WMC issue #7: Meral Jibouri, plant-based nutrition coach, content creator, and mum of two toddlers
On nutritious plant-based food and the importance of routines
This newsletter comes to you after a busy last week of work at Expo 2020 Dubai. It’s been a phenomenal 6 months.
At the Dubai Chamber, we have hosted the number of events we would usually host over a 3-year period, all in the 6 months of Expo. So yeah, it’s been intense, but great. With Ramadan around the corner where we get to enjoy shorter working hours, I am looking forward to some rest and introspection.
In other life events, I cannot believe my son just turned 2. “It goes quickly, my friend” says a good friend of mine whom I’ve known from college. She now has kids hitting puberty, “savour every moment” she reminds me. I’m very conscious of this as I put my kids to bed every night. The joy and drama of bedtime can be overwhelming, especially after a long day at work, but I try my best to soak it all in, as one day the delightful dramas will fade and my kids won’t want to snuggle into me to sleep.
Outside of work, and life and this newsletter, I’ve been tickling my fancy in various content creator slack groups and geeking out on no-code tools in attempt to learn about the future of technology and organise my mind better. Will share more on that once I have got my head around it all.
Now, yes moving on to this week’s Working Mum Wisdom :)
I always says this and will say it again, the biggest joy this newsletter gives me is connecting and re-connecting with incredible mums. There is so much we can learn from each other, which is the whole purpose of this newsletter.
I used to work with Meral in what now seems like another lifetime! We reconnected thanks to the amazing content she creates via ‘From the Ground’. And, thanks to this newsletter project of mine, we exchanged many messages and started chatting again. Putting things out there can bring great things!
Meral is a great example of a mum following her curiosity after having kids. She has managed to channel her energy and time into something she is passionate about, and is creating a ripple effect of impact along the way.
Her channel ‘From the ground’ is an amazing resource for anyone interested in learning about a plant-based diet or looking for easy plant-based recipes. She is unique in the content she shares as she often focuses on plant-based versions of Middle Eastern cuisine, something that is not commonly found.
Meet Meral Jibouri, Plant-Based Food Content Creator and Nutrition Coach
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am Iraqi of origin, born in UAE and raised in New Zealand. All three places are dear to my heart and I am deeply grateful for being connected to them. My husband is Emirati and together we have two boys aged 2 and 4.
I am passionate about learning new things and am always working on improving myself mentally, spiritually and physically. I enjoy traveling, food and good company.
I studied business and spent more than 10 years in public relations, mostly in the cosmetics industry. I then took a few years break to grow my family and that’s when I shifted gears personally and career-wise as I switched to a plant-based diet and got certified in plant-based nutrition.
When I learnt about a plant-based diet and lifestyle, it immediately resonated thanks to my sister Nehal who recommended a book about plant-based nutrition and the rest is history. I then created ‘From the Ground’ where I share healthy and easy plant-based video recipes and plant-based educational information; and coach people on a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Q. You are a mum to a 2 year old and a 4 year old, former comms professional turned nutrition coach and passionate advocate of a plant-based diet, how do you do it all?
I know it might sound cliché but I have a very supportive husband, family and friends. I just try to be organized and do my best every day.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
I have a hunger to learn more and give more, which keeps me inspired.
Q. What is your best productivity hack?
Routine, routine, routine. Productivity doesn’t come from being innately motivated, it’s a choice.
Q. What is your parenting mantra?
To help my kids figure out who they are and how they want to show up in this world. We can want certain things for them, we can wish for certain things for them, we can try to influence them in certain ways, but ultimately, I want them to be their authentic self, however that may look like. As long as they are happy and good to others.
Q. What do you do in your 'me-time' and how does it help you?
I try to self-improve and that for me is self-care. That looks different every day but it includes things like taking the time to eat well, workout, learn, journal and meditate.
Q. Did becoming a mother change the way you work? How so?
I constantly assess whether what I am doing personally or work wise is valuable to me for it to be worth spending that time away from my kids. It has to be worth it and only you know whether it is.
Q. What is your advice to new mums looking to start working again or looking to follow their passion?
No one tells you about the mum guilt! No matter what path you take, you feel guilt for not doing more for your kids. If you decide to pursue work or a passion, you have to remember that a happy mum translates to a happy family 😊 You also have to be happy and fulfilled and that in itself is a life lesson for your kids. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Q. Tell us a bit about your journey to a plant-based diet, and the creation of ‘From the Ground’
I was raised on a standard diet and loved eating almost everything. My favorite breakfast was eggs; lunch was stuffed chicken (dijaj mahshe), and dessert - kunafa! My decision to switch really came about after reading How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger where he shares the latest evidence-based information on nutrition, and honestly it was a no brainer for me. The nutrition science is crystal clear in terms of the health promoting benefits of a plant-based diet; so I decided to try it out and I felt amazing. I did my research and was prepared before transitioning so I had a true chance of implementing it successfully long term. Preparation was really the key here.
I then decided to take it a step further and got certified in plant-based nutrition. Also, I launched ‘From the Ground’ which is where I want to encourage and empower others to eat and live better. I am a plant-based nutrition coach and via ‘From the Ground’ I share easy and healthy plant-based recipes that anyone can benefit from irrespective of what diet you chose to follow. And, I am a firm believer that anyone can know their way around a kitchen, you don’t have to be a chef. It can be basic but also delicious and nutritious. Anyone who wants to eat healthy should be able to prepare a healthy meal easily. Sometimes it’s just a matter of blending ingredients.
Q. How do you feel after making the transition to plant-based?
I feel amazing. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I feel good physically and am more aligned with my values.
Q. Are you raising your kids plant-based? Is your husband plant based too?
Yes, my kids are predominantly plant-based. At home, they eat plant-based food but I am a little more flexible when we are out because I have to work around the environments that I am in whether it’s in a restaurant or any other social occasions. That’s the balance I am currently most comfortable with and find realistic. As for my husband, he is about 70% plant-based and appreciates that a plant-based diet is healthy and so that’s what he eats at home but will eat what he likes when we are out.
Q. What are your thoughts on consumption of alternative meats (like Beyond Meat / Impossible Burger, Quorn, etc.)
They are definitely not a “health” food as some are processed with added oils, sodium and preservatives. Meat alternatives are new to the market and are constantly evolving and improving their ingredients. Ideally you would want to predominantly eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. However, alternative meats certainly do have a place in the world and I do enjoy them occasionally. People choose to eat alternative meats for various reasons including health, environment or animal welfare. There are still more studies to come out comparing meat alternatives with meat so we will have to wait and see.
Q. How do you explain plant-based to children?
Great question. There isn’t only one answer or approach to this. I personally like to talk to them about what ingredients come from the ground, usually while cooking as you will see in my videos 😉 I like to get them involved in making ‘yummy’ plant-based food so they associate plant-based food as delicious food.
Q. What advice do you have for someone who wants to adopt a more plant-based diet?
Just get started and approach it in a simple way so you don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t make it a source of stress. Simple food swaps like beans with meat for one meal once a day / week, or switching to a dairy-free milk; and then build your way up. It’s not all or nothing. Any changes in implementing a more plant-based diet is progress.
Q. Favourite tool that makes your life easier?
Notes app on my iphone.
Q. Parenting book / advice that was a game changer for you?
Kids thrive on routine and that includes routine during the day and sleep training for the night. It’s good for them and its good for us parents to have more structure and predictability in the day and night.
Q. Favourite quote:
“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”
Q. Best thing you have read or watched lately:
Inventing Anna on Netflix. I am sure many people have different takes on the show but for me I kept thinking that it’s such a waste for someone with such talent to not have got the chance to channel her skill in the right way.
I hope you enjoyed this chat with Meral! If you liked what you read, please share. And don’t forget to check her out at ‘From the ground’.
If you want to connect with Meral, please comment below and I will make sure she gets your message.
One small favour, please?
If you are enjoying this newsletter, please do me a favour: please recommend it to one of your working mum friends to subscribe, it would really mean the world to me. Thank you!
That’s all from me for now.
Have an amazing week!