Kiran Branch catches up with our Blogger of the Week, nutritionist Jenna Zoe and editor of Foods To Love to find out how she became a foodie
We’ve long been fans of Foods to Love ; partly because nutritionist Jenna Zoe, the brains behind the food blog, offers up great nutrional advice, ideas and recipes but also because this all sits alongside an online store where readers can buy all the ingredients they need to make super healthy snacks and treats - which just so happens to be the title of Jenna’s new cookbook (£14.99) currently taking pride of place on our kitchen countertops.
GTG’s Kiran Branch sat down with the incredibly friendly and straight-talking foodie to talk about her blogging journey, personal food philosophy and favourite recipes.
Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?
About 8 years ago, I had to clean up my diet for health reasons (I suffered from candida and oestrogen dominance). When I was new to healthy eating and trying to learn as much as I could, I felt like there was so much conflicting information surrounding the subject that I often felt overwhelmed and confused. I decided to train as a nutritionist and started writing my blog with the intention of giving people a relatable, easy, go-to source of information. It is a resource that I wish existed back when I couldn't separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.
What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides?
What I really love about my blog is it's a medium that allows me to share information that has helped me with others. There aren't any 'downsides' per se, but writing is sometimes a lot more time-consuming than I assumed! On some days words just flow, and on others it's like drawing blood out of a stone.
How much of a techie are you?
Oh god, not at all! I can just about get my head around writing a blog post and putting a few pics in there - it doesn't get much more complex than that.
How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?
I view blogging as part of my business - so I try to treat it with the same level of priority as say, seeing clients or delivering products to customers. I don't think perfect balance is always possible though, so I try not to be too hard on myself if I can't always do it all. I'm terrible at switching off, but I've made a resolution to be less glued to my phone out of office hours in 2014.
What is your personal food philosophy? Are there any food groups/types that you avoid?
I try to eat as close to nature as possible. That means the base of my diet is fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats. I'm vegan too but I don't think that part is necessary for good health. As long as someone is eating a clean, unprocessed diet, they are guaranteed to feel great. Also, I try not to overthink it or over complicate things - I eat what sounds good to me whenever I'm physically hungry. So many diets out there try to have us adhere to super-specific plans, but that for me is a recipe for failure - we're not robots.
How has eating healthily impacted on you personally? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to it?
It's kind of like building a muscle - in the beginning of your journey it takes discipline and commitment, but it gets easier and easier the longer you do it. Because I've followed a healthy diet for eight years now, I almost don't have to think about it. There are always going to be situations where you're in a bit of a bind (weddings, airports, indulgent restaurants), but you do the best you can and move on. I try not to get too hung up about a less than ideal meal by reminding myself that I'll still wake up tomorrow alive and healthy, with four functioning limbs! One plate of pasta is not the end of the world.
How do you create new recipes? Is it a trial and error process?
I usually start by thinking of a flavour profile - say, chocolate and orange. Then I think of formats in which I think it could work. So in this case I'll write down rough recipe outlines for a chocolate-orange smoothie, brownie, cake, pudding, nut butter. From there, it's a trial and error process to refine the recipe and see what works.
Have you had any cooking disasters?
Oh yes. Way too many to count! What's interesting is that cooking, and in particular baking, usually goes wrong when I'm worrying about something else or stressing out. So my favourite way to ensure an experiment turns out well is to take 10 deep breaths and get into a positive mindset before I start.
How do you decide which recipes to feature on your blog?
I tend to err towards quick and easy recipes versus the more complex ones. So on the whole, if something tastes good and is relatively straightforward, I'll put it up.
What are your three favourite recipes?
They would have to be the Chocolate Protein Shake, which I always top with a generous dollop of almond butter, My Staple Salad (Kale and Pomegranate), and the Raw Vegan Ice Cream.
If you kept a food diary, what would a typical day look like?
I try to listen to my body's signals and wait until I'm hungry to eat my first meal; this means breakfast could be at 8am or at 11am. I'll usually have kale chips, a green juice, or salad leftovers. It sounds weird, but switching to a savoury breakfast can do wonders for killing a sweet tooth. When I work with my nutrition clients, I often see that the ones who have sweet breakfasts stimulate their need for sugar, no matter how healthy those breakfasts are.
Lunch is usually some veggies mixed with heartier things like edamame beans, hummus, avocado or quinoa. I'll pretty much dump everything into a big bowl and mush it together with whatever seasonings appeal to me that day. At some point during the day I'll have an Upcakes Peanut Butter Cup without fail - having that small healthy treat each day means I never feel deprived.
For dinner, I love a big salad topped with things like curried sweet potato, wild rice, or a stir-fry. I try to keep things super healthy if I'm staying in, so that when I go out in the evenings I have some wiggle room for a glass of red wine or tortilla chips, which are my weakness. Because I treat my body well most of the time, I don't feel guilty or inferior when I indulge in the 'fun' foods. Someone once told me that you should eat 90% for your body and 10% for your soul, which really struck a chord with me.
Which ten ingredients do you use most often?
Avocados, kale, quinoa, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, limes, red onion, jalapeños, dark chocolate, and pink himalayan salt.
What five things are always in your fridge?
Pickles, leafy greens, white miso paste, carrots and zucchini (which I spiralise all the time to make raw veggie pasta).
Where are your favourite places to buy ingredients?
Whole Foods is a health foodie's dream; I don't remember where I shopped before it came to London! I also buy fresh produce online from Abel and Cole , and splurge on raw vegan specialty products at Raw Living . I absolutely adore their Cultured Carrot & Ginger - it's fermented like sauerkraut so you get all the probiotic benefits, but its much tastier.
Which three kitchen appliances could you not live without?
My favourite one is my Kyocera ceramic knife, £20.80 http://www.hartsofstur.com/acatalog/Kyocera-FK-Zirconia-White-Ceramic-Paring-Knife-FK_75WH_WH.html which is so much healthier than a stainless steel alternative. If you cut an apple with it, you'll see the flesh of the apple never browns, as you're not oxidising the food by cutting it with metal. It also just feels better to cut with.
Secondly I love the good old food processor - I make dips and soup in it all the time. And lastly is it cliche to say my Vitamix blender, £459.95 http://www.johnlewis.com/vitamix-blender/p231326917 ? It really just is a cut above the rest.
Where are your favourite places to go when eating out?
I'm a big fan of the Good Life Eatery, which makes delicious healthy salads and cold-pressed juices. It's a perfect spot for lunch and I'm always getting takeaway from there as I know they prepare things with integrity. Other than that, I'm partial to a lebanese blow-out - houmous, fatoush salad, tabouleh, and baba ganoush. It would be my last meal on earth. For fancier occasions I don't think you can get better than Zuma.
What advice would you give to those considering a healthier lifestyle?
In my experience, the number one reason people 'fail' at healthy living is that on some subconscious level, they feel unworthy of being their best self. The reality is that each of us owes it to ourselves to wake up every morning and feel amazing, to thrive, to treat our bodies and minds with respect and gratitude. If you can really get on board with that concept, putting it into practice is the easy part.
What are your favourite cookbooks and/or books relating to health?
I've read almost every health book and cookbook going and there are so many good ones. The ones I'd recommend to everyone are The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, £7, and It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig £24, because they are full of sound advice and talk about health holistically - digestion, hormones, psychology, etc. These are books that apply to everyone, regardless of your eating style.
Within the vegan realm, I love The China Study by T Colin Campbell £9.09, and Diet for a New America by John Robbins £13.09, as those are the books that turned me onto my current ethos. Having said that I've also read every Paleo book going, because I think it's important to constantly challenge your viewpoint with new information.
Who are your favourite bloggers?
What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?
In terms of content, I want to start talking more about the emotional issues behind food - things like self-sabotage, low self esteem, and disordered eating. I feel like that's the next boundary in terms of how we approach a healthy lifestyle, because on the whole people already know what foods they should and shouldn't be eating. It got me thinking that the food itself isn't the hard bit.
I recently had a healthy cookbook published called Super Healthy Snacks and Treats (£14.99 www.foodstolove.co.uk ), and I'm currently working on two more which is really exciting.