We had the good fortune of connecting with Shana Balkin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shana, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
As a former vegetable hater, I started my recipe blog SaladTherapy.com as a way to help people of all ages learn to love incorporating nutritious plant-based foods into their diets, instead of eating them begrudgingly or avoiding them entirely.
Until I was well into my twenties, cheese crackers and hot dogs were my BFFs, and I had pretty much no interest in even trying anything that grew from the ground. Now with the help of some amazing recipes, I’ve come to really enjoy just about everything and love helping others do the same. Salad Therapy recipes are developed with “normal” people in mind – and for even the pickiest of eaters – while being packed with nutrients and made without animal products, oil, refined sugar, or highly processed ingredients. In addition to the more obvious salads and smoothies, you’ll find all kinds of healthy and nutritious takes on old favorites – from frosted chocolate cake, to lasagna, to ice cream sandwiches, and so much more. The site also contains tons of free resources to help viewers on their plant-based journeys.
When I started eating plant-based, the recipes I found often weren’t quite what I was looking for. Many recipes that looked good used oil, sweeteners, or other things I didn’t want, while the recipes without those things often fell flat in the flavor department. I wanted to create something for people like me who want to have their healthy vegan cake and eat it too, ie, have all the nutrition and taste they love without the ingredients they’d rather avoid.
Salad Therapy is about finding creative, easy ways to add more plants to your diet in a way that works for you – without judging or scare tactics. Many people want to eat healthier but aren’t interested in changing the entire way they eat. Salad Therapy is totally for these people! The idea of cooking only from whole plants is also cool and weird and something that might intrigue folks who aren’t even trying to go plant based but are up for a culinary adventure. For example, when people find out they can make incredible desserts with medjool dates as the only sweetener, or that they can sauté onions without any oil in the pan, it’s a little mind boggling!
Whole plant foods contribute to our health dramatically and are scientifically proven to improve and sometimes even reverse cancer, heart disease, ADD/ADHD, autoimmune disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and so much more. The food we consume fuels the operation of every organ and every cell in our bodies. We literally are what we eat. I have seen profound changes in my own life since going plant-based, and I love helping make these changes possible for others through the colorful, beautiful bounty of delicious plants.
When I reached the point in my life where I realized I wasn’t immortal and wanted to learn more about getting healthy, I started trying foods I’d always assumed were disgusting. To my extreme shock, I found that vegetables could be insanely delicious with the right preparation – even without animal products, sweeteners, oil, or processed ingredients! I’d gone from hard boiled eggs to chocolate-kale smoothies, from tuna sandwiches to tofu caprese salads, from pizza to spaghetti squash marinara with cashew cream…and I absolutely loved it!
I also dropped about 30 pounds, I gained a ton of energy, and I got pregnant with my first child easily when doctors had previously told me I might never conceive. If I wasn’t a believer before, I sure was now.
Friends and family started asking for my recipes. I opened Instagram and Facebook accounts under the name “Salad Therapy” as an easy way to share my ideas. It eventually occurred to me that maybe I could help way more people than I’d initially planned. After all, if someone like me could learn to wholeheartedly love vegetables and improve my health, anyone could.
The possibilities extend to kids, too. My three children have been raised on a whole-foods-plant-based diet. While they’re no strangers to the typical treats of the world they live in, at home we eat primarily veggies, legumes, and fruits without animal products, sugar, oil, or highly refined/processed ingredients. My kids are cool with that – they often request spinach, kale, cauliflower, and tofu! And don’t worry, they’re not deprived – they get plenty of delicious cakes, cookies, and ice cream – all made with wholesome ingredients. It’s important to note that when they go to friends’ houses or to birthday parties, they eat and enjoy what’s there, and it ain’t kale smoothies! Nevertheless, they’re still very happy to eat the plant-based foods they’re served at home. (Of course, they’re still kids, whose preferences can change on a whim and can’t always be predicted, accommodated, or even figured out!) Even though they know what else is out there, they don’t feel like they’re missing out, because they truly enjoy our healthy plant-based food. It has been so surprising, beautiful, and eye-opening to see what kids are willing and even happy to eat with enough exposure. I want to be clear that my kids are no anomaly; any child can learn to love nutritious, plantiful food. Salad Therapy can help – you can find many recipe reviews on my site of moms saying their kids asked for seconds!
Saladtherapy.com finally went live in December 2021, with new recipes published weekly, an extensive online shop for all your plant-based, natural, and holistic needs, and much more. I also have more ideas in the works, including a cookbook, weekly meal plans, and personal and group coaching.
While Salad Therapy is 100-percent friendly to those who are very strict about their diets, it’s also for all of us imperfect people who just want to be a little better today than we were yesterday. You don’t have to overturn your entire life to make a meaningful change. Throw some greens into your smoothie. Try tahini on your popcorn instead of oil (seriously, you have to try this one!). Try a date-sweetened dessert over the weekend. Everything you do makes a difference, and it also makes it easier for you to take on the next challenge. You really can tend to your health without sacrificing great food, and it doesn’t have to be hard!
Salad Therapy has been a wonderful way to make a business out of the things that bring me joy in life. If you want to learn more about Salad Therapy or about going plant-based, check out SaladTherapy.com and follow @saldtherapy on Facebook and Instagram for daily. Feel free to message me anytime!
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Food can fall into three different categories: healthy, delicious, and practical. A recipe usually falls into one or two of these categories but rarely all three. I work very hard to make my recipes fit within each category so that people – including myself! – can get everything they want out of their food. I am super pumped up about sharing it with the world because it can be truly and deeply life changing, as it has been for me.
Making the changes in my kitchen has honestly been easy for me because I’ve never felt I was giving anything up. But making Salad Therapy happen as a business has not been nearly as easy. I have worked as a professional writer, editor, and consultant for about 15 years, with a background in advertising. I am also a mother to three young children. While my career background definitely helps with my website, getting Salad Therapy off the ground as a legitimate business felt impossible for so long – my website was in development for four years because I simply couldn’t figure out how to make the time. But when I got honest with myself, I realized it wasn’t just about the time; it was also about my own insecurities in moving forward, putting Salad Therapy first, feeling confident enough to take the leap even if there would be people who wouldn’t “get it.” I also had to let go of the guilt and fear associated with the many risks that come with starting your own business. Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t only worth it, but more than that – it was a necessity in my life. For a decade and a half, in my writing business, I’ve been helping other people fulfill their dreams, all the while my own dreams were on hold. I came out of the womb as a creative soul, and not putting my own work out into the world was frankly very painful. Now that I’m finally actualizing my own dreams, it is definitely not easy, and I am having to learn a ton as I go, but it is incredibly fulfilling, and I’m so grateful.
As a lifelong perfectionist, I have learned I can’t care so much about making things perfect that I don’t move forward. This is a lesson I’m learning in my personal and business life, but it’s also a foundational element of Salad Therapy. I want people to know that any change you make, any healthy component you add to your day, is a good thing. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Small changes are big changes, and one good thing leads to the next!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Most of our recreation revolves around the outdoors. We love to hike! I highly recommend people check out Terry Hershey Park for awesome trails that are so beautiful you’ll forget you’re right in the middle of a huge city. We also love Brazos Bend State Park, where you can see alligators right on the trails (so be careful!), and San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, where we came across tons of incredible wildflowers. Lake Houston Wilderness Park has gorgeous trails and an awesome swimming area. As for food, we don’t really eat out much, but I would love to open an awesome whole-foods-plant-based restaurant one day with amazing ambiance where I can bring all my friends who come to visit!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My gratitude goes out to my endlessly supportive husband who has encouraged me to share my creations before “salad” and “therapy” were ever connected. Another enormous thank you to my amazing parents, without whose support saladtherapy.com would not be what it is. I also want to recognize web developer extraordinair Tomer Dagan of Catch Dynamics Inc., who has been an integral part of turning my vision for my website into a reality.