Niki Connor is a certified professional chef, certified Health & Nutrition Counselor, Nutrition Consultant, model, internationally-certified water judge, co-host of ‘Around The World TV’, and former professional athlete. Parlaying her formal health, nutrition, and culinary education, athletic background, International upbringing, extensive travels, and passion for improving the lives of others, she has created a viable socially responsible enterprise.
Connor is based in Los Angeles and continues to follow her passion for helping heal others and the culinary arts.
Catch Chef Niki Connor in a candid interview with Women Fitness President, Namita Nayyar as she shares her input on “Health is a state of mind”
You are a certified professional chef, health & nutrition Counselor, and former professional athlete. Share insight into your journey as an athlete & a chef.
I’m a certified Health & Nutrition Counselor and Professional Chef using my brand to help educate others on living a healthy and attainable lifestyle. I work as a personal chef in Los Angeles where I do small events such as dinner parties and cocktail parties and prepare meals in my client’s homes for them to enjoy with their families or bring to work. I also create video content because I enjoy educating others on cooking basics and living a healthy lifestyle. Instead of showing my audience how to prepare the more complicated dishes that I make at work or use expensive ingredients, I show them how to prepare quick and easy meals that are also affordable.
I was a private chef for a while but was unhappy with my job because I didn’t have the time to build my own business and visualized a different life for myself in spite of being good at my job. I took a risk by quitting my full-time private chef job to work as a personal chef for multiple clients instead and was hired by an Oscar-winning actress within a few days, so it was clear that I’d made the right choice. As a personal chef, I work in my client’s homes preparing dinners, catering small events, and also preparing meals for people with specific health conditions who need customized meals. This enables me to continue working as a chef while building my business.
With my formal health, nutrition, and culinary education, background as a professional athlete (showjumping and American football), International upbringing, extensive travels, and passion for improving the lives of others, I believe in the marriage of Eastern and Western medicine and use my knowledge and passion to help others live a healthy, preventative lifestyle. I also host and produce the first podcast/cooking show called ‘Laurel Canyon Kitchen’ which can be found on podcast platforms as well as my Holistic Chef Niki YouTube channel. I currently have so much going on that I’m not shooting new episodes at the moment, but I enjoy it and will continue the show as soon as I’m able to do so.
As a Health & Nutrition Counselor, your role expands from cooking to prevent and fight diseases to working with Oscar-winning actors, Grammy-winning musicians, professional athletes, models, families, Fortune 500 executives, and royalty.
5 tips on how one should go about planning a meal while cooking at home to stay fit & disease-free.
- Make time to prepare ingredients that go with different meals throughout the week when you’re short on time such as sauces, dressings, vegetables, fruits, rice, legumes, etc.
- Use organic, seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
- Avoid packaged and processed foods.
- Avoid any form of frying.
- Make my dressings and sauces, they’re shared in several of my cooking videos on Instagram and TikTok and a few are on my YouTube.
“Health is a state of mind; wellness is a state of being.” Please share input on your daily diet routine? The kind of diet you follow, 5 recipes you look forward to, 5 foods you try to keep to a minimum.
I practice intermittent fasting because it works well for me, I’m rarely hungry in the morning, and exercising on an empty stomach, fasting until the afternoon, and having a couple of larger meals in a shorter amount of time is easy for me to manage. I don’t recommend intermittent fasting for people who wake up hungry, you ought to listen to your body and feed yourself properly when you’re hungry. Snacking throughout the day works for some people, but often leads to mindless eating where you’re taking in an excessive amount of calories that you don’t need as fuel. I prefer to have meals that include the essential nutrients I need and add a snack before dinner if desired. If I’m skiing, I eat breakfast because I need the extra fuel, but I typically have my first meal in the early afternoon and don’t eat past 7 pm. When dining out, socially, or traveling, this can change of course, but not often enough for it to throw me off my routine.
I’ve been vegan for nearly 10 years and prefer to lead by example sharing delicious plant-based meals and tips rather than preach my beliefs, to each their own. Vegan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle and we could all use more plants in our diets for health and longevity! Whether someone works with me to have more delicious and healthy plant-based options added to their diet, they want to use food as medicine to heal from or prevent disease, they’re interested in adopting a plant-based lifestyle, or simply want to see how delicious and beneficial even one plant-based meal can be, I’ll meet their needs.
5 Recipes I Use Regularly:
- Vegetable-based smoothies post-workout
- Lentil and mushroom bolognese with zucchini pasta or gluten-free pasta.
- Hummus with crudite’
- Dates stuffed with nut butter, dark chocolate chips, and sea salt.
5 Foods To Keep To A Minimum:
- American Gluten
- Processed foods
- Fried foods
- Soy (this is not the case for everyone, but it is for me)
What is your daily fitness routine? Sports you like to pursue? How do you like to kick start your day? Any post-workout drink you take.
It’s about health first, and when you live a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, the rest falls into place. Committing to your health is committing to self-love, when you love and respect yourself on the inside; it shows on the outside, too!
I wouldn’t recommend everyone to follow my fitness routine because I train hard most of the time since it satisfies me both physically and mentally. While I enjoy pushing myself physically, I listen to my body and allow rest days whenever needed, sometimes I’ll even feel called to take a week off and focus on yoga instead. I don’t obsess over my weight or reaching a certain look or level in fitness, I enjoy pushing myself and breaking my own personal records for fun! I find exercise to be excellent for mental health, I like to start my day with a workout class or hike because it helps me release tension to feel more focused for the rest of the day.
As a former professional athlete (showjumping and American football), I’m used to being pushed hard physically by trainers and coaches, so I prefer to exercise with a trainer, in a group class, or group hike that motivates me to work harder. I don’t have a trainer now, I alternate between HIIT and Pilates classes which are the perfect combination for me both physically and mentally. I take group HIIT classes at a gym called Training Mate where I don’t have to run (I’m not a runner) and they provide other forms of cardio in the classes while making sure that my form is on point to prevent injury. I mix that with the hardest Pilates class you’ll find in Los Angeles at Carrie’s Pilates Plus, I love it!
As far as post-workout drinks go, I stick to water and consider the types of smoothies I make to be meals rather than drinks because they’re packed with vitamins and minerals.
Portion control can go a long way to prevent weight gain & enjoy guilt-free eating. Do you agree if yes, please elaborate on how? How do you help your clients overcome body-shaming?
It makes me sad seeing so many people obsess over their weight and diet all the time, even in today’s society where people are becoming more accepting of size inclusivity when it’s healthy. It can be an adjustment to transition to a healthier lifestyle, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is far more rewarding than crash diets, etc. If I was on a strict diet 24/7, I’d be miserable and hungry, and I’d rather be happy and enjoy my life. I don’t compare myself to others because I don’t want to look like anyone else or be a specific size; I focus on how I feel instead. I don’t own a scale and am motivated to be the best version of myself as a healthy and happy woman and encourage others to do the same. Having healthy self-discipline enables me to live a balanced lifestyle where I eat well 90% of the time and then indulge in less healthy options for the remaining 10%. Eating healthy makes me feel my best, so I don’t crave unhealthy foods often because they don’t make me feel good, especially sugary and fried foods.
Portion control is important today because the portions served are significantly larger than they should be, and I make sure that portions are correct for my clients as well as for me. Portion size depends on what else you’re eating throughout the day and whether you’re trying to consume leaner meals to lose weight, maintain the same weight, build muscle or gain weight. You want to make sure that you’re properly hydrated and have a large glass of water before eating to take care of dehydration so you know how hungry you really are. Chew your food thoroughly and avoid drinking while eating as much as possible to prevent bloating and other digestive disruptions. Whether I’m preparing dessert for a job or for myself, I make desserts on the smaller side so that your sweet tooth is satisfied, but you don’t have too much.
Do postmenopausal women tend to gain lower belly fat? Can you share herbs or diet modification tips they can follow to manage the hormones?
You can’t spot-treat fat, the body should be treated as a whole, and if someone stores fat in their abdomen more than other areas, that is often hormone-related. When this happens to a woman, she should address possible hormone imbalance as well as gut health.
Do you follow a regular meditation routine? How has it helped you to stay fit and manage stress? What kind of meditation do you follow & when duration etc.
I used to be more dedicated to yoga but stepped away from the regular practice because a majority of the yoga culture in LA is quite toxic. Many see yoga as another competitive class instead of a meditation one does at their own pace and instructors either talk about themselves too much during class or bark orders instead of guiding the class gently. I’ve had instructors try to push me into headstands when I won’t do it even though I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 13 years old. They wanted to push everyone instead of serving as guides for safe and beneficial practice.
I have no desire to be the most balanced or flexible person in yoga, I do it at my own pace to stretch and connect to my breath rather than try to show off or compete. I was hooked on Kundalini yoga years ago because it made me feel so good, but the community scared me away because there were a few instructors with bad intentions. There was one instructor who was a wonderful guide though, so I’m currently looking for a space where I can practice with purpose, not pressure.
Regarding meditation, I used to pressure myself to master seated meditation for longer periods of time, but now I’ve found a balance between short seated meditation and using things I do in my everyday life as movement meditation such as cooking, cleaning, and listening to positive affirmations and guided meditation playlists.
Your expert input on the low-fat diet in order to lose weight? 5 reasons why one needs to incorporate fat into the diet. Tips on How to choose the right fat foods.
Many people insist that their specific diet is best for everyone, but they couldn’t be more wrong. No two bodies are exactly alike and it’s important for us to find what works best for us in order to be our healthiest and happiest selves. As far as fat consumption goes, I’ll share the healthiest way to consume it.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are essential to a complete diet. Omega-3 like flaxseeds are excellent and omega-6’s which are polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and legumes are essential to the diet when consumed in moderation, but when polyunsaturated fats are consumed in excess, they cause inflammation. Our bodies mostly contain saturated and monounsaturated fat, so when we consume too much omega-6, we are thrown off balance. This often occurs in restaurants and unhealthy home cooking when industrial oils are used in excess. The oils that should be avoided in cooking are canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, vegetable shortening, grapeseed oil, and walnut oil. Moderate amounts of olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and smaller amounts of sesame oil (added at the end and never cooked) are fine! As I said, there are plenty of health benefits to these but don’t overdo it.
People who lead with opinion rather than proper research will say that all oils are harmful, and that is simply untrue. I measure my use of oils, nuts, and seeds properly in order to get the health benefits without causing inflammation and typically use nuts and seeds in sauces and dressings so that only small portions are consumed just like one would have while eating a healthy handful of nuts or seeds. I use a light amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil in cooking at safe temperatures to prevent oxidation and use sesame oil in sauces and dressings. As long as the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6’s are healthy, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight and reduce inflammation. I’m a chef, of course, I cook with a little oil or vegan butter, but I keep meals balanced.
Your daily skin & hair care routine?
I have sensitive and dry skin and used to use more expensive products, but now I keep it pretty simple and only indulge in a few pricier products. I like Versed, Weleda, Farmacy, Soon Jung, Heritage Store, and Le Mieux for my face and R&Co and Briogeo for my hair. During the day I use The Skinny Confidential ice roller, moisturize and use eye cream and Shiseido sunscreen and at night I use tretinoin, moisturizer, eye cream, serums, and add a mask when needed. I blow-dry my hair once or twice a week and try not to use too many products that weigh it down or add excess oil.
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