Balance can be a major struggle when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and no one can speak to that more than Ali Heller, the bubbly nutrition student behind her colorful foodie account, What Ali Eats. After years of trying out different extremes and finally finding a balance, Ali believes all foods can fit into a healthy diet, and she’s here to share her amazing philosophy. We asked Ali what she likes to eat in an average day and here’s what she told us:
My food philosophy can be summed up in one word: balance. I try to get a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats at every meal, and tend to eat mostly plant-based foods with some good quality animal proteins mixed in. I generally like to eat the best possible ingredients and focus on whole foods. However, I also don’t believe in depriving myself, or labeling foods as “bad” or “unhealthy.” Balance and moderation are key!
I am not a morning person whatsoever, so the first thing I do after brushing my teeth is make an iced cold brew latte and snuggle on the couch with my dog until I’m really awake. I mix cold brew, almond milk, ice, and a dash of almond extract. I drink iced coffee all year round. I’m originally from Florida and this is the one habit I’ve never been able to break.
My go-to breakfast is a big nutrient-dense smoothie or smoothie-bowl loaded with toppings. The combinations are endless so I never get bored with them! I pack my smoothies with frozen fruits and veggies plus protein, fats, and fiber from chia seeds, flax seeds, and nut butters. My favorite smoothie toppings right now are fresh berries, cacao nibs, and grain-free granolas like Purely Elizabeth or Paleonola – they’re loaded with healthy fats from nuts and seeds. If I’m exercising first thing in the morning i’ll have a small snack before my workout like half a Perfect Bar or RXBAR and then my smoothie afterwards.
Because I’m a full-time student right now my days are always different. I might be volunteering, in class, or studying… or if I’m lucky, I can meet a friend for lunch. If I’m home, lunch is usually some revamped version of dinner leftovers. I’m not great at meal prep so whenever I make dinner I try to cook enough so that there’s plenty of leftovers to play around with – I can throw whatever I’ve made into tacos or a quinoa bowl. I mostly rely on weekly staples that can be combined and remixed like roasted veggies, legumes and grains, and cage-free eggs.
Sandwiches and overnight oats are great portable options when I’m at school all day – I love hummus & avocado veggie sandwiches on sprouted multigrain bread, or chia overnight oats with fruit and almond butter. If I’m meeting a friend out for lunch, I usually order some kind of gorgeous buddha bowl or a big salad. And there’s always avocado involved.
I always eat a mid to late afternoon snack to hold me over until dinner, otherwise I get hangry and raid the fridge. I love to make little yogurt bowls with Siggis skyr or coconut yogurt plus fresh fruit and granola.
I also make a lot of snack balls and keep them in the freezer for a snack or sweet treat after dinner. They’re amazing.
Dinner is often similar to lunch, but lately we’ve been eating a lot of Banza chickpea pasta mixed with tons of veggies and either marinara sauce or homemade pesto. I try to cook something new once every week or so.
If I’m too tired (or lazy) to cook, my husband and I order from a nearby delivery place in Williamsburg called Quinoa Kitchen – I get tricolor quinoa with grilled wild salmon, kale salad with feta and chickpeas, and pesto.
I have a major sweet tooth and almost always eat something sweet after dinner (sometimes lunch too!). I love Eating Evolved dark chocolate, or I’ll make one of those little snack-sized yogurt bowls with granola and cacao nibs for a chocolatey crunch.
We just got a Pressed Juicery near our apartment and I’m mildly addicted to their “freeze” – I’ve been getting that a lot for a post-dinner treat as well!