My name is Jennifer Italiano and I’m the co-founder and Co- Chief Operating Officer of Live Organic Food Restaurants & Products.

The business was launched in 2002 as an organic four-seater juice bar but has since grown into full service and take-out restaurants and an 17 000 square foot food production facility providing some of Canada’s major retail outlets with plant-based, organic, gluten and refined sugar-free organic products.

As COO my days are involved in most strategic aspects of the business as well as sales, product recipe development and restaurant over-sight.

Despite starting out my career in the fashion industry, I have always been a true ‘foodie’ and loved playing in the kitchen with organic, whole and raw food. Sixteen (16) years on, I can truly say that this love continues and my passion for the industry is just as strong as it was when we entered it in 2002.

I am thrilled to be part of the Yoso community. I have been using their unsweetened coconut yogurt for years to make my own personal spreads and menu creations. I personally love making a ranch dressing with fresh herbs. We love to stock our fridges with the yogurt layered parfaits using granola and seasonal fruit.

We asked a few questions about her dairy-free lifestyle as part of this series, Living Dairy Free:

Why are you dairy-free?

I’ve had a predominantly dairy-free diet for quite a few years now and that was instigated after happening upon some articles and research about the dairy industry. Those documents really opened my eyes and made me think about what I’m putting into my body on a daily basis and how that is impacting not only how I feel but also how I look. Today, there’s so many great dairy-free alternatives in the marketplace that it’s pretty simple to move in this direction and have a dairy-free diet without missing anything.

Top five favourite dairy-free products?

If I had to select my most favourite local dairy-free products, and it’s pretty difficult that because there’s so many these days, I’d have to say it’s the goat-like cheese from VegNature, the cheese spreads  from Vegan Stokes Cheese, the creamy dressings from Michelle’s RawFoodz, the ice cream from The Chufa Company and of course, the fantastic yogurts from Yoso.

Favourite local spot to eat that accommodates dairy-free?   

I’ve got a few favourite local spots that I love to visit which accommodate a dairy-free diet. However, I find myself gravitating towards The Beet in the Junction, Pizza Libretto when I’m craving that pizza, Veghed when I’m looking for a great takeout and Parallel Brothers to satisfy my Middle Eastern cravings which is amazing.

Favourite place to shop for groceries? 

Despite being in the business a significant length of time I have always had a strategy of supporting independent grocery stores that emphasize organic and locally farmed products. It’s probably for this reason that my favourite stores include Fiesta Farms, Herbs and Nutrition, The Sweet Potato,  Organic Garage and, The Big Carrot, not to mention the local Farmer’s Markets.