I am really into the idea of eating healthy. Unfortunately, I'm also really into every variety of chip and dip that exists. In an attempt to find balance, I'm skipping the extreme "no chips and dips" diets, and simply focusing on adding more nutritious foods to my everyday menu.
My friend Julia Hypes is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist at JMH Nutrition and food blogger at Nutritionish. Julia shared five of her favorite nutrient-dense foods with us. She promised they're all easy to make and simple to add to your diet. So let's make this the year of casual and realistic healthy-living goals! This way, even if you've given up on that 5 am workout routine, you can still feel good about the casual and tasty resolutions you are following through with. (See: chia seed jam.)
"I don't think you have to live on a diet," Julia said. "You need to be able to have fun with your food. Creativity with food leads to satisfaction. I keep very few restrictions on my diet, even the things I don't eat, I sometimes will eat. I don't want to be one of those people who can't go out to eat. I once went out with someone who brought a protein shake for dinner! If you eat the foods you need, and get the nutrients your body needs, you can indulge every once in a while and not feel bad about it. I want nutrition to fit for everybody. My goal is to help people create sustainable lifestyle habits that aren't a chore."
Julia started Nutritionish to share her journey with diet and illness.
"Five years ago, I was diagnosed with an unknown autoimmune disease that manifested similar symptoms to lupus," Julia said. "So I was very sick. Medical professionals started treating me, and some of my symptoms got better, but I was never really better. The symptoms were still there. I would vomit a lot. I remember, I was in school at the time, and I would sit in class and have a gagging episode and people would look at me like I was crazy. I had allergy issues and rashes. I felt like I had to do more to try and heal my body. Western medicine was great and helping, but I wanted to see if there was something else I could do."
"I started getting into yoga and trying to be more physically active. I experimented with some extreme diets where you reduce your food intake to one item, then add things back in. They were always too hard and I didn't stick with them. It was defeating, so I decided I wasn't going to do a 'diet.' I would focus on good nutrition that can heal your body. I got really into it and found that I loved it. At the time, I was managing a bar and I felt like it was time to find a career that I was passionate about and that was in the food service industry. I wanted to work with people who had illnesses similar to mine, so I went back to school for a Master's of Science in Nutrition, which I'm still working toward."
Julia's boyfriend, Will, is a chef. In the future, they hope to turn Nutritionish into a healthy catering business.
"Will has always been a sounding board for me. He's a great source of information, any time I have questions about cooking techniques. He's helped me develop recipes. We're thinking some day we would want to extend Nutritionish into catering and pop-up brunches. Will already does private party catering, so it would be the healthy version. There aren't many catering options that are restaurant-quality, but healthy and good for you."
Julia said becoming a knowledgeable consumer is key to living a healthy lifestyle.
"Educate yourself," Julia said. "We have the resources out there to learn about the food we eat. It will take you a long way. I do eat a heavily plant-based diet, but I still eat animal-based products. If you're eating dairy and animal products, make sure you're getting a good quality. Look for products where the animals are raised and fed what they would naturally eat, outside of cages, that way you're getting as many nutrients from the product as possible, and not any added antibiotics, hormones and other horrible chemicals."
Nutritionish's 5 Fave Healthy Foods
"If you soak chia seeds, they have this gelatinous outside that forms around them, so when you mix them with fruit, they turn into a jelly or jam, and you don't have to use the amount of sugar, pectin or jello you would with traditional jam. You should think of them as little energy seeds. A lot of people are turned off by them because they're kinda slimy, like a tapioca, but you have to open up your mind to using them in ways you didn't think you could. Chia jam opened my mind up to what chia can do. It's a great substitute for vegans who want to stay away from gelatin, and you can use it to thicken sauces. In some places in South America, they drink chia fresca--water, chia seeds and lemon juice. It's what people drink when they're running, like an all-natural energy drink."
"Chia pudding is so popular, and an easy way to do breakfast, because you can make them the night before. Mix chia seeds with water, coconut, or almond milk and add any flavoring you want--maple syrup, vanilla, peanut butter, cocoa powder, fruit. It's a quick breakfast that's ready to go. You do need to be careful not to add a bunch of sugar. Stick with all-natural sweeteners, and honey is a good choice as well. I don't suggest using agave, because your body processes it the same way it does refined sugar. It doesn't function in the same way that honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar do."
(Sidenote: This stuff is so good! I'm totally obsessed. Julia gave me a jar and I ate the entire thing in one day. Probably not recommended, but it's so good. I mixed it into drinks, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, everything.)
"Basically, you can do anything with farro that you can do with rice. It's a natural, whole grain that contains a nice amount of fiber for energy and more nutrients than rice. The beautiful thing about farro is that it doesn't matter how much water you cook it in, as opposed to rice or quinoa. I fuck up rice every time I cook it! It's always too sticky. The farro I cook ahead of time and it stays nice in the fridge for an entire week. When I make salads, I grab a handful and pop it on top. It's easy. Quinoa gives a lot of people indigestion, because it's so dense. I've never heard of any issue with farro. You can also toast it and make 'farro krispies treats.'"
"Peppers have capsaicin in them. Capsaicin is used in pain relieving topical creams, so it can relieve pain the same way an NSAID does. Eat peppers! Lots of different colors of peppers."
Turmeric, Ginger, Mint
"Spices are another great way to easily add nutrients to your diet. Turmeric and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties. The menthol in mint can help relieve spasms and muscle pains. It's good for digestion and all gastrointestinal issues. I prefer fresh, but you don't have to use fresh ginger or turmeric to get the healthy benefits. You can create a paste out of the powder. I take just a little warm water and add it very slowly to form a paste. I use it in salad dressings, sauces and drinks. I make bomb ass curry with it."
"If you hate kale, smoothies are the best way to get it into your diet. I created a delicious smoothie, 'The Tropi-Kale.' You can't taste the kale at all. As long as you have nice fruits like mango, pineapple and orange, they will cover that spicy, green flavor. I always recommend using one half of a frozen banana in smoothies. The texture is always better."
Julia's Tropi-Kale Smoothie
- 2 handfuls kale and/or spinach
- 1 cup frozen mango
- 1 cup frozen pineapple
- 1 frozen banana
- 2/3 cup coconut water
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1 tsp grated turmeric
Blend and enjoy!
Photos: Katie Harriman