Plant-based Diet Inspires Maravilla Residents | SRG

Maravilla’s Executive Chef and his Plant-based Diet Inspires Others

The success story of the executive chef at Maravilla, our active retirement community in Santa Barbara, is one of the many reasons SRG launched Fresh Zest. The initiative encourages residents and staff to incorporate plant-based options into their diets.

Chef Porfirio Lemus watched “Forks over Knives”, a documentary highlighting the numerous health benefits of switching from an animal-based to plant-based diet.  He was intrigued because he has a family history of high cholesterol which is directly correlated with heart disease. He decided to opt for a plant-based diet for a few months.

Chef Lemus said at first it was a challenge for him to make the healthy modifications to his eating plan but, when he did a blood test to see the results, both his cholesterol and blood sugar levels dropped substantially. The numbers were the same as when he was in his twenties! Plus, he’d lost 15 pounds and felt great.

He was so encouraged by his improved health that he decided to permanently modify his lifestyle and follow a Mediterranean diet with mostly plant-based foods and 2-3 portions of meat and/or fish per week. He’s been able to maintain his weight and feels healthier than ever.

Residents and staff at Maravilla are inspired by Chef Lemus’ new lifestyle and have embraced the Fresh Zest diet. With delicious selections such as Artichoke with Cremini Mushroom Eggplant Cannelloni, Crispy Bean Chimichanga and Potato and Spinach Gnocchi, there’s no shortage of nutritious, yet delicious offerings.

Chef Lemus shares the following heart-healthy recipe:

Vegan Caprese Stuffed California Avocado


  • 1 pint    cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in halves
  • 2oz.        Kalamata olives, pitted cut in fourths
  • 2oz.        Artichoke bottoms, diced
  • 4 oz.      vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 1 oz.       vegan Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup    vegan pesto
  • 3              avocados
  • Lettuce or salad greens to serve with the avocados - optional
  •  ½ cup    balsamic vinegar reduction sauce to drizzle, adjust to taste
  •  6 ea.      Crostini with vegan Parmesan cheese


For the tomato caprese filling:

  1. Place the tomatoes, mozzarella, artichokes, olives and cheeses in a bowl with the vegan pesto mix well.
  2. Can be used immediately or refrigerated until ready to assemble the avocados.

For the caprese stuffed avocados:

  1. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, remove pits and carefully peel the avocado halves.
  2. Place the peel avocado halves on a plate, can place over lettuce or salad greens.
  3. Spoon the tomato mozzarella caprese filling into the avocado halves.
  4. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar reduction and serve immediately on a bed of baby mixed greens and vegan Parmesan crostini

Maravilla offers independent and assisted living lifestyles as well as award-winning memory care services. Please call 805-308-9585 for more information.

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