Plant-Powered Peeps: Meet Danijela of Healthy Always
Photo: Natasha H’ng
This week I’m overjoyed to introduce you to the beautiful, inside and out, Danijela Unkovich. Danijela is the talent and inspiration behind the super successful Healthy Always instagram account. I first spied Danijela via Instagram (a social photo sharing platform for those who aren’t familiar/addicted), after seeing scrolls of her delicious healthy plant-powered recipes in my feed. Not long after, I caught her frequenting some of my favourite local foodie haunts, and realised not only did we share a passion for healthy organic food, she was also a fellow Aucklander from NZ. Not just that, she’s part of the tight knit local Croatian community here in Auckland which my partner is also from, so felt a bond straight away.
Danijela has been interested in health and nutrition from a young age, and is currently part way through a Bachelor of Science double majoring in Human Nutrition and Physiology. Her plan is to one day be working one-on-one with clients, teaching about the power that food can have on transforming lives, particular in terms of preventative and medicative nutrition.
As a respite from her busy studies, Danijela set up her Instagram around a year ago, mainly to draw inspiration from other health conscious individuals. However after a massive growth spurt (Healthy Always now has over 80,000 followers), she is now using it to share healthy and nutritious meal ideas with the community, in an effort to inspire them and help them make better choices.
Apart from cooking delicious nourishing meals, Danijela is a big fan of travelling, and draws much inspiration from it. She also came second in Miss Universe NZ 2010. However this lass is not just a pretty face – she’s a lovely person as well and a talented wee cookie to boot (a dairy free, wheat free cookie of course).
Without further ado, meet Danijela…
Why did you decide to turn to a more plant-based organic lifestyle?
I have always been interested in health and nutrition, and find it really fascinating. What made me really take it on as a lifestyle though was after my health took a turn for the worst after a really busy and stressful year, and taking care of myself suddenly became both a necessity and priority. The real commitment was when I started to see changes, and it was like, “hey, this stuff works!”. It is one of the main reasons why I want to dedicate the career aspect of my life to being a nutritionist and teaching individuals about the importance and power of healthy living. I am at a point in my life now where simply living this lifestyle makes me happy. It’s nourishing, inspiring, and stimulating.
How has your health (physical and emotional) changed since then?
It has dramatically enhanced my life. Physically I look and feel better. When I wake up there is no sleep “hangover”, and I have plenty of energy. My skin is a lot clearer, and my weight sits naturally at what is normal for me. Emotionally, I find I am more balanced, calm, and centred when I stick to this lifestyle. If I stray from my normal diet, I immediately feel it in my mood and become quite sluggish and irritated.
If you had to give someone 3 reasons why they should switch to more plant-based organic products, what would they be?
- More energy. Life is for living, and is full of opportunities. Having more energy gives you the fuel to live the life you want to live.
- You look better, which means you naturally feel better about yourself. A plant-based lifestyle really is a living beauty tonic. Often we subject our bodies to a vast chemical cocktail not only through the foods we consume, but also in our beauty, household, and personal products. I strongly believe in using naturally derived and organic products on our skin whenever possible, and always opting for using our diet as our main beauty regime!
- From my own experience, living a lifestyle focused on conscious healthy living teaches you a lot about self-respect and the power and capabilities our bodies really have. I have learnt so much about myself, who I am, and what I want in life, simply by investing more time into me and my own health.
What does a day on your plate look like:
- Brekky: I always start my day with a big glass of warm water. For breakfast I generally alternate between oats, muesli, or a big green smoothie, and add variety by switching it up with various seasonal fresh fruit. If I have extra time I will make my healthy pancakes, which keep me going for hours. Generally I eat all my fruit in the morning as I find it better on digestion.
- Lunch: If I am at university I will usually take last night’s leftovers for lunch, and add a fresh salad dressed in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. On the weekend I love getting creative in the kitchen, and spending time making something a bit more indulgent. I eat a lot to the weather, so when it’s cooler I love making soups and warm coconut based curries, which are packed full of seasonal vegetables.
- Dinner: Usually consists of a protein source and plenty of vegetables. I always aim for versatility and seasonal produce when it comes to my vegetables. I grill, steam, boil, and then add plenty of fresh herbs and olive oil to season. I am of European decent and love the simple, fresh, and vibrant Mediterranean flavours.
- Snacks: Lots of tea! My favourite right now is camomile. I love to snack on dark chocolate covered almonds, kale chips, and vegetable sticks with hummus. I’m also always in the kitchen baking healthy treats, so pretty much at any point in time there’s something sweet to nibble on in my fridge.
Now, your favourite foodie indulgence…
I love anything chocolate. When I am feeling really indulgent I love making a chocolate fondue to share around, using a good quality block of organic dark chocolate to melt down (my favourite is Loving Earth’s Coconut Mylk Chocolate), plenty of fresh seasonal fruit, and chopped nuts and shredded coconut to dip it all in.
What do you think the biggest misconception is about an organic plant-based lifestyle?
That it is boring and restrictive! There is definitely this stereotype that consuming a plant-based diet consists mainly of eating lots of salad leaves and raw carrot sticks. Really it couldn’t be further from reality. Living in New Zealand we are extremely fortunate to have access to a variety of fresh, seasonal, flavoursome, and readily available ingredients, which makes cooking inspiring and nourishing. It is all about having fun in the kitchen, getting creative, and not being scared to try something new.
What’s your approach to balance & moderation (in life and food)
Before I was notoriously bad at keeping balance, but now I truly believe that in keeping a healthy and balanced life there needs to be equilibrium between all aspects. Neglecting one part of your life and over-doing another, will if anything put you more out of kilter. For me it is about focusing on getting some exercise into my day, sleeping enough at night, having a passion and following it, consuming a balanced healthy diet, setting myself goals, and keeping a positive mind frame.
Someone wise once taught me the importance of keeping faith in yourself and always striving to have a positive and open mind…I try to remind myself this when I am feeling unbalanced, as I find the thought very grounding. And when you consider that your brain responds to nearly all of the thoughts you have, what and how we think is extremely powerful. In regards to moderation and diet, I strongly believe in moderation not deprivation. When we tell ourselves we can’t eat a particular food we are more likely to obsess over it, give in and binge on it, and then feel extremely guilty afterwards. It’s all about trying to make positive choices most of the time, and when we do treat ourselves acknowledging it as a treat, enjoying it, then moving on.
You’ve been given permission to raid the Be Good Organics stock room – what’s one foodie product and one beauty product you’d nab…
Foodie product: I have a massive sweet tooth, so it would be a tie between Loving Earth’s Raw Chocolate (my favourite flavour right now is the orange and gubinge), or some Little Bird Organic Macaroons. I love the cacao and raspberry flavour. Yum!
Beauty Product: I love using a natural dry body brush before showering. It makes your skin so incredibly smooth, and is great for detoxification, increasing circulation, and helping to stimulate the lymphatic system.
Can you share your favourite plant-based organic recipe?
I love green smoothies! They are a wonderful and easy way to up your leafy green intake. Right now my favourite is this coconut and pineapple smoothie.
Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
Coconut and Pineapple Smoothie
- 1 c coconut water
- 1/4 c avocado
- Handful baby spinach
- 1/2 c pineapple
- 1/2 frozen banana
- Blend until smooth and enjoy ice cold!
- Be sure to taste and adjust the levels of banana and pineapple – you can go with more or less than listed in the recipe, just do what you prefer!