Sarah Adler is a Seattle-based nutrition coach, entrepreneur, and founder of the Simply Real Health website and blog. Her new cookbook, Simply Real Eating: Everyday Recipes and Rituals for a Healthy Life Made Simple, goes on sale on November 19, and I was lucky enough to grab some of her time for an email interview.
After a lifetime of obsessively following diets and trends, Adler embraced real food: food that is whole, has ingredients you can pronounce, and nourishes your body. Her recipes all take about 20 minutes to cook, many have 5 ingredients or less, and all are built on the principle of simple and real food. Not only are the recipes in this book healthy and delicious, it’s a gorgeous book with beautiful photography (by Carina Skrobecki) and food glamour shots that will leave you hungry.
I’ve been following Adler’s work for about four years, and her approach to wellness just speaks to me. It’s about being intentional and finding what works for you, rather than a rigid set of rules and a lifetime of calorie counting. Grab a copy of Simply Real Eating for yourself and also your friend/sister/relative who is striving to live a healthier life in 2020.
Sarah Gelman: At first glance, Simply Real Eating looks like a cookbook, but it’s really more than that—I would call it a lifestyle book. Was this your intention?
Sarah Adler: Yes, 100%. I think when most people find me or work with me or start following me, they think it’s all about the food, and finding simple recipes that work in real life. I’m the 5 ingredients or less, 20 minutes or less girl. Which I love, and fully believe in.
But it’s so much deeper than that, which most people realize pretty quickly afterwards. That it’s not just about the food. It’s about its role in our lives too, and how connected it is to everything else in our life.
That eating real food is so important. I’d say it’s the foundation and starting point. But that I don't just want people to eat healthier food. I want them to live healthier LIVES.
Physically. Mentally. And emotionally. So they can show up more fully in their lives. The three are so interconnected.
And that requires taking a closer look at your daily habits, actions and mentality. For practical purposes, with food first. But the real magic? It's that when you start with food, the same mentality starts to expand into all the other areas of your life as well.
So that’s my mission: to help people live their best lives, in all senses of the world. And to show up more fully in all their roles and through all the seasons of their life, feeling nourished, energized and grounded in every way.
I love that you start the book with a very real confessional about your relationship with food, and the story of how at the age of seven you were picking out food at the natural food store. Knowing what you know now, what would you say to your younger self?
Knowing what I know now, I would say that anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. That applies to any diet, trend, dating, all.
But with food, to learn how to read an ingredient label is a life skill, and not just the nutrition facts. That no matter what, if you stick to foods that you can pronounce and that are natural and simple and from the earth, the rest takes care of itself.
And that as much as you can, focus on what feels good—in your body, in your energy and in your life. Not what everyone else is doing. It’s about learning to tune in to your own guidance system vs tuning out, because everyone’s body is a little different.
And that, finally, there is no quick fix when it comes to food, or such a thing as eating perfectly healthy. And that even if there was, and even if you got a prize at the end of your life for being the healthiest person, what does it matter if you can’t enjoy your life and the people in it, or be fully present where you are because you’re consumed by all the self-talk in your head?
So this book is a guide book on how to have a healthy lifestyle that lasts—meaning, all the real-food recipes you need—but also [goes] another layer deeper: about how to infuse them into your life. About the habits, practices and rituals that make them stick and become your go-to way of being—without the perfection. And ultimately, how to take care of yourself (and those you love), simply and daily.
Rituals are little daily acts of self care, done with love. They are the things you do to quiet your mind, re-connect, and remind yourself of what really matters in you day. And they’re powerful. I think that when we can create little acts of joy with our food and in our daily lives around habits that help us feel our best, everything else in life gets easier.
I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book, and was blown away by the first recipe I tried: Turkey Sausage and Veggie Polenta Bowls (pg 190). You wrote “I’m not supposed to pick favorites, but this dish might just be my favorite cozy meal of all time.” I am totally in agreement with you—this was seriously one of the most delicious things I have ever made! What are some of your other favorites?
Ok, this is such a hard question! Truly every single one of these recipes is intentional—to show a new technique, or a new way to get more veggies and nutrients into your food, all while feeling enjoyable and tasting delicious. But if I had to pick, here are my most frequently made ones in my own kitchen:
The Matcha Latte is my everyday staple. The Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies, the Crustless Sausage and Veggie Pizzas, or something like the Italian Situation stew are what I always make on Sundays. The Jam Dots… I put a warning label on the recipe because I can never, ever eat just one. The Fall Salad You Won’t Be Able to Quit is also a very true statement. The Maple Graham Crackers are a little hidden gem. ALL the energy balls are weekly staples too for me, especially as a new mama. And the Spicy Cabo cocktail is my all-time fave!
I’ve been a longtime fan of your work and loved your first cookbook, The Simply Real Health Cookbook. How is this second cookbook different?
The first book, The Simply Real Health Cookbook, is what I like to call the bible of real food, made simple. And the first cookbook that you might actually truly use everyday. Most of the 150 recipes—ranging from healthy breakfast and brunch ideas, make-ahead lunches, soups, salads, entrees, desserts & healthy cocktails—are about 5 ingredients or less and are 20 minutes or less. It’s all about just how many delicious things you can make with real food, and simply.
The second book, Simply Real Eating, is all about real food too. The recipes are all the same style—simple and delicious—but this book goes beyond just the food and more into lifestyle coaching as well: about how to harness the power of real food and create habits, patterns, daily rituals and mind-set shifts that not only help you get healthy but, more important, stay healthy, day in and day out, season in and season out.
You’ve had a big couple of years: Your business has grown, you got married, wrote a(nother) book, and had a baby. How has your approach to eating and creating a healthy lifestyle changed?
I think that’s been the best part—and truly the point I am trying to make in this book: that when you eat real food as your norm (without all the pressure to be perfect at it, or all or nothing at it, and with joy infused into your daily life around it), it becomes a grounding point in your day, and something that brings you back to what matters in life.
The types of food may change, our bodies may change, the seasons change, or the seasons in your life do. But the principles don’t. It’s like a flexible framework instead of rigid rules. No matter how crazy or busy things get, eating real food as your normal keeps life simple and way less stressful. That’s how I see it anyways.
When life gets busy, you have even more of a need to feed and nourish yourself well (and those you love around you) because you need all the energy you can get. So whether [I’m] in a crazy business growth season or having a newborn or traveling everywhere—real food is my unshakeable foundation that keeps me calm, grounded and present, and helps me show up for my life as fully as possible in each moment.
Ok, superfan question. I am so intrigued that your morning bevvie recipes call for a blender. How does this change your drink? Have we been drinking our coffee or tea all wrong?!
Yes! haha, although I don’t believe in a right or wrong way to drink your morning drinks—it’s whatever makes you happiest. For me, texture, temperature, and taste all just enhance the experience. And for the most part I drink matcha, instead of coffee, which gets a little chunky if you’re trying to mix it with a spoon. Plus, I usually add in a few extras depending what I need that day (all listed in the book).
But more than just a great whipped and frothy texture (try it with any base you like, be it coffee, matcha, tea, etc.), it’s the process for me that I love and need—the heating of water and milk, the adding of that splash of maple, the pouring and whirring of the blender, and the slow, beautiful pour into the cup that centers me. It makes me present. And appreciative of what’s going in my body and how it will fuel and sustain me. And it helps me take a few minutes for myself in the morning—no matter how crazy the day might be. It’s a ritual for me because it’s so much more than just the coffee or matcha itself: it’s what it reminds to do and focus on that day.
What wellness-focused books or podcasts have been your recent favorites?
Ok... truthfully? I don’t listen to that many, because I’m a big believer that all you need for your own health, wellness, and happiness is an ability to tune IN to yourself instead of paying attention to what everyone else is doing around you. Because I’m in the industry, I don’t spend a lot of time looking around at everyone else’s content, and spend most of my book reading time and podcast time on self-development, manifestation, and business, because I think that’s were all the juiciness, next-level ideas and goodness lie. For me, anyways.
That being said, I DO have a few friends and people that I love and adore because we’re on the same page in our food philosophies, but bring such a different flavor and perspective to how we talk about things. Sara Forte from Sprouted Kitchen, Robyn Downs from Real Food Whole Life (& the Feel Good Effect podcast). Wellness wise, I love Melissa Ambrosini’s podcast, the Goop pod, and Almost 30.