Have Your Cake And Your Vegetables Too

Late Friday morning last week I attended a session at Wanderlust led by Sarah Copeland.

Sarah is the Food Director of Real Simple magazine, a two-time cookbook author, food writer and Food Network veteran. More than a few of you requested more information about Sarah’s talk, “Have Your Cake And Your Vegetables Too,” and today I’m going to delve into my notes a bit and share some of the key takeaways.

The underlying theme of Sarah’s talk was focusing on how food makes you feel.

She reiterated this thought time and time again: “It’s not about what you should or should not eat. It’s about how and what you want to feel.”

Eat the Way You Want To Feel

(Sarah is a talented food stylist and the above picture is one of her beautiful images. I simply added the text.)

Sarah then asked us, “What would you do if you felt great every single day?” Her belief is that what we eat and where our food comes is so tightly interwoven with our emotions, wellbeing and attitude. If you felt fantastic all the time, what would that mean for you? What would that change?

She encouraged us to reflect on a time in our lives when we may have been sad or upset. Did food taste good? Did it taste like anything at all? She said that when she was going through a tough time even her favorite healthy foods lost their appeal. That’s when it’s time to focus on your power. You have the power to be happy and eat healthy. You control what you eat and this includes delicious, indulgent treats that we all should absolutely eat and enjoy eating. Reminding yourself how good you feel when you eat healthy foods can help guide you to make nutritious decisions. (And if you want to eat pizza with your friends or enjoy dessert on a date, do it!)

Focus on how you feel when you eat and after you’re done eating. Let your body help you understand the foods that make you feel best. They’re probably pretty darn healthy! Let this motivate you to choose good-for-you foods.

Wanderlust Speakeasy

She said this statement again and again: “You are allowed to eat and enjoy anything!” Don’t view certain foods as “bad” or “off limits.” (Amen!)

If you think this fad diet or that fad diet is the key to your happiness or the answer to your problems, you will not find happiness or answers. Every single diet out there can dredge up research and come up with facts to support why it’s great. All of them! You can find reasons why you should follow every single diet, but if you’re looking for the “magic formula,” there simply isn’t one.

One thing no one can argue against? The power of plants. A diet that includes lots of vegetables and plants promotes health, plain and simple. Only 1.5 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day.

Sarah directed us to this food pyramid by Dr. Weil:

Anti Inflammatory Food Pyramid The visual representation of real food is a great way to picture what type of foods you may want to incorporate into your diet to help you feel your best.

Sarah encourages us to choose colorful foods. Colorful foods (fruits and vegetables!) translates to nutrients. These foods feed our body with micronutrients that help fight off disease. They’re packed with vitamins and often make us feel great.

Sarah realized most people attending her talk likely already have an interest in healthy eating. She encouraged us to share our passion for healthy eating with others. Host a dinner party filled with healthy dishes to show friends and family members that eating healthy can taste delicious. Bring a healthy snack to work to share with coworkers. Start a blog. (Yay!) It’s fun to eat with other people and share meals together. There’s no reason these meals can’t be healthy if we are the ones in charge of the planning.

Sarah concluded her talk by sharing a few of her favorite books with everyone for continued reading and learning that I thought might interest some of you as well: 

*Thank you so much to Sarah and Wanderlust for such an interesting session!*

Questions of the Morning

  • What foods make you feel best?


  1. says

    This is exactly how I try to view food, and it’s almost exactly how I was raised! My dad is a Chiropractor and does a lot of nutritional evaluations for people, so this is something he’s always tried to teach us – that diets and fads come and go, but you need to eat things that make you FEEL good, and we need to take care of our bodies, since after all, we only get one!


  2. Amy says

    I loved this write-up. And I loved that her talk included action tips to “spread the health.” Thanks for sharing!

    To answer your question, spinach makes me feel best.


  3. says

    This sounds like it was such a great talk! As a dietetics student, we are told these things time and time again. It is so easy to get caught up in today’s diet mentality in the hope that there is one fad diet that will be the perfect way of eating for everyone. It isn’t that simple and we should instead be focusing on nourishing our bodies with whole foods that make us feel great and let us live a happy, healthy life!


  4. Brittany says

    LOVE THIS!! Dieting is no way to live your life. We should enjoy everything that we eat and remember that sweets and treats are just that treats and eaten sparingly. Fruits and veggies are a staple of my everyday “diet” and I wouldn’t have it any other way!! Thanks for sharing, Julie!


  5. says

    A huge raw salad with kale, spinach, or arugula…bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, radishes, squash, etc. The more raw foods I eat, I feel better. Also, when I pair the right foods up, I also feel great because its better on my digestion. Food is medicine and we are our food. That’s how I see it.


  6. says

    Focus on how food makes you feel. Exactly right! Thanks for sharing.

    When I eat sugary/doughy foods, I feel like the Pillsbury doughboy. It’s not that it’s bad to indulge every once in a while. It’s that it’s bad to eat food that throw how you feel out of wack.

    AT 35 I’ve finally learned eat to live not live to eat. Eat what gives me energy and makes me happiest. Veggies all the way!


  7. says

    Great post! The anti-inflamatory food pyramid is a great update to the one from health class when we were kids!! I’m going to print it and hang it on my fridge! I feel the best when I am eating natural and whole foods. I love pizza and wine, but I can definitely tell when I eat poorly for too long. My body starts to get sluggish!!


  8. says

    Love this food pyramid! Fuits and veggies definitely make me feel best, I start everyday with juice and a smoothie. But I do have to say, wine and french fries in moderation make me feel pretty good too-haha!


  9. says

    I recently went back to school to become a Health Coach because I realized how important it is to treat our bodies right and want to inspire others to do the same. I love the messages that Sarah shared. We need to think about what we are eating, how it makes us feel when we eat it and after. Eating for energy and health as been a game changer for me!


  10. Ruthie says

    Loved this recap. Thanks, Julie! Red peppers are my go-to feel-good food. It’s the combo of color, sweetness, and that crisp, refreshing crunch.


  11. says

    Hi Julie! I have a quick question. When you add words to images, like the one above, do you use photoshop? I also know sometimes you use picmonkey too. When I work on adding words to images, it’s always a bit trickier than it looks. At least for me, heheh.


  12. says

    Thanks for sharing! I feel great when I start the day off with a healthy dose of oatmeal. I struggle between eating healthy and eating junk – it seems I’m either one extreme or another. Advice like this makes it easier for me to stick to my healthy diet, even when I don’t want to! I love that Sarah advocates that no foods are off limits.


  13. says

    I really like the idea of the post, but that strange food pyramid is counter to everything that was in a talk/blog post whose entire point is to eat what makes you feel good – something highly subjective. This pyramid is geared toward a specific type of diet, and maybe these guidelines work wonder for some people, but it’s presumptuous to hold this up as a model of healthy eating when the point is that different things work for different people. For example, my healthy carnivore husband would shrivel up on this diet. Dairy makes me feel great and keeps me full. On your blog, you also love lots of yogurt and eggs.

    It’s oddly limiting in some ways and weirdly specific in other ways (mushrooms and tea are their own categories, what?). Why are the major and perfectly healthy sources of animal protein – cheese, chicken, eggs, and meat – lumped together and absurdly limited to once or twice a week, but fish and soy have their own separate categories and recommend practically daily? What are UNhealthy herbs and spices? Why is there a vague recommendation to take “supplements” daily?


  14. says

    Great post, I do really well on one meat a day, lean of course and tons of greens and cycling with grains a few days a week. My energy levels are fabulous when I do this and I noticed cutting out carbs completely wrecked my hormones! That is one thing us ladies have to watch out for! Lots of Love C


  15. says

    So funny that you write about this– last week my boyfriend and I decided that we should have salads for dinner at least once a week. He said “I feel so much better about myself after I eat a salad!” … I couldn’t believe that he said that, first of all (what guy admits to enjoying salad?! HA!) but then when I thought about it, I totally agreed! Eating healthy makes your whole body feel good. I don’t get that same feeling from eating 3 pieces of pizza, haha


  16. says

    I love that food pyramid and I like a lot of what Dr. Weil says. Eating fresh fruits, veggies, healthy fats and lean protein makes me feel the best. I definitely can’t handle gluten, eggs and dairy.


  17. says

    I love this post! After years of dieting, I started practicing “Intuitive Eating” a few years ago and now I’ve come to live by the 80/20 rule eating mainly whole foods with the 20% being everything else in moderation. It really makes me feel good!


  18. says

    Everything she said is true. Sometimes we fall in the fad diet trap (I can honestly say I don’t believe in fad diets, never has and never will) I’ve always eaten what works for me, because I know that each one of us is unique. There is no magic in diets, and health is about ditching that mentality. Even though I embrace a vegetarian/vegan plant-based diet, I believe that if meat works for you go ahead and enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying dessert, or even worse don’t starve yourself. Enjoy food, it was made to nourish us, not to make us feel bad!

    Thanks for sharing!!


  19. says

    I feel best when I am the only animal product in my body. It usually takes a few days of totally clean vegan eating to get all of the other crap pushed out of there. But on Day 1 of all plants I feel better than I did the day before. Day 2 feels even better than that. It’s really nothing specific. Lots of fruit makes me feel full and hydrated. Lots of spinach gives me energy. Nuts and seaweed help me recover from a hard workout. and cheeseburgers make me fall asleep at my desk. Great post!


  20. says

    I love this! I totally agree, if I went into a meal thinking about how I wanted to FEEL afterwards, I know I’d make different choices. This has been resonating with me a TON ever since you mentioned it last week. Love this philosophy!


      • says

        Julie, thank you so much for this beautiful post, and recapping my talk for your readers! I’m sorry I didn’t see it earlier, but so glad I saw it now! Really, really enjoyed reading this and hearing what resonated with you, and all your wonderful readers here.

        All my best, and warmest wishes for the holiday!



  21. says

    This sounds like such a great session! I’m kind of intrigued by the pyramid where it says “other protein- yogurt and skinless poultry” 1-2 a week. I definitely consume my fair share of greek yogurt and chicken breast. Did she say anything about this?

    My feel good foods are definitely veggies – a big spinach salad with either quinoa or some form of beans for a bit of protein.


  22. says

    Really enjoyed this recap Julie! I love her statements about how thinking a certain way of eating will magically fix everything is wrong (and probably harmful!). Eating what feels good to you is the key! Thanks for this recap!


  23. says

    LOVE this post! And this is so true: “She said this statement again and again: “You are allowed to eat and enjoy anything!” Don’t view certain foods as “bad” or “off limits.””

    It’s so important to keep that in mind and just enjoy mealtime as a way to celebrate life and different cultures and whoever you’re with, you know? At least, in my opinion.


  24. says

    Yes! A shame-free guide to nutrition. Since recovering from an ED, I have learned not to obsess over food and strict regimens, but to instead NOURISH myself and focus on how I FEEL.

    Also… only 1.5% of us get enough fruit and veg?! Way worse than I thought D:


  25. MelissaC says

    This post really “hit a note” with me this morning.

    Especially this: “What would you do if you felt great every single day?” Her belief is that what we eat and where our food comes is so tightly interwoven with our emotions, wellbeing and attitude. If you felt fantastic all the time, what would that mean for you? What would that change?

    While ultimately nothing new concept-wise, it resonated with me.

    Thank you, long-time reader of your blog and I really enjoy your posts!


  26. Rachel says

    I tend to feel great in general when I’m making sure to include enough veggies. I would say that I get plenty of servings of vegetables “most” days. There isn’t any vegetable specifically that I associate with feeling better, I would say in general when I’m eating “less” of them, I don’t feel as great. But the ONE food that I do associate with feeling good immediately isn’t on her pyramid! Red meat.. it’s truly the only food that when I’m done eating, I can tell a physical difference and I feel so good. I have no idea why, and I only tend to eat it 1-2 times per week, (and I know that 99% of people would disagree with me because it’s labeled for some reason as unhealthy,) but seriously. I guess that’s how it goes for me 🙂


  27. says

    “Eat the way you want to feel”–I love that! I find that I feel the best emotionally when I eat a lot of fresh food but also have things like pizza and frozen yogurt from time to time. I think just finding a balance that works for you personally is the most important thing!


  28. Elaine says

    I love the ideas behind this post. I like to have a green smoothie in the morning and a salad with dinner. That way I feel like at least I’m starting and ending the day on a healthy note, even if what I’ve eaten throughout hasn’t been the best.

    I do have a few problems with the food pyramid though. 1-2 glasses of wine a day, really? That’s going to make me feel pretty crappy (even just having 1 glass!). Also, the amount of other sources of protein seems really low. I eat an egg for breakfast every day! My other problem is the suggestion of so much soy every day. Ack, no thank you.



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