How We Learned To Love Healthy Living

Pop quiz: What's the last thing you feel like doing after a long day at work? Was your answer "cook dinner"? We hear you. While working magic over the stove can be a great way to unwind, it's usually far easier to hit "submit" on our go-to Seamless order. And, can you blame us? Between shopping for healthy food, cooking said food, making it to the gym, and squeezing in alone time, living healthy might as well be an extra full-time job.
That's why we called up the queen of balanced living herself, Serena Goh, blogger at The Spicy Stiletto. She actually has made a full-time job out of juggling work and health. But, that wasn't always the case. Before finding her true calling, this fashionable foodie logged 10-plus hours a day in tech and finance, only whipping up meals after hours to decompress. When cooking became more than just a way to unwind, she ditched the corporate gig and made her passion project a priority — and a profession. (Couldn't we all use a little bit of that "me first" spirit?) So, we asked Goh to dish out some of her healthiest advice and give us the lowdown on what she stashes in her swoon-worthy new kitchen. Ahead, find everything you need for a lifestyle reboot — reading this story has serious health benefits.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Sweet kitchen! How'd you become such a foodie?
"I grew up in a really healthy family, so my parents were all about organic eating — we were eating kale before kale was cool. But, when I went to college, I definitely went through a phase of eating unhealthy. It came full circle when I moved to New York. You know, everything your parents preach, you’re like 'Damnit, I should’ve been eating healthy all along!'"

Is that what prompted you to start blogging?
"Yes, definitely. I started The Spicy Stiletto when I was 22, right when I moved to the city. It was this sort of coming of age — I had my own apartment, and I was starting to create a new lifestyle for myself. But, I was working full time in tech and finance at the time and I was exhausted, so when I got home, cooking was the last thing on my mind. It’s so easy to go out and grab a meal with friends or do happy hour after work, but that's not exactly healthy. Cooking was a challenge for me, and blogging about it made me accountable to actually do it."

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Photographed by Alice Gao.
These days, it seems like everyone's vegan, gluten-free, or eating only organic. What's your story?
"I don't have any dietary restrictions, but I believe that what you put in your body is really important, so I’m really particular about the kinds of things I eat. I go to the farmers' market. I like to make sure my food isn’t genetically modified and that I’m not eating processed food. I really like to support local farmers, and the idea that we can bring farm-to-table to life. I like to know that my orange juice wasn’t pasteurized and heated and hasn’t been sitting around for a year before I’m drinking it. I want to know that what I’m putting in my body isn’t some alien form of food that is produced by man. I love food and I love the concept and idea of creating beautiful food, but the freshness of that food is most important to me."

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Photographed by Alice Gao.
So, you're starving — what's the first thing you reach for?
"I’m an awful snacker. If I open a bag of chips, it’s game over. My go-to right now is these rice cakes with a mashed-up avocado spread I make with a dash of olive oil on top."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
"I'll also add some fresh fruit and granola to yogurt — it has that crunch I'm craving, and it's enough to fill me up without making me stuffed. I love having Chobani Simply 100 around — it's made with only natural ingredients, with real fruit, and it's the perfect blend of sweet and dairy creaminess."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You have some pretty wild recipes on your blog — what's your signature dish?
"My mom cooks this fusilli with spicy Italian sausage, and I love making that if I miss home. I just marinate tomatoes with basil and olive oil and make fresh tomato sauce. Then I simmer that down and throw in some hot Italian sausage."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
When you're not in the kitchen, what's your recipe for relaxing? “My kitchen is relaxing! It's a space where I can do whatever I want. I can be haphazard and create interesting things and not care about the rules of cooking or having to follow a recipe. It’s very relaxing and freeing for me. When I'm not up for cooking, though, I'll just light a candle and read a book and feel at peace."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
"But, I have a new puppy and she’s a handful, so whenever I really want to relax, I have to put her in her crate first, which is so hard to do because, look at that face!"
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You've made being healthy a business, so spill — what's your healthiest habit?
"Working out, or at least doing Pilates once a week. It’s something that really changed my body and the way I look at working out and strength building — it's helped me stay strong without bulking up. Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your schedule is so, so important, because it not only helps strengthen your body, it helps ease your mind."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You're a newly minted East Villager. What do you love about the 'hood?
"There are so many good places to shop! I like Union Market on Houston and Commodities. It shortens the distance between farm and fork. When I go in there, everything is very fresh: the meats, the dairy and cheese. Knowing that it's something the store preaches is important to me."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
"My easiest trick for lifting my mood after a tough day is getting fresh flowers. They're bright and happy and always cheer me up. I will go and buy them over clothes sometimes."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Speaking of clothes, fashion and food don't always go hand in hand. What’s the connection for you?
"I’ve always loved experimenting with fashion, so blogging about that came naturally. Anyone can go out and buy a top at Zara, but it’s all about how you wear it — that’s the fun part. But, cooking was something I needed to put a little more effort into, so I started experimenting there, too. It’s very easy to go online and Google something, but how do you take something simple like pancakes or fish tacos and make it something else and give it your own twist? My experimentation with fashion inspired me to experiment with cooking, too."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your secret for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and giving 110% at work? (New Yorkers, take note.)
"It's all about balance. I'm just as busy as when I was working full time in tech and finance, but I'm more conscious of what I'm doing and make taking care of myself a priority. If you don’t make time for fitness and eating properly, it's easy to make excuses — especially in New York. ‘Oh, I just walked up five flights of stairs’ or ‘I walked two blocks to the subway!' The key is just being aware of what you're doing for your body. The rest falls into place."