Creative Meals


While obtaining my undergraduate then graduate degrees, I had to assure I was fueled, nourished, and efficient to support my busy schedule. So I decided to learn how to cook for myself for the very first time. I didn’t know exactly how to cook, save turning on the stove and maybe boiling a pot of water. I did know, however, what flavors I liked. I knew if I was going to feed myself, I would have to get creative.

Back then, I threw things together and experimented a lot. A little bit of this, a little bit of that; sometimes too much of this or too much of that. Little by little, step by step, I formulated a good foundation of basic tastes and learned how to vary those tastes with slight changes in ingredients.

Today, I still find myself experimenting and being creative in my kitchen. I still know what flavors I like and now have a better grasp of what ingredients will get me there. For instance, for dinner the other night, I created the above dish (picture) from scratch. I had no recipe but I listened to what my mouth was craving. Turns out my mouth wanted a powerhouse of flavors and nutrition and what developed from that craving was this recipe I can now share with you:

• 2 cups cooked quinoa
• 4 tomatoes, chunked
• 1 avocado, chunked
• 1 cucumber, chunked
• ½ – ¾ cup of chopped cilantro
• 1 small red onion chopped
• Salt/pepper to taste
• 2 tbsp of olive oil
• Lime juice to taste
(Serves 4)

Mix together and enjoy – delicious! Creativity should not only be left to the artist. As humans, our curious minds are meant to explore, create, and expand. Start by listening to your mouth and think about what flavors you like. Next, don’t just think about it, create it. Over time, you may be astonished by how fulfilled you are not only by the final product, but by the creative process that brought you there.

Photo credit: Manuel Villacorta

About The Author

Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian (RD) and certified specialist is sports dietetics (CSSD) with more than 16 years of experience. He was recently appointed national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, which identifies him as one of the United States’ leading weight loss and nutrition experts. Villacorta is the owner of San Francisco-based private practice MV Nutrition, the recipient of two consecutive “Best Bay Area Dietitian” awards (2009 and 2010) from the San Francisco Chronicle and Citysearch, and the creator of the Eating Free™ weight management program. Villacorta also developed MV Professional Nutrition (a software suite designed to assist RDs with their own private practices) and created (an international, Internet-based weight loss and weight management program). Villacorta is a compelling, charismatic communicator—a public speaker, who is often praised for making audiences feel, heard, motivated, and engaged. His warm, approachable style, alongside his strong bilingual proficiency in both English and Spanish, have made him an in-demand health and nutrition expert on both local and national television and radio, and in articles in print publications and online. Villacorta worked closely with Dr. Nancy L. Snyderman, chief medical editor of NBC News, to provide expert nutrition advice on a number of topics for the BeWell network. He is often invited to speak at annual state and national conventions such as The Oregon Dietetic Association (where he was the keynote speaker), and The American Dietetic Association (where he spoke to other dietitian professionals about his successful private practice). Villacorta has acted as a media representative for food companies such as Foster Farms (one of the largest chicken producers on the West Coast) as well as for such California statewide health campaigns as the “California Latino 5-A-Day Program” and “Got Milk.” Prior to setting up his private practice, Villacorta worked as a public health dietitian for California Children Services and the Prenatal to Three Initiative, where he offered prenatal, infant, and childhood nutrition consulting. He has worked as a clinical dietitian for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco and has held a faculty position with the School of Nursing at the University of San Francisco. Villacorta received his bachelor of science in nutrition and physiology metabolism from the University of California, Berkeley, and his master of science in nutrition and food science from San Jose State University. He has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards for his research, including the Outstanding Master of Science Degree Award from San Jose State University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Science.

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