Words and photos by Olivia Bauso
Mackenzie Piccarreto’s career trajectory has been more of a winding road than a straight path. Following the completion of her undergraduate (Marketing, University of Buffalo) and graduate degrees (MBA, St. John Fisher), she moved to New York City to pursue fashion public relations. While in New York she found herself working for a boutique PR firm, in the restaurant industry and in real estate before quitting her job and returning home to Rochester. She is now an Integrative Health Coach, recipe developer and food blogger -- and she’s loving every minute of it.
I sit with Mackenzie as she laughs about the twists and turns of her past five years. She tells me, “I think it’s those twists and turns that have gotten me to where I am. I’d rather try a bunch of things and be all over the place, because you don’t know until you try.” For Mackenzie, a career in nutrition just made sense. Her mother is a naturopathic doctor, so the health world isn’t new to her. But one day, she saw an ad for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and something just clicked. “I’m someone where if it doesn’t feel good in my gut, I just can’t do it,” she explains. She continues, “I’ve been talking about food my whole life and I just knew that was the direction I should be going. It just made sense.”
Mackenzie began her website, Mackenzie's Table, in October as a medium to share her thoughts on on health and nutrition. This includes posts about sugar, fats, supplements, natural cleaning products and, of course, recipes. Mackenzie is primarily interested in developing new recipes and flavor combinations for herself and sharing them with her readers. She says, “I want to share ways that people can eat well and have it taste good. I think there’s a misconception of healthy food being bland and boring, and that’s the furthest from the truth.” Mackenzie has also recently launched a YouTube channel to help connect the dots between the ingredients of a recipe and its final product for early at-home chefs.
As I sit with Mackenzie, I have one burning question to know the answer to: What would you eat in an ideal day? After some giggling and contemplation, she lists all of her favorite bites.
Breakfast: “I would probably start with a smoothie when I first woke up. You can pack a ton of things in it -- usually I have frozen fruits, almond or coconut milk and add collagen or protein powder. Ideally, I’d have eggs a few hours later... scrambled or over easy.”
Lunch: “For lunch I’d definitely have a huge salad-- usually with a ton of stuff on it. What I’ve been making recently is my Kale Caesar, and maybe I’d add some salmon or organic chicken on top. That would have crispy chickpeas, avocado and parmesan, too.”
Dinner: “For dinner, I love to just make a bowl of stuff! I’ll roast some vegetables and add protein (like egg or meat) and then have some kind of rice or quinoa. I usually try to mix some proteins, some vegetables, some good fats and some nuts on top. I tend to throw together the weirdest looking things, but they all taste really good.”
Snacks: “My go-to snacks are always apples with a nut butter.”
Dessert: "Some people might be surprised to know I probably have a bite of dark chocolate every night of the week. I make a lot of healthy sweets as well. It’s an area I’m passionate about because sugar is so incredibly poisonous to our bodies, so I like to talk a lot about sugar. I tend to make healthier sweets and show people that you can make things that are sweet and taste good, but also have nutrition. You don’t have to have one or the other. A lot of people think it’s a cupcake or lettuce, and that’s just not the case.”
Drinks: "I pretty much only drink water. I never had soda growing up, so if I had that now it would probably taste like a cup of sugar! Other than that, I usually opt for a matcha latte, and I love kombucha -- it’s another addiction, really. The things that everyone makes fun of healthy people for, but I just embrace it. It’s who I am, it’s what I like."
It’s not that she doesn’t eat donuts, she just makes sure that they’re what she really wants. Mackenzie explains, “That’s kind of my philosophy on things: if you want it, then eat it and enjoy it. Don’t spend the entire time telling yourself you should feel guilty about it. Just listen to yourself and your body.” She adds, “I don’t feel like you should have any regrets with food-- it’s supposed to be enjoyable.” Mackenzie finds that one of the advantages to making her own sweets and snacks is getting to control the quality of the ingredients and the flavors. This is true especially when making her own nut butters. Mackenzie explains, “The only ingredients should be the nut, and maybe some salt. You don’t need to add oil because it’s already in the nut! When there’s oil and sugar added, it’s unnecessary.” When she doesn’t make her own, Mackenzie grabs from the variety of nut butters at Trader Joe’s.
Mackenzie’s Table is in the process of adding online and real-life classes to the mix. Mackenzie says, “I’m excited to see where it all goes. I’m getting to talk about things with people that I would be happy talking about with a wall. It’s cool to have found something that is what I really love to do.” Though she has a number of long-term goals, she wants to stay present in her successes now.
Mackenzie will be sharing her nut butter-making skills during Nut Butters 101 on August 24th. In this class, you’ll get to see and taste test 3 different nut butters (almond coconut, chocolate hazelnut, and maple sesame cashew) and will leave with the recipes in hand. You’ll also get to learn more about healthy fats and the role they play on our bodies.