model and founder of Qnola breakfast goods
What makes you feel healthy?
Fresh air; the sunshine; a good stretch; some core strength and conditioning workouts; hot lemon, ginger, turmeric and hibiscus tea; a large juice or smoothie; and a long walk in the countryside.
How would you define your relationship with food. Do you find there is a link between what you eat and how you’re feeling or do you tend to be quite detached from it?
My relationship with food has come a long way since I left home! I used to eat to satisfy my hunger or just for pleasure. Me and my best friends used to buy a huge slab of uncooked cookie dough and eat it from the packet! We thought of food as something that pleased our taste buds but not as something that could actually enhance or destroy our bodies once it got past our mouths. As I am now far more aware of the cellular connection our bodies have with food, I make my dietary choices more cautiously. I eat to feel amazing, eating only ingredients that have developed naturally and that my body can use and really thrive off. I notice a huge link between the food I eat and the way I look, act, feel and function. I eat foods that will optimise the activity inside me and foods that I know have the ability to detoxify, cleanse, energise, repair and nourish me, from the inside out.
The fundamentals of a balanced diet are simple. Don’t set yourself rules or rid yourself of anything that you love. Make small adjustments and completely cleanse your entire life, not just your kitchen cupboards.
What do you believe are the cornerstones of a healthy, balanced diet?
The fundamentals of a balanced diet are simple. Don’t set yourself rules or rid yourself of anything that you love. Make small adjustments and completely cleanse your entire life, not just your kitchen cupboards. Every aspect of your life will dictate how healthily you can live, and you need to create a healthy, manageable balance, within your sleep patterns, your exercise patterns, your downtime, your mealtimes, your work life and your social life. You need to surround yourself with supportive people and people that make you feel positive. If you feel alone in anything, it will be difficult to persevere.
What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid? And why?
I avoid processed meat and anything that contains gluten, as well as refined sugar, processed dairy, hydrogenated fats and grains. I find omitting these ingredients has improved my skin and my energy levels and aids digestion considerably, although I eat a lot of probiotic fermented foods to support this too. I feel my body functions more smoothly this way and is able to absorb all the natural benefits from the foods I eat.
Do you find yourself eating different types of meals or food depending on the season or weather?
When I first made changes to my diet to become healthier, I used to eat much of the same for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d eat salmon, green vegetables and sweet potato all day long! But as I’ve come to know a wider variety of new ingredients, I have experimented a lot more and have really tuned in to the seasons. I buy whatever is in abundance in my local fruit and vegetable shop and my meals do tend to change with the weather. In the winter I make a lot of warming curries and hot superfood drinks, such as turmeric and beetroot milk as I wind down in the evenings.
What do you think are the most nutritious foods and how do you fit them into your diet and life?
I have a lot of space for superfood powders in my pantry. As they are such concentrated forms of ingredients I feel instantly nourished when I incorporate them into my drinks and meals. I easily fit them into my breakfast, whether in a smoothie or quinoa porridge. They are also very easy to travel with – I carry mine in small re-sealable bags whenever I go away.
I love fresh herbs too for their healing properties, and things like fresh lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to cleanse my system. These ingredients are really detoxifying and I feel renewed and instantly restored after I consume them.
On top of that, I think organic oily fish is incredibly nutritious as it contains essential fats and proteins as well as vital minerals. This is easy to fit into my diet and I always cook an extra fillet to enjoy cold on another morning or at lunchtime during the week.
What is your food routine? Do you eat three conventional meals or do you have smaller portions throughout the day?
Unfortunately I don’t have so much of a structured routine these days, as I am busy and constantly cooking or testing recipes, so I’m always grazing without even noticing it! Depending on how my day looks, I’ll always start the day with a healthy portion of breakfast. I feel this really helps my body to decide how it feels and also elevates my mood, energy and outlook on the day. In an ideal world I’d take at least half an hour over my breakfast to ease my body into digesting again after sleep. I try to have three meals a day, but if I am snacking constantly I tend not to get as hungry. If I snack during the day, I’ll have a good dinner, and if I have a good lunch, I’ll have something small in the evening. I don’t like to eat too late and am mindful that if I’m eating at 11pm, my body will be dealing with it, which often disrupts my sleeping patterns.
What are your favourite snacks?
Herbal tea, home-made soup (the Hemsley sisters have inspired me to boil my bones and I love drinking bone broth in the morning if I don’t have time for breakfast), home-made raw chocolates, energy balls, activated tamari-flavoured nuts, quick stewed fruit with almond milk cream, avocado quinoa mash, home-made sweet potato crackers/biscuits, smoothies, juices, an avocado, and berries.
Are you a breakfast ‘lover’? If so, what is your ideal way to start the day?
I am indeed. I grew up in a breakfast-loving family and on the weekends we’d spend ages over a huge breakfast, which I loved. On an ideal day I’d have a huge kitchen table surrounded by my closest friends and family and we’d have so much food you’d barely see the table. I love a ‘get-stuck-in’ vibe around the table so everyone would be helping themselves and filling their plates. There would be sweet options like fresh berries and quinoa porridge, and a clean, natural English breakfast with poached and scrambled eggs, hundreds of avocados, smoked salmon and much more. A more realistic ideal would be a bit of a lie-in followed by a hot lemon and ginger tea; fresh, cold-pressed juice; and a bowl of something quick like stewed berries with almond cream or a bowl of leftovers with some soft-boiled eggs.
What supplements do you take, if any?
I take probiotics, fish oils, vitamin D, evening primrose oil, charcoal tablets, peppermint capsules and skin, hair and nails supplements. I also take DIM occasionally, which is great for oestrogen levels.
How do you treat yourself in terms of food?
I once read a brilliant quote: ‘don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog’. It’s hilarious because so often people will think ‘I’ve been to the gym so I deserve that cake’, just like a dog who’s been on a walk deserves a treat. Personally I think I am always treating myself as whatever I eat is nourishing my body and always tastes amazing – I make sure of that or else I won’t enjoy it! In terms of guilty pleasures, I enjoy the occasional scoop of ice cream, and whenever I go home, it’s hard to escape the cheese board!
I once read a brilliant quote: ‘don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog’.
Do you believe in diets or detox programmes? Has anything ever worked for you?
No, personally I don’t believe any one diet can work for everyone, so I find most popular, and often drastic, diet trends are unreliable, unrealistic, unfulfilling and unsuccessful. The one thing that has actually worked for me has been approaching healthy eating as a way of life, rather than a short-term quest to lose a few inches! I changed all areas of my life, such as how active I was, how I washed and moisturised, how I breathed, how I relaxed and most importantly how I drank and ate. I didn’t adopt any rules or make drastic changes to the way I already ate, but instead cleansed my dietary choices, changed the way I shopped for food and changed the ingredients I use to cook. Each aspect of my life coincides with the others, and as they complement each other, I am able to uphold a positive, health-conscious lifestyle easily, without it seeming like a chore.
What is the hardest part of the day to avoid temptation?
In stressful moments when, for example, something isn’t going the way I’d hoped, I have a sudden urge of hunger or just wanting to eat – even though I’m not hungry! It is an unhealthy response to stress but most days I tend to avoid temptation quite easily, as the foods I eat throughout the day satisfy my body’s needs and cravings enough.
Is there anyone you look up to as a healthy role model – someone who does it right in your opinion?
Gwyneth Paltrow has what seems to be a realistic balance and makes simple wholesome meals and snacks, which you can tell work easily in a family home with growing children. And the Hemsley sisters cook and create in just the way I like to myself. They come up with refreshing ideas in the kitchen and prove that it is easy not intimidating to use new ingredients you may never have come across before. The family behind the blog ‘Green Kitchen Stories’ are also so inspiring in terms of health and happiness, and in each blog or Instagram post they demonstrate the importance of being mindful, living in the moment and just generally ‘taking it all in’.
How do you stay on track when you travel?
Travelling, whether frequent or not, tends to disrupt routines, regimes and structure. I make sure I am always prepared with dried snacks and ingredients that travel well and that I can easily work into a quick meal. I always travel with home-made buckwheat flake, chia seed and superfood ‘porridge’ mixes, to which I can easily add hot water in a café as a last resort. I also take herbal or green tea bags, dried nuts and goji berries, date or cacao bars and superfood powders in small sachets to add to smoothies, juices or other drinks for an instant boost of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. I also drink a lot of water with lemon, mint and cucumber where possible.
What are the secrets to hiding healthy ingredients in food for children?
One of the easiest ways to get children to enjoy healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables is to blend them. Smoothies or soups are quick, easy and nutrient-rich and they allow you to hide a large variety of ingredients in one meal. Also, turn to baking. Children love baked goods and sweet foods, so try using vegetables and fruits, as well as nuts and seeds in baking, instead of conventional flours, sugars and dairy components. Sweet potato, carrot, beetroot, berries and bananas can easily be incorporated into desserts or sweet snacks.
What is your go-to meal when you’ve had a busy day but still want to prepare something wholesome quickly?
Either a coconut sweet potato or prawn curry, or cold quinoa with mashed avocado, smoked salmon, alfalfa sprouts, chickpeas and an egg. Leftovers are always saviours too, so I try to keep my fridge or freezer fully stocked to ease the struggle of cooking after a long, tiring day.
What is your favourite meal to cook for friends and family?
For guests I love to make something I know is a popular favourite – a real crowd-pleaser. I love making buckwheat burritos with cacao-infused organic mince as I can really go to town with making delicious, nutritious sides such as guacamole, slaws and salsa. Then my guests can enjoy serving themselves and building their own meals. I also love to make courgette pasta dishes with either a ragù or a coconut milk and Brazil nut ‘carbonara’-style sauce. I always make sure I include a dessert too.
I love making buckwheat burritos with cacao-infused organic mince as I can really go to town with making delicious, nutritious sides such as guacamole, slaws and salsa.
What are your pantry essentials?
Coconut oil, chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, eggs, avocado, buckwheat flour, almond milk (or almonds to make my own), superfood powders (maca, ginseng, açai, mucuna, reishi, cordyceps – the list goes on), chia seeds, lemons, fresh ginger and frozen berries.
Are there any cookbooks you couldn’t live without?
My mum’s home-made scrapbook with her favourite recipes, magazine cut-outs and handwritten secrets from her mother and her mother’s mother. We have a lot of recipe heirlooms in our family and they are pretty valuable!
Which ingredient was your greatest discovery and how did it transform your cooking?
Avocado, coconut, buckwheat and tahini. These ingredients are incredibly versatile and can be worked into just about anything – sweet or savoury. Buckwheat flour has been a saviour for me and makes its way into almost all recipes I make that call for flour. Coconut – in its endless forms – can be used in every thing too. I love coconut oil for cooking and making raw creations, coconut milk for dessert, coconut flesh in smoothies or curries, coconut water for smoothies, creamed coconut for baking or icing and coconut palm sugar or blossom nectar for sweetening desserts naturally. Avocadoes are similar to coconuts in that they can be used in just about anything. I use them to thicken and add creaminess to smoothies, to moisten an otherwise simple meal, for making desserts and to add to salads. Tahini has transformed desserts, smoothies, salad dressings and savoury sauces too. I add it to pretty much every salad dressing I create, as well as to add a nutty flavour and thicken sauces, such as tomato and red pepper sauce or ragù.
What’s your exercise routine/schedule?
I used to work out a lot more regularly than I have been able to since launching my own business. Nowadays, I am slowly regaining that aspect of my life and try to exercise at least three times a week. I will do one session or class with Russell Bateman from the SBC, ideally two yoga classes a week and a sprint once or twice a week. I also stretch a lot at home in the mornings and evenings to keep my body moving if I haven’t had time for a proper workout.
Do you power-up for exercise with specific foods – if so, what are they?
I love juices and smoothies before a workout as they not only fill a gap but also help to cleanse the system first thing in the morning. I have to start the day with a hot drink, so if I am doing a morning workout this is a must. It helps my body to wake up and make its mind up. Other foods I find work well to boost my energy levels before a workout include plain chicken, organic salmon, eggs with avocado, green vegetables or a cold soup.
Do you like trying new exercise classes/trainers/trends?
I get bored easily so I love to switch up my exercise regime as much as possible. I love a mixture of high-intensity, conditional, resistance movements, with a little cardio thrown in too. SBC incorporates all of these and each class is different, making it hard to keep up with but also hard for your body to get used to, so each session is a challenge. I love yoga but try different locations and instructors in order to meet different teachers and find out what I enjoy most.
What do you wear to workout? Do you have particular styles for particular workouts?
Nike or Lucas Hugh leggings, a Sweaty Betty sports bra, Nike trainers, a baggy oversized T-shirt or a loose-fitting vest.
Have you noticed changes to your body and health as a result of exercise and if so, what have they been?
As soon as I get stuck into a consistent exercise regime I notice differences in my mood, my skin, my positivity and my form. My abs begin to reappear after just two days of intense workouts, my skin seems smoother and fresher and I feel incredibly calm, clear and revitalised mentally.