A lot more people are cooking these days, but cookbooks have always been great resources for not just recipes but ideas for living healthier lifestyles. Cookbook author and food journalist Shaun Chavis is now taking food recommendations into the future as the founder and CEO of a new cookbook platform called LVNGbook.
Pronounced “living book,” LVNGbook is the first customizable, shoppable cookbook generator and planner intended to not only help people with specific dietary needs manage and prevent health issues like diabetes and heart disease, but also develop lasting eating habits.
Not only can users create custom cookbooks to help treat illnesses, but the cookbooks also are integrated with Instacart through a QR code, meaning you can shop for the ingredients to make your recipe and have them shipped directly to your home using the camera app on your mobile phone.
Chavis enlisted Atlanta-based Ntegral to build LVNGbook’s digital platform. Users can pick their own covers, quotes and other aspects of their books’ design, all of which can be customized to fit their personal tastes and other requirements. LVNGbook is also integrated with Whisk, which communicates with local grocery stores to allow quick in-store pick-up or delivery.
Chavis knows a lot about food issues. As a freelance food writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a culinary arts degree and master’s degree in gastronomy from Boston University, she’s studied and covered food in a variety of ways. She’s edited cookbooks for Time, Inc., including nationally recognized brands like Cooking Light, Southern Living, and also Weight Watchers. She also wrote an award-winning weight loss blog while serving as a diet editor for Health magazine.
Chavis says part of the motivation to start the company came from growing up in an entrepreneurial family that owned a farm, which she sold to fund the creation of LVNGbook. She also says she came up with the idea after a friend was diagnosed with a chronic disease, and found the long list of restricted foods received from her doctor to be extremely burdensome and confusing.
“She literally called me, crying, asking for help figuring out what to eat,” Chavis says.
Of course there are plenty of other reasons to have your own cookbook, besides health issues, which also helped push Chavis to go ahead with LVNGbook.
“I thought about my own personal struggles to find recipes that brought me back to my childhood while still being healthy,” explained Chavis. “When you layer on figuring out how to cook for your kids, how to enjoy social time with family and friends, or how to enjoy your own food traditions, it’s really overwhelming.”
Through extensive research and more than 100 interviews, Chavis discovered that many families cook two meals per night—one for the person with chronic disease and the other for the rest of the family—at least three times per week. Understanding that this was not sustainable, Chavis set out to develop recipes that would satisfy all members of the family.
Chavis was also cognizant of traditionally underserved populations. She says LVNGbook’s recipe database is inclusive of diverse backgrounds, including religious restrictions and regional food preferences that reflect ethnic and cultural pride.
“People who trace their roots to places like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and West Africa told me that if they got any recipes from a doctor or dietitian, that they didn’t reflect the food they grew up with that tastes good to them,” Chavis says. “People who love regional US cooking such as Cajun, Italian American, and soul food felt that a diagnosis meant they had to give up their food traditions.”
Still, since the first iteration of LVNGbook is concentrated on heart disease, she brought on a registered dietician to ensure that the recipes are nutritionally sound. LVNGbook also includes a habit change guide and journal, on advice from a behavioral scientist at Duke University.
Ultimately Chavis wants LVNGbook to be a platform that allows her to share what she’s learned in her occupation, and her own love of food and recipes.
“After working as a magazine and cookbook editor for eight years, it made sense to help people create cookbooks filled with healthy, tasty options that they would be happy to share with friends and family,” Chavis says.
Learn more at LVNGbook.com, and watch the video interview with Shaun Chavis below.