Eugenie Mason: The Celebrity Personal Chef Shares How Her Healthy Methods Can Work For You
Eugenie Mason is a personal chef to one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Whatever celebrity name comes to mind, think bigger! In addition to being a chef, she is also a health coach. She’s down to earth and realistic with her approach to food. As a busy wife, mom and businesswoman, she gets it.
Every eating plan seems to fail to keep up with a hectic lifestyle, so we asked Eugenie to provide us with tips and convenient products to get healthy and stay on track.
Interview with Eugenie Mason:
As a chef and health coach, what do you do to help people create a healthier life?
A. I start with helping people identify their health goals. I encourage people NOT to make losing weight their number one goal. I work with everyone from A-list celebrities preparing for specific roles, who have to get into a certain shape, to people who just want to get healthier, to stay-at-home moms. My clients are all types of people. It starts with looking into health conditions one may have. A person may have acid reflux they live with everyday and they don’t investigate what in their diet might be causing it. They may have food allergies or irritable bowel syndrome. It’s these kinds of things that people don’t really talk about, but plague a person on a daily basis.
"The core similarity, with all the people I work with, is the desire to make improvements. It’s really all you need, motivation to change the way you eat and how you live your life."
I help people uncover where in their diet they can make improvements, so they can live a better life. As a result, when people begin to eat healthy, they will lose weight.
What are tips to help a person incorporate healthy eating into their life and stick with it?
A. I always tell people, it’s a long road. To really change habits there has to be a commitment. Anyone can make lifestyle changes for a week. You can get people to stop eating a certain food or walk 10 miles for a short period of time. However, to really change habits and things that are routine, it takes about 6 months. When people come to me, I always try to emphasize that this is not a “quick fix.” It took a long time to develop their bad habits. Some people can quit doing something cold turkey. One day they are drinking ten cups of coffee and the next day they aren’t drinking any, but that is very rare. It’s a long road to wellness. One of the reasons I got into my profession was because I used to have some very unhealthy habits. It took years of education and understanding to figure out the best choices to make. Part of my counseling is to help people understand the logic behind my suggestions. Instead of a Weight Watchers approach, where people tally up points, it’s important when you are in the grocery store to know why you are picking one pasta over the other. I want people to really understand why unrefined oils are so crucial to their health, or why I suggest eating less flour products.
"You can’t rely on will power, it’s not successful….it’s not possible."
We walk around with so much false information from the media or magazines; people don’t really know what they are doing. I take people back to basics and I make it easy, so they know what they are doing.
One method does not fit all, so how do you approach health for people coming from different lifestyles?
A. When I start talking to people, I find that people really, really need to talk about this. People need to know the challenges they face everyday when it comes to eating healthy; everyone knows they could eat more greens and less junk food or sugar. However, a lot of times people are frustrated by the trappings of their lifestyle, work, or families. At first, people need to get a lot off their chests and need to vent their frustrations about what is preventing them from living the life they want to live. I have to be an investigator and get to the root of what is preventing change.
The two important questions are:
1. how do you make these changes?
2. how do you maintain them for your life?
It’s not easy. Children or husbands may be eating certain foods in the home. A person may be at the office all day or pressed for time. Sometimes the environment you’re in can be a trigger of unhappiness and cause poor eating. A bad job, a bad relationship, unsolved issues have to be addressed. A lot of it is problem-solving and strategizing for each person’s specific lifestyle.
If someone wants to break poor eating habits, what are some strategies?
A. Start with small goals. With clients, I will set out goals each week that they aim to accomplish. Don’t get too ambitious in the beginning. Don’t say you are never going to eat sugar again because it will set you up for failure. If you are a big caffeine drinker, completely cutting out caffeine will put you in a lot of pain. Start by cutting down.
Instead of drinking 5 caffeinated beverages a day, cut it down to 2 cups a day. Caffeine and sugar are two of the most additive things in our diets. Scientists have found that they trigger the same responses in our brain and body as an addictive drug, so you have to have a plan to successfully eliminate them.
"We’ve been eating crap since we were kids, so it’s a process."
When you have relied on caffeine for energy, you can’t just cut it out and continue with your draining lifestyle. Making these changes takes a lot of strategy.
Refined sugar also causes collagen to breakdown, so it isn’t great for the skin either. How can one replace refined sugar in their diet?
A. I find adding sweet healthy foods to your diet works. Adding things, like roasted corn or a baked sweet potato, will make you less likely to crave ice cream. People don’t eat enough sweet vegetables or fruits. Some people suggest cutting out fruit, but it’s natural sugar and increasing fruit can help you to cut down on white flour. Feed your need for sugar in a natural way. I have a preference for sweet foods, so every morning I will eat or sweeten a drink with raw honey.
With raw honey, you need very little because it’s very sweet. They have two kinds of raw honey at Trader Joe’s that I like. Select one that is raw, unfiltered and unrefined. Whole Foods has many as well. A craving is your body telling you something, so it’s not something to suppress or avoid. You should acknowledge it and satisify it. A craving for sugar is a craving for energy, but you can get it from natural sources. Fruit comes with fiber, antioxidants and minerals. You’ll be more successful doing it this way, to get off the “white stuff” in your diet.
What types of foods should a person be eating at each meal?
A. Extreme diets don’t work. The old saying, that you should eat a balanced diet, is right. At each meal, you should have a protein, a whole grain (brown rice, quinoa) or a starch like a sweet potato, and vegetables. Your body will tell you what it needs. If you are eating well, your body will let you know. I don’t make portions for healthy food. Usually people won’t ever say, “oh my god, I can’t believe I just ate 10 apples.” The first goal shouldn’t be weight loss, it should be to get healthy.
Also, something very important, your diet should have healthy fat. That is why I prefer to eat at home because a restaurant isn’t going to invest in a good oil; that’s where they can cut costs because you can’t see it on the plate. Look for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, unsalted cultured butter from grass-fed cows, and unrefined coconut oil. Cook with these and add them to your foods. A healthy fat is an important part of your plate.
Working for some very busy people, you utilize a whole system to create success. What are your tips for eating on-the-go?
A. People can be really organized with their work and have their planners for their job, lists etc. Still. they don’t know what’s in their fridge. They don’t have any food to bring to work and they go to the store sporadically. I help people get organized in their lives to accomplish their food goals. We do charts, meal plans and more.
Eugenie’s On-The-Go Lunch System:
You have to get tupperware! Reusable plastic is fine. Carrying glass Tupperware everywhere can be heavy. I’m not a fan of microwaves, but hey, they’re necessary at times; just transfer the food onto a glass plate before heating.
Coleman’s cooler- I always get mine at Target®. I get the cubes instead of the fabric sacks, so things don’t get smashed. Ice pack blankets to keep things cold.
Quick Easy Lunches:
In general, keep in mind the balanced diet concept. Have protein, whole grains and veggies. I make wraps a lot. For salads, use a tiny Tupperware container to transport the dressing (it’s important to make sure you have the dressing container!). Think ahead. Add sunflower seeds, nuts, veggies to the salads and some brown rice for grains. Make soup and freeze it in portions, so that it is ready to go. You can also make chili and freeze it in Tupperware containers. Freeze it in the Tupperware and seal it inside a Ziploc® freezer bag; then you can drop it in your lunch and it will start to defrost throughout the day, or put it in the fridge the night before.
A lot of people I work with get their lunch stuff at Trader Joe’s. You can bulk up their salads and organic pizzas with veggies. If you are buying prepared food, look at it like a blank slate and ask what you can add to make it healthier. Look at it like a canvas. I understand people are strapped for time, so the best thing you can do is make it a better food and add more veggies.
Snacks To Keep You On Track:
Mary’s Gone Crackers– great because they are flour-less. They are only made with grains and seeds. They can be found at Whole Foods and also Costco sometimes. You can also order them from their website.
Raw Almonds – they have fiber, protein and good fats; they are like a perfect food. You can’t really overdose on them and maybe if you have more than you should, you won’t have other unhealthy foods. A good portion size to take on-the-go is 1/3 cup.
Sunflower Butter at Trader Joe’s – it’s their own Trader Joe’s brand. It tastes great, has protein and helps curb cravings.
What are some places and products you swear by?
Trader Joe’s – it’s affordable, they have really good foods there and people can get organic food that is high-quality.
Tupperware and Ziploc® freezer bags are key. I’m a chef, but I’m not looking to waste time so these items are efficient. Look for the word “freezer” on the box because they have an extra barrier that regular bags don’t.
My #1 ingredient is Extra Virgin Oil; you can cook everything in it. I’m very hardcore about oils. I will never use a store bought salad dressing. Olive oil, lemon, a bit of salt and a little raw honey is the perfect salad dressing. I’ve even used olive oil on my face when I’ve ran out of moisturizer! I love olive oil.
Ezekiel Bread, is something I have everyday. I’m a toast girl. I have toast for breakfast. It’s flour-less; it’s made from sprouted grains. I always suggest this to clients who love toast. I’ve even made french toast with it.
Trader Joe’s Medjool Dates with almond butter. The dates are super sweet. You cut them in half and take out the seed and put in almond butter. It’s amazing! It tastes like a yummy desert and will satisfy sweet cravings.
Eugenie Mason is Certified Holistic Health Counselor, Accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and Professional Chef. After attending UCLA, she headed to culinary school instead of law school. She is a personal chef to A-list celebrities and has studied holistic nutrition. To learn more about Eugenie and her health coaching services, visit her website.