Get to know Take Root's founders! Here they share their eating habits, favorite snacks and a few tips they've picked up on the road to health!
1. How have your food choices changed from before, to today?
AILEEN: I used to eat everything under the sun without thinking about what the food did to my body. The food tasted heavenly but made me sick and weak. My favorite food consisted of fried chicken and spaghetti care of Pancake House or in the US a very sweet, battered and deep fried General Tso's Chicken, kind of like Bon Chon. Now I eat food that not only tastes delicious, but makes my body feel vibrant. I remember when my naturopathic doctor told me to avoid gluten and dairy seven years ago. It felt like my whole world came tumbling down. Now, I am not only gluten and dairy free, but I eat high raw vegan. My diet consists mostly of fresh fruit and vegetables during the day and cooked meals at night. During the weekends or when I eat out, I'll have a little bit of fish, and I allow myself to veer off my diet a little bit.
MONICA: In the past, I was most concerned with calories. I would meticulously scan food labels to make sure the calorie count was as low as possible and make my selection based on that. Somewhere down the line, I also started to consider sugar. Now, I look at the bigger picture and consider what a particular food can do for my health as a whole. I count nutrients, not calories. I know what foods will help me to look and feel my best (fresh fruit and vegetables, and other whole foods) and that's what makes up majority of my diet.
2. What's your philosophy on nutrition/ food?
A: You really need to find out what works for you, what food helps your body heal, be and feel the best it can be. And that varies from person to person. For me it took a long time, almost seven years of trial and error. I'm still not 100% at my best, but through diet and lifestyle, I see myself getting better each day. On this journey, I first tried cutting out gluten and dairy, but I still didn't see vast improvements. I also tried going paleo--eating more meat and vegetables and going grain free. That didn't seem to work for me. I then tried the typical raw food diet, incorporating dense foods. That didn't really work either. Then I tried a variation of the raw food diet called High Carb, Low Fat or the 801010 diet. This entails eating a LOT of fresh fruit and vegetables in their raw form. After six months of eating this way, I find my body feeling better and better each day, and my skin improving by leaps and bounds.
M: I follow Michael Pollan's basic tenets: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." I nourish my body with REAL, whole foods as opposed to heavily processed food with ingredient lists that sound like science experiments. I fill myself up with fresh produce and avoid tearing into store bought packages, as much as possible. I like to eat home cooked meals as opposed to eating out every night because I like to see what is going into my food and I want to use the best quality ingredients possible. As with everything, balance is key. Listening to my body and recognising it's cues - when I'm hungry, when I'm full, when I'm tired - has been essential to making my peace with food and living a healthier life.
3. Please share 3 top tips or eating habits that will ensure long term fitness for the regular or beginner healthy food enthusiast.
A: How far you want to take this is up to you depending on your health goals and the health issues you may be experiencing.
- Add a lot more fruits and vegetables in their raw/natural form.
- Remove as many processed foods from your body.
- Lessen meat and processed sugar.
M: Here are the habits that have worked for me and my health:
- Eat vegetables (raw when possible) with every meal. My personal rule is to cover at least ½ of my plate with veggies.
- Eat lightest at night and don't eat at least 1 hour before bedtime. When you sleep is when your body restores itself, so if it is busy digesting it will have less energy to repair muscle and tissue and other vital tasks.
- Never let yourself go hungry. When I'm hungry and unprepared, I end up eating too much and eating the wrong things. So now I make sure to eat complete meals and carry healthy snacks with me.
4. Ideal healthy meal for busy people?
A: A large, colorful, vibrant salad loaded with vegetables, greens, and some protein like chickpeas or quinoa.
M: I'm a health bowl enthusiast. A bowl consisting of a whole grain (brown/red rice, quinoa, barley or millet) a lean protein (grilled chicken, fish or steak), LOTS of greens and colorful veggies all tied together with an easy homemade dressing (olive oil and vinegar, lemon or tahini) is a simple, complete and nutritious meal. You can use whatever is your fridge and pantry and mix and match ingredients.
5. Any suggestion for a late night / midnight dish that's guilt free?
A: Freshly cut up fruit or a green juice. These are easy to digest and won't stay in your system too long. It's best to try to keep our digestive systems empty when going to sleep. That helps us regenerate ourselves and have the best rest.
M: Not to be biased, but Take Root's Monkey Brownies are the perfect midnight snack for me! They satisfy that craving (that we all have) for something fudgy and gooey, but are completely plant based! Made up of only 3 ingredients: bananas, coconut and raw cacao! So you feel like you're indulging, but in reality, you are getting a good serving of fruits and superfoods.
6. What do you stock in your pantry? (Do you eat organic? Any special sources of food?)
A: Take Root! I don't have too many shelf-stable items in my pantry as I try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as as much as possible. Thank goodness for Take Root snacks--I can have healthy delicious snacks that are plant-based, preservative free and packed with nutrients. I try to eat organic when possible, but I'm not religious about it.
M: We get a steady supply of organic greens, like lettuce and arugula, from the same farm in Cavite that grows our kale. We frequent weekend markets a lot (we have a booth at the Salcedo Saturday Market and Legazpi Sunday Market) so we load up on fresh, tropical fruit and specialty items like cage-free eggs, gluten-free bread and local yoghurt.
7. What do you usually have for your regular diet?
A: In the mornings, I start with a huge watermelon shake. It's literally half a watermelon blended in my Vitamix--no added water, sugar or ice. I then have more fruit throughout the day, and a salad for lunch. For snacks, I have Take Root Kale Chips, though lately, I've been really into the Take Root Salad Snackers and Cauli Broccoli Chicharon! For dinner, I have a cooked meal that consists of veggies and rice, or veggies and noodles. I do a lot of curries--Indian and Thai curries cooked with coconut milk. Yum!
M: My diet mainstays are boiled kamote with tahini, fresh salads with herbs, quinoa, grilled fish, local fruit, dark chocolate and of course Take Root snacks - my favorites are our Sour Kream & Chive Kale Chips, Dark Brownie Bliss Balls, Monkey Brownies and Banana Bread Granola.
8. What do you cook at home that's easy for busy people?
A: The easiest meal is when I don't cook! I cut up fruit and eat it fresh, or I cut up some veggies and have a delicious salad. Or, I open up a bag of Take Root kale chips. It's like having a salad in a bag!
M: My quick and easy go-to meal is a sunny side up egg and sauteed greens over some quinoa. Doesn't get much easier than that! It's filling too.
9. What are your top 5 health / lifestyle essential objects?
- My Vitamix. I use it literally 3 - 5 times a day. I can't live life without it!
- A trampoline! (see exercise routine)
- Crystals--I hold them when I meditate, and they are just very calming and grounding in general.
- Dead Sea Salts and Epsom Salts for Bathing--I have eczema, and these salts in my bath help me detox through the skin.
- Mason Jars--I love drinking my smoothies and water from them.
- My Nutribullet for whipping up everything from smoothies to hummus.
- A dry brush that keeps my skin smooth and glowy. It also boosts blood circulation and eliminates toxins from the body.
- Virgin coconut oil for oil pulling, which reduces bacteria in the mouth and helps whiten teeth.
- My probiotics and enzymes, which help improve my gut flora.
- A treadmill! Because it's almost always too hot to run outside.
10. What treat / indulgence do you allow yourself regularly?
A: Our Take Root Dark Chocolate Bliss Balls have been my go-to desserty/sweet snack for two years now. Lately, Superfood Grocer's Vegan Ice Cream has been my new obsession. I also love Cacao Nibs, though the other day I totally overdid it!
M: Dark chocolate. I've been avoiding dairy, which really limits me in the dessert department, but dark chocolate I can have! I like the really dark kind, like 95% dark chocolate, if I can find it. If not, I really enjoy Malagos' 70% dark.