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Social media is saturated with influencers and creators working to break down harmful diet rhetoric. For example, scroll through the #nutrition hashtag, and you’ll encounter an overwhelming amount of information.
Thousands of posts boast philosophies like intuitive eating and health at every size. While this content is easier to come by nowadays, the creators of Food Heaven Made Easy know that was not always the case.
In fact, when they started their business in 2011, they were part of only a few walking on this path, Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez, the founders of Food Heaven Made Easy tell Cuisine Noir. The duo responsible for the platform are best friends and met at a potluck back in 2008.
The two entrepreneurs decided to go against the grain and share nutrition advice rooted in inclusivity. By doing so, they pioneered what it means to protest conventional wellness norms despite the riff of dealing with hate and backlash online.
Moving forward and remaining true to their foundation allowed them to soar. Over a decade later, they have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and supporters who trust their advice, and we all know reliable wellness platforms are hard to come by.
Still, years later, Food Heaven Made Easy continues to tackle some of the most challenging health questions while maintaining their values—and they’re only getting started.
Making a Direct Impact
Both Jones and Lopez’s backgrounds fueled their desire to want to work in food. Lopez grew up in a Dominican household in New York—where she still resides—with cultural dishes central to her upbringing.
On the other hand, Jones was raised in California—where she is still based —and remembers how experiences in her childhood, like getting creative with budget-friendly food-stamp meals, deepened her relationship with nutrition access.
Experiencing health issues fueled her journey toward becoming a registered dietitian, says Lopez. For Jones, after leaving a career in journalism, she decided she wanted to do work that directly impacted people. So in 2008, she decided to pursue and complete her master’s in nutrition. A couple of years later, Lopez finished hers as well.
The segue into the nutrition field took work, though. “I was one of the only students of color, so I had a tough time; I just felt really isolated,” says Lopez. According to the Commission of Dietetic Registration, only about 3% of dietitians are Black. Lack of representation wasn’t the only barrier either for Jones. “The sciences didn’t come naturally to me, so I had to work really hard to get good grades,” she says.
Despite these trials, both received their accreditations and became registered dietitians and, at the same time, began to slowly grow their food community. During their studies, the two hosted cooking and nutrition classes for the New York City Department of Health. As much as folks began to admire their accessible nutrition advice, the duo fell equally in love with their followers. So in 2011, they began brainstorming how to expand their platform to reach more audiences.
Founding Food Heaven Made Easy
In 2011, Food Heaven Made Easy commenced with homemade nutrition education videos. Jones came up with the idea to stream the content to reach larger audiences. While, in theory, this ordeal seemed like a pretty seamless endeavor, it ended up being more work than they expected Lopez says.
During their first taping, for example, the two did an entire segment, only to realize at the end that the video wasn’t recording them. At the time, posting content wasn’t as seamless as it is now; there were a lot of technical learnings the two had to understand.
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When establishing their online platform, they also had to deal with the dark side of the internet. As they began posting more nutrition content, their audience grew immensely. At the same time, the two had to face negative comments daily. “It’s understandable why there was so much pushback because we live in this culture that emphasizes thinness as the pathway to wellness and is elitist also when it comes to health,” says Jones.
Breaking Down Food Stigmas
Over the years, Food Heaven Made Easy continued to grow, amassing hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, tons of subscribers on YouTube, and being awarded one of the top wellness podcasts on Apple. The key to building up so much loyalty? Ensuring their content was accessible, not harmful, and rooted in making food and wellness fun and meaningful.
For example, the duo recently partnered with Take Root Organics to debunk myths about processed foods being bad. “Unless you’re picking your food from a farm and eating it immediately, you’re consuming processed food,” says Lopez.
She continues, “Processing food is good because it makes food safe and practical for consumption.” To promote this initiative further, they developed delicious and accessible recipes like coconut fish stew and skillet lasagna to prove that canned foods can do just as good a job as fresh options.
Building a trusted voice also includes diving into deep research to inform their episodes. Their podcast has interviewed hundreds of experts to get to the bottom of wellness topics like how to separate working out from weight loss, stop food shaming, and even nuanced issues like how to deal with death and grief. The two registered dietitians prove that health and food are intersectional and that discussing all of its complexities is important.
What Black People Should Know About the Nutrition Field
There’s a lot of ground to cover, especially as it relates to culturally relevant wellness topics. As stated earlier, the percentage of Black dietitians is low, and expanding representation is necessary.
For Black people interested in becoming a registered dietitian, Lopez recommends connecting with other Black students and dieticians in the industry. This can look like asking to shadow them for the day or simply doing a phone interview, she says.
This can be an excellent way for people to determine what career path they want to have in the field. For example, some people go down a clinical path working in hospitals. In contrast, others go the creative route, like writing for magazines or starting online platforms. Either way, Lopez says it’s about getting as much exposure as possible so that you can anticipate the challenges.
With Growth Comes Pivots
With over 12 years under their belts, the two health advocates share that new ideas are simmering for taking their platform to the next level. In a recent Instagram post, the duo reflected on their journey and invited their followers to decide which endeavor they should pursue.
The two have always been innovative, and the thread mentioned new business ideas like creating a rejuvenation center, a kitchen studio, a coaching business for dietitians, a POC-focused food platform, or a specialized nutrition service.
Their followers were eager to weigh in on the next steps, and while the direction they decided to pursue is still under wraps, we cannot wait to see where their pivot takes them.
For more information on Jessica Jones, Wendy Lopez and Food Heaven Made Easy, visit their website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Listen to their podcast on Hayti and other streaming platforms.