Less than four years ago, My Nguyen was living at home with her parents and two twin daughters, working a minimum wage job, and surviving paycheck to paycheck.
On a whim, she created an Instagram account called My Healthy Dish to share her affordable recipes.
And, one million followers and an e-book later, her life hasn’t quite been the same ever since.
Part of the San Franciscan’s appeal lies in her straightforward approach to eating in a (virtual) world filled with superfood-peddling, supplement-touting, obscure ingredient-obsessed foodies. “My philosophy is just about eating real food, because all food is healthy food. So long as it’s not out of a box [it’s okay],” Nguyen explains. “Just shop the perimeter of the grocery store.” Not the aisles of packaged food in between.
Nguyen has no professional culinary training, but she taught herself how to cook in college (with the help of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals) after she gained a lot of weight on a highly processed diet. And while chia seeds and apple cider vinegar are now among her kitchen staples, she still loves whipped cream on her hot chocolate and ice cream.
“I eat mainly real food, but I live a realistic lifestyle. I have two twin girls who love cheese. And, yes, we have cookies in the fridge,” she adds. See what else the down-to-earth maven’s stocks, below.
What’s all of the cheese for? We love Tillamook. The cheddar is for the girls. I know cheese is high is fat, but we’re not eating a big brick of it; just a little to add flavor is fine. And there’s goat cheese and feta, [which] I put on my salads. Then there’s Parmesan wrapped in paper towels—I shave that onto broccoli and asparagus to add more flavor.
Do you eat a lot of steak? [My husband and I] don’t, but it was our 10 year anniversary. My husband loves strip steak, and it was during the week, so we couldn’t go out with the kids. I made steak and a big salad.
Is that avocado salsa? Yes! Mango avocado salsa. That was for one of my photos, and of course we ate it after. It was a shrimp scampi taco. The salsa is also great on top of salmon, in your salads, or just with chips. I love blue corn flax tortilla chips.
Why do you keep the almonds in the fridge? Almonds you should keep in the fridge because they go bad, like anything else. I snack on almonds all day, so we keep a large amount. I buy almonds, dates, and pine nuts from the bulk bin in the grocery store. Same with chia and quinoa. It’s so much cheaper.
What’s on the paper towels? Those are my herbs. I lay them on the paper towels to keep them fresh—it keeps the moisture away. I put them in my salsa, in my salads, and into my green smoothies. If you ever feel bloated, throw some parsley into your green smoothie.
I spy apple cider vinegar. What do you use it for? It’s to balance your pH levels. I have a teaspoon in the morning and I add it to my green smoothies. I almost marinate my meat in it to make it tender. Or it makes a great salad dressing with a little olive oil and mustard.
And what about the Toll House cookie container?
I never bake—I just don’t have time! The girls love those, and we do it together. I don’t preach a 100 percent clean lifestyle; it’s not realistic. And one cookie per day won’t kill you. —Jamie McKillop