Making Healthy Eating Work For You

One of the question I get asked most often is what is the difference between a Naturopathic Nutritionist/Nutritional Therapist and a Dietitian? For me it comes down to a matter of interest. Not to say a Dietitian doesn’t care about their patients, but their involvement tends to stop at what you’ve got on your plate. A Nutritional Therapist on the other hand wants to know everything about you. Obviously what you’re eating is important, but so is the way you feel about yourself, whether you’re full of energy or crawling through the day, does your mother get hay fever, are you a rock climber or a stamp collector……OK I may be reaching with the last one (or maybe not…!)

Now this may seem unnecessary to some but it allows us to build a picture of you as a whole, possibly highlighting issues you may have come to accept as the norm but which we could potentially help with. It also gives insight into the potential challenges dietary changes may pose; asking you to make slow cooked bone broths in a house full of vegans for instance may cause upset within your support network!

In my opinion the areas of Natural Healthcare and Functional Medicine are set apart from Orthodox Medicine because as practitioners we can afford ourselves the luxury of time with our clients. It is widely reported that GP’s get an average of 7 minutes with each patient so it’s no wonder they only have time to rather superficially assess one issue in that session. If you were to see a Nutritional Therapist or other similar professional (Homeopath, Naturopath etc) most would offer an initial consultation session of at least an hour (many will offer 1 .5- 2 hours) in which they would gather information to create this complete multi-system picture. From this they can then support all aspects of your health in a truly individualised manner.

Great so that’s the difference and now to put it into action as today is all about providing you with the tools to start making positive choices towards optimising your own health. This actually ties in beautifully with another of the foundations of Naturopathy; ‘Docere’ (translated as ‘Doctor as Teacher’). Again unlike a standard doctor we aim to educate you as to how you can better your own health so although we are there to support you on this journey, you ultimately become the masters of your own destiny (beautiful isn’t it 😉 haha).

Right so we’ll kick off with what are known as the Naturopathic Principles, these are the general guidelines we encourage everyone to aim for.

  1. Eat regular meals, snack only if needed.
  2. Include a source of good quality animal or vegetable protein with every meal & snack.
  3. Choose whole foods including organic, seasonal & local fresh produce where possible.
  4. Eat good quality fats daily. Examples include SMASH fish (sardines, mackerel anchovies, salmon, herring), nuts, seeds, avocados & cold pressed oils.
  5. Aim for 7-10 portions of a variety of fresh produce a day with a maximum of 2-3 fruits.
  6. Avoid refined sugar & carbohydrate products including fizzy drinks, fruit juices, white pasta, rice & breads. Opt for whole grain alternatives, vegetable juices & herbal teas.
  7. Be mindful of your stress levels, aim to take breaks throughout the day and get good quality sleep each night.
  8. Exercise regularly. Include forms to train your cardiovascular system, build strength and improve flexibility.

Just a quick highlight on point number 2:

Some people may find the idea of including protein with every meal and snack a little daunting as they picture this means a piece of chicken or slab of steak. These are obviously great sources of protein but they are not the be all and end all; I have included lists below of both animal and plant sources, you may be surprised by some of the things that make the list! Personally I would advise less reliance on the animal sources, opting for higher quality but lower quantity. Unless you are training heavily I think one portion of organic meat/dairy or wild fish per day is sufficient with the rest of your quota coming from a nice array of those plant-based sources. The other added bonus of these being that they come hand in hand with great amounts of fibre which is brilliant for your digestive system, blood sugar regulation and overall health.

Sources of Animal Protein

  • Organic grass-fed red meats: venison, beef, veal, lamb
  • Organic poultry & game birds
  • Wild fish preferably SMASH varieties (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring). Avoid over consumption of larger fish e.g. Tuna, limit to max 1/week due to heavy metal accumulation.
  • Eggs

Sources of Vegetable Protein

  • Beans & Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa
  • Tofu & Tempeh
  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Seeds & seed butters: pumpkin, sesame (tahini), poppy, sunflower
  • Nuts & nut butters (not peanut): almond, cashew, pistachio, walnut, hazelnut
  • Miso
  • Raw Cacao
  • Hemp & Chia Seeds
  • Edamame Beans
  • Tofu & Tempeh
  • Edamame beans
  • Hemp & Chia Seeds
  • Raw Cacao
  • Miso

So the next thing to tackle is how do we make those swops to our lovely, nourishing whole foods?

Most people’s biggest issue with changing their diet is that things seem to take too long to make. I understand this may appear to be the case but I would suggest that it is actually a matter of making new habits. If you’ve been doing something the same way forever of course you can do it with your eyes closed, everyone knows practise makes perfect! It would be somewhat counter productive however just to leave you with the idea of ‘just get on with it’ so below I have gone through a couple of time saving tips so that with minimal time and effort you’ve always got good things on hand.

There is also an element of choice here. I allocate about 1.5 – 2 hours on a Sunday when I know I’ll be home to whack the oven on, get a couple of pans on the stove and have a good old dance to the radio (usually up way too load to be heard over the food processor…sorry neighbours!). In that time I’ll roast some veggies, maybe a chicken or some fish or boil a few eggs, cook a batch of some form of grain/lentil/pulse and make a snack like my Maca Cacao Energy Balls, Lentil Crackers or Cherry Sandwich Oat Bars. These can then all be packed into containers (opt for BPA free or glass ones) and kept in the fridge/freezer to be portioned out as and when I need them. With the snacks I usually keep a few out but freeze the rest of the batch, then you start to build a selection to choose from 🙂

Batch cooking grains & pulses  Brown rice, quinoa, barley, spelt, amaranth, kamut, lentils, dried beans & chickpeas

1 portion = ¼ cup dry (expands to ½ cup when it’s cooked)

  1. The night before you want to cook them put your measured grains into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Leave to soak overnight. If you then find you can’t cook them until later that day, rinse and re-soak in fresh water.
  2. Drain and rinse the grains well then add to a pan with an equal quantity of fresh water. Add an organic vegetable stock cube, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tablespoon of tamari and 1 teaspoon of turmeric or some dried mixed herbs if you wish.
  3. Gently bring to the boil stirring occasionally. Once boiling turn right down onto the lowest heat and cover with a lid, don’t stir anymore as the grains will be soft from soaking and they will go mushy if you keep stirring.
  4. Quinoa & amaranth take about 10 minutes, barley, spelt and brown rice about 15 minutes. It will vary between batches so the best way to tell is when all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. I then add the juice of another ½ lemon and some black pepper, pop the lid back on and leave it to steam until it’s cool. Lightly fluff it up with a fork then pop it in a container in the fridge to portion out when you want.
  6. Will stay fresh in the fridge for 5-6 days.

Roasting root vegetables in their skins Beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, wash all the vegetables well and just pop on a baking tray and into the oven for about 1 hour depending on their size.
  2. Turn a couple of times during the cooking time and then just leave to cool.
  3. The skins will shrink away from the veggies as they cool down, I personally like the nuttiness of the skins but you can peel them off easily if you want.
  4. They will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, just chop up as and when you need or wrap in baking parchment and then foil and pop into a preheated oven at 200ºC for 15 minutes to warm through.

Baked softer vegetables Courgettes, peppers, aubergine, mushrooms, onions. Squash & pumpkin can also go in this batch but they need to be de-seeded and sliced (no need peeled)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C
  2. Chop the vegetables into big chunky pieces, toss with a small amount of coconut oil, salt & pepper and any herbs or spices you like (chilli flakes, paprika, mixed herbs, turmeric, cumin are great)
  3. Bake in the oven for 20-40 minutes depending on the size of your pieces, give the tray a shake halfway through so they all cook evenly.
  4. Leave to cool then keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Putting together a quick lunch box: Take a Tupperware and imagine it divided into 4. Into 1 corner put ½ cup of your rice/grains, into the next ½ cup of your softer veggies, then a handful of something green like spinach, kale, cabbage or broccoli, a few pieces of your roasted roots (some days add less grains and more root veggies) then into the final corner your protein. This could be any of the animal sources or a combination of the vegetable sources from before. Et voila your lunch is done!

Right so with that I think we’ve got part of the equation covered but the other side is what to do when you really fancy those foods we would consider ‘naughtier’. I have a friend who just loves fish fingers, there was no way I was going to get her to give them up without a really good fight but she has given my Almond Crusted Salmon Goujons the big thumbs up (not a small win I tell you!). For someone else it might be the lure of an Indian takeaway on a Saturday evening so how about trying out my sumptuously spiced Brown Rice Pilau with Chicken instead? It’ll be kinder on both your waistline and your pocket….

Like with most things in life this is a gradual process. The basis of Naturopathy is to encourage positive lifestyle choices that in turn pave the way to optimal health and wellbeing, so any change you make to this end, however small you consider it to be, it is more than you were doing before and so is of benefit. Don’t chastise yourself for having that odd cake or muffin if you’re eating your greens 80% of the time, life is there to be enjoyed, all I’m here to do is ask that you include lentils in that life 🙂

Almond Crusted Salmon Goujons

Brown Rice Pilau with Chicken