Everyday Icon: Sarah Adler

Nutritionist and cookbook author Sarah Adler gives us a peek into how to make healthy, "real" food a part of our everyday lifestyle.

Image Credit: Carina Skrobecki

Today we’re thrilled to introduce our July Guest Editor, Sarah Adler; she’s the one-woman show behind Simply Real Health, a healthy lifestyle company on a mission to educate, teach and inspire others to live their happiest and healthiest life. She’s a nutrition coach, healthy lifestyle expert, food blogger and a real food lover—our kind of girl. And recently turned author, too, as her first cookbook hit stands this past March. But Sarah is foremost an advocate for embracing life’s beautiful mess and how eating (mostly) well can fit into the every day. It’s not all black and white in our real, authentic lives, she says - hard and fast rules need not apply!

We chatted more with Sarah about her own relationship with food, the “gray zone” of healthy eating and why it’s so important to her that we all “enjoy good food and the good life that comes with it”. We loved her advice and hope you will, too.

Will you tell us a little about your career path? Were you always interested in food and working in health and wellness?

Yes, I remember, even as a little 7-year-old, being excited about picking my own healthy cereal at the store. I read every single book on food, subscribed to all the magazines, knew about all of the diets and loved experimenting with myself to be the healthiest I could be.

As I got older, my interest in being healthy turned into a bit of an obsession; I wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t healthy, or what I thought was considered “unhealthy” at the time. Fast-forward through my high school and college years and I soon realized that it wasn’t all about eating the perfect food. It was my relationship to food that mattered and if I was honest about it, it needed some work.

Because I had only learned about food through the context of marketing or through the lens of a certain diet, I was confused about food, actually—I had no real sense as to what to believe or not. I counted protein grams and worked out hard and watched my fiber and ate low fat. But I never really felt that much better than people who didn’t pay attention to healthy eating at all. Something was missing.

When I finally started to learn about real and unprocessed food, everything changed for the better. It was so freeing to not have to count or measure or pick food apart. I started to enjoy actual food more and not be afraid of it. My relationship to it, cooking it and loving it—everything—changed. So, it became my mission to help as many other people as possible feel clear, calm and excited about feeling great, but also enjoying good food and the good life that comes with it.

You worked as a nutritionist before going out on your own as a consultant and author. What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about healthy eating and nutrition?

Oh, there are so many and all of them false. Are you ready for the list? That it doesn’t taste great, it's restricting and hard to do when you’re eating out or busy, that you have to know how to cook (or it takes too much time to cook), that it’s more expensive and that there is one right way to eat. The biggest one that I have to coax people into is that “healthy food” is the same thing as real food. By eating healthy food, you’re getting an upgrade in taste and quality of life, not the other way around.

What are three simple (diet/health/wellness ) tools or steps we can integrate that will have the biggest impact on our long-term health?

  • Read the ingredient label first and ignore nutrition facts! It should be simple, clean and easy to pronounce every ingredient… and not take you a full two minutes to do.

  • Eat a big serving of veggies at least once a day. Bonus points if you can do this at every meal.

  • Upgrade your ingredients for anything you choose to eat—ice cream, cookies and cocktails included! There is a way to have or make almost anything you want in “real food” form and your body will always be able to digest it better.

Here at Clementine we try to embrace the beauty of spontaneity; what is your go-to recipe for a last minute gathering or dinner party?

Easy. The Lentil Basil + Feta Salad from my cookbook. It’s my go-to every single time.

It’s a no-cook dish that can easily be made ahead and is perfect as an appetizer when served with veggies, olive oil potato chips or organic corn chips to dip. If you have any leftover after the party (which I have never seen happen), it’s perfect the next day over salad greens or with grilled chicken.

There has been a trend in "clean eating" lately that can venture to extremes. What are your thoughts on these movements and how they are impacting our habits?

I’m so glad you brought this up. It’s HUGE. Any plan or set diet with “yes foods” and “no foods” and rules to follow—well, if we are honest about it, that’s what we all love. We, as humans, tend to gravitate towards set plans and rules because they tell us exactly what to do and not to do. It’s very black and white.

It takes the thought out of it, which I think is actually the most dangerous part. We start to rely on those external rules (which are trendy and fleeting) instead of paying attention to our own bodies—especially if we’re in a phase of trying to “be good” about our food.

The problem is that none of those diets or plans factor in our real daily life in an easy way and more importantly, the joyful, fun celebratory parts of life we all want to participate in: the dinners, the birthdays, the travel, the holidays, the last minute spontaneous nights in or out with great people. Enjoying great food and conversation and life. And since those things are not on the plan (Wine! Coffee! Chips! Dessert!), we say screw it. And we have some (or all) of those things.

Then we feel it the next day; physically, yes, but even more so in guilt. And we tell ourselves it’s back to the plan…until it happens again a few days or a week later. It ends up being this vicious cycle: bouncing back and forth between being really good and really bad, which causes us to have a terrible relationship with food, which is why most people start dieting to begin with.

The best solution is learning how to navigate daily life in that gray zone. That’s where the joy, freedom and fun with food lives and how we create a more fulfilling life. All of that starts with learning about real food and tuning in to your own body, instead of jumping on the latest bandwagon. It’s not the easiest way out, but it will make all the difference in the world and actually save you a lot of time, money and hassle in the long-term.

What are 5 pantry staples we should all have on hand?

  1. Dijon mustard (make a homemade dressing in 30 seconds flat with Dijon, olive oil, any vinegar of your choice, sea salt and pepper)

  2. Extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil or grass fed butter (take your veggies, meat and even coffee to the next level with these tasty and healthy fats)

  3. Roasted sea salt sunflower seeds or sesame seeds (great on all salads, ground up into flour, sprinkled over avocados or as a great crunchy soup topping)

  4. Flaky crunchy sea salt for topping on any dish

  5. A can of white beans or steamed lentils (a great quick protein option for salads, make ahead dishes, or to puree for your own easy dips)

We would love to know: what are you having for dinner?

I am actually doing my Summer Meal Plan with everyone this season—so tonight is the Sunflower Summer Salad (chopped radishes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, avocado, carrot, green onion, mint, parsley, lemon and sunflower seeds) over butter lettuce with a tarragon-butter grilled salmon. All of it took me 20 minutes to prep and make and now I also have lunch ready to go for tomorrow, too! For dessert, I’m really into the Coconut Bliss coconut ice cream with fresh berries at the moment.

p.s. Want some more tips on simple, "real" eating? Be sure to check out our stash of Weekly Recipes.