Plant-Based Pioneers Revolutionizing Clean Convenience ft. Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff
Updated: Nov 21
Welcome to the Plant-Based On Fire podcast, where we dive into the inspiring stories of plant-based entrepreneurs thriving in the industry. In this episode, we're thrilled to introduce you to Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff. Tracy is not only the co-author of the new release, "America Goes Vegan," but she's also a certified nutritional consultant and a driving force behind Tracy's Real Foods, a company focused on producing uniquely whole food, plant-based products serving San Diego and beyond.
Meet Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff
Tracy and Steven are passionate advocates for plant-based living and have dedicated their lives to making it more accessible. They're the perfect example of entrepreneurs with a mission, and their journey is nothing short of inspiring.
Tracy's Impressive Background
Tracy's journey into the world of plant-based living began at a young age. Even before the term "plant-based" was popular, Tracy was a vegetarian at heart. She made the switch to vegetarianism when she was just 17, and later transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. Her motivation stemmed from a desire for a healthier life and a deep compassion for animals.
Steven, Tracy's husband, had a different journey. Back in the 1980s, he was a meat lover through and through. But when he decided to embrace a plant-based lifestyle around 1988, it marked a pivotal moment in his life. It wasn't an easy switch, but he committed to it, learned to cook vegan meals, and never looked back.
The Birth of Tracy's Real Foods
Fast forward to today, Tracy and Steven are the driving force behind Tracy's Real Foods. Their journey took a significant turn when the pandemic hit. Unable to teach her in-person classes, Tracy decided to channel her energy into creating whole-food, plant-based products. They started with cookies, which were not just delicious but guilt-free treats. Tracy's goal was clear: to offer clean convenience options for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth while still following a healthy plant-based lifestyle.
The Cookie Magic
Tracy's cookies are anything but ordinary. They incorporate ingredients like lentils, dates, and flax seeds, redefining what a delicious and nutritious treat can be. They prove that plant-based doesn't mean sacrificing flavor; it means enhancing it.
Challenges and Growth
While Tracy and Steven have achieved incredible success with Tracy's Real Foods, they've faced their share of challenges. They believe in growing sustainably, avoiding the pitfalls of rapid expansion. They're determined to maintain quality while reaching more people. And as champions of clean convenience, they want to make plant-based eating more accessible to all.
Supporting the Plant-Based Revolution
You can support Tracy and Steven's mission by visiting Tracy's Real Foods website (tracysrealfoods.com). Explore their delectable cookies, burger patties, and vegan spices. Tracy's Real Foods isn't just about products; it's a source of knowledge and inspiration for anyone on a plant-based journey. Sign up on their website for valuable insights, recipes, and offers.
Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff are exemplary figures in the plant-based business world, demonstrating that clean convenience and deliciousness can go hand in hand. Their dedication to making plant-based living more accessible is inspiring, and their journey from personal transformation to entrepreneurship is a testament to the power of whole food, plant-based living. Support Tracy's Real Foods, and together, let's be part of the plant-based revolution!
>Podcast episode’s transcription:
Hello everybody and welcome to Plant Based on Fire where we talk about plant based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in our industry. I'm your host Brian and joining us today are Tracy Childs and Stephen Sarnoff. Tracy co-authored the new releases America Goes Vegan with one of our other fellow podcasters, Glenn Merzer. And she's also contributed many recipes to other books including Food is Climate and
handbook to higher health consciousness. She's a certified nutritional consultant and has many other things going on, including the launch of Tracy's Real Foods with her husband. So producing uniquely whole food plant-based products serving San Diego, and I believe you're shipping those goodies everywhere nationwide, right? So welcome to the show, Tracy and Steven. Thanks for being here.
Tracy Childs (00:56.002)
Thanks for having us. Thank you, Brian. Hi, everybody.
And you guys, we were talking right before we hit record here and there's some other titles I missed. So hit me with those because I didn't have those written down in my intro. You're you got your own podcast as well.
Tracy Childs (01:11.131)
Um, no, I don't have a podcast, but, um.
Oh, it's the, I'm sorry, it's the plant based pod. Right, right.
Tracy Childs (01:16.67)
Yes, it does have pod in it. Yes, so I have a, it's called Plant Diego, and it's a, it's a peace urine pod. We used to be with Plant Pure Nation, and if you haven't seen that movie, I really recommend you see Plant Pure Nation. It came out in 2015, inspired a movement across the country to start these whole food plant-based Plant Pure pods to support people along their journey towards plant-based eating. We accept people no matter where they're at,
Tracy Childs (01:46.604)
along that path and just want people to feel good in their skin when they're...
adjusting and switching over to this type of lifestyle because a lot of people want to do it but they don't have anybody in their lives that's doing it. So yeah, and so you're all kind of isolated and I know I did when I became vegan in 1990, I didn't know hardly any other vegans. When I became vegetarian, I didn't know any other vegetarians. So yeah, so it's so near and dear to my heart and to our heart too.
Tracy Childs (02:23.718)
to support people. And the more people we support, the longer they're gonna stick with it and get healthier and do things, do better for the planet and the animals as well.
That's right. And I know I've been working on this for 14 years myself. It sounds like you've been doing it longer than that. What was the pivotal moment that led each of you to embrace this whole food plant-based lifestyle?
Tracy Childs (02:50.73)
For me, I was always a vegetarian at heart, because I never liked meat, and didn't like milk, so, or vegan at heart, I guess. So I was very picky about those things. So...
Tracy Childs (03:09.886)
Yeah, so when I found out that was a thing, I mean, seriously, it's a long time ago, and there was nobody else doing it, and I found out that there was such a thing as vegetarian, so I told my mom and said, you know, I'm gonna be vegetarian. She was like, okay. So, learn how to cook, girl. Yeah, so I was 17, I learned how to cook, and we went on an exchange, lived with another family that was all meat eaters.
That's good. Yeah, yeah.
Tracy Childs (03:38.442)
But you know, you just stick by it. And once you decide to do it, you just put on blinders and you just eat that way. But as far as the health aspect, I've always just been interested in eating for my health. I think I kind of grew up that way. My family's from Idaho, so we ate a lot of vegetables just by nature. And my.
had vegetables on the table, so I always liked them. So, it wasn't hard for me. For me, I was not a vegetarian at heart. Back in the 1980s, when we were going out, people would ask me, are you a vegetarian too? And I'd say, those are fighting words. But what changed for me was around 1988, when we were getting married, I actually thought about it. And...
Tracy Childs (04:30.978)
eat consciously and then it became very easy for me to become vegetarian and vegan. After that it all really was just a matter of thinking about it. You know someone asked me once offered me chicken and I said I don't eat chicken and they were puzzled they said why not and I said well it's not food and then they got really confused and finally they were exasperated they said to me well
Tracy Childs (05:03.024)
bird. And so that kind of thing is if you don't think of it as food, if you think of it as the animal, it really helps you to not want to eat that stuff anymore. And not contribute to food animals. And I didn't believe him.
I always like to point out in front of the rest... Yeah.
Tracy Childs (05:22.21)
When we were getting married and he said, okay, I'm going to be vegetarian. We'd been dating for six years. And like he said, he definitely was a meat eater and we went to people's barbecues and you know, he loved to eat meat. And of course he got used to eating the way I cook. So I never cooked meat. Like I wouldn't cook him meat. So, um, so he, you know, he's, he's kind of eats everything. He's like, he was like, you know, he loved my food, but he loved that food too. But I still don't believe him. You want to tell that story? There's so many stories.
Tracy Childs (05:51.084)
He says, we don't have enough time. Okay.
I do like to point out like in front of the restaurants they put the picture of the alive animal before you go in. Like it's just completely silly. So tell us, you know, this is the business side of the podcast. So tell us more about Tracy's Real Foods. How did that come about? What inspired you to help provide those healthier convenience options to your community and those beyond?
Tracy Childs (06:18.134)
Yeah, so I've been a nutrition and cooking instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It's a food for life instructor with ever since 2005. And so I was out in my community teaching how foods fight cancer and.
diabetes classes, weight loss classes, all based on basically the same diet, you know, which is just increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables, lowering the fat in your diet, which is something a lot of people don't understand, but you know, really just helping with that and guiding people along the way. And so when...
Tracy Childs (07:03.042)
And then I always was developing my brand over time. Just always liked sharing food and I liked just letting people know about it and also just developing my brand and having fun with it. And this is my brand, Tracy's Real Foods.
I love it.
Tracy Childs (07:27.686)
I was sending things to family and as gifts. And so when the pandemic hit, the two of us, we decided, you know, I couldn't teach my classes in person anymore. I wasn't really enamored with teaching a lot online. And we just decided to go for it. I'd been also already thinking about, you know, at least part-time doing Tracy's Road Foods or something like it. And...
So we just jumped right in and did it. We started. We started locally and learned how to ship our stuff nationwide, develop more products. But we started out with these cookies. So these are like carrot cake spice cookies. And thinking outside the box, as far as ingredients, you can see that there's lentils in there. They're date sweetened. They're all fruit sweetened. They taste like carrot cake. And they're
Tracy Childs (08:22.71)
They're still sweet, but they're a treat. And my goal is to have guilt-free treats, because I think a lot of people, they may have the main dishes down, but then they're still, oh, I want something sweet. So.
Tracy Childs (08:37.294)
I thought, okay, let's just try these cookies. And so they've been tremendously popular. People have, you know, we have a huge following. We have subscribers that, well, not a huge following. We have a following. And we have subscribers that are very loyal and just get their cookies every month. You know, they just want them, yeah. Yeah, for many, many leaders.
I've been looking at the pictures on your website and they look phenomenal so I want some.
Tracy Childs (09:05.342)
Yeah, so make sure you go to tracy's real foods.com check out the pictures of the cookies and yeah, they're tasty and they're moist cookies and
You know, they're basically, and the other thing I wanted to make sure is that they're nutritionally balanced. Most, most cookies are just white sugar, white flour, oil, basically, and then flavorings. And so I, I wanted to think, I didn't want to use any of that except the flavorings. For many years, people who tasted Tracy's foods, they would invariably say, you should sell this. You should sell your food. And so finally we decided.
Yeah. I love it.
Tracy Childs (09:47.24)
all right let's do that and that's how we started. Yeah so that was three years ago we actually started in March as soon as we were like locked down we were like okay well what are we gonna do? Let's make cookies. So we just started we found a commercial kitchen to rent and started cooking and then we do pop-ups around San Diego area.
Tracy Childs (10:11.518)
selling our cookies and stuff. And last time we did a bootables too, to have a fresh food option that was healthy at the pop-ups. So yeah. She's always coming up with new stuff. Yeah, we have spices. We have spices.
That's awesome. I am a cookie monster, so I can't wait to get an order of these and try these out here. I know Glenn has said good things about them as well as I've been talking with him.
What were some of the challenges like we're trying to help other plant based businesses grow and expand their businesses or even take the plunge and get started? You know, you, you said, Hey, it's pandemic time. We're going to do this. We dove in. What were some of the challenges you faced transitioning from that coaching teaching role into launching a food based food business?
Tracy Childs (10:36.523)
Tracy Childs (10:59.434)
Yeah, you find out it's completely the opposite thing. I mean, it's still the basic food. You know, I really have my standards, and I stick with those. And I always have standards when I'm teaching my classes of what kinds of recipes I present. So I have my standards of oil-free, and as organic as possible, and all that good stuff. But that's where the, then after that,
Tracy Childs (11:30.188)
that goes this way because it's just a whole other animal entering the food business, getting all the certifications. Luckily I had this guy help me. We're going up against Big Cookie. Yeah, yeah. It's like. We're David. And we realized we have a niche product. We are looking for that consumer who is
Yes, yes you are.
Tracy Childs (11:58.186)
you know, wanting to, you know, really cares about what they eat. And, you know, we thought, I thought there was more of them than there are, but, you know, they're, they are expanding. And I did feel like, um...
Tracy Childs (12:11.902)
with the pandemic that it was like, oh, this is magic. This is what we got to do because everybody's going to be so concerned about their health now. And, um, behold, that's not exactly what happened. I feel like some people did. Some people don't, but, um, you know, I feel like right now, after three years, um, the.
Tracy Childs (12:32.226)
the trend towards, I think people are getting more and more concerned about eating better and wanting to make sure every bite counts, you know, in your food. And that's the way I am. I just don't...
Tracy Childs (12:48.554)
don't want to eat, you know, bad food. I don't want to eat things that will harm my body. So, so those are the people I'm looking for. And, and we found them, you know, luckily to, you know, Chef AJ has had us on a couple of times and, you know, her following really believes in this type of diet. And so, you know, that's definitely helps a lot. So, but the challenges are,
Tracy Childs (13:14.494)
Yeah, they're significant because you're kind of paving your own way in a way, you know, you're, especially if you're doing something that's niche, you're just kind of going into a territory that hasn't been crossed very much before, you know, of fresh foods, not, we don't want foods that are just going to sit on the shelf for, you know, a year before people eat them. So.
Tracy Childs (13:44.254)
So we dealt with that. We deal with the fact that our cookies are semi perishable. They're not perishable, but you have to explain to people, you know, it's like an onion. You know, it's like, do you want to sit with the onion sit on your counter for two weeks? Probably not. And for, for business, it's challenging in this environment where costs are going up and we try and keep our cookies affordable for people. So it's, it's a tricky balance to still have the.
It sure is. Yeah, I know I want to take a quick pot.
Tracy Childs (14:14.468)
quality ingredients but not have an outrageously priced product. Yeah, and we don't want to compromise.
Yeah, and the way governments are, the subsidies are set up. You know, we actually went, traveled to Washington, D.C. Thanks to Meta, Facebook, they sent us in April with a whole bunch of other people to kind of lobby to our own representatives about, you know, really whatever we want.
Tracy Childs (14:44.714)
to talk to them about. And that was my main thing I wanted to talk to them about was the with the farm subsidies, how they're set up to pretty much ever make everybody sick. Unfortunately, because they're, you know, they're subsidizing, you know, meat, dairy, the food for meat, dairy, right? They're not subsidizing mom and pop.
That's like a whole nother episode right there for sure. Like we could go down that one. I'm gonna pause for one sec. Yeah, I'm gonna take a quick pause for one word from one of our sponsors and we'll be right back.
Tracy Childs (15:10.862)
Yeah, it's like, you know, there is a small business administration.
And then I don't know, I feel like, is it echoey on your side too, or is it just my side?
That sounds good over, okay. Hopefully it's just my headphones. So.
Tracy Childs (15:29.494)
No? Sounds good. For us. Yeah, you sound fine. Are you echoey or are we echoey?
Uh, like it's, it's not echoey. It's like it's garbled just a little bit, but I can hear you. Okay. But I don't know if I think it might just be my headphones. So, all right, we'll, we'll start. We'll, we'll start, we'll start again. So welcome back everybody. Thanks for listening to that quick word. Mars sponsor. We were just talking about Tracy's real foods, getting started and some of the challenges you faced on that front. And I'm curious, like, how do you like, you know, I,
Tracy Childs (15:44.858)
Yeah, you seem fine.
Totally agree, most of the food should expire sooner rather than later, but our supply chain is very much so set up to make it be shelf worthy for a long time. But how do you sort of see Tracy's Real Foods contributing to that broader movement of promoting plant-based eating and the healthier lifestyle choices? Break that one down a little bit.
Tracy Childs (16:31.51)
Yeah, so I just, I see that we can be part of people's, you know, making things a little easier, clean convenience. That's really what I like to say is we also have burger patties. And so we start with the cookies, but we also moved into these whole food, plant-based burger patties that are, that are already cooked and baked. So they're oil-free, very different for, you know,
Tracy Childs (17:01.504)
on the market and all you can do my son my son's a subscriber
and he actually puts them in his toaster. Not his toaster oven, his toaster. That's how clean they are, but they're super tasty and they have everything you need in there. It's all these veggies, whole grains, legumes. It's got a whole meal in this little patty. So I feel like that is a really great answer for people and I would love to get those out there more somehow. So I really encourage people
I love it.
Tracy Childs (17:37.536)
wants to try and they're super popular. We have somebody in Iowa who orders like five or six every couple months packages. Yeah, packages. It makes it, Tracy's foods make it easier for people to go vegan and stay vegan when they see that oh it's not as hard. A lot of people think it's too hard to change the way they eat and we help that we show them that it's not as hard as they think.
Tracy Childs (18:08.837)
And we want people to understand that your food can really taste good. You can be satisfied with your food even without all these things that you grew up and you're conditioned to eat. You're conditioned to eat a certain way. And so a lot of people are trying to get away from that because they're not trying to want to go down the same path that got them to wherever they are. If they're overweight or...
That's right. The salt and the sugar is hiding everywhere, even if you give up the meat. So it's so, I guess I'm not, I don't think of myself as a chef. I love to cook, but I usually follow the recipe exactly. So I'm so curious to, to peek inside your mind about the insights and the creative process of how do you come up with these amazing, unique cookie ideas? How do you come up with these patties? Um, and, and
Tracy Childs (18:36.57)
Yeah, no, sure.
you know, experiment with them and see is, is Steven your guinea pig or how do, what failed experiments have you had?
Tracy Childs (19:03.566)
She's a wizard. She's a food wizard. He's got a big appetite. She crinkles her nose and there's the... I can't, I can't do it. But yeah, so when you look at say one of those healthy cookies, and I was making them with just bananas and oats and things like that, but...
Tracy Childs (19:28.17)
And that's great, but sometimes they're a little lacking as far as maybe not as moist as you'd like or flagriffle as you'd like. So I kind of took the basics of those types of healthy recipes that I've been making. You know, I used to work for Dr. Furman, so I got his recipes in my mind and I got.
Tracy Childs (19:49.93)
PCRM. I've been cooking with them. There are recipes for since like 2005. So I had that basic
basis but you know when I want to add moisture I want what does oil do that's what's what I thought outside the box with it's like okay what does oil do and how do I replace it well what is oil it's just fat right and so it's um so I still thought well we do want to include fats we need fats but we want the whole food that goes along with it so for instance these karaoke cookies they
Tracy Childs (20:29.548)
And and then I didn't want to use sugar so I use dates so dates and sugar I mean they're not the same thing right sugar is just this process powder I use the whole dates so I had to like okay. How am I gonna make these into a cookie and then and then also
Tracy Childs (20:48.894)
lentils that's kind of just crazy but uh well you know i kind of went on the brownies the black bean brownies that i've been making for a long time and so how did i make those well so i thought let's just try lentils and you know what i like them better so um and they're easier to cook they're easy to digest nobody has a problem with lentils so um yeah so it's just all about like and
And there it is.
Yeah. Yep. Mm-hmm. Yep. Yeah, I know I use the flax substitute quite a bit. So what are some of the future plans or an expansions for Tracy's Real Foods? How do you envision its growth?
Tracy Childs (21:15.854)
thinking about the ingredients that go into normal baking and replacing them. And of course flax, flax is replacing the eggs. There's flax seeds in there and the eggs are terrible for you. Flax is great for you. So it's really a no brainer. Yeah.
Tracy Childs (21:41.814)
Well, we just want to try to grow sustainably. We've noticed, we've seen a lot of anecdotal examples of businesses that grew too fast and expanded too quickly. So we're, our challenge is to grow in a sustainable way. So hopefully we just do more and more and keep growing and growing and get more people to know Tracy's Real Foods. Yeah. And, you know, and.
Well I hope we can get the-
Tracy Childs (22:12.549)
people like you helping to get the word out we are totally indebted to people like you know being on these shows and because we need to reach like I said
I think you froze up.
Are you still there?
Tracy Childs (22:25.75)
the niche people. We need to reach the people who are interested in our product. I mean, the whole world is interested, I wanna say, but they need to get educated. And so, and that's another thing that you're doing is helping to educate people by having the podcast and having this content. And so, I feel like we're all on the same team too. So...
I love it.
How would you, what, yeah, what, so what advice would you give to other plant-based entrepreneurs out there as they're starting their journeys or growing their business? Any tips and tricks for the newbies out there?
Tracy Childs (22:53.61)
Yeah, so we're just looking to, yeah, expand and do it, like you said, sustainably and just still reach those people.
Tracy Childs (23:18.918)
say just have a plan of what you want to do and don't be shy about approaching people to get them to try your product. You'll be surprised at how many people and places are sure. Let's see what you got. Yeah.
Mm-hmm. I love it. So tell us one more time. How can we support your business? What's the website and the social media handles one more time? Let's get the word out
Tracy Childs (23:47.55)
Yay, thank you, tracy's realfoods.com and at Tracy's Real Foods on Instagram and Tracy's Real Foods on Facebook. So, and we're.
Tracy Childs (23:58.162)
We're creating content too, educational recipes and information out there. So we're not just looking to sell you our product. We want to guide people along the way and give value to our subscribers. You can sign up on our website too.
Tracy Childs (24:20.462)
code to order later or now, whichever you like. So, yeah. Tracy loves to share her knowledge and information with people. That's what really gives her a great joy is helping others and sharing what she knows. Yeah.
Yeah, I love it.
Tracy Childs (24:37.606)
It's great. It's what's so gratifying to us is just seeing how everyone loves everything she does. So it's really for me, it's very gratifying. Yeah, we have thanked so many times by different people saying, you know, thank you for what you're doing. Because, because yeah, just like clean convenience is really important for people. Like, I'm not saying I'm the answer to every single meal, but for me, she is.
You can't have cookies every meal, right?
I love it.
Tracy Childs (25:06.486)
but then we can add to it. And we have vegan spices too, and I'm gonna expand that line. So I have a parm and...
Tracy Childs (25:15.626)
chicken free seasoning. So it's like a chicken broth and I use that and there's all these recipes on my blog too that show how to use these things. So they're my go-to's. That's really what I'm doing is you know I just want to share my go-to stuff with people. Yeah so go to tracy's real foods dot com and look around at all the all the different things that Tracy's created. Check the blog.
There we go. I love it. And I just want to make sure because I have an Aunt Tracy and it's T-R-A-C-Y, right? There's no E hiding in there or anything. So awesome. But everybody check out Tracy's realfoods.com, help them grow their business and help get inspired to start your own and be part of the revolution of the plant-based world that we're on. That's all the time we have for this episode of Plant Based on Fire.
I am Brian, your host, and I want to say thank you so much to Tracy and Stephen for joining us and sharing your insights and experiences with our community. Until next time, keep the fire burning. Thank you, team. It was a pleasure.
Tracy Childs (26:15.054)
Thank you. Thank you so much for having us.