Businesswoman turned blogger, Tammy Fry, cooks up a treat in our PlantBased Kitchen as we speak to her about all things plant based
As we wander through the beautiful and scenic woodland area surrounding PlantBased HQ, the sun is shining and we joke about the difference in the weather between this — a typically pleasant Autumnal day — and the scorching hot of the Aussie sun Tammy has arrived from.
Just as we’re about to start the interview, we spot a blackberry bush and each grab a few to eat now, before filling a bag with a few for later on.
We start discussing Tammy’s upbringing and how she went vegetarian from such a young age — aged just two.
“I had a really staunch, meat-eating father,” she says, “but luckily my mother was vegetarian. Meat was never forced on me, whereas I think many people are forced into eating meat because of the ‘you’ll eat what is on your plate’ attitude. I had the choice as a child and I think that if most people had that choice and they knew the truth, they would make the same choice as me.”
Tammy Fry is probably best known for her surname — due to the highly successful meat-free and entirely plant based global brand Fry’s started by her parents. The brand is now a second generation family business and is still enjoyed around the world by those wanting a delicious alternative to meat.
I think what strikes me the most about Tammy is her drive and passion for plant based food and the vegan movement. It would have been easy for somebody in her position to live off of the success of her parents. That drive and passion shines through in everything she does.
Successful businesswoman is just one of the achievements that Tammy has to her name. Childhood karate champion is another. The sport which she started with her siblings from the age of five, due to it being the most affordable sport around, went on to become a hugely important part of her life. Representing her country of South Africa, initially in the junior team, and later in the senior national team, Tammy only stopped competing at a global level after deciding to have children. After a break to have babies, and a move to Australia, last year Tammy decided to start karate again.
She explains: “This year I competed at the Australia Open and the Queensland Karate Championships and won both of them, so that was exciting. For me, my motivation right now is not to go and win medals or to compete on the international stage. I think it’s shifted to give back and to showcase that a plant based diet will enable you to reach high athletic potential. It’s a way of advocating for a plant based diet.
“I also organise projects for women that have been subject to violence, domestic violence or rape, teaching them self-defence. That for me is more meaningful now.”
Women’s rights are clearly an ingrained part of Tammy’s make-up. Raised in a household where both parents were equal in every aspect of life, she was raised “to be empowered and strong” —whether that meant leading a business or being a mum, the choice was her’s to make. “You don’t have to be a woman heading up a business to be a successful woman, just as you don’t have to be a man heading up a big organisation, being a stay-at-home dad is just as successful,” she comments.
It is clear that her mum has played an integral part in shaping Tammy, who Tammy cites as her daily inspiration. Now a parent herself, she’s facing the same dilemma as many other plant based parents on what to feed her children.
“I’ve told them exactly what they are eating, I told them that that is a pig, that is a cow, that is a sheep and that is a fish, and ask them ‘do you want to eat it?’. Generally the answer is no,” she says.
When it comes to the healthiest choice for children though, Tammy is in no doubt. “Parents should absolutely be raising their children on a meat-free diet,” she declares without an ounce of uncertainty in her voice. “If they did any research, they would know that at this point in time — and I’m not talking about what happened 100 years ago, or what our grandparents ate — meat is full of toxins, chemicals, hormones. The animals are being raised in really terrible conditions and are being fed antibiotics.”
She continues: “In Australia, 80 per cent of antibiotics are fed to livestock, not human beings. Your children are ingesting that. That’s pretty scary. As a parent, I wouldn’t want to feed them that, if you care about your kids you should not be feeding them animal products, you really should look at other ways of feeding them.”
But, it doesn’t have to mean persuading children to eat the greens they so often turn their noses up at. Tammy mentions: “There are products that are out there to make it easier. They don’t have to be eating spinach, kale and chickpeas — you can feed them nuggets and hot dogs where those involved are taking care over what goes into them.”
Surprisingly, Tammy only made the change to fully plant based eating herself a couple of years ago. It was the move to Australia and being surrounded by readily available alternatives that made it far easier to make the change to her diet full time.
With a background in nutrition, Tammy doesn’t believe supplementing to be necessary, apart from with B12 when following a completely plant based diet. She’s keen to denounce the mindset that plant based eaters can’t be just as healthy if not healthier than those on meat-heavy diets. It just takes a little common sense.
“If you are only eating bread and pasta or potatoes every night, that’s going to equal an unhealthy vegan. You obviously have to eat more fruit, more vegetables, more beans and pulses — then you’ll be absolutely fine. Consume a variety of foods, experiment with new things and then you’ll generally be getting the right macronutrients and micronutrients. I think in a nutshell — variety is key. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into the things you’ve always had.”
What about the misconceptions surrounding plant based diets?
There’s a clear tone of frustration in her voice when she answers. “It’s always the protein thing,” she vents. “People have literally been brainwashed by big industry. They think that the only source of protein is meat, that the only source of calcium is dairy. They don’t know the truth.
“We are in an age of information now though and information is freely available. People are able to go onto the internet themselves and find out the truth. It’s not just information that’s being paid for you to hear any more, we’re not just being fed propaganda. There are incredible documentaries that are out there. I think What the Health is a game-changer in the plant based movement.
“When people get all sides of the story they can make their own choice. That’s why I think there has been a huge shift towards plant based eating.”
Tammy says that the huge momentum being felt within the plant based movement isn’t exclusive to the UK. Back at home, the cross fit group her husband runs has seen around half of the group move to a plant based diet. “They are seeing improved training, better results, they can train for longer as they don’t get tired so quickly, they are energised all day and don’t have afternoon slumps like those on a paleo or meat-heavy diet. Plus when they are getting these results they’re talking to other people, so we’re seeing a massive shift in the gym towards a plant based diet for sports results.”
As we finish our walk and take photographs for the feature, we discuss how we keep this kind of momentum going and show more people the wonders of eating plant based food.
“I actually don’t think that veganism needs to get taken to the next level. I think flexitarianism needs to. When you’re vegan you are already there and you shouldn’t have to go further than that, you can be healthy without having to go all the way to being raw,” she says.
“I think we have to drag the rest of the world along with us and we have to be very careful and clever about how we market it to the rest of the world. I think we all have to be marketers, pushing our brand and persuading others to join us — that’s the next level bringing people in.”
Tammy is clearly full of passion for promoting plant based eating in a positive light and is dedicating her life and career to doing so. She has started up her own blog, to give her the freedom to speak about the issues that she cares about the most.
She finishes the interview by urging others to try making the change to their own diets, adding: “There has to be a change for the sake of the environment, for the welfare of animals and for people’s health. People are sick, people are dying and there has to be a change in the way people eat. Now is the time.”
- Fry’s have recently released a brand new chilled range of products to Holland and Barrett and Ocado and are gearing up for the release of their new product Kasha early next year. For more information, head to their website: fryfamilyfood.com/uk/
- Check out Tammy’s blog: http://www.seed-blog.com/