“I FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT RAISING A CHILD WHO DOESN’T FEEL THAT THE EARTH IS HIS GARBAGE CAN,” SAYS HAIRSTYLIST JESSICA GILLIN, WHILE MAKING HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS WITH HER ADORABLE 2-YEAR-OLD SON ASA IN THEIR BROOKLYN HOME. “If you’re putting good things, like green juice, into your body, you should then also be conscious of the packaging’s impact on the environment.” When she’s not tending to the tresses of her endless “It” girl clientele list at Marie Robinson Salon, Gillin’s conscious approach to her and her son’s carbon footprint certainly extends to how she nourishes her family. “There are so many toxins in the environment that are out of our control, so I try my best to regulate the amount that go into our bodies. Of course I can’t do it one hundred percent, I work in the beauty industry after all, but I try to do it as much as possible with food especially.” To wit, that means feeding her and her son organic, plant-focused meals from vegan tuna salads to chickpea pasta to the occasional “heathy-ish” cookie. We caught up with Gillin who talked minimizing waste, the connection between toddler tantrums and her own energy and the favorite way she and Asa like to kill some hours in the kitchen.
Photos by Kerri Brewer
How would you describe Asa’s diet?
I feed Asa a mostly organic, pescatarian diet. I try to limit his dairy, substituting traditional cheese and milk with raw goat cheese and almond milk. He thankfully doesn’t have any food allergies, so I don’t have to be crazy about monitoring it. For instance, he eats pizza and chips occasionally, so as long as he is eating well eighty percent of the time, I’m happy. I also feel as though it’s really important to raise him with an understanding of the the environmental impact his waste has. Where is his food coming from and what do we do with all the packaging? Where does all that waste go? How much of it can we recycle? That consciousness sometimes results in me carrying a bag of recyclables home with me. Everything is connected.
You have raised Asa mainly vegetarian. What was the basis behind this decision?
I stopped eating meat at fifteen. I hated the idea of eating animals and never went back. I do eat fish from time to time. Asa has had meat a few times but I don’t cook it at home. The China Study had a big influence on my approach to diet. I’m not vegan by any stretch, but I eat dairy in limited quantities and keep it mostly plant based. Since Im always trying to keep in mind my carbon footprint, just eating meat in general is horrible for the environment and obviously not in line with that mindset. I do plan on letting Asa make his own decision when he is old enough to understand the arguments for and against eating meat.
Take us through a typical day of his meals, drinks and snacks?
I make Asa breakfast every morning. It’s nothing complicated, usually scrambled eggs and sprouted toast or oatmeal with chia seeds and a green smoothie. The smoothie will be something like frozen bananas, berries, spinach and kale, almond milk, and cashews. If he doest drink all of it, I freeze the rest in popsicle molds and get him to eat one after dinner. I pack him his lunch for pre-school. This could be something like a spouted tortilla that I’ll fill with chickpea “tuna” salad and some melted feta goat cheese. Asa is only two and a half, so sandwiches can’t fall apart – they need a little “glue”. I’ll pack him snacks like raw nuts and dried fruit, apples and peanut butter, berries, and a few seeded crackers. Asa loves pasta so I give him Banza chickpea pasta a lot. It has 25 grams of protein per serving. I’ll make a big batch of it and make a pesto sauce with lots of raw greens and nuts and steamed cauliflower (a Bonberi trick!) and blanch veggies on the side so my nanny has plenty of stuff to give him on the nights I work late.
What is his favorite thing you make him?
Asa loves to help me cook so I try to let him assist me when possible. It’s really cute to see how proud he is when he does something successfully. I don’t bake much, but its a great activity because there is so much pouring. We make granola bars that he eats on his way to school or “healthy-ish” cookies. Plus it kills an hour, and some days, it’s all about killing hours.
Do you share meals with him? If so, what’s a typical lunch or dinner you guys can share?
I work a lot so the meals I do share with Asa are really important to me. We read books and sit at the kitchen table and I usually will just have a little bit of whatever he is having, plus a salad. If he sees me eating something, he is more likely to try it. On my days off we get to have lunch together so I’ll make us some quinoa with fresh vegetables, or veggie burgers. Pizzas are fun to make with his help too. Asa really likes dunking his raw vegetables into things so I will make him hummus or dips with a veganaise base for snacks. I can get him to load up on raw peppers and carrots. I also like taking him out for meals when I can. I save the iPad for brunch with friends.
Do you have any non-negotiables when it comes to his health/well-being? What are certain things you always stick to and where are you more flexible?
I don’t like to give Asa medicine unless absolutely necessary. I feel like colds are supposed to run through your body and cold medicine just dries you up. Im really strict with things like soda and sugar. Of course he eats cookies periodically but when he does, I try to be sure that they are homemade and not full of processed sugar. He is a kid and is going to eat junk sometimes and I can’t get too crazy about it or I feel like he is going to rebel and junk is all he’ll want. I can control what he eats at home so I make sure there isn’t junk food in the house.
You are an inspiration when it comes to committing to your own fitness. What is your regimen like while juggling motherhood? How do you fit it in?
Before I had Asa, I ran a ton and did a lot of classes like Barry’s and SLT. Working out is really important to me. I never imagined I would be a single mother. It’s really hard and I don’t have a lot of time. After I had Asa, I needed to figure out how to work full time, work out, and be the sole caregiver for my child. I bought a treadmill and put it in my basement. I run intervals after Asa goes to bed or, if Im home, when he naps. I also do Tracy Anderson streaming which I love. I try to do it 4-5 times a week. I don’t really like working out at night but Ive had to adjust. Asa wakes up too early for me to get it in before. Tracy’s workouts require a lot of concentration and it becomes almost meditative to take an hour and not think about anything other than something purely physical. It makes me feel strong and calm and in control when so many things in life are out of my control.
You are always on the go, what does a day in the life of meals/snacks look like for you?
My days are really busy. I wake up at around six am with Asa and usually drink a smoothie with with Sun Warrior plant based protein powder with a bunch of greens and frozen berries and eat his leftover breakfast.I drink a lot of coffee and am trying to cut back a bit. We are out the door by 8. Im a hairstylist and work pretty much back to back with bookings all day. Most days I unfortunately don’t have time to eat lunch. I’ll drink a smoothie with protein and avocado and eat a protein bar like Greens Plus. I know it’s not ideal but it’s usually all I can manage. I snack on fruit and nuts. I drink a ton of water. Dinner will be a salad with quinoa or lentils and roasted veggies -something not too heavy since I work out at night and eat later than Id like to. I try to eat small amounts throughout the day to keep my blood sugar up and energy up.
What health non-negotiable do you keep for yourself?
Working out is a big one. If I can’t workout I can’t de-stress. I’ve been a runner since I was 14 and If I can’t do it a few times a week I get anxious. I’m trying to manage my time and sleep more though it’s hard. I need to set a healthy example for Asa. Kids are so smart and they pick up on your energy. He totally has more tantrums when I’m stressed and tired so I am making an effort to do everything I can to be calm and chill around him. I am lucky enough to have an amazing clientele of inspirational women who give me advice on any parenting challenges I’m facing. Since becoming a mom Ive had to become more comfortable asking for help and the recommendations and networks clients have offered to me has been an invaluable resource.
Do you have any fave DIY haircare tricks using natural ingredients?
Coconut oil is good for everything but everyone knows that! I use it for a sleek center part bun, as eye makeup remover, and put it in Asa’s bath. Clients are always asking for products that will help with thinning or breakage. I believe all these issues are internal. Hair is dead after it grows from your scalp. If you want healthy hair, nutrition and hormone imbalances are the first place to look at correcting.
What are your top fave nontoxic products for Asa?
I use mostly Honest products for Asa. I love that the diapers are biodegradable. I love the shampoo and body wash for him and the sunscreen is super easy to apply. Burt’s Bees also makes a great chest rub for congestion that I rub on him when he’s feeling sick.
What are your favorite methods of self-care?
I don’t have much time for self care these days. I don’t get manicures or facials. I don’t even blow dry my hair. My one thing I’m trying to do is really take control of my health. The last two years have been challenging and I started feeling exceedingly tired and worn down. Blood work showed that my vitamin and mineral levels have been deficient in a lot of areas. I take Floradix liquid iron every morning. I take B Complex for energy and Vitex for hormone regulation. My thyroid was under functioning so I’m taking something called Adreset and Thyrosol and my cortisol levels were really high so I take Cortisol Manager at night along with melatonin. I’ve been at this for a few months and feel way better. I went through a really hard period in my life after Asa was born where things kept happening and I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. I remember one of my best friends telling me that I could feel upset and feel like the universe was dealing me a hand of hardship and unfairness, or I could think about it as the universe creating space for something bigger. I try to appreciate everything because I really do believe positive attracts positive. You can only control your reactions to things and being grateful sets the tone for a more productive experience.
JESSICA AND ASA’S HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS
1 cup of steel-cut oats
1 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of walnuts
Ground together in food processor or blender.
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky salt
1 cup of shredded dried apples
4 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly add wet ingredients until well mixed. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool in fridge for a few hours or even better, overnight. Cut into bars.