Sincere apologies for the lack of #healthspotalks in the recent past. But worry not, they are back and I have some beautiful and inspiring girls lined up to share their health stories with you. First up is Maddie Pasquariello aka EastCoastHealth on Instagram and her blog. She first popped up on my Insta feed a couple of months ago and we have been stalker-liking each others pictures ever since. Not only do her healthy creations look mouthwaterinly (is that even a word?!) delicious, but she also knows how to keep it simple and cheap. As a student, she knows all the tips and tricks on how to purchase food cheaply and prepare it efficiently. Maddie, the floor is yours!
What was the catalyst that turned you into a healthy foodie?
It all started when I was living with roommates and cooking for myself in the summer of 2013. I started bookmarking tons of recipes and cooking really simple meals with fresh ingredients. I’ve always loved shopping for food and it was then that I started learning about balancing flavours and combining ingredients to make a dish. This continued when I studied abroad in Paris that fall, and I fell more in love with food in general. Then the following summer I transitioned to being a pescatarian and finally to a predominantly plant-based diet. Being able to make food that tastes good and looks good is important to me, because I believe that if healthy food looks tasty, people will be more likely to eat it.
Why do you eat the way you eat?
I adopted a plant based diet for a huge variety of reasons. It’s so much better for the environment in terms of resource sustainability, more ethical in terms of animal welfare, and so much better for our bodies. I read a variety of books about the subject, starting with the work of T. Colin Campbell, and took courses at my University on public health and cultural anthropology. This really made me look differently at the way the world eats, and if I can influence even a few people to make healthier dietary choices, that makes a difference. Personally, eating a plant-based diet means I have more energy, my skin is better, and I feel lighter and happier.
Can you tell us a bit more about your studies & how you are hoping on working in the health industry?
As an undergraduate university student, I studied Psychology (and French Literature). I’ll be starting graduate school in January for a Masters in Nutrition Communication in Boston MA, as well as receiving a certificate to begin my path to becoming a registered dietician (RD). This has been my passion for about a year now, and I’m so excited to continue this journey. It’s been a lot of hard work because I didn’t necessarily have the science background that I should have after the end of my undergraduate studies, so I’ve had to put in more work to make up for that. But it’s completely worth it, and I was so lucky to get into a program that will allow me to give back in the industry I’m so passionate about. Eventually, I’d love to have a private practice and work with people struggling to lead a more wholesome, healthy lifestyle. A side-dream is to own a juice bar/café or açaí bowl stand in San Francisco or Sydney, Australia. So maybe one day I can make that happen too! We’ll see.
Describe your day on a plate.
It depends on the season, but in the summer I love waking up with a huge glass of lemon or mint water, followed by tons of raw fruit, an açaí bowl, or a smoothie bowl. In the winter I almost always have oatmeal with tons of toppings. I’m a huge sucker for breakfast foods, so lunch is usually healthy pancakes, oatmeal, or a green smoothie. Sometimes I make rice paper rolls, collard wraps with falafel, or I’ll have leftovers from the night before. Throughout the day if I’m hungry I snack on raw bliss balls or fruit. Then for dinner I like to eat whatever I’ve batch-cooked during the week: rice with beans and veggies, tofu with steamed greens, or a big veggie stew or soup. I also make a fresh green salad every night to have before dinner. But batch cooking is my life — I rarely have time to actually make a full meal when I get home from school or work, so having things on hand is very important.
What are the 5 things we will always find in your fridge/pantry?
Lemons, berries, bananas, almond milk, and beans! There are so many more, but I absolutely can’t live without these things in my kitchen.
How do you manage eating healthy on a budget?
I buy as much of my food as I can in bulk (things like nuts, seeds, oats, dried beans, grains, etc.). I buy a lot of fruits and veggies, but try to only buy what I need for that week so that I don’t waste anything. I shop at farmer’s markets if they’re accessible and the cheaper option wherever I am at the time, and I frequently share groceries with friends and family to cut the costs a bit. As a student, I spent 3 years eating at dining halls, and realized that what I was paying to eat there was way more than I would have spent on simple ingredients to make food on my own. Of course, you have to commit time to actually cooking for yourself, which is why I keep my meals relatively simple. Finally, if you’re shopping the perimeter of the grocery, you’re more likely to wind up spending less than you would if you were buying the more processed, packaged foods in the interior aisles. That’s a really simple trick to getting the most out of your grocery trips.
What’s the biggest nutrition misconception you are always having to clear up for people?
I get asked a lot about protein intake and micronutrients. I always find it so funny that people really don’t believe me when I say I get plenty, if not more than enough, of these things. It’s super important that you find what works best for your body, but if you want to eat a plant-based diet, it’s really easy to get enough micro- and macro-nutrients. You just have to know what foods to eat, eat a variety of colorful foods, and switch it up from time to time. Your body will do the rest!
Tell us about your workout routine.
I used to be a huge runner, but sustained an injury that prevents me from doing a lot of high-impact sports. So, I started spinning and biking outdoors last year, which I love. I’m also very into yoga, and really enjoy going to barre or exercise classes if I have a friend to go with (by that I mean a friend to drag me there). I try to do cardio about 4-5 times a week, with resistance training and weights as well, and yoga the other days. I also love swimming, but am way more excited by the ocean than a pool.
What does living a wholesome lifestyle mean to you?
For me, it means eating a plant-based diet, being active, and spending time with people I love. Health and nutrition are very important to me, but I am a firm believer in balance. I don’t think food should ever be considered a cheat — or a reward. I eat what makes me feel good, I try to stay away from processed stuff, and I eat lots of whole grains, fruits, and veggies. I keep it simple!
A recipe from Maddie – Marinated Kale, Broccoli, and Almond Salad
- 1 bunch of kale (any kind works), chopped very finely
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted for a few minutes in a hot dry pan
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped into centimeter-sized pieces
- 1-2 tbsp liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- juice of half a lemon
- 1-2 tsp tahini
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp chili flakes (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- First, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients (liquid aminos through tahini) in a small bowl.
- Place finely chopped kale into a large bowl and massage in the dressing for a minute or two.
- Toss in the almonds and broccoli, and add the rest of the ingredients and spices. Stir to make sure everything is incorporated. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper if necessary.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the salad to marinate, or longer if you have time. Enjoy!