The Beauty of Self-Care

The Beauty of Self-Care: Eating Clean with Heather Crosby + Cookbook Giveaway

by Caitlin Kelch


As much as I don’t like to admit it, food is the weak link in my self-care practice. I don’t have a horrible diet, but having grown up with a mother who packed me cucumber and sprout sandwiches for lunch, I just have an “I eat healthy” point-of-view that isn’t exactly true. I haven’t fully connected what food does for my body, but I’m making my way there. I’m lucky enough to have met Heather Crosby, a creative entrepreneur who has embraced the responsibility of being accountable for her own health after years of being told she’d be on medication for the rest of her life.

One of my favorite aspects of Heather’s work and approach is her respect for bio-individuality and the fact she even addresses that on her website and in her books. It reminds me of the gentle notes in guided meditations where you acknowledge that it’s natural for your mind to wander, just come back to the breath when you realize you’re thinking about work. Following someone like Heather, who acknowledges that we all come to the table with different habits, beliefs, traditions, and dietary needs, makes me feel okay when I enjoy the comfort food my grandmother made. I know I can always come back to my kale salad without any guilt and with an overall commitment to a primarily plant-based diet. Today, Heather shares some of her story and self-care routines. –Caitlin


What was your career path like, and how did you find your way to being a champion for self-care and nutrition?

I decided that I wanted to go to “a city” when I received my degree in graphic design at a university in West Virginia. My senior year, I went to Chicago for a wedding, fell in love with it, and when I returned to school, got to work contacting the most respected design firms in Chicago. Eventually, I landed a 3-day-a-week contract gig for 3 months at a small boutique firm. I sold my truck, packed up my kitties, and used 80% of what was in my bank account to rent a small apartment in Chicago. From that point forward, momentum snowballed and over the course of 16 years, I was able to work for many of the firms I’d long admired.

One of those firms in particular was my ultimate, but infamous for culturally being “a sweatshop.” I spent years working until 11pm, sometimes 2am, under tremendous pressure on incredible projects. That schedule plus poor eating habits eventually caught up with me. Simply, I got sick.

It manifested into a diagnosis of “IBS,” then “Interstitial Cystitis.” Over the years I had countless testing performed and always left with no answers. No one could tell me why this was happening, and when I was told by the last doc, “you’ll have to be on meds for the rest of your life,” I found that unacceptable and decided to solve this problem myself. I walked right out of the office leaving his prescription on the table.

I started researching online and found one dusty, lonely forum that had a discussion between some women who claimed that changing some of the food they ate helped them feel better. Could it be that simple?! I was not someone who would have started the vegetable fan club at the time, but my dislike for veggies wasn’t stronger than my desire to feel better. I knew in my heart that I was somehow accountable for feeling well, and for me, medication would be the same as putting tape over the check engine light in my car and going on a road trip.

I started small, blending veggies into smoothies. Then I started to create healthy versions of my favorite comfort foods and wrote everything down. Eventually, I had a binder full of recipes that I thought I should share with others, so I started YumUniverse.com. Then I started sharing resources that could be downloaded by anyone, anywhere. I wrote a book, I’m finishing a second cookbook, YumUniverse: Pantry to Plate, and I’m launching my first 4-week gluten-free baking course in early 2017.

Through it all I’m working on my own wellness — making stress management and sleep a priority, tweaking what I eat, staying flexible when it comes to necessary change, making sure to move every day, and surrounding myself with inspiring people. Also being realistic and nice to myself if I slip up — I want to be this kind of person for myself and others.


Recipe development is just another creative outlet — my tools are ingredients and I’m inspired to showcase them in new, memorable ways that make people happier and healthier. The ride is different for everyone as we all come to the table with different illness, history, habits, traditions, and emotional attachments to food. I’m simply dedicated to providing tools that help people become accountable for their own health, no matter where they land on the diet spectrum.

Click through to read more about Heather’s clean diet and self-care tips!

We’re giving away two copies of Heather’s Yum Universe cookbook so if you’d like to move forward in your self care practice with a healthier eating focus, leave us a comment sharing your favorite veggie!

Portrait above: Pang Tubhirun

Why did you create YumUniverse?

I felt very alone way back when I started eating more clean, whole foods, but I knew there were others out there in the same boat. A journey is always better shared with friends, and I had a binder full of recipes, so starting YumUniverse was my way of connecting with like-minded people, creating more win-win situations, and doing something other than designing for clients. I needed to create something my way, without compromise, share it, and see where it would take me.


What is your favorite way to care for yourself?

On the daily: In the a.m., leave the computer and phone off and go outside for a walk or run before I do anything else. At the end of the day, I geek out on my “Sleep Ritual.” I turn off my computer and phone and leave them both downstairs so I’m not tempted to scroll through Instagram in bed. I have an electronic pillar candle that I turn on around 9–9:30pm and carry that baby to the bathroom where I have an epsom salt soak. Then I climb in bed and read by “candlelight” for 20–30 minutes, then I’m out. Honoring this time has changed everything for me. My sweetie jokes with me and calls it “Frontier Time,” but I wake up rested and energized, and my mind is ready to take on work with a clarity that motivates me to Sleep-Ritual for life!

Special self-care: massage, time with friends, preparing meals for those I adore, road trips, tea time, and travel.

How do food choices affect the mind and the body?

For me and many others, the effects of sugar and inflammatory, processed foods stay with me for days: irritability, bloating, and less than sound sleep. When I’m putting clean, whole foods in my body, I feel calm and clear, I’m craving movement, I’m able to problem solve like a champ, and my memory is better (which has always been a challenge).

Cliché or not, we are what we eat, so when we’re thoughtful and provide clean, health-boosting fuel for our “homes,” the rewards are many, and varied. It’s powerful how many of us are used to a level of un-wellness and discomfort like foggy brain, joint pain, insomnia, poor digestion, and chronic colds (this was me for decades). Most humans are very disconnected from what our natural state of being is: happy and healthy. When you actually experience what it’s possible to feel like, those rewards can motivate more than the nightly tub of ice cream and TV-watching. The space between those two points is where almost everyone gets stuck. You have to want the results more than what you want in the moment, and there’s no doubt about it, that’s a challenge.

Energy is often a topic around food. Can you eat for “calm?”

Absolutely. Especially when using witchy good stuff like herbs/roots (dandelion, rosemary) and mushrooms (Lion’s Mane), but for everyday eats, the more greens and less anti-inflammatory foods the better the mood. For me personally, when I kicked gluten- and wheat-products I noticed a tremendous difference in my mood as well — almost no irritability, more positivity, and less mood swings. Foods high in magnesium like seaweeds, dark greens, legumes, and nuts can be calming and reduce anxiety.

Roasted chicory root tea is a calming beverage I like to drink throughout the week. It’s great iced and made into a latte. It’s coffee-like in flavor, but has a calming, detoxifying effect on the body.


What’s your favorite recipe from your book?

Hands-down, the most popular recipe from YumUniverse is the Creamy Millet & Kale Salad, which is in the first book made with Quinoa. It’s creamy, cheese-y but dairy-free comfort food that everyone from die-hard vegans to BBQ-loving uncles and kiddos love. It proves that dairy-free can be delicious, and it gets folks to eat a whole head of kale in one sitting. It’s good warm or cold, and I change it up all the time by adding mushrooms, fresh herbs, chickpeas, smoked paprika, and/or chipotle powder — it’s versatile because it’s all about the sauce.

What are your favorite self-care rituals?

Listening to podcasts! During my morning walks and runs I love to listen to podcasts for myriad reasons, but simply, they make me feel good. I’m a big feeler, so some even make me weepy (sorry drivers-by, I’m actually doing great). Some are like free therapy and/or a motivation boost — providing that “you can do it” we all need sometimes. I love to learn, connect with others, and be introduced to new things, and whether it’s gritty tales from business women and men, dinner-with-the-gals type conversations between cookbook authors, or science-y awesomeness about how trees communicate to each other underground, podcasts feel like self-care to me — learning and growing is care.

I’m pretty on-again-off-again, but I’m also getting back into meditation and yoga these days, and in addition to my daily routines, I feel really good about making myself a priority.

How do you de-stress?

I’m so much better about not taking on too much, but peeps that know me well may laugh because they think I still do — I’ve come a long way, though. During stressful times, I get my butt in bed at a decent hour, and I drink CALM magnesium water on the regular.

Nature is also my quick fix. Even if the you-better-sit-here-and-keep-working voice is in my ear and on a megaphone, if I feel stress, I go outside for a walk along the river near my house. Within minutes, I feel better and can return to what I was doing with clarity and energy.

Another favorite trick is to just stop everything and savasana. Even after a simple 5 minutes, everything is different after you just stop and lay out on the floor relaxed for a few minutes. In the kitchen, in the yard, wherever.

What life skills have been most helpful in pursuing a career as a creative entrepreneur and an advocate for clean food?

I’m lucky to have the design experience, as it has saved me thousands of dollars in materials for YumUniverse, but it can also be a bad thing in that I should be delegating, and that is something I need to work on. Here’s a new lens I’m trying on these days: Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should. In order to grow my business, I need to let go of the reins a bit and hire talented help so I can focus on building and implementing what I want to. I need to trust in others more, and this is a tough one I’m sure many can relate to. I’ll get there.

I’ve also always had a robust questioning of authority. I’d rather follow curiosity to experience and learn for myself instead of relying on what someone else says. It always pays off.

Suggested For You


  • Spinach, spinach, spinach…cooked, raw in a salad, in a smoothie…YUM!

  • One favorite vegetable..impossible! Today it is the lovely snap peas from the farmer’s market.

  • I love zucchini. When those with gardens complain that they don’t know what to do with all their zucchini, I’m happy to benefit from their abundance.

  • This article showed up at the perfect time for me. I was diagnosed with IBS yesterday and have been researching new ways to eat so I can heal my body. Thanks for the great content.

  • Cauliflower! The possibilities for using it are endless — curried, riced, dipped, baked….

  • Right now, Brussel sprouts. Though I can honestly eat a whole bag of carrots,

  • Heather is my kind of woman…push back if something doesn’t feel right. I admire her sharing spirit and determination!
    The photograph reveals one of my favorite veggies…swiss chard…
    I enjoy watching it grow as much as eating!

  • My favorite veggie (even though its technically a fruit) is definitely the tomato.

  • I love them all but at the moment it’s sweet potatoes. savory with sauteed spinach and goat cheese. mmmmm…now i’m hungry :)

  • Sweet potatoes! Baked in coconut oil and cayenne pepper is a real treat! What a lovely giveaway. :)

  • Probably cauliflower. . . but also potatoes, squash, carrots. The list goes on. . . .

  • I went on a similar journey eight years ago. Today, I have my health back, however, it was a long and hard road to recover what I had lost. One of the things that saddens me is that so few individuals understand the importance of food and its many wonderful benefits for our bodies – from reducing inflammation to assisting with mood and mental clarity. Unprocessed, ethically raised and grown food is one of the key foundations (along with clean water and healthy soil) for our well being, and it is something that few individuals, through no fault of their own, truly understand. I am from Australia and I wish the study of food was a compulsory subject (in the same way that English and Maths are) from the beginning of a child’s education.
    On a lighter note, my favourite foods, because of their versatility, are avocados and eggs.

    • Love Heather and if the recipes and knowledge that she shares! Love her beautiful spirit as well! My favorite vegetable is potatoes. Thank you for this amazing giveaway, Kayla :)

  • This may be a cheat, but aren’t onions the most incredible food. They make every recipe they’re in taste amazing!

  • Broccoli is my go-to healthy yet tasty vegetable :) Spinach is my smoothie fave though. Thanks for this great interview and giveaway, fingers crossed!

  • I really love wild smilax- sweet and tart at the same time… tender when first picked in the summer!

  • This sounds like the story of my last 2 years. Food is a healer and the road to health is a real journey once it is lost. I’m still on it but questioning the authority of Western medicine is a key to making up ground. Kale is my favorite.

  • My favourite vege is leek. Our whole family just loves them fried up or steamed, any way is delicious!

  • I think I’d have to go with cabbage if forced to choose. It’s so versatile and filling and one head of cabbage makes SO much food!

  • This book seems great, would love to win one!! I love most vegetables when they are in season, everything tastes so much better when it’s just picked – right now it’s kale & beets, in summer sugar snap peas, asparagus in spring. And that way I also get to long for some things like tomatos and mushrooms.

  • Hullo … great article :) Could you please tell me exactly what brand/type of electronic pillar candle you use please? Many thanks.

  • Definitely beets. Difficult to find in some seasons, but worth the search. Followed by all other veggies.

  • Steamed Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes! Plus carrots – raw, baked, streamed – easy to incorporate into any meal!

  • Beets! I love how versatile they are. They’re gorgeous. They’re sweet. They last a week in the fridge. They are great in baked goods for moisture without adding fat and sugar. Beets are everything. Don’t even get me started on kale….

  • Sweet potatoes are definitely top of the list. I could eat it daily, I pretty much do eat it daily actually. I eat it steamed, buttered, candied, in chili and a few other variety of ways.

  • Love all kinds of lettuce, salads, salads, and more salads! No two salads are ever the same. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  • I do no cooking without onions and peppers. Those, with spices and herbs, make for satisfying “mouthfeel “.

  • Brussels, cauliflower, and carrots in the cold months, corn, lettuce and herbs in the hot ones! When the weather changes I immediately start craving something different.

  • Definitely zucchini! I love how versatile it is — I roast zucchini boats, or make zoodles, or throw little slices in a stir fry!

  • Lovely post! So excited to learn about Heather’s work. And I can’t seem to get enough delicata squash these days.

  • Favorite veggies right now would have to be Brussels sprouts! Love them roasted. Or shredded and tossed with a tangy salad dressing.

  • definitely the underestimated POTATO! I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!

  • The humble head of broccoli. It the easiest go-to grab I’ve ALWAYS got in the fridge.

  • So happy to hear potatoes are lean food! A fav! To the author, Good luck with the book and loving this series on self care, many thanks ?

  • I can’t narrow my choice of a favorite veggie, down to a single “winner for dinner”. I love spaghetti squash, green beans and acorn squash – oh and those multi color carrots too!.
    Pat M

  • I’m all about the sweet potato – so versatile and can be both savory and sweet. It’s my go-to!

  • my favorite vegetable is brussel sprouts. Roasted, raw, sauteed – any way they are prepared, I love them

    • Garlic, sautéed onions, tomatoes, kale, herb de Provence and cook slowly till thick sauce. Add to anything, excellent

  • Carrots! My mantra for food: If you think you have enough carrots, add another carrot.

  • I love sweet potato, YUM! I eat it roasted, as noodles, broken down as a sauce and as a filling – so versatile and the color is inspiring!

  • Brussel sprouts! I didn’t even try them until I was adult and was sad I had been missing them all those years!

  • Cucumbers! Especially fresh from the garden with the dirt just hosed off,like when I was a kid.

  • Favorite vegetable? Wow, that is so hard because I am a veggie lover at heart. With that said, one vegetable I enjoy the most is cauliflower! Riced, roasted, or made into a delicious soup, I enjoy cauliflower at least 3 times a week. Thank you for the opportunity to enter.

  • Favourite veggie? Hmm, all the squashes: pumpkin, butternut, acorn and gem. But, everytime I shop I buy brussel sprouts, to be roasted with sweet potatoes and onions.

  • Favorite veggie…can’t pick just one! Love broccoli, sweet potatoes, leeks, fennel, all squash, rutabaga. :-)

  • My seven-year-old says “carrots” and my four-year-old says “carrots.” Little do they know that I sneak pureed sweet potato into their most favorite mac and cheese sauce :D

    Also, I have to comment on what a gem Heather Crosby is. We have been friends for more than 15 years and she is a wonderful, talented person. Congrats to her on this feature, and yay to design*sponge for spotlighting her culinary and visual creativity.

  • I love field greens and have them almost every day. They’re the greatest landing pad for most other seasonal veggies!

  • I cannot choose just one. Eggplant, Cauliflower, red onion.
    Started eating gluten free this week.

  • I love any type of potato, but I also feel like those are more of a treat than a health food haha. I legitimately love broccoli also!

  • This is so timely right now- recent events have me feeling some kind of way, and last night I took the time to remind myself to put on my own oxygen mask first- self care helps us take care of others. I love cauliflower! I’m a white carb fiend and it satisfies my cravings in a healthy way.

  • *This is not an entry* I just have to say “thank you” to Caitlin, Grace & Team, and to all of these enthusiastic people who took the time to comment, sharing their thoughts and favorite veg. You’ve put a very happy smile on my face. Love, Heather

  • My fave veggie is a mixture of kale, spinach, chard, and beet greens sautéed with onions, mushrooms, liquid smoke, smoked paprika and other seasonings. So yummy

  • Don’t know if this is open to Canadians but I love a lot of different vegetables. Broccoli & cauliflower roasted are great as are beets, brussels sprouts & many others. Roasting always seems to bring out a great flavour in the veggie.

  • I love brussels sprouts! They’re not only a favorite of mine, but also one of the few veggies my 2 picky teens and husband will all eat.

  • Oh, it’s so hard to have just ONE favorite vegetable. vv; I am a potato lover (doesn’t matter what kind, if it’s a potato I’ll eat it.); but I do love me some broccoli, brussel sprouts, PUMPKIN (though that is technically a fruit.), I just have an affection for all veggies.

  • I love cremini mushrooms, vidalia onion and zucchini sauted with butter and herbs provencal!

  • I love all vegetables, but I would say my favorite is carrot, because it is so easy to use anywhere and anytime!

  • I love potatoes, they are so versatile, comforting and delicious!! But some other favs and delicata squash, eggplant, beets and turnips:)

  • It is difficult to narrow it down. I love sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, carrots and celery.

  • My fave is the Onion. They are high in Vitamin C and add so much flavor. They’re versatile and delicious! :)

  • Green Beans! I can’t wait for spring to get the first green beans. And am sad when the last of the late season green beans end. Steamed is my favourite way to eat them (next to raw). :)

  • My favorite vegetable tends to change a lot but lately it’s been the parsnip! I love to slice it thin and roast it till crispy and toss it with dandelion greens! It has been my go to lunch of late!

  • Lacinato kale is my favorite vegetable right now. My husband and daughter due to health reasons are limited on what they eat, so we try and eat more and more vegetables each meal so that they always feel ok. Being that our family is currently 80% vegan/vegetarian, it is helpful to see how to put meals together, the seasoning added, how to alter recipes to make them dairy free or gluten free…healthy cookbooks definitely help with that.

  • Hi, I’m familiar with Heather and her website, but I’ve never read her cookbook. I’d love to win it! Thanks!

  • This is shockingly hard to answer! Can I cheat and say sweet potatoes, eggplants, and carrots (and beets and red peppers and spinach)?

  • It’s seasonal! Sweet potatoes are my favorite at the moment, so satisfying on cooler days!


  • Right now my focus is on cauliflower, and it is a favorite for many reasons. This vegetable is so versatile and readily available all year long. This summer I made a pizza with a cauliflower crust and it was delicious. Mashed, it easily substitutes for potatoes as well. Our all-time favorite, though, is breaded and fried in coconut oil!

  • I find mushrooms to be endlessly versatile and add texture and flavor to every dish I make. Eating a vegetable-centric diet is the basis of all good health. I can’t wait to read your cookbook!

  • My favorite vegetable is practically all, as in “any part of a plant consumed by humans” from quinoa to carrots. :) I am experimental like Heather Crosby but I admire her generosity on sharing her attempts and successes with us.

  • I’m loving acorn squash right now. It’s in season, and I love that you can eat the shell! It’s a great base for many recipes.

  • Arugula for breakfast, arugula for lunch, arugula for dinner. Just need to figure out how to get it into dessert…

  • If forced to choose, I would say pale yellow sweet potatoes are my favorite veggie. So simple: just bake, split in half and enjoy plain or with butter from grass-fed cows or olive oil and a bit of sea salt.