Opening a brick and mortar location on Yakima Avenue was the natural next step for Healthy Eats Nutrition Services owner Elaina Moon. After four years of lugging equipment from home to various locations around town to teach healthy plant-based cooking classes, the time had come to set up shop.

“I’m not a risk-taker by nature, so I wanted to feel confident this was going to work,” she said “With two classes every week and 20 to 25 people at every class, it was time. And it was so cool to have everything slide right into place from the lease to construction to opening our doors.”

Healthy Eats Nutrition Services is at 1101 West Yakima Avenue, Suite 115. It’s set up with commercial kitchen equipment, large prep area and seating for 25.

Light and airy, the space has a Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse feeling. There’s a cheerful green and yellow tile backsplash behind the stove. A giant commercial refrigerator and shiny metal prep tables are the cornerstones of the space with barstools lining the prep area for participants to sit and watch cooking demos.The commercial-grade deep washing sinks are a particular highlight as Moon and her husband Dave spend a lot of time after class washing dishes together.

Cooking classes vary each week but all are plant-based. Moon offers everything from a snack and dessert class to Thai and other ethnic cuisine classes. In addition, she hosts local guest chefs who take a plant-based approach but put their own spin on recipes.

Local chef Shawn Niles of Fat Pastor Productions and The Bite Club was the first guest chef to teach cooking classes at Healthy Eats. What was initially an experiment for both parties quickly turned into a shared enthusiasm.

“It was a fun challenge for me,” Niles said. “We’ve always had a commitment to serving high-quality ingredients but when you take the meat and dairy away, it forces you to really think about what you’re going to create. But we found you don’t miss a thing. Plant-based eating can be just as fun and delicious.”

Niles will teach several classes in November and many of his chefs from Fat Pastor Productions will host their own cooking classes before the end of the year. In return, Moon was a featured guest chef for Niles’ Bite Club members-only dinner. “There’s an expectation that healthy food means eating a salad,” Niles said. “But Elaina is turning that projection on its head with meals that are healthy and taste good.”

Moon shares her location with Local Beet, a plant-based meal prep service. Local Beet owner Allie Haro met Moon at a yoga festival several years ago, and a friendship and ultimately a partnership blossomed from their shared passion for a plant-forward lifestyle.

“I love that I get to make eating healthy easy for people,” Haro said. “Elaina has been a wonderful friend and mentor in this process and I’ve loved featuring some of her recipes on my menu.”

A plant-based approach helps people dealing with food allergies and intolerances, something Moon knows about. After struggling with mystery illnesses and discomfort throughout much of college, a food elimination diet and adjustment to a plant-based lifestyle transformed Moon’s health and kick-started a passion to help others feel better themselves.

“Our gut is connected to the rest of our bodies and you can’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition for overall health and well-being,” Moon said.

A nutrition and business major at Central Washington University and certified health coach, Moon, 34, knew she wanted to combine her love of food with a business that would serve the community. A 2014 Gallup research survey rated Yakima as the nation’s fourth-most obese city.

What started as one-on-one health coaching and teaching diabetes prevention classes at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital has evolved into a full-service operation. “I’m not necessarily asking people to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy but I’m encouraging the addition of more plant-based foods into a daily diet like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains,” she said. “I want people to look at their plates and reverse their portions. Fill your plate with mostly fruits and vegetables and have meat and dairy on the side.”

Moon still offers one-on-one health coaching through Yakima Integrative Health and she is the culinary medicine coordinator at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, working with medical and nursing students on how proper nutrition can better serve their future patients. But her love is teaching people how to incorporate more healthy foods into their day-to-day life. The cooking classes are an extension of that desire.

“We live in a culture that has pulled us away from real food,” she said. “My goal is to help make healthy food approachable and enjoyable.”