Yumna Jawad, content creator behind Feel Good Foodie, believes color, composition and light are essential to the perfect dish.
By Ashley Zlatopolsky
Featured photo by Jesse David Green
Six years ago, Yumna Jawad began sharing recipes on her Instagram account, @feelgoodfoodie, which has more than 2 million followers and spotlights health-conscious foods. The name was created by her husband, Wasim, who encouraged her to learn about something that inspired her, so she could one day pursue her dream of writing a book.
It was the health and nutrition space that interested her most. She began to explore this area of wellness while on maternity leave from her job in consumer marketing and market research, a field she worked in for 10 years before transitioning into a project-basis role to care for her newborn.
But she was bored and uninspired, so Jawad, 36, turned to cooking. She tried food combinations to develop new recipes or find innovative ways to reinvent the classic foods she had grown up with. Born in Zaire, Africa, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jawad grew up in a large Lebanese community where classic Middle Eastern dishes such as grape leaves and yakhneh torosh — which comes in a variety of flavor combinations, but often includes a vegetable and meat stew over rice — were staples of the culture.
Her family later moved to the west coast of Africa, to Sierra Leone, where they remained until she was 11. A civil war caused many to flee, including Jawad’s family, who came to America and settled in Dearborn where they had relatives. When Jawad met her husband, a cardiologist, they moved frequently and lived in Arizona, Florida and Massachusetts, finally landing back in Michigan in Kalamazoo, where they now reside with their two children.
Yet the African and Lebanese influences were never lost on Jawad, who shapes many of her cooking methods around it. “I know a lot of African cooking recipes,” she says. “I like to include lots of fruits and vegetables, keep it as natural as possible.”
Color and flavor are two key components of the food she grew up with. With these dishes comes an element of presentation, a main focus in Feel Good Foodie’s style. There is an art to food and, like painting or drawing, color, composition and light are essential to creating the perfect dish — and capturing the perfect photo. An artist, Jawad looks at food through the eye of a creative, thinking about what many of us don’t, like how a basil leaf falls or what shade of tomato best lifts the deep green of spinach.
“I always think about what’s in the frame,” she explains. In her food photos, the dishes are carefully styled. “I compose the food in the shot in a way that makes sense for the eyes and introduces the subject.”
Sometimes, Jawad says, she gives it too much thought and gets frustrated. “I force myself to have fun with it. If I have a pretty piece of toast, I’ll cut it up and smash it with a fork and see what happens. Those end up being my shots.
“Make a mess,” she encourages. “Learn something new in the process.”
The main idea behind Feel Good Foodie is “to have fun and learn,” Jawad says of her passion project, which grew from a hobby to a full-time career. At a time when blogging was fading, she began to micro-blog on her Instagram — writing small stories underneath food photos, eventually with recipes — to share a new perspective on healthy eating. By partnering with other food bloggers, they built dedicated groups of followers and a strong social media presence.
Three years ago, when an algorithm hit Instagram that changed the order and rotation of photos, Jawad realized it was time to launch her own blog, where she could fully reach her audience. “I had 2 million followers and none of these followers were mine,” she recalls. “If Instagram went away tomorrow, I would lose all these people.” The algorithm opened her eyes, and she began to work on creating her own space and website. “I’ve been able to grow that slowly. It’s a much slower growth than social media, but it’s possible to grow, and anyone can find you through a Google search.”
Since launching in 2016, her blog feelgoodfoodie.net has reached 400,000 visitors per month and is continuing to grow. Jawad encourages anyone in the online food space to create their own website, along with social media, to have ownership of their voice and presence. She also encourages simplicity and the tried-and-true method of having fun with food.
“It doesn’t have to be intimidating,” she says. “Just add some vegetables to whatever you’re eating, add some fruit to your oatmeal or waffles in the morning. Get creative with it.”
Yumna’s Avocado Egg Salad
This healthy avocado egg salad is a modern egg salad made with avocado and Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. It’s a light, fresh and nutritious lunch idea!
I love a traditional egg salad made with hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, celery and herbs. But mayonnaise can feel somewhat heavy at times, and it can add a lot of fat and calories to an otherwise healthy sandwich. So I’ve upgraded the classic egg salad to make a healthy egg salad.
As you may have guessed, this recipe pretty much just involves hard-boiled eggs with mashed avocados. But getting the right consistency and proportions is key. I found that four hard-boiled eggs for every one avocado makes for a creamy sandwich where the eggs still play an important role.
To add a bit of flavor and richness, I also mix in some Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and chives. You can have fun with the herbs and switch it up to use parsley, cilantro or thyme instead. Then spread the egg salad on your favorite sandwich bread, add it to a bed of greens or even enjoy it as a “dip” with carrots or celery for an easy, flavorful, nutritious lunch!
I love the modern take on egg salad with this simple creamy upgraded avocado egg salad. Can there be a better flavor combination than avocados and eggs?
Read more recipes from Yumna: