By Nadia Laws
When Sarah Wight’s energy levels hit an all-time low in university, she turned to nutrition for a boost. It was then it finally clicked: if she wanted a different result – better digestion, less bloating, more energy and clearer skin – she would need to choose foods that built her up rather than breaking her down. Now a Nutritional Therapist at Ocean Rock Wellness, Ms Wight also teaches seasonal cooking classes at The Chef Shop in Hamilton, where she shows novice chefs how to infuse as much nourishment into each meal as possible.
RG: Earliest or favourite memory centred on food and cooking?
SW: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t connected to cooking and eating with the seasons. As a child, my family and I spent summer holidays in Vermont. One Saturday, my mom took us to a Farmer’s Market that blew my mind. Later that night she laid out all her supplies in the kitchen and made bruschetta topped with beefsteak tomatoes, tossed fingerling potatoes in salted butter and then served fresh blueberries for dessert. It felt like an expression of creativity and connectivity to the ground we stood on; there was just so much environmental and human goodness behind the dinner.
RG: Favourite fall meal to prepare for friends and family?
SW: Cooking for me is influenced by the seasons and the idea that food can be used as a way to make us feel better. Amongst almost all researchers and defined diets, there is one similar value, and that is most people could use more plants! Plants provide vitamins and minerals to support enzymatic reactions that impact every system in our body, fibre to support the gut microbiome and anti-oxidants for anti-ageing – both inside and outside of the body. In all honesty, my kitchen skills are questionable, but the recipes and dishes I make are approachable. For that reason, my favourite autumn meal is a big arugula salad with roasted chicken and crispy roasted cauliflower, lightly toasted walnuts, red onion and a cilantro vinaigrette made in a mason jar. Rosemary roasted sweet potatoes on the table, too. I love to spotlight the forgotten beauty that is the vegetable! In my opinion, cooking for others and eating around a table is a lost art. Often what we are hungry for is connection.
RG: Go-to healthy meal to whip up when short on time/energy?
SW: If you’re looking for something quick, a frittata is probably the quickest go-to meal, and it takes 15 minutes tops. Starting with olive oil and sautéed onions, then adding in dark leafy greens and another vegetable; chopped zucchini or mushrooms are my favourites. The eggs are a brilliant source of protein which is important for lean muscle mass, but also to support other functions such as liver detoxification and neurotransmitter and hormone synthesis. I will always look for a small protein source and a vegetable as a base, especially when short on time. Our food options seem to either come from a farm or a factory, when in doubt choose the farm option.
RG: Philosophy, when it comes to food and nutrition? How did you learn that?
SW: Food is an important source of energy, and each person has different macro and micronutrient needs. Our genes play a role in it too, so adhering to labels and diets (vegan, paleo, keto) can undermine what our bodies need to function at their best. Not to mention our environment is always changing, so we need to be able to adapt and be okay with that. My philosophy is to stress less and eat more plants (but not exclusively!). Stress can affect adrenal function, compromise digestion and deplete the body of nutrients. It can be real or perceived, but the body can’t tell the difference, and the alarm bells (fight or flight hormones) go off regardless. My philosophy on nutrition is inspired by my ‘why’ which is: “it feels good to feel good”. Food and nutrition should be a celebration of health, so fear and restriction shouldn’t have a place in day to day dietary decisions.
RG: What advice would you give to others when it comes to balancing health and nutrition and a busy lifestyle?
SW: My best advice for busy individuals would be to remember your why, seek professional nutrition support for real solutions (instead of google and endless frustration!), simplify your meals and remember that no effort is too small; choices made often become habitual and rewire new neural pathways. Perfection doesn’t reflect a balanced lifestyle, but we are in a place where we have become accustomed to low energy, poor sleep and weight gain. These are all symptoms of a biochemical imbalance that nobody should have to settle for.
Roasted Broccoli, Cilantro and Lentil Salad
Salad (Serves 4)
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 box or bag of arugula
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
¼ red onion, sliced very thin
½ cup walnuts, raw
1 cup dried lentils, (soaked before cooking for 2 hours if you are sensitive, drain and rinse well)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. raw honey
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, zest and juice
½ tsp. sea salt
Cook the lentils as per the directions on the bag with a pinch of sea salt. While those are cooking, roast the broccoli florets in the oven at 375F for 15 – 20 minutes. Strain the cooked lentils and let them cool. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together or shake well in a mason jar. Now toss the lentils, broccoli, cilantro and red onion in the vinaigrette and add onto a bed of arugula.
The lentil dish (without the greens) keeps for up to 3 days in the fridge. Enjoy!
This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 edition of RG Magazine.