If You Haven’t Tried Jenné Claiborne’s Health-Ified Soul Food yet, You Just Might Soon

Photo: Maxx Loup

Welcome to Next Gen of Wellness, our spotlight of the nine up-and-coming icons you need to know about *right now*.  Here, rockstar vegan chef Jenné Claiborne shares her mindfulness tips, nutrition advice, and routine-simplifying hacks. 

As a rising star in the vegan food scene, Jenné Claiborne has been a familiar face for a while—as a contributing chef for By Chloe and as the founder of Sweet Potato Soul and the buzzy YouTube series of the same name (AKA the place to go to figure out how to make hush puppies, the healthy way). But with a vegan food subscription service and a new cookbook out—as well as her regular appearances on the Today show—Claiborne is stepping it up in her efforts to make vegan cooking as mainstream as the food she grew up eating in her grandmother's Georgia kitchen.

"Southern food is super diverse,” says Claiborne. “I wanted to highlight the most important vegetables in the South.” With her versions of black-eyed peas, collard greens, sweet potatoes (of course)—and even a vegan riff on fried chicken using cauliflower—she's giving comfort food a fresh and delicious makeover.

How does this healthy-living guru do it all? Read on for her productivity tips—and the daily practices that keep her glowing.

1. How did you get into wellness, and what's
 your personal mission in the wellness space?

When I was in college I started experimenting with plant-based cooking, reading vegetarian blogs, and shopping at farmer's markets. I had always loved cooking and eating, but that was my first introduction to eating for health and energy. That led me to start learning about nutrition, and then become a vegetarian. However, it wasn't until I became vegan in 2011 that wellness and healthy eating became my passion. I was struck by how delicious, diverse, comforting, and nourishing vegan food could be.

I became vegan for ethical reasons, but I couldn't deny that I was also feeling a lot better, and eating amazing food. That inspired me to want to share this lifestyle with others, and really to show that veganism is for everyone. That's my mission now: to inspire others to become vegan by showing them that they can still eat delicious and familiar food, and live happy, normal lives.

Next Gen of Wellness: Jenne Claiborne
Photo: Sidney Bensimon

2. Why do you think people have started prioritizing wellness in the last few years?

I think it's a reaction to the standard American diet and sedentary lifestyle, which leads to the country's top killers (heart disease and cancer). I also think the internet has helped us discover alternative ways of living.

3. What does a typical day look like for you? How do you stay productive?

Since I work for myself, and work from home, every day is different. My partner and I film on Mondays and Tuesdays, edit on Wednesdays, write on Thursdays, and do social media and lots of emails every day. It helps to work with a partner because we keep each other productive throughout the day. Breaking my day up with activity helps me be productive and stay energized. I walk a lot, go hiking at least once a week, practice yoga, and do HIIT at home.

Jenne Claiborne
Photo: Instagram/@sweetpotatosoul

4. What are a few of your favorite wellness essentials?

My favorite wellness essentials are yoga (I've been practicing since 2008), spending time in nature and in the sun, eating a vegan diet, laughter (my partner is hilarious, and sometimes I watch stand up comedy, or funny videos on IG), and being surrounded by love and healthy relationships. I'm a bit of a worrywart, so I go to these wellness essentials every single day to keep my stress levels in check. I also have a really fantastic Buddhist therapist, Satya Robyn, who has helped me tremendously in so many ways.

5. What do you think the future holds for wellness as a movement?

If our society starts to seek holistic solutions to problems, wellness will become the norm again. I hope this happens sooner than later. The movement is already growing, and it's clearly not just a fad. At the moment, more people seem empowered to take their own health into their hands, and I see that expanding to the wider population.

Here are more comfort-food dishes that won't derail your health goals—and a way to make your beauty cabinet vegan-friendly.

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