“It makes me sad when people struggle and restrict themselves in the name of a diet. They put a food into a ‘never’ box, then find themselves binging on it, or something else. Food shouldn’t have to be hard. It’s just food.” Laurel Blackerby has a very healthy relationship with food, and she wants to share it.
It all began in kindergarten, when a nutritionist came to school to talk to her class about how eating the right foods could help keep people healthy, even fight common ailments like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. “A light went on in my head. Wow, I could help people get healthy just by showing them how to manage their diet,” she said.
Laurel, who was living with her grandparents on their farm. was a natural to continue as a nutritionist and weight loss coach. “I didn’t have a typical childhood. I was expected to do my chores on the farm,” she said “It’s not a normal teenager’s dream to have to gather eggs and feed chickens.” Her father, Scott Blackerby, is an executive chef, and his influence resonates still today. “He lives in North Carolina, and he’s always just a phone call away if I have a kitchen 911,” she said.
She went on to get her master’s degree in nutrition from Kansas State University. “For twenty years, I’ve been coaching people into better relationships with food. After all, the kitchen is the heart of a home,” she said. “ Food connects us all, and sharing a meal is both intimate and social.”
“I tell my clients that it is important to be flexible; if they make the best choice 80 percent of the time, 20 percent of the time they may have a little freedom to indulge in that cookie they want. It keeps them on track to achieve their health and weight goals, and helps them not feel deprived.”
Laurel recently moved to New Iberia from Florida. “I’ve been here a month. Before that, I was driving back and forth from Fort Walton on weekends to see my significant other. New Iberia is my home base now, and I’m working with several clients. I also accepted a position with the Port of Delcambre as their Nutritionist and Health and Wellness Coordinator. Everyone has been so welcoming, I’m looking forward to my future here.” Part of her new role in Delcambre will be lightening up their cache of farmers market recipes, giving healthy swaps for ingredients. “I’ll be doing lighter, gluten free, lower sodium and dairy-free versions of those recipes,” she said.
Laurel understands that nutritionally, people are different, have different needs, preferences, food allergies and health histories. “I like to think of it as a puzzle when I first consult with a client. I do some nutritional detective work to try to figure out where deficiencies are, what modalities would be most effective for them. I believe in taking small steps, working on one food group at a time to see how these small changes will affect them. It’s very important to me to provide the support and encouragement they need as we make the journey together. It’s all about formulating a sustainable plan.”
What is her favorite thing to cook? Frittata. “Well, I used to call it my ‘garbage’ frittata, because I’d take my basic recipe and use whatever leftovers I found in the fridge. The official name is Spinach Sun Dried Tomato Frittata, but in the spirit of flexibility, you can use extra protein or leftover veggies, different cheeses, herbs and spices to your taste.” The recipe is included below, along with Laurel’s Easy Greek Salad.
“So many people struggle with food because their time is limited with career and family. A little planning and prep can go a long way to steer them away from the drive thru and other unhealthy choices, and make their lives easier.”
SPINACH SUN DRIED TOMATO FRITTATA
5 ounces spinach (1 bag)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
8 eggs or 1 ½ cup Liquid Egg White
⅓ cup cream or milk
¾ cup low fat mozzarella, shredded
½ cup crumbled feta
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Saute onions and garlic in oven-proof pan until translucent. Add spinach and sundried tomatoes and cook 1-2 minutes longer until spinach is wilted.
Whisk together eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Add cooked spinach and sundried tomato mixture and cheeses.
Return to the pan, bake 20-25 minutes until the center is set.
NUTRITION: (⅙ of frittata) 112 calories, 4 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 10 grams protein
EASY GREEK SALAD
12 Campari or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, halved and sliced
½ cup feta
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all ingredients and marinate for an hour before serving. Makes four servings.
NUTRITION: 131 calories, 5 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams fat, 4 grams protein