What if you could eat healthier Paleo Asian meals without giving up taste just like the best home-cooked meals you grew up with? We set out to find out if it is possible to make food delicious first and then slowly build a habit of healthy eating, so it doesn’t feel like eating Paleo becomes a burden. Guess what? We found ChihYu who makes it all worth it!

Meet ChihYu [chee-yu] Smith, who grew up in Kaohsiung Taiwan, a seaport town in the southern part of Taiwan island. Growing up she lived right next to her grandmother who made her home-cooked meals every day after school. Her family originally came from China and in a Chinese family, food means everything and is at the center of our daily life. “Have you eaten yet?” is our way of saying, how are you today? But like every modern family both of her parents worked and she recalls no matter what, her mom always managed to prepare fresh homemade meals for her and her brother every day.

Welcome, ChihYu! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us regarding your passion for a healthy lifestyle. What inspired you to start IHeart Umami?

A few years ago I landed a very demanding job in New York City and was attending grad school at night. I’d be home eating dinner around 10 PM. and of course, what do you do when you are exhausted after work and then night school? You order takeout!

I’d be eating greasy delivery food with tons of carbs and thick sauces and the food was either too salty or too sweet. I began to notice not only did I start to gain weight but also felt bloated, sluggish, and tired all the time.

After a couple of years, I was sick of feeling this way so I started making a little time to make homemade meals a higher priority for my husband and me. I started bringing healthier food to work and making smarter choices when I ordered take out. All of a sudden, I started getting compliments from my coworkers about how good my food looked and smelled. Over time I lost the unwanted body fat and no longer felt sluggish after lunch and this inspired me to start my own food website so I can help other people feel the same way.

Very Inspiring! What’s your favorite weekend meal?

I like to keep it simple. One of my favorite recipes Paleo Thai Basil Beef stir-fry (Pad Krapow). It’s delicious, filling and saves me lots of time so I can spend time with my family and doing the things I enjoy.

Awesome! What are 3 must-have ingredients for Asian Paleo Cuisine meals?

It’s hard to pick just 3 ingredients, but I would have to say garlic, ginger and the right kind of oil. You can then add in your shallots or scallions. Here we’re looking to fragrance the oil before we fry chicken, fish or broccoli. I like magic stuff like ginger and garlic to give it a rich flavor!

Love it! What about when you travel, what do you take with you?

When we’re traveling within the United States I can usually find most of the things I need, however, no matter where I travel I take my pillow. I’m really quite attached to my own pillow because it’s hard to find a good pillow. I like a smaller size of memory foam pillow and they are hard to find, so I take my own in order to sleep comfortably.

I agree with you because sleep is vital to good health. What about skincare? What are some tips you recommend for healthy glowing skin? 

Water, make sure you are well hydrated. Sleep well. Exercise and eat a lighter diet, fewer carbs. Even though I run a paleo blog I’m very open with all my followers and readers. I write about paleo and I eat paleo and it’s not because I have any specific medical reasons but because I want to look good, stay fit and be healthy. On occasion, I eat pizza and pasta because I really enjoy these foods. But in general, if I keep these four items in balance I maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Great tips! Your skin looks amazing! Good skin is such a struggle for people today. What about makeup?

I actually don’t use makeup much anymore. When I was younger I used much more but over the years I’ve cut back on makeup. Also, I’ve found that if you don’t wash your face clean before going to bed you end up with poor skin, clogged pores, and acne.

These are really good tips and they’re doable. Describe your healthy lifestyle.

Keep it simple! I would have to say find a sustainable healthy lifestyle that works for you and remember to exercise. 

Great! Find something that works for you, including exercise that fits your lifestyle!

Yeah! Because my idea was to exercise 2-3 times per week and then two years ago I injured myself and after that, I just fell off the wagon and my weight really came back. Now after 2 years, I’m eating healthy again and going back to the gym regularly. I’m never gonna let it go again because it’s too hard to start over. 

Great insight! We want to stay consistent, right? What does your self-care routine look like?

I would probably say unplug from media, all computers, phones, etc. We spend a big part of our life on these devices. I try to be present with my husband and my family because nowadays our phones are so distracting. Everyone can communicate from all over the world which is good but at the same time can cause distractions. While I think this is great and I love to do those things, I believe it causes stress. We are constantly thinking, “I haven’t gotten back to this person or that person” and it just feels like something is always going on.

I agree, unplugging or fasting from digital media is a good idea because it can create anxiety and stress for people. 

Yes, a lot of anxiety and stress especially with social media. We look at all the people on social media that we know who appears to have a much bigger house and a better life than us. We start comparing ourselves which can create an unhealthy perception for our life. This can cause distractions and should be a signal to us that this is not very healthy. Also, we may give people the idea that we are present when talking to them when having a conversation but really we’re looking at our phones. I think we need the pendulum to shift with all of this. My hope is that people will realize it’s actually not that good for health reasons either.

Good for you! You’re actually doing something about it for you and your family.

I try because I have such a media presence so I address any concerns or work-related issues before 5 pm, after that, I shut everything down because I’ve done everything I can do today! This is how I look at my job. 

Well said! What are the best places to shop for your recipes?

I actually go to a few different places. Even though I live in the city I can go to a big Whole Foods store or Trader Joe’s especially to buy protein items like chicken, beef or seafood. I think they have better protein ingredients so I feel like I can trust them to carry the organic items I need. They have more grass-fed beef and the quality is good. They also carry a good assortment of fresh organic vegetables. I also believe they are more sustainable and carry the certifications. I go to China town when I need more specialty vegetables like Asian broccoli, baby bok choy or other vegetables that are hard to find in western grocery stores.

Also, when people from other countries visit my website they kind of expect me to use those ingredients and talk about them, for example, the Asian ingredients. Many times they expect me to go to a Chinese Asian grocery store or Korean grocery store to get the vegetables. I take pictures of the vegetables or draw a Mandarin character and phonetic spelling so I can pronounce it in the store if I need help finding it.

What a great idea!

Once again, thank you ChihYu [chee-yu] Smith, for taking the time share your amazing insights with us. If you want to pick up her latest cookbook or learn more about I Heart Umami you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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