This Nutrition Expert Wants You to Stop Beating Yourself Up About Carbs
For private chef and nutrition expert Sophia Roe, food is about more than nourishing your body with the "right" ingredients—it's also a way to connect people. To celebrate our annual Love Issue, Roe invited us into her kitchen to whip up Thrice Cooked Potato Cilantro Hash and explained why the recipe holds special meaning.
"I was raised by a young single mum, and as you can imagine, she worked constantly. Some of my favourite memories were when we would wake up early and make breakfast together," she recalls. "Food was the one thing my mum and I really shared. We're not the closest as a mother and daughter, but when we cook together, that's our bonding moment. She gets me; I get her. I always say that's how we're connected in the womb."
It's a tradition that Roe, now 29, continues with her closest friends by hosting a monthly brunch. "They know, 'Soph's going to make literally 15 pounds of this potato dish, and we'll all bring different toppings,'" she says. "It's been a fun way to come together. Food starts conversations! You find out so much about people and different cultures through food."
Watch Sophia Roe whip up Thrice Cooked Potato Cilantro Hash below and read on for her refreshing take on healthy eating.
There's No Such Thing As "Good" or "Bad" Food
If you're surprised that a nutrition pro recommends a potato-heavy brunch dish, you don't know Roe well. The foodie believes balance is key and says we need to stop talking about food in overly simplistic binary terms. "People who say potatoes are bad are the same people who say fruit will make you fat. At the end of the day, your body needs carbs," she says, noting that there's a lot of confusion about dietary balance. "Sure, you don't want a diet that consists only of potatoes, but just remember that whole foods are your base."
Talking about ingredients as "good" or "bad" also has a psychological effect. In her early 20s, Roe experimented with eliminating food groups and dabbled in extreme eating habits. "I was a fruitarian for two months and would stress before eating an apple," she recalls. Her most valuable lesson? "The second you look at a food and think that it might be bad for you, it's now bad for you," she says. "It's kind of like if I tell you that your outfit looks terrible. Even if you look amazing, you now feel bad about it. It's ruined. That's how I like to think about food—enjoy it and be kind to yourself."
If You Can't Always Eat Organic Food, Shop Seasonally
Roe admits that organic produce can be costly and tough to source, so don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, she says trying to cook with seasonal produce is a great guiding principle. "People might shame me for this, but I think eating seasonally is more important," she admits. "Let's be honest, not everyone can afford organic. Chances are if you're eating in the season, you're going to get the healthier, better stuff [that's] just picked and higher in nutrients."
If you're unsure whether it's crucial to buy organic, use her rule of thumb: "If you only get one thing that's organic, it's anything fleshy that has a peel like berries, apples, peppers, and tomatoes. If you're eating a tomato in December, we're not cool," she says with a laugh. As for the produce that doesn't need to be organic? "I'd say you can get away with citrus and even avocados."
Question How Food Makes You Feel
Roe asks her clients to keep a food journal to log each meal and, more importantly, how it makes them feel. "Writing down what you eat is cool, but at the end of the day, it's just a list of the things—it doesn't help you," she says. "What you felt like afterward is going to tell you more." Every night, she encourages clients to reflect on the food they ate and how it affected their energy levels, digestion, appetite, and more.
The point of this simple exercise is to get in touch with our bodies, which is undervalued in our society. "Some people don't know they feel like shit. Really pay attention to your body and you tell me: How does the food you eat make you feel?" she asks. At the very least, it's a moment of mindfulness amid a busy day. "It creates a moment to stop and think about what you're doing, which is so important." If the only lesson you learn from journaling is to take a moment to listen to your body, that's a big win in Roe's books.