The healthy food pros:
Samantha Pagan, Director of NYC Programs for The Sylvia Center
Kristen McCormack, Chef Instructor for The Sylvia Center
Theresa Morelli, Chef Instructor for The Sylvia Center
Have you always been a healthy eater?
SP: I’ve always enjoyed fruits and veggies, however when I was a kid there was a point in my family life when we couldn’t afford fresh items regularly. As I got older there were a few life events that really shaped my relationship around food and my health, and how they coincide with one another. I went on to study at Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and have worked in the health and culinary field since graduating in 2011.
KM: I think I have always been a relatively “healthy eater”. I think what has changed is my knowledge of what better serves my body over the years. After I retired from professional basketball, I realized I had some major digestive issues from all the years of over doing it on animal protein and dairy, etc. So with the times, and gaining knowledge and awareness, I have continued to become healthier.
TM: As a kid, I was extremely picky! I lived on peanuts, raisins, and cinnamon toast. I did cook from scratch with my mom and grandmother growing up, but it was really in college when I decided a steady cafeteria diet wasn't treating me very well. I started cooking healthier meals and inviting friends over to cook and eat together in my tiny campus apartment.
What's an easy way for someone to start eating healthy?
SP: Be kind to yourself and take the change step by step. You don’t need to turn your diet upside down overnight; start by identifying one habit you can change and work upward from there.
KM: A tip for someone wanting to become a healthier eater would be to pick your favorite comfort food or recipe and google healthier ways to make it. Also, another tip on portion control would be to wait 10-15 minutes after you eat a portion of something...if you still feel like you want more then have it. A lot of times you won’t because you have given your body time to absorb what you ate and start digesting it!
TM: Stir fry! I don't know a vegetable that doesn't taste good with the flavors of ginger and soy. It's a great way to use up the produce sitting in your refrigerator, and it's fast. You also don't need any special equipment.
What is one thing that is misunderstood about healthy eating/healthy eaters?
SP: I think indulgences are very misunderstood when talking about healthy eating. Like, if you are a healthy eater you must not ever be one to indulge in a piece of chocolate, or cookies, or a cocktail. Everything in moderation, unless it is life threatening, but the joy you experience around the food you eat is just as important as its nutritional content. Have that cookie, just don’t eat the whole box in one sitting!
KM: One of the biggest myths about healthy eaters is that they are extremists! Actually, the healthiest eaters for life are the ones who dont take healthy eating to the extreme. They don’t deprive themselves, therefore they never feel the urge to binge. They stay in control of their weight almost effortlessly because they aren’t overthinking it.
TM: That we're constantly focused on the health benefits of the meal. I rarely think about that - I'm content knowing that I eat a wide range of foods. To me, the best part of eating "healthy" is that there's so much variety on the plate. I would be so bored eating the same pizza and fries all the time.
What's your favorite thing about healthy eating/cooking?
SP: For me, it's taking all I've learned about healthy cooking and healthy eating and sharing it with the participants in our classes with The Sylvia Center. Making changes to our eating habits can be intimidating, but when you have the opportunity to work with someone who has gone through those changes and can share those experiences, it becomes less intimidating and you can start to have fun with it. I like to think the more fun you have around creating healthy dishes, the more likely you are to keep them in rotation in your own home.
KM: My favorite thing about healthy eating/cooking is to reinforce that healthy can be delicious. I love playing around with recipes and substituting healthier ingredients, along with making them taste just as good if not better than the original version. I love a good challenge!
TM: The variety! There isn't an ethnic dish or spice or ingredient I haven't sought out and tried. My husband and I experiment with weekend cooking projects - dumplings, chili, bread, masala, kimchi, dosa, sushi. Just being in the kitchen is the most enjoyable way to spend time.
Photos by ©Amanda Gentile