This post is part of our special Entrepreneur Spotlight series, where we feature food entrepreneurs and the stories behind their amazing businesses. Interested in a feature? Send us a note here and we’ll get back to you within a week.
I recently chatted with Dana, the blogger behind the incredible real food blog, Real Food with Dana. We instantly bonded over our love of the Balanced Bites podcast and clearly, our shared love for Brussels sprouts (you HAVE to check out this insane Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprout with Toasted Pecans & Bacon recipe on her site, it will instantly make your mouth water). Dana’s career began in politics until she discovered her true passion as a nutrition coach and blogger.
Read on for Dana’s tips about selecting a nutrition program, the #1 way to stay healthy during a busy week, and a special holiday promotion for her new eBook that you don’t want to miss.
How was the idea for Real Food With Dana born? At what point did you decide to pursue your career even further with the nutrition program?
My original idea for the blog grew out of my journey of being very sick with multiple health conditions, including celiac, adrenal fatigue, amenorrhea, and hypothyroid issues. Did I mention the leaky gut too? Yeah. It wasn’t a fun time, and I’m still recovering from some of it. As you can imagine, all those problems led to my gut being extremely messed up, and a laundry list of food intolerances including gluten, dairy, soy, some nuts and even random foods like anchovies (but who even likes those anyway?). My love of cooking and baking had really started in high school, when my best friend and I would watch endless hours of the food network and try to recreate some of the dishes. That creativity eventually sparked the creation of my blog.
I started Real Food with Dana to inspire other people to get up off their butts, to try something new that just might blow your taste buds. To show you that cooking healthy food can be simple, fun, delicious, and healing, all at the same time, whether or not you have food restrictions or health issues. That’s why I really got into cooking in the first place. In the midst of dealing with all those not-so-great health conditions, I realized I could help heal myself by eating REAL food, instead of the processed junk that makes people sick. But ain’t nobody got time to eat plain chicken breast and spinach day after day. I wanted to prove to myself (and others) that eating “real food” doesn’t have to be tasteless, difficult or complicated, and that I didn’t have to feel deprived despite the long lists of foods I was avoiding for my health.
Ironically enough, I got my degree in and used to work in politics for a few years before a career in health and nutrition ever crossed my mind. I started the health coaching program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition while I was still working full-time in politics, and instantly fell in love with the idea that something like this could be my whole life. I had found my calling in the health and nutrition field, and I was going to follow it however I could.
How did you select your specific nutrition consulting program?
A few months after I started IIN, I got extremely sick for a month with some kind of parasitic infection that no doctor I talked to could figure out – general practitioner or the naturopathic doctor I had been seeing for years. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise because I was essentially forced to quit my job and reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. In the coming months while I was recovering from that infection and adrenal exhaustion, I decided to pursue a further graduate degree for a Masters of Science in Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. I chose MUIH because I knew I didn’t want a run-of-the-mill, government-run nutrition program, it was close to home, and it was a perfect supplement to the IIN curriculum. I wanted something more holistic, that specifically looked at food, not drugs and supplements as medicine. I’m extremely happy with my choice at MUIH, since that’s exactly what I’m learning, and I’m on my way to being a Certified Nutrition Specialist.
What do you love most about being a nutrition coach and blogger?
Helping others has always been my calling, whether it’s being that person my friends and family come to for cooking, nutrition and fitness advice, working as a swim coach, or being that person your friends turn to for advice about relationships. I love the feeling of knowing I’m helping people live healthier and happier lives, with habits they’ll be able to sustain long after we work together. I also love the freedom of being my own boss!
Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged. It’s very hard and stressful starting your own business, but it’s completely worth it. You’ve got to be consistent with the work you’re putting out, whether it’s blog posts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, a newsletter, etc. and constantly letting people know what you’re doing. If people don’t know about the work you do, how would they ever know they could work with you?
I find the #1 thing my clients need is an accountability partner to keep them on track with whatever their goals are. As entrepreneurs, we need this too! Find yourself a business buddy to hold you accountable and check in with you every so often. Otherwise, it’s hard to always stick to goals you’re setting for yourself and your business, when you don’t have the big bossman hovering over your shoulder to force you to meet deadlines!
What is your #1 tip for staying healthy during a busy week?
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Schedule “me time” and breaks into your daily and weekly calendars like you would a business meeting, whether that be putting a workout, meditation or yoga session, a walk with your dog in the park, or even meeting a friend for coffee. You have to take care of yourself, too! As for healthy eating, whenever I take the time to cook (usually dinner), I always make enough for leftovers for a couple days. If I’m already using the oven for something, I’ll chop up a bunch of veggies or sweet potatoes to roast alongside my dinner, for meals later in the week. Then you always have healthy, already prepared meals on hand for when you’re too busy to cook!
Yes! I always have clients and friends asking me what healthy recipes they can make during the holidays, so this fall I created a healthy holiday recipes e-book called Our Paleo Table: insanely delicious, gluten-and-dairy-free recipes from my family to yours. Inside, I’ve got 11 gluten and dairy-free (paleo) holiday-themed recipes that are easy to make and really freaking delicious. Because even if you have food allergies, you should still be able to eat totally amazing food all the time, but especially around the holidays! You’ll find recipes like Butternut Squash Stuffing, Paleo Carrot Soufflé, Maple-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans & Bacon, and Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies. Plus, I’ve included make-ahead tips and tricks to make cooking your holiday meal so much easier and less stressful!
And, since it’s the holidays, I’m offering the ebook for only $1.99, since I know it would be a great gift for whoever is cooking this holiday season! Super cheap right?! Um hello, that’s less than your fancy Starbucks holiday drink (and almost everything else there). Just sayin’. Here’s where you can get more details: http://www.realfoodwithdana.
I’m also opening up a few more spots in my health & nutrition coaching biz for $50 off per month for my 3-month and 6-month programs…but this is only for the month of December (until New Years Resolutions start in January)! You can check out my health coaching page here: http://www.realfoodwithdana.
Cheers and happy cooking!