Interview with Emily Davidson: Author of 101 Tips: Eating Healthy, Naturally

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When I first heard of Emily from her dad I was pretty impressed. Just like the rest of us, Emily fell into your typical College eating routine. She began feeling ill and figured out it must be her eating habits. Instead of just talking about it, Emily researched and created a way of life and healthy eating that turned everything around. She has now chosen to share it with us through her book: 101 Tips: Eating Healthy Naturally. The book is an easy way to learn about and adapt holistic eating habits. The book is incredibly easy to read and holds tons of valuable (and accurate) information and easy tips that can get anyone on the right track.

Here’s what she told us when we caught up with her.

Have you always been a healthy eater or was there a catalyst in your life that caused a change in you?

I lived the first 18 years of my life following a standard American diet. I wasn’t eating fast food for every meal, but my diet was full of refined carbohydrates, sugar, and not nearly enough vegetables. I chose to adopt a vegetarian diet for moral reasons when I was 15, although that only meant that I replaced meat with highly-processed vegetarian junk food. I hit rock bottom during my first semester of college. I gained over ten pounds and watched my overall health deteriorate. I had no energy, I was constantly run-down, and I developed chronic digestive problems. I felt awful and decided I needed to reassess the foods I was putting my body.

Are you dedicating yourself to nutrition education full time or are you involved in other fields?

I am actually a pre-professional cello player, so the study of music is my main focus. However, I find that following a healthy diet is absolutely essential to living a balanced and happy life, regardless of your profession. While I’m not a full time health educator, I consider living a healthy lifestyle one of my top priorities.

When did you decide to write the book?

I decided to write the book during the summer of 2008, when I got approved as a freelance writer with the LifeTips publishing company. I had already been blogging and advising on healthy eating for about two years at that point. Many of my readers wanted a basic run-down of what I defined as a healthy diet since my approach is more natural and holistic and less mainstream. LifeTips has a “101 Tips” book series that served as a perfect way to outline my philosophy in a simple, easy-to-read format.

Had you written a book before and did you find it difficult to get the book published?

This is my first book. Since I wrote it specifically for the LifeTips publishing company, I didn’t have to seek out a publisher after I had completed it.

What do you think are the most dangerous food items out there and what would you offer as an alternative?

I don’t often talk at length about the dangers of fast food, junk food, or decadent desserts because most people know these things are unhealthy. I think the real problem is with the foods so many families eat on a regular basis that are harmful to health or devoid of nutrients. A big one is all the “white” foods: white bread, white pasta, and white rice. These are all made from grains that have been heavily processed and had the most nutritious part of the grain removed. Not only do these foods offer no health benefits, but they basically convert as sugar into the body, sparking an insulin response and weakening the immune system. White bread can be replaced with sprouted grain bread, which is nutritionally superior to white or whole wheat bread. White pasta can be replace with 100% whole wheat pasta or pasta made from alternative grains like buckwheat or spelt. White rice can be replaced with brown rice or other grains like quinoa or kasha (toasted buckwheat). But beyond finding healthy replacements, I like to encourage my clients to step away from a carb-focused diet and try replacing these foods with more servings of vegetables.

Another dangerous food is conventionally-raised meat. Most meat in America comes from cattle that are confined in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, fed a diet that is unnatural for the animals, and injected with hormones and steroids. This makes for a very unhealthy product for the consumer. Your meat is only as healthy as the animal it came from. If you choose to eat meat, I strongly emphasize organic and grass-fed.

What are five foods that everyone should introduce into their diets?

Dark, leafy greens are essential for optimal health. They’re an outstanding source of a number of vitamins and minerals while being very low in calories. Kale, swiss chard, spinach, and collard greens are all great options. Dark lettuces and baby greens work, too. Raw nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats and a number of vitamins. Raw almonds, cashews, pecans, and pumpkin seeds make a superior snack to highly-processed, sugar-laden granola bars.

What are your thoughts on GMO’s?

While there is no conclusive evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful to health, I personally think they should be avoided. My philosophy is that a diet that is as natural as possible is the best for all aspects of health. I really believe that we as humans tend to worsen our food when we complicate it. Unnatural, man-made substances like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners have all proved to be detrimental to health.

Do you see a trend towards healthier eating in America? Is the culinary field working towards this as a goal?

I think both the obesity epidemic and the enormous amount of chronic illness linked to diet are finally shedding some light on America’s poor eating habits. Healthy eating in general is certainly gaining more interest, however, I find many “healthy” diets to be very misguided. Conventional ideas put a large emphasis on calorie counting and encourage the use of man-made “diet” foods. Unfortunately, most consumers tend to look for convenience and familiarity, so they are enticed by imitation diet foods that are filled with preservatives and fillers to make it taste like the real thing. While the healthiest option is to cook from scratch with whole, unprocessed ingredients, many people feel they don’t have the time or the resources. This makes many people turn to convenience diet foods, which are too processed to be a truly healthy choice.

How did friends and family take to your new eating habits. Were they encouraging or did you find they made life a little harder?

Because I became interested in healthy eating as a college student, I was faced with a lot of challenges. College is probably the unhealthiest stage of most people’s thanks to buffet-style eating, late-night delivery orders, energy drinks, and lots of beer. When I cut out that lifestyle, it was definitely difficult to be a part of what my friends were doing. Many felt threatened or intimidated by the discipline it took to shun those pleasures, so there would be occasional teasing or interrogation. Food is also a huge part of social gatherings, so it’s hard to not seem rude when you don’t want to eat at the restaurant that everyone else does. However, as friends and family started to see my health improve and transform, they became intrigued. Many people started asking me to help them rework their diets or inquired about how they could improve a certain health ailment through the foods they eat. Despite the difficulties, adopting a healthy diet was absolutely worth it. My quality of life improved significantly when my health improved. I was no longer falling asleep in class, it was easy to wake up in the morning, my mental clarity improved, my outlook was positive, my skin was clear, I lost the weight I had gained, and my seasonal allergies, digestive problems, and occasional headaches all went away.

Can you give us a tip on healthy eating when dining out?

Avoid dishes that are heavy on carbohydrates. As I mentioned before, refined carbohydrates offer nothing nutritionally, and restaurant portions are huge. Pick a dish that has a strong vegetable component and avoid thick, heavy sauces. Salads are only a good option when they’re not covered in croutons, cheese, or heavy dressings. I always look up a restaurant online before I go and read the menu so I can be sure to make the best choice. Also, don’t be afraid to alter your meal. Do so politely, but remember that the restaurant is there to serve your needs. They shouldn’t hesitate to replace sauces or leave something out upon your request.

What do you hope people will get from reading your book?

I hope people will begin to see the connection between diet and health. Too many people focus on changing their diet only for weight loss. Eating a more nutritious diet can improve all aspects of health. I hope they see the importance of giving their body the proper fuel and as a result, don’t want to return to their old habits.

Is there a follow-up to your book in the future?

For now, I’m focusing on my music studies and not working on another book. However, I still regularly post on my blog, Healthy Eating, Naturally. I write articles, share personal recipes, and give advice to support the healthy eating lifestyle. I also do one-on-one diet advising.

What is your favorite indulgent yet healthy recipe?

That’s a hard one! I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen; cooking is a passion of mine, and I love coming up with something that’s as delicious as it is healthy. Raw desserts, made mostly from raw nuts and fruit, are rich and sweet while containing healthful ingredients. Here is my personal recipe for basic raw cookies:

Emily’s Easy Raw Cookies
-       1 cup raw cashews
-       1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
-       1/2 cup dates
-       1 tsp cinnamon
-       dash salt
1.   In a food processor, grind cashews to a powder. Add coconut, cinnamon, salt, and process.
2.   Add dates and process until dough forms a ball. Add a small amount of water if necessary.
3.   Flatten to cookie shape and cover with shredded coconut.
4.   Let sit in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Store in the fridge.

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Blanca Valbuena
I am one of the co-founders of FriendsEAT. Obviously, I love to eat. Other passions include A Song of Ice and Fire, Shakespeare, Dostoyevski, and Aldous Huxley.
Blanca Valbuena
Blanca Valbuena

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