7.26.18 | Photo Credit: Emilie Hebert


 

Health and wellness influencer Emilie Hebert may only be 22 years old, but this Louisiana-born gal has healthy eating and cooking figured out more than a lot of people her age…heck, more than a lot of people even much older than her. 

We’ve been following the food science and nutrition masters student and future dietitian’s Instagram page for quite some time now and we are obsessed with her mouth watering healthy food photos, simple recipes and cooking tips. And apparently the almost 63,000 people who follow her page, @emilieeats, are obsessed, too.

Emilie was brought up in a home where a strong emphasis was placed on healthy eating and home cooking, which southerners know isn’t what’s typical in the South. She was kind enough to let us pick her brain on how healthy eating and cooking her own food has played such a large role in her life from a young age. Her tips are simple and easy to apply to any lifestyle, whether you’re a college student or someone who is learning to cook healthier later in life. 

Read on for Emilie’s tips on getting started with a more plant based diet for better health, her tips for shopping on a budget, her own simple and healthy go-to weeknight dish and more. And moms, take note: her tips are great for teaching our own kids how to eat healthy foods, and how to get them involved in the kitchen while they’re young. 


 

AT 22 YEARS OLD, YOU’RE ALREADY SO PASSIONATE ABOUT COOKING MOST OF YOUR OWN MEALS. WHAT SPARKED YOUR PASSION FOR HEALTHY LIVING AND NUTRITION? DID YOU GROW UP IN A HOME WHERE THIS WAS A FOCUS, OR DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO THIS LIFESTYLE LATER ON?

I have my mom to thank for my passion for nutrition and living an overall healthy lifestyle. She cooked most of our meals, packed our lunches and encouraged us to be active. We were eating whole-wheat bread before it was trendy. My mom also got us involved in cooking the meals — I’ve been cooking since before I could reach the kitchen counter. Over time, I  started learning more about the impact food can play on our bodies. The rest is history!

YOU ARE PRIMARILY PLANT BASED. WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING TO SLOWLY TRANSITION TO A MORE PLANT BASED WAY OF EATING, BUT AREN’T READY TO DIVE IN AND COMMIT TO ALL PLANTS 100% RIGHT AWAY?

Start with one meal a day; breakfast is usually a pretty easy place to start. Think of a few go-to plant based breakfast recipes you can rotate through — oatmeal, smoothie, pancakes (freeze ahead of time for ease), etc. Then move on to lunch, then dinner. My meal formula is always carb + protein + fat + lots of fiber. You can’t go wrong when all of that is on your plate!

WHAT’S YOUR OWN FAVORITE PLANT BASED, EASY-ISH, GO-TO WEEKNIGHT DISH?

Most of my meals look something like my Black Bean Buddha Bowls with Avocado Pesto. I usually prep big batches of beans, grains and roasted veggies at the beginning of the week, and then throw it all together with a fatty sauce or dip. 

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 PANTRY AND/OR REFRIGERATOR STAPLES THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE ON HAND?

Spinach, bananas, lentils, tahini and quinoa.

WHAT ARE A FEW OF YOUR TOP COOKING AND KITCHEN TIPS THAT YOU’D SHARE WITH SOMEONE WHO IS JUST STARTING TO COOK MORE OF THEIR OWN FOOD?

My biggest tip for someone new to the kitchen is to follow recipes as written at first, to get the hang of different cooking techniques and flavor combinations. Then you can experiment on your own with anything you have in the fridge and pantry! 

YOU’RE ALSO AN ADVOCATE FOR COOKING YOUR OWN MEALS TO SAVE MONEY. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE TIPS FOR SHOPPING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET?

  1. Shop at your local farmer’s market or produce market.
  2. Stick to mostly one ingredient foods (bananas, lentils, spinach, potatoes, brown rice, apples, etc). Frozen meals and convenience foods can really add up! 
  3. Look for sales/coupons at your grocery store and sign up for the rewards program.

WHY DO YOU PREFER TO USE THE TERM PLANT BASED TO VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN?

I use both the terms vegan and plant based. I find that “vegan” sometimes has a negative connotation, so I might use plant-based in certain situations. Or in nutrition research, studies talk mostly about “plant-based” diets, not “vegan” diet (since a vegan diet could technically include Oreos, fried foods, etc, while a plant based diet would not). However, I like to use vegan most of the time to indicate that veganism influences my entire lifestyle, including what I wear and beauty products I use, and not just my food choices.

YOU GREW UP IN THE SOUTH. DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE’S A SHIFT HAPPENING HERE, WITH SOUTHERNERS LOOKING FOR MORE KNOWLEDGE AND RESOURCES AROUND EATING HEALTHIER AND LIVING AN OVERALL HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE?

I think there is a small movement happening, albeit slower than in some parts of the country. It’s hard for people to change habits so ingrained into them, and food is such a huge part of the culture in the south. There are a lot of people who want to live healthier, but there is SO much conflicting nutrition information out there that they get lost down a rabbit hole of endless fad diets, Weight Watchers, meal replacement shakes, etc. I try to create healthier versions of class southern dishes (like my reader favorite red beans and rice) to show people that you can have what you love and still nourish your body.

FAVORITE WORK OUT?

A solid leg-booty workout with heavy weights!

FAVORITE HEALTHY TREAT?

My vegan sugar cookies — I love classic recipes!

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