Melissa Eboli AKA Chef Via Melissa is a certified Culinary Nutrition Expert (CNE), Nutritional Chef and wellness counselor based out of NY. Her services include event catering, dinner parties, cooking classes and recipe development. When she’s not in the kitchen, she can be seen making guest appearances on Dr. Oz , in addition to being published in the likes of Women’s Day, Readers Digest and Huffington post to name a few.
Her passion as a chef is to create healthy dishes with a modern twist using the cleanest of ingredients. Her commitment to living a clean lifestyle through food, nutrition and clean hygienics enables her to have the health & energy needed to succeed in all of her endeavors. Overall, Melissa has great passion for cooking & sharing her knowledge of all things health.
Oola: What inspired you to focus on the field of diet and nutrition?
When I was in college, I began to take my health and fitness seriously. I joined my first gym at the age of 18 and started to pay closer attention to what I was eating around age 21. I was never really overweight per se, 130 at 5’5″, but knew I could be a bit tinier. I began to play around in the kitchen as a hobby, revamping many of my mom’s classic dishes into a healthier facet and also followed an Atkins Diet protocol (that was very popular at the time).
When I started to see results from my hard efforts, I took a deeper interest in this field. In just a little over a year, I went from 130 to 107. Some may think that was healthy, but I lost too much weight that led to health issues including amenorrhea aka absent period, which lasted for 5 long years. Ironically, the more I learned, I realized I was doing it all wrong, so after a few years of mistakes, I decided to get certified in nutrition and do it the right way. I then wanted to take my learning and share it with other women who were like me that were also going about it all in the incorrect manner. That’s when Via Melissa was born 10 years ago.
From here, I was creating custom meals plans for clients, but they didn’t know how to make most of the dishes I was recommending. This is when I incorporated healthy cooking into my business and was doing meal plans with healthy cooking lessons to give a well-rounded hands-on experience and plan of action for my clients.
Over time, my business went from client focused to event focused. I became certified as a nutritional chef in 2016, then launched Via’s Kitchen, my personal chef and catering business that I actively run today.
Oola: You’re a Nutritional Chef and Wellness Counselor. Can you elaborate on what that entails?
Of course! As a nutritional chef, I am able to cook meals that taste just like the ones people are most familiar with, but make them in a healthier facet. This may entail baking versus frying, using healthier oils such as coconut oil versus canola, or replacing oil in baked goods with the likes of apple sauce and removing cups of sugar from a recipe and replacing it with a few tablespoons of honey.
Just because someone is eating healthy, they do not have to live off of grilled chicken and egg whites. My job is to re-introduce them to foods they love in a healthier light. I also offer the same level of re-vamped cooking when it comes to catering. So many people are trying to eat healthier, but when they go to a catered affair there is typically unhealthy selections. I love catering events where clients are delighted by the taste of my food, then even more surprised when they learn the feast they are eating is made in the healthiest manner possible.
As a wellness counselor, I educate clients on how to make healthy choices in their everyday lives.
I am a big proponent of customizing services based on someone’s day to day life. For instance, if I am writing a client meal plan, and they work in an office, I will factor that in and make recommendations of foods they can bring to work, or give them guidance on how to order from eateries near their place of work. For the client who wants to lose weight and get their hands dirty in the kitchen, I will teach them how to make meals off of a custom plan I created for them in their own kitchen so they can fully be in control of their food intake.
Oola: One of your specialties is to take traditionally unhealthy foods and recreate them to make them more nutritionally sound. Can you give us an example of one?
Most definitely! Eggplant parm was always one of my favorite dishes growing up (and is still towards the top of my list). How I am able to convert this dish is that I bake the eggplant versus fry it before layering it and I use gluten-free breadcrumbs. I also use vegan mozzarella or feta cheese depending on who I am making the dish for. The sauce is made from scratch so I know what ingredients are in it. These modifications do not change the taste or texture, but make this traditionally unhealthy dish much more nutritious for one to enjoy it guilt free!
Oola: What was it like cooking on the Dr. Oz show? Were you nervous? What did you cook and how did it go?
I have been fortunate to be on Dr. Oz’s show a few times, and yes I have gotten the jitters right before they shoot. Dr. Oz shoots as if it’s a live show, and doesn’t do re-takes, so it’s to my best interest to get all right the first time around. The first time I cooked on the show I made my BBQ Bean Corn and Pasta Salad. I thoroughly talked Dr. Oz through how I made the dish and he seemed impressed. He tried it and seemed to like it too, which was a pretty awesome experience!
Oola: What’s a food that a lot of people consider healthy that is actually pretty unhealthy?
Where do I begin? I would say 3 foods I have seen touted as healthy, but definitely are not include yogurt, traditional muffins, and wraps!
Yogurt has little to no probiotics in it and is loaded with sugar, anywhere from 15-30 grams, on top of which dairy is an inflammatory ingredient. I say skip the yogurt and take a probiotic supplement instead. Save your calories for a more nutrient-dense meal. When it comes to muffins and wraps, these are also touted as healthy but aren’t. Muffins can have anywhere from 300-500 calories made up with hydrogenated fats and sugar. Similarly, wraps around a sandwich can also be 250-400 calories and this is before you put anything inside the wrap to fill it.
Oola: Eating healthy while traveling can be a real challenge. Any tips for making it more manageable?
This comes down to planning. Do your research before taking a trip to see what healthy options may be in the areas you’ll be passing through. If the options are scarce, pack some of your favorite healthy snacks with you. Some of the most portable items include nuts, protein powder (that can easily be mixed with some water on the road), or bring a few of your favorite protein and snack bars.
Oola: What’s a big trend in American diets that you think is really positive or negative?
There are so many trends in American diets right now from keto, to paleo and fasting. I am not a fan of either as each are all too restrictive in their own way. Fasting overnight for 12 hours is fine, but many people are doing 18+ hour fasts and eating maybe 1-2 meals a day. This may be fine in a very short-term effort but will have great effects on their long-term health. Keto is too restrictive eliminating almost all sugars. Again, ok for a very short burst, but not a diet to sustain permanently.
“I love catering events where clients are delighted by the taste of my food, then even more surprised when they learn the feast they are eating is made in the healthiest manner possible.”
Oola: If you could only keep one of the following items in your diet for the rest of time, which would it be: Coffee, Ice Cream, or Bacon?
None of the above as they aren’t in my diet unless it is vegan coconut ice cream, then we have a deal!
Oola: Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
I am not a fan of the word diet. Eating healthy is a lifestyle choice. It’s not something you “do for a few days” then go back to your old bad habits. If you want to incorporate a healthy lifestyle, try with two changes a week and stick to them. Week 1 may be to give up soda and fried foods. Week 2 can be that you aim to eat a salad at least 4 times that week and give up late night snacking. If you make these small modifications, over a year’s time many of your old bad habits will become a thing of the past.
Eating healthy is a lifestyle choice. It’s not something you “do for a few days” then go back to your old bad habits.
Learn More About Melissa:
Company: Via Melissa
Specialties: Nutritional Chef and Wellness Counselor
Designations: CNE (Culinary Nutrition Expert), CNC (Certified Nutrition Counselor)
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*LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/viamelissa/ *