Nutrition journey leads to cookbook

Local certified holistic health coach Emily Epps recently published an online cookbook, based on knowledge she gleaned from her own nutritional journey. 

Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer

Cookbook author Emily Epps and her husband, Jeffrey Epps, a podcast host and coach, are involved together in sharing fitness and nutrition education with the community.

Generally, freshmen college students are known to experience the “freshmen 15” – a weight gain due to high-calorie cafeteria food options and free-for-all snacking opportunities. However, Emily (formerly Neidle) Epps lost a significant amount of weight when she was enrolled at Loyola University, Baltimore, Md., as a freshman. Homesickness and anxiety quickly manifested into an eating disorder that lasted the better part of three years. 

Per the concern of her parents, Epps – a certified holistic health coach at Kavod in Franklin, and the author of a new online cookbook titled “Fed & Fueled: Quick, Easy & Nutritious Recipes” – began seeing a therapist and eventually a nutritionist. 

“I learned to practice intuitive eating … to listen to my body and learn its needs,” she said. 

A study abroad in Italy further educated her about the benefits of eating as much locally grown and freshly prepared foods as possible.

“They appreciate food there,” she said. “It’s part of their culture. I began to look at food differently, to love the art and preparation of it and not look at it negatively as in bringing about unwanted weight gain.” 

As she explained in the introduction to her cookbook, “I am passionate about helping people heal their relationship with food and eat in a way that honors their bodies.”

The cookbook is based on recipes she has tried and then shared for the last four years in a blog that was named “Coffee and Clean Eating,” but which has recently been renamed “Fed & Fueled” – also the name of her cookbook. She shares on the blog and in the cookbook knowledge gleaned while obtaining a certification from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition.  

Epps’s cookbook is filled with vibrant photography and easy-to-follow recipes, as well as cooking and nutritional tips. While this first cookbook focuses on salads, sides, and main dishes for either lunch or dinner, she plans follow-up versions spotlighting healthy breakfast and dessert recipes. Checklists of ingredients on every recipe page enables readers to print copies and take to a grocery. 

Recipes are distinct and colorful, incorporating many different varieties of produce and complementary ingredients. For example, the book’s Peach Caprese Salad includes peaches, mozzarella cheese, honey, balsamic glaze, fresh basil, and fresh mint. A couscous salad is loaded with vegetables and herbs, as is the hummus pasta. Plus, Epps offers variations on standard recipes – in order to make them healthier. Her “mac and cheese” is made with butternut squash, coconut milk, and chickpea shell pasta instead of heavy cream and cheeses. And, a gyro recipe features portobello mushrooms instead of seasoned lamb or beef. 

Epps recently married Jeffrey Epps, a local fitness and lifestyle coach and host of the podcast  “NspiredCoaching.” Emily, who hails from Virginia, and Jeffrey, a Columbia, S.C., native, met when she was teaching elementary school at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School near Clayton, Ga., and he was employed in Franklin with the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Emily said the couple not only discusses food and nutrition often, but cooks together as well. 

“He’s a great cook himself and a great taste tester of recipes,” she said. 

And, the Epps are involved in worship and teaching at Discover Church. 

“We are both about sharing with the community ways to be as healthy as possible,” noted Emily. “Our bodies are temples, just as God shows us, and we really need to take care of them in all ways. What we do with our bodies physically, spiritually, mentally, nutritionally … it all helps us be better in everything we do.”