Health Q&A + A Seasonal Harvest Breakfast

My friend Emily interviewed me for her class about healthy living, and I thought it would be interesting to post for everyone to see. It's just some quick advice and tidbits about living a healthy lifestyle. If you have any suggestions or questions of your own, feel free to post them in the comments!

Q: What made you begin your healthy living lifestyle?

A: I have always been raised in a healthy household, but the decision was initially not my choice. For awhile, I rebelled against my mom's enforced foods by eating candy and junk food whenever I could. The true reason I started to eat heathy was because I was paranoid about gaining weight at the end of high school and beginning of college, the time a lot of people start putting on the pounds. Once I started eating well, however, I felt better, and it became a habit for me. The more I got into health, the more I got into food and cooking, and they just kept playing off of each other.

Q: With a primarily plant-based diet, how do you ensure you are getting all of the essential nutrients?

A: A primarily plant-based diet is one composed mainly of plants and whole grains—this includes things like legumes and vegetables and unrefined grains, and excludes things like animal-based products such as meats or cheese. While I do believe a plant based diet is best, I don't believe in completely excluding animal-based products. There are a lot of nutrients and health benefits in animal-based products that aren't found in plant-based products, and they are essential to eat sometimes in order to maintain optimal health. To get all the nutrients I need, I make sure I eat a lot of beans, which are high in protein, and a ton of vegetables and greens. I also eat a lot of nut products including almond milk and almond butter, but it is important to eat fish, chicken and other low-fat animal products a couple times a week.

Q: How do you incorporate fitness in your healthy living? 

A: When I have the free time, I love to do yoga. It's great for the body as well as the mind, and it keeps me fit. I also get lazy, so I like to do pilates, which isn't too hard on the body, but it tones it up. If I really have time, I join the gym and take classes like Barre Core and Zumba. I used to be a dancer, so dance is an effortless way for me to get my cardio in. However, when I'm really busy, which is about half of the year, I get my fitness in by walking. Since I live in New York, I walk almost everywhere, so that keeps me in decent shape. If I'm in LA, I like to take hikes.

Q: How do you come up with your healthy recipes?

A: I spend a lot of time on websites Foodgawker and Pinterest. I find a lot of food blogs, and then I get ideas for recipes. I never usually follow a recipe exactly as is. I just like to get ideas and inspiration, and then I substitute and add things to fit my taste and needs. I also get inspiration from different ethnic cuisines and restaurant food and put my own healthy twist on it. For instance, anything that uses cream, I will substitute Greek Yogurt to make the dish more healthy.

Q: How do you continue to eat healthy foods while on a college student budget?

A: I probably spend more money than the average college student on food, but that is because I cook a lot and always use a ton of vegetables in all my dishes to get a balanced meal. However, healthy foods don't have to be expensive. Beans and grains are cheap. Vegetables can be inexpensive, even if organic, especially if you buy frozen. I buy most of my foods at Trader Joes, which has pretty low prices. Also, cooking for yourself is a lot less expensive than always eating out.

Q: Do you ever splurge on sweets or fatty foods? How does that make you feel?

A: I do sometimes splurge on sweets and fatty foods, and while I do occasionally feel guilty, I think it's important to let yourself enjoy other foods. If not, you end up with all these built up cravings from depriving yourself, and you will end up indulging in a lot more than would if you just gave in initially. All things in moderation. No one should deprive themselves of things completely. Plus, you have to listen to your body. Sometimes you need a little sugar boost.

Q: Do you have any tips for someone who eats unhealthily and might want to make a diet change?

A: I would say that the first thing to do is to educate yourself. Start reading about processed and refined foods, trans fat and excess sugar, and the way our meat is raised in our industry (and if you don't feel like reading, watch some documentaries like Food Inc or Supersize Me). Once you start learning about how unnatural these things are, and what they do to your body and overall health, I guarantee you will be less excited about eating them. 

Next, I would say realize you don't have to sacrifice taste for health. There are plenty of ways to make things taste good using ingredients that are good for you. Last, it's all about getting over that initial hump of the sugar, salt and fat addiction. These foods mess with our brain wiring and cause us to crave them all the time, but only when we are eating them. Once you cut them out, you stop craving them, and you will instead crave healthy, natural food. But just like any other addiction, the initial battle is the hardest!

Poached Eggs Over a Harvest Scramble

(amounts are ESTIMATED)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped sweet potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups kale
1/2 apple, chopped
1 tsp walnuts
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil 

1. Chop your vegetables. Crack your eggs very carefully into a ramekin or shallow bowl, being very careful not to break the yolk.

2. In a large skillet, heat up olive oil. In a deep pan, boil one to two inches of water. 

3. Saute vegetables in the pan with the oil. While they are cooking, start poaching your eggs. Turn the water down just slightly, so that the water is barely boiling. You can stir the water just before to cool it down. Very carefully slide the eggs into the water, one at a time, by placing the bowl partially into the water and letting the egg slide out. If the yolk breaks off, the water isn't hot enough. (For more tips on poaching an egg, click here).

4. Let eggs cook for 3-5 minutes, and then remove with a slotted spoon, letting the water drip out. Serve eggs over vegetable scramble, and top with walnuts.

Poaching an egg is hard, and I am still getting the hang of it myself! Don't get discouraged. If this is too difficult for you, try eating this dish with eggs sunny side up.

This is a low-fat and low-calorie breakfast filled with protein, healthy fats, and a good portion of vegetables and fruit. If you are worried about cholesterol, or aren't in the mood for such a large breakfast, just use one egg instead.