In case you haven’t heard, home-cooked is the ultimate *life goals* and Head Chef/Culinary Co-Founder of Plated is on a mission to make cooking at home easy, accessible, and delicious. I recently stopped by Elana’s, in the high of summer, to hang kitchen side, snack, and chat about her compelling career path from education to cooking, a solve for pregnancy hot flashes, the only thing she’s NOT eating while pregnant, plus her advice to other women. Below are her incredible insights. @plated

Current state of mind at 30 weeks?

I’m simultaneously very excited and equally nervous. I’m ready to meet my baby, but a little uncertain about how much my life is going to change.

How did you come to join Plated?

While I’ve pretty much always been interested in food, from cooking to exploring new restaurants, my career began in education. After graduating I worked with Teach For America, teaching 2nd grade here in NYC. While there, I became interested in food, nutrition, and health. Most of my students had poor eating habits and virtually no access to information about healthy eating, and it’s connection to how you feel. When I finished with Teach for America, I decided that while I qualified on the education front, I didn’t have any professional food experience; therefore I moved to Paris to study cooking at Le Cordon Bleu. I lived there for a year and got a degree, came back and tried to figure out how to combine my two passions. I worked every food job imaginable from catering, to being a private chef, to selling turkeys at a farmers market on Thanksgiving! Eventually, I found a job teaching Nutrition Education in schools around the city heading up cooking classes and cafeteria education programs during lunch — I loved the idea of empowering youth through food. However, the company was small, and I wanted something that had the potential to make a considerable impact — that’s when I discovered Plated.

Plated is a meal kit company that offers more than 20 menu options per week, pre-portioned, ready to cook, and delivered to your door. You choose from our weekly menus based on your taste preference or diet, and we send you all the ingredients to prepare fresh, delicious meals at home in about 30 minutes. I started with PLATED in 2013 2012 right after they launched and was thrilled about the idea of better enabling people to cook at home on a national scale. As soon as I learned about the company, I knew I had to be a part of it.

Speaking of food, what have you been craving?

I’m typically not a “sweets person,” but pregnancy disagrees! Fortunately, seasonal fruit seems to do the trick. When it was winter I couldn’t get enough grapefruit and now that it’s summer I’ve been averaging one watermelon per week — it’s mostly water!  Plus I love carbs more than ever these days — potatoes! 

What does a regular day of eating look like to you?

I always eat breakfast at home, usually eggs and Ezekiel bread or yogurt with berries and granola. For lunch, I typically have a salad, which is relatively easy considering it’s summer and a thousand degrees out. Then for dinner, my husband will cook a protein and veggie based Plated meal for us, or we’ll order takeout.

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What’s the first thing you want to eat post pregnancy?

I’ve been pretty lenient overall in regards to the Do-Not-Eat-List, as I’m more focused on eating fresh, good quality food. However, the one item I haven’t indulged in is oysters. Therefore, while it may not be the VERY first thing that I eat post-baby, I can’t wait to have a beautiful tray of icy oysters!

What has been unexpected during this pregnancy?

Hot flashes! I go from being a normal human with a normal body temperature to burning up! I’ve found it helps to chug water.

What has been your go-to pregnancy style?

I’ve been living in dresses — they’re my best friend — with my jean jacket. I do a mix of flowy and tight as I’m practicing showing off my belly.

Do you think it’s essential for women/moms to take time for self-care?

Definitely! This pregnancy has been a lesson in slowing down and taking care of myself — something that I’ve never excelled at. Carving time out to for me has proven to be vital! I’ve noticed that when you’re pregnant your body tells you when you have to rest, and I’ve found that when I don’t adhere, I become exhausted. I recharge by going for pre-natal massages or floating in the pool now that it’s summer — it’s heaven!

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Are you working-out throughout your pregnancy?

I work-out with a trainer once a week and try to do a session of prenatal yoga or a bit of cardio. However, admittedly it’s becoming increasingly difficult to motivate now that I’m in my third trimester.

Feel about your body and boobs?

It’s an adjustment — some days I feel great about all of it and other days, not as much. I’m hopeful that by taking care of myself I’ll get back to where I want to be soon after I have the baby.

How do you take maternity leave?

I plan to work until the end, although I’m learning that every day is a new day and I can prepare as much as I want but will ultimately have to take it day by day. As far as maternity leave goes, I’m excited to take some time off with the baby, and I’m working closely with my team to prepare them for that now.

Do you think it’s important for kids to see their mom working?

I think it’s important to have a mom that is fulfilled and happy. Personally, my mom worked, and that’s the role model I had. I love what I do, and I’m passionate about it!  I can’t imagine not coming to work every day, but I think that being a stay at home mom is probably one of the hardest jobs.

How will you approach teaching your kid about eating and nutrition?

I’m terrified of having a kid that’s a picky eater because food is so important to me. I think about this all the time. Ultimately I want my kid to love food as much as I do. My plan (there I go with the plans again) is to expose him to many things and not deprive him of anything. I don’t believe in eliminating sugar, fat, or carbs — that’s not my food philosophy. I hope to raise my baby with a balanced mindset around food.

Any advice…

It’s all about finding your support system of women that have had or are having a similar experience to you. For me, that’s meant other working women that are trying to figure out how to balance their careers with having babies. When you’re going through such a massive change in your life, it’s scary to go at it alone. The more people you can talk to the better.

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