Deliciously Ella: I Hate The Idea Of ‘Clean’ Eating

deliciously ella blogger neal's yard

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

She’s the woman charged with making spiralizers ubiquitous, and five years since the launch of her blog Deliciously Ella, it’s fair to say that 24-year-old Ella Woodward has helped to usher in a new – and hugely popular - era of Insta-genic healthy eating.

Started after Ella was diagnosed with the rare Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, her blog has launched two ridiculously successful cookbooks and an app. Late last year, she took brand Ella offline to open the Mae Deli with her now-husband Matthew Mills (the pair married in Mustique in April).

Now, she’s launched a skincare range with beauty brand Neal’s Yard, and the collaboration couldn’t be a better fit: the rose, lime and cucumber facial wash and moisturiser are made using the all-natural ingredients that Ella loves to use in her cooking.

Whether or not an Instagram feed filled with health bloggers is your cup of (matcha) tea, Ella is her own best advert: she’s also refreshingly warm and un-preachy when it comes to speaking about her lifestyle. As she puts it herself, ‘It’s really important for me to get across that [a healthy lifestyle] is fun and sociable – and it doesn’t have to be weird!’

We caught up with Ella to talk everything from bridal beauty to that ‘clean eating’ label - and why Enrique Iglesias and the Spice Girls would be her perfect dinner party guests...

Your blog is all about using natural ingredients in your cooking. Is what’s in your beauty products important to you?

When I first changed the way I ate, I thought of it as medicine: ‘I’ll just see if this helps and then I’ll stop.’ I ended up enjoying it so much, and as I did more research, it seemed strange to care so much about what I put into my body and never think about what I put on it. Now, I prefer using natural and organic beauty brands, although obviously if I go to a photo shoot, I’m not going to be like, ‘No, don’t use that!’ I get questions every day from readers and people on Instagram – as people get more interested in a natural way of eating, they become interested in other aspects of a healthy life.

So, how did the collaboration with Neal’s Yard come about?

We started working together about two years ago, when Neal’s Yard were bringing out their green powder and we worked together to come up with some recipes. I went down to the factory and it was amazing – stacks and stacks of organic ingredients all being mixed up. In the products, we tried to use lots of the ingredients I love cooking with – things like turmeric, coconut, avocado, blueberries, cucumber. We started off with a berry idea, but I put it on my face and my husband said I smelt like a Petit Filous - so we tried to find the middle ground between the two. I wanted to create something that was simple and easy to slot into your daily routine. The moisturiser smells delicious and is quite light: you can layer make-up on it during the day and add night you can add a few drops of Argan oil to intensify it.

deliciously ella beauty neal's yard
Deliciously Ella for Neal's Yard ©Handout

And what’s your husband’s verdict?

He picked up the face wash, then after about five minutes he said ‘There’s something wrong with your moisturiser…’ I was like, ‘you might want to add water!’ He’s tried the actual moisturiser now and he’s a massive fan – now he knows which one’s which.

Is he quite fussy about his products normally?

He really is – he has most of the bathroom. My brother was always the same; growing up, we’d share a room when we went on holiday. I’d have one little wash bag and he would have four, so I’m used to it.

You’re lower maintenance, then, beauty wise?

I’ve always kept my beauty routine quite simple, especially since I changed my diet. I saw such a big impact on my skin that I just didn’t feel the same need to put so much on it. I moisturise in the mornings, do a bit of make-up, but my favourite thing in the world is exfoliating – I love that feeling. I really like getting home, exfoliating and putting on something really moisturising: it’s like you’re giving love back into your skin.

deliciously ella beauty neal's yard
Deliciously Ella for Neal's Yard ©Handout

Do you have any beauty horror stories?

I really love to DIY my own face masks, and when I started out I decided to use turmeric – it’s so good for you, I assumed it’d be great for your skin. But what you really need to do is add an oil so there’s a barrier – I didn’t do that and my face looked like a Simpson for the next 24 hours, no matter how much I washed or scrubbed it.

Like nature’s fake tan?

Except I wasn’t a lovely, glowing bronze – I was literally yellow. It didn’t matter how much I scrubbed it or tried to get it off; it just wouldn’t go.

What would your desert island beauty essential be?

Probably coconut oil. It’s multipurpose – a makeup remover, an amazing hair mask, and you could mix it with sand for an exfoliator.

You got married recently; do you have any bridal beauty tips?

I was a terrible bride! It was so busy in the run up and I was having so much fun with my girlfriends that I didn’t want to go away and sit in a room for hair and make-up. I got ready about 45 minutes before the wedding, and did everything myself. Obviously I wanted to look my best – in the lead up I was very conscious of making sure I got my 5 a day and did some exercise, but on the day itself I was just like, ‘I’m going to eat the whole cake!’

What was the cake like?

One of my girlfriends made it – a Victoria sponge with chocolate icing, and she’d covered it in berries and flowers. I was so excited about it – she’d given me bits to try before, but never more than just a little bite. As soon as we’d cut it, I ate the top layer before anyone could say anything.

'There's this stereotype that if you want to eat heathily, you're going to be sitting on your own, meditating, eating kale and drinking hemp'

What have you been up to since then?

I’m doing a mini book, out in September, which is all about juices and smoothies, then the biggest book yet is out in January. It’s all about how having natural food in your lifestyle shouldn’t feel like being on a diet – it should be fun. Sometimes I feel there’s this stereotype that if you want to eat healthily, you’re going to be sitting on your own, meditating, eating kale and drinking hemp juice. It’s really important for me to get across that it’s fun and sociable – and you don’t have to be a weirdo!

That could be the tag line?

Yeah, exactly. Don’t be a weirdo! It’s all about sharing – big Mexican and Indian dinners, things you can make with your friends. Healthy living is not about dieting or deprivation – or sitting on your own only drinking green juice.

Do you cook a lot for friends, then?

I’m a feeder, to be honest. There’s something so nice about making something delicious, giving it to somebody you like and them enjoying it. It’s also such a good way to test recipes out.

deliciously ella beauty neal's yard
Deliciously Ella for Neal's Yard ©Handout

If you went on Come Dine With Me, what would your three courses be?

For a starter, I’d do a massive batch of hummus – everyone loves it – with some roast veggies, and aubergine rolls with a coconut yoghurt dip. At our wedding we had the best cocktail, watermelon and cucumber and lime spiked with gin, so I’d serve that when people arrived. I’m a big one for stews and curries, so I’d do one with potatoes, chickpeas and loads of spices, served with miso brown rice. For dessert, we’d have crumble – if you do a healthier twist on it, nobody even notices.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?

A food stylist I worked with was tweeting about that this morning, and she said that one of hers would be the Cheeky Girls – such a random one but I love it.

You should invite some more Noughties sensations. Darius, Gareth Gates…

I used to love Darius. Gareth Gates actually started following me on Twitter. I was like ‘I've made it!’ Part of me would be inclined to invite somebody like Enrique Iglesias, since he was my first love – although I think I would be disappointed, maybe it wouldn’t live up to the expectation. I used to love the Spice Girls more than anything in the world, so if I could have a 5 for 1, I’d get them in. I’d be tempted to say somebody like Ottolenghi because I think he’s the most talented chef in the world. I’d love to pick his brains. It’s going to be a bit of a weird set up…

Which Spice Girl were you?

Sporty, which is ironic because I was literally the least sporty person in the world. No coordination at all, not even a tiny bit.

'I'm anti-deprivation; anti-diet in every sense'

When you made the changes for your health, what did you find the most difficult?

I was a sugar junkie, more so than I realised at the time, so I found giving that up very hard. I was in such a desperate place, really struggling with feeling depressed, so to give up everything overnight was actually a terrible idea. I didn’t know what to cook, how to cook and after three weeks I felt like I was on the world’s worst diet.

deliciously ella beauty neal's yard
Deliciously Ella for Neal's Yard ©Handout

I broke so many times – I’d eat all the Haribo I could find in my flatmate’s cupboard. But once I started learning to cook, it became so much easier: I was enjoying my meals, and could make snacks and sweets. I’m anti-deprivation, anti-diet in every sense – if you want to have healthier stuff, that’s amazing, but you should never feel like you’re missing out.

You’ve just opened your first deli, Mae. That must have been a massive learning curve?

It was so fun to take something virtual and bring it to life. What’s nice is being able to meet everyone, create an atmosphere and a connection, but [my husband] Matt and I had never done anything like this, so we were very much learning on a day-to-day basis. It was really exhausting, but I’ve never learned so quickly - every second you get new feedback, and everything is growing so quickly. We have another deli opening later this year, new products coming out, and when we have everybody on board, we’ll be nearing 50 [employees.] Being able to create jobs is something I’m really proud of and take very seriously. It’s quite a responsibility.

Speaking of responsibility, you’re often spoken of in terms the ‘clean eating’ movement. How do you feel about that definition?

There is a responsibility and I’m definitely conscious of it, but I would never use the word ‘clean.’ I think that’s what can be difficult at times: people put you in a box you wouldn’t necessarily put yourself in. I’m all about natural foods and cutting out processed stuff, but I hate the concept of ‘clean’ and ‘dirty.’

Do you feel pressured to project a certain image on social media?

I love social media; it’s a fun way to share stuff, and I get so much inspiration from it. At the same time, it’s just a snapshot of reality, and by and large it’s the positive side. The demographic of social media is quite young, and it’s already hard enough for teenage girls - we’ve all been there, but now you’re infiltrated at every angle, comparing yourself with people you’ve never met. There’s no such thing as perfect, there never is; that’s such an important thing to get across.

What do you do to switch off?

I try to exercise first thing in the morning, because it’s the easiest way to be silent. You can’t go to a spin class and go on your phone – you’d fly off the bike. It’s a good way of clearing my head before the day starts. For me, the easiest way to relax is to book stuff in – if I say I’m just going to go home, I end up working all night. I think it’s the same for anyone who has their own business. There’s always so much to do – the thing I find hardest to manage is saying ‘it’s OK if I haven’t finished everything today.’ I’m trying to find a better work-life balance!

The Deliciously Ella and Neal's Yard collection is available from

deliciously ella beauty neal's yard
Deliciously Ella for Neal's Yard ©Handout

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