Meet Emmeke: foodie nutritionist & runner
We at Body&Fit are on a mission to inspire the world live a fitter and healthier life. Whatever people are into, for all their personal fitness journeys, we're here for them with the products, expert nutrition and community they need. ‘Fit’ is not a one size fits all, which is what our recently launched #FINDYOURFIT campaign is all about. So, who better to inspire you than real people who are part of our community, and their own stories of finding their fit. This is Emmeke; a 24-year-old Body&Fit nutrition copywriter, foodie and keen runner living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Exercising, food and nutrition go hand-in-hand in her life. #FINDYOURFOODIEFIT
My love of exercise began on the long cycle to school and back
“I grew up in the smallest possible village in the polders of Brabant, a province in the south of the Netherlands. When I say small, I really mean small — no supermarket, no school. They even took away our mailbox. Luckily, it’s only a 15-minute car ride to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which is where I went to high school. I didn’t have access to a car in high school, of course, so I rode my bike for 1 hour back and forth each day to go to school. My dad once did the math with me and my two sisters: we’d all cycled the circumference of planet Earth by the time we’d graduated high school. Apart from the days it rained, snowed or the wind was blowing hard, we didn’t mind it though. Unluckily for us, we live in the Netherlands where it rains 150 days a year, at least, and we had to cycle through the polder (flat grasslands) meaning the wind was always blowing hard. All kidding aside, we got some good exercise in without really realising it.”
My love of nutrition came from studying a minor then master’s in Nutrition
“I did start to realise how important exercise was once I moved to Maastricht to study at university. Suddenly, I lived in the city centre with all the facilities I needed close by. I quickly noticed that not cycling 2 hours a day had an impact on my physique, so after a while, I started focusing on healthy eating and exercising. While studying for my Bachelor degree in Biomedical Sciences, I completed a minor in Molecular Nutrition and my love and interest for nutrition grew. Doing a Master’s degree in Health, Food, and Innovation Management was an easy choice for me. After five years of studying and living in Maastricht, I moved to Amsterdam to start working as a nutritionist then went into my current role of nutrition writing with Body&Fit. Amsterdam is a special place to me because it’s where I ran my first marathon back in 2019.”
There are a few different sports as my go-to exercises now
“Besides running, I love to boulder, and I recently bought a decent racing bike to ride. Exercising and nutrition go hand in hand, so everything to do with food I enjoy as well. That includes cooking, eating, discovering new food places, and even doing grocery shopping. There’s nothing I like more than wandering around in new supermarkets, especially (if I get the chance) abroad. You’d be amazed how many new products are on the shelves every week and I want to see all of them! Proper food will always be important to me, even when I’m not really exercising that much. And no, proper doesn’t always mean healthy. Balance is key. If I'm not in the supermarket browsing the shelves or in Vondelpark running or cycling around, I’m probably on the couch watching anything from documentaries to reality TV or having a games night with friends.”
Do what you love when you exercise — don’t try to force things
“We’ve all had to deal with challenges over the past 1.5 years. Since the whole world is dealing with a pandemic, it can sometimes feel like we aren’t allowed to admit we’re having a hard time. Just because you're not the only one going through something, doesn't mean you can't be bothered by it. Let’s admit it’s okay to find things challenging, physically and mentally. I’ve found that it's only when I accept a certain challenge that I can start doing something about it. For example, when all my races kept getting cancelled because of Covid, I found it difficult to keep to my training running schedule. At first, I hated myself for it. How come I can’t get myself to do it anymore? ‘I’m being lazy and have no discipline’ is what I told myself. Then I realised it’s not healthy or feasible to do something out of hate for yourself. I was not enjoying running anymore, I only did it because I was angry at myself. It took a while for me to realise that it’s okay to not be on a strict running schedule. Only then could I pick up running again and actually enjoy it like before — in a more relaxed way.”
Cooking and food are definitely two of my passions – plus eating seasonally
“Cooking is something I’ve always loved. As a kid, my parents wanted to involve me and my sisters in the running of the household. We each had a few tasks to do during the week, but we could choose them ourselves. One day I chose to cook dinner, and from that point on, I never did another chore in the house. I'm not too sure how happy my parents and sisters were about that, but at least I enjoyed myself. I browsed recipes as if they were exciting thrillers. Living in a small village has its benefits because my parents have quite a big garden in which they grow a lot. I could pick lettuce, tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, cucumbers, corn, artichoke and all kinds of berries. We also had trees including apple, pear, prune, cherry, and much more. It’s all seasonal of course, so we always enjoyed coming up with as many recipes as we could with the seasonal crops.
Vegetarian since I was 7, it’s much easier now than then!
“I’m not someone that pushes their beliefs on other people, but I’m always happy to help when asked. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 7 years old and always felt awkward or guilty when eating out. Especially 17 years ago, when being vegetarian was not as common as it is now and there were only about 3 vegetarian alternatives to meat in the supermarket. It was sometimes hard for people to accept. When I moved to Maastricht and made new friends, they weren’t necessarily unsupportive of it, but just unsure how to cook a vegetarian meal. We regularly had dinners in our student rooms with the 5 of us, and I started cooking for them. When we liked the meal, we’d save and share the recipe with each other. Believe it or not, 6 years later, they all eat vegetarian on most days of the week. I promise you our favourite recipe of vegetarian curry with chickpeas is still eaten every week, somewhere between the 5 of us.”
A day in the life of a Foodie Nutritionist Runner
“I don’t have a specific workout time and I run or boulder when I can. Vondelpark is near me, or on longer runs I like to run along the Amstel and will then cross the bridge to run back when I get tired. I'll work out early in the morning, late in the evening, in the middle of the day, on weekdays, or weekends. I like to have fun with friends and family as well, and will happily adjust my workout schedule accordingly.
I now work as a nutrition writer for Body&Fit, which I love as it uses my expertise in nutrition with another passion, writing. During the day I go to work and that's mainly sitting at my desk — I try to keep as active as I can around that, and it does help to eat well too.
In the evenings, I still try to eat a home-cooked meal for dinner, but also enjoy going out for dinner or ordering food with friends. One thing I do know about myself is I can’t cook dinner together with others. I prefer to do my own thing in the kitchen. Let me take charge, and I’ll happily serve you dinner. On the other hand, food has a huge social aspect, so sometimes I’ll have to suck it up and let my friends or family into the kitchen to cook with me.”
The FOOD SERIES products Emmeke likes to use — healthy snacks are my go-to treats
“As much as I love cooking and prepping, you bet I like the convenience of healthy snacks and ingredients as well. Body&Fit Smart Chips (original) and Body&Fit Smart Popcorn (the perfect mix of sweet and salty) are my all-time favourite snacks for on the go. Although, I must admit I eat them just as much sitting when I’m behind my desk as when I’m actually out and about. Body&Fit Natural Peanut Butter is another one of my favourites. This stuff is so good and affordable. It’s made from 100% roasted peanuts and you can literally throw it on, or in, anything. Obviously, it works well on a sandwich, rice cake, or on top of some oatmeal, but it’s also great in noodles - it adds a great Satay flavour. For dessert, I love the Body&Fit Easy Baking Brownie Mix. This is the easiest baking mix ever. You just have to add water. It’s good as it is, but you can also add stuff endlessly for nice variations. Fruits, nuts, chocolate chips (it’s about balance, remember), spices — try anything you like.” *
You can follow Emmeke and her food/nutrition/running journey via Instagram @emmekeschalken. You can also check out our Body&Fit blog for more of Emmeke’s favourite recipes, where you’ll find lots of ideas like these healthy vegan nachos with vegan cheese or these delicious (when you want to bake properly) Sweet potato brownies | Body&Fit. Check out a lot more of her food, nutrition and healthy-eating tips on our own Body&Fit Instagram.