arrington Goldson wants to change your mind about the way you eat. The Easton-based chemist, culinary instructor, blogger and Instagram darling is working hard to raise awareness of the benefits of a plant-based diet. If Goldson had his way, all of America would be sitting down to meals that look nothing like what we’re used to.
At an age when most young people are focused on work and relationships, Goldson’s attention turned to heart disease and diabetes. “I was always interested in health and nutrition, fitness and bodybuilding,” he explains, “but when I turned 24 or 25 my interest changed. Instead of losing weight or looking better, I wanted to live better and improve my quality of life.”
Goldson, now 30, specifically wanted to learn all he could about the mechanism of disease. He took a deep dive into the literature, studied with nutritional scientists at Cornell, and what he found surprised him. The heart disease and type 2 diabetes he believed were an inevitable part of aging? Actually not inevitable—and instead tied 100 percent to what we eat. Even more intriguing: a whole-food, plant-based diet would not only prevent these diseases, but would reverse them.
To the uninitiated—and that includes most Americans—a whole-food, plant-based diet consists of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), nuts and healthy oils. Meat, eggs, milk, honey and other animal products are not included.
Goldson had always been a healthy eater, but he couldn’t think of a reason not to try the diet. His results were dramatic: he lost 30 pounds, but none of his muscle, in six weeks. He stopped falling asleep after meals. His energy increased. After adjusting to the increased fiber, his digestion stabilized and became more regular than ever. His skin developed a glow. And it wasn’t even that hard.
“If you are someone who has been eating the standard American diet for a lifetime, which is most of us, you will feel a difference almost immediately [on a whole-food, plant-based diet],” Goldson says. “If you are an active person, it will get you where you want to be faster. I was very active when I started this… never overweight, but sort of a thick guy.” His athletic ability actually increased after just one month of eating the new way.
A self-described “sprinter guy,” Goldson could never do distance, but all of a sudden, he was running a 5K. “It absolutely blew my mind.”
The news was too important not to share. And Goldson was upset that he’d never before come across anything in a magazine, blog, movie or on TV that addressed disease reversal. No one talked about it—not doctors, or even dieticians very much. “How can I go my whole life unaware that I don’t have to have heart disease?” he mused. “I thought I could do my small part and be that one person for as many people as possible.”
Goldson launched Food Health Fit (foodhealthfit.com), at first a “nerdy nutritional blog” where he tried to explain things to people. He quickly realized the hard-core nutrition stuff made their eyes glaze over. So he steered the blog’s content in the cooking direction, and that made all the difference. “When you give people good food, they are put in a better mood immediately,” he explains. “It is much easier to sell a plant-based diet if you start with food.”
Fortunately, food was easy for the Jamaican-born Goldson. Jamaicans share a proud cuisine heritage, and his parents are great home cooks who taught him the importance of flavoring. In fact, flavors of the Caribbean inspire much of Goldson’s cooking, producing meals so delicious they overcome the common perception of plant-based food as bland. And for those who wouldn’t dream of a life without meat, Goldson is quick to point out that meat is essentially tasteless without seasoning. “It’s the plants that flavor the meat,” he says. “All that meat offers your dish is texture.” And zero meat doesn’t mean zero protein—grains, nuts, beans, vegetables, even some fruit, all supply protein, plus plenty of fiber to keep you feeling full.
What didn’t come easy for Goldson while developing Food Health Fit was social media—critical for spreading his message to more people. He needed nice pictures of his food, so he learned photography. Food is notoriously hard to photograph so it was quite a feat, but like most things he’s tried, he’s now pretty good at it, as the images on his blog and Instagram @food.health.fit will attest.
Goldson holds down a full-time day job as a chemist, so most evenings you will find him working in the mini photo studio he’s managed to squeeze into one half of his apartment’s living room. “I have a DSLR camera and all my pictures are taken by flash because by the time I get home from work there may be no natural light, “ he explains. With his busy schedule, the entire process from cooking to editing to posting can take days. There’s also improvisation: exquisitely plated food that appears to be set on a nice table is actually sitting atop an old piece of wood on his ironing board.
The Food Health Fit brand grew to include cooking classes. An acquaintance of Goldson’s working at St. Luke’s stumbled upon his blog shortly after she and her husband got off their meds via a plant-based diet. She wanted to create a cooking program at the hospital for diabetics and prediabetics, and gave Goldson his debut as a culinary instructor, a role he has come to enjoy immensely. Goldson spun off the St. Luke’s classes and began doing his own public cooking programs in local churches before COVID-19 hit.
Goldson’s cuisine and photography skills have benefited him in other ways. He’s helped create videos for a tutorial app, taken food photos for ad campaigns, sampled and promoted products on his web pages, done speaking engagements, even modeled clothing around Easton for a menswear manufacturer. Food Health Fit took up all his free time until he started studying for an MBA part-time in 2018. He finishes in July 2021 and hopes other opportunities and partnerships will continue to roll in. Increasing his social media exposure and more in-person cooking classes are priorities for the future.
Most recently, pre-pandemic, Goldson was teaching preschoolers and their parents at Gumedia Nutritional Sciences School, a brand-new nutrition-focused facility in New Jersey. Why so young an audience? “You should be getting this information as a kid,” says Goldson.
Typically his class attendees are older, with problems he attributes to the worsening American diet. Poor nutrition is more than just the leading cause of illness in the contry. Just this July, a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition declared bad diets a threat to U.S. national security, as diet-related illnesses place a growing burden on the economy.
“People need to take these things more seriously at a younger age,” Goldson says. “If you read enough about disease prevention, you will eventually make your way to a plant-based lifestyle because of the dramatic differences and outcomes it makes. Two-thirds of all American deaths are caused by eating, but there is literally a cure out there.”
Smoothies are a great introduction to a plant-based diet. They’re filling, hydrating and easy to make. Goldson has one for breakfast every day and never tires of them. Enjoy the recipe for one of his smoothies, plus a traditional Jamaican dish that’s savory and delicious, and Goldson’s favorite dessert in the whole world: cinnabuns.
Mango Pineapple Smoothie
½ heaping cup zucchini, rough chopped
½ heaping cup frozen mango
½ heaping cup frozen pineapple
Juice and some pulp from 1 tangerine or mandarin orange
1 medjool date (remove pit and stem)
2 big handfuls of spinach
Cold-pressed grape juice, apple juice or water as needed
1. Add all ingredients, except juice/water, to blender.
2. Add a couple splashes of juice/water to blender and start to blend.
3. Continue adding juice/water until the texture is about that of a milkshake.
Note: A high-powered blender like a Vitamix makes a big difference when processing the produce—a lower-powered blender will require more liquid and be less filling.
Jamaican Stew Peas & Rice
2 cups brown rice (or white)
½ Tbsp. salt
3 cans kidneys beans with liquid
½ of 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
½ heaping tsp. powdered allspice
¼ heaping tsp. dried powdered thyme
¼ heaping tsp. garlic powder
¼ heaping tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. browning sauce (in the seasonings aisle)
1½ tsp. salt
1½ onion, diced
3 green onions, rough chopped (optional)
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose, or half all-purpose/half regular whole wheat)
¼ heaping tsp. salt
Water to knead soft dough
1 tsp. all-purpose seasoning
1 tsp. vegan butter (Earth Balance works well)
2-3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 ears corn on the cob, shucked and cut into 2-3 pieces each
1. To make dumplings, add the flour and salt to a large bowl and stir with a large spoon until combined. Splash some water onto the flour and continue stirring. Continue adding water until small and large balls of dough begin to form. Once there is no dry flour left (or very little), knead until mixture comes together to form a dough. You do not need to measure this, just add splashes of water until dough comes together. Once the dough has formed, additional kneading is not needed. Make small spindle-shape dumplings. To do this, put a small piece of dough in your hands and rub them together to make a thin cylinder shape. Make the dough before you start the pot on the stove, but do not form the dumplings until ready to add to the stew towards the end. Letting the dough rest during preparation makes for softer dumplings.
1. Add all of the “Beans” ingredients listed to a large pot over medium heat. Make sure to add the liquid in the canned beans to the pot as well.
2. Double the current volume in the pot by adding water, stir.
3. Place cover on pot, crack slightly. Simmer for 30 minutes. If liquid level becomes too low, add additional water to avoid scorching.
4. Add the dumplings to the pot, add additional water if mixture is too thick, stir, simmer for 10 more minutes.
5. At the end, take a potato masher and mash some of the beans in the pot, about 1/3 of them. Take care not to squish the dumplings. This step is important to thicken and add flavor to the sauce.
Corn & Potatoes
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil; season the water with all-purpose seasoning and vegan butter.
2. Add corn and potatoes to the pot, boil for five minutes. Then, turn off heat to the burner and cover pot. Allow this to steam on the hot burner for at least 10 minutes.
How to cook fluffy brown rice
1. Rinse brown rice one time under cold water to clean.
2. Fill a large stockpot with 12 cups water. Add ½ Tbsp. of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil.
3. Add rice to boiling water and boil uncovered for 26 minutes (set a timer).
4. Strain rice through a colander and return the rice to the pot. Place the lid back on the pot, place pot on a cool burner, and leave to steam for 10 minutes.
5. After 10 minutes, fluff rice and serve.
Alternatively, use white rice. Prepare in rice cooker or follow stovetop directions on package. To serve, pour stew peas sauce over the rice and potatoes; be generous. Enjoy corn on the side.
1 cup almond milk
3 Tbsp. white sugar
2 ¼ tsp. quick rising yeast
3 Tbsp. spreadable vegan butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. spreadable vegan butter
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup spreadable vegan butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup, agave or other thick syrup
1 cup raw cashews (not roasted)
1 cup powdered sugar
Vanilla almond milk, as needed for desired thickness
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (optional)
Proofing the yeast
1. Heat 1 cup of almond milk in the microwave to 110°F–120°F; it takes about 75 seconds on high. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
2. Dissolve sugar into the milk and whisk.
3. Add yeast to this mixture and whisk.
4. Let sit for about 15 minutes, until the liquid gets noticeably frothy. When heated correctly mixture doubles in size with froth from the yeast.
Note: If your yeast did not get noticeably frothy, your yeast is either dead or your milk wasn’t the right temperature range. Do not use this to make the cinnabuns; it will not work.
1. Transfer yeast mixture to a large bowl, whisk in melted butter and salt. Gently heat butter if it is too hard to stir in. Note, if you get the butter too hot it can kill the yeast.
2. Add flour 1 cup at a time and stir until dough starts to form. Knead until ingredients become well incorporated and no more. The dough should be a bit sticky.
3. Cover bowl with towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
If available, place bowl in cool oven (do not turn on heat).
Forming the rolls
1. Remove the dough from the container and add a generous amount of flour to the dough and your work surface to prevent sticking.
2. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a horizontal rectangle until it is about ¼- to ½-inch thick. Rub the dough with more flour if it starts to stick too much to the counter.
3. Leave about an inch of dough at the top of your rectangle untouched by butter, sugar or cinnamon.
4. Spread butter onto the dough with a butter knife, like you’re buttering toast.
5. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. cinnamon onto dough.
6. Add an even layer of brown sugar to the dough.
Be generous, roughly 1/3 to ½ cup.
7. Starting at the bottom, roll the dough into a log.
8. To complete your roll, wet your fingers and carefully wet the edges of the dough and pinch together. This should hold your log together.
9. Slice log into about 2-inch pieces with a serrated knife. If you do not have a serrated knife, use a piece of floss to wrap and “slice” each piece.
10. Place the uncooked rolls in a baking pan with enough space between them to allow them to expand. (Buns should sit after this step for at least 15 minutes to rise while you complete other steps. Set a timer.)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F to prepare for baking step.
2. Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan on medium- high heat. Stir and remove from heat immediately when mixture starts simmering.
3. Pour hot goo onto each bun.
4. Pick up each bun to make sure that some goo gets underneath them to prevent sticking, set aside.
1. After your oven is preheated, put your buns into the oven, and bake for 14 minutes. Bake until the tops are just slightly golden brown. They may appear as if they aren’t fully cooked when they come out of the oven, but they will continue to cook as they cool down. Don’t leave in the oven any longer than 16 minutes—they will burn.
1. Blend icing ingredients in a high-powered blender and pour on top of buns. If you have a lower-powered blender, try simmering your cashews in water on the stove for 10–15 minutes before blending them.