What I Learned From the Whole30®

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What’s the secret to living past 100? No sugar. At least that’s what health expert Dr. Leila Denmark used to say, and she lived to be 114. She practiced medicine until age 103 and she even refused to eat a piece of cake during her 110th birthday party. While a bit extreme, I think this woman was on to something. And modern-day nutritionists would agree.

The Internet has recently blown up in a fury of 21-Day Fix, Whole30® and Paleo recipes, and for good reason. These eating plans offer tangible results in the form of weight loss, clearer skin, sound sleeping and much more. After some of my friends tried the Whole30 and were happy with their results, I decided to see how this cleanse could help me and if the claims were true.

What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a month-long nutritional reset focused on the elimination of inflammatory food groups. That’s right people, that means you cut out all of the good stuff including dairy (my all-time personal favorite), legumes, sugar, alcohol and grains. Corn and peanuts in any form are also on the no-no list.

What Should You Know Going In?

The Whole30 is a major commitment and a time-consuming change. You must factor in time to do your research. I recommend purchasing the Whole30 book as a first step so you can really educate yourself on the method behind the madness. Additionally, it helps to pair up with a friend to make this commitment. I’d suggest partnering with a roommate or significant other; someone you consume most of your meals with to hold you accountable and make the process more fun. My amazing boyfriend agreed to do the Whole30 with me and I don’t know how I would’ve done it without him. (He had to talk me out of giving up and eating peanut M&M’s on a few different occasions.) He also cooked most of the meals due to our different schedules, while I was the planner.

That brings me to my next point…plan, plan plan. It’s important to keep your recipes fun and fresh so you don’t get tired of what you’re eating and fall back into old cravings and habits. Pinterest is full of creative Whole30 ideas and there are a number of blogscommitted to a Paleo/Whole30 lifestyle. Each week I’d spend a day planning out what I wanted to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner that upcoming week to set myself up for success.

Even grocery shopping is more time consuming! Get used to reading labels for EVERYTHING. This part of the experience was truly eye-opening for me because you really don’t realize how much junk you’re consuming on a regular basis until you open your eyes and read!

Lastly, the cooking itself takes time. Meal prep is a really important habit to develop. You’ll need to prepare what you’re eating for breakfasts and lunches during the week. For dinner you can either make a few recipes in bulk or cook easy recipes each night.

How Should You Stock Your Fridge?

As you begin your journey, you’ll want to stock your fridge with go-to healthy staples to make the entire process easier. While you’ll have to make the majority of your sauces, dressings etc. on your own, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do carry some of the essentials to make the process easier. Some of my favorites are below.

Wholly Guacamole mini packets will become your best friend. Not only are they easy to throw into a lunch, but they’re quite filling. I dipped carrots and celery into this guacamole for a satisfying snack.

TessaMae’s is pretty much the only compliant condiment brand. I recommend the southwest ranch and lemon flavors. There is also a date-based BBQ sauce which is great for grilling and the hot sauce isn’t too shabby either.

Tahini Sauce from Trader’s Joe’s is another great option for dipping veggies. It’s important to have a few different options so you don’t get tired of the food you’re consuming.

Hard-Boiled Eggs were one of my favorite go-to foods during this process. I could make them Sunday and have them ready for the week. They’re filling too!

LaraBars, while not my favorite snack initially, they were generally pretty filling and satisfied my craving for sweets, especially the apple cinnamon. Turns out the lemon flavor was pretty tasty as well. Just be sure you read the labels because not all bars are compliant.

What Are The Best Whole30 Recipes?

With such a plethora of information out there I was really excited but overwhelmed to find recipes I liked and didn’t like. I’ve included links to some of my favorites below.

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These pizza egg muffins were a staple item!

Where are the best restaurants to go?

It was very challenging to find enjoyable foods when dining out (contrary to what the book says). This was the most challenging part for me because my boyfriend and I are total foodies who love dining out. We pretty much limited ourselves to the three options below, but if you do enough research you can find compliant foods elsewhere.

Chipotle: Order lettuce with carnitas, tomato salsa, red salsa and green sauce. These are the only items not cooked in rice bran oil which is NOT compliant.

La Patrona: This little Mexican joint In Clintonville serves up some delicious fajitas. Enjoy them with just meat and vegetables, hold the tortilla. Top them with some fresh guacamole and you’ve got yourself a meal. Just be sure to confirm what oil they cook their meats in, especially if you visit a different Mexican restaurant.

Northstar: The chopped salad is amazing. Order it without croutons, blue cheese and dressing. I substituted olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. The almonds add a nice crunch and the smoked turkey is delicious. Apples help to sweeten this dish!

Will the Whole30 Change Your Life?

Maybe not. But it will change your body. In the words of motivation speaker James Clear, “If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently.”

In other words, it’s a lifestyle change, not just 30 days. Through my experience with the Whole30, I found that I toned and flattened my stomach, had more energy during my workouts and even improved my sleep cycle each night. I’d definitely recommend the experience for awareness, however I decided it was a bit too extreme for me to maintain. I’d like to reincorporate healthy dairy items like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese into my diet because they have a lot of protein and I’m a very active person. They key is finding what works for your needs by adapting the framework.

Additionally I’d like to be able to enjoy myself when I go out to dinner, but I’ll definitely be limiting this after I learned a about all the hidden ingredients found in seemingly healthy dishes (aka SUGAR). My boyfriend and I like the basis of the plan so it’s our goal to follow an 80/20 paleo diet, treating ourselves 20% of the time, because life’s too short!

Have you tried the Whole30? I’d love to hear about your experience so feel free to leave a comment!



What’s for Dinner? My Version of a Kid’s Meal

I can’t take any credit for the star of my dinner this week. Catie and her boyfriend have been kicking butt with Whole30 lately and inspired me to make THESE:

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They look like ordinary chicken fingers. They smell like ordinary chicken fingers. But they’re even better. They’re HEALTHY. Yeah, yeah, I know, you’ve heard it all before, but I mean it. My nutritionist even made these after I told her about them. That’s a huge win, everyone! Dietitian recommended (I probably can’t say that…).

In any case, I got the recipe from Generation Y Foodie after my two little love birds ate a similar dish a couple of weeks ago. They’re paleo almond chicken fingers, with a little bit of a kick from the added cayenne pepper and paprika. If you want to make them unhealthy, dip them in maple syrup. It sounds insane, and it is. The sugar really balances out the salty (read: A Balancing Act of the Sweet and Savory and you’ll see what I mean).


Alright. Now what? The obvious side dish for chicken tenders would be french fries, right? Of course. Try breaking out the ol’ cast iron skillet and roasting up some red-skinned potatoes. Throw in some Brussels sprouts and onions, while you’re at it. This may not be deep-fried goodness, but it’s a healthy twist on a classic side dish.

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Okay, so maybe my potato-to-Brussels sprout ratio is off…

I love a colorful dish like this – especially when it includes green (lookin’ at you, Brussels sprouts). You can use any skillet you want with this, but the cast iron gives the potatoes a nice sear. Caramelized onions can add a lot of flavor without you having to reach for too much salt. I’ve included the recipe below.

I know I’m being my mother right now and not including exact measurements for each ingredient, but it’s really up to you how much you want to make. There are no wrong answers here.


  • Red-skinned potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Cut up the Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and red onion. Make sure your potatoes and sprouts are cut into bite-sized pieces and your onion is diced into much smaller pieces.
  2. Heat a 10-inch or larger cast iron skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Meanwhile, put your potatoes and onions in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil and mix. You want these to be pretty coated, but not too much. Just enough to lightly cover most of the mixture.
  3. Throw your potatoes and onions into the cast iron skillet. Using a wooden spoon, spread the mixture so that it’s evenly distributed across the skillet.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. After 15 minutes, add in your Brussels sprouts and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the potatoes and sprouts are soft.
  6. Take your skillet off the heat and let it cool. The potatoes usually soften even more during this time.
  7. Serve with almond chicken tenders…

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There you have it. A healthy twist on a kid’s meal. A happy meal, if you will…


Here’s Why I Make Meals in Bulk

Cooking for one person has its pros and cons. For example, while it’s cheaper to cook for just myself, it’s time-consuming to plan a different meal each day of the week without wasting ingredients (and money). Therefore, I make one meal in bulk for the entire week. Here’s why:

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1. It’s easy

I work a nine-to-five job. When I come home, I’m usually VERY hungry and exhausted. It’s almost effortless to grab a meal in the fridge, heat it up, and eat it within five minutes. This means more time to be lazy and watch cartoons in bed. Wahoo! Or, ya know, exercise or something.

2. It’s healthy

Lately, the words “easy” and “unhealthy” have become synonymous (think: fast food, microwavable frozen dinners, etc…). Making your food in bulk eliminates this confusion. For example, if I come home from work and I don’t have anything to eat, I’ll be more tempted to eat fast food, microwave a meal, or just chomp on some chips (I’ve been known to eat many chip dinners in my day). However, if I take time on Sunday to plan a healthy tasty meal in bulk, I’ll happily eat it every night without overeating or snacking.

3. It’s cheap

When you buy groceries for one meal each week, you’re more likely to use all of those ingredients in one sitting (at least the perishable ones). This eliminates food going bad the next week or getting lost in the back of the pantry. I cringe thinking of the times I’ve thrown away a pound of chicken after accidentally neglecting it in the fridge for a week.

4. You can switch things up

Cooking a meal in bulk doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself to the same meal every night. A few weeks ago, I made meatloaf; a simple meal that can quickly become boring. It doesn’t have to be this way! One night I ate it with mashed potatoes, another night with veggies, and another night as a sandwich on French brioche. Try making a different sauce for it each night. Use your imagination – this is the time to get creative.

5. You have time to experiment with your food

If I don’t cook my meal in bulk one week and have somehow managed to forego fast food or chip dinner, I’ll usually rush through a recipe because I’m so hungry after work. That’s no fun. Wouldn’t you rather take the time you need on Sunday night to experiment with your dishes? Not to mention, some dishes require research. For example, I made spicy chicken sausage with gnocchi this week where the recipe called for the sausage to be sliced into coins. If I wouldn’t have been in such a rush, I could’ve frozen the sausage, cut it up, and then thawed it for my dish. Instead, I cut it when it was soft and it came out in lumps. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious, but it was kind of a bummer and could’ve been avoided.

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Here are a few ideas for some healthy, easy meals to make in bulk for your week:

  1. BBQ Shredded Chicken
  2. Slow-Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls
  3. Slow-Cooker White Chicken Chili
  4. Irish Stew and Mashed Potatoes
  5. Korean Beef Bulgogi
  6. Gnocchi Skillet with Sausage and Tomatoes


The Forgotten Basic Essentials

One of my favorite birthday gifts I received last month was the Kitchn’s official cookbook. In addition to recipes every cook should have in their back pocket, it includes chapters covering kitchen organization, key cooking tips, and entertaining advice – all important details that are usually absent and forgotten from traditional cookbooks.

I recently lent this to my dad and I’ve regretted it ever since

Okay, so this got me thinking – how often do I forget the basics? I’m not just talking about the proper way to chop garlic; I’m talking about the food we love – the kind that’s so simple, we often take it for granted. I’ve compiled a small list of favorites as a reminder to us all:

1. Scrambled Eggs

My sister and her now-husband lived with my family before they bought their first place as a married couple. One of the perks of living with them? I’d wake up every Sunday morning to the smell of them cooking breakfast for us. I was so spoiled and never had to cook my own… so by the time I was in college, I attempted to cook scrambled eggs for my roommates and I burnt them.

How stupid do you have to be to mess up scrambled eggs? Well, after a few more practice rounds, I got the hang of it. Now that I’m older and more sophisticated (lol), I’ve learned how to make some AMAZING scrambled eggs *pats self on back*. Friends don’t let other friends burn scrambled eggs. You’re welcome.


  • 5 eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Crack all of your eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. You can use a regular whisk or a fork. The trick is to use your wrist when whisking. Make sure it all turns completely yellow and that there aren’t any lumps.
  2. Add a splash of milk. Don’t add too much, don’t add too little. Pretty straightforward, right? Sorry. Use a splash for every five eggs. You want them to be fluffy, not liquid-y.
  3. Add salt and pepper. I’d say about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Whisk the mixture.
  4. Meanwhile, add a half of a tablespoon of butter to a skillet and turn it on medium heat.
  5. While your butter is heating up, add cheese to the whisked, egg mixture. If you are using slices, I’d use two slices and rip them up into 1-inch pieces. If you’re using shredded, add 1/3 of a cup (you can always add more later as the eggs are cooking). Stir. NOTE: Try using softer cheese. It’ll melt better and have a gooey texture. If you use harder cheeses, you’re more likely to get a plastic texture.
  6. Once your cheese is added into the mixture, check your butter in the skillet. Lift the skillet and tilt it in each direction to spread the melted butter around. Set it back down, wet your fingers with water and flick it on the skillet. If it bubbles and you hear sizzling, it’s ready.
  7. Slowly pour your egg mixture into the skillet. Let it sit for a few seconds and then stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula. The trick is to keep it moving – don’t let it sit for too long or else it might burn or get rubbery. Keep stirring it every few seconds.
  8. When they’re getting close to being done, feel free to add more cheese.
  9. Once the liquid is absorbed and the eggs look fluffy, serve immediately. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Mashed Potatoes

I can’t take full credit for making these perfect mashed potatoes; Catie gave me an awesome recipe recently – so I’ve combined our efforts into the recipe below. Mashed potatoes can be so simple, you don’t even need a hand mixer to make them, but you MUST follow these steps.


  • 5 russet or red-skinned potatoes
  • Salt
  • Minced garlic
  • Shredded cheese
  • Butter
  • Potato peeler
  • Whisk or hand mixer


  1. Peel all of your potatoes. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just do the best you can.
  2. After the potatoes are peeled, cut each potato into fourths. This helps the potatoes cook faster and evenly.
  3. Throw (but not really; be gentle…) the potatoes into a larger pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt and put a lid on the pot. NOTE: Adding salt and keeping the lid on the pot helps speed up the process.
  4. Put the pot on the stove and set to high heat. Wait for the water to boil and then turn down the heat so it’s at a rolling boil. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. This is usually how long is takes to cook potatoes all the way through.
  5. To test if your potatoes are cooked, stick a fork in each. If the fork slides in very easily, they’re ready.
  6. Once your potatoes are ready, strain the water out. Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl and using your whisk or your hand mixer, mix potatoes a little so they mash.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of milk, a tablespoon of salt, a cup of shredded cheese, and a tablespoon of butter. Continue to mix.
  8. Keep adding more milk little by little until potatoes have a fluffy texture. Feel free to add more butter, too. Again, it’s about adding a little bit as you go. You don’t want them too clumpy or too liquid-y, so you’ll have to taste-test as you go.
  9. Add your minced garlic at the end. The amount is entirely up to you. I usually add about two tablespoons. Feel free to add more salt here, too. These puppies don’t even need gravy.

3. Grilled Cheese

Tom is the grilled cheese master, hands down. The trick here is to make sure the cheese is soft – it’s as straightforward as that. Sometimes I like to think I have a more refined palette, but that goes out the window when I tell everyone that Velveeta is the best cheese for a mouth-watering grilled cheese…

If you hate the thought of using Velveeta, trust me, I understand. Please do yourself a favor, though, and use soft cheese. Qualifiers include American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, cheddar, or fontina. Also, if you have the time, you should read the Kitchn’s 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Grilled Cheese.


  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese, or 1 slice


  1. Place a skillet over medium heat, add butter, and let it melt completely. Just like you did with your eggs, you’ll want to wet your hands, flick it on the butter, and if it sizzles, it’s ready. Spread the butter around with a spatula.
  2. Rub a piece of bread in the melted butter. You only need to rub one side.
  3. Pile your cheese on top of the bread in the skillet. Cover the pan with a lid and let the cheese melt until it’s almost entirely melted, but you can still see some distinct cheese pieces, 2 to 3 minutes. In the meantime, butter your other piece of bread on one side.
  4. Top the sandwich with the other piece of bread (buttered side up). Squish slightly so the top adheres to the melted cheese. Flip the sandwich over.
  5. Cook until toasted golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Feel free to flip over again, if you want the other side more toasted. Serve immediately.

Okay, so that’s your basic grilled cheese. I’ve heard of people adding veggies, such as jalapenos. You should get creative, but learn to master a perfect grilled cheese first.

The moral of the story? Never stop playing with your food, even the most basic recipes. Don’t take these meals for granted! *steps off soapbox*


Breakfast Skillet Scramble

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Every so often, Tom and I reluctantly hit our breaking point when it comes to neglecting our health on the weekends. The conversation normally goes like this:

*sniff sniff* “What’s that smell?”
“That’s us.”
“Oh… what is it?”
“It’s fried food, Caitlin. We smell like fried food.”
“Oh… maybe we should do something about that.”
“You mean, like, shower?”
“No, of course not. I mean, ya know, we should try cooking our breakfast next weekend instead of going to a greasy diner.”

Thus, the breakfast skillet scramble was born (this weekend we’ll be doing ONE ab exercise… we’re making some real strides). A skillet scramble was an obvious choice for us since we combine all of our breakfast food, anyway (like the disgusting creatures we are).

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We prefer our breakfast foods to be in proper sandwich form.

The scramble turned out great. We made it the next morning, too. It’s a shame our health-kick didn’t last long, because we’ve been to DK Diner five times since making this.

Serving Size: 2, Gluten-Free


  • 8 small yellow potatoes, diced
  • 1 lb chorizo
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green and red bell peppers
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Optional: a dash of milk for the eggs


  1. Place a small pot filled halfway with water over a medium flame – bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in diced potatoes and a pinch of salt and let boil for 10 minutes. Remove from flame and drain. Set to the side.
  2. In a large frying pan over a medium flame add olive oil and allow to heat.
  3. Add in boiled potatoes, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Fry on each side for 5 minutes or until crisp.
  4. Add in chopped onion and peppers, and mix well. Continue frying for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Add in your chorizo.
  6. With your spatula stab the chorizo to break it up. As it continues to cook it will become easier to break up. Cook for an additional  5 to 10 minutes or until crisp.
  7. Next, crack your eggs in a bowl (optional: add a splash of milk and salt) and scramble with a fork, then pour into your skillet mixture.
  8. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, mixing and combining all ingredients the entire time. You want to make sure the eggs are well done.
  9. Sprinkle with cheese and any other seasonings you like!

Pretty easy? Okay, cool. Feel free to add or remove ingredients.


Irish Stew: A Childhood Recipe

St. Patrick’s Day was a beloved, celebrated holiday in the McGillicuddy household when I was growing up. I can remember my parents drinking booze as my siblings and I would mock the Irish Stepdancers that came to our school that day.

We later retracted our judgments after coming across this family Christmas photo.

Nevertheless, I have fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day, mostly due to the traditional Irish Stew that was served for dinner. Recently, my mother (an exceptional cook) passed on the recipe. And although I’m a few months off, I’ve decided to tackle mom’s Irish Stew because it’s getting cold outside and I need comfort food.

As my boyfriend and I walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, gathering each ingredient necessary for a perfect Irish Stew, he turned to me and asked, “So it’s Shepherd’s Pie?” to which I responded, “Uh… uh… yes?”

But alas, I was wrong. There is a difference… I think (I’m still trying to wrap my head around it). I suppose the crucial difference between the two is one is a “pie” and one is a “stew” (duh). I guess one is soupier than the other. I also think Shepherd’s Pie is cooked in the oven with mashed potatoes on top.

I don’t know, here are the Wikipedia pages for each:

Regardless, my mom used to cook Holiday Potatoes to spoon on top of the stew after it was done cooking. Holiday Potatoes are basically cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and mashed potatoes all mixed together and thrown into the oven to get kinda crusty. Since I don’t feel like clogging my arteries today, I decided to use regular mashed potatoes to spoon on top.

You can either use a sauce pan or a Crock Pot to make the stew. I chose the Crock Pot route because there’s no flame involved and I could keep this simmering for hours without a worry in the world (keep in mind, the longer the flavors meld, the better). Just make sure to brown the stew meat in a skillet before combining everything together.

Another note to keep in mind is that you can choose to thicken the stew by slowly adding a cornstarch-water mixture (but that might cross into the realm of Shepherd’s Pie, and then you’d be a traitor).


Sloppy goodness

Overall, the recipe is very straightforward:


  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat (they usually have this in chunks for you)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 can beef broth (13 3/4 oz.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (I know, I thought it was weird, too… but it exists)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 6 medium carrots, cut in thirds


  1. Brown beef in oil.
  2. In a saucepan or Crock Pot, add beef broth, water, parsley and salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 1 hour (or more).
  3. Add onions and carrots; simmer for 30 minutes more or until beef is tender (if using a Crock Pot, you can just do steps 2 and 3 at the same time). You can simmer for longer, if you’d like. The longer these ingredients cook together, the better.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes (Tom and I use pre-made Yoder’s Mashed Potatoes. It sounds sketchy, but it’s awesome).
  5. Spoon mashed potatoes over stew and sprinkle with peas and Parmesan to taste.

‘Twas a glorious meal; one that can be served any time of the year. But you may find yourself eager to make this on St Patrick’s Day, Irish jigging around the house as God frowns upon you. At least your tummy will be full of delight.


Food Educator Allison Hendricks Shares Her Tips for Creating Healthy, Restaurant-Quality Meals

Allison Hendricks

If you’re anything like the majority of Americans, you probably love eating out. In fact, the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week.  There’s just something about a high-quality, delicious meal, conveniently delivered to your table. While enjoyable, eating out can take a toll on your bank account and your health. Chefs don’t always use the healthiest ingredients to achieve that wonderful flavor. Heavy whipping cream, loads of butter and oil are just a few of those tasty, yet not-so-healthy staples.

Allison Hendricks, a food educator at the Franklin Park Conservatory is no stranger to creating delicious, restaurant-quality meals. She’s worked everywhere from a cheese shop in Madison Wisconsin, to the renowned Floriole bakery in Chicago, but that hasn’t stopped her from incorporating nutrition  into her work and her lifestyle.

In her nine months at the Conservatory, Hendricks has spear-headed an outreach program for the east side of Columbus, which is considered a food desert, or an area lacking access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. She’s also directed the Franklin Park Conservatory Farmer’s Market, and demonstrated the power of nutrition with pop-up cooking lessons. Her favorite part of the job, however is teaching the “Cooking for Beginners” classes, complete with plenty of wholesome ingredients.

“In the end I want [my students] to go in their kitchens and do what they learned from me. Cooking lasts your whole life. If I can teach one person to simply roast, they can use that moving forward.” It’s basic cooking skills like these that help people live healthier lifestyles, something near and dear to Allison’s heart.

Hendricks, a self-proclaimed “health-nut” with a Master’s degree in public health and a minor in nutrition from Indiana University says it’s easy to become engrossed in a healthy way of life. “I felt like I had to walk the walk,” said Hendricks, who used to deprive herself of tasty treats such as donuts and dessert when she was on a health kick. Today, her mindset has changed significantly. Her new mantra originated from a bumper sticker she saw on a car. “Seize the day,” it said. Think of the women on the Titanic who said no to dessert.”

Allison is now a huge proponent of the 80/20 rule. “I want to enjoy coffee made with full fat milk and I’m gonna love it. I fight for that 20 percent and I embrace it full-heartedly,” she says of her personal food choices. She takes the same approach when educating her students. Allison’s extensive restaurant experience paired with her focus in nutrition merges deliciousness with wholesome food. Here are some of her expert tips for creating restaurant quality meals without sacrificing nutrition.

1.) Look for produce that’s in season. Not only will it taste better but it’s also more cost effective. Check out this seasonal food guide!

2.) Buy select foods such as grains, rice and beans in bulk. It saves money and forces you to get creative with planning your meals. It’s a good way to learn what spices you like and to surrender to the simplicity of wholesome food.

3.) Make simple nutritional swaps when possible. If you regularly consume dark meat chicken, swap it out for leaner, white meat chicken rather than cutting it out completely. Switching to 1% milk as opposed to whole milk is another easy substitution.

4.) Utilize grocery store staff to answer questions. Many grocery store chains today train employees to float around and answer nutrition-related questions. Not sure which produce has the lowest sugar content? Ask a store representative!

5.) Shop the perimeter of the store. This helps you avoid boxed foods with high sodium content, preservatives, and detrimental ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.

6.) Buy produce from your local farmer’s market when possible. Allison recommends the Worthington Market as well as North Market, opened year-round.

While Hendricks appreciates a nutritious, well-prepared meal, she also believes in the importance of sharing a meal amongst friends and family.

“I’ve always been anchored by family dinner,” she says. “When I was in high school, family dinner was very uncool, but looking back, I feel that eating together is greater than the sum of its parts. Inviting people over for dinner is more powerful. It’s a shared experience and I love the concept of ‘I made this with you in mind.’”

That’s why she chose to share a recipe from her mother: Fish en Papillote, or Fish in Parchment. This recipe is “merely a framework,” says Allison, who suggests adjusting the ingredients to your liking with your choice of fish, vegetables and seasonings. It’s a whole, balanced meal that comes out of the oven, wrapped in parchment paper and ready to eat within 20 minutes.

Fish en Papillote

Serves 4


4 4-oz. fish filets (sole, halibut, salmon), patted dry

2 carrots, julienned

1-2 zucchini, julienned

2 leeks, julienned OR 1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ C dry white wine

Sea salt

Black pepper


1.) Preheat oven to 375. °

2.) Place each fish filet in the center of a large square of parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange lemon slices over filets.

3.) Divide vegetables evenly between parchment packets and arrange on top of fish.

4.) Drizzle ½ tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon white wine over each packet

5.) Fold parchment paper around the edges tightly into ¼” folds to create a half moon shape. Make sure to seal the packets well or accumulated steam will release during baking.

6.) Place packets on two baking sheets and bake until parchment puffs and fish is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Let sit 2 minutes before serving.