HEALTHY LIVING BY MAJA BREKALO
Food has to be tasty. The purpose of food is not solely to cover the nutritional needs of the body. Food is not only protein and calories.
Food is EMOTION.
The name behind these words speaks for itself:
About the author of this article…
Until recently, my typical breakfast consisted of a white-flour bun, butter, and an instant beverage many call coffee. I’d often skip lunch, and then I’d surreptitiously devour the contents of the fridge in the evenings, hiding from the rest of my family. I’d believe the scale would turn a blind eye. And the body wouldn’t care. A “healthier” diet was someone else’s pastime. And then something clicked. Without a real reason or… maybe there’s someone watching over these things??
I stumbled upon an Instagram profile, @delicious_and_healthy_by_maja, and when I saw the food posted by the profile owner, her followers (over 150,000), and likes per post, the way she writes her posts… I converted instantly. Out of the blue, it hit me hard and right in the gut. Maja happened to have a workshop in Maksimir at the time, and I went to check it out – and that’s when my life changed drastically.
And who is Maja?
Maja Brekalo is a young, slender, energetic, and charming Zagrebian (born in Dubrovnik, which we have to mention so the family won’t mind) who exudes special positive energy. You know that feeling when you instantly connect with someone – you click and you talk and talk… Honestly, Maja can talk more than me, and that’s no small feat, I assure you. She talks about her passions, so I understand her completely. She says she’s always been different, even when it comes to food. From her earliest childhood, which she spent in Dubrovnik, food has been extremely important for her. She has always eaten healthy since the basics of life – and of eating – stem from the family. She ate pancetta, prosciutto, turkey, but never salami or jerky. Her parents were foodies even though her mother mostly cooked about twenty classic, traditional dishes. There were the occasional frog legs on the menu… which Maja loved, and that’s not so “normal” for a preschooler. She has always found the meat&potatoes combo boring. She developed her love of fruit and vegetables while visiting her family in Konavle. “I noticed that their diet was pretty unhealthy. They were growing heaps of fruit and vegetables which they didn’t eat but rather sold. Soon after giving birth, the women would become obese, grow old too soon, develop many health issues…” She was certain it didn’t have to be that way!
On veganism, vegetarianism, macrobiotics…
Maja has no definite “label” when it comes to food. Her recipes are vegan, but her core is macrobiotic. When she could choose, she’d eat only vegan food, but her life circumstances don’t allow for it: her family, work (she’s a flight attendant). In restaurants she mainly orders fish and vegetables since “unfortunately, you can’t eat anything decent in our restaurants if it excludes meat and potatoes. Rice is almost always white, the vegetables are frozen, often tasteless… I’d rather have a piece of goat cheese… something healthy, even if it means breaking the vegan rule.” She hasn’t eaten meat since her daughter Klara, soon to be 16, was born.
The food habits of our ancestors…
“Research has shown that the meat industry is the biggest polluter on the planet, even bigger than traffic. People have been acting in extreme manners – they growing ill, nature is being destroyed… And why would we have to eat meat every day? We also don’t have to eliminate it from our diets completely… It’s all about balance. Both in life and when it comes to food.”
How we should be eating…
We should be eating the way our ancestors did. It’s incorrect that our ancestors ate meat every day. “We should make baby steps in changing our diet. Try not to eat meat every day and learn to consume a wealth of quality ingredients we have at our grasp, but which we completely forgot about or we use in only one way… We should be using unrefined ingredients more – grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, seasonal fruit and vegetables.”
On the expensiveness of healthy ingredients…
Many will say that “healthy food” is a lot more expensive than the so-called “traditional” food. But that is not true. You should behave rationally. Maja doesn’t buy chocolate or biscuits or cheese in healthy food stores… since the prices there are astronomical and you nibble on them in no time. She goes there to purchase basic ingredients, and she doesn’t save on the ones that are vital and last for a long time (superfoods, spices…). “I can make lunch three times out of a kilo of rice. I can feed the entire family twice with about fifty kuna. You only need to be rational and know what to buy and where. I mostly buy the grains and legumes in DM, some in Bio&Bio, and I get the fruit and vegetables on the market…”
On eating out…
When she’s at work (that is, travelling) – and that is often – Maja brings along cooked rice, quinoa, vegetables, tomatoes, avocado… She buys fruit and vegetables and makes herself a salad. When it comes to eating at our restaurants, there’s not much to praise. “Unfortunately, at our restaurants, you can rarely find quality vegan/vegetarian dishes. I’d be very happy if our restaurant offer developed more in that direction…” When she does eat out, she prefers fish and vegetables, sushi, tuna steaks… almost never anything vegan.
On her future plans and wishes…
She’d love nothing more than to devote her time to education and workshops on healthy food. She has already been holding workshops several times a year – she has about 40 aficionados who attend them regularly. “Most of the people who attend my workshops are omnivores, but they want to learn how to prepare healthy meals. I teach them how to integrate the abundance of healthy ingredients. They don’t eat seeds, legumes, grains (which you shouldn’t overdo it with, by the way); they don’t know all the ways of preparing quinoa, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, oat, lentil…” Her wish is to publish a book; she has already gathered about a hundred recipes.
On her blog and Instagram…
When it comes to the number of followers, Maja can compare with prominent Croatian publishers. I’d say many dream of the count Maja has wielded without trouble – and I’d add she strikes me as a global star.
“This time last year, I had only about one thousand followers, but they grew in number month in month out. All my friends around the world who shared the same love were also “small” (haha). But little by little… we have grown connected, we support one another, we share the same passion. And that’s what people recognize.”
Her recipe for success?
Of course, you need to publish lovely, attractive, high-quality photographs, but that alone is not enough. People just love Maja’s writing since it’s motivating, inspiring, change-inducing… “Apart from my love of cooking and photography, I apparently have this “educational” streak. (I’d say “enlightening”, if you ask me.) I love and I manage to influence others, and I try not to be aggressive about it. I love it whne I can give advice, when I receive feedback that I’ve helped someone deal with a health issue.”
A daily menu by Maja…
- Breakfast: rich
Chia pudding (most often) with fruit (seasonal) or a smoothie (a rich one with buckwheat or oat) with lots of spices, superfoods, fruit…
- Lunch: light
Quinoa and broccoli, rice and broccoli, steamed chard, some grains, a salad… Rice noodles, whole-wheat pasta, buckwheat, rice, or oat… rice rolls with rice dishes (wok or risottos)…
- Dinner: more complex
Thick broths (cauliflower soup; sweet potato, carrot, and chili soup; thick curry soup with fried lentils); vegetables: carrots, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and rice in wok + salad
- Favorite restaurant abroad: VaggaMama in London
- Favorite restaurant in ZG/CRO:Takenoko, Mundoaka
- Favorite cuisine: Asian, fusion – Far East; Middle East and India are too aromatic so the food often loses its original taste…
- Three favorite spices: umeboshi, chili, shoyu…
- Favorite dessert: hazelnut and carrot cake
RECIPE!!! EXCLUSIVE FOR OUR BLOG!!!
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk
- 1/4 organic lemon with rind
- 1 peach
- 2 tsp golden flax seeds
- 1 tsp psyllium husk
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1/2 cup red currant or blueberries
- 1/2 cup raspberries
Blend first 7 ingredients until smooth. Divide in two parts. Add to one currants and blend, and to the other, raspberries. Layer in a jar or a bowl.
This summery nourishing smoothie will give you a great kick start of the day! Frozen banana will give it a lovely creamy and smooth consistency and in addition, if you use frozen berries, it will be even more refreshing with almost ice cream-like consistency.
Besides being delicious, this smoothie will nourish your body. It is rich in essential fatty acids, soluble and insoluble fiber that aid the digestion and promote healthy heart. Berries and fruits provide abundance of minerals, vitamins and other important phyto nutrients. Maca balances your hormones and promotes feeling energized and boosts your stamina. Both flax seeds and psyllium benefit healthy bowels and slow the absorption of nutrients which keeps us full for longer period of time..
Photo: Marija Laća (portrait Maje Brekalo), food (Maja Brekalo)
Translation: Nevena Erak