel right. My blood pressure was 180/100. I’m too young to have these issues. I was 175 pounds (79.4kg) and not exercising.” After his recovery, Thomas was determined to change his lifestyle. He already knew how to cook, and did a lot of research, making his own juices and preparing green salads. Once in a while he would consume a raw diet of super foods – packed with extra nutrition – such as blueberries, beetroot juice with apple, ginger and turmeric root. Not long after transforming his diet, Thomas saw positive results. He began losing weight, his skin took on a fresh glow, and he felt better, with higher energy levels . “Fourteen years later I haven’t taken medication. I don’t have any recurring seizures or migraines,” Thomas says. “I’m living testimony you can change your life through your diet.” Thomas had been studying criminal justice and sociology at Bowie State University in the US state of Maryland. But after his health scare, he focused on cooking to become a private chef, and started his own catering company. Today he cooks meals for busy families, though not all of them eschew meat. On the side he has also self-published several cookbooks, including Meal Prep is the New Leftovers , ChefAntWow: Vol. 1 – A Collection of Recipes , and a cookbook for kids called Ashlyn Eats , named after his four-year-old. “My daughter is not a big meat eater. She likes to eat corn, broccoli, green beans, and apples. Every morning she comes down and asks for either an apple or a banana,” he says, adding she likes to help him in the kitchen. Cooking plant-based is far from boring, says Thomas, noting that many foods, like potatoes, can be cooked in many different ways – baked, boiled, mashed, sliced and diced. He has a ready answer to the question most vegans get: where do you get your protein? “From vegetables, beans and lentils, and even vegan protein powders,” he replies. The Little Vegan Chef is available on Amazon.com.