Riyana Rupani’s childhood home encouraged the celebration of food, honoring the rich dishes of her culture that brought the family together. With a focus on keeping the family heritage alive, her mother instilled in Riyana a love for preparing traditional meals from a young age. But these weren’t always the healthiest of choices.
After years of suffering from stress, digestive disorders, and fertility issues, Riyana began to look into alternative health methods as a path toward healing. It was her love for gathering around meals that inspired Riyana’s journey into holistic nutrition, transforming the classical dishes from her youth into clean-eating marvels.
Changing her perspective on nutrition has changed her life. Riyana now has three beautiful boys, and motivates many to cherish every aspect of food. From personal advice and lifestyle tips on Instagram, to the recipes on her website Healthy-ish & Happy, she shares the information she wishes she had before thinking medication was the only solution to her health problems.
At Nuguru, Riyana has developed Clean-in-15, a dedicated 15-day program designed to help people embrace positive change through clean eating and lifestyle improvements. Using a framework that helps to identify food intolerances by listening to our bodies, we can implement these strategies to achieve food freedom. The program can be extended with supplementary 10-day meal plans for both omnivores and vegetarians, developed by Riyana to support Clean-in-15 program graduates and anyone starting their journey towards healthy eating.
She tells us more about how she overcame her health struggles, and how she has reinvigorated her lifestyle through clean eating, a positive mindset, and embracing change for lasting well-being.
How did your journey into holistic nutrition begin?
I faced a lot of health issues in my 30s. It started with mild things like skin issues and anxiety, then evolving into PCOS and trouble conceiving. After medications, injections, and test after test, it took me three years to get pregnant. I was later diagnosed with another autoimmune-related issue, ulcerative colitis. I started asking myself why I was having these issues in the first place. I wasn’t overweight, I exercised, I thought I ate healthy.
I had lost the joy food is supposed to give you. We’re supposed to eat foods that nourish and make us feel good. And I realized that maybe what I was eating was not so great. After researching more, I discovered how food can cause inflammation within the body.
I learned how stress affects hormone levels, and I began tweaking my diet. My periods became regular without being on the pill. I no longer needed the medication for my colitis! I thought it was incredible. I was getting better, but still eating good food and loving what I was cooking. Your period is the biggest indication of your health and wellness as a woman. Your cycle is what tells you what is normal. I needed to share this with other people, because I felt that many women struggle with this too. I wish someone told me sooner to look at what you’re eating to regulate your hormones that way.
How has your relationship with food changed since?
I love food. I’m a foodie! But I started to connect the dots and realized for most of my life, I used food as a tool — restricting it as punishment, and indulging when feeling upset or to compensate for something. My relationship with food wasn't a healthy one, and I needed to change that.
We all need to listen to our body. We’re all born with this amazing intuition on what’s good for us, and what’s not good for us. We’ve learned to ignore listening to our body.
We can't be demonizing any macronutrient. Our body needs fat, it needs protein, it needs carbohydrates. It’s about choosing the right ones and in the right amounts that work for us.
Listen to Riyana talk about the most important thing you can learn to do for your body.
Your approach to living healthy-ish and happy is centered on a natural route of healing. What are some reservations some people might have about this?
I feel like a lot of people fear doing things naturally because they're worried about the time it’s going to take. In general, people want to skip steps. We think medicine can fix so many things. There are things we can do to prevent us from having to take so much medication. Try changing small things. Have all the information properly presented to you, then make the decision you feel that is right for you. The answer is simple - you don’t want to live this way forever. It’s about finding your food freedom with a clean, easy alternative.
I get it, it wasn’t easy for me. I was intimidated at first. I don’t judge, I can relate to you.
Do people expect you to eat or feed your children a certain way when they know you’re a nutritionist?
Yes! God forbid someone sees me out having a glass of wine and enjoying my Blue Label pizza. People say, “You're letting your kid have fries?” But why not? It makes them really happy and they don't eat it at home.
I see many people grow up with major restrictions and end up bingeing later in life to make up for lost time.
That's what I want to avoid, so I expose my kids to as much as possible by getting them into the kitchen, tasting, and experimenting.
I’m very big about finding balance - getting the good stuff in, then enjoying everything else. Taste buds change. If they’re not eating it now, I expose them.
It comes back to mindful eating. Don’t be distracted. Your digestion doesn't work as well and you can't listen to your hunger cues. Enjoy your meal.
LISTEN: Riyana shares more about her eating philosophy of “life in balance”.
Do you have any tips for people who want to encourage their loved ones to pursue holistic living?
I have a lot of clients who ask if they can send their moms, dads, siblings, friends, etc. to me, and I love that they want the best for their loved ones. The one piece of advice I give them is to make sure their loved ones want to make a change. You can't force change on anyone, and if you try, you might be doing more harm than good. Everyone is on a different part of their health journey and we need to respect that.
No matter who it is, it's about meeting them where they are on their wellness journey. Any change is a good change.
Bonus: Like the look of Riyana’s Chickpea Curry Salad below? Download it here.