The Food Diary: Denise Ferguson of Yoga Sanctuary

Her healthy eating tips

Denise Ferguson, owner of Yoga Sanctuary, Mairangi Bay. Picture / Supplied.

Is food a big part of the yoga lifestyle?

It definitely is for me. I’m vegetarian, not necessarily just because yoga says to do it, it’s just evolved over the years. The more yoga I’ve done, the more conscious I’ve become, and the more I’ve felt drawn to vegetarianism, organic and natural foods, and less to foods that don’t make me feel good.

There’s a philosophy in yoga called “ahimsa” or non-harming. A lot of our food is tampered with, particularly meat products that are not from a high level of consciousness. We all know the way some animals are treated. I don’t want to support that, and I don’t want to put something that has suffered in my body because it becomes my body. The more I care about myself, the more I care about the environment and a lot of meat products aren’t good for our environment.

How challenging is it to eat that way?

It isn’t hard eating out as a vegetarian any more. I’ve been slowly refining how I eat over the years. Eating out from an organic perspective is more challenging. It means I have to go to the organic shop. And when I eat out I don’t want to be that high-maintenance girl. So I try to maintain a relaxed attitude. I go to Naturally Organic in Albany on Rosedale Rd, Harvest Wholefoods in Grey Lynn and, strangely enough, the Freeman’s Bay New World, the perfect supermarket to get high-quality organic varieties and vegetarian stuff.

That must be expensive?

I assume I spend more but I don’t know. I’ve been been eating this way for so long that if stopped I’d probably think, ‘‘Wow, this is cheap’’. That’s the standard I choose. Some people like to spend more money on shoes — and I love spending money on shoes. I’ll go cheap on something else. Because I want high-quality food, I don’t worry about it. I realise it’s not a luxury everybody has.

What do you make?

I like to make two salads. One might be chickpea with veges then another with quinoa, beetroot and apple, and two types of grains to get the full protein and amino acids. Or I’ll do a green with a protein, like organic haloumi, feta or eggs. You often end up eating buffet-style as a vegetarian. I also eat what other people eat, lasagnes and risottos.

I tend to undereat so I eat high-calorie foods, so I’m big on eggs for brekkie. I’ll have two scrambled with cheese, or a breakfast burrito. Then I know that if I forget to eat for hours, my body’s okay. Dinner is often leftovers from lunch. Because I’m on the go teaching yoga three times a week, I’ll often get home at 8.30, so there’s no way I’m cooking. Some days I’ll cook at lunchtime and have the leftovers at dinner.

Where do you eat out?

My mother and I go to an Indian place called Kashmir in Milford most Monday nights. It’s great for vegetarians, and Indian food is right up my alley. We usually order a vege curry — they also do an amazing cauliflower and potato dish. But we like to try something different every time. I eat out quite a bit with friends as well. That’s when I let things go. I like lunch at SPQR. They do a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad, and amazing pizzas. They also do a vege linguine. I think it’s actually a seafood linguine but I get the vegetarian version. Ponsonby Road Bistro does great pizza. When I eat out I like good gourmet pizza.

What’s your philosophy on food?

Food is a source of happiness for me, which, as a woman, is a nice thing. I don’t have a massive appetite but I’m not constantly stressing over food. I eat to enjoy, I’m always satisfied, I stop eating when I’m full, I have no trouble with my weight, and that’s important because I’m on show.

As a yoga teacher, people look to my body as something to aspire to. I believe in ‘‘everything in moderation’’ — I’ll often have a glass of wine in the evenings. I often hear people say ‘‘I’m trying not to drink this week’’, or ‘‘I’m trying to cut down’’, and all I see is a struggle with alcohol. I don’t struggle because I allow myself. But if I drink I will eat. Because I’m slim I learned the hard way that if I don’t, I get drunk. Then you’ve ruined the next day.

What are your most vivid food memories?

My Mum used to feed me comfort food when I was younger, food that wasn’t very healthy, macaroni cheese with heaps of bacon. That was the way she showed me she loved me. When I got older I realised I wanted to eat from a nutritional point of view. I have three best friends I’ve grown up with and we eat together, with partners too, buffet-style. We often share recipes.

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