The former food editor of Hip & Healthy, Saskia Gregson-Williams, talks about her new blog Naturally Sassy and how eating plant-based food has changed her life

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After suffering from chronic eczema, Saskia set out to research the effects dairy can have on the body. After discovering that it can cause inflammation, she made the decision to completely cut dairy out of her diet and was amazed when her eczema completely disappeared. Deciding she wanted to share her tasty vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and wheat free-recipes, Saskia began food blog Naturally Sassy . We sat down with the ballet dancer and self-confessed foodie to discuss how she creates such nutritious and delicious food.

Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?

I decided to start my blog because of the effects adapting a healthy lifestyle and eating plant-based food had on my life, it was incredibly life-changing and I knew I had to share it with others! I wanted to create a web-space to inspire others to live this way and to hit the stigma that healthy eating is bland and boring on the head, by making all my recipes taste wonderfully indulgent whilst being brilliantly health enhancing!

What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides?

My favourite part of blogging is hearing the wonderful feedback from my readers. When I hear their stories about how my recipes, philosophy & blog has helped them it truly inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing, as I can see it really is making a difference in people's lives. It's also amazing to connect with like-minded people! I don't feel there really is a downside to blogging, I love being able to share my passion and the response has been just incredible.

How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?

I've learnt to balance my life as much as possible. I train eight hours a day as a ballet dancer, so I'm extremely focused when I'm in the studio, but as soon as my working day is over, cooking and blogging is something that I absolutely love to do! Unlike a lot of successful food bloggers with their primary job being to run their website/brand, I have a very busy life, juggling many different passions, which I think is something my readers can relate too. My recipes are all simple and quick, making this way of eating attainable to anybody! I do find it hard to go offline, but I think its important to every now and again disconnect from technology and take a little time for yourself.

What is your personal food philosophy?

The Naturally Sassy philosophy is all about embracing food the way nature made it - completely unrefined and unprocessed. It's about cooking meals that are packed with nutrients and completely delicious. It is a simple way of eating that creates the flavours you love, naturally. It is not about depriving yourself and allows you to cook indulgent, healthy meals that taste incredible and make you feel great in body and mind.

Are there any food groups/types that you avoid?

Yes. I don't eat meat, sugar, dairy or gluten! These foods are all very acidic and inflammatory to the body - and for me personally, made me feel very lethargic and bloated. The difference in my mood, energy levels, and wellbeing when I cut them out was remarkable! Whilst this seems like a lot to omit from your diet - there are tons of natural alternatives; brown rice pasta, cashew cheese, almond milk, raw chocolate mousse, raw cheesecakes... The list goes on!

How has eating healthily impacted on you personally? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to it?

The impact eating this way has had on me has been amazing. I've never been in such a good place! A few years ago, I was incredibly depressed. I had been suffering with chronic eczema all my life and it had reached a point where it covered all over my body, was terribly painful and made me very insecure. The same year my eczema reached a peak, I caught a life threatening strain of food poisoning that took me off dancing and in to bed for weeks. When I returned to my dance training, I felt very weak, lethargic and undeniably depressed. I was at a turning point, I had to change something. Slowly but surely I made tweaks to my diet, and I kept feeling improvements. The first change I made was to cut out dairy, five weeks later the eczema I had been suffering with all my life had disappeared. A miracle! I then gradually cut out more inflammatory foods, further enhancing my health. This way of life took me from being down and depressed to utterly high on health!

How do you create new recipes? Is it a trial and error process?

The inspiration behind the recipes I make come from unhealthy foods I used to absolutely love; chocolate brownies, peanut butter cheesecake, burgers, lasagne etc - all with a Naturally Sassy twist! Yes, [it] definitely [is a trial and error process]. Most of the recipes I make have luckily been delicious first time! But I have had a few that I've had to keep on trying to make them just right.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

Yes! The first week I started to experiment with healthy food (about two years ago now) I tried to make scones with coconut flour and a tahini-strawberry icing. Let's just say they tasted like a mixture between sandpaper and marmite, honestly I don't know how I did it! My friends were all too nice at the time, but we still laugh about it to this day.

How do you decide which recipes to feature on your blog?

I really just post everything I love and know my readers will love too!

What are your three favourite recipes?

My gooey Vegan brownies , my raw Banoffee pie  & my Natural Nutella from my free healthy chocolate Ebook (available on my blog)  - you can definitely tell I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

If you kept a food diary, what would a typical day look like?

I love starting my day with a smoothie bowl , with a superfood addition of Aduna's Baobab powder  & topped with my Brazil nut, pumpkin seed & coconut granola  and a drizzle of almond butter . So delicious! If it's a cold day I also love a warming cacao porridge , and I'm obsessed with adding a little orange extract for the most delicious chocolate flavour!

For lunch I'm often out, so I make a big batch of quinoa, lentils, roasted sweet potato wedges , ratatouille & salad and add a mixture of them to a Tupperware with a dollop of hummus & some avocado cream !

For dinner I love my sweet potato & black bean burgers  with a roasted red pepper hummus, I'm also loving my healthy asparagus & mushroom risotto with a cashew-lemon cream .

If my sweet tooth kicks in I love making my healthy raw chocolate from my free chocolate Ebook, which literally takes five minutes to make. I also snack on dates stuffed with almond butter, berry smoothies, green juices  and my banana muffins .

Which ten ingredients do you use most often?

Sweet potato, almond butter, coconut oil, quinoa, avocado, lemons, cacao powder, medjool dates, tahini and cashews. I'm a little too obsessed with all of them!

What five things are always in your fridge?

Hummus, brown rice/almond milk, leafy greens, coconut yoghurt and berries.

Where are your favourite places to buy ingredients?

I love Planet Organic and Wholefoods.

Which three kitchen appliances could you not live without?

My Vitamix, My magimix food processor & my spiralizer. I don't know what I'd do without them.

Where are your favourite places to go when eating out?

I have a whole section on my blog called City Guides, dedicated to my favourite healthy restaurants in London, LA and NYC. I think my all time favourites in London are Wild Food Cafe, Mildreds & The Good Life Eatery.

What advice would you give to those considering a healthier lifestyle?

Get creative! The stigma with healthy eating is that it can be really bland, boring and hard to maintain. But in fact, it is anything but! You can make everything from chocolate mousses, banoffee pie and chocolate tarts to lasagne, currys and pizza - all completely healthy and natural. You just have to be open minded, and be playful!

What are your favourite cookbooks and/or books relating to health?

I love Crazy Sexy Kris's two books, the PH miracle, Honestly Healthy & The Green Kitchen.

Who are your favourite bloggers?

Green Kitchen Stories  is my favourite blog and inspired my initial creativity in the kitchen. But I have tons of people that inspire me, that's the great thing about being a food blogger - I don't think there can ever be enough people promoting a healthier life!

What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?

Yes I'm excited to say there are loads of projects I'm working on. I'm in the process of starting Naturally Sassy energy bars and I'm also in talks for a Naturally Sassy cookbook! The next year should be very exciting.

For more of Saskia’s recipes and advice, follow her on Instagram at  @NaturallySassy__  or find her on Twitter at  @NaturallySassy_