If you know much of food blogs and cookbooks, you’re likely familiar with Sprouted Kitchen. Sara and her husband Hugh collaborate on their gorgeous blog that celebrates whole food eating, along with fabulous photography and thought-provoking writing. Last year, they released a cookbook that is as beautiful as it is inspiring — to highlight the joy of cooking and eating whole foods. We’re honored to know these two, and much of our work has been inspired who they are and their philosophy.
I caught up with Sara here as part of our Healthy & Whole series. When Alex and I started thinking about changing our diet from processed and pre-made foods, cooking and eating whole foods seemed completely unattainable. We now talk to a lot of folks who feel the same. Where do I start? is a common question. Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous photos and recipes — even the most experienced of whole foods eaters usually started out taking small steps. Here’s Sara answer to, “How did you transition to eating whole foods and being mindful about the way you eat?”
I don’t blame my parents in any sense of the word, but my sister and I grew up in the generation of convenience food. If you didn’t like to or didn’t have time to cook, there was a meal to defrost just minutes away. We ate together and my parents promoted being active, but eating was more just something you did to get by, not necessarily enjoy.
Fast forward to high school where I became aware of my weight. I realized one couldn’t eat Doritos and those soft chocolate chip cookies from the lunch lady every day and fit into your teeny bikini and skin tight cheerleading ensemble. I got a gym membership and started eating sugar-free this, fat-free that, and diet labeled crap. I went off to college with eating habits that likely included more chemicals and fillers than my frozen meals of childhood included but I thought I was “healthy”.
In an elective Organic Farming class, I ended up working at the farm on campus. I was intrigued – shocked by what I was learning and how un-natural everything I was eating was. Ignorance is bliss, right? The farm was responsible for the CSA program of San Luis Obispo county and hired a handful of students in exchange for a big box of vegetables every week. Being the frugal spender I am, I made sure to make use of my “payment,” reading cookbooks, watching Food Network shows, and scouring magazines to figure out what you do with a whole squash or if romanesco is, in fact, edible (so strange looking!).
Working that close to the food you eat, ends up being somewhat of an emotional experience. I felt connected to the earth, seeing how it nourished me so directly; it’s like falling in love. I was all in.
My eating habits shifted, I was eating primarily plant based foods and farm fresh eggs, I stopped eating meat, I lost weight, I felt better and none of this was a sacrifice, I was loving it. Because I was passionate about this entire whole-foods/know where your food is grown/pet the chickens who birth your eggs/cook what you pick program – I fervently taught myself how to make food. I was feeding roommates, got another job with a caterer and nannied for a family who had me prepare dinners for them. Ironically, my colleges’ motto was “learn by doing”, and even if I had no clue what I was going to do with an English degree, I had ended up with an allegiance to wholesome foods and overall wellness by way of practice and experience. I graduated with poor grammar, but I found what makes me feel alive.
I am still learning, I am continuing to define what “healthy” means and what my day-to-day choice include outside of health and diet trends. There is noise around eating healthy, but my primary goal is to listen to my body and pay attention to what I feel like, when I am full, and to stay active. For some it is gluten-free, vegetarian, Paleo, dairy free and such. None is the right way, we all should subscribe to what works for us without a diatribe about one being superiorly healthy.
I am far from a perfect eater – I love ice cream and sweets and some mornings just feel like sitting with my coffee as opposed to going for a jog. When you polarize healthy and unhealthy you have no chance of building good habits. I still have to remind myself of this some days. It’s about moderation – about giving yourself grace, staying aware, paying attention and doing your best to eat real foods a majority of the time. You must allow life to happen and stay flexible so that your mental health and body image are well.
Eating is something to be enjoyed, not a battleground for right and wrong. I write and share recipes on Sprouted Kitchen to offer ideas for people wanting to eat a more whole foods based diet. Sometimes I have cookies or cocktail recipes on there. That is my real life. If I can provide a place to share ideas and inspire people to make a different salad so they don’t burn out on their usual, or offer recipes with whole grain alternatives or a vegetarian substitute etc., I hope I can encourage someone, somewhere to make small changes. The recipes aren’t tough or complicated, they’re practical, and that is how we take baby steps to taking care of ourselves. Small, practical, moderate, steps.
So here I am now – just cooking and sharing and eating and giving to people by way of food. All I can share is what I know, and I know that eating well matters. Take it from the currently salad obsessed, former Cheesy Dorito eater :)
Thank you so much to Sara for sharing with us! Check out Sprouted Kitchen for more.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.