What does it really mean to eat healthy? With so much misinformation, expensive fads, and greenwashing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And while some overachievers have managed to follow through with their new year’s resolution to eat cleaner, I personally needed a refresher. Which is why I spoke to New York City-based holistic nutritionistBianca Valle via phone to get the 411 on nutrition, snacking, and working out. Hot girl summer is on the horizon, after all.
What does it mean to be a holistic nutritionist?
A holistic approach to nutrition is really just a more natural, pragmatic approach. It involves the mind, the soul, and the body, as well as the subject; it would be irrational to think that your sleeping, your relationships, your environment, and your mood do not affect your health.
What’s something you wish more people understood about nutrition?
I want people to have more self-love. I really think nutrition at its core is the result of self-love. If you love yourself and you care about yourself, you’re going to want to eat foods that align with that, correct? People often categorize food as good or bad. There’s really no such thing as “bad food”—there’s just food that’s better, and why not always go towards what’s better for you? Why not always go towards the best option, whatever that looks like to you in regards to your resources and what’s accessible to you?
You have a nutrition hotline. How did that start?
Thenutrition hotline was born while I was in school—I did a year-long certification program here in New York City. I was posting about my schooling journey on my Instagram, and my community started to reach out and request information from me. I started getting questions like, “I’m having a bit of food sensitivity with beans—what do you suggest?” and thought that this was too serious for me to send them a few short sentences through Instagram DM. This is serious stuff, and I take energy and humans very seriously, so the last thing I wanted to do was give them a not-serious answer. So I thought: why don’t I open up a phone line where I can speak to people and see what’s going on with their health?
Anyone can message me to set up a 15-minute time slot on a donation basis. It started off donation-based because I hadn’t gotten my certification yet, so I didn’t think it was fair to ask for compensation. But once I got certified, I thought about how there’s so much information that’s not accessible to people out there about their wellbeing and how to take care of themselves, and that I personally wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was somewhat gatekeeping really valuable basic knowledge from my fellow man. My nutrition practice is two-pronged. If you have a quick question about supplements or you’re struggling to make quick meals, we can settle that in the 15-minute call. I also do more in-depth work for clients who are looking to transition to veganism or struggle with irritable bowel syndrome, et cetera.
What are some common misconceptions about nutrition?
To be honest, I don’t think there are too many misconceptions out there. We tend to avoid the facts, and the facts are that fruits and vegetables are the healthiest foods for you. Processed foods don’t have that many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Things like spirulina are cool, and if you have the time, money, and energy to dive into those trendy health items, then go for it. But to be healthy, you don’t need to follow the trends. The only idea I believe people should subscribe to is that there’s one way for humans to eat, and that is to eat natural foods from the earth. We come from nature, so we should eat things that come from nature and not things that were constructed in some factory.
What is your exercise philosophy?
“A little bit often” was born out of my love for movement, as I believe that movement is incredibly important for every single human. In this current day and age, we’ve really skewed people’s perceptions when it comes to movement—that it’s a means to an end, the pathway to being “desirable” or looking a certain way. When in reality, movement is so vital for our natural functioning. I’m trying to deconstruct the misinterpretation that you have to go hard, get abs, and run 18 miles a day when that’s simply not the truth. The reality is, if you just do a little bit often, you’ll be just fine. If you want it you should go for it, but if you don’t feel compelled to get intense abs, that’s okay. Exercising is simply another form of self-love.
What are some easy snacks to prepare?
One of the main questions people were asking on the hotline was, “I have a really hard time with snacks. I tend to lean into chips. I tend to lean into candy. What do you suggest as an easy, healthy alternative when I’m on the go?” Naturally, the apple came to mind because you can get an apple anywhere, and you can eat it on the go.
I love oatmeal—it’s very fast. I love boiled sweet potato with honey and cinnamon on it if I’m in a sweet mood, or salt, pepper, and olive oil if I’m in a savory mood. I love rice with kimchi. Lentils are wonderful. Whatever raw fruits and vegetables are in your fridge.
What are your top five easy-to-follow health tips?
- Eat real food from the earth.
- Shop at your local farmer’s market, because in turn, you will be supporting a small business and eating seasonally and locally. My personal opinion is that organic versus not organic is important, but the most important thing is to focus on eating real food first.
- Listen to your own body, not what other people are saying. I find that with myself and my clients, cues from the body show up as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, acne, headaches, and rashes.
- Approach food through logic rather than emotion.
- Take care of yourself. It can be as simple as establishing boundaries, going out less, or moving your home to a quieter place.