I had the privilege of meeting Alisa Fleming several weeks ago at the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo. The author of Go Dairy Free, an absolutely essential guide for anyone living without dairy, Alisa is an authority on dairy-free cooking and healthy living in general. She also authors Alisa Cooks, a blog chock-full of recipe inspiration. Be sure to check out both her blog and her book for oodles of helpful information. Now, onto the interview…
What Alisa Eats
My/my family’s breakfast is usually something along the lines of: A big smoothie, a homemade nut butter blend on some sort of vessel (whole grain bread, brown rice cake, sliced apple), homemade sausage and roasted vegetables, or brown rice with some add-ins.
If I’m hungry for a mid-morning snack, I usually reach for: I usually have two of the above before noon, one is my initial breakfast, and the other is a mid-morning snack. So this is rarely an “if” question for me!
I load my lunch plate with: Greens, avocados, grated carrots, seasonal chopped veggies, a protein, and a generous amount of homemade salad dressing. I love jumbo salads for lunch.
I never go a day without eating this: Nut butter.
In the afternoon, I nibble on: Cookies! An apple when I run out of cookies, which unfortunately is all too often.
Dinner is usually something like: Stir fry or meat with a heap of veggies.
My 3 “desert island” foods (foods I couldn’t live without): Bananas, broccoli, and nut butter.
A food that I used to not like but have grown to love: Avocados.
My ingredient obsession these days: Coconut oil.
How Alisa Lives
Location: Bellingham, WA
My days start out with: A big cup of tea and breakfast while reading emails.
An average day for me looks like this: Since I work at home, the order of how I do things varies from day to day. But in a day, I will drink about 5 or 6 pots of herbal tea, get up to eat about a dozen times, go for a walk, attempt to motivate for a workout (usually weights, yoga, or plyometrics), trial one or two recipes, field about 100 emails, write a story or two or three (yeah, I work too), do a product review, work on my next books, and there seems to be some cleaning/organization and business tasks to get done just about every day.
When I’m feeling stressed I: Do puzzles, play with our cat, or go for a walk.
Top 3 healthy habits I try to keep every day:
1) A good walk with my husband (at least 2 miles, and usually with some hill action). Even if I don’t have time for a full-blown workout, I at least keep myself moving when we do our daily walk.
2) Make the bed. This mentally helps me start my day and helps get me in the mindset to keep things picked up and organized as the day progresses. When you work from home, it can be easy to roll out of bed and simply be lazy throughout the day.
3) Have at least one meal, hopefully two, that is packed with veggies. I love vegetables, and if they were simply placed in front of me, I’d be happy to nosh on them all day. But I get busy, and we eat out or travel sometimes, making it easy to reach for more convenience. To make sure I get enough, I make a conscious effort to have at least one meal a day that is very vegetable focused.
In my spare time I like to: Go hiking and grocery shop. Both are leisurely activities that I enjoy with my husband – yes, we both LOVE grocery and deal shopping.
Favorite food: If we are talking about food types here, I love Asian food. Could eat it every day. Sushi tops that list, but I love Japanese food in general, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. I just love the various flavors and preparations used in Asia. I feel so fortunate that almost all of it is dairy-free!
Favorite cookbook: I really can’t pick just one. I jump around from book to book depending on my mood. But right now I am enjoying learning a bit from an enormous cookbook that some friends gave to us called The Food of China.
Favorite place to visit: Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
Favorite pastime: Baking.
Favorite form of exercise: Hiking.
Favorite song, artist, or type of music: Like most people, I like a wide range of music, but am still somewhat caught back in the 80’s with a love for rock and alternative.
Favorite color: Blue.
Other Stuff About Alisa
When I’m in need of recipe inspiration I: Pull out older cookbooks or global cookbooks that offer different ethnic food ideas.
When I don’t feel like cooking I: Eat out! This happens about twice a week at dinner.
My favorite place to pick up plates, napkins, and other fun tableware is: World Market.
To treat myself I: Bake cookies.
To relax I: Do some stretching/light yoga.
Alisa’s Tips and Tricks
Time-saving kitchen tip: Get a spice/coffee grinder for everyday use. They’re cheap, and allow you to quickly grind up whatever you need in just the right amount. Lugging out, using, and cleaning a food processor can be a time-sucker. Spice grinders work in 30 seconds or less on so many foods (nuts, grains, spices, etc.), and only need a quick wipe out to clean.
Top 3 ways to eat well on a budget:
1) Shop the sales! Seriously people, it doesn’t take that much extra effort to plan out a route and write up some shopping lists to fengshui a grocery trip to a few different stores. We do this once a week and save a bundle (while getting good food) on staples and “treats.” Oh, and don’t forget the online sales too. There are some killer food deals that can be found online.
2) Price around all of your options. Though you can’t usually find coupons for produce (they do exist, I’ve had really good coupons for certain brands of melons, tangerines, and baby potatoes – even produce has brands!), you can still check to see which types of stores have the best prices on your staples, compare the farmer’s market, and even look into CSA’s or co-ops. You might be surprised who really has the best deal and quality.
3) Always, always, always check the organic produce section. Though full blown organics may not be in your budget, you might be surprised when you discover that your grocer may price some of the organic produce at the same price as the conventional, or even cheaper. We actually find better deals on organic produce than conventional frequently.
My motto for when life is busy and stressful: Hmm, I’m not sure about a motto, but I stop, center myself, and remember that this time is just a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. From there, as I start to move forward again, I guess my motto is one step at a time.
My advice for those just getting started on the path to healthy eating: Read ingredients. When I had to start reading ingredients to ensure I was avoiding milk in all foods, I was shocked at the labels in what I thought were healthy foods. Actually reading the ingredients (never mind the nutrition facts) was the single most motivating and educational factor for me toward a whole food lifestyle.
My motto for life in general: You only live once, better enjoy it while you can!