Calgary Avansino: Keep It Real
Contributing editor to British Vogue and international wellbeing expert, Calgary Avansino is an inspiration to anyone looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. Her website calgaryavansino.com is a hub of wellness tips, positive advice and tonnes of healthy recipes. She is also the mother of three children, and is a passionate advocate of getting the whole family to eat better.
Following the launch of her new book Keep It Real, we caught up with Calgary to find out what inspired her to write it, how she ensures her kids have a healthy diet and her favourite way to use superfoods!
What can we expect from your new book Keep It Real?
I should probably start by saying that what you won’t find in my book is dieting or deprivation. Instead, Keep It Real is about making positive choices as part of a sustainable lifestyle change. It’s not about changing everything in one go, but instead about making lots of little swaps and shifts in your own time, which all add up in the long run. It is about the benefits of plant-based eating, how to become more efficient and organised in the kitchen, how to use your freezer (it’s your new best friend!), what foods to buy and when, and how to get the whole family involved. Plus it has over 90 recipes that are guaranteed to have everyone round the table asking for more.
What inspired you to write the book?
My aim was to create an approachable resource that people could dip in and out of and always come away with a nugget of information they felt they could try in their lives. To me, it’s all about trying! Deciding you are worth trying is a huge (and should be the first) step towards a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. My book is not really a cookbook – that’s not what I wanted to give people. Yes, it’s packed with plenty of delicious recipes, but it’s more of a guide for people who want to implement healthy changes into their lives. Only a third of it is recipes and the rest is information and advice about everything from good grains and the evils of sugar to breakfast swaps and feeding kids nutritiously
What does your family eat in a typical day?
We are a mixed bag. My eldest daughter is vegetarian (her own choice) and the other two eat meat from time to time. We are a predominantly plant-based household, which means lots of veggies, fruit, grains, seeds, nuts and legumes – but we aren’t strict about “labels”; if something looks good to you, try it! What we eat really depends on the day but in any given week we will eat bircher muesli, avocado on toast, eggs with spinach, green smoothie, porridge or a savoury muffin for breakfast. Then throughout the day I’ve always got a bag of nuts and some chopped veggies in my handbag – great for when I am hungry or for when I am picking my daughters up from school. For lunch, I often have leftovers from the night before, or a hearty salad. Quinoa makes a great base for this, and if I have any beans or pulses leftover, I always mix them in too. For dinner, we tend to base our menu around what is seasonal and available. Broccoli meatballs are a big favourite in my house (you can find the recipe in Keep It Real), as is my vegan lasagna. My kids also love black bean burgers, and burrito nights are always fun – and messy!
How do you think we can encourage children to eat better?
As a mom of three young children, I completely appreciate how difficult it can sometimes be to get them eating well, but there are steps you can take to make things easier. First, kids do what you DO, not what you say. So be healthy role models for them! Second, clear out your cupboards to ensure there is nothing in there for you to argue about – remember, you are the one in control. You say what passes your threshold. If you haven’t bought chocolate bars or crisps then they’re not up for negotiation. Third, as I mentioned earlier, don’t give healthy foods ‘new’ or unusual names. Ice cream remains ‘ice cream’, even if I make mine dairy-free and refined-sugar-free. Muffins are called ‘muffins’, even though they’re savoury and full of veggies. Don’t bring attention to the difference, just make it your new “normal”. Finally, getting children involved in the kitchen is really key. Don’t try and do this on a weekday when homework is looming. Wait until the weekend – or your prep day – and then have them help you with specific jobs, get them talking about where the food is coming from, take them shopping with you and get them to choose a new ingredient to try cooking with. It will definitely peak their interest and food always tastes so much nicer in their mind when they’ve helped!
Do you have a favourite recipe using baobab, moringa or cacao?
Everyone has a weakness and chocolate cookies are mine, so I felt compelled to include a killer recipe in my book. These are decadent but contain lots of wholesome ingredients and don’t taste overly sweet. I usually double the batch when I make them and freeze the extras. It’s always nice to have cookies ready for a rainy day...
Check out the recipe for Calgary's Chocolate, Cranberry and Buckwheat Cookies and try them for yourself!
KEEP IT REAL by Calgary Avansino, £25.00 from Hodder & Stroughton 2016. Photograph © Kristin Perers.
COMPETITION: WIN 1 OF 5 COPIES OF KEEP IT REAL!
Calgary has kindly given 5 lucky Aduna Feel Good Tribers the chance to win a copy of Keep It Real.
Competition is now closed.