Blogger Spotlight: Gina Matsoukas from Running to the Kitchen

Join Food Network's Healthy Eats in discovering the best healthy bloggers around the web. Today we're talking to Gina Matsoukas from the blog Running to the Kitchen.

After gaining inspiration from healthy blogs, Gina Matsoukas embarked on a major lifestyle change two years ago. Ever since, Gina has been an avid runner and a healthy eater—with a healthy blog to match. Gina’s goals don’t stop at her own body. She created Running to the Kitchen to share her healthy lifestyle and to demonstrate the possibilities within reach for everyone. With each post, she inspires others with her wholesome recipes, exercise musings and excitement for healthy living.

What are some of the healthy blogs that inspired you to adopt a healthier lifestyle?

Some of the first healthy living blogs I read were Kath Eats Real Food, fANNEtastic Food and Daily Garnish. Those were just the tip of the iceberg though, there were hundreds that I found through those girls that I could literally get lost in for days at a time. I'd look up after starting to read one and realize it had been an hour. Total time suck. But those initial three really opened my eyes to healthy food and making exercise fun again.

How has writing a blog helped you keep up with your own health and wellness?

I first started Running to the Kitchen because I wanted to help inspire others by telling my story through healthy food and workouts. What I didn't realize at the time was how much I'd be inspired myself to constantly keep up with it. I have a Google Reader filled blogs with that range from healthy eating to fitness to baking. All of them inspire me in one way or another on a daily basis. I just joined a CrossFit gym that opened nearby, something I would never even have heard of if it wasn't for blogs. I'm also part of a group called FitFluential that has over 800 ambassadors, all of us "fitness minded" in some way, shape or form. It's a group that connects on different social media platforms and events and has been such a huge source of inspiration for me, whether it's in the form of an impromptu workout, a creative recipe or help with blogging related things. At the risk of sounding completely lame for talking about people (most of whom I've never met) this way, blogging has helped me feel like part of community that continually supports my health and wellness efforts.

How would you describe your approach to healthy eating? Do you eat differently now than you did two years ago?

Healthy eating for me has been a continuously evolving process. Three years ago, I found myself about twenty pounds overweight and literally had one of those "a-ha" moments after seeing pictures of myself on my family's summer beach vacation. At first, healthy eating meant calorie counting. After plateauing 10 pounds later, healthy eating transitioned into a focus on whole foods rather than a certain calorie amount. I literally emptied my pantry of 90% of the processed, packaged stuff and restocked it with whole grains from the bulk bin section of natural foods store. My produce drawer wouldn't close most of the time I stocked it with so many vegetables. Once the entire 20 pounds was off, which has been about two years now, I experimented with a handful of approaches to eating from vegetarian to pescatarian to Paleo. At the end of the day however, I don't like putting a label on how I eat. I focus on whole, local foods, lots of vegetables, fruit and proteins, limited amounts of sugar. It's a simple approach and I feel the best when eating that way.

How do you come up with healthy recipes?

I'm always thinking about food! Most of the recipes on my blog are inspired by what I have on hand. I will literally stare at my fridge and pantry until an idea forms. What's in my fridge is usually dictated by season, so recently I've been making lots of things with fresh fruit and vegetables from the local CSA I joined this summer, but in the winter it will be an entirely different approach. Blogs are also a huge source of inspiration. Despite all of the food blogs I read, I actually don't tend to make a lot of what I see. They do however constantly give me ideas or a starting point which I inevitably end up tweaking based on what I have on hand, what I'm craving or in an attempt to make healthier.

How do you think Running to the Kitchen has helped others make healthy changes? Do you have any success stories?

My ultimate goal with my site is to inspire people to eat well without sacrificing flavor and to make healthy food enjoyable & approachable. I want people to be able to relate to what they see on Running to the Kitchen, whether that's through accessible, simple food or the story behind the recipe. I think by doing that, people feel like making changes to their lifestyle is possible. The best part about blogging is definitely seeing emails in my inbox from people who have tried a recipe that they "never would've thought about" and telling me they loved it. Or, someone telling me how my running story inspired them to start the Couch to 5K program. It's a great sense of satisfaction to know that all the work that goes into creating, photographing and writing a post actually affects someone's life in a positive way every now and then.

For more recipes, fitness fun and instances of inspiration, visit Gina at Running to the Kitchen or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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