ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Alexis Holland peruses the produce department in St. Petersburg’s Rollin’ Oats Market, picking out a turnip here, testing a squash for ripeness there.

“I really love that this store focuses on organic produce,” she says, placing a gourd in her basket.

What You Need To Know

  • Alexis Holland is a yoga instructor, chef and food consultant

  • Her business Living By Intention teaches healthier lifestyles, including diet

  • She teaches online and in-person courses on cooking whole-food meals

The 27-year-old yoga instructor, chef and healthy-living coach is selecting ingredients for a vegan macaroni-and-cheese recipe, and providing an impromptu lesson on the subject of eating right while she shops. Her holistic lifestyle brand, Living By Intention, offers online and in-person cooking classes as well as a host of other wellness services, and her upcoming series “Redefining Soul Food” focuses on reimagining down-home favorites.

She grabs a bottle of organic salad dressing from the shelf, pointing out its very short and pointedly chemical-free list of ingredients (“the first four are what it’s mainly made of”), then stoops to scoop some nutritional yeast into a compostable baggie, saying its cheesy flavor will replace, well, cheese in her recipe. She opts for chickpea pasta rather than the usual grain-derived variety, as well.

“People can’t tell the difference, it’s got that pasta texture,” she says.

Holland is dedicated to helping people live better and longer through movement, diet and mindfulness. She’s taught yoga for a decade, and has studied with the Southwest Institute of the Healing Arts and Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She says her determination comes from watching and trying to break the cycle of unhealthy habits she saw in her own family.

Alexis uses whole, organic plant-based ingredients in her cooking. (Scott Harrell)

“Everybody in my family suffers from things like heart disease, diabetes, gut imbalances, and we have a history of dying very young from these lifestyle-related diseases,” she says. “So at a very young age I knew that I had to do something about it. I knew I had to change the way I was eating, because that was the common denominator.”

A main component of Holland’s concierge food services is “healing people’s relationships with food” by increasing awareness of tasty alternatives to processed products and creating healthier eating habits. She thinks there are switches everyone can make to help improve their quality of life — even those on a budget.

“Eating healthier is a bit more expensive, but that being said, it’s all about how you’re budgeting and what you’re spending on,” she says. “If you’re sacrificing eating healthy because you enjoy going out to the bar or you enjoy buying new clothes every week, I’m going to challenge you on that. We spend so much money on material things that aren’t going to get us anywhere in life, but by just spending a few extra dollars, you’re going to get quality food and it’s going to help prevent disease and create longevity. I mean, the benefits are astronomical for just moving your budget around a little bit. As a woman who lives very resourcefully at this time in my life, I can tell you if I can afford to eat healthy, anybody can.”

Alexis Holland on the set of her latest instructional video. (Scott Harrell)

A few days later, Holland is in the test kitchen at Tampa coworking space Hyde House, shooting a video as she prepares her not-so-cheesy recipe.

“I feel like [mac and cheese] is a lot of families’ go-to, especially if they want to do something quick, do something easy,” she tells the camera. “But let’s be honest, we’re all kind of growing out of the Kraft mac in the box from when we were kids.”

Alexis Holland's vegan macaroni and cheese. (Scott Harrell)

As a pot of water heats to a boil, Holland covers the healthy ingredients she’s brought: roasted chickpeas for texture, unbleached garlic powder, and roasted butternut squash — the “secret ingredient” in her sauce. She describes them in detail, and goes over each step in the process for those who will subscribe to the online courses for “Redefining Soul Food,” explaining why she prefers certain brands and techniques.

The test kitchen fills with an enticing aroma that certainly smells more like natural food cooking than what comes out of a box of shells and cheese sauce. Half an hour or so in, she’s completed a healthy, attractive dish some tasters might not even realize has none of the chemicals present in their quickie comfort-food favorite.

“That’s what how I cook is all about,” Holland says. “Using whole foods to make the soul food that you love. And let me tell you, it’s possible.