Wellness with Maura
San Francisco, California
Integrative Health Coach
BS. Nutrition & EcoGastronomy
Brief Introduction/Tell Us About yourself (where you are from, etc)
I grew up in a beautiful farm town in Southern New Hampshire and I was fortunate to be raised in a family where healthy eating and physical activity were pillars of my childhood. Growing up, the most outrageous ‘processed’ foods my parents kept in the house were mochi ice cream and unsweetened, whole grain cheerios- everything else was farm fresh, grown from my backyard or (mostly) organic food. So… I think it’s safe to say my love for nutritious eating and my health coaching philosophy was born from this!
I was also an athlete growing up, so I learned early on the powerful role that food could play in my performance on the soccer field and in the classroom. Ever since, I’ve viewed food as something worth celebrating (because it’s delicious!) but more importantly, as a tool to help me achieve the level of energy, concentration and vibrancy I want.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in nutrition?
When I entered college, I began to reflect on how critical a healthy, nutritious lifestyle was to my entire well-being. At the same time, I began to research the severity and statistics related to chronic disease which millions of Americans suffer with today. I learned many of these chronic diseases and barriers to living a healthy lifestyle can be prevented and managed through nutrition and lifestyle modifications. I decided at that point I wanted to commit my career to empowering, educating and supporting individuals and communities around me to live the healthiest, most vibrant life possible through nutrition counseling and behavioral change – and I’ve been on a mission to do just that ever since!
How did you become passionate about healthy eating?
My mom was buying organic food from local co-ops before any grocery store carried organic food. Therefore, witnessing my parents put so much care and thought into sourcing, gardening, and cooking our meals left a powerful impression on me. Unfortunately, millions of families don’t live in an environment where they have access to affordable, nutrient-dense foods or perhaps their high stress, fast-paced lifestyles make it harder to integrate nutritious foods, healthy habits or self-care. On top of this, everywhere we turn we are exposed to ultra-processed, hyper palatable foods that are designed to be super tasty but addictive.
Therefore, it’s understandable that our communities are having difficulty achieving the health they deserve. As mentioned previously, we know the majority of chronic disease (obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, type II diabetes, heart disease) are directly linked to diet and lifestyle factors, so it’s incredibly important we have more preventative health and nutrition services available to mitigate disease and allow individuals to thrive in their personal and professional lives. Therefore, my goal is to help guide as many individuals as possible to live their healthiest, feel their most confident and productive, and achieve sustainable wellness.
What kind of training did you undergo/certification you received?
I double majored in Nutrition and EcoGastronomy - which is the study of sustainable food systems and the environmental, health and political impact (I’ve always been really invested in supporting sustainable food practices and sourcing methods, so I try to integrate these practices into my client sessions). I then completed a year-long integrative health coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. After several years of working as a Health Coach, I decided to go back to school to complete a master’s certificate in the Didactic Program in Dietetic. I then completed a clinical dietetic internship at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, passed the national board exam and became a Registered Dietitian.
What do people look for in a nutritionist or dietician?
We are inundated with an immense amount of conflicting health-related information so I believe individuals are looking for the most accurate nutrition science, relevant tools and insights to apply to their own lives. I’m seeing more and more clients lean away from a calorie-counting mentality and are looking to build a foundation and framework that leaves them more prepared, confident and empowered to navigate their health moving forward. Therefore, I focus my practice on providing health education (centered around whole, fresh, ‘clean’ foods), motivational interviewing and behavioral change techniques. I help clients implement realistic strategies to achieve sustained weight loss, optimize digestion, support the immunity and metabolism, and manage or prevent chronic disease- all while still celebrating the joy of eating! When individuals have the accountability and support to make healthy living and nutritious eating a pillar of their lives- despite their busy work schedules or personal responsibilities – this is where the magic happens.
If you could persuade people to change three things about their diet, what would they be?
Planning your meals and snacks can make all the difference in the world – try to avoid getting into a situation where you’re starving with limited options. Just as you plan your work week with meetings and a to-do list, carve out time to map out what healthy meals and snacks you’d like to have on hand or source while out.
Move away from calorie counting and instead embrace a whole-food, intuitive eating, and mindful approach toward achieving your health goals– it’s a more sustainable and rewarding way to manage your health (if you need support with this, I’m your girl!)
I often hear that eating more plant-based isn’t nearly as enjoyable or appealing as meat. However, I believe with a bit more creativity and experimentation with recipes or menu items, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how delicious, and satisfying these meals can be. So eat more plants- you won’t regret it!
What would you make as a quick and healthy dinner option, if you have 30 minutes of preparation time?
Green Goddess Cashew Dressing: garlic, cilantro, lemon, ginger, filtered water, cashews and pepper - blend for 30 seconds
Lentil based pasta (Banza is my favorite!): it takes roughly 8-10 minutes to make and is chock full of fiber, plant-protein and has the same texture and appeal as regular pasta
Steam broccoli: rinse broccoli, cut into florets then let steam for 5 minutes. Be sure to remove shortly after 5 minutes to best retain vitamins – this also adds a bit of texture and crunch to your dish.
Assemble everything and call it a party!
What is your favorite snack?
My go-to is usually some variation of a smoothie - I add frozen berries, unsweetened nut milk, a hefty handful of leafy greens, pea protein, collagen powder, chlorophyll, spirulina, chia/flax seed, and a few nuts. Blend and enjoy!
Plant based living is becoming more and more popular. When eating a mostly plant based / vegetarian diet, are there certain foods to focus on to make sure we’re getting enough nutrients and protein?
Plant foods are full of amino acids (protein), fiber, and phytonutrients which means you get a lot of bang for your buck with every bite due to the nutrient-density of these foods. That being said, there are a few nutrition principles to keep in mind to make sure your diet is well balanced. By default, the protein found in most plants are slightly less ‘bioavailable’ to us which means we have a harder time absorbing/assimilating it compared to animal protein. Therefore, we have to eat a higher volume of plant protein to absorb the necessary amount appropriate for your needs. Also, to ensure you’re getting all essential amino acids it’s important to eat a variety of plant-protein sources, too. There are also key micronutrients that should be supplemented if you’re avoiding animal sources – the most important include methylated B vitamins, zinc and iron.
Speaking of plant based, what are some of the benefits of drinking chlorophyll water / benefits of liquid chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is a great source of antioxidants so I make sure to add this to my smoothies or filtered regularly!
What’s one of your favorite organic/natural supplements or vitamins you recommended?
It’s important to take vitamins and supplements intentionally and with purpose (there is such thing as over-supplementing!). That being said, some common deficiencies are vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. Inadequate supply of these over time can contribute to detrimental health outcomes so it’s really important to prevent identify if you’re at risk and do you present to prevent this from happening.
Any favorite health / nutrition podcasts or books you recommend to our readers?
Podcasts: Dr. Mark Hyman - Doctor’s Farmacy, Peter Attia – The Drive, and Dhru Purohit – Broken Brain
Books: anything by Michael Pollan, Joel Furman and Mind-Gut Connection by Dr. Emeran Mayer
Where can our readers find you? (Instagram, Facebook, etc)