Photo by Tessa Marie Images
Wherever the Wellness Kitchenista goes, her message is the same: With a little education and preparation, anyone can cook healthy meals that taste good.
Jessica DeLuise can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been tired. A physician assistant at a Conshohocken urgent care facility, she may not be working with patients in critical condition, but COVID-19 has dramatically changed her life, nonetheless. DeLuise was a PA at Einstein Healthcare in the early days of the pandemic, with its PPE shortages, lack of clinical data and fears of mass infection. She quarantined, terrified of contracting the virus and transmitting to her family. “We were scared for ourselves,” she says. “But that took a back seat to how motivated we were to save people.”
Wherever DeLuise goes, her message is the same: With a little education and preparation, anyone can cook healthy food that tastes good.
DeLuise’s patients were also motivated to save themselves. They asked her about zinc, vitamin D and other supplements purported to stave off the virus. Indeed, a renewed focus on immunity boosting is one of the lingering side effects of the pandemic. Nutrition Business Journal reported a 12 percent bump in supplement use in 2020, the highest growth year for the industry since 1997.
While she’s not opposed to supplements, DeLuise is convinced that eating healthy foods is the best way to enrich your immune system and enhance overall wellness. Our bodies absorb vitamins and nutrients differently when they come into our systems via food. Fat, salt, calories and a host of other elements also have to be factored in. If that sounds less than delicious, DeLuise aims to change that perception with Wellness Kitchenista, a burgeoning multimedia enterprise loaded with practical recipes, video tutorials and delicious images. Thanks, in part, to the pandemic, DeLuise’s social media reach has expanded drastically over the past year. For the curious, her Facebook page is a great place to start. A recent hot topic: the ins and outs of sushi. “My biggest problem with sushi is that places give their rolls all different names, so I never know what I’m eating,” laments Wellness Kitchenista fan Christine Delia Capece in one post. “Lately, with the pandemic, the only sushi we’ve had is (don’t faint) frozen spicy crab rolls from Lidl. They’re not bad… The wasabi has more kick than some other packets we’ve gotten at other places.”
In one of DeLuise’s most popular YouTube videos, she cooks homemade no-sugar-added ketchup, a far healthier alternative to store-bought varieties. “Could you imagine an elementary school cafeteria serving this instead of the sugar-laden foods kids eat nowadays?” poses one viewer in the comments section. “If Hershey, Nestle and Mars decreased the sugar, fat and sodium content of their candies by, say, even 5 percent every three months, people would probably look better, feel better and live longer.”
The Wellness Kitchenista has transcended social media. She’s appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and various regional stations, and before the pandemic, she was traveling across the country making appearances. Wherever DeLuise goes, her message is the same: With a little education and preparation, anyone can cook healthy food that tastes good.
“When COVID changed everything, DeLuise rebranded herself as the Wellness Kitchenista. “I reimagined my work the same way we’ve reimagined everything else.”
It starts with a basic understanding of nutrition—and for some of us, that requires a serious reeducation. Here’s an example: All carbs aren’t evil. Our bodies need the fiber and nutrients in whole grains. “Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our bodies,” says DeLuise.
Fat, too. The unsaturated kind helps us absorb nutrients and moderate hormones. Healthy examples include avocados, nuts, some fish and olives, and peanut and canola oils. Macronutrients are a subject rife with confusion. One—protein—comes from animal and plant sources. “Our bodies use proteins to create skin, hair and body cells,” DeLuise says. “They’re also important for gut health, immunity and weight loss.”
DeLuise could go on and on about macros, but lecturing isn’t her way. She recommends the USDA’s MyPlate website (myplate.gov) as a great resource, emphasizing that there’s no quick fix or simple solution for the cascade of symptoms linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But she does see healthy eating as a lifestyle—and a fun one.
DeLuise originally named her company Eat Your Way to Wellness, launching it in 2016 as an offshoot of the meal preparation service she offered clients. She also made healthy snack balls, selling them at the Conshohocken Farmers Market, where a Girl Scouts troop happened upon her booth and asked her to speak to their group about nutrition. Not long after that, local TV shows came calling. Then DeLuise landed a QVC gig as a demonstrator for Calphalon, the high-end brand of cookware. That led to her own TV show for PHL17. The 10-week series is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
When COVID changed everything, DeLuise rebranded herself as the Wellness Kitchenista. No more sermons about nutrition—the world was stressful enough. “But I wanted to continue educating people,” she says. “So I reimagined my work the same way we’ve reimagined everything else.”
To solidify her social media presence, DeLuise joined Instagram and TikTok. She’s now launching an online course, and she’ll continue her live cooking demos. “I’m flooded with emails and DMs requesting recipes and asking questions,” DeLuise says. “I love it.”