If you suffer from food allergies of any kind, especially to gluten, it can be challenge cooking, and adopting a healthy diet. But it doesn't have to be that way. Amie Valpone, a nutritionist was kind enough to chat with us, and share her advice on how to deal with food sensitivities.

SlimKicker: Briefly tell us how you adopted a clean eating lifestyle, and your mission with The Healthy Apple.

Amie: My health has led me to the greatest food ever – I suffered for 6 years of my life with chronic pain, low white blood cells and leg swelling- I honestly met with every doctor under the sun until

I finally learned what was going on in my body. I focus on and eat clean, whole foods because life isn't about deprivation or dieting- it's about eating real foods that make us feel great inside and out.

My numerous food intolerance's and sensitivities have led me to discover creativity in my kitchen with fresh herbs, spices, produce and lean proteins each and every day. This is what inspired me to start my blog - TheHealthyApple.com – helping others to realize that there is flavor beyond sugar and processed, packaged foods- and there is a delicious life beyond food intolerance's.

SlimKicker: What tips do you have for people who are busy to cook, and often eat out?

Amie: I keep it simple and basic with a focus on the natural sweetness of real food, with my creativity going into the healthy homemade condiments and sauces that highlight the meals flavors. I suggest working with quality, clean food.

I don't aim to wow you with numerous different gourmet meals and you shouldn't try to do that either. You can make a fabulous meal with a lean protein such as salmon, a veggie such as bok choy, a healthy fat such as avocado and a whole grain such as brown rice. Simple and delicious.

Here a few of my special tips for helping families and kids to eat clean:

• Toss ground cashews, almonds and flax seeds into a container and use them instead of bread crumbs for a nutritional boost.

• Be a good role model- sit down for all 3 meals and snacks.

• Teach them new tastes from fresh basil to fresh orange juice.

• Take your kids shopping with you- farmers markets or food store- either way they'll learn.

• Be flexible; everything in moderation. Don't go cold turkey on the kids- slowly add in healthy foods instead of tossing everything 'bad' out.

• Make mealtime special family time. Talk about the flavors and textures.

• Don't be a short-order cook. Make the same dinner for everyone in the family while making sure to put some foods on the plate that your children like — then add something new.

• Let kids help in the kitchen- they'll love the process of market to table fresh food.

• Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast.

• Breakfast should always include a source of protein, some healthy fats, carbohydrates (whole grains are best), and vitamins and minerals.

• Stock the pantry with healthy choices and make them visible, which may seem intuitive but is often overlooked.

• Place carrots w/ guacamole in fridge and fruit on the counter to steer kids toward nutritious snacks.

• Instead of aiming for perfection, try for consistency so that kids are regularly exposed to healthy options.

• The best you can do is to make sure they eat healthy when they are under your control.

• Expect kids to mimic your behavior instead of follow directions.

• Don't give up! It's important that your children know how to eat well for good health throughout life

SlimKicker: What's your best tip for anyone who wants to improve their cooking?

Amie: Start eating to live, not live to eat and learn to embrace simple, Clean, whole foods that will give you energy and keep you satisfied for longer.

Move away from the diet mentality and eat what your body wants not what someone else's plan entails as that only brings you farther away from what you will truly enjoy cooking and eating day in-and day out.

It's about being true to yourself and listening to what your taste buds are yearning for- whether it's Brussels sprouts or whole grain pizza. I tell my clients to start with their food processor – make a simple salsa, guacamole and hummus for the week to use on salads, pastas, pizzas, grains, eggs and proteins such as fish, chicken and tofu. A touch of fresh herbs goes a long way in any of these 3 simple condiments.

SlimKicker: As a nutritionist I am sure you have had lots of experience with supplements and vitamins. What would you say are the most common mistakes people make when choosing?

Amie: People just assume they need a vitamin because of a commercial or because their friend or family member is taking it- we are all different and each of us processed everything and absorbs food and nutrients differently so there's no one pill for all.

It takes time and detailed blood work and working with a good doctor and nutritionist to figure out what exactly will work for you and your body. I often suggest a multi-vitamin for all of my clients who need the extra boost they may not be receiving from certain foods.

SlimKicker: How can you determine if you can't tolerate gluten?

Amie: The symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people experience bloating and stomach aches where others experience rashes, exhaustion or nutritional deficiencies. It's best to visit a doctor who specializes in celiac or gluten intolerance to run a series of tests to see if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.

SlimKicker: What's your opinion on other types of grains such as quinoa? And sprouted bread?

Amie: I love using quinoa with my clients. Other gluten-free ideas are risotto, rice, buckwheat, millet, tess, almond flour, peanut flour, coconut flour, bean flours, etc. There is a whole world out there now that let's you create delicious recipes and baked goods without using any gluten. One of my favorite brands is TruRoots- they have a fabulous variety of gluten-free products and grains!

How can you tell if you're eating the right food for your bodies. Often, the food that taste great to our taste buds aren't good for our health. Is this something that has to be tested individually, such as doing an elimination diet?

Amie: My advice is to be in tune with your body and find an integrative medicine doctor that wants to help you and Not just had you a prescription drug. Get to the root of your problem and fight until you find a doctor that fights for you and finds the answer.

It took me 6 years and going out to Mayo Clinic and no one could figure out what was wrong with me- until I switched to integrative medicine doctors (M.D.'s with integrative degrees) who specialize in finding what is wrong with the body and your ailments.

SlimKicker: What are you currently working on right now and what is in your future plans?

Amie: Lots of fun and exciting things!!! I love what I do. I am a personal chef and nutritionist in Manhattan so I work with clients doing food store tours, pantry makeovers, cooking classes, one-on-one cooking in their homes, etc. and I love it.

I also work with many gluten-free and healthy food brands as a brand ambassador and spokesperson performing media work, developing recipes, taking professional photography and food styling shots with their foods and the recipes I created, teaching classes, speaking at conferences, etc.

For instance, this month I was in Monterey, California visiting the Dole Salad facility and working with them. Today I hosted an event with Dole Vegetables and Felicity Hoffman of the Desperate Housewives, then tomorrow I'm off to Seattle to host an event for Whole Foods Market, then attending the BlogHer Food Conference in Seattle, then off to work with Tree Top Applejuice to tour their orchards in Washington state and work with them for a few days, followed by media work for Organic Valley in Portland and then back to Seattle to speak at the GIG (Gluten Intolerance Conference) on Social Media as well as a session on Clean Eating and hosting a gluten-free tailgating party at the gluten-free night at a Seattle Mariners Baseball game!

Then heading back to the West coast the following week for Thermador appliances to work with them for a few days in the California sunshine. Lots of fun and lots to do but I love every second of it!

SlimKicker: Thanks for checking in with us.

Here are some useful links for you readers at home:

Apple.comVisit Amie's website and blog, The Healthy Apple at www.TheHealthyApple.com.

Like Amie's Facebook Page: The Healthy Apple

Twitter: @TheHealthyApple

Amie Valpone is a culinary nutritionist, clean eating expert and personal chef. She is the Editor in Chief of the gluten-free blog The Healthy Apple. Her cooking is inspired and influenced by her decision to not let food allergies stop her from eating well and being creative in the kitchen. Here’s a chance to get to know her a little bit better.


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