By Deanna Howard

NORTH LIBERTY –Wouldn’t it be great to have a health expert shop with you – to tell you firsthand what you should and shouldn’t be putting in your cart?

Becky’s Mindful Kitchen will do just that.

Even better than that would be to have an expert take your go-to chocolate cookie recipe and make it healthy without skimping on any flavor? Yes, Becky’s Mindful Kitchen will do that, too.

And how about have an expert whip up a batch of tasty, but healthy cinnamon rolls for you to pick up in the afternoon simply because you had a craving?  You guessed it, Becky’s Mindful Kitchen will do that, too.

If it has to do with healthy eating, Becky Russo is up to the challenge.

“It’s something I’m good at, being creative,” said Ms. Russo, 27. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on recipes, but it is my passion, what I love to do.”

The University of Iowa and City High graduate has loved being in the kitchen since she was a little girl.

“My dream job was always to be my own family’s chef,” Ms. Russo said.

Although she has always loved to cook, an urgency for healthy cooking came in 2011 when she was diagnosed with adult-onset type 1 diabetes.

“I wanted to figure out how to heal my body without surgeries and medication,” Ms. Russo said. “It opened my eyes to other factors that were at play – mainly nutrition.”

Ms. Russo cut out all processed foods. Name it, and it’s a good chance she makes it from scratch – peanut butter, yogurt, crackers, cheese, bread, tortillas, protein bars.

It might be easier to list what she still purchases – nuts, dried fruits, organic vegetables, meats – whenever possible from a local farm.

“I call it reallocating your money,” Ms. Russo said. “By bringing it back to the bare essentials you can purchase high quality ingredients.”

As for her health, it’s quite good.

“It drives my doctors crazy,” Ms. Russo said. “Three years being diabetic, I am still producing insulin. I am able to take very little doses of insulin. I contribute it to how I take care of myself.”

Ms. Russo is the first to admit she is not a doctor and does not have a degree in that field. That said, as her health depends upon her nutrition she devotes two hours a day to nutrition research.

Jessica Olson is a fan of Ms. Russo’s. She has called upon her services for healthy, yet delicious, recipes for her daughter Kara, 4, who has type 1 diabetes.

“She has really helped us with some low carb and healthy recipes for my daughter,” said Ms. Olson, 36, of Iowa City.

“(Kara) loves them. She really doesn’t notice a difference. Her recipes are super nutritious and also taste amazing.”

The family’s favorite right now is Russo’s Banana Blueberry Muffin recipe.

“We hope the community is able to find out about her,” Ms. Olson said. “She is definitely a hidden gem.”

Nancy Rockensies, 51, agrees.

“She has taught me a lot about being a risk taker in the kitchen,” Ms. Rockensies, of North Liberty, said.

Although she doesn’t have any special dietary needs of her own, she enjoys cooking recipes that are healthier for her and her family.

“My children won’t even let me buy store bought granola bars anymore,” Ms. Rockensies said. “They love the homemade so much more.”

Kayla Koenig sought after Ms. Russo’s help to make her kitchen healthier for her daughter, Aubrey, 10-months.

“I have gone on shopping trips with (Becky),” said Ms. Koenig, 22. “I was actually shocked and scared of what we were eating.”

She reads labels much more carefully now. She makes as many foods from scratch as she can.

“I don’t buy cream of mushroom soup anymore,” Ms. Koenig said. “I spend the half hour to make it.  We use a lot of Becky’s recipes.”