Teena Gudjonson is not your average mother. She’s a certified dietary technologist, personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and an award-winning fitness model. Somehow, she also found time to write and publish her first book, 

She says this book is for anyone who wants to work towards a healthy lifestyle, with the benefits of weight control and fitness. “I hope to inspire and educate others who are struggling with their health,” she shares. “There is a lot of false information and there are lots of crazy diets out there. My message: we need to stop overcomplicating our health and get back to the basics.” She encourages others to challenge their minds and bodies every day and not to be too hard on themselves.

For great healthy meal ideas, free recipes, or a copy of her cookbook, visit Teena’s website.

Q: What made you want to write a cookbook?
A: I have always had an interest in cooking and in writing, so it seemed natural that my first published book would be a cookbook. I really wanted to impact others on some level, and I felt I could do this by sharing my recipes and letting others know that it really isn’t difficult to eat well or to feel well.

Q: Where does your recipe inspiration come from?
A: I started cooking for my dad and brother after my mom left when I was eight. The only thing I knew how to cook at that age was pasta (I think we all got sick of it). My dad travelled a lot and enjoyed different foods and cultures, so I was always trying to impress him with my new creations. I soon realized that others really enjoyed some of the meals I came up with – they were different, flavourful, and generally pretty healthy.

Q: How do you decide what ingredients to start with when you’re creating a new recipe?
I am very health-conscious and try to cook fresh whenever possible. I usually have a craving for something specific, like Mexican or Mediterranean, so I start with ingredients I’m craving and then go from there to create something new. I try to cook really healthy 80 per cent of the time, but I do like to indulge once in a while. I’ve created some amazing recipes that I like to make on weekends using cream, butter, wine, and port. I think it’s good for us in moderation and it’s a much more livable approach.

Q: Where do you like to shop for ingredients?
A: It’s best if I can get ingredients from a local market or farmer, but it’s not always feasible. I live in a very small northern community with a population of three to four thousand people, so shopping here is limited. I order from Rancho Vignola once a year for nuts, dried fruit, seeds, cocoa, and so on – they purchase at harvesting time from farmers around the world and distribute throughout British Columbia. I also shop at our local health food store for rice noodles, ancient grains, healthy oils, etc. I love to grow my own herbs, potatoes, and vegetables during the summer to freeze for winter months. Oh, and berry picking – it’s great to have a freezer full of berries for the winter!

Q: What do you love most about cooking?
A: I guess it’s my way of providing for my family. I never had anyone cooking for me growing up, so I find comfort in cooking for others – especially when they really enjoy it. I love how time with family and friends is quite often centred around food.

Q: What do you find most challenging about cooking?
A: Finding the time. I have three small children so I have to be really creative in preparing healthy gourmet meals that don’t take long. I think most people struggle with what to cook and coming up with ideas that are tasty, fresh, and healthy, yet simple.

Q: What do you think is the number-one thing people will love about your recipes?
A: That my book offers something different and livable – recipes you can actually follow and prepare, ingredients you can recognize and find easily, simple instructions, and simple ingredients – put together in a way that offers something a little unique. A lot of people think that eating healthy and gluten-free is boring or complicated, but my recipes have a hint of gourmet and are ethnically inspired. They are super healthy and suit everyday cooking, but are also great for entertaining.

Q: What is your favourite recipe from your cookbook?
A: I love them all! If it’s a nice summer day for a barbeque, I like the BBQ Chili or Lime and Beer Chicken. On a cold rainy day, I like the Lean Mean Chili or the Cabbage Lentil Stew. If I have to pick just one, I’d probably go with the Shrimp and Scallops in Wine Reduction with Rice Noodles.

Q: What type of food do you find the most fun to make, and why?
A: I love making foods I can eat with chopsticks and that have a little spice, like curry or pad Thai recipes. I serve these types of meals on a large platter in the middle of the table. We all eat right from the platter with chopsticks, and the kids love it!

Q: Why do you personally enjoy cooking and eating healthy food?
A: If I didn’t cook for my family, we would be eating out. We’re usually disappointed when we dine out and it’s so expensive. Also, I try to stay away from anything processed, not only because it doesn’t taste great but because I have an autoimmune disease which I’ve been able to manage through healthy eating and proper nutrition. Eating healthy is a way of life for us – and it tastes amazing too!

Q: What’s the best piece of cooking advice you’ve ever received?
A: When I worked in the Cayman Islands, a chef once told me that as long as I liked what I was cooking, it would turn out well – this is also why there are no liver and onion recipes in my cookbook!

Q: What are your top cooking tips for someone who is looking to eat in a more healthful way?
 Start with fresh ingredients. Think of colour, use a healthy oil such as olive or avocado, add spices and fresh herbs for flavour, and have fun!

Q: How do you personally stay fit?
The upper level of my house is a fitness facility, where I instruct fitness classes and do personal training sessions. I try to get up and do a quick 20 to 30 minutes of cardio in the morning. The classes keep me in shape but I don’t run them year-round, and I don’t lift heavy. I find the four-week plyometric exercise program I’ve developed works best for me – plus, it can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment. I also enjoy outdoor activities, such as water sports, biking, hiking, and skiing. I recently ordered a paddleboard so I can do yoga on the water!

Q: What’s the best piece of fitness advice you’ve ever received?
To stay healthy and fuel my body, but also to feel good about my level of fitness, rather than becoming someone else’s idea of “fit.”