If you took a quick scroll through Emily English’s Instagram feed, @emthenutritionist, you’d struggle to place her content into one of the pertinent Instagram camps.
You wouldn’t find her recipes on a conventional foodie page, where meals look incredible but the recipes are too complex, rich or nutrient-light to be the type of thing you’d throw together out on a Monday evening. But her content doesn’t fit into the stereotypical wellness bracket either, where food content comes with inscriptions about the health benefits and eating has rules and regulations.
Instead, English makes fresh fajitas, hummus bowls and tuna bagels – the kinds of things you likely already eat – with a restaurant-quality flare and, as her Instagram handle suggests, good-for-you ingredients. They’re meals you DM your mates with the caption ‘dinner tonight?’ and then actually make, eaten to a soundtrack of amazed ‘oooos’.
To bridge the gap between foodie and rigidly healthy is an intentional decision, English tells WH: ‘I want every single thing I make to be delicious and leave you feeling energised, lighter and brighter. I like using those words because it’s not about being less or being smaller. It’s not about restriction. It’s not about sharing the nitty gritty science – because we don’t eat nutrients, we eat food – but it’s about making recipes that you know you want to eat and that you feel good after.’
To her, that feel-good feeling is about more than the outside view. ‘Feeling good about eating is also about your mindset. Social media is very trend driven and we have periods of viral diet culture moments, but I just want people to eat normally. You should be able to feel so natural and comfortable with healthy eating, and I want to normalise eating well by creating easy recipes for everyone to love and feel good in both ways. My recipes should fit sustainably in your lifestyle, or what’s the point?’
It wasn’t always so simple for English to have this idea of easy, delicious eating. While she grew up in a foodie environment – summers spent in her granny’s kitchen, Christmas day spent helping her mum at the stove – she was scouted by a modelling agent at a festival aged 17 and it changed the way she viewed her body and food.
‘Suddenly, I went from living with a lot of food freedom to a toxic lunch canteen of an industry. People were talking about the diets they were doing, paleo this and cutting out that, and it was all so new to me. It wasn’t until someone criticised the size of my legs after I came back from spending summer in America, where I had been so keen to explore and try the food and get involved, that I felt the switch go and food became my enemy,’ she says.
‘I cut out everything and demonised food, ending up with a short but intensely destructive eating disorder. I was so lucky to see some amazing therapists who helped me and my thought process through that journey, so I was able to come out of the other side and recover quite quickly. But it left me with a view that everything that’s wonderful, delicious and fun was ‘bad’ and everything that was boring and tasteless was ‘good’. I didn’t understand why food had to be so black and white, so I went to university to study nutrition and untangle that. I never looked back.’
After graduating, she started posting her recipes to Instagram so her private clients could follow along and blurring the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘healthy’ and ‘delicious’. Her following grew much further than just those she saw in clinic: in this year alone, she’s more than quadrupled her following to 600,000. How does it feel to have an audience that big, especially when sharing content based on food, a famously touchy subject? ‘I honestly feel like I have the most wonderful time on social media. When it first started to grow I remember getting a lot of impostor syndrome, but I do what I love. I never overthink what people want to see, I just make foods that I want to make, and people seem to love it,’ English says.
That’s really how she goes about making her content. The over-curated ‘gram cliche doesn’t apply to English, who’s process involves little planning and trend chasing. ‘My morning routine involves going on a 45-minute walk and while I’m out I create recipes in my mind. I have this skill where I can taste food in my brain before I eat it, so I pair all the flavours and textures of the meal together, then head to the supermarket to pick up my ingredients and go home to cook whatever it is that I want to enjoy. I’ll write down the recipe to share on the grid, but my meals are always eyeballed so it’s never too fussy. My best recipes are always just something that makes me really happy.’
It’s clear that Em sees cooking and eating as a form of self-care. But she’s also ‘a bit of a beauty junkie’ and is open to woo. You’ll find protein powder or expensive supplements on her page, but her belief is that anything that makes you feel good can have a place.
‘I take a greens powder every morning, which some people get really upset about. But I get my nice little cup, I mix in my supplements, and I drink it – it tastes rank and maybe it won’t deliver on all the promises of a greens powder, but it puts me in a wellness state of mind. I think it’s empowering to choose something that’s good for me every single day and I encourage everyone to find whatever works for them when it comes to more holistic practices,’ she says.
But one thing is for sure: she won’t be swapping her morning pancakes or lunchtime halloumi for a green-juice only detox diet any time soon – and she strongly recommends you don’t either. ‘My first piece of advice to people is always not to try to change too much at once,’ she says. ‘When you try to follow rules you set yourself up for failure. Instead I try to think about what small things I can do better: how can I make a bit of a healthier version of something, or do a little more movement, or be more consistent with my habits? Tiny changes accumulate.’
If you want some inspiration from Em on where to start, try one of her three favourite recipes which she eats ‘at least once a week’ for hearty, nutritious and simple meals – the middle ground she always strives for.
Try these Em The Nutritionist recipes:
Em The Nutritionist’s chicken lasagna recipe:
Em The Nutritionist’s seabass orzo recipe:
Em The Nutritionist’s sausage pasta recipe: