Health with Hope
article by Vanelis Rivera
photography by Kelly Moore Clark
recipes by Hope Anderson Frugé
Food has always meant something to Hope Anderson Frugé. “It was handed down from generation to generation,” she says, referring to the cooks and bakers in her family.
When she remembers when her relationship with food began, her mind drifts to images of her family sitting around a table. “My mom made it a point for us to come to the table. And the table is a sacred place to me… coming to the table is a moment to pause from the rat race and the chaos of life, which only seems to get busier as I get older,” she admits. Time goes by quickly for those finding enjoyment in it. For Frugé, the pause is all the more important, especially when it comes to preparing meals and sharing them with friends, family, and her community.
Frugé’s mother cooked quite a bit when she was a child. A stay-at-home, working mom, much like Frugé is now, she provided her children ample quality time, particularly in the kitchen: “My mom would always look for activities to engage us and the kitchen was a part of that. And I think that’s really where my food story began.”
Though always dabbling in the kitchen in one way or another, Frugé didn’t start creating and experimenting with dishes, learning the art of cooking on her own terms, until she was in college. “That’s where it began to really blossom,” she says, recalling the joys of having her own kitchen. She credits her mother with instilling a love of food that was based more on balance than following restrictive diets. “We came to the table if she cooked something. We were encouraged to try it, but we were never forced to…eat Brussels sprouts. And I think my love of food also is very much attributed to that because we just tried lots of different foods,” she recalls, mentioning the cultural foods she was exposed to when her family lived in south Louisiana for a stint. She ate Cajun food as a child, trying boudin and couscous for the first time, and being amused by the funny-sounding dish. She says she’s that “blend of south Louisiana and north Louisiana.”
any recognize Frugé from her success on pageant stages, namely her 2011 coronation as Miss Louisiana. Unfortunately, those four years “did a number” on her relationship with food. “There was so much pressure to have a certain aesthetic, self-induced mostly. And, I’m tall and lean, just naturally, but you have to take it to that next level when you’re going to Miss America,” she explains. Food in that season of life was not the healthy, life-giving, freeing component that Frugé had accustomed herself to. With all of the demands on her time and appearance, very little time was allotted for cooking, and as a result, protein bars became her go-to meal. “I don’t eat protein bars anymore,” she says slyly, “I really believe that food is close to the natural source, like what we’re chowing down on now is just what your body really needs.” Frugé gives the round charcuterie board she’s prepared for the interview a glance. An attractive arrangement of sliced pears, mixed nuts, a bowl of blueberries, crackers, and three different blocks of cheese surround a jar of jam. “But moving forward from that,” she continues, “it was in that year that I’d actually seen a lot of girls in pageants in the dance realm, begin struggling with their bodies and their relationships with food.” At that point, her foundational love and interest in food transformed into a fascination for the science of nutrition. After winning Miss Louisiana, she gave serious thought to what her scholarship money should fund. Having graduated from the University of Louisiana Monroe with a degree in mass communications, journalism seemed the natural course, but her dream job was to be the Today Show’s health authority.
Toward the end of her reign, she spoke at the Louisiana Dietetic Association’s annual conference on the obesity epidemic and outreach to children. After the conference, an attending dietitian approached her and encouraged her to take the dietitian route instead of broadcast journalism. “That sort of just rewrote everything for me. Not in the moment, but it planted this seed.” Frugé was humbled but also recognized that her passion for people, love of food, and eagerness to educate would make her a success in the field of nutrition. As a result, she enrolled in the nutrition program at Louisiana Tech University, which landed her a residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. From the first day of class, she knew she met her calling: “It felt like everything in my body, all my cells were just vibrating learning about [nutrition].”
As a licensed dietitian, Frugé returned to Monroe and established Health with Hope. Her private practice offers a variety of services dealing with health and nutrition such as nutrition counseling, grocery store tour, cooking classes, kitchen renovation, and small dinner parties. Through her practice, she aims to instill in people a love of food and appreciation for their bodies. With a patient-focused mindset, she wants to walk alongside her clients and show them that “it’s not all about kale and carrot chips, that they can totally eat real food, enjoy food.” Balance is key, but balance also looks different for every single person. “And I love that, that I get to be part of people’s stories that I get to help people heal their relationships with food,” she says. Frugé is constantly emboldened by her own relationship with food, even though it has not always been perfect. She eagerly admits that it will never be perfect, but she found freedom in listening to her body and developing awareness for eating intuitively. Her food evolution is the reason she has been called to help curate people’s stories of food and body appreciation.
When Frugé gave birth to her first daughter Landry in September 2019, she was planning to take a step back and only work part-time. But then she received a call from a New Orleans-based dietitian Molly Kimball, the founder of the Ochsner Eat Fit initiative, which collaborates with local restaurants and markets to spotlight nutritious and delicious meal options. At the end of 2019, Eat Fit received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield to expand the program across Louisiana. Frugé’s name came up as the go-to dietitian to spearhead the Northeast Louisiana branch of the program. Though hesitant at first, she accepted the position because it would provide her with a different kind of impact that she had yet to tap into in the community, predominantly working with restaurants and getting healthier options on their menus. So far, Eat Fit has had a huge impact across the state with nearly 600 restaurant partners. “It’s great to work collaboratively on a team, too. And that’s something also that attracted me to building this. I would get to work with other dieticians,” she explains. Frugé’s first year directing the program for the region was 2020, the year COVID-19 hit. She was building a nonprofit program with restaurants as many of them were either shutting down or struggling with staffing issues. Even then, while also leaning into motherhood with a four-month-old at the time, she still managed to sign up 11 restaurants by the end of that year. Currently, they have 37 different locations that serve Eat Fit, easily accessible through the Eat Fit app. “One out of four people walking into a restaurant, at least, is looking for that healthy option. So [Eat Fit] is giving consumers what they’re looking for and what they’re interested in,” she informs.
When considering her own family’s nutritional needs, Frugé draws inspiration from her baking background and her Cajun-born husband. “I married a man who is an amazing cook,” she says, recalling one of the first dishes he made for her: a grilled rib. She remembers showing up at the table, looking at that “beautiful steak,” and warning him to not be offended if she didn’t finish half of it. “There’s no way; it was a big slab of meat. And, I’m not a super heavy meat eater. But, I wiped out the entire thing,” she laughs. Cooking meals for her family may not happen every night, but it’s enough to know that cooking is both of their love languages. To save some time, especially at 9 months pregnant, she has been batch cooking. Whether it’s roasted butternut squash soup or roasted beets (her favorite vegetable), she tries to make larger quantities so that she does not have to cook every single day. “Soups have been my jam lately with the weather changing,” she says, mentioning her favorite, white chicken chili, and her husband’s favorite, Italian wedding soup. Recently, she made sweet potato and lentil curry. Regardless of the meal, her go-to ingredients are simple: garlic and yellow onions. “We use a lot of herbs… rosemary, thyme. I love sage this time of year. I don’t use it year-round, but sage just feels very autumnal to me,” she says. Cilantro is one of her personal all-purpose herbs, parsley placed at a close second: “We try to add color with herbs, spices.”
Another food item coming out in batches from the Frugé kitchen has been in the works since 2015—Hope Bars. When living in Nashville, she was asked to speak at the Nashville Ballet Company for their Performance and Nutrition Workshop and did not want to show up empty-handed. So, she went into her tiny kitchen and took ingredients that she always had on hand like bananas, walnuts, dark chocolate, and peanut butter. “And I just threw something together. The only time in my life that I’ve ever just turned something together and it was actually good from the get-go,” she says. With good reviews all around, she started making them for health fairs that she would attend. Shortly after moving back to Monroe, she sold them at local coffee shops. “My toddler loves them. I love them. After making them all these years, I still eat them. It’s amazing,” she beams. Not just great tasting, as she has perfected the recipe over the years, this healthy snack is hardy and sure to energize any morning.
“Food is unifying. To me, food is universal,” claims Frugé, continuing, “We celebrate with food, we mourn with food… cooking is such an expression of love.” Food may always be a balancing act for her, but as something that she considers part of her DNA, part of her life as a wife, and now as a mother, she has allowed her relationship with food to continue cultivating and nourishing the things that she is passionate about. Nourishing your body is like hugging yourself from the inside out, a maxim that fits perfectly with her approach to her career, which encourages people to keep hope with their health.
Roasted Beet & Pear Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Mixed baby greens
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 pear, thinly sliced
2 beets, skin peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
cup roasted pecans, chopped
salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic
1 small shallot
1/4 cup champagne vinegar (sherry, apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar substitute well)
1 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard
2/3 cup canola oil (*or avocado or grapeseed oil)
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1) Pour olive oil over beets and wrap tightly in an aluminum foil packet. Place on a baking sheet and roast in oven at 425°F for 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
2) Meanwhile, make vinaigrette by blending all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) until fully emulsified.
3) Drizzle dressing over greens, top with pear slices, pecans, roasted beets (cubed to 1” bite-size pieces), and crumbled goat cheese. Season with salt and cracked pepper, to taste. Serve.
Morning Glory Muffins
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup steel-cut oats
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
3/4 cup chopped green apple
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp. canola oil
1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; whisk together liquid ingredients in another bowl.
2) Pour liquid mixture into bowl with dry ingredients, stirring just until batter forms (don’t overmix).
3) Spray nonstick cooking spray onto a 12-muffin tin then spoon batter evenly into tins.
4) Bake 15-18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and tops of muffins are golden.
5) Cool on rack and enjoy with a smudge of nut butter or drizzle of honey.