What makes you feel healthy?
I feel healthiest when I feel balanced, centered and present. As a dietitian, you may think that my answer is centered on food, but on the contrary. It’s more about striking a balance between nourishing food, managing stress, working out, meditating, having fun with people who matter most, knowing when to slow down with work and connecting with everyone in the Nutrition Stripped community!
Do you find there is a link between what you eat and how you’re feeling?
Absolutely there is a link! Not just a mental and emotional link between food and how we physically feel but, talking from a physiological standpoint, our gut and brain are “connected” by the vagus nerve. Studies have proved the microbiota-gut-brain axis connection, which is responsible for how our gut bacteria impacts our moods and vice versa. Think about “gut feelings”, “butterflies”, or why many people don’t eat when they’re anxious – there is definitely a link.
How would you describe your relationship with food?
My relationship with food is the healthiest it’s ever been. Trust me, like so many women, I’ve gone through phases thinking that low calorie, low carbohydrate, low fat, low everything, plus more exercise, is better for maintaining a healthy weight and feeling good… it couldn’t be further from the truth. Having a healthy relationship with food is one that requires no mental or emotional pressure or burden about what I’m eating or what I’m doing with activity.
“Having a healthy relationship with food is one that requires no mental or emotional pressure or burden about what I’m eating or what I’m doing with activity.”
It means releasing visual comparisons, appreciating my body for what it does for me on a daily basis to carry out my good work to you all, act with love and kindness, and so much more; it’s not a number, it’s a feeling and a state of being. It took years of practice, but nowadays I eat very intuitively, meaning I take the time to listen to what my body is craving in that moment.
Maybe it’s more carbohydrates and protein to refuel from an overly active day, or maybe it’s adding more fat into my diet when I need to feel more satiated and “grounded”. The point is, everyone is different, everyone’s reaction and connection to their hunger and mind-body connection is different – I always nurture that as a dietitian and advocate finding what works for you.
What do you believe are the cornerstones of a healthy, balanced diet?
A healthy and balanced diet should be as satisfying for your taste buds as it is for your cells, and one that nourishes you on all levels – physically, emotionally, and mentally. It shouldn’t be restrictive or leave you consumed by what you eat. Beyond that, it’s one that is based on whole-foods, that you can trace back to the source (allowing some wiggle room for flexibility).
Does this mean you have to go gluten-free or dairy-free just because I do? Heck, no! Everyone is different. My reasons for practising a gluten- and dairy-free lifestyle are for my own health; you should practise and do what works for you. That’s all that matters.
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I’m a fan of the YOU diet, one where you eat the way your body wants to and responds to. I personally practise a whole-foods lifestyle, where I consume 95 per cent of my foods from whole-food sources; the remaining five per cent is for the occasional indulgence. For my health, I am gluten- and dairy-free. I used to suffer from horrible migraines, bad digestion, acne and hormonal issues, and gluten and dairy were the biggest catalysts for these, along with some lifestyle factors I was neglecting to address.
“I’m a fan of the YOU diet, one where you eat the way your body wants to and responds to.”
I am not into labelling diets though – I think there are far too many diet and wellness “gurus” out there sharing information outside of their expertise or making their readers/followers feel like they have to fit a certain mould – or that one’s health challenges can be “cured” overnight by just changing their diet. Just remember: do what works for you and leave the nutrition dogma at the door!
Do you think there is such a thing as being too strict with what you eat?
Yes! I think people can get way too strict, restrictive, and downright obsessive about the way they eat. Even if it’s not classed as an “eating disorder”, healthy people can still have “disordered” eating behaviours and habits – for example, only consuming certain types of foods to avoid “toxins” or to “detox”. I’ve had so many clients who had to break this mentality and were much healthier in the end because of it.
I believe in making flexibility a priority in your diet and lifestyle; although routine and structure are paramount, find the balance that works for you. I think a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: “Am I missing out on this activity or XYZ because of my diet?”
“Even if it’s not classed as an “eating disorder”, healthy people can still have “disordered” eating behaviours and habits…”
Does your diet change throughout the year?
Definitely. Since I intuitively eat as much as possible, I always find my body craves ‘watery’, hydrating and easy-on-the-digestion foods that give me a lot of energy – especially in the spring and summer, because I’m outdoor more often and exercising a lot more. So for example, greens, tons of fruits, avocados – these are always my staples in the warm months.
In the autumn and winter, I crave more warming and grounding foods in terms of fill-factor and carbohydrates. This is also a season where I find my workouts change to heavy weight-lifting and more mindful activities like yoga to keep my mind and body happy.
What is your food routine?
Over the years, I’ve discovered that my body does best with three meals a day with some snacks in between, and eating until I’m at about 80 per cent full, giving me extra room to digest optimally and not feel sluggish afterwards. Again, everyone is different. I have some clients who love eating three large meals a day, and others who love eating six small meals a day.
“Having six small meals a day does no more “good” to your metabolism than three meals a day; this is such a myth.”
I will note, having six small meals a day does no more “good” to your metabolism than three meals a day; this is such a myth. Remember, in the end, it’s all about what works for your body, your hormones, your lifestyle, and your goals.
What supplements do you take, if any?
Food is the ultimate supplement, but supplements can be great to add in as extra – notice the word supplement, meant to “supplement” a healthy diet. On a weekly basis I take vitamin D, iron, and zinc. Daily I take probiotics (either found in my Ultimate Kimchi recipe or in a capsule if I don’t have any fermented foods to hand), omega-3 fatty acids and B12. Again, these are supplements that I myself need – I recommend getting routine blood tests to adjust foods and supplements in your diet as needed.
Do you believe in diets or detox programmes?
I’m not a fan of diets or detox programs in general. I think the best way to go about changing your body composition, whether it be to lose fat or gain muscle, is to be extra conscious of your eating, exercise and stress management habits versus crash-dieting and restricting – it’s a yo-yo effect and will only yield short term results. Detox programmes are a whole other story I could go on forever about, but in a nutshell, always ask yourself, “Who is this person behind this detox programme – do they understand “detoxification”, do they have expertise in nutrition, what makes them able to advise me about this…”
“I think the best way to go about changing your body composition is to be extra conscious of your eating, exercise and stress management habits versus crash-dieting and restricting.”
I’ve had so many clients reach out to me about following person XYZ on their blog, Instagram, or detox programme, who have actually been harming their health in the long-term. Be smart and know who you’re taking advice from. Other than that, I do believe in “resetting” your body when you’re feeling run down or when you need a little break from eating so much (i.e. after the holidays or during a really stressful time). For that, I just use my 7-day Whole Foods Reset & Rebalance to get my body back in tune.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for people looking to kick-start a healthier diet?
Start small and do one thing at a time. Living healthy doesn’t have to be a radical overnight change or aimed at “curing” anything – it takes time, patience, and more than anything, it needs to fit realistically into your lifestyle. Start by adding in my Stripped Green Smoothie in the morning, which is loaded with nutrition, easy to digest and supports the body in natural detoxification on a daily basis. Nothing radical – just delicious and balanced.
How do you stay on track when you travel?
I have several blog posts that address this, where I share my favourite tips: Healthy Travels, part I and part II; Healthy Travels: In-flight Edition, and Travel Food Survival Kit. In a nutshell – be prepared!
What snacks do you keep with you when you out and about?
Nuts and seeds, Kind Bars, packets of Aloha Daily Good Greens, Organic Burst Chlorella tablets, Everly (a local brand here in Nashville), my S’well bottle with water.
When you go out to dinner, how do you navigate the menu?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions – I have downloadable tips where I share all my dining secrets here: Restaurant Survival Guide! Put simply, don’t be afraid to request what you want and need.
Are you conscious of what you put “on” your body as well as “in” your body?
Yes, I’m a firm believer that how you look on the outside (i.e. your skin) is a reflection of what’s going on inside the body. Radiance and beauty always start from within by nourishing your cells with good food, good energy and positive thoughts. I have an entire “Natural Beauty Series” on my blog where I list all my favourite products, DIY recipes and other routines I personally do to keep my skin looking and feeling amazing.
What is your go-to meal on a busy day?
The Nourish Bowl or One Bowl Skillet Meal, which is basically a mix of batch-cooked items, or leftovers from recipe testing for the blog or my cookbook. I’m very casual with dinner, not making a big fuss about it, but making sure it’s satisfying, filling and relaxing to make.
How did you learn to cook?
I used to love watching Food Network, Julia Child on PBS, and all cooking shows – these are where I learned a lot of what I do. I think my inspiration for innovative recipes comes from trial and error, my love of global flavours, pushing the edge of healthy and adventurous, and nurturing my creative side. I was first an art major and have always enjoyed right-brain activities like painting and photography; this definitely has a place in my cooking and recipe development, and what I do on my Youtube channel and blog.
Which ingredients have been your greatest discovery?
Nutritional yeast. For those who are dairy-free, it tastes like cheese and it’s versatile. I’m also really getting into medicinal mushrooms for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
What’s your exercise routine/schedule?
I love working out – it’s one of my morning rituals that keeps me centered and on my toes. I’ve been weight-lifting and exercising since high school. Being naturally thin and small-framed, I have to work for curves, and weight-lifting is such a great way to rev your metabolism and, for a woman, keep your hormones and bones healthy. Not to mention, it’s fun! With that, I do HIIT circuit training, barre3, Barry’s Bootcamp, kickboxing, hiking, swimming, walking, biking – I love it all.
“I always feel like I’m on top of the world after a workout.”
What is your greatest motivation to work out when you are feeling sluggish?
Knowing how I’ll feel afterwards, simple as that. I always feel like I’m on top of the world after a workout; knowing that I’ve taken the time to take care of myself before giving back to others.