A Conversation on Health with Julia Matthews

For those of you wondering why I’ve disappeared off the radar it’s because a month and a half ago I jumped across the ditch and moved to Sydney. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing; a decision on a whim and a gut feeling I had to run with. Like always, my instinct was right.

I couldn’t be happier to be back in one of my favourite cities in the world surrounded by some of my favourite humans on the planet. As someone who finds it difficult to settle anywhere for extended periods of time, there’s always been something about Sydney that keeps drawing me back. This place holds such a special place in my heart and I feel so blessed to be able to call it home, for this chapter at least.

Anyway, it seems somewhere between trying to sort my life out and finding my feet all over again I took a little break from blogging to focus on the bigger picture and go with the flow. But hey, that’s all part of the magic of beginnings right?

In bigger news, I’m working on something really exciting this year and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Here’s a hint – expect a video blog coming your way . But until then, here’s my first Sydney interview with none other than the wonderful Julia Matthews, one half of the popular health blog Julia & Libby. You know what I love about these Kiwi sisters? Not only are their recipes bursting with nutrition and love, but they have a really realistic take on the whole health and wellness thing and an attitude, I think, we should all adopt. Enjoy!


Julia (R) & Libby (L) Matthews.

On health

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

At the moment I am wearing a few hats – full time Naturopathy study in Sydney and one half of www.juliaandlibby.com with my sister.

When did your fascination with all things food, health and wellness begin?

I have always been into food; my Mum is an amazing baker so I learned a lot about food through her. When I was younger I ate whatever I wanted and I have a massive sweet tooth so it was generally bad food. Around my early 20’s I started to really watch what I ate and explore where my food was coming from, how certain foods make you feel the way they do. And when Lib started studying nutrition and telling me about what she was learning I cancelled my business degree and enrolled into nutrition.

What are your top tips for a healthy lifestyle?

  • Sleep – Always aim to be in bed with the lights out by 10pm. My rule is at least 8 hours of sleep a night (I’m taking advantage of this while I do not have children).
  • Exercise daily – something I am working on. Trying to balance work/exercise/sleep/uni work can be tough but I aim to get out in the sun every day for at least 30 minutes even if it’s just a walk with my dogs.
  • Eat following the 80/20 rule – 80% of the body and 20% for the soul. Sometimes I want drink espresso martinis, eat French fries or garlic bread. Yes I love eating wholefoods but I do need my carb fix. Restriction of “bad” food 100% of the time is no fun.
  • Laugh, have fun, smile! All of these things can have a positive effect on your mood. We all have bad days, not every day is good but try and take the time to reflect on what has been good in your day. Don’t take the little things for granted.

Describe a typical food day. What’s on the menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between?

Breakfast is generally a big smoothie with a lot of protein to keep me full or a chia pudding. Throughout the day I will drink a lot of water, snack on fruit, have a big salad for lunch and dinner is always different. I get bored eating the same thing so try and mix dinners up (if I have time to make something other than a salad).

Besides food, what do you do to stay fit and healthy?

My sister has been staying with me in Sydney and we have been running each day. Yoga is my favorite thing to do, helps keep my body in line and calms the nerves.

What items do we all need in our pantry?

Herbal tea, oils – coconut oil, macadamia, olive oil. Rice, quinoa, dried lentils, chickpeas as a base for all my vegetarian dishes. Superfoods – cacao powder, chia seeds, alfalfa powder, cocoa butter, maca, lucuma, beetroot powder. There are no naughty foods in my pantry as if there is nothing bad in the house I can’t be tempted.

What’s the biggest health misconception wrecking havoc on vulnerable consumers?

There are so many! Brands labelling foods as “gluten free” or “organic” and consumers just presume that the product is going to be healthy. Always read labels as it is very easy to be fooled.

Vegan, raw vegan, Paleo, juicing…. What’s your take on these “lifestyle”/diet choices?

Personally I don’t think that there is anything wrong with them. Vegan, Raw, Paleo etc. are all healthy ways to eat and if that is what makes you happy and makes you feel good then do it.

What do you think will be the biggest health trends to take off this year?

Gut health – kombucha, probiotics, and sauerkraut. I have seen more and more of these type of products pop up over social media which is fantastic as gut health is SO important!

A healthy lifestyle is about so much more than just food and exercise. How does the mind affect our wellbeing?

Stress can cause just as many issues as a poor diet. It affects your immune system, adrenals in a negative way. Taking the time out for yourself to relax, have peace and quiet is important to keeping ourselves well.

Any words of wisdom to help us de-stress and calm our minds?

Cut back on caffeine, go to bed at the same time each night, do not be on your phone or watch TV just before you go to bed. Yoga, meditation, walking. Surrounding yourself with positive people and stop sweating the small stuff.

You guys talk a bit about the 80/20 rule. We all need a little indulgence every now and then. We’re curious, what falls into your can’t live without 20%?

Potato, parmesan red wine and burgers with lots of mayo.

Are there any life changing books on health and wellness you recommend we read?

Anything by Dr Libby, she is incredible and all of her books take pride of place in my office. Also, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

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On your business

You’re studying naturopathy. How do you manage sustaining a blog and studying at the same time?

I love being busy and working on projects especially when I have my sister by my side. If I am really busy Libby will take charge and vice versa. It can be stressful and crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you see your role within Julia and Libby progressing? What’s on the cards once you have your qualification?

We have just signed a book deal so at the moment are creating new recipes. We are also working on launching a food/beverage based brand into New Zealand and Australia later this year, it’s in the early stages but we can’t wait. It’s a product we have wanted to bring out for a long time.

You get to work with your sister. How amazing is that! How do you two go about coordinating the business from both sides of the ditch?

Its great! We have our moments as I’m sure most sisters do. I am back and forward to New Zealand a lot, every 4 to 5 weeks or sometimes sooner than that as we have a lot going on there at the moment. We have a big Skype session once or twice a week and speak daily on the phone or via WhatsApp.

You and your sister have a huge social media following and the power to influence a lot of people’s food and health choices. How does it feel to have the kind of responsibility?

We still find it a big strange. Our blog is basically a diary of our lives and sharing products that we love and think others should know about. Sometimes I have to take a step back and think if I say this is it going to cause controversy as social media land can be cruel. At the end of the day we just try to be ourselves and if people don’t agree with what we say or do we remind ourselves that we cannot please everyone.

Any advice for bloggers out there starting out on how they can grow their following?

Haha, we get asked this a lot. Lib and I never thought “let’s start a blog and get lots of followers” that was never our intention so everything we have done is very organic you could say, we post when we feel like it and talk about what we want. There is no schedule, no professional photographer, no agency posting for us or replying to comments. We do it all ourselves and maybe that is what people like?

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On you

Let’s talk about life in Sydney. Where are your favourite places to eat out?

As I live so far away from the city I don’t eat out a lot. If I do go into the city my picks are Black at The Star, The Grounds of Alexandria, Cho Cho San, Nomad.

Are you a smoothie or juice girl? Where can we find the best one?

Smoothie! My pick would be Sadhana Kitchen or About Life.

What do you do to de-stress?

Take my dogs for a walk, run a hot bath, get a blow wave or my nails done or call my Mum and vent.

It’s Saturday and you feel like some retail therapy. Where are you heading?

I would love to say somewhere amazing like Oxford Street but it is usually my laptop. I buy most of my wardrobe online or am lucky enough to be sent clothing.

Best grocery store in Sydney?

About Life, they have everything my pantry and fridge needs.

It’s a beautiful day outside, what beach is on your hit list?

My partner and I found this really cute beach in Vaucluse that you can take your dogs too, I cant remember the name but it’s great as not many people go there and I get to take my Boxers. Most of my Sydney friends live in Bondi so will usually go there or Tamarama.

Best spot for some outdoor exercise?

One side of my house outside, literally on the other side of the fence there are lakes and walking tracks. The other side is hills to do hill runs so I have the best of both worlds. Easy cardio and intense cardio.

What’s your absolute favourite food in the world?

Potato’s! Could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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And finally, what’s your all time favourite Julia & Libby recipe? And if you wouldn’t mind sharing that with us that would be amazing!

Coconut Dream Pie. My absolute favorite.

Coconut Dream Pie

2 cups walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut
10 medjool dates.  Remove pips and cut into pieces.

In a powerful blender or food processor blend the walnuts and shredded coconut until the walnuts nuts crumbly. Add the dates and process a little more until the mixture begins to stick together. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of a 9″spring form pan and set aside.

1 1/2 cup cashews (soak overnight to make them easier to blend)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
5 medjool dates.  Remove pips and cut into pieces.
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 bananas.  Use one for filling mixture and one to be sliced.
1 cup Vitasoy Coconut Milk Unsweetened
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Blend, everything except 1 of the bananas until smooth in the blender. Spread the sliced banana on the bottom of the crust.  Pour the pie filling into the pie crust until it is filled. Place into the fridge and allow to set overnight.

Whipped cream topping:
2 cups of coconut cream
1 Tbsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp Rice Malt Syrup (any liquid sweetener will work)
Juice of ½ squeezed lemon

Blend until smooth. Allow to set up in the refrigerator until it has the consistency of whipped cream.  Spoon on to the top of the pie before serving.  Sprinkle with desiccated coconut.

IMG_86311Note: You can follow Julia & Libby on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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