Today is the day where I answer all of your deep, dark, burning questions about mah crazy life, nutrition, plants, and all that jazz!
I was recently interviewed for an article and I kept thinking "Man, I should really just share these responses with my readers!" Why not answer all of your emails in one tidy little post?
I'd like to squeeze in more snapshots of my personal life and nutrition posts here and there in addition to recipes, so I thought this Q&A really fit the bill. If this is something you'd like to see more of, please let me know! If there are any questions I didn't answer, don't hesitate to email me so I can include them in a future Q&A!
Oh, and if you're dying to know what I would order at MdDonald's if it were the only option on a road trip, check out my response in this Huffington Post article!
1. What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about healthy eating and nutrition?
The most misunderstood thing about healthy eating is the HUGE difference between being healthy and being thin. The reliance on “diet” foods (low-fat, low-sugar, sugar-free) may help you shed pounds temporarily or win a body-building competition, but it won’t make you feel radiant or reduce your risk of the chronic diseases that plague our generation. People eat reduced fat peanut butter on 30-calorie “lite” wheat bread and wonder why they’re not feeling better. Achieving optimal health is not a simple caloric equation. It’s personalized, and at the end of the day it’s all about eating nourishing whole foods, most of which are hopefully plant-based.
2. How did you get started with Alchemy? What exactly do you do? Was something like Alchemy always what you wanted to do? What have you done to get to the position you're at currently?
I went to undergrad with one of the brothers that owns A & R Creative group, the company that owns Alchemy. We became good friends and always talked about opening a healthy café, something I never dreamed would actually happen. One day it became a reality and we created Alchemy! My official title is Director of Nutrition and Communications, but I act as the general manager, chef, and dietitian. I basically have my hands in everything, including managing the staff and operations, ordering, catering, directing communications, providing on-site nutrition counseling, and developing the menu. Alchemy has been the biggest challenge of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Hummusapien was a huge stepping-stone to getting where I am today. It basically personifies my passion for food, nutrition, and recipe development. Half of Alchemy’s menu is actually on my blog!
I never thought I would be in a position that’s so heavy in food service and management, but I’m fortunate to be able to also do what I love, which is create amazing food that I believe in, impact people’s long-term health with personalized nutrition counseling, and engage with the media.
3. What are some of the common things people want to change about their nutrition/ lifestyle when they reach out to you for nutrition counseling?
Most people come to be to embark on a clean-eating journey. They essentially want to clean the crap out of their diet and re-set with a whole foods lifestyle. Many people come to me with an interest in plant-based diets as well, which I love!
4. What is the most frustrating part about your job/ having a blog? and why? And what is the most rewarding part?
The most frustrating part about my job with Alchemy is that there is an immense amount of constant responsibility because of all the moving parts of running a restaurant. I’m never really “off” work. When I’m not at Alchemy, I’m either thinking about what I have to do for Alchemy or working on the blog.
The most rewarding part is that I’m truly in love with my career. I’m living my dream by creating healthy food for the masses and inspiring people to embrace a healthy lifestyle. I wouldn’t trade Alchemy or Hummuasapien for anything, no matter how many hours a week I work.
5. Have you always been interested in nutrition/what sparked your interest?
I traveled to Israel in college, and that really sparked my passion for plant-based eating. I was also incredibly inspired by healthy food blogs, which inspired me to start Hummusapien three and a half years ago! Reading Skinny Bitch didn't hurt either.
6. Have you always eaten a plant-based diet? When and why did you start eating that way?
Nope—I grew up eating meat and dairy. I had a pretty normal upbringing when it came to food. My mom would cook chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner, but she always taught me about ingredients and wouldn’t buy anything with “chemicals.” I became super inspired by plant-based eating after I took a trip to Israel the summer going into my junior year of college. That trip combined with reading Skinny Bitch, watching the “Forks Over Knives”, documentary, and discovering my love for food blogs ignited my passion for plant-based eating.
I did it for my health. I read tons of research (including some of the largest nutrition studies in history) on plant-based diets reversing chronic disease and ultimately being the most optimal diet for long-term health. I had never felt better, so I challenged myself to eat a vegan diet for a year. I of course went off course here and there, but overall, I learned how to cook with new-to-me foods and fell more in love with plant-based health. I don’t like to label myself, and I want to have the freedom to eat eggs or cheese or wild salmon when I’m in the mood without being patronized.
7. What was your trip to Israel like? Why did you go? And how did that spark your passion for plant-based eating?
I went on a 10-day trip called Birthright. I met a couple inspiring vegan friends, was surrounded by beautiful produce, and ate at a bunch of vegetarian restaurants. I had also just finished reading Skinny Bitch so it was already on my mind. I started opening up my eyes to life without meat and dairy!
8. What benefits do you personally see from plant-based eating and why do you recommend it for others?
Eating a plant-based diet is not only amazingly beneficial for health and proven to reverse an array of chronic diseases, but it’s also great for the environment and for animals. I recommend it to other because it’s the most nutrient-dense way of eating and I want my clients to feel their absolute best and live long lives. I love showing people that eating this way isn’t hard—it’s delicious!
9. For people who consider plant-based eating a challenge what would you tell them?
I would tell them to experiment with different recipes and get comfortable in the kitchen! You’d be shocked at how easy it is to live without meat and how satisfying meals can be with fruits, eggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Cooking with new foods is SO exciting!
10. Would you have ever considered yourself an "unhealthy eater"? If so, when? And what brought about change? (even if there was a small change)?
I’ve had my fair share of eating one too many pieces of pizza, eating carbs all day, and drinking too many vodka sodas, but I wouldn’t ever consider myself an unhealthy eater. It’s part of being human. Eating a “perfect” diet is no way I want to live my life! Having unhealthy days is all part of balanced, healthy living.
11. Why do you promote balance while eating?
You only live once, and it’s important to enjoy yourself! Being overly focused on healthy eating can just as harmful for the body as eating unhealthy foods. I believe everyone should have a positive relationship with food and reconsider his or her lifestyle when food becomes stressful. Food is meant to be celebrated—it shouldn’t be a stressor!
12. What is the best part about helping others with their nutrition journey?
There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve impacted some one’s life with nutrition education. Nutrition is so critical for long-term health. Our generation is plagued with chronic illness, and I consider it my job to help change those statistics. The bottom line is that I love helping people and I love food, so it’s a perfect match!
13. What do you hope to change about the way people approach food and nutrition in general?
I want people to eat real food and enjoy it! I dream of a world where people find the joy in cooking, where they get back to basics and eat food without chemicals, additives, fake colors, and flavors. Enjoying food while eating well is a huge obstacle for people, one I love to help people overcome.
14. What else do you do around Columbus to promote a healthy lifestyle?
I do a bunch of different workouts in order to stay active, including Body Pump classes and Barre3. The main way I promote a healthy lifestyle is by creating nutritious and tasty food for Alchemy! I love showing people that nutrient-dense foods like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts can actually taste incredible. The blog is my main communication channel with regard to promoting healthy food. I’m always posting nutritious recipes to try to get people on board with trying more whole, plant-based foods.
15. How do you incorporate these things into your own life? What is most important to you personally regarding nutrition?
I eat really healthy because I honestly adore healthy food. Breakfast everyday is steel-cut oatmeal with chia seeds, almond butter, and berries or a big green smoothie. I always eat every 3-4 hours (something I always recommend to clients!) and I’m always quipped with lots of healthy snacks, like fresh fruit, hummus, no-bake bites, etc. The most important aspect of nutrition to me is balance. I think eating a delish piece of dark chocolate is just as important as eating kale salad!
16. What do you think of the current situation regarding nutrition in the United States?
I think healthy eating is becoming much more mainstream, almost trendy! People are starting to embrace health and see the connection between nutrition and chronic disease. With that said, obesity rates are way higher than they should be and we have a lot to learn!