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Family support helped ASU grad turn plant-based lifestyle into health coaching business

Nidhi Bansal, a woman with long brown hair wearing sunglasses, a black puff jacket and a light blue t-shirt, stands in front of blooming cherry blossom trees.

Nidhi Bansal is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition entrepreneurship through ASU Online and the College of Health Solutions.

December 06, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Nidhi Bansal has long harbored a desire to delve into food and nutrition. She and her family had already transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle when she decided to pursue her Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition entrepreneurship through ASU Online and the College of Health Solutions in 2018. 

Traditional Indian cooking relies heavily on oils and ghee, impacting her family’s health. Both Bansal’s and her husband’s family had a history of heart conditions, and she was determined to find a way to prevent the past from repeating itself. Her solution: Make traditional Indian cooking healthier by substituting oils and ghee with equally flavorful alternatives. 

From those early “experiments” on her family, Bansal developed an interest in tweaking recipes and understanding the systems behind the food we eat. Getting a degree in food and nutrition would help her take her efforts to the next level.

Bansal had placed her dreams of higher education on hold when she and her husband moved to the United States from India in 2001. She grappled with concerns about going back to school after so much time out of the classroom.

“My husband, who has been my unwavering support, discovered a fantastic opportunity for me at ASU,” she said. “He encouraged me, saying, ‘It’s never too late to start.’”

Bansal enrolled at Arizona State University and immediately fell in love with the coursework that ASU Online offered and the opportunities that opened up for her. In particular, a course taught by Professor Maureen McCoy on community nutrition was a personal favorite, providing insights into the field of health coaching, which she intends to pursue after graduation. 

During her time at ASU, Bansal secured two internships. Both experiences allowed her to gain insights into waste reduction strategies and the management of food service operations.

We spoke with the new graduate about her experience with ASU Online and her plans for the future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I started researching food and nutrition around 2017 or so and found my calling. The pandemic, and my growing family, gave me a great opportunity to consider going back to school. The moment my husband introduced me to ASU's exceptional program in this field was indeed my "aha" moment. Moreover, my joy surpassed all expectations when I received acceptance into this program.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: The significance of education and collaboration underscores the importance of working together as a team.

Also, after starting my coursework, I understood the science and art of how the food industry works. How Europe promotes and is far ahead of sustainable farming practices and lifestyle compared to the U.S. I was inspired with so many ideas on how we can bring healthier food options not only in our homes but also in our communities through schools and hospitals.

Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?

A: ASU provides flexibility, allowing me to balance my studies with family responsibilities. Furthermore, ASU offers a program that aligns perfectly with my interests.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?

A: Professor Maureen McCoy imparted a crucial lesson that remains etched in my memory every time I embark on something new. The wisdom shared was, "The first step is always the hardest; after that, it's a smooth climb." This resonated with me profoundly, especially during the initial stages of my studies.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Do your best and never give up on your dreams.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My kitchen countertop. My kitchen is located in the center of my house, and I feel surrounded by family when I am there. During weekends or holidays, my children and I engage in collaborative study sessions where we not only learn together but also engage in discussions and conversations, creating a supportive group-study environment for each other. During my study breaks, I cook dinner so it can be ready for my kids and husband in the evening. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am in the process of starting my business of wellness coaching and possibly a food product line. 

After reading the book “The China Study” and studying the “blue zone”Blue zones are geographic areas with lower rates of chronic diseases and a longer life expectancy. movement, I believe we are what we eat and the environment around us impacts us. My wellness coaching will not only focus on the individual but also focus on their environment, like the kitchen and the habits that impact their lifestyle. I want to help break cycles for others like I broke for my family.

My kitchen is not only my favorite place to study but also my lab. I experimented to make essentials, like Indian food and many sauces and condiments, with fresh ingredients and with no oils or sugars. A few authors have added my recipes to their books. I learned how I can take my ideas to market, either by introducing a new product or via a restaurant.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I received $40 million, I would contribute to saving the planet by advocating for plant-based foods and sustainability.

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