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THE WELL Editors

Updated: 10/06/2022

Professional chef and health coach explains how nutritious food can heal your body, nourish your soul and more.

Growing up in a family that values the land and all that it provides, Laura Allen learned the importance of cooking based on what’s in the garden or at the farmers market early on.

After receiveing degrees from Furman University and The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Allen headed to New York City, getting her start in Michelin-starred kitchens. She then worked at Union Square Hospitality Group and in culinary consulting and events production.

The restaurant industry's relentless demands helped her realize the power of prioritizing self-care, which includes what you eat every day.

Q:

Was there an event that changed your approach to health and wellness?

A:

While I’ve always been interested in health and wellness, a recent family health crisis put the importance of taking care of your mind, body and overall well-being into even sharper focus.

Q:

Describe your approach to nutritious cooking in a sentence.

A:

Keep it simple, stupid.

Q:

Name three non-negotiables in your life.

A:

Family meals, proximity to a large body of water and solo time with a good book.

Q:

What’s one way you take care of your mind every day?

A:

I take advantage of my subway commute by closing close my eyes and practicing some subtle breathwork.

Q:

Favorite quote?

A:

“If God dwells inside us, I sure hope he likes enchiladas because that’s what he’s getting!” – Jack Handey

Q:

Morning ritual?

A:

My husband makes me an espresso every morning, which I try to drink in bed before our 1-year-old son wakes up. I then take a 30-minute walk with our kiddo in the park to count ducks and dogs. (We’re really into animals at the moment.)

Q:

Wellness travel essentials?

A:

A market bag and Carmex Classic Lip Balm.

Q:

The key to a good night's sleep?

A:

Blackout curtains.

Q:

When you really need to chill out, you…

A:

Go for a hike by myself.

Q:

Food philosophy?

A:

Food is about more than nutrients (although important!); it is social, communal and cultural nourishment. Take an interest in sourcing, whether by going to a farmers market or visiting an esteemed restaurant, to gain a better understanding of where your food comes from and how it was cared for. I always opt for locally grown produce, pastured, grass-fed and wild-caught proteins and biodynamic or organic wines.

Q:

Instant mood lifter?

A:

Listening to Fleetwood Mac, especially ‘The Chain’ in the morning.

Q:

Instagram account you can’t stop double-tapping?

A:

@natashapickowicz, a pastry chef and writer.

Q:

Culinary staple you can’t live without?

A:

My 12.5-inch de Buyer frying pan. It’s made with carbon steel, so it doesn’t leach any potentially harmful chemicals into the food and seems to last forever — I remember using a 40-year-old one at a previous job! Plus, it holds heat really well, which allows you to get a great sear (even in a tiny kitchen apartment).

Q:

Podcast you’re super into right now?

A:

Good Food with Evan Kleiman, a restaurateur in Los Angeles.

Q:

The book you own that is the most dog-eared?

A:

A pair of Josh Niland books: Take One Fish and The Whole Fish Cookbook.

Q:

Preferred mode of movement?

A:

I make it a point to squeeze in some 10-second stretches throughout the day and take one or two workout classes (mobility or strength) each week — and I always take the stairs.

Q:

What’s one dish you make that instantly makes you feel better both mentally and physically?

A:

During the summer, I’d have to say anything made with tomatoes and corn, as they remind me of home (New Jersey). Overall, though, there's nothing like a good graze platter — fresh veggies, olives, pickles, spreads — to give me a boost (or get a gathering started!).

Q:

Hydration strategy?

Q:

When you feel a cold coming on you…

A:

Eat some citrus, drink some herbal tea and get an extra hour of sleep.

Q:

Coffee, tea or...?

A:

My daily drink of choice is cold brew or espresso, but I’m also a fan of the herbal tea blend from SOS Chef.

Q:

Last time you laughed — and at what?

A:

Usually at myself.

Q:

What are three ingredients you always turn to?

A:

Olive oil, chili pepper (dried or as a sauce or paste) and lemon — separately or together, they can spruce up anything.

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