For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alex Snodgrass of The Defined Dish, she whips up delicious and healthy takes on classic recipes. Not only is she fun to watch and delightfully down-to-earth, she takes a balanced approach to living her life—and it’s refreshing to watch. While you can find plenty of Whole 30 approved recipes on her site, you’ll also see her kicking back and drinking one of her husband’s famous homemade cocktails or creating healthier versions of takeout favorites.
Not even joking when I say that using her recipes at home has changed the way I cook: exposing me to new ingredients and clever swaps I never could have thought of on my own. I recently got to chat with her a little more about her favorite recipes, wellness ethos, and the kitchen staples she can’t live without:
Caylin: So I’ve seen you mention before that Whole 30 changed your relationship with food. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on that.
Alex of The Defined Dish: I’ve always tried to eat kind of healthy and after having kids, I really started struggling with anxiety—and I never had anxiety in my life. I think my body was just in shock and I wasn’t working out or taking care of myself. My sister had done Whole 30 and she felt so good both physically and mentally so I figured it’s only thirty days, I should at least try it. It forced me to be more focused on myself for those thirty days and it had this ripple effect into other areas of my life, so preparing healthy foods and taking the time to work out. It forced me to have a sort of a-ha moment and made me realize how important it was to take care of myself, which allowed me to take better care of my family.
C: Any advice for someone who’s thinking of trying Whole 30? Or wants to make healthy changes in general?
A: It’s called Whole 30 for a reason. You’re not supposed to do it 365 days a year and I think a lot of people have a hard time because they’re thinking about it in a very black and white way. The gray area scares people, so I always try to encourage anybody that comes to events that it’s a constant ebb and flow and this whole perception of this perfect balance, doesn’t exist. You have to be a little bit flexible and kind to yourself and eat things that you want to eat; I try to cook Whole 30 about four or five nights a week. I love food and I want it to taste good and I’m not going to sacrifice my love for food and my love for flavor and having fun in the kitchen just to feel good. So I try to focus on that with my recipes. I want people to not feel like they’re depriving themselves of good food.
C: I feel like there’s a very important conversation going on about wellness right now, about how what we should really be focused on is nourishing your body in ways to that feel good for each of us. What’s your take?
C: I think it’s easy to look on social media and be like wow, she’s perfect; she’s got it all together. it’s nice to kind of hear that you’re asking yourself the same questions we all ask ourselves.
A: For sure and I think the other thing I always try to remind people is they look at me and my life and they see me cook every night. Well, that’s because I love it and it’s also my job and I have the time to do it. But if that’s not your thing and it’s making you beat yourself up trying to keep up, maybe start by setting a goal to cook Tuesdays and Thursday nights. You do what works for you and your family.
C: For people gearing up to start cooking more regularly during the week, are there any tips you have? Do you find meal planning to be helpful or is that more stressful?
A: For me personally, I think a meal plan is good. I don’t like meal prep, for me personally, which I think this is also an individual thing. For dinner, I like to plan out each day so I have everything on hand. As a new cook, the best thing to do is keep it simple. Like Tuesday is Taco Tuesday and you’re not going to make fancy tacos. You’re literally going to make good ground beef taco salads. I have a couple of meal plans on my site (with recipe suggestions) but one
C: Can you tell me how you started incorporating exercise into your routine?
A: I think finding something you enjoy is key because for me. I kept trying to like go to all these pilates classes and doing all these things that are really popular and that’s just not the way that I’m built athletically. Finding what makes you feel good and the way that you like to move your body and just taking baby steps. Maybe it’s two times a week at first and then you realize wow this is really great. It just sort of builds on itself, so that’s really how I did it. Now it’s a non-negotiable for me and my mental health and just overall well being.
C: If you had to choose a few of your favorite recipes from your site to introduce someone to The Defined Dish, what would they be?
A: Sichuan Inspired Wonton Meatballs. One of my favorite things in life is Sichuan peppercorns. I love the mouth-numbing tingling sensation mixed with spicy chiles. It’s so addicting! This recipe is my Whole30 ode to chili oil wontons. I transformed it into grain-free/gluten-free meatballs and doused them in a delicious yet quick and easy chili-oil sauce. They are so dang good! Shrimp Etouffee. I love big, bold
C: What are five of your favorite healthy ingredients that are also super versatile?
A: Coconut aminos. I use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce for Whole 30/paleo cooking. It adds s
Acorn Squash. I love using acorn squash as a vehicle for stuffing things and keeping things low-carb. You can really do a lot here and I love its subtly sweet flavor! Stuff it with the beef enchilada mixture (above), ground taco meat, or even a curried beef for an easy weeknight meal with loads of flavor.
Jalapeno. It’s no secret that I love spicy food, and jalapenos are on the top of my list of favorite things in life. They add such a big, bold statement to any dish.
Fruits and Berries.
Avocados. Not only are they creamy and tasty, but they’re also high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Of course, you can eat them alone, make guacamole, or top toast; but I also love using avocado to make sauces and dressings creamy.