I met Natasha Asselstine for the first time a few years ago in a small coffee shop in Port Coquitlam, B.C. She sat opposite me and I swear, she simply glowed. We met to work on photography ideas for my cookbook, and at the same time she was working on a passion project of her own. She was authoring an annual day planner called the In Season Agenda. Her book aimed to inspire people to eat local, grow their own food, and savour all that each season has to offer.
At the start, I was unaware Natasha was a Holistic Nutritionist and advocate for wholesome living. From the moment I met her, however, I felt she was very much attuned to the foundational themes of my own book, which encourages people to slow down in their lives, pay attention to what they eat, embrace the benefits of plants and fresh ingredients, and to eat in the presence of family and friends.
This may be why that from the moment I picked up her agenda, it resonated with me. Every page was about truly living in the moment and in harmony with the natural environment. It laid out the importance of being active within our communities, getting to know local farmers, and aligning our wellness needs with the seasons.
Ironically, I grew up in Canada embracing these values largely due to my mother's upbringing in the rural hillsides of Sri Lanka, and the philosophy of life with which she was raised. My grandfather was an agricultural curator at the Kings Pavilion in Kandy, my grandmother was a skilled gardener and home cook, and my great grandparents were Ayurvedic practitioners.
Ayurveda is the ancient science of health and healing to prolong one’s life. The term Ayurveda is made of two words – ayu (life) veda (knowledge), and among its many guiding principles, is also the idea to live by the seasons because you can then benefit from nature’s healing balance.
My mother naturally understood the benefits of eating in season, using curative plants in cooking, being in a happy frame of mind when eating (and cooking!), and appreciating nature. Growing up, our family benefited from her vegetable and herb gardens, and several fruit trees.
The parallels between my own and Natasha's passion for this way of living and wholesome foods was obvious from the start! And since our working together several years ago, her genuine passion for supporting initiatives and projects that furthers these aims has been inspiring, and has left an impression on me and many others! I invited her to share some of her thoughts on holistic nutrition. So here it is on her own words; some of her reflections about her personal journey with this mindful approach!
It became a vehicle to advocate for the type of world I want to live in – slow, sustainable and in harmony with nature.
When I put together the In Season Agenda, I didn’t think anybody else would see it. I made it for myself and so it’s a real reflection of my personal values. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine convinced me of its broader appeal that I thought about selling it. The response to it was super positive, which was really motivating. It became a vehicle to advocate for the type of world I want to live in – slow, sustainable and in harmony with nature.
Holistic nutrition is a way of eating and living that promotes whole body wellness – body, mind and spirit. It considers personal tastes and values. It looks at the quality of food – how food is grown, prepared, and eaten. Hopefully, it is a reflection of what’s best for our communities, animals and planet as well.
I began incorporating holistic nutrition in my early 30s after several years of feeling unwell. When doctors couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with me, I knew I needed to take my health into my own hands. Adopting a natural way of eating is what made me better again. It was a life-changing experience for me, and I wanted to learn more.
I enrolled in nutrition school. That’s when the real serendipitous moment came. In one of my first classes, we learned that the human body – when broken down into its elemental form – is composed of the exact same elements as the earth. We literally are one. I was never into sciences, so when I learned this my mind was blown. It became clear to me why eating in season is so good for us.
I don’t believe in an “ideal diet.” Every body is different. But one timely tip that I can offer up right now is to try growing your own food! It is not only fun, but also the cheapest and healthiest way to eat. I am so new to gardening, and have had far more fails than successes, but the process of learning, planning, planting, harvesting and eating your very own food is so rewarding, as are all forms of self-reliance.
Holistic nutrition is a way of eating and living that promotes whole body wellness – body, mind and spirit.
I deeply believe in the holistic benefits of living slow, making food from scratch, growing your own food and knowing your farmer. The benefits are enormous to both self and planet. I don’t believe our culture fosters this way of life, especially with our busy lifestyles and how inaccessible real food is for so many. And this pandemic has certainly shed light on the many vulnerabilities that exist within our local food system. But it has also served as a great reminder for many of us to take pleasure in, and appreciate, the slow, simple things in life. ~
Natasha Asselstine (BA, RHN) is a holistic nutritionist based in Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada. She is the creator of the In Season Agenda, and a board director at FarmFolk CityFolk, a not-for-profit society that connects, empowers, and inspires people to strengthen B.C.’s sustainable food systems. Visit tashelstine.com or follow @natasha.asselstine.
All images on this page ©Josh and Natasha Asselstine