Things your readers should know: I don’t really measure anything. And I rarely make anything the same way twice. I use organic ingredients when it makes sense and I can afford it. For example, celery must be organic because it’s one of the “dirty dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables that get treated with the most pesticides when conventionally grown. I’ll also buy organic spinach and oatmeal because I can usually find cheap store brands of these types of foods. But I do always try to buy “clean” foods. For example, bacon and sausage and other cured or deli meats that I use do not have any nitrites or nitrates; I buy “uncured” types because it really makes a difference health-wise. Those are some nasty ingredients! Almond milk, packaged fruits, and yogurts are unsweetened. I swear by Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (21SS); it’s salt-free and I put it in just about everything. I try to avoid soy, so I use things like coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, but obviously soy sauce would be fine; just try to use low-sodium. In addition to the recipes below, some of my go-to foods are nitrate-free chicken sausage, hard boiled eggs, frozen mango chunks, baby carrots and hummus, tuna in pouches, and nuts like almonds and pistachios. These are portable and easy to make/eat foods that are nutritious and filling.
(Click on a picture to find out how to make each delicious meal)
Q: When did you become interested in cooking/food?
A: My Mom is an amazing cook, and I always liked helping her in the kitchen. This doesn’t mean I was always good at helping. I once grated a stick of butter into a salad thinking it was cheese. I’ve also burnt cup-o-noodle soup, so I’ve definitely been a work in progress. When I lived in NYC I had a really small studio with barely any kitchen. The gas hook up didn’t work, so I stored clothes in my oven, but I made some seriously good food using a toaster oven and a hot plate. I just figured out what I could manage and I tried new things. A few years ago I became interested in “clean eating” thanks to a former Woodland teacher, Mrs. Pescatelli (Ms. Shove!), who got me and Ms. Olivere to do a “Whole 30” challenge. That brought me into the online community of people who embraced the Paleo lifestyle and other clean eating habits.
Q: What do you like about living a healthier lifestyle?
A: Well, truth be told, I struggle with being consistently healthy. I LOVE take-out Chinese food and cake and ice cream and pasta and pizza, but I know that I need to limit those foods. I had surgery in May 2015, and I gained quite a bit of weight during my recovery. My good habits just…evaporated, and some unhealthy ones took over. Exercising was uncomfortable for a while, and I let my injury become an excuse. I was finally getting back on track this past summer, but then I fell (while exercising!!) and broke my ankle on the very first day of school. That set me back once again. We’ve got a big family trip to Disney World planned for the summer, and that’s been my primary motivation for getting fit; I do not want to be heavy and uncomfortable during summer in Florida! I want to be able to tackle those theme parks like a champ!
Q: What does eating healthy provide yourself and other people?
A: While losing weight is definitely one of my current goals, it’s not the only reason I eat healthy foods. When I eat healthy I really do FEEL better. I sleep more soundly, manage my stress more easily, my skin clears up, and my body just works more efficiently overall. I choose to post pictures of my food on Instagram because it connects me with other people who are interested in healthy living. They inspire me and many seem to be inspired by what I post. It’s a really cool, positive and affirming online community. It also helps keep me motivated as I journey on.