My food philosophy…

Very simply, what we eat matters. Food is not just something we put in our mouths to satiate hunger; it is the fuel our bodies use to stay healthy and function well. And guess what, if you don’t put quality fuel into your body, you don’t feel well, function well or look well. The answer is, real food – fresh, nutritious, unprocessed food. Every day, every meal and every bite is an opportunity to feel well or feel better.

Isn’t all food real?

Heck no! In fact I’d say 80 per cent of your grocery store is not real. Real food grows in the soil, on trees and on bushes thanks to the sun’s energy. Ingredient labels filled with unpronounceable words are your first clue that your food is not real, and when brands need elaborate packaging and marketing to try and convince you that it’s good for you, then you should know it’s not.

Think about what your great-grandparents would have recognised as food – that’s what is real. Basically we need to start filling our kitchens with more foods that rot! I know it sounds gross but processed food that stays seemingly ‘fresh’ for years on our kitchen shelves really isn’t doing us any good. In fact, it is making us overweight, sick and unhappy.

Calgary Avansino chopping vegetables

Photographer: Kristen Perers

Does that mean we have to go vegetarian?

Not in the slightest. First of all I don’t think we should ever focus on what we can’t have – that just feeds an extreme, all-or-nothing mentality around food. Instead we should focus on all the delicious foods we need to add to our diets. No matter where you are on your journey towards leading a healthy lifestyle, everyone needs to eat more vegetables (i.e. plants). A plant-based way of living doesn’t mean you only eat plants – it’s simply about adding more of them (veggies, greens, grains, seeds and nuts) to your plate at every meal. Most of the world eats plenty of meat already (well, way too much, actually).

In 2014, the average adult consumed 90kg of meat per year. That’s why I don’t feature meat in my recipes. It’s not because I think everyone needs to be vegetarian (though why not be a semi-vegetarian?) it’s simply that our attention needs to be on adding more vegetables to our diet (I know many vegetarians who live on pasta, bread and cereal and that’s not healthy either!). Forget about rules and labels and instead stick to eating as many fresh, real plants and food as you can and less meat and processed food.

My plate is…

Bright and colourful! Unless it’s cauliflower you aren’t going to see any white foods on a Calgary plate. And when you look down at your plate I want you to see a lot more plants than anything else. Vegetables need to be the main attraction. No more of this ‘I’ll have a few vegetables on the side’. Let’s turn that on its head and start making vegetables the primary focus. It doesn’t mean you can’t have some lean animal protein alongside if you want; just make the vegetables top dog.

Calgary Avansino's Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower Couscous from “Keep It Real“. Photographer: Kristen Perers

Confessions – I do have a guilty pleasure!

I’d be crazy not to. A good piece of cheese and baklava are the two things that get my heart beating faster.

Casseroles and slow-cooker stews conjure up memories of my childhood…

My mom was a busy lady but she had a miraculous talent for throwing together a delicious recipe and letting it simmer all day so we would have a home-made dinner every night. Her tempeh chilli was always one of my favourites. Now I’m a mom of three and I use so many of her tricks and recipes to feed my family.

My five-minute fast fixes in the kitchen…

Depend on what time of day it is. For breakfast it would definitely be a chopped apple with almond butter; for lunch, the unanimously popular avocado on grainy, seedy toast (I like mine mashed with a drizzle of olive oil and chilli flakes); for an afternoon snack, a pot of hummus with chopped veggies and some crackers; and for dinner probably an omelette with spinach (that I’ve already washed on my prep day) and a bit of feta cheese.

Chocolate Cranberry Buckwheat Cookies  from "Keep It Real". Photographer: Kristen Perers

Chocolate Cranberry Buckwheat Cookies from “Keep It Real“. Photographer: Kristen Perers

Food hero?

Jamie Oliver, for speaking out about sugar and putting it on the nation’s agenda. And every entrepreneur who has opened a plant-based, vegetarian, vegan or raw restaurant in London – you have made my life here so much better.

Signature dish?

Probably salads, and I don’t mean lettuce ones. I love making bean salads, quinoa salads, red rice salads, root vegetable salads… You name it and I’ve probably made a salad out of it. Or my refined-sugar-free crumbles that I make with ground almonds and coconut oil – my friends (and kids) go crazy for those.

Three most essential ingredients?

Olive oil, nuts and avocado.

As for foods I dislike…

I can’t say I’m a big fan of parsnips or turnips, but if anyone thinks they have a recipe that will convert me, I’m willing to try 😉

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