I am firmly of the belief that a desire to be healthy and a love of food are not mutually exclusive and I have been vegetarian for long enough to know that for years, ‘health food’ recipes were designed by people who didn’t really love to eat. Thank goodness, times have changed.

I have been a fan of Gena Hamshaw’s work for quite some time now. Gena is a nutritionist, blogger on her own wildly popular blog, The Full Helping (nee Choosing Raw) and as a regular columnist on Food52 AND the author of two cookbooks. Her thoughtful vegan recipes are flavourful and healthful and her passion for a plant-centred diet have inspired countless others to transform their health. So excited to share this interview with you…and did I mention she’s also an #RD2Be?


You spoke beautifully on your blog about your own transition from a mostly raw diet to a more varied vegan diet; how do you guide others who are unsure about how to create a nourishing plant-centred diet for themselves?

Personal experience is helpful, of course. Because I’m very familiar with extremes–as well as with approaches to plant based eating that are highly specialized–I can spot those same tendencies in others. I’m certainly not of the mind that mostly raw eating can’t or doesn’t work for everyone: I know a lot of individuals who thrive with such a diet. But it has been my experience that it’s too limited as a long term solution for most people. I suspect that for the majority of folks, a well-rounded, highly inclusive vegan diet–one that includes both raw and cooked foods, a wide range of produce, grains, and legumes–is the most sustainable and healthy choice for continued success with plant-based eating.

People need to remember that, when you go vegan, you’re already eliminating a number of familiar foods. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, because veganism offers so many options. But strict, limited, elimination-oriented vegan diets don’t always set people up for vitality and nourishment in a longterm way. So with clients, I always try to emphasize the big picture. If any dietary approach isn’t something that could be healthful if done permanently, then I don’t think it’s the ideal choice.

As far as a nourishing, plant-centric diet goes, I spend a lot of time emphasizing the role of all three macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) as being vital for health. A lot of popular diets tend to focus on limiting one of these, but we need them all for balance and health.

Do you have a set morning routine? How do you start your day?

I wake up early — 5:30 or 6am — it’s my favorite time to make coffee and work without interruption. If I don’t dive into work, then I typically do yoga early. Those hours are often my most productive, a time when I don’t get distracted by class, recipe development, photography, clients, or any of the other daily hustle.

You are currently completing your master’s degree to become registered dietitian and yet, you have already accomplished so much as a nutritionist and blogger. What inspired you to further your education?

It was truly the desire for increased capacities and training as a counselor. Yes, I have the tools I need for nutrition coaching and for giving folks lots of emotional support. But I’d like the training and education to have the option of working with disease states at some point, and possibly to do research, publish, etc. Even if I do none of those things, I’m of the mind that education is never wasted, and I have learned so much already in my program! The combination of grad school and work isn’t always easy, but it’s really worth it.

I am sure people are dying to know: what five pantry staples can you not live without?

1. A wide range of whole grains: my favorites are quinoa, lots of types of rice, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth.
2. Tons of legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans–you name it!
3. Lots of spices to help make food flavourful
4. Peanut butter
5. Nutritional yeast. It’s almost a food group for me.

Running a successful blog, business AND completing your master’s degree means you have a lot on your plate. How do you make time to feed yourself well with everything else that is going on?

I don’t always do a great job, to be honest! I do tend to overcommit, which often leads to short periods of burnout (either physical, or emotional). This year I’m trying better to combat this by hewing to normal work hours–early morning until 7ish–rather than letting work bleed into the wee hours every night and every weekend. We’ll see how it goes. I also get a lot of restoration and energy from my yoga practice, from cooking, and from spending time with my partner.

Learn More About Gena:

The Full Helping

Photo Credit: James Ransom