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Nourishing Herself and Others 

Terry Jacobs Walters ’84 started out needing to help herself, then her two daughters. Over the years many people have benefited from her knowledge and convictions. 

She has been teaching plant-based, seasonal cooking and nutrition for close to 25 years. Terry has authored four cookbooks; her most recent, Nourish, self-published in 2022, features 200 vegan and gluten-free recipes and includes some of her poetry.  

Terry’s recipe for success extends far beyond the cookbooks: public and private classes, various workshops, corporate wellness and nutrition programs, motivational speaker, facilitator of a women’s circle. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I started an online ‘circle of nourishment’ for women to connect, share, and support each other,” Terry says. “We started writing poetry as a way to look within and [explore] how we might be able to express ourselves differently. I organize my books by season so that we can eat and more easily live in balance with our environment. My hope in adding poetry to this book was that it would act as a pause between seasons. That it would encourage people to stop, take a breath, feel the change around them and within, and move into each season more centered, more grounded, and more mindful.”   

Terry’s wake-up call came in college when her father had a heart attack and she subsequently learned that she had high cholesterol. She said she knew she needed to develop her own food plan, that the college dining hall could no longer work for her.  

“The choice between prescription drugs or a cleaner diet was a no-brainer,” Terry says. 

She moved off campus. 

“It was my first time living independently, and I loved being in control of my diet, my lifestyle, and my choices,” Terry says. “It was empowering and was just the motivation I needed to follow this new path.” 

The path took another turn when her daughters both had food sensitivities as children. 

“When I was in my 20s eating kale and quinoa, people noticed but didn’t draw attention to it,” Terry says. “When I used diet and nutrition to heal my children, many thought I was a little nuts. When it worked, people started asking me to teach them. I started taking other young moms to the grocery store and teaching them how to read labels, how to shop. … Of course, then they wanted cooking classes to show them what to do with the ingredients. The classes became a great place to share information, wisdom, and inspiration.” 

People started asking her to publish her recipes, and in 2007 she self-published Clean Food, which was formally published by Sterling Publishing in 2009. The revised edition came out in 2012. 

Terry’s route might have been borne out of necessity, but it seems inevitable that she would have found this path at some point. This is her lifestyle. No fad, no trendy diet of the day, but rather a deep dive into a way of life.  

A section of her new book, Nourish, is devoted to gut health. The gut is the gastrointestinal tract, and a healthy gut, including the presence of plenty of good bacteria and an environment conducive to fermentation, contributes to a strong immune system. This is not your grandmother’s cookbook, even though Grandma would be proud of the recipes. Sweet potato, corn, and kale chowder. Za’atar roasted vegetable minestrone. Zucchini casserole with almond ricotta. Ginger pear crisp.  Lemon blueberry squares. Coconut apricot almond bites. 

They all sound enticing, and that’s the thing. Some people are immediately turned off when they hear “vegetarian” or “vegan.”  

“The very best way to break negative judgements about plant-based food is simply to let people taste,” Terry says. “Delicious recipes speak for themselves.” 

Different foods have differing levels of nutritional value and taste appeal, she explains. “My job is to maximize taste and nutrition, minimize (or eliminate) anti-nutrients, and empower people with knowledge to make the choices that are right for them,” she says. 

Terry often refers to the connection between food, body, mind, and soul.  

“I think of food as the great connector,” Terry says. “It brings people together, it provides energy, it nourishes, and it connects us to our environment, our community, and our local, and global, economy. What we eat directly influences how we think, how we feel, our immune systems, and our physical and mental health in general. We make a choice every time we lift our fork, take a sip, and ring out at the grocery store or farmers’ market. We can’t make healthy choices unless we know what we’re choosing between, and that’s my job — to empower people with knowledge so they can see through our convoluted food system and make the choices that serve them best.” 

Terry’s passion for what she puts into her body is just one part of the equation. She demands much from herself by way of exercise and getting outside. She has run marathons and done 100-mile bike rides. As she says, time in nature makes everything better.  

“When I’m outdoors, I breathe more deeply, I am more in my body, I feel connected and aware of my environment, and I can see and appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons,” Terry says. 

Nowadays she prefers backpacking, skiing, hiking, kayaking, and riding to endurance sports.  

“I like to experience the season, see nature and wildlife, push myself, but also do it in a way that is respectful and sustainable to the environment — and my body,” Terry says. “Nature is my antidote to stress, the news, and the challenges of the times.”  

Her work has gone far beyond how she could just help herself and her family.   

“I teach the importance of supporting our local economies and farms, of growing our own food and the flowers that feed pollinators, of reducing our consumption and waste, reusing, and composting our scraps,” Terry says. “I teach that everything comes from somewhere and goes somewhere, and that we play a pivotal role in that cycle. How we grow, produce, and source our food is critically important to the future of our planet. Factory farming and the production of animal protein is a major consumer of natural resources and contributor to global warming. Any part I can have in creating awareness that supports a sustainable food system and better health is a win.” 

Yet, eating healthy, “clean” food is not always easy in a world that constantly undermines proper nutrition. There are food deserts. Packaged food, which can be less expensive than fresh ingredients, also isn’t as nutritious as fresh. Meal preparation takes time, a commodity in short supply.   

“Years ago, there was a study that revealed that New England could grow enough food to be completely sustainable,” Terry says. “The biggest factor that kept that from happening was education. Even if you grow the food, that doesn’t mean people will eat it. I’ve focused on educating and empowering people to eat the food that grows around us. I also work with and support organizations promoting community and school gardens, planting food in public spaces, providing healthy meals to those in need, redirecting leftovers to places that serve those in need, providing free meals in schools and weekend backpack programs to assure that children have food when they’re not at school.” 

She does her part, but much work remains. 

“The reasons so many lack access to healthy food are myriad and systemic,” Terry says. “I believe that I and so many others are making a difference, but I do not see as much overarching systemic change as the problem requires.” 

At Loomis Chaffee, Terry says, she learned the value of community, sharing ideas, thinking for herself, being a lifelong learner, and staying physically and mentally active.    

Like the rest of us, she will have something occasionally that is not the best for her. 

“I’m a firm believer that every choice serves some need, even if it’s not our best nutrition,” Terry says. “I try to make healthy choices as much as possible, but when I choose otherwise, I acknowledge that it’s a treat, and I enjoy every bite. I didn’t have this awareness when I was a student in the SNUG scarfing down grilled cinnamon rolls, but I have no regrets.” 

On a sunny day last fall, Terry was just a short walk away from the Loomis campus, at the Windsor Farmers Market signing and selling Nourish. One of her regulars from cooking classes stopped by the tent to show a picture of her great-grandson. A young woman was sent her way to learn more about sourdough starter. She offered advice, gave the woman her email address, and encouraged her to email with any questions she might have. Terry was enjoying herself.  

Could she ever have imagined all she has accomplished in the food world back in her college days when she was just starting to take charge of her own nutrition? “No,” she says with a laugh, “and I still can’t.” 

She says people ask her if there will be another cookbook down the road. She thinks she might be done, but then again, she says she might have another one in her about sourdough. It’s at least food for thought. 



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