Dr. Williams: Melissa, you recently collaborated on a new lifestyle book, The Living Clearly Method, with Hilaria Baldwin. Can you share some kernels of wisdom?
MP: The Living Clearly Method is such a love project from my dear friend Hilaria. Her approach to life is one of such positivity, a gracious reminder of what is important in life. My part in the book was to help her create the featured recipes. These recipes are mainly ovo-vegetarian ones, with options to add in a little healthy protein, if that’s what you desire. Hilaria and I call each other culinary soulmates; we each believe in nourishing our bodies, our children’s bodies, our families’ bodies with the utmost care. That’s not to say there isn’t a little sweetness and indulgence sprinkled in, but the results the two of us have seen by eating the way we do is, without a doubt, are worth the effort! Our skin, mental clarity, and energy levels thrive when eating this nutrient-dense, plant-based diet.
Dr. Williams: How do you know when a client isn’t getting enough nutrients?
MP: In the nutrition field, we talk about nutrient dense foods. These are foods that give you the most nutrients for fewer calories. The most powerful of foods are whole foods or ones that are from the earth, not processed. When a client comes to me with complaints of digestion issues, I immediately ask them to keep a food diary. Most often you can pinpoint the culprit immediately, whether it be lack of fiber, an abundance of processed sugary foods, an omission of a complete food group like vegetables…these all create an imbalance in the body. What most of us casually overlook is that this imbalance doesn’t just cause digestion issues, but also low energy, skin problems, foggy brain, and more severe issues like diabetes, osteoporosis,… some cancers have even been linked. The saying, “You are what you eat” is an old one, but one that has stood the test of time for a reason. Love your body enough to nourish it with wholesome goodness, not just feed it to satisfy your hunger.
Dr. Williams: As a chef as well as registered dietitian, you’ve cooked and catered for many exacting customers and celebrities. Any insights you’ve picked up over the years?
MP: Most of my client work boils down to this: each one comes to me with a reason for needing my services and, while those reasons differ, the benefit of my work stays the same. Whether they come to me for weight loss, muscle gain, energy through a Broadway show, fighting an illness that benefits from proper nutrition, recovering from surgery, shooting a movie with grueling hours…the thing they all require is comfort though the nourishment of their bodies. The main insight I can impart is this – individualize nourishing your body. We are not all the same; therefore what works for me will not necessarily work for you. Experiment with eating smaller meals, with having a smoothie for breakfast instead of a full on meal, and with adding snacks so that you never feel that crazy-starving feeling that makes us ravenous and often leads to poor food choices. Figure out how your body works and believe in that. Every person on this planet is brought together with food. Take a moment for you, sit down and enjoy the love you are showing yourself by eating mindfully.
Dr. Williams: What do you predict will be the Superfood of 2017?
MP: I have been reading up on algae fats lately. I have a lot of vegan and vegetarian clients. One of the concerns for these two ways of life is supplementing Omega-3s. Until now, flax seeds have been the main supplement for a vegan/vegetarian to receive Omega-3s. The problem is that flax seeds don’t provide EPA and DHA, which are only found in oily fish and not made by the body. Algae is this incredible substance that is rich in both EPA and DHA, making it a perfect Omega-3 supplement for those avoiding animal products. I think with the environmental awareness occurring in our world, more and more people will be trying to adopt a meat/dairy free lifestyle. So, my prediction for 2017’s superfood is algae fats! Let’s see how I do with this prediction.
Dr. Williams: What is your favorite (but healthy!) comfort food?
MP: I would have to say that coming from the South I still love my Southern foods. Mac and Cheese, collard greens, cornbread, etc. Hilaria and I created a Vegan Mac and Cheese that we both adore and is kid approved. Traditional Mac and Cheese is chock full of saturated fat, calories and no nutrients. This Vegan Mac and Cheese is chock full of great fats, tons of nutrients and loaded with flavor. Recipe below.
For more info about Melissa, check out www.melissapetitto.com
Vegan Mac and Cheese
Makes 1 – 8×8 pan
1 pound elbow pasta, brown rice or quinoa, cooked according to pkg
1 ½ cups almond, cashew, hemp or coconut milk
1 ½ cups nutritional yeast
1 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
3 ounces firm tofu, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon salt