I started this interview series because I wanted to know more about the people that are doing health differently and helping us to radically up-level our lives in all arenas.
Ilene Godofsky is one of those people. Meet Ilene!
So you think you can’t live without that juicy piece of steak? Apparently, you can. A balanced vegan diet is known for its health benefits and it doesn’t have to be the same old salad every time. Ilene Godofsky, a holistic health coach based in New York City, shows you on her popular food blog just how vegan food can be colorful, nutritious, and all-so yummy!
Ilene works with clients living in New York City and from all over the world. She proclaims that she is “crazy about all things veggie” and firmly believes that people should listen to their bodies and make the food choices based on what is right for them. Being plagued by allergy and asthma woes in her early years, coupled with her connection with animals, Ilene’s journey to becoming a full-fledged vegan and health coach was one of self-discovery. With a strong determination to improve her well-being and life, she tried the macrobiotic diet when she was 21 and she never looked back since.
Ilene is dedicated to helping others in understanding what is good for them and getting there in an effectively. She shares her experiences with her clients and readers in her blog and at the same time, making eating vegan food hip, relevant and most importantly, easy.
Let’s hear from Ilene…
1. In your teenage years, how well did you cope with going on and off a vegetarian lifestyle? Any problem or interesting experiences dining with friends and family who are not vegan or even vegetarians, especially during the holidays since you became a vegan?
I definitely used to be a “junk food vegetarian”, with the majority of my diet consisting of processed bread products and dairy. I wasn’t interested in cooking at that point and definitely wasn’t proactive about nutrition. I knew I didn’t want to eat animals but I had no idea what I should eat!
I used to bring a vegan dish to holidays or family gatherings and explain how healthy the food I prepared is…and no one would eat it! Now I just say “you’ll like it” – I skip the speech on antioxidants or probiotics- and my family eats what I eat!
2. So you made a life-changing decision to give the Macrobiotic diet a shot when you were 21. How did you learn about the diet and how were the very first few days like?
When I finally became fed up with the endless cycle of taking medication for my allergies and feeling worse because of the side-effects, I started researching alternative medicine. I came across the Macrobiotic diet I remembered a vague story about a friend’s aunt who had cured their cancer by following it and I figured if it could cure cancer maybe it would help my allergies! I found Jessica Porter’s book “The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics” which was an incredible resource because she broke down big ideas (such as balancing yin and yang) in a way that felt accessible and modern.
I started following the recipes in her book for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s fair to say that the first few days were a little challenging. For the first time in my life I was eating totally unprocessed food and learning how to steam kale and cook rice without a microwave. Around the third day I started to feel sluggish and grumpy (which are common detox symptoms) so I thought “It’s working!”. By the end of the first week my detox symptoms were gone, I wasn’t having stomach aches and felt an energy I had never before.
3. How do you ensure you get the essential proteins, calcium, iron and other nutrients that usually come from meat and dairy products?
Different color foods often contain different vitamins and nutrients so I make sure to eat a rainbow each day! I put a big priority on eating a variety of leafy greens because they contain so many different nutrients. I love superfoods like hemp, cacao, maca and flax because they provide so many important things for the body. I take a B-complex vitamin supplement which is super important for vegetarians and vegans. If I’m traveling or find myself not eating my best, I take a multi-vitamin just to make sure I’m getting everything my body needs.
4. Would you call yourself a foodie? How did you come up with all those wonderful, tantalizing dishes on your food blog? What are your guilty pleasures and what’s your one true love when it comes to food?
I’m actually not sure if I would consider myself a foodie…I just eat what I like! I love experimenting with putting different or unusual flavors together. I don’t usually set out to make specific recipes for my blog, I start with what I’m in the mood for and see what happens. Although I do love coming up with recipes specific to certain occasions and holidays, that’s where I have the most fun making new twists on old favorites.
I can happily say that I don’t have a guilty pleasure food! If I’m in the mood for something indulgent I love having coconut milk ice cream or banana soft serve but I never feel guilty about it afterward. I’m also a huge fan of any kind of hummus.
5. Great job on a successful food blog. I must say, the recipes and the photos look amazing. What’s it like to be able to work on something which you believe so much in?
Thank you for the kind words about my blog! Before I started The Colorful Kitchen I was constantly emailing recipes to friends or inviting people over to try a special dish I was working on. Photographing the food I make and sharing the recipes on a blog seemed like a natural step. It’s so much fun for me to hear from readers that they tried one of my recipe and enjoyed it and nothing make me happier than when people send photos!
6. How did you arrive at being a health coach? You know, kids always have something that they want to be when they grow up. Was this even remotely close to what you wanted back then when you were a child?
I always wanted to be an artist so I went to art school and got a degree in Textile design. I wouldn’t say that being a health coach is directly related to that, but so much of the work is creative! A big part of being a designer is problem solving and I think that’s a quality that my clients and readers appreciate.
7. You call yourself a holistic health coach. So what aspects, other than food, do you go into when you work with clients so that they will be able to reap the full benefits?
That’s a fantastic question! Even if you follow the most nutritious diet, you probably won’t feel like a healthy person if other aspects of your life are out of balance. When I work with clients we focus on food as one aspect, as well as relationships, physical exercise and creative fulfillment- to name a few others. Once you start to get all of those things in order, cravings and less-than-amazing food choices are usually much easier to manage.
8. What are your other passions in life, other than food and wellness? What inspires you? And in your opinion, what is it you do, that inspires others?
My favorite activity is spending time with my friends and family- although that usually involves food!
I love doing yoga, riding my bike, going to farmer’s markets. I love going upstate and I’m always the most inspired when I get to visits organic farms that serve people on a local scale.
9. What are just some of the great vegan places in NYC you would recommend to a carnivore he/she decided to give vegan food a try?
New York City is one of the most amazing places to try vegan food! The number 1 spot on my list always goes to Babycakes Bakery. It’s 100% vegan and gluten-free and most of their baked goods are made without refined sugar. I LOVE their cookie sandwiches.
Peacefood Cafe has a wide range of vegan food, from raw pizza and raw sushi to macrobiotic style rice bowls. Their chickpea fries are out of this world.
Pure Food and Wine is raw food heaven. A friend of mine used to work there so I’ve tried almost everything on the menu… you seriously cannot go wrong.
Caracas is an amazing Venezuelan arepa bar in Manhattan and Brooklyn. they have 4-5 vegetarian/vegan arepas on the menu, plus you can substitute tofu for meat in any dish.
10. Now, the last question before we let you go, if you would have a choice, what will your last meal be?
Thai Curry Noodle Soup, followed by a coconut ice cream sundae.
Thank You Ilene!