Wellness expert Calgary Avansino shares her health tips with Rebel Kitchen and tells us how she Keeps It Real

We interviewed wellness expert Calgary Avansino to find out what her debut lifestyle book Keep It Real has in store, and get her top tips on how to stay healthy (NB: prepare to become very good mates with your freezer).

Calgary’s full foray into wellness came in 2013 when she left her full-time position at British Vogue to set up and establish her website www.calgaryavansino.com, which encompasses her tips, recipes, videos and advice for a healthier lifestyle. Whilst heavily immersed in the world of wellness, Calgary remains a Contributing Editor to British Vogue.


So, Calgary. Your debut book, Keep It Real, came out Feb 11th. Congratulations! Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect to find inside? 

Of course! “Keep It Real” is essentially a guide to leading a plant-based lifestyle and making step-by-step changes to becoming a healthier, happier you. These are not quick fixes and it certainly isn’t a diet (please banish that word from your vocabulary forever). This is about making permanent and sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle. I’ve got lots of handy advice including how to befriend your freezer and use it to your advantage, how to prep your food efficiently and how to get your kids involved too. My recipes are inspired by real cooking – they’re easy, simple and seriously delicious.

I want my book to be something that people can flick through, come back to every now and then, write notes on and photocopy pages.


Now, you talk about befriending your freezer. What do you mean by this?

Strange as it might sound to some, your freezer can be your closest ally when it comes to healthy eating. Half the battle is having the fresh foods prepped and to hand when needed. In our busy lives, this can become challenging. However, it’s crazy just how many foods we can freeze – from vegetables to soups, pesto to broth, grains to pre-made meals. The trick is in the prep. As long as you allow a little time (only 30 minutes is needed) for this, the rest should fall easily into place.


And what exactly is a plant-based diet? Does it require us to be vegan or vegetarian?

Not in the slightest. First of all I don’t think we should ever focus on what we can’t have – that just feeds an extreme all-or-nothing mentality about food. Instead we should focus on all the delicious foods we need to add into our diets. No matter where you are on this journey to a healthier lifestyle, everyone needs to eat more vegetables (i.e. plants). A plant-based way of living doesn’t mean you only eat plants – it’s simply about adding more of the right things (veggies, greens, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits) to your plate at every meal.

I don’t feature meat in my recipes. It’s not because I think everyone needs to be vegan, it’s simply that our attention needs to be on adding more vegetables into our diet. The truth is that I know many vegetarians who live on pasta, bread and cereal and that’s not healthy either. Forget about rules and labels. Instead, stick to eating as many fresh, real plants and foods as you can, and less meat and processed food.


What top three things would you recommend someone do if their health base is not where they’d like it to be?  

Firstly, it’s about reshaping your mindset. It’s about embarking upon a new way of thinking when it comes to what you put on your plate each day. When you commit to introducing better, real foods into your diet on a daily basis, you become less reliant on the ‘unreal’ options available (the ones filled with chemicals, additives and flavourings). Most importantly, you’ll feel better and proud of yourself for taking the steps towards a healthier lifestyle. It all starts in the mind!

Secondly, clear your pantry. Get rid of anything processed and sugary – this means the obvious items like crisps, soda, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, etc. However, it also means reading the ingredients labels to find the less obvious, but equally sugar-laden items. For example, tomato sauce, fruit juice, “healthy” snack bars, pasta sauces and flavoured yogurts. Ensure you get rid of temptation. If it’s not there, you won’t be eating it when hunger strikes. Remember, you are in charge of what populates your kitchen – so choose wisely.

Thirdly, it is about making little changes and sticking to them. Maybe one change per week or month. How about swapping cereal for an omelette, porridge or avocado on toast? Or having green tea instead of your morning coffee? Try opting for a Meatless Monday each week. Then, aim to try a new recipe or ingredient each time.


And finally (we have to ask) – what does it mean to you to be a Rebel?

To do what’s right for you, your health, and your happiness – not what the diet industry or big food businesses wants you to believe. Trust your instincts – real food has got to be the best way of life!

Find out what Calgary’s saying daily by following @calgaryavansino


Order your copy of Keep It Real here

To hear more from Calgary, you can get tickets to her Waterstones event on Thurs 18th Feb: https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-calgary-avansino/london-kings-road

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