Sunday, March 18, 2018

20 Things I learned From a Functional Nutritionist (and my mind was blown)

Wellness, wellness, wellness.

MAN, is wellness on my brain lately. Maybe it's leftover inspo from my New Year's resolutions or the sea of filtered images on my IG feed of yoga mats, green smoothies, and perfect abs.

Thanks Insta for always inspiring me and making me question my self-worth.


Either way, I'm so happy to bring you guys some more wellness-related content to the blog!

This time around, it's a real expert giving advice.

Meet Maria, a functional nutritionist from Del Mar, CA.

She's beauty, brains, and badass all rolled into one! Throughout this post, you'll see my questions posed in bold, along with Maria's AMAZING responses, and a few comments from me in parenthesis.

Disclaimer: this is a meaty post. It's not some frilly two-paragraph blog post on hair accessories for spring (not that those aren't fun). This is some real sh*t, solid content that I think can 100% bring massive value to your life.

Stick with me until the end? You're gonna love it!

Without further adieu, let's dive into these super helpful tips that you absolutely need to know when it comes to nutrition and YOUR body.  

What's your official title? Functional Nutrition Consultant

What's your unofficial title? The Whole Food Chic of course!

Maria, give us a peek into your background/how you got into nutrition.

 I started working in a cute little health food cafe about 23 years ago in Tucson, AZ. I was hooked! I have been working in natural foods, nutrition, and dietary supplements ever since. 

My mom is also a long-time organic gardener so I grew up with fresh veggies in our backyard and homemade foods from an early age. I struggled with my own health challenges over the years like PMS, Hashimoto’s and sugar addiction so I was motivated and really kind of obsessed to find answers to be able to heal myself.

What's the difference between nutrition and functional nutrition? 

Nutrition by definition is the nutrient value of foods for growth and health. Functional nutrition is looking for root causes and imbalances in each client’s body to improve their health outcome. 

I use food as medicine to restore balance along with targeted supplements, herbs, and lifestyle protocols to facilitate healing and help a client reach their goals.

What would you say sets you apart from other people that are also advising in the nutritional realm? (let's be honest, there are so many people breaking into this space and claiming to experts!)

I take a whole person approach to healing. My intake and questionnaire process uncovers patterns that have contributed to dis-ease or imbalances. I love to educate clients on how to prepare real food that is not only healing but also delicious and satisfying. 

Together we explore all areas of their life, including food and sleep and exercise. We also take a look at limiting beliefs and how mindset may be holding you back from living your most vibrant life. 

How important is organic, really? Some people think it's a trend or marketing scam. 

Organic certification is primarily related to how a food is grown, what is added in the processing, and if it is processed in an organic approved facility. 

For whole foods, it’s hugely important. It means you avoid GMO’s, glyphosate, chemicals, additives and harmful pesticides. Organic often increases the nutrition and taste of a food through good farming practices that give essential nutrients back to the earth. 

So think less chemicals with more nutrients and better taste! I think the marketing scam part comes in when highly processed or high-sugar foods like gummy bears or cookies are labeled as organic and as consumers we assume that it means they are healthy. 

Yes, they would possibly be a better choice than a non-organic cookie but just because it’s organic does not mean it should be part of our daily life.

What's the number one nutritional mistake people tend to make that they think is actually healthy? 

Buying foods because they say low-fat, low-sugar, low-calorie, low-carb or even high-fiber. 

Any of these labels are simply marketing terms (levels determined by the government) for a processed or packaged food.  If a packaged food is making a claim like this, it’s probably not going to be a good choice.

What's an area of wellness that isn't getting enough attention but desperately needs it? 

The negative effects of chronic stress for sure.  

The conversation of how stress (physical, mental, social and emotional) affects our health, vitality and physiology is just starting to emerge. You can eat organic, whole food and exercise but if you live in a constant stressed or reactive state it is definitely affecting your health and energy levels and could lead to more problems down the road.

(internally measures stress levels immediately) 

What's your go-to healthy snack? 

I am on the road a lot! When traveling, I always have either Epic bars or Mighty Beef bars or nut butter pouches and a piece of fruit. 

At home I love Maple Hill greek yogurt with my homemade applesauce.
(Taylor butting in here again, but um, Maria we are going to need that homemade applesauce recipe ASAP. Thnx!) 

What's your go-to indulgence when your sweet tooth calls to you? 

Dark chocolate - and let’s be honest, it’s almost daily. 

If I’m craving something super yummy or it’s a special day I will make a batch of paleo cookies or my perfect pumpkin bread.
(dammit, we need this recipe too!)

What are some of your go-to or favorite products? 

My favorite protein powder I use in my daily smoothie is PurePaleo protein powder by Designs for Health. Chocolate is my favorite flavor of course. PurePaleo is a grass fed bone broth protein that is 70% collagen and is great for skin and hair and also gut healing.  

I also love Teechino Tea! It’s such a great substitute for coffee with no caffeine- it has a warm and rich flavor and is perfect with a splash of coconut milk. I have been drinking this for years. It’s perfect when I am avoiding caffeine and coffee.

(Taylor here again, I took Maria's tip on the Teechino and oh my goodness it's like the best cup of coffee, minus the caffeine!)

You have AMAZING skin. What's your secret?! 

Oh my gosh, so sweet of you to say! I think the secret to glowing skin is whole, unprocessed foods, high-quality protein, healthy fats and organic fruits and veggies. 

Things that bum my skin out are lack of sleep, dehydration and fried foods. 

As our largest organ, skin is a reflection of nutrition and gut health so if you are dealing with inflammation, food sensitivities or gut microbial imbalance, it will show up on your skin no matter what skin care regimen you have.  

And lastly, my mom taught me to always take off my makeup at night. Please make sure you sleep with clean skin :)

(cringes inwardly at all the times I fell asleep in college with a full face of makeup on)

How can someone who's new to improving their nutritional wellness get started without feeling overwhelmed? 

Start where you are and avoid comparing yourself to others. 

Choosing fresh over processed is also a great place to start. For example, a smart swap would be roasting your own chicken and using that for salads and wraps instead of buying processed lunch meat. 

Swaps like this can make a huge difference. Be a label detective! If you see something on the label that you can’t pronounce or you can’t imagine your great grandmother eating then it’s probably not a healthy choice.

What are the top 5 wellness foods for young women?

1. Healing fats like coconut oil, ghee and avocado.
2. Protein from grass-fed meats, collagen, bone broth.
3. Organic fruits and veggies!
4. Wild caught fish and seafood.
5. Cultured foods like fermented carrots and kefir.

Is there a natural way to help combat PMS, cramps, and female hormonal imbalances? 

Oh absolutely! 

(thank the Lord!)

Making sure you are nourished throughout the day with protein and healing fats and lots of fresh veggies and fruits will help to balance all of your hormones.  

I also love a product called FemGuard + Balance from Designs for Health. It’s amazing the feedback I get from women using this for PMS and getting a handle on the mood swings and physical pain associated with their monthly cycles. It has botanicals like Vitex (chastetree berry) and black cohosh, plus DIM and broccoli seed extract which help detoxify excess estrogen in the body. This “estrogen dominance” is part of what causes so many of these not-so-fun aspects of your monthly cycle.

(I have been using this for several months now and feel like a new person! Basically I yell at Chris way less when my period rolls around.)

What are your top 3 self-care remedies? 

Epsom salt baths with essential oils is definitely my go to for pretty much anything. Magnesium in the epsom salts is fantastic for stress, detox, aches and pains, cramps, etc.

Second would be organic herbal teas. 

Third is the infrared sauna. If you haven’t tried this it’s a must-do! Infrared saunas are fantastic for detox, skin, joints and any aches and pains. Your skin will glow afterwards! Just be sure to do an epsom salt bath when you get home to continue the detoxification process and replace minerals and then a cool shower to rinse. 

What's something exciting on the horizon for you that we should be on the look out for?

I will be offering a new program later this year called Sweet Freedom! It’s a 21-day online program to increase energy, vitality, and get your glow back. 

The program focuses on whole foods and smoothies that are easy to prep, a few selected supplements and lifestyle and wellness tips and strategies to curb cravings and create hormonal bliss. 

There will be fun and playful modules like "Feng Shui in the Kitchen" and "Boosting That Lovin’ Feeling." 

I am so excited to bring this out this year! Clients can expect to feel lighter with more energy, more glow and less sugar cravings. 

What if we want to purchase some of the products you mentioned? 

Absolutely! You can visit here and search by product name.  I have created a special Sand and Sequins discount! Use BEWELL20 at checkout for 20% off your entire order.

(hey guys, Taylor again! I use several of these products, feel free to shoot me any questions you may have!)

OK, now some fun questions.

Where is your favorite place you have traveled to? 

I absolutely love Half Moon Bay in Northern California. The rugged ocean coast combined with the wild land and downtown Main Street is a perfect combination.

Where do you want to travel in the future? Italy and Bali!

Cats or dogs? 

We have two very adored cats but a dog is definitely in the near future :)

Coffee or tea? 

Both! Mostly matcha lattes and herbal tea these days - but I do still love my coffee!


A huge thank you to Maria for sharing her years of nutritional experience on the blog. 

One thing I've loved learning is that the typical Western approach to health and wellness that we see in the medical field, is not necessarily always the best. 

There is SO much healing and help that can be done through whole foods and supplements, prior to ever popping a chemical-laden pill.

Cheers to wellness ladies! 

Want more of Maria, The Whole Food Chic? Follow her on Instagram for recipes and tips. 

Love you guys!! Be well :)


  1. Love this post! So jam-packed with tons of helpful info. With the notes on marketing packaged foods as high-fiber claiming to be healthy, I'd be super curious to know her thoughts on the GG cracker craze!

    1. I KNOW!! and I also know how she feels about the GG crackers :( They have gluten so she is NOT a fan. So sad bc I love them!

  2. This was SO fascinating! Thanks for conducting a great interview!

  3. This is such good info!! I especially love the hormone section. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for all of your support Sheina!! xoxo

  4. This just changed my life! I have been trying to live healthier in 2018 and i got some really helpful tips to do it! Thank you!