DeSoto Chef Opens Vegan Joint to Promote Healthy Eating

High rates of young black people are living with high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors said nutrition and lifestyle could be to blame, so a South Dallas chef and business owner set out to make a difference.

Behind the counter of his DeSoto smoothie bar, James McGee whipped up a dish you wouldn't typically find in this predominantly black community.

His place, Peace.Love.&Eatz, is one of several vegan and vegetarian dining options that have opened in the area of South Dallas.

It's a shift from the kind of food McGee said he grew up on.  

"How I grew up, when your parents are taking you to McDonald's all the time, which we understand is convenient, but you need to incorporate vegetables and fruit more into your lifestyle and your kids' lifestyle," McGee said.

McGee became a vegan three years ago. He weighed 390 pounds.

He said his liver and kidneys were failing and doctors told him he'd have about a year to live.

"I got to be there for my kids, so I just went home, changed everything, threw away all the bad stuff in the house and became plant-based the same day," he said.

McGee lost 100 pounds and said he is off medications.

Doctors said for some, going vegan can have big health benefits, but even small diet changes can have a significant impact.

Dr. Ashley Burdex, a family physician with Methodist Health System tells her patients to start small and the rest will follow.

"I see it in their labs. I see it in the way they feel when they come to see me and I even see it in their clothes. A lot of patients feel healthier, look healthier and they walk in here looking happier," Burdex said.

Now, McGee is now on a new mission.

He's building a community garden to teach his DeSoto ISD student interns how to grow their own fruits and vegetables in the hopes that they'll go home and show their families that food which is good for the soul can be good for the body too.

"You got to have a reason behind it, whether that reason is you want to be healthier, your kids need to be healthier, you want to be there longer for your kids," McGee said. "There's a lot of reasons. You just got to have that reason for you."

Burdex said starting small could be as easy as a switch from canned vegetables to frozen vegetables and developing a exercise habit of walking a few minutes a day.

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