Radio Host “Jim Kleefield” Talks With Chef “Ilia Regini” about Food, Healthy Meals, and more!
INTERVIEW AUDIO TRANSCRIBED:
Jim: Many of us, if not all of us, strive for a healthier body and mind. We have a very special guest who will discuss the importance of healthy eating. Her name is Ilia Regini and she is a certified health-supportive chef. She is the owner and founder of Healthy Nourished Body. She is going to talk about what she does and how to help you eat better and be healthier. Ilia, it is good to have you with us today.
Ilia: Thank you very much. Happy to be here.
Jim: I understand that before being a health-supportive chef, you were a foreign language teacher and are fluent in three languages. Which languages?
Ilia: Italian, Spanish, and English
Jim: Excellent. Now, let’s get more into what you currently do. What made you get into healthy food and become a health-supportive chef?
Ilia: Basically, what happened was since I enjoyed eating healthy, each meal had to be not only nutritious but tasty and flavorful. I would look forward to each and every meal. I decided that I could help others achieve the same.
Jim: That’s interesting.
Ilia: We do not want food that is nutritious but bland. We want a combination of healthy food with lots of robust flavors.
Jim: That’s a very good point because I try to eat healthy as best as I can. When I need some flavor, I need to spice it up a bit. Now, there are some people, like a family member who has food allergies who cannot tolerate various spices. That is an unusual case. For most of us, you want to prepare something that you are going to love to eat so you can have it over and over. Correct?
Ilia: That is correct. Nowadays, as we go through the supermarket there are so many diverse products to choose from. What a difference from 20-30 years ago! There are fermented products, probiotics, dairy, and vegan probiotics, there are all kinds of noodles, gluten-free, with gluten, made with rice flour, seaweed. I could go on and on.
Jim: Let’s get to the organic foods. I know a lot of people are trying to eat organic as well.
Ilia: Yes, the organic industry has pretty much exploded and everyone wants to eat clean. When you eat clean, you feel the difference in your body. You have more vitality and are more energetic. You’re happy in life.
Jim: I’d like to get your thoughts on GMO’s because I know there has been a lot of concern about that. People want to consume Non-GMO products.
Ilia: Well, the genetically modified foods are the creation of Monsanto. The good news so that in spite of Monsanto’s desire to GMO everything, we are now seeing more and more labels with the Non-GMO sticker on products. For produce, it is best to buy certified organic whenever possible. It will have a sticker with a 5- or 6-digit number beginning with 9.
Jim: Ah, nine, good to know. Well… you offer a wide range of services that we are going to get into. You offer Customized Menu Planning. Let’s talk about that.
Ilia: The client and I sit down and discuss what a healthy breakfast, healthy lunch, healthy snacks and healthy dinner look like based on that particular client’s health needs. Everyone is different. What is healthy for one person, may not be healthy for another. I need to find out if the client has any allergies to food and dislikes of food. Once that has been determined, we put together a variety of healthy and nutritious meals including my recipes.
Jim: Yes, recipes would be needed. One of the things that everybody struggles within today’s world is not to have the time to eat right. You are able to help the client out with having three balanced meals. Is that what you do?
Ilia: Yes, but to go even further, this service goes hand in hand with another service offered which is the monthly healthy market tour. I meet with a small group of people usually at the Organic Green Market in Hartsdale. It is divided into three sessions. In the first session, we discuss flavors and the nutrients you will obtain from the produce, we discuss the difference between organic vs pasture-raised eggs, prebiotics and how to obtain them through your food, probiotic sources, both dairy and vegan, grass-fed vs free-range meats and wild fish. In session 2, we discuss beans and how to prepare them, which brands are best, grains and how to use them including noodles and pastas. In session 3, we discuss the best-bottled water to buy, nuts and dried fruits and what good things we can get in the frozen food section. Finally, we discuss how to look at and read a label. There are some products sold in a health food store that are not really healthy.
Jim: How do you feel, let’s say about the Mediterranean Diet which I’ve been doing for a long long time. There are a lot of different diets out there but I like the Mediterranean Diet because it includes fish, little red meat. Is that something you would embrace?
Ilia: Yes, yes, the Mediterranean Diet is fabulous because it includes good sources of protein. You do not need to worry if you are getting enough Vitamin B12. The diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with a smattering of protein. The way I see it, your plate should be covered with ¼ protein and the rest with a wide variety of cooked and raw vegetables.
Jim: At a recent conference, the well-known Doctor Sanjay Gupta mentioned the importance of having a variety of colorful vegetables on the plate.
Ilia: Yes, eat the rainbow.
Jim: Eating through the rainbow, yes.
Ilia: Absolutely correct.
Jim: So… you support this?
Ilia: Yes, one hundred percent
Jim: Another thing you do or I think you kind of talked about is in-home personal chef service. Personal Chef Service at the client’s home…you do not deliver, that’s kind of unique.
Ilia: In the preparation of huge vats of food, it loses something. The flavor and texture can be completely different. People are looking for excellent flavor and textures. This is why I have decided to build my business around in-home personal chef service as opposed to delivery service. You know you are still getting all of your nutrients and it will be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Jim: So, when you arrive at a potential client’s house for the first time, what are some of the frequently asked questions you get?
Ilia: Questions like: Will this be enough to feed my family for a week, how much protein do you use in your main dishes, how long will the food last and Do I need to freeze any of it.
Jim: For me, when I start my day, I like to take rolls and spread some peanut butter on it for protein. If you are really on the go, this helps provide fuel. I am sure there are other ways you can get your protein, from other sources.
Ilia: Absolutely. For example, if you are vegan, we really need to know how to combine grains and beans. I often prepare Lentil Meatballs for my clients and serve them with a spicy Tahini Sauce on the side or another example is a Hearty Lentil Stew with root veggies, wine, spices and a handful of fresh parsley. I’ve had people say to me, “Wow, I never knew vegan and vegetarian dishes could be so tasteful.”
Jim: I understand that you also offer cooking parties? Do you get a lot of people coming to those?
Ilia: Yes. I do not have a brick and mortar at this point so I go to various houses where they’ll invite a group of people over for a special occasion like a birthday party or a special thematic party. We will work together on preparing a special menu. Sometimes, it is just me preparing everything and showing everyone how it is done. Sometimes, I have people that want to participate in preparing the meal. In June, for example, I will be going to a cooking party for a special birthday where everyone expressed a desire to help chop up the vegetables and learn the proper knife cuts. Some people just like to observe and others like to participate.
Jim: Do you stay mainly in Westchester or do you travel?
Ilia: My territory is all of Westchester, Rockland, Manhattan and Fairfield Counties. You probably do not know this but I am currently working with a publisher to try and get my first cookbook published. I have over 100 original recipes. What I did to make it a little different is I tweaked each recipe for a select group of diets such as Low FODMAPS Diet, Low Histamine Diet, Paleo Ketogenic Diet, Vegan and Vegetarian Diets. If you follow a specialized diet, the recipe will indicate which ingredients to swap out.
Jim: When people see this cookbook for the first time, I am sure they will at some point come to a chapter site and say, that’s me, I think I’m going to give that a try and see if this helps me in some way.
Jim: You talked earlier about eating certain foods according to the seasons.
Ilia: Yes, that is correct. You want to try to eat what is in season instead of having food that is out of season shipped from someplace far away. We are just finishing with the winter season so you will not find as many root vegetables such as turnips and rutabagas in the stores. Now that we are approaching spring, it is a renewal period or cleansing period. We tend to eat lighter. We see asparagus and artichokes pop up which are more cleansing.
Jim: Your body needs this transition period from the cold winter months to the spring season. You are now reviving, refreshing and renewing, the three R’s of health.
Ilia: Yes, exactly.
Jim: Now, you mentioned you have three Master’s degrees. Can we get into a little more about that? You have a Master’s degree is Integrative Health and Healing. How does that tie in with you being a chef?
Ilia: My long-term goal is to have a spa-like center where there would be room to do yoga, a room with a sauna, a room for reflexology, a room where people could gather to learn how to cook healthy and maybe stay overnight. I am also a certified yoga instructor and last summer, I studied reflexology. Since I was a teenager, there always was a seed planted in my mind about having a building that would be a healing center.
Jim: This reminds me of the Socrates quote: “Sound Mind, Sound Body” What you do is to try to balance everything through a yoga practice combined with proper eating. Since too much stress causes a release of cortisol, you minimize the stress through yoga but also in the way you eat on a daily basis. Correct?
Ilia: Yes, correct, and it’s amazing that a lot of people do not realize that they’re carrying all this stress around with them. It needs to be released. When you are very tense, for example, there are little techniques that you can do. When you wake up in the morning, for example, you can give yourself a self-massage, work the meridians on the bottom of the feet, take a nice shower and make yourself a nice cup of tea.
Jim: Amazing. I mean you really feel different when listening. I’ve had, let’s say, some muscle issues. I like to work out a lot. A friend suggested I take an Epsom Salt Bath. It is very hard to help alleviate muscle tension and pain. It did help, I think.
Ilia: Yes, yes, Epsom Salts are very soothing and if you have the luxury of having a whirlpool bath, soak in it, that is also a wonderful way to relax.
Jim: In the few minutes we have remaining, we want to get into your website here. It is healthynourishedbody.com, I believe.
Jim: Let’s talk about what someone will see on the website when they go onto it for the first time.
Ilia: Basically, they are going to see the different services offered. If they scroll down the pages, they are going to see many of the photos of the dishes I prepare. There is a blog as well that is quite interesting. There is a lot of interesting information within the site.
Jim: How did it all get created?
Ilia: I’d have to say little by little. When I was a teacher, for example, I just got a paycheck every two weeks. But when you opt to be an entrepreneur, it takes a lot of guts, time and effort. It takes years to get everything in place. It was like putting together a gigantic puzzle. You know you have some of the pieces but to get all, takes much determination. I needed to get all my social media in order like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the website.
Jim: Well, thank you very much for sharing all of this with us this morning.
Ilia: My pleasure Jim.
Jim: Again, this is Ilia Regini, her business is Healthy Nourished Body.