Today’s very special self-care dialogue is with Sarah Britton, holistic nutritionist, cookbook author and blogger behind the universally beloved vegetarian recipe blog, My New Roots. Sarah is one of those rare, ever-glowing people, who is able to turn everything she touches into magic. She is one of the pioneers of modern, plant-forward home cooking, and she’s been able to inspire hundreds of thousands of people to incorporate more plants into their everyday meals with her approachable recipes, cookbooks, classes and retreats.
In this interview, Sarah tells us about her morning, beauty and exercise routines, as well as the changes she’s recently made to her diet, her approach to feeding her three year old son, how she used manifestation to change her life, and so much more. It was such a pleasure to get a glimpse into Sarah’s everyday – her energy and positivity is woven into every sentence.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
It depends what day you ask me ;) I think in my heart I like to be open and free, but since becoming a parent, things definitely need to be more scheduled, or I just won’t do them, especially when it comes to self-care! Lately, I’ve been scheduling in time for myself, like actually putting it into our family’s calendar, and it’s really worked. Otherwise the day just gets eaten up and at the end of the week I feel pretty busted. So, it’s important to me to actually put things in the calendar, like a freewheeling, organized hippie ;)
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
I definitely used to have more of a morning routine when I didn’t have a child, it was a lot more about myself. Now we get up as a family, feed him, make his lunch, take him to school. When I come home I usually just start working because it’s pretty late. I wouldn’t say my mornings are stressful at all, just focused 100% on my son and getting him out the door :)
My ideal morning would be waking up without an alarm and immediately hitting the yoga mat, stretching, playing my singing bowl, tuning in to where I’m at, and setting intentions for the day. And somedays I do that! When I’m on vacation, I do that, but on weekdays, schooldays, it’s pretty busy.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
No, and I’m really embarrassed to say that one of my favourite things to do before I go to sleep is looking at Instagram! I don’t have a lot of time during the day to do it, so it’s sort of my wind-down. The problem with it is that I find it really stimulating and inspiring. I really should check out at least an hour before bed. But for some reason, every night, I find myself on my phone, looking at cool stuff, which I don’t recommend to anyone :)
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – Breakfast has recently changed for me, because I’ve cut way back on eating grains. My breakfast used to be oats, but I’ve recently switched to smoothies. I try to do at least one smoothie a day and drink it the morning, but if I feel like changing it up I like grain-free granola with homemade hemp milk and fruit. I also really love eggs, especially if I’m trying to get some veggies in. I’ll do soft-boiled eggs with some roasted veg and even a breakfast salad. I love breakfast salad, but I’m typically too lazy to make it, so it’s more of a weekend thing.
Lunch – It used to be rye bread with something on it almost every single day. Now I usually have leftovers from dinner the night before, or a big smoothie (if I didn’t have one at breakfast), which is really just blended vegetables, with any kind of topping. If I have time, I’ll make a big salad, some roasted veg, maybe some eggs, some avocado, things like that. Lunch tends to be my biggest meal of the day, because food is easiest to digest at that time. If I’m having quinoa or something like that, I will definitely have it during lunch.
Snack – Typically a handful of granola, nuts and seeds or some veggies. One of my favourite snacks these days is cut up carrots with pepper and cucumber, dressed with lemon, salt and aleppo pepper. Sounds so simple, but it’s so delicious, and I can eat that any time of day.
Dinner – I try and keep my dinner the lightest meal of the day if I can. I like to make soup, steamed vegetables and a salad, sometimes with sprouted lentils or other kind of bean.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I really like having a green tea every day. I usually have gunpowder green tea or a matcha. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, and I feel lucky that I’ve never gotten into it, because people are really addicted to that stuff! The first thing I drink in the morning though, is lemon water. It doesn’t matter how crazy the morning is, that is my go to. It’s sort of my coffee, I can’t live without it.
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
Yes, but the interesting thing about reducing your grain consumption is that your blood sugar is much more stable, and therefore you’re not getting cravings. If I am snacking, I try to have a very high-fat, high-protein snack, because I find that it keeps me full for longer and doesn’t spike my blood sugar and cause cravings. I really like Lee From America’s recipe for fat balls. Otherwise, again, it’s a handful of granola and snacks that are balanced, which help to get me through the day.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
Not at the moment. My smoothies are so chock-a-block with superfoods like bee pollen, mucuna pruriens, ashwaghanda. I just throw it all into the blender, and I feel really good all the time, so I can’t say that there’s one particular thing that’s really doing it for me. I think it’s just the combination of sleep, good food and exercise that’s keeping me sane!
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
I started taking this program called Living Yolates a couple years ago. It’s created by the woman I partner with for the retreats I hold. Her class really inspired me to start taking my self-care routine more seriously. When you get into class, you’re pulled out of your routine and it puts your life into perspective. Taking that class made me realize how important it is to set aside that time for myself every week.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
Yes! A lot. I’m really into body weight training. I stopped going to the gym a few years ago, because I got really burnt out, and I found it a very inhuman place to be. I started working out at home, which I prefer much better since I’m pretty self-motivated when it comes to exercise. I have a number of Youtube videos that I love, and I’ll choose one that suits my day and my mood. There’s a channel called Boho Beautiful, and her videos are really great. She has 10, 20, 30, 40 minute routines and they are a combination of yoga and strength training, and I really love them a lot. I do those multiple times a week. I practice yoga, I want to say every day, but I’d say it’s more five to six days a week. Yoga definitely keeps me grounded and makes me feel sane. I ride my bike everywhere and I cycle pretty intensely – I guess about 20-30 minutes a day. I also go to 5Rhythms, which it’s a system of movement designed by a woman named Gabrielle Roth. It follows the five rhythms of nature, and it’s three solid hours of dancing. That’s my Friday night party ;) And I literally wring my clothes out, that’s how sweaty they are at the end.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I’m really addicted to movement, even more so in the last few years since having my son. I crave it. I don’t find exercise to be torturous, but it can be challenging to start it, and that’s my biggest hurdle. Once I’m there, though, I love it, and I always feel so great afterwards.
Keeping up with exercise is not really a mindset for me, I just feel in my body when I need to move.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
You know how you get to know someone more and more, and they become more physically beautiful to you? That’s how I view beauty. I don’t really see people the way the look, I see them more the way I feel about them. I think I have the most beautiful friends in the world, the most beautiful readers, and the most beautiful people in this community!
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
I use a product line called Living Libations. They are based in Ontario, Canada, where I’m from, and it’s a friend of mine, Nadine Artemis who makes everything. I started using her products about ten years ago, and it’s pretty much the only thing I put on my skin. Her products are so pure that you could eat them, plus they smell divine. I think skincare is really important and I’ve found that over-saturating my skin with different oils to be a game-changer. It’s funny, I suffered from acne for many many years, and after changing my diet and lifestyle, I get so many compliments on my skin now. I never thought that would ever happen to me in my life, so it’s really rewarding to see the change.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
It’s really just diet and movement. Eat more plants and move! I think we forget that when we move our bodies, we are circulating everything through our systems. Movement supports our body’s natural processes in a deeper and more consistent way, and I think that’s what makes us glow.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
Drink more water ;)
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
Yoga, breathing and sitting with my singing bowl. I’ll bust our my guitar from time to time too ;)
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
I just have a really good cry, call my mom or friend and vent, or go for a walk. Deep breaths, yoga, good food, cuddles. Because stress can’t be avoided, let’s face it.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
Oregano oil is my go-to, it’s pretty much the only medicine I use. It fixes everything! I get it in Canada and I bring it over to Denmark since it was banned here (likely due to efficacy). I also gargle with salt water and go to bed as soon as I feel a cold coming on.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
It’s really tough for me. I love my job and there’s a very blurry line between work and life, so the two kind of overlap for me. When you have kids, it seems almost impossible to achieve that sort of balance. I think I’m usually doing one or the other better :) It’s a journey, and I’m learning all the time. I try to find a lot of joy in my work and remain in a place of gratitude for the thing I do to make money, because it’s pretty awesome. It still feels like fun most of the time.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
A while ago I came up with this practice, which is to try and give myself a gift every single day. It doesn’t have to be a massage or a new pair of shoes, it’s often just a fifteen minute walk or sitting on my yoga mat for five minutes, or even watering the house plants. I find all those things really feed me. So the mindset I have every day is what am I going to gift myself today? And that turns into a self-care thing.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Committing to getting more sleep and food preparation. Now that I’m eating a little bit differently than I used to, I’m finding that I really need to be prepared. Keeping things on hand all the time is self-care and self-love. I used to be more off the cuff with what I was eating, and now I have to be more on top of things, so that’s the most important change.
— Your recipes are so approachable, yet creative and educational. What is your process when it comes to recipe development?
Usually, I use something that’s relevant to my life in real time as my jumping off point, like an ingredient that I’ve tried, a dish at a restaurant I’ve been to, or a new inspiring flavour combo. I’m also constantly looking at the seasons. I can go anywhere from there, and I try to take a pretty relaxed approach and just play. I like to let the food tell me where to go.
— What is your approach to feeding your three year old son? Do you try to guard him from all unhealthy/processed foods, or are you more relaxed about it all? Do you have any advice for parents who want to raise their kids to be comfortable with real, whole foods?
This is a tricky one for me at the moment. My son is going through quite a picky phase. He was so great for a really long time, and as soon as he hit three, it all changed. Smoothies are my best friend, because I can jam all kinds of veggies in there. It’s amazing, when my son is fed, I actually feel my blood pressure go down :) Before I had a kid, and parents would ask me for advice, I’d have no idea how to answer. Now, though, I really see what a huge point of stress and contention it can be for parents. David and Luise Frenkiel put it really well in their first cookbook, where they said ‘start as you mean to go on.’ I think that is pure truth! The second you slip with kids and give them a piece of whatever it is you don’t want them to have, especially at home, they remember and want it again and again. Saying no then becomes more challenging. You just have to start from the very beginning, like we did with our son. Food prep is very important. I also think that getting kids involved in cooking is really motivating for them, and makes them feel more connected to the food.
I did guard my son from all unhealthy, processed things up until pretty recently, but he’s out in the world now, he goes to preschool. Although I make his lunch every day, he gets snacks there, and sometimes he’ll come home and tell me he had a piece of cake, although I told the school not to give him sugar. He also had his first ice cream the other day, at a party, and he loved it, obviously. I don’t want to be manic or obsessive about it. The world is full of unhealthy things, but at some point, he’s going to go out on his own, and I can let it bother me, or I can just be chill about it. It’s not going to kill him – I myself was raised on hot dogs and donuts. He is still eating a broccoli and spirulina smoothie almost every day, so I take a deep breath on that one and just let it go. Otherwise, you go nuts. Do the best you can everyday for your kids.
— You recently mentioned that you’ve been making some dietary changes in your life, specifically adapting to a low-grain, low-glycemic way of eating. I’ve been on a similar path and have found that eating less grains (sadly) makes me feel much better. What was your journey to this newfound approach?
I’m sad about it too. I know that I can still eat some grains, but what a mental shift it’s been! It’s more of a mental shift than anything, because it’s really not that big of a change, but it’s more about just not having those things in my head – I can’t just have a bowl of oats for breakfast, or a giant bowl of rice for dinner.
I had some serious menstrual and hormonal issues, and I knew that it was related to my blood sugar, but I just didn’t want to admit it. It took me months to gear up to do this. I cried so much. I live in the land of the most delicious bread, and thinking about giving that up literally felt like breaking up with someone. I have a blog post all about it. I did it pretty slowly. I started by finding some recipes to replace the things I knew I would miss the most, like bread. My Life-Changing Loaf is always there in my fridge now. It’s been really hard and emotional, but also incredible, because it’s really changed how I feel for the better.
— In your interview on the WANTcast, you spoke a little bit about being a powerful manifestor and having the ability to manifest things pretty quickly (sometimes too quickly!) at this point in your life. What was your path to manifestation and how did you learn to put it into practice?
It was Nadine from Living Libations that introduced me to Esther Hicks. She’s sort of a motivational speaker, a spirit guide. She channels the prophet Abraham, who uses her to speak. That probably sounds insane to a lot of people, but the bottom line is this woman speaks the most pure truth that really resonates with me. It’s helped me so much in my life and will forever. It has gotten me to a point, where I can ask for something, and it will turn around really fast. It’s so cool! How amazing is it that we have the power to do that? We’re born with this innate ability, but society makes us believe that things are out of our control, and that life is out of our control. Yes, that’s true to a great extent, but your attitude and outlook on life is everything. If you ask for something and get in alignment with the feeling of receiving it, you’ll receive it! That is the law of attraction.
I started putting this into practice right when I moved to Denmark, because I was having a really bad time when I first moved here. I felt out of place, out of touch with myself, and completely lost. Nadine gave me these CDs to listen to in the car, and that changed my life completely. I came back to Denmark, and realized that I’ve been a real stick-in-the-mud and wallowing in self-pity, which wasn’t getting me anywhere. I changed my attitude, and everything changed. It was pretty remarkable.
I highly recommend Esther Hicks. Have patience with it. It’s a big shift to change your mindset about those things and see all the possibilities in your life. Everything is right there in front of you, that’s what’s so cool about it. Stay in the vortex, everybody :)
Fun and Inspiration
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
I love getting a massage, and I do that once a month if I can. To unwind, I love cooking. If someone else cleans up after me, cooking is my biggest pleasure and stress reliever in life. I also love giving myself a facial, pedicure, or even curling up with a good book. And if I’m near a body of water, swimming is how I unwind.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Song/Album – Here by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Movie – Chef’s Table on Netflix
Piece of Art – I love everything James Turrell creates. I visited his project in progress in Arizona, called The Roden Crater about 12 years ago, which is how I was introduced to his work. I was completely blown away. Turrell really believes that art can allow us to tap into other worlds, and I believe that too.
— What are some of your favorite places in Copenhagen?
Christiania is my number one, I love it there so much. It’s actually like a city within Copenhagen, about 1500 residents. It’s sort of like a giant, beautiful squat. It was started in the early 70s, and now it’s an enclave of artists, creatives, international folks. I like to see people live in alternative ways and challenge the status quo.
There is also a lot going on in the food scene here, but they’re a little behind when it comes to creative plant-based cooking and embracing “healthier” trends. Nevertheless, here are some restaurants that I’ve enjoyed eating at:
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
All photos courtesy of Sarah Britton.