Emily Hope, New Zealand Nutritionist
Emily, take us through your philosophy with food?
After working in both public health and corporate nutrition in Auckland for a number of years, I moved home to the farm and fig orchard here in Marlborough where I currently live with my husband, our daughter Isabella and our Black Labrador Hank. I divide my time between looking after Isabella, working as a NZ Registered Nutritionist at Hope Nutrition and helping manage the family fig and feijoa orchard – Old Road Estate.
My nutrition philosophy is a holistic and non-diet approach to food, movement and wellbeing. I encourage people to focus on choosing whole, fresh and natural foods as often as they can to provide a range of nutrients that nourish the mind and the body. I love providing inspiration and motivation to people who are looking for healthy and delicious ways to enjoy nutritious foods. I also enjoy teaching others how to embrace all foods, how to listen to body cues and how to appreciate a mindful approach to food that encourages eating for both nourishment and pleasure.
What brought you to become a nutritionist?
It was more by chance actually! I grew up being very health conscious; however, I come from a ‘meat and three veg’ family so food was wholesome yet very plain but we always ate together around the table. Both of my nana’s were amazing cooks and bakers and I spent a lot of time eating foods they prepared too!
After studying first-year health science, I decided to pursue food and nutrition as my interest in food and health grew. However, I have a very different view of food and a very different relationship to food, movement and my body now compared to when I was a student. It has only been through my own experiences many years ago now as a teenager and young adult who segregated foods into good and bad categories, restricted certain foods and over-exercised that I have come to appreciate how important our relationship with food is and how there are so many ways to be healthy through food, movement and our thoughts. It’s just up to us to find out and explore what healthy means to each of us. It’s such an amazing feeling when you come to a place where you can accept all foods, love what you eat and understand how different foods make you feel. It makes me so passionate about nutrition and eating!
The food industry is such a massive machine with varying messages constantly being marketed to confused consumers. From sugars to fats, carbs to proteins, the trends of new “bad-for-you” foods seem to constantly be changing. How do you filter the junk - so to speak - and focus on long-term health with your clients?
I encourage all clients to listen to their bodies. It’s important to tune out the noise from external sources and to understand what your body is trying to tell you. This is involves honouring body cues (eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied), accepting all foods and learning to be curious about food to find out what foods work best for your own body. For example, just because your best friend feels best avoiding potatoes, it doesn’t mean that you will too! Honouring your body cues is a really important first step as it means you are listening to your body. If you are really hungry when you wake up, why would you skip breakfast? Or if you are really hungry at lunchtime and are craving rice, why would you not enjoy the rice alongside other foods such as vegetables and perhaps some meat if that’s what you feel like? If you are stuffed after eating dinner then why would you go back for seconds? Will you enjoy it as much as your first helping? Take some time to think about how a food will make you feel before eating it. Food is meant to make us feel better after eating than before so if you stop and think about a food and you realise it’s not going to make you feel great – don’t eat it! It’s a lovely way of eating and being. Of course, some foods are nourishing not just from a nutrition point of view but from a pleasurable point of view and if you enjoy these ‘pleasure’ foods amongst a nutritious wholesome approach, it’s absolutely not going to negatively affect your health. For me my pleasure food is dark chocolate and I enjoy two squares most evenings (when I feel like it!) after dinner and I love every mouthful.
What tips do you have when it comes to sourcing and preparing nutritious homemade meals amid our busy lives?
Eat with the seasons and make sure you have wholesome food available to you at home by making the time each week to gather/source/buy it. If your pantry, fridge and freezer is stocked with nourishing foods, it‘s much easier to whip up nutritious meals and snacks.
Making extra food for days when you know you will be super busy can also be a useful option. For example, you may roast a chicken and vegetables on a Sunday evening but pack up some meat and vegetables to make a quick chicken curry with coconut milk on Monday night because you know you will be home late. While the rice cooks, you can prepare the curry and dinner will be ready in no time! Having staples such as steamed brown rice in the fridge or roasted vegetables and a lovely homemade dressing also allows you to make wholesome bowls of food by simply adding some greens and canned tuna or canned chickpeas or even a free-range fried egg. I call these Buddha Bowls and they are my favourite things to eat for lunch because they can be made with just about anything and make use of leftovers.
But above all, don’t over complicate food, especially on days when you are really busy. If all goes out the window, scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast with a handful of spinach is much more nutritious than takeaways for dinner!
And for those who eat on-the-go a lot, any tips on maximising the healthy decisions we can make?
Choose foods that you know make you feel good. If those foods are vegetables, fruits and lean protein, try and choose an option that will honour that way of eating. Also don’t be afraid to say no to something if you don’t feel like eating it! I often pack my own snacks/lunch if I’m out on the road and carry them in a wee bag with a chiller pack to keep everything cool. My favourites to keep on hand are bliss balls, raw nuts, fruit and a wholegrain sandwich made with plenty of greens, pesto, chicken and a slice of cheese. And for some reason I love eating this sandwich whilst driving! It only takes about 15 minutes of preparation the night before or in the morning so one tip is instead of checking your phone mindlessly in the morning is to take some time to prepare food for your day ahead. However, there are also some places that I adore visiting just to eat their deliciously wholesome food, especially when travelling out of town. If I’m heading that way, I get so excited about ordering something that is both delicious and nutritious!
What are some ways we can re-adjust our nutrition intake after periods of over-indulgence - say vacations or the holidays - to get back to feeling like ourselves without taking on a ‘diet’ approach?
This starts with a non-diet approach before the holiday! Once you have learnt to accept all foods, then even on holiday you will learn to enjoy foods that make you feel great and to eat until you are satisfied (rather than over-full and sick). Of course, if you are lucky enough to try an array of foods on holiday and find you don’t quite feel like yourself on your return home, then simply returning to eating foods that make you feel good and give you energy is the perfect place to start. This will in turn lead to a greater intake of vegetables, fruits and less processed foods. It should also involve making time for daily nurturing habits such as moving your body in a way you enjoy, starting your day with a wholesome breakfast, increasing your intake of water and getting a good night’s rest. After a few days of looking after yourself in this way you should start to feel much more energised!
When it comes to pantry staples, what would we most definitely find in the Hope household?
Oh gosh, so many – I LOVE food! IN our house you'll always find:
In the FRIDGE
- Greek yogurt
- Whole milk
- Vegetables and greens (broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots)
- Bananas (sliced and in the freezer for smoothies!)
In the PANTRY
- Pic’s Peanut Butter
- Olive Oil
- Raw Cacao powder
- Coconut milk/cream
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Brown Rice
The ‘diet’ industry thrives on people’s failures, in fact it literally exists because of them - what wisdom would you wish to impart to readers stuck in a yo-yo dieting cycle?
Yo-yo dieting and weight cycling is more damaging to our health than finding a naturally stable weight that allows you to enjoy food, movement and a life you feel energised to live. It’s no fun living if you are starving and grumpy all of the time, just because you are avoiding certain foods that your body clearly needs to be healthy and happy! We are all different so it’s important to find a way of eating that works for your own body. I think segregating foods into ‘good’ or bad’ categories have created a lot of anxiety around food. Restricting so called ‘bad’ food only leads to cravings for that food, which then in turn will lead to a binge of that food and then consequently guilt. This cycle of food restriction – crave – binge – guilt is the very reason people have a unhealthy relationship with food and their body. Many people will accompany this cycle with excessive exercise/movement as a tool to burn off calories consumed from ‘bad foods’ which is almost like punishment. We weren’t created to exist in this way. We were created to enjoy foods that nourish us, to move our bodies in a way that we enjoy and to look after ourselves and those around us to the best of our ability. What is a much healthier and sustainable approach is to learn to accept all foods. To acknowledge that they all have a place but to understand what foods nourish you and provide you with the most energy and feel-good-factor! Normally this will lead people to naturally enjoy more wholesome foods as they provide the nutrients that our bodies need to function at their best.
Sugar is a huge point of tension right known the wellness industry, what are your thoughts on it?
I think the issue with sugar is multifaceted. If people are eating predominantly processed and packaged foods, then their intake of sugar will be high and that will negatively affect their health. They will also be missing out on other key nutrients as their high intake of processed foods will displace naturally wholesome and nutritious foods. I also think that being so obsessed with avoiding sugar is also unhealthy. Learning to accept all foods yet mostly enjoying wholesome foods allows you to enjoy a range of foods without depriving yourself. That way if you are at a birthday and someone has lovingly made a birthday cake with sugar, you can enjoy a slice (as it is one of the simple joys of life!) without that act negatively affecting your relationship with food and your body for the rest of the day…or week!
How can we gain more energy from the foods we eat?
Choose and enjoy foods that your body enjoys and that you know make you feel good. We are all different and so no one way of eating suits everyone. It’s up to us to figure out over time what foods work for our bodies and the foods that make us feel great. For me, my everyday foods that make me feel great are lemons, olive oil, peanut butter, sourdough, greens and dark chocolate! Of course, eating when you have time to enjoy your food is paramount also. There’s no point trying to enjoy a meal or snack when you feel stressed, angry or rushed. I have learnt since becoming a mum just to wait! That trying to sip away at a cup of tea while chasing a toddler isn’t that relaxing and it actually defeats the purpose of a lovely cuppa!
How do you incorporate movement into your life?
These days it involves plenty of walking whilst carrying my baby girl in a hiking pack and doing some much-loved yoga. But I also spend most of my time running after a busy child which is always fun! I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter what you do to move your body as long as you are doing something you enjoy! As long as you are moving and you love it, that’s the main thing.
Genuine health is a long-term goal and something we achieve over time - what are your tips for getting in that mind-set?
I think it’s about acknowledging the fact that great long-term health and well-being is created by a number of factors that we continually work on and refine as we learn more about our bodies as they move through the stages of life. Nutrition is only one aspect of optimal health. There is also movement, your mind-set and your relationship with food and your body to name just a few. We can’t be perfect all the time, but we need to ensure that we take care of ourselves (body and mind) by doing movement we enjoy, eating foods that make us feel energised and being kind to ourselves with our self-thoughts. The negative thoughts that play out in our minds after eating a piece of chocolate cake is more damaging to our health compared to simply enjoying a lovely piece of cake every now and again!
What can good, wholesome nutrition help us with?
Eating wholesome food helps with every aspect of our daily lives! It provides the nutrients we need to not only survive but to thrive. To feel energetic, to feel motivated, happy and joyful. I’m a big believer in the saying “It’s what you do every day that impacts on your health, not what you do sometimes”, so if majority of the time you enjoy nourishing wholesome food then you are well on your way to wonderful long-lasting health. If we don’t have our health, it’s very difficult to live a long and happy life.
What does your own daily routine with food look like?
I start the day with a glass of warm water with Apple Cider Vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Then I pop the espresso pot on while I prepare Isabella’s breakfast and my own for us to enjoy together at her wee table. I normally have brown rice sourdough toasted and spread with butter and with Pic’s Peanut Butter (and sliced avocado if available) and a Choc Nut Smoothie (recipe below!). It’s my absolute favourite smoothie. It’s so delicious!