WHEN Ella Mills was pregnant with her first daughter, the 29-year-old, who has gained a global following for championing plant-based food, could not be in the same room as a vegetable.
“I couldn’t look at broccoli without gagging. I didn’t eat a vegetable for about 14 weeks,” the creative force behind Deliciously Ella tells.
Now in the third trimester of her second pregnancy, she has developed a yearning for doughnuts: “I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or pregnancy,” she says. Either way, she doesn’t see anything wrong with listening to her body and answering its demand for sugar.
The wisdom of listening to your own body is a philosophy that runs right through her sixth book,, published by Yellow Kite last week (€25). Its pages are filled with recipes that are designed to make plant-based eating welcoming and inclusive rather than intimidating or confusing.
“It feels to me as though the simplicity of making small changes to feel happier, healthier can get a little lost among the weird and the wonderful,” she says. She hopes to change that by offering plant-based options that are, as the title suggests, quick and easy.
The book’s seven sections use ordinary ingredients and include recipes that take as little as 10 or 20 minutes. “Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming,” she says.
More than that perhaps, the bestselling author wants to make it crystal clear that she is not out to convert the world to veganism just to share how changing what she ate helped to kickstart her recovery from illness in 2012.
When she was 20, she was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, a condition that affected her autonomic nervous system and led to chronic pain and fatigue. After a year of repeated hospital visits and taking a “list of medications the length of my arm”, she felt even worse, hitting a mental and physical rock bottom.
Inspired by the experiences of others, she turned to a wholefood, plant-based diet and started to overhaul her lifestyle. She didn’t know how to cook but with the help of a nutritional therapist she began experimenting in the kitchen and posted the results online. The blog Deliciously Ella was born.
Now, there’s a Deliciously Ella deli, a podcast, 1.7m Instagram followers and a range of snacks and cereals that are on sale in 7,000 shops here and in Britain. There were plans to launch in America and Germany this year too, but then coronavirus hit and everything ground to a halt.
Like so many others, she says she found the last number of months “an utter nightmare”. She had to close the deli she runs in Mayfair with her husband Matthew Mills. The business’s 20 staff were furloughed (she’s so grateful for the scheme) and Deliciously Ella products had to be sold online.
But there were upsides too. There was no daily commute to her office near Oxford Street so she got to spend more time at home (near Hyde Park) with daughter Skye who turns one this month. She also had childcare support during business hours which made a huge difference.
Indeed, there were lockdown evenings that felt as if they had been heaven-sent: a family meal of mushroom and walnut ragu, followed by yoga, meditation and Netflix. Bliss.
Speaking of family meals, to Ella’s great surprise, her daughter didn’t show any great interest in food but after persisting with baby-led weaning, that changed at around nine months. She now loves risotto (“she puts her head in the pot,” her mum laughs) and gets very excited at the sight of peanut butter toast.
Like the rest of the family, her daughter’s diet is plant-based but her mum says she is free to eat whatever she likes when she’s older. When asked if plant-based eating is suitable for all, the food blogger says many people ask that, worrying about protein intake, for instance, although protein deficiency is rare.
However, most people don’t get enough fibre which is provided in abundance in plant-based eating but, as Ella Mills repeats, her recipes are not about converting, more helping people to make simple, easy diet tweaks if they choose to.