In early 2017, Bon Appétit Magazine launched a new site to celebrate food that is both delicious and makes you feel good. The name that stuck was Healthyish. Now editor Amanda Shapiro is using the platform to transform how we inhabit and engage with the confusing world of “wellness”—from what we put in our pantries to what we put on our skin.
We wanted to know more about how Amanda is reframing the wellness conversation and what sustainable food means to her.
How do you describe what Healthyish encompasses?
Healthyish is a site about wellness through the lens of food. We are the little sister of Bon Appétit Magazine, so we work out of the Bon Appétit offices and our recipes come out of the test kitchen. But our lens is really outward—Bon Appétit serves the home cook, and we aim to do that too, but we also look beyond healthy eating into healthy living and wellness.
How does Healthyish approach sustainability in terms of cooking and eating?
It’s not an explicit mission of the site to promote a sustainable lifestyle, but our core audience are people who intuitively try to live sustainably in a couple of ways. They are more likely to shop at farmers markets and support their local food systems and food economies. Likewise, they like to support small businesses and local shops as opposed to chains. I think they also care more about sourcing, so even if they are buying food at the supermarket they look at labels and they are curious about how to buy more sustainable options. We try to talk to our audience at their level—we don’t really post things saying “Here’s ten things you should be doing for the environment,” we just weave it into the subjects that we cover and how we approach them.
Did you always know you wanted to work in something food related?
Definitely not. I was a freelance journalist for about eight years before coming on with Healthyish, covering culture with an angle toward women, health, and gender. So I knew I would have a lot to learn about the food side, but I was really excited to bring a broader lens to food coverage. I think that we saw a gap in the media in information and stories about healthy food that also delivered great, delicious recipes. Having the muscle of the Bon Appétit food editors and the test kitchen allowed us to bridge the gap between what people think of when they think of healthy eating and actually making a meal that tastes awesome that just so happens to be healthy.
How do you like to cook for yourself?
I like to experiment so I rarely cook the same thing twice, but I have formulas that work for me. I’ll do a classic grain bowl situation, but I don’t have much patience for peeling a million different vegetables so I’m pretty stripped down. I’m really into Japanese inspired rice bowls where I’ll steam a vegetable like broccoli or squash and do rice with sesame and rice wine vinegar, and then add either a little bit of fish or some stir fried tofu.
I also really love Middle Eastern inspired recipes, so I often cook with yogurt, labneh, dried peppers, and tahini.
My partner and I cook together a lot, which is a great joy, so often we’ll end up splitting it. I’ll make a vegetable dish, and he likes to do low and slow braises of meatier things and grilling in the summer. In terms of meat consumption and our own sustainability, I think eating meat is really problematic. It’s something I think a lot about personally, and the compromise I’ve made at this point is eating meat sparingly and trying to choose cuts that are raised locally and either purchased at the farmers market or at the butcher that we know sources locally.
What’s something interesting you learned recently from something you wrote or edited for Healthyish?
We’ve been doing a lot of cannabis and CBD coverage, and I learn something every time we publish a piece. We have some great freelancers who are very knowledgeable about the industry—it’s growing so quickly, it seems like there are new products out every day. I’ve definitely learned a lot about how cannabis works on the body and how the industry is changing as more states legalize it.
Where do you think we are right now with talking about sustainable food in the media?
To be honest I think that the media struggles with how to talk about sustainable food, the same way that I think the broader media struggles to talk about climate change. People in their right minds know that it’s real and that it’s a problem, but I think that it’s hard to find a way to make it feel interesting and relevant to an individual. I get pitches about food waste and how to use it up all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily appeal to the Healthyish audience, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s helpful to know what your audience finds interesting and what makes their eyes glaze over, and I think the challenge is figuring out how to sneak in the information in a way that makes people care about it and want to read it.
One example is the plastic straw debacle of the past year. Everyone decided all at once that plastic straws have to go, and that was a bona fide trend that we could report on and say “this is something everybody’s rallying around, you’ve got to get on board, and here are five plastic straws that look great and serve these different purposes, and here’s how you buy them.” So it’s just finding the right angle for the story that you want to tell.
Who or what is Inspiring you in food media these days?
We are working on an upcoming story with Cortney Burns, who we call the godmother of fermentation. She is creating a fermentation larder in Western Massachusetts, where she’s spent the last year and a half making fermented products, pickles, and preserves. She is a wealth of knowledge about food preservation, and that pantry will form the backbone of a restaurant accompanying the hotel Tourists. I don’t think she necessarily started this work in the name of sustainability, she’s just passionate about practices that are super sustainable and that people have been practicing for thousands of years to save food. Sometimes we overthink what we need to do in our lives to be good to the environment—I think looking to the systems that people used before us when food was a scarcity is a really valuable thing to do.
What do you hope to see Healthyish become in the future?
Healthyish already feels like a very 360-degree place. We are an editorial site, but we also have had great success with events. People want to engage with Healthyish food and discussion in real life, so we hope to turn it into a platform that more people can engage with in more ways, whether that’s through event series or products that we create with our audience and mission in mind. We’re really excited about looking beyond the text on the website and the photos on Instagram, which have taken off and opened up such a larger world. There are many challenging things about the wellness movement, but I think that being part of the conversation is the best way to critique and influence it.
What is your least favorite and favorite thing about your job?
The hardest part of my job is prioritizing. There are two of us at Bon Appétit that work on Healthyish full time and that’s myself and my amazing editorial assistant, Aliza. She writes a lot of what’s on the site and she does a million other things too, but between the two of us there’s only so much we can take on. We’re lucky to have support from Bon Appétit, but we really want to take over the world of healthy eating and living, so we’re always pushing against our own bandwidth.
My favorite thing about my job is meeting Healthyish readers in real life. I love the events series that we’ve done and the opportunities I have to speak—including interviews like this!
Could you share a favorite recipe you’ve been making?
Absolutely! I’ve been really into steaming lately. My usual method is to put a steamer basket flat in a wide pot or Dutch oven with a couple inches of water or dashi, then arrange vegetables and fish in the steamer basket and steam until everything’s cooked through. The only tricky thing is getting all the ingredients to cook in the same amount of time. I like to go with a sturdier fish like arctic char or salmon, a forgiving vegetable like cabbage, mushrooms, or broccolini, and a small sweet potato cut into 1/2″ rounds. This combo will cook in about 8-10 minutes.
Then I like to make a simple sauce with soy, ginger, garlic, mirin, and a neutral oil, which I drizzle on top of everything along with some chopped scallions and sesame seeds.