People tease me for eating super healthy but I don’t care. I feel good when I eat clean. My skin glows and I have more energy.

I think Sonia is somewhat of a kindred spirit. We have so much in common when it comes to food, mental health and beauty.

Oh and most importantly we are french fry girls.

Here is my interview with the lady behind Simply with Sonia.

Instagram: @simplywithsonia

Sonia Nicastro

Founder | Simply with Sonia

Beauty from the inside out.

Even though what you do to your hair and skin on the outside is important – having a healthy lifestyle is important as well.  Simply with Sonia brings these two concepts together. Tell us how this new project came to life.

As a hair stylist, I definitely believe what you do to your hair and skin on the outside, as well as, quality products is beyond important. But with that, I really believe true beauty comes from within. Having a healthy and balanced lifestyle is vital.

Simply with Sonia is a project that I have been thinking and talking about for years. It’s who I am and what I have always believed in. I love doing hair – helping others feel their ultimate best and having that bond with clients. It’s my dream profession. I also love food, cooking, wellness, beauty, learning, sharing and encouraging others in any way I can.

I have been sharing my love for food (especially Italian food) healthy recipes, wellness tips for some time now – friends, family and acquaintances wanted me to share more.  So there you have it, fast forward a few years and Simply with Sonia came to life! 

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
What are some of the benefits of adopting a Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a diet I really love. It has been around for years for a reason. It is all about fresh foods and what I believe most important -it’s simple!

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant based foods.  It is full of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, nuts, grains, olive oil and fish – meat tends to be smaller portions. 

The thing I love most about this diet is that it is meant to be social. You enjoy and appreciate the wonderful foods with those you love – friends and family. That’s what it is all about!

The benefits of the diet is simple – it so good for you. It is known to be really good for heart, brain, gut and mental health. I believe it can help us live a healthier and happier life! 

Although people have a goal of eating and snacking healthy – many get frustrated and overwhelmed with getting organized and preparing meals. Do you have any tips on how to make things a little easier?

It can definitely be frustrating trying to snack healthier, prepare meals and be more organized. I also feel like social media can make things harder for people.

Don’t compare yourself to others or let anyone make yourself feel ‘less‘ than good – be easy on yourself.

Get inspiration and just start slow.

Start small, very small if you have to. Try adding just one vegetable to a meal/snack or adding a smoothie full of good for you ingredients to your normal day.

Look at labels.

If you don’t understand words in the ingredients it’s likely not great for you. Also, be aware of sodium and added sugar content.

Try replacing even just one not so healthy snack with a healthier option.

If you love chips and dip, try veggies and dip. If you love a not so healthy dip, try guacamole, hummus or make your own. I love using Greek yogurt.

If you love potato chips, try a healthier option like popcorn instead.

If you love white bread – switch to whole grain, sourdough, multigrain or whatever you prefer.

Try incorporating more one pan or pot meals.

Prepare simple, easy foods you can mix together to make different meals or use as add-ons. I love roasting vegetables to have on hand for a side dish or adding to pasta.  I am all about adding nutrition to meals – especially your favorite meals.

And most importantly – if you’re craving cookies, pizza, chips don’t overthink it – enjoy it fully!

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
Balance is truly the healthiest way of living if you ask me! 

When it comes to organizing, my advice is take the time it takes initially, because it will save you so much time in the end.

It’s all about baby steps – it won’t happen overnight.

If you don’t already know, I believe an organized fridge is the secret to mindful eating.

Having everything you need in it’s own space, easily accessible and ready to eat or use is life-changing. You eat better and it makes prepping meals easier.

When possible have produce washed and ready to eat and snack on. If carrots are sitting there unpeeled in the bag, they will likely go bad. But if they are peeled, washed and cut – I guarantee you will eat them!

This is such a good way to eat more vegetables and fruit and not waste food. 

Start slow and organize one thing at a time.

No one is perfect. There are days when I am thriving and days I need a major reboot. Be kind to yourself! 

Oh, and a label maker- I am all about a label maker! 

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
What are some of your favorite superfoods to promote healthy hair and skin?

Some of my favorite super foods to promote healthy hair and skin include: healthy fats, nutrients, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants – all so important.

Avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, nuts (all so good.) 
Berries: especially blueberries – high in antioxidant.
Green: spinach is my go to especially for smoothies.
Salmon: omega-3 fatty acids and protein – win win!
Hemp hearts: full of good fat, vitamins, protein and fiber. (a smoothie must!)
Chia Seeds: full of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. (also a smoothie must!)
Oysters: full of Vitamin D and iron – so good for you. (they are also an aphrodisiac – just saying!)
Dark chocolate: your skin and happy heart will thank you!
Collagen: it’s been great for my digestion but a bonus with skin/hair glow and strength.
Lemon water: this really helps with my digestion and energy.
Water: This is a no brainer (I am still always working on it) but add some lemon and you bump up the benefits!

It is more important now than ever to maintain a healthy and strong immune system.  Are there any foods we should be incorporating in our diet to help achieve that?

A healthy and strong immune system is definitely more important now than ever. I honestly believe that limiting processed foods and eating real, homemade, simple food is so important.  

I love to cook, but if you don’t that is completely okay – it’s not for everyone. Try to just make one super easy meal that is homemade – a simple salad or sandwich, it doesn’t matter. One meal being replaced by a homemade one is way more effective and easier than you think. Then slowly, one may turn into two, and so on. 

Instagram: @simplywithsonia

Greens, fruits and vegetables – to me, this is everything. Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie – that takes nothing. Buy frozen veggies and fruit that way you always have them on hand, no excuses! Cut some veggies up and snack on them through the day, take a pan and roast them, add them to literally any meal – it’s so easy!

Vitamin C: We all know this is an important one. I feel like we can’t have too much these days. 
Vitamin D: So important for us especially during our Canadian winter months where sun is lacking. I’m not much of a winter person (at all) and this definitely helps.

I recently began taking collagen supplements; I know you take them as well. Can you share some benefits of incorporating supplements into your daily routine?

This is something I have been taking as a supplement on and off for a few years now – before it became the ‘trend‘ apparently!

Like anything, I wouldn’t take something just because it’s the ‘in thing‘ – make sure you do your research. I don’t take many supplements other than Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and a multi on and off.

I do believe in getting nutrition mainly from foods but there are things some of us need extra help with – this is where supplements work great. 

I initially started taking collagen to help with digestion issues I was having and I really noticed a difference. Helping with hair strength, skin health and hydration is a much added bonus. I suffered from lots of hair loss postpartum and I do think it definitely helped.  

Collagen is a protein in our body – they say it’s the glue that keeps us together. Even though it is created naturally in our bodies, like many things – that starts to slow down. I honestly don’t love powders overall but collagen powder is something I really found worked for me. There are many brands so just make sure to get a good quality and source. I love Organika. 

Bone broth is an amazing collagen rich option and is something I am trying to incorporate more of as an option as well!

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
We have something very important in common – we are both french fry girls. What is your favorite way to prepare them and what is your favorite dipping sauce?

Cheers to being french fry girls!

I love french fries so much. My favorite is simply baked in the oven, especially sweet potato french fries! I peel my potatoes, cut them lengthwise in thin slices. I like to drizzle them with olive or avocado oil and sea salt.  I lay them on a baking sheet (make sure there is space between your fries – no touching – you don’t want soggy fries) and bake them for about 30 minutes or so – it depends on your oven. Once they are nice and crispy (need to be crispy) I remove and add my favorite herbs or spices – almost always rosemary!

I really love using Greek yogurt as a dipping sauce. I usually add lemon, olive oil, herbs and spices. Paprika works great for a little spice.

Mental health taking time for self-care – should be a priority for everyone young and old. Between career and family life things can get overwhelming. What is your advice to others for finding a healthy balance?

Mental health and taking time for self-care is so important – I believe that has been proven to us now more than ever. Between career and family life, things can definitely get overwhelming. To be honest, this is something I am always working on to this day – it’s not easy! 

For me, what really helps is not getting distracted by the outside world. Just focus on you, whatever is best for you.

Do you. Be your authentic self!

Eating well for me is so important but it’s all about balance. I will have the greenest smoothie, the biggest green salad and still enjoy my pasta or pizza.

Cooking really helps me relax and de-stress as well (hello covid cooking!) and eating homemade food is just so comforting and good for you.

Yes there are nights cooking is the last thing I want to do. Thankfully my husband is a great cook and those are nights he takes over or we get takeout from a favorite restaurant. Again – balance.

Instagram: @simplywithsonia

Movement is very important for me as well. I started a pilates low-impact workout by Melissa Wood a couple years ago that I absolutely love. She also has guided meditation which is something I really appreciate and am definitely working on. Walking is also something I just love so much and find helpful. It so therapeutic and is also a great exercise.

Journaling is something I find really grounding. This is something I still work on being consistent with but I always feel so grateful when I think and write things down.

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
It’s the smallest things that get to me most.

My night time routine – I know this sounds funny, but washing my face at the end of the day, putting my toner, serums and cream on is so so relaxing. Face mask nights – those are everything! Any kind of you time is so important – taking even just 5-10 minutes to yourself – it’s a must.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing but take that you time.

Another thing, for couples, date nights. Never give up date nights. Before having our son, my husband and I always went out on date nights – a late night glass of wine or bubbly and charcuterie was our thing. Since having our son, we still try to make it a priority – they may just look a little different now. Day dates are a big thing and we are all for them (we even use doing groceries as a little date which we honestly love!)

There are weeks when we are so tired to even talk and barely have time together but we make a point to have our date nights, when we can find the time. Our favorites are cooking together, playing some music and opening a nice vino.

Now I know I am sounding like a major nonna but another thing that really helps me is cleaning and organizing. I may leave clothes out when I try them on, my washroom, yes full of products, but cleaning and organizing truly is therapy for me. Tackle one room or space at a time and purge things you don’t need – you will feel lighter in every way. I am trying to be more minimalist – I love everything about this concept but what can I say – a girl loves her shopping!

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
There are so many beauty products and regimes out there – some are simple and others are very extensive. Do you have a skincare routine you follow or any beauty secrets you have adopted over the years?

I love skincare and like most things I like to keep it simple: cleanse, tone, serum and moisturize. Vitamin C serum, exfoliating a couple times a week are a must and an intense winter moisturizer is key.

I like to keep my products as clean as possible. I do tend to mix or change my products – I find after a while it’s time to try something new. I love the Fresh Rose line, Beautycounter, CocoKind, Drunk Elephant, First Aid Beauty, Dermalogica to name a few.

I love to splash my face with cold water really quickly after I wash with hot water. This helps close your pores and really wakes you up!

Not too long ago, I stopped using a facial cleanser in the morning – especially in the winter. If you do a good deep wash at night, especially exfoliate, it’s not really necessary in the morning.

In the morning I simply rinse my face with water, then tone, serum and moisturize. My skin is a lot less dry when I do this I find.  

A jade roller is also great for plumping! 

You love your smoothies, what are some of your favorites.

If you know me, you know I love my daily smoothies!

Back in the day when we would wake up not feeling so great (after possibly too much wine the night before) I would be there making green or berry smoothies full of hemp hearts and chia seeds for friends in the morning!

I love nothing more then when friends, family or acquaintances ask for ideas or help getting them back on track or motivated.

Smoothies are the quickest and easiest way to incorporate goodness and fuel in one cup! It’s hard to think of my favorite, there’s so many but I do love my go-to green smoothie. It is full of spinach, banana, avocado, hemp hearts, chia seeds and almond milk. I also love adding coconut oil, using frozen cauliflower or frozen berries and peanut butter, coffee and cacao – oh man, so good!

I always make sure to have a vegetable, protein which I get from my hemp, chia and collagen (a good fat and brain fuel).

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
Believe it or not Christmas is just around the corner.  Books are a great gift idea. I know you adore cookbooks. What are some favorites in your collection?

Oh how I love my cookbooks – I have a never ending collection!

There are way too many to name but How To Eataly cookbook – I think is a staple for any kitchen. I also love all of David Rocco and Giada DeLaurentiis’ cookbooks. For healthy light cooking Oh She Glows is a great one. I adore cookbooks and they make the perfect gift – I just find them so special. 

Instagram: @simplywithsonia
Since we are on the topic of Christmas – what are some of your favorite recipes for the holiday season?

I can’t believe Christmas is around the corner! This Christmas will be different not being all together, having my Nonna and family’s incredible cooking.  

My favorite is Christmas Eve dinner, my uncle is an amazing chef and the table is full of seafood which is my absolute favorite! 

I love making trifle for dessert (a family recipe) around Christmas time. It’s not fancy – you use cake mix and whipped cream! It may not be healthy but it’s oh so good! It’s the holidays, remember – it’s all about balance!

I also love making roasted stuffed dates. You stuff them with blue cheese or goat cheese (wrap them in bacon if you want an extra something) – they’re so delicious.

Christmas is all about traditions and a selection of panettone and pandoro is something we take quite seriously. My parents have them ready for us when we go over in the morning and I just love that. These dry Italian sweet breads bring back the best childhood memories.

Dried chestnuts are also my favorite must this time of year. We eat them like candy! 

I’m grateful to have such a big family to be around at Christmas time and the holidays. I will miss them dearly but there is something to be said and appreciated about having a quiet and intimate Christmas this year. Even though things will look different, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday full of wonderful food, loved ones and a little sparkle.

Cheers/Salute to good health, happiness and love!