When we went over for tea on a cold November afternoon, Reveena discussed some of the myths about food, particularly the misconception that anything healthy doesn’t taste good. Many of us are terrorized by words like “whole wheat” and “gluten-free” but, according to her, those foods will keep you feeling healthy and energized.
“Think of the last time you went to someone’s house for tea. Did you not end the day feeling heavy and lethargic? Don’t you feel light after this?” Reveena asked me and Alex once we had cleared the dishes after the interview. We did (mostly) feel pretty good.
“Your body literally runs on what you put into it. You owe it to the only frame you will ever be given to treat it properly. Eat food that doesn’t hurt your stomach and figure out what that means for you. It’s different for every person.”
The menu included homemade chai lattes with almond milk and brown sugar, banana chocolate chip cake, and fresh fruit with coconut whipped cream. The pièce de résistance was a plate of individual raw-vegan cheesecakes made with coconut milk, blanched cashews, dates and pecans. Although perhaps better suited for a high-calorie snack after an intense workout, the not-cheesecakes were quite possibly better than actual cheesecake. The only reason we didn’t feel entirely light and ready to work after the meal probably had something to do with the copious quantities of food we ate. You could say we were impressed, but that would be an understatement.
Reveena recently started her own online cooking show, Reveena’s Kitchen, in order to spread her love of cooking. “Cooking is my form of artistic expression and my way of being in touch with other cultures,” she explained in the interview. “Feeding others is my way of saying ‘I love you.’”
Given her skill with video editing and, more importantly, her passion for cooking, it made sense for her to cook for a wider audience on camera.
“I had been thinking about doing a cooking show since grade eight, and now I finally have a way to accomplish this goal,” she said.
This system includes up to a full day of filming with fellow classmate and videographer Ruth Stewart-Patterson. “We’ve started filming several episodes at once,” Reveena explained. “Six hours of straight filming and episodes are uploaded consistently every Thursday.
“I want to make food for everyone,” she said. “Someone who is gluten-free or vegan, or even a dedicated carnivore will find recipes on my site.”
Luckily, Reveena’s recipes are incredibly versatile and easy to alter for your own personal preferences or, in her case, dietary restrictions.
Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory disorder in the digestive system) at an early age, it took years for her to realize that certain foods were “off the menu.” Although there is currently an upswing in the number of people choosing to go gluten-free or vegan, Reveena—a longstanding vegetarian—didn’t have a choice in the matter.
As a first-year university student, she also understands the difficulty of eating healthy, balanced meals that taste good but that can also be prepared quickly. A typical exam-period student diet consists of a coffee and red bull IV drip, Nutella sandwiches and halal pizza. Not exactly what one would consider brain-food.
“It’s easy to forget that what you put into your body affects the way that you’re going to feel,” Reveena explained. “You don’t realize how tired you are after eating a big dinner of pasta until you’re sitting on the couch and falling asleep when you should be studying.”
Alternative staples, such as canned beans, brown rice, quinoa, couscous and quinoa pasta, are easily available and can leave you feeling lighter and ready to get to work once dinner is over. The best part is that it’s so easy to make a delicious meal out of them. Although canned beans have “all the sex appeal of a baggy t-shirt,” according to Reveena, they are also one of her most important ingredients.
“Think about it: you have 10 minutes to make dinner. What do you do? You open a can of beans, you put them into a pan with a little bit of onion, garlic and salt. You add whatever veggies you have in the fridge and, depending on what kind of meal you want, you throw in some spices,” she said.
“You want Italian? Add some basil and oregano, salt and tomatoes. Craving Mexican? Go for a can of black beans and add some cinnamon and cumin. Want Indian? Add turmeric, chili and garam masala to some chickpeas.” For Reveena, a fully stocked spice rack is almost as important as a plentiful fridge.
So what are her main tips for the hungry student with a limited budget and even less time to cook?
- Always keep vegetables, healthy starches and carbohydrates (quinoa, brown rice, couscous, whole wheat pasta or quinoa pasta), beans and spices in your fridge and pantry.
- Don’t throw anything out. Discarded pieces of vegetables can be thrown into a pot of boiling water to make vegetable stock, which you can use as a soup base another time.
- Fruits and vegetables make great snacks. Remember your lunches from when you were a little kid? Munch on grapes, baby carrots or cucumber slices in class. Pair it with some hummus for added protein.
- Buy cheap fruit, even if it’s a little overripe. Brown bananas make the best smoothies and banana bread. Cut off the brown spots on apples or throw them into a pot and make applesauce.
Although Reveena verges on the vegan side of the diet spectrum, she stresses that eating healthy is not about going vegan. It’s about thinking of all the unhealthy things that you eat (Nutella on white bread, for instance) and eating them in moderation. You don’t need to eliminate them entirely—where would be the fun in that?
You can find her cooking show here.