One of our core values at Blue Ridge Bucha is to live a positive lifestyle. We encourage our team (and our community of kombucha drinkers) to participate in activities that support overall well-being — from wellness activities like yoga, meditation, mountain biking, and basketball to healthful nutritional decisions to taking time away from work for reflection and renewal. It’s a value that is embedded in our internal culture, but we also look for it in other businesses when evaluating partnership alignment. In this post, we put the spotlight on the founder of one those brand partners, certified nutritionist Dana Monsees, to learn more about her positive lifestyle and how she started her health and wellness blog, Real Food With Dana.
What inspired you to become a nutritionist/start your own business?
I got really sick in college and no doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. I tried all different medications, endoscopies, diets and finally figured out I had celiac. Once I learned you could heal (or drastically improve) certain health conditions with food interventions instead of medication, I was hooked. I switched my career path from one in politics and went back to school to get a Health Coaching degree and then a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition, started my business on social media with a blog, and haven’t looked back!
What have you enjoyed most in working as a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)?
I love teaching people that almost everything they think they “should” be doing about food and nutrition from the media is completely backwards. I call myself an anti-diet nutritionist (which gets me a LOT of strange looks, let me tell you). I teach people how to stop dieting and start feeling their best from the inside-out, no restrictive food plans or excessive exercise regimens required. I help people take the guilt and confusion out of eating. We've been taught for so long that we can't trust our bodies, that they will "betray us" because they have no "willpower" to control our urges. However, our bodies know better than any fitness or nutrition guru on Instagram or the latest fad diet. If we can just turn off the noise and learn to listen to them again, we can start eating the foods that fuel us and help us feel our best.
Why is gut health so important?
Gut health is the root cause of many of the disease processes we’re seeing all over the world today. 80% of the immune system is located in the digestive tract, and it’s estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin (your feel good neurotransmitter) is located in the gut too. So your gut is extremely important not only for your digestive and immune health, but your brain health and mood as well. Everything ties back to the gut. We need a favorable balance of bacteria in the gut to experience good health on a daily basis, and unfortunately, a lot of the lifestyle practices that we engage in (certain diets, excessive restriction of carbohydrates, chronic stress and use of NSAIDS) can deplete our good gut bacteria. It’s no wonder we have so many gut issues going on!
When was the first time you heard of/tried kombucha?
I went to college in Vermont, which is a little more hippie-dippie than the D.C. area, so I first saw it in the Co-Op in Middlebury! It was definitely weird the first time I tried it, but it grew on me!
Why does organic and real food matter to you?
I believe real food is the basis of a nutrient-dense, feel-good life. Our bodies are burdened by so many different environmental toxins—from our water supply, to air pollutants, to our own household cleaners and makeup products. We need to do what we can to reduce our toxin exposure, and a great place to start is with the food you’re eating. I try to buy organic and local wherever possible, and I use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list to make it budget-friendly too!
Working with real food and basing your small business around food, how does the concept of sustainability play into your purchasing decisions?
Again, going back to my Vermont roots, this is where I was first exposed to why sustainability is so important (unless you count the big purple dinosaur TV show when I was younger that spouted how recycling was so important...but I don’t think I knew what that meant back then). I try to use glass as much as possible to reduce my plastic usage. This is also a great way to reduce your toxin exposure! I also *hate* wasting food, and try to repurpose everything that I can. This is one of the reasons I love Blue Ridge Bucha so much - now, I can go fill up my kombucha bottles on draft at my local store instead of buying new bottles!
Outside of your small business, what do you enjoy doing?
I was a competitive swimmer through college, so I still coach swimming year round and love coaching my athletes and teaching them about nutrition. I also coach Crossfit, and compete in Olympic weightlifting. I love being active however I can, whether that includes long walks with my dog in the park, hiking, skiing, or exploring new places while traveling! Photography has always been a huge passion of mine, and I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to make that a part of my business as well through food blogging and recipe development.
What is your ideal meal?
Oh, man. This is a tough one. I’m much more of a savory person than a sweet tooth person, and I love creating what I call “power bowls” at home that include a bunch of different roasted vegetables, hummus, greens or rice, some protein, and topped off with a delicious sauce. But I would never say no to breakfast for dinner or plantain chips and guac with a margarita.
Fave Blue Ridge Bucha flavor?
Bluegrass Bucha *hands down*.