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Julie Montagu

‘the flexi foodie’ – yoga instructor and author

What sparked your passion for healthy food and living?  

My husband became very ill nearly seven years ago and when you want to ‘fix’ someone, you can either look to drugs (which we weren’t about to do as those are the things that caused his illness in the first place) or food. So I looked to food to help him, me and our four kids. And I’m super proud to say that food has made a huge difference – not only to my husband’s health, but to mine and our children’s too.

Other than food, what elements of healthy living are most important to you?  

Yoga, breathing, meditation and affirmations – I can’t really live without any of those.

How can people realistically kick-start a healthier diet?  

Just as they de-clutter their house, people can start to de-clutter their pantries, fridges, freezers and themselves too! There are a plethora of wonderful ‘healthy eating’ books out there, they just need to start with one and will be well on their way.  

Just as they de-clutter their house, people can start to de-clutter their pantries, fridges, freezers and themselves too!

What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid? And why?

I’m not a meat eater or cow’s milk drinker because a) they’ve never made me feel good inside or outside and b) in today’s world we are often consuming meat 3–4 times a day, which is too much in my view. If you don’t want to cut it out completely, maybe start by cutting back. The health benefits are pretty powerful.

What is your food routine? Do you eat three conventional meals or do you have smaller portions throughout the day?  

I try to have breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day with the odd snack here and there. I cycle about 20–25 kilometres a day and sometimes teach yoga up to five hours a day so I need fuel! And ‘good-for-you’ food is my fuel. Creating space for three meals a day also allows you to create space for you. When you sit down for a meal, you automatically start to rest and digest, which is just what I need most days, three times a day.

What are your favourite snacks?  

Hands down it’s avocado on toast and a green juice. I have both of them pretty much every day.

Are you a breakfast ‘lover’? If so, what is your ideal way to start the day?

Yes! I need breakfast every morning and if there’s a day when I miss it my body, mind and spirit are very grumpy. A bowl of home-made granola with almond milk and a large mug of green tea please.

Do you ever juice? If so, how and why?  

Yes, I do on the weekends when I have more time. During the week, I’m cycling from one place to another so luckily London has joined the wellness scene and it’s now pretty easy for me to find a green juice.

What inspired you to start sharing your health story?  

My husband wasn’t well for six years and that is when I really found my passion for healthy living. I dove into a healthy lifestyle unbeknownst to anyone. But it was his story to tell first, not mine. My husband is one of the main reasons my healthy journey began.

What role does yoga play in a healthy lifestyle?  

For me, it’s everything. It lengthens, strengthens, lifts and opens your body and actually if you think about it, it does the same thing to your mind and your spirit.

How do you use yoga for stress management?  

When I’m stressed, which to be fair is actually quite a lot when you have four kids, I either go into downward-facing dog pose or a forward fold for two minutes; I actually time it to make sure I get the full two minutes! And when I come up, I just feel a heck of a lot better – less stressed too.

How do you keep up your yoga routine when you travel?

If I have a good amount of time, I will use YogaGlo (online yoga) or just simply do five sun salutation As, five Bs, a couple of twists, a back bend, an inversion and I’m done in about 10 minutes and feel great!

What is your favourite healthy spot in New York?

The Candle Café, for sure. It’s organic vegan food and I love it. There’s one on the Upper East and the Upper West Side.   

What is your favourite healthy spot in London?  

I love the vegetarian restaurant Mildreds. I’m very lucky because I teach yoga twice a week at Triyoga Soho, so Mildreds is literally around the corner.

What do you believe is the best way to instill a love of healthy food in children?

I believe it’s not denying them what they might be begging you for – it’s about educating them as to what’s in processed and packaged foods, what sugar does to the body and why whole foods are the good guys.

I believe it’s not denying them what they might be begging you for – it’s about educating them as to what’s in processed and packaged foods, what sugar does to the body and why whole foods are the good guys.

Do you have any expert advice on ways to hide healthy food into meals that your child would otherwise refuse to eat? What are your secret tactics?  

My kids are older – 17, 14, 11 and 9 – and I think that because I’ve been educating them for years (especially through wonderful documentaries on food!), they now eat pretty much everything, even Brussels sprouts, courgettes and mushrooms.  Educate, educate, educate – I promise you that in time they will listen, get it and eventually love it.

Educate, educate, educate – I promise you that in time they will listen, get it and eventually love it.

What is your go-to meal when you’ve had a busy day but still want to prepare something wholesome quickly?

Three bean chilli. It’s so simple – just a can of chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, three different types of your favourite beans, spices and some quinoa. Cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa has cooked through. It is yummy and of course, just so, so easy!

How do you plan what to cook each week?

I look at what I have in the pantry, fridge and freezer and go from there. Having written a cookbook and working on a second and third, I’ve had plenty of time to be creative.

Are there any cookbooks you couldn’t live without?

I love Sarah Britton’s My New Roots book and the Oh She Glows Cookbook.

Which ingredient was your greatest discovery and how did it transform your cooking?  

Chia seeds. They transformed my cooking not only because I can put them in anything and everything, but because I can put them in my kids’ meals without them knowing.