Phil Carney and Kathy Shea, founders of the Hilton Had Plantation macrobiotics group

I recently had the pleasure of having a macrobiotic luncheon with a healthy eating group inside Hilton Head Plantation.

The meal was prepared by Chef Sarah Maier from the Olde Pink House in Savannah and by Betty Herlong Melkon, a certified health coach and registered yoga teacher.

The menu included red lentil soup with spinach and lemon; marinated tempeh over roasted beets, red cabbage and quinoa; and dark chocolate strawberry granola parfait.

I didn’t know much about either macrobiotic cooking or about tempeh before arriving at this luncheon, but I found both to be delicious.

Macrobiotics is labeled not only as a healthy way to live, but also as a healing diet (the term “macro” comes from the Greek meaning “whole life,” and its philosophy is to live in harmony with nature).

Phil Carney and Kathy Shea, the two organizers of the healthy eating organization, have been macrobiotic for 14 years, ever since Carney was diagnosed with the first of three cancers. Some of those at the event, including Melkon and Carney, credit macrobiotics with either eliminating all traces of cancer or for living a full life while keeping their cancer under control.

Though a macrobiotic diet includes whole plant-based foods, it is also stricter than a typical whole food, plant-based diet. For example, it avoids the nightshade family of fruits and vegetables, including potatoes (tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are other nightshades).

Staples on a macro diet are brown rice, vegetables and beans. Sea vegetables can play a significant role, as can meat substitutes such as tempeh and seitan or soy-based soups like Miso soup.

It’s all about achieving balance, or as Melkon explains it, “Achieving the proper yin-yang.” Those are the two elementary and complementary energy forms that Asian tradition says are present in all people and foods. For good health and vitality, they must be balanced.

Followers of a macro diet believe that yin and yang is closest to being in balance within whole grains like brown rice, barley, millet, oats, quinoa, spelt and rye. Typically, whole grains are between 40 and 60 percent, with vegetables making up another 25 to 30 percent of the diet. Beans and legumes are usually 5 to 10 percent and sea vegetables add another 5 percent.

For those interested in learning more about the macrobiotic diet or attending a healthy eating luncheon, Carney or Shea can be contacted at

Jim Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.