Last week, the team at Sitchu popped into our Surry Hills Headquarters for a turmeric latte and got to take a sneak peek inside The Healthy Chef where all the magic happens behind the scenes. We also chatted about food and health, and what I like to eat every day. We drank garden smoothies, feasted on sautéed kale and got the scoop on my go-to cafes and where I love to shop, as well as my tried and true wellness secrets.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be The Healthy Chef?
It began years ago…in my late 20’s when I was in Perth and right into health and fitness. I had just left the hotel industry to work as a personal trainer. On the side, I had my own catering business and wrote a weekly healthy recipe column in The Sunday Times called The Healthy Chef. That was the beginning and it just grew from there. My wonderful husband Paul and I moved to Sydney some years later and I opened my first café called The Healthy Chef, in Sydney’s stunning northern beaches of Avalon. I wanted it to be a place where people could be nourished and enjoy themselves. My café was also a local hangout for celebrities and athletes such as Elle McPherson, Megan Gale and Kelly Slater.
Years later, I sold the cafe and launched The Healthy Chef functional food range. I wanted to create the highest quality and purest wholefood, nutritional products, which would support my own optimum health and wellbeing.
Where did your love of cooking come from and how has it evolved, especially now when clean eating is at an all-time high?
My great Polish Grandmother was a big influence in how I cook, she taught me about the value of good food and the benefits to your body which shows through your skin, hair and overall health.
My style of cooking has always been simple, fresh and made from wholefood ingredients. I suppose I’ve moved towards a more plant-based wholefood diet because it provides so many benefits and I feel great from it.
What's one simple change people can implement to take a step in the right direction of leading healthier lives?
The most important tip in any healthy diet or eating plan is to keep it simple, keep it fresh and prepare the food yourself. You know exactly what’s going into your body and your body will thank you for it with endless energy, glowing skin and vitality.
I mostly follow The 80/20 Diet and stick to plant based wholefoods. Healthy eating starts in the kitchen, and for me it's a way of life.
With summer fast approaching, many people are focusing on improving their health and fitness. What are three ways we can kickstart a detox?
- EAT + DRINK GREEN. Keep your meals light and fresh, with a focus on green, nourishing foods such as dark leafy vegetables, superfoods and healthy fats such as avocados. Raw juicing and protein rich smoothies are a great way to get a concentrated source of nutrition.
- SWAP YOUR COFFEE FOR MATCHA. A cup of espresso in the morning will wake you up, but it also elevates cortisol, your stress hormone. Matcha helps to stabilise blood sugar and contains l-theanine, which is a rare amino acid that promotes a state of relaxation, supports the adrenal system and the way your body reacts to stress.
- DRINK WATER. It’s surprising just how many people don’t drink enough water. You want to keep your digestive system moving and rid the body of excess toxins, so drink plenty of water.
The five ingredients you cannot live without?
1. GREEN VEGETABLES. I always have broccoli, baby spinach and baby cos lettuce in my fridge. They are perfect for nourishing soups or green salads drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I also drink a green juice or glass of wheatgrass juice with lemon most mornings as it keeps my digestive system moving nicely.
2. AVOCADOS are great to throw into smoothies or to enjoy with a side of ocean trout or smoked salmon. Avocados are a wonderful source of healthy fats that do wonders for my skin and digestive system. The best way of eating them is simply cut in half and sprinkled with flaked sea salt.
3. NUTS + SEEDS. I always use raw nuts and seeds to make homemade nut and seed milks for my smoothies as well as the most amazing roasted almond butter. I make pumpkin seed milk for my matcha lattes and the high zinc content in pumpkin seeds are great for your sex drive!
4. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. A good bottle of olive oil is always in my pantry.It's my favourite oil that I can't do without. I use it liberally in my cooking, baking and over salads.
5. KIWI FRUIT is extremely high in vitamin C and antioxidants that boosts collagen and keeps my skin looking great! They are also low in sugar and high in soluble fibre which helps with elimination. Studies show that kiwifruit consumption for 4 weeks shortens colon transit time, assists with elimination and improves bowel function in adults diagnosed with IBS.
What recipe is on high rotation in your house?
Pumpkin seed milk. I love this pure nut-free and anti-inflammatory dairy free milk that is rich in restorative minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium and potassium that enhances libido and balances your hormones. It's perfect with my protein shakes and green smoothies as it supports my digestive health and won't cause bloating.
What is a healthy and tasty DIY lunch we should all be packing of a morning?
GREENS, PROTEIN, FATS. It's pretty much all you need as a basic canvas for a quick and healthy lunch.Lunch is either a salad or a protein shake made with frozen banana and berries.
Nothing beats a nourishing salad in a jar for a convenient lunch on-the-go. All you need are the below components to make a delicious and satiating meal – the combinations are endless. I like to transport my salad in Kilner Jars as many have these cool stainess lids that hold your olive oil dressing, which means no more soggy salad.
GREENS. Baby spinach, cos lettuce, rocket, kale, sprouts etc.
PROTEINS. Nuts and seeds, tahini, hummus, organic eggs, smoked salmon.
HEALTHY FATS. Avocado, extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, tahini.
VEGGIES. Carrots, broccoli, capsicum or other seasonal veggies you love.
BOOSTERS. Fermented veggies like kimchi or sauerkraut, tahini dressing, seaweed, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, dukkah enriched with turmeric, fresh grated ginger, raw chopped garlic.
DRESSINGS. Hummus, pesto, extra virgin olive oil mixed with lemon, vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and olive oil.
What are your favourite dinners that take 30min or less to prep and cook?
My Zucchini Linguini with Spinach and Basil Pesto from my cookbook Purely Delicious. It's 10 minutes to make and a wonderful alternative to starchy pasta and it has the added benefit of being nutrient dense and kind to the digestive system. I enjoy it simply with a little grated parmesan or my vegan style macadamia parmesan (blend roasted macadamia nuts, turmeric, garlic and salt) is amazingly with the pasta and hubby loves it! I also love my 15 minute ratatouilli or 20 minute spag bol that I cooked on the biggest loser show.
My style of cooking is always quick and easy so most of the recipes in my cookbooks are less than 30 minutes to make. I spent too many cheffing years in
fine-dining and I'm just so over labour intensive food prep, where all the nutrition is lost from the food. Fresh - Fast - Healthy all the way.
Three ingredients everyone should have in their fridge?
Green leafy vegetables are perfect for nourishing green smoothies, salads and soups. Avocado to simply eat with a spoon, smash over paleo pumpkin bread or create my low carb matcha dream shake. Homemade almond or macadamia nut milk to make into power smoothies, turmeric lattes or sugar free hot chocolate.
Your number one kitchen hack?
Chop and freeze your bananas. I always have a stash in the freezer as they add amazing texture to my morning protein smoothies! They also provide fibre, energy and magnesium. You also need a good knife for anything you chop.
I love my Victorinox knives as I've had them since I was an apprentice chef over 25 years ago!!! They've lasted for years and I'm in love with the classic wooden handle so your hands don't slip when you're chopping.
Your favourite snack when on the run?
The best snack is a quick power shake made with almond milk, ice and Healthy Chef Protein. 3 ingredients shaken up in my SportsMixer and devoured. You get a high protein fix, healthy fats from the nut milk and it's sugar free.