From an early age, I faced what many African American youth and adults face in America: the struggle of obesity, so I sought to make changes.
Because I have had my battles and triumphs with weight loss, I uniquely understand the stress and struggles of juggling work, family, and social life while trying to put your nutrition and health first. I know the difficulty of choosing healthier options, but emotions and inconsistencies making you feel like you're undisciplined and out of control. Today I use my story and transparency to connect and understand the perspectives of my clients.
I attended Florida State University a received a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. After graduation, I returned to my hometown to use my nutritional knowledge to aid those who mattered most to me—my community. I began volunteering more after realizing that many neighborhoods were underserved and in "food deserts," lacking adequate access to nutritious, affordable food.
After uncovering the need, I started giving nutrition education seminars at my local church and became known as the "Nutrition Lady." Being dubbed the Nutrition Lady led me to begin my entrepreneurship journey by first launching Nutrition and You, now known as Natasha Ashley Nutrition. I have helped hundreds of clients, working with Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other public health programs, the senior population in long-term care facilities, and other vulnerable, underserved populations in dialysis centers and hospitals to help them achieve maintain a healthier lifestyle.
I felt called to understand more about nutrition and how it affects the populations I work to serve. So I loved to New York City, where I earned my Master of Science degree from New York University. My Master's thesis focused on nutrition and how it affects fibroids in minority women, which is one of the unknown diagnoses among women.
I have participated in nutrition and health speaking engagements for Macy’s, A+E Networks, The Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network, The Urban League, and other prominent businesses.
I currently live in New York City, where I enjoy supporting my clients as a Registered Dietitian, Founder, and Lead Consultant for Natasha Ashley Nutrition.
It was definitely the chicken wings! I had an epiphany of what I truly wanted to do as a result of the pandemic and food.
It was the week of the March 13th shutdown. I was a little worried about this new illness called the Coronavirus, but trying to hold it together. Just the week before I heard chatter that many offices were closing and people were going to work remotely. I wasn’t sure if that was possible for my job, so I kept it moving and prayed for the best. That was until I got an unusual phone call.
My usually peppy Executive Director had a somber tone. She said COVID-19 was seriously affecting NYC and we were going to work from home for the next couple of weeks (Ha!). More strikingly she said, “You all need to leave the office ASAP.” I was in shock. Just that Monday (March 9th), we talked about the possibility of working from home, but that we were going to finish out the workweek. On Tuesday (March 10th) , an in-person meeting got cancelled at our Midtown office due to COVID-19. I was really starting to get scared because by Wednesday (March 11th), I was gathering my things to work from home.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the pandemic, so I didn’t have a lot of groceries at home. I also was a little hesitant about ordering from restaurants and UberEats because I didn’t know their safety precautions. Should we wash our hands before or after we got the food delivered? Did we need to wipe the containers down before we ate from them? This was way too much! Reluctantly, I got off the couch and walked over to my refrigerator to see what I had in there. I stared into the almost bare fridge and freezer for what seemed like 10 minutes until I saw what I could make at home...chicken wings!! I love Wing Stop wings. They give me a nostalgic feeling. It’s like I’m at home with friends just sitting around, chatting and laughing with each other, and arguing over who’s getting the flats or drumettes. I carried that feeling close to me and gathered the courage to make my own.
I could not fry them like WingStop does because I had given up fried foods for Lent, so I Googled how to make crispy oven baked wings. I searched so many recipes! Some of them were good, but had outlandish ingredients. Who the heck has fresh peppercorn and guava paste at home? Some of them required equipment that I just didn’t have at home.
So, I freestyled it...
I used a recipe and then remixed it a bit. I didn’t have a wire rack, so I searched Google and asked friends what I could use instead. I used foil that I scrunched up to make thin cylinders and then placed it on a baking sheet. Every step of the way, I was posting pictures of my wing creation on Instagram stories. People were chiming in, asking me what I’m making, laughing at my #fails and praising me for my wins. Since my stomach was growling, I had no time to make fresh sauce, nor did I want to search Google for more unrealistic recipes. So I used bottled sauces and marinades I already had. It came out great!
I posted it on Instagram and people loved it. To this day, I have friends ask me about those wings. They ask me for my remixed recipe and tell me how they truly connected with me on that day. I took what I had at home and made a simple, tasty meal. I was willing to try out something new, even if I wasn’t quite prepared for the outcome. I made mistakes and wasn’t afraid to show it or ask for help. I knew that y'all had my back! Although I was home alone doing this, I had the support of those around me in the social media world. At that moment, cooking made me feel good mentally because I was able to zone out from the pandemic. It made me feel like I was at home in the kitchen with my mom and sisters or at a game night prepping food for my friends.
All of a sudden, I realized I wanted to do this even more. I love taking ingredients and transforming them into something that tastes great. There’s nothing wrong with having the feeling of nostalgia and delight come over you when you eat something you love. It’s perfectly fine to want to try and eat healthier, but let’s make it delicious too! I feel great pleasure when I can share recipes and foods with you, especially when you let me know you have tried it. I will continue to try new recipes and ingredients and make them more tasty and relatable for everyone in my culture.