From casually sharing recipes with her family and friends to building an audience of nearly a million followers on Instagram, writing a cookbook, and traveling the world to cook and share her experiences all over the globe, My Nguyen’s journey to becoming an influencer has encompassed five years of excitement, evolution, and plenty of learning opportunities. My Healthy Dish now sees hundreds of thousands of viewers, fans, and followers every day and is home to healthy recipes, beautiful photos, health tips, and My’s travel log.
Though her personal definition of “healthy” has evolved over the last five years, My Healthy Dish’s mission hasn’t changed. My makes healthy cooking and eating easy, accessible, and fun for her fans and followers and has inspired thousands to change and develop their relationship with food through her blog, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and more.
Learn more about My’s process, her favorite guilty pleasure food, and what’s next for My Healthy Dish in our exclusive interview.
How did you get started with creating content for Instagram and how/when did you decide to do this full-time?
I was a stay-at-home mom seeking a creative outlet. I started Instagram 5 years ago more as a hobby and a place to share recipes with family and friends. People started noticing me and sharing my recipes and my account grew quickly. When I hit the 10k mark I knew I had something and I decided to really commit. I changed my screen name to @Myhealthydish_ and spent spare time creating recipes and developing a blog and e-book.
Where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?
I wouldn’t say I have inspiration for any recipes. Typically it’s what I want to make for my family or myself. Sometimes recipes are created by mistake because I had to make do with what I had in the refrigerator. My avocado mango salsa is a household favorite, but it was developed when my mom bought me a huge case of mango and we needed to eat them before they went bad.
How do you define “healthy” food? What does “healthy” mean to you personally?
It seems my definition of healthy food is always changing as I evolve. When I was younger, I thought low-calorie food was healthy. As I got older, I believed eating whole foods or one-ingredient foods was healthy. I even believed bacon was okay because it was one ingredient and it was real food that our bodies could recognize and process. Basically, steering away from processed foods.
Now, I find myself eating more plant-based foods and adapting to a more vegan diet. It’s ever-changing as I become more aware and educated about health and food.
From your perspective, what draws your followers to your photos and recipes?
I try to keep in mind that the most people don’t know how or have time to cook. I keep my recipes very simple and easy to make. I purposely take bright colorful photos to stand out when people are scrolling through their feed. Honestly, if you make good food that’s healthy and easy to make then people will like them.
I think it’s important to have multiple streams of income when you are an influencer, and there are so many ways to monetize if you have a large enough audience. The key is developing quality content and engaging with your followers because my analytics on my blog and social are what I use to pitch to brands.
I am very particular on what brands I work with. It has to be products that either I use or would use. I would never recommend any brand if I didn’t like it myself.
What are some of your favorite current trends in food and healthy cooking?
The food trend I notice right now is that more and more people eating more plant-based or vegan food. I think it comes from people being more aware of the environmental effects on the meat industry and how inhumane the mass production of meat and dairy is in our country.
People are making a morally conscious choice in eating less meat and the demand for vegan recipes is increasing.
What’s your process for testing, perfecting, and publishing a recipe? How long does it usually take?
I usually have an idea of what I want to make, research a few recipes that are similar, take ingredients or techniques I like from each and make it my own. We then taste test to see if flavors and textures work and if we need to adjust any seasonings. This is usually a three-day process because of research, making, and then writing and editing the recipe.
Guilty pleasure food?
Is it funny that I love McDonald’s? Whenever we do long road trips I look forward to stopping at McDonald’s for a Big Mac and French fries!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, both in the kitchen and with regards to creating content?
I was a cooking at the Culinary Insitute of America in Napa for a press event. We were assigned dessert recipes to follow and my chocolate brownie with chickpea flour was way undercooked. The master chef came to me and said “Do you know how I became the master chef in baking? It’s because I made a lot of mistakes until I got it right.” That really resonated with me.
That’s a good question and something I ask myself all the time. I would love to develop a real online community for my followers that will have amazing content outside of just recipes. A place where they can go and get meal plans, grocery lists, diet tips, and share their experience with each other and with me.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve made many mistakes in the past 5 years creating Myhealthydish. I trusted the wrong people, made rash decisions, created products that fell through, and lost a lot of money. On the flip side, I learned from all of those mistakes and don’t regret any of it. My success today stems from my failures.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.