What do we actually eat?
Food glorious food, what to eat?
For the last few weeks we have been going through more specialized diets that we might use to make therapeutic changes to get and stay healthy. We also talked about finding out how much carbohydrates in your diet makes you feel and run the best. To finish off this conversation in the coming weeks we will even discuss 2 different extreme ways of eating VEGAN & CARNIVORE, so stay tuned.
Different sorts of ‘diets’ or eating paradigms can seem a bit daunting and you might think it is all too hard, so this week we are going to share something we haven’t done before – What do WE eat?
Maria often talks about a professional athlete doesn’t become an athlete overnight – it takes time and training to become the best. So likewise changing what we eat takes time and training to get the most out of your food and you.
We are not professional eaters by any means and we come from different cultures and lifetime habits but we have been thinking about foods and what makes us healthy for longer than the average person.
You will also see we are not perfect and might even be surprised that we don’t eat super clean and healthy 100% of the time. We are also very different in our food needs and how we respond to foods and what we have to look out for.
So without further ado – here is what we eat!
About Maria Harpas – click here.
I was one of those fussy eaters as a kid, lived on white toast, chocolate cereals and hot chips! I changed my food in my mid twenties when I went vegetarian/vegan for about a decade, then after I had my second child I started to reintroduce meat again. Over the last 15 years as I learnt more and more about allergies and the relationship with digestion and food, I have changed my diet where I initially was more restrictive as my digestion and allergies felt better, as I improved by gut health I now tolerate far more and for longer. I eat very differently from my early years, not because I have to but because I want to, I have trained myself and learnt to love whole-foods, my health is all the better for it, Im healthier now at 50 than in my early 20’s!
I’m certainly not a perfectionist and feel in most instances our health can tolerate a small percentage of “not so healthy foods”. When I’m on holidays I really don’t overthink what I am eating. I try to eat the local food in what ever country we are in, and thoroughly enjoy it but I do find myself ready to get back to my usual fare once i’m home:)
Being in the “diet planning” industry I have literally trialled every diet on the planet that has promised some change that might improve certain markers and usually they centre around supporting my digestion, therefore allergies and immune system as this is my particular weakness. If I do anything intensely for a number of weeks with my diet I always measure by pathology markers and over the years have been fascinated with the changes, and how powerful they are.
So I usually eat 2 main meals and 1 to 2 snacks per day and generally start eating around 11am and stop eating around 7pm. I was previously fasting longer where my first meal began at 1pm, but recently I want to lessen the cortisol (stress hormone) effect so have moved my eating start time to 11am.
My main meals centre around salads and vegetables as the main players, then I add some protein, such as fish, lamb, beef, organ meats and chicken. I use dips with tahini bases, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, pure butter, herbs, spices, lemon to flavour my foods and also saute onions/garlic for this purpose. I add for a bit of interest seeds, lentils, legumes and nuts to my dishes.
I try to stick to savoury snacks mainly such as dips with vegi sticks/ flaxseed crackers or with seeded breads or sauerkraut or fennel/cucumber/kolrabi/snowpeas with basil/lemon/salt or artichokes/roasted capsicums/grilled eggplants. Other snacks might include kefir with berries and crushed nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg.
I mainly drink plain pure water. I also have herbal teas, broths, collagen drinks, green juices (I don’t use spinach or kale due to the oxalates), occasional decaf coffee and 1 glass of red a month.
Most of my food is organic except when I eat out of course. My decade as a vegetarian/vegan taught me to make vegetables and salads the centre stage. My non negotiables are that I don’t eat pork and haven’t for 25 years or deli meats.
I really believe after 11 years of clinical experience of guiding and helping people with lifestyle and diet changes that eating unprocessed foods is the first step in the right direction. After that individuals differ in that some do better with more or less of particular foods and particular macronutrients (proteins/carbs/fats) this isn’t just based on preference but dependant on genetic strengths and weaknesses.
Cheers in directing your own path 🙂
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About Tim Jaeger – click here.
At different times over the last 7 years, starting with a strict Paleo approach, I have tinkered with – low carb/ ketogenic (< 50g net carbs per day); reintroducing raw dairy into paleo; have been dairy, gluten, egg and almond free and did a short stint on a carnivore diet (meat, salt and water).
One thing has been constant – gluten free, this might not be perfect as you can get considerable contaminations in ‘gluten free’ foods and eating out can be a problem too with contamination. If you are coeliac this can be a real and significant problem, I’m not but these are the symptoms that have disappeared for me – regular eye styes, an occasional skin eczema under my hair and occasional fine red itchy flat dots on my hands (a form of eczema too).
Apart from the month of strict carnivore regular large salads have also been a constant even as a teenager and I have always preferred eating raw veggies than cooked. At the moment I have reigned in the caffeine intake from coffee, cocao and dark chocolate as my genetics indicate I’m a slower caffeine metaboliser.
The last 18 or so months I have moved onto intermittent fasting so eat dinner as early as I can, sometime between 5pm and 6.30pm and then I skip breakfast and have my first meal of the day anywhere between 11.30am and 2pm depending on how busy I get and what else I doing.
I use to eat cereals, including fruit loops, many many years ago and transitioned to many years of 2 pieces of olive oil fried toast either wholemeal or German Rye (ooh, that was tasty from the german bakery at Lobethal), one with a fried egg and the other with a nut spread (mostly almond) and no added refined sugar jam (raspberry as my favourite). My last transition of breakfast ended up being 2 to 3 scrambled eggs in coconut oil, with half and avocado, cherry tomatoes and a few thinly sliced bacon rashes.
Some days I still have a breakfast but I don’t have lunch so I make it a big big breakfast. This is because intermittent fasting for me is not about caloric restriction and losing weight, for me its about getting the other health benefits such as insulin control – think diabetes in the long term as well the autophagy benefits for anti-aging and longevity. I often will even go on a long bicycle ride or run and feel no ill affects from having no food.
My big breakfast has ended up being 6 to 7 eggs and a pan full of bacon (I use 2 pans for cooking) and may be some avocado. I have also cut out higher lectin foods lately such as tomato and capsicum (think Steven Grundy’s ‘The Plant Paradox’). The eggs are best lightly fried in olive oil, lard or coconut oil and the yolks still very running but the white cooked, so ‘eggs over easy’.
Very standard – big arse salad with a fish protein – although I have been cutting out high lectin foods such as tomatoes, capsicum and cucumbers, so the salad has a variety of greens (I really enjoy a good rocket and through winter my mum grows a variety of greens so they are fab), coriander when around, olives (green, black, kalamata), celery and a handful of finely sliced red skinned radish although they don’t always make it into the bowl – I munch on them as I prepare the rest. The fish will be either sardines, mackerel or salmon or mix (I did a stint of smoked oysters too at one stage). The salad is finished off with a few tablespoons of olive oil, Celtic sea salt and apple cider vinegar. I use to use a fair bit of black pepper and curcumin powder sprinkled over the top too but have been leaving this out the last 5 months or so.
Cooked vegetable and a protein source.
Veggies will be any of these – string beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower.
Proteins includes fish, beef, lamb, turkey and chicken. Seem to leave out pork no real reason.
I will sometimes feel the need to eat more carbohydrates with dinner and that can be a cup of rice with Thai food, may be potato and sometimes even a gluten free pizza.
What I have left out is my love of chocolate or gluten free buckwheat toast with nut spread and jam (although the toast has disappeared lately) and a good decaffeinated long black coffee. Lately I have reintroduced dairy so I’ll have a cappuccino a couple times a week. Often for sheer flavour or starting to get hungry I will snack on goat or aged Parmesan cheese with olives and traditionally prepared prosciutto as pre-lunch or dinner appetizer.
Chocolate was a 70% dark dairy free for a number of years but with my dairy reintroduction I have gravitated back to milk chocolate or even high quality Belgium white chocolate (been keeping away from oxalates and caffeine more lately) this can sometimes be my only carbohydrate source i.e. the sugar in the chocolate. When I want to be low carb I’ll restrict the amount otherwise I will eat may be 50g of chocolate.
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About Gabriella Sassi – click here.
In alignment with my body’s individual need, I enjoy an intuitive eating plan and aim to avoid foods which don’t agree with me such as gluten, wheat, soy and some dairy. Eating in a way that supports my blood sugar. REAL food is my optimal goal, seasonal eating and organic where I can because it makes me feel vibrant and amazing. Previous to my nutritional medicine studies, I reacted to many types of food groups and so I watch negative terms such as good and bad food, instead I notice how food affects my digestive and immune system, inflammation, brain, thoughts and energy levels. I have a couple of habits I do throughout the day but mostly my diet changes in seasons, by energy expenditure and what my biochemistry is telling me.
Water before eating. 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon water.
Some form of protein, eggs any way with seasonal greens, herbs or a piece of GF toast with avocado or tomato/basil. Occasionally, I will have chia seed pudding or a warming meal like GF porridge with cinnamon, honey, seasonal fruit, nuts/seeds, maca and reishi mushroom powder. At times, I will intermittent fast in the morning depending on whether my stress levels are low and what I ate the night before.
I usually have something easy like leftovers from the night before or a large salad with protein and everything green in the fridge. I make up a batch of meat or vegetable patties for the week and use them as my protein. At times, if I’ve had a large breakfast I’ll skip lunch and have an early dinner.
I try to have a protein source (organic chicken, beef, lamb or fish) with vegetables like mediterranean dishes, stir fry’s’, curries, soups, stews, slow cooked meals and rotate vegetables. I love adding as many herbs as I can to a dish because of their antioxidant capacity, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, clove, aniseed and always have a daily serve of prebiotic sources, onions, garlic, artichoke, sweet potato, leek or asparagus. I’ve been getting into the slow cooking lately as it makes everything easy and more nutritious – turn it on in the morning with your protein and come home to make the vegetables There’s always leftovers as well.
Snacks & Drinks
I do like a weak black or almond milk latte in the morning too. I won’t have a smoothie everyday but if I do they’ll rotate between green juices, banana smoothies or turmeric based drinks such as lattes and I do love liquorice tea. Also love my staple sweet choice, Mint Pana Chocolate. My snacks are banana, vegetables sticks or seeded crackers and hummus dip or almonds, macadamias and walnuts.
About Tori Bowes – click here.
I have been gluten free for about two years now, and have recently changed my diet to a paleo inspired approach to help reduce inflammation. I’ve since noticed an improvement with energy levels and mental clarity. The last couple of years have been quite restrictive as I have a toddler who had quite a few food allergies its refreshing to broaden my diet. I also played around with a Low Nickel Diet and have seen an enormous improvement with the eczema on my hands. (The 90% dark chocolate, dark leafy greens, buckwheat bread and abundance of nuts have been dropped from my diet) and I’m ok with that. I’m not perfect the chocolate always makes an appearance around my cycle but its certainly better than every day!
I am excited about this way of eating because its brought the joy back around preparing nourishing food. Pete Evans cookbooks are fabulous and the whole family has enjoyed many meals inspired by him.
I usually rotate the following smoked salmon, bacon, greens (baby spinach or kale), avocado OR omelette with greens, goats cheese and herbs like chives, parsley, dill and lemon rind OR if time is of the essence then i’ll eat a Chia pudding with blueberries (made the night before or have a paelo granola).
Lunch is best if its some thing quick and easy. I’ve usually spent the morning out with my two toddlers so I like to have something preprepared – I batch cook with my partner Anthony on weekends to make meal times easier. Its winter and my body craves warm foods – I often make soups – I prefer asian vegetables – bok choy, choy sum, ginger, chilli, shallots, coriander and spring onions with a protein source. When I have made up a batch of fritters I’ll often warm them up (Fennel, Zucchini, Sweet Potato Fritters (contain almond meal, parsley, egg)
Dinner is always a protein source with lots of vegetables. We eat mostly organic meat chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish and tonight we are having Thai Chicken with Broccoli stem stirfry – you spiralise the noodles from broccoli stems, zucchini, carrot chuck in some snow peas, shallots, bok choy and some flavour (tamari/coconut aminos, fish sauce, ginger, lime).
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Eat some more collagen and organ meat
Do I consume as much collagen and even organ meat as I should?
No I don’t but I have been adding a tablespoon or 2 of collagen (hydrolysate version is best) into my daily diet and I do like a bit of fried liver with thyme and onions or pate but just not as regularly as I really should.
Organ meats just have such high nutrient value they are invaluable. They are natures vitamin, mineral and nutrient punch. Things like vitamins B12, A, D & K, folate, choline, iron and Coenzyme Q-10.
Different versions of Carnivore Diets
Ok, back to CARNIVORE.
It has been around for quite a while but the last couple years it has really been gaining a ground swell of popularity.
It seems people are literally fixing or reversing long term chronic illnesses and on the way also gaining such vibrant health and people like Amber O’Hearn, Jordan and Mikhalia Peterson, Dr Shawn Baker breaking world records to boot and the folk at Paleomedicina.
Please note they actually all have their own way of carnivore dieting that work for them.
So never ever one diet for all!
Are there risks?
I know what you will be saying – we need plants in that our diet? What about fibre? What about feeding our gut bacteria? What about all the nutrients we need that we get from plants? What about red meat and bowel cancer?
These are important questions and we don’t have all the answers yet but there are signs of N=1 examples and multiple N = 1s showing tremendous benefits. Another way of saying this is, we don't have a scientific published clinical trial but, anecdotally 1000s of people as finding life changing health outcomes. Also people like Belinda and Dr Gary Fetke have highlighted information about where our current dietary paradigms and dogmas appear to have originated from here and here and also here.
Interestingly there are also numerous case reports of people eating nothing but meat for months to decades who suffer no apparent nutrient deficiencies.
When you consider the reverse and ask – is there any 1 singular plant food that when not supplemented in any way could sustain life for weeks to decades and show no clinical signs of deficiency?
The answer is an absolute - "NO there are is not a plant food that could do the same" as deficiencies are guaranteed, so interesting things to ponder.
Diet does change our gut microbiome and fermentable fibre is conventional thought of as being a key ingredient for healthy bacteria. Our gut bacteria usually need indigestible, fermentable plant fibre to eat and live. Some animal based foods, such as collagen, are also thought to feed our gut bacteria, so its an evolving space for now.
As Maria points out a diet such as carnivore (animal only, mostly meat based) can change our gut microbiome, in part by reducing bacteria digestible fibre therefore potentially reducing bacterial numbers and this in some cases may well be the reason for the benefits.
The devil may be in the details - poor gut health (leaky gut) and bacterial composition (dysbiosis or pathogens) may mean great results (especially for those with allergies and autoimmune conditions) with low fermentable fibre carnivore diet. but this may not be optimal for all of us.
Another concept is the increased diversity of our gut microbiome. Increased diversity is conventional thought of as beneficial and gives us a more robust health but again details may matter, as above, and there are a few reports of diversity actually going up on a carnivore diet, so go figure!
This also means that a carnivore diet may not be optimal for all of us and might only mean that if you can't tolerate fibre or plant based foods you may be better off on a animal based approach used as a therapeutic tool.
Something else that not many people talk about is a real and important risk of social isolation, this can include any highly restrictive eating pattern including plant based diets such veganism. As humans we need social interaction and contact for optimal health
So for some using a carnivore like diet in the short term may provide a perfect, yet extreme, reset. It can be used as a tool with a reintroduction of some plants foods when tolerated and this gives us convenience, flexibility, social interaction, antioxidants and an increased gut microbiome again with all the possible health benefits too. Mikhalia Peterson, who we mentioned above, actually does not enjoy her all meat restriction but continues to eat this way from necessity and continues to trial eating some plant foods provided she does not react.
The need to tweak and change
Here is what I will tell you – if you are chronically ill don’t keep pushing the ‘healthy’ diet whatever that is – vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, high fermented foods etc you need to rethink and change and try a different approach or sometimes just a small tweak may be needed.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome” and that is the whole point nothing is perfect and things need to change sometimes, so that is where we also come in to help and support you in finding something that works for you specifically.
Here is the punch line though – we (Maria, yes vego Maria, myself, one of he other clinic practitioners and a couple loony friends are going to do a month of eating only meat, water and salt - so yes all meat , just to see for ourselves what it feels like. Longer may be better but we thought we will see what a short trial does in our lives.
Stayed tuned for an up date as we are also taking pre and post diet pathology blood testing to also get an objective measure of what happens to our biochemistry.
All the best
Tim - Nutritional Medicine Specialist
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