A healthy life with Ella Woodward
Blogger, author, celebrity chef and lifestyle guru to more than a million social media fans, Ella Woodward is the United Kingdom’s ever-beaming face of healthy eating.
The 25-year-old was born into the Sainsbury’s supermarket dynasty – her grandfather is Lord Sainsbury, her father is Labour politician Shaun Woodward. She is a former model who reportedly lived on a diet of crisps and sweets. But in 2011, while a student, she suffered from Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (Pots), a condition in which the heart rate rapidly increases when you stand up. She switched to a plant-based diet, which she credits with beating her symptoms.
The recipe blog Woodward started, Deliciously Ella, became so popular that a book followed, in 2015. It became Britain’s fastest-selling debut cookbook.
In the past year, Woodward has published a fourth book, Deliciously Ella with Friends; opened two London delis titled MaE, after husband Matthew Mills, dog Austin and herself; launched a range of “energy ball” snacks plus an organic skincare range.
Woodward spoke to The National for an exclusive interview during her visit to Dubai Food Festival.
You’re often described as a “healthy eating guru”. How comfortable are you with that?
Super uncomfortable – being a guru is a dangerous game. I love that people make the food and take inspiration and ideas, but you need to take inspiration and ideas from everything and make it work for your life – not “I see that person on the internet, I’m going to emulate them, I’m going to be them”.
Is the vegetarian craze another fad or an evolution of opinion?
It’s a change of mindset towards vegetables in general – away from just thinking about a plain salad and crudites, to actually taking them and doing interesting things and using lots of spices and new ways to cook them. An evolution into something that you really want to have as part of your life.
How much of your plant-based diet is influenced by your condition today?
I eat the way I do because I really enjoy it, but also because it’s the only thing I’ve found that helps me manage the illness I had, and that plays a big part in it. If we’re travelling or out somewhere, I’ll have a bite of [something else], but by and large I’m not really interested.
You’re not a pure vegan?
I eat a little bit of fish and eggs, but otherwise I’m pretty much entirely vegetarian, but [that] doesn’t especially appeal.
There’s a certain dogma found in the clean-eating community.
That’s what the problem is – you’re either healthy or you’re not; on a diet or you’re not; you’re good or bad; clean or dirty – and I think that’s such a stupid way of looking at it. Ultimately you’ve got to find something sustainable, which probably means eating a little bit better when you can, which is actually plausible and possible for your lifestyle, but also doing what you enjoy.
Any plans to pass the healthy eating genes to another generation?
Not yet – we definitely have a habit of doing everything at lighting speed, but feel like we have quite a lot on at the moment, [so] we’d probably make quite irresponsible parents.
The food industry always looks for new trends. What’s the next kale?
That’s the other thing that’s tricky – as humans we love diets, we love a quick fix, we’re always looking for the next thing – kale, hip workouts, this, that, what’s the one thing I need to eat? And there never will be one thing. Like, turmeric is having this moment, turmeric is everywhere, it tastes really good – but it’s a really ancient spice that people in India have been loving and using for thousands of years.