Maria Hannaford is an Australian blogger and environmentalist currently working with a sustainable food/environmental organisation. She’s previously worked in mental health, chronic disease and neuroscience. Maria is 31, lives in a weatherboard cottage by the beach in Victoria, near the Mornington Peninsula, meditates (albeit badly), likes to eat, rides her bike, and likes taking photos. She grew up drinking warm olive oil to soothe a sore throat and rinsing her hair with chamomile tea. This was entirely normal in her household. Meet Maria…
Tell us about your journey, what sparked your passion for the health and wellness industry?
I owe my parents a lot for that. They both grew up in small villages in Greece where healthy living was really the only option – they didn’t have access to processed or packaged food, cosmetics etc. They grew up with a strong ethos around growing your own food, eating a clean diet and minimising the toxins you expose yourself to. They passed that on to me.
What’s your number one wellness tip?
Hands down it’s this – practise mindfulness everyday. Learn some easy mindfulness exercises and use them to bring yourself into the present moment. I’ve been practising mindfulness daily for the past 6 months and it’s made the biggest difference to my overall health, more than any other health trick I know. Practising mindfulness gives you a break from yourself and ensures you are focussed on the present moment, not worrying about the past or future and missing out on life right now. It’s done wonders for my stress levels, which as we all know can play havoc on our physical health and make you do strange, unhelpful things.
What’s your one non-negotiable when it comes to your health?
Actually it’s that everything is negotiable. I’ve learnt to be gentle with myself. Sure I have health goals that I live by, but if I don’t get to live by them for one day, I don’t beat myself up about it. I quit sugar almost two years ago now and certainly don’t eat it on a regular basis, but if I’m at a birthday party and am offered a slice of birthday cake, I don’t say no. Being too strict on yourself only breeds anxiety and resentment.
What motto do you live by?
Be grateful. Everyday.
What is your proudest achievement?
Inspiring others to look after their health and the environment through the writing I do on my blog.
What are your goals for the future?
To inspire even more people, in some way.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
Hm, actually I think I reveal pretty much everything on my blog!
Can you share with us one of your favourite recipes?
I can’t get enough of home-made chocolate.
Basic chocolate recipe
100g cacao butter (fair trade)
1/3 cup raw cacao powder (fair trade)
1 – 2 tbsp rice malt syrup (or your preferred healthy sweetener)
Melt the cacao butter and rice malt syrup over a double-boiler (bain-marie) then whisk in the cacao powder. Add your bits and bobs (see below) if using and stir well to combine. Pour into chocolate moulds or on a plate and either sit on the bench top or pop in the fridge or freezer to set. I like to store the chocolate in the fridge, although it’s not strictly necessary because cacao butter is solid at room temperature.
Bits and bobs to add:
Dry-roasted nuts – almonds or hazelnuts are good
1 tablespoon nut butter of your choice (makes it extra fudgey and lush)
shredded coconut, lightly toasted or blended into coconut butter for the most amazing coconut rough you’ve ever tasted!
Dried cranberries or cherries (no added sugar)
Frozen berries (as suggested by a lovely reader)
Dried orange zest (“zest your orange, let it dry for a couple of days on the bench then using a coffee grinder, blend it to a powder” – again, suggested by the same very clever reader!)
Where can we find you?
Do you make your own homemade chocolate?