For my first “Real Food Story,” I was going to share my personal road to Whole Food recovery, but I decided that it would be fitting to feature someone who has inspired (and continues to inspire) my Real Food/Paleo journey.
Meet Free. Natural Nutritionist, Whole Foodie & Forever Hangry! 🙂
The ironic thing about our friendship is that we met over a dirty cupcake many moons ago and since then our friendship has manifested over our love of all things food-related. She is a wealth of knowledge who inspires me to be a better and healthier version of myself.
Read on for Free’s Real Food Story where she discusses her journey to real food, offers tips on how to be successful on a 30 Day Paleo Challenge, how to handle your hangry and more!
Visit her blog for more tips & tricks and recipe shares: Salena & Free
Free eating gluten-free pancakes for Sunday brunch at the Naked Sprout
1. How did you find your way to Paleo/Real Food?
Since I was small, I was really into cooking shows, cookbooks, and foods from different cultures. My interest in nutrition sparked in secondary school and leading into university. I was gung-ho about the Canada Food Guide and followed it religiously until I noticed I wasn’t doing very well on their recommendations. I thought I was (mostly) healthy on a student budget, even when I stuck to a low-fat/high processed carb diet. After all, “whole grain” bread, rice cakes, canned veggie soups and legumes, packaged juice, and soy milk are supposed to be good for you. I studied in the health care field and I found nutrition was a missing link for overall health and healing for clients. I also had hospital experience and was curious as to why nutrient void foods were being given to people who were ill, or why processed carbohydrates like pasta and dehydrated potatoes were fed to people with diabetes. There were practices that were not aligned with healthy foods nor did it make much sense. I contemplated returning to school to complete a nutrition degree when a friend of mine told me about a holistic nutrition program she was in. I looked into and was intrigued. Though conventional nutrition programs and holistic nutrition programs do have some common ground, studying holistic nutrition opened up a whole other world of food to me. Real food. It didn’t include packaged fruit juice as a serving from the fruit and vegetable category, or highly processed cereals stripped of nutrition, and synthetic vitamins and minerals added back to it to make sound healthier than it actually is. I learned that nutrition wasn’t a one size fit all approach for the general population. Each person has a unique biochemistry and what is healthy and helpful for one person, may not be healthy for another. The holistic approach to nutrition took into account lifestyle, stress management, how foods effect the body, and food as medicine.
2. What benefits have you found with following a Real Food/Paleo Lifestyle?
I stopped having food babies, and that’s a blessing because I was running out of names for them. Just kidding.
The best thing I found with the whole foods lifestyle was keeping food simple and not to over think it. We can become overwhelmed with the latest “super foods” being marketed, and not knowing what foods are actually worth spending our hard earned dollars on. I dabbled in the gluten-free world but it was too complex to be sustainable. Spending money on all sorts of different flours, grains etc. and not to mention the sugar crashes. I also wasn’t feeling well eating “gluten-free grains”, even though they were whole grains. I learned through a lecture from Dr. Peter Osborne that all grains contain different types of gluten (gliadin being the most studied type in medical literature because of Celiac disease). Gluten-free diets in the long term doesn’t benefit people and has the potential to lead to other autoimmune disease. With a Paleo lifestyle, you’re eating foods that are naturally free of gluten. There’s no guess work involved, no labelling, or expensive food certifications needed. It’s a plant based diet full of a variety of vegetables, some meat, a little bit of fruit/nuts/seeds. Whole foods have also helped immensely with the care of my dog. His holistic vet actually recommended the paleo diet for him. He was already eating a BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) diet but was experiencing issues after a round of medication. There was a time when my dog’s ears smelled like a putrid barnyard because of dysbiosis from anti-biotic use. I started feeding him raw, unpasteurized kimchi and the ear yeastie beasties cleared up within a couple days. Protip: A serving of unpasteurized fermented vegetables deliver trillions of probiotics compared to probiotic supplements that deliver million to billions depending on the brand/dose your purchase. If you can tolerate fermented vegetables, it’s a great way to get probiotics into your diet.
3. What is your favourite Paleo recipe?
Real food life keeps you busy in the kitchen but allows you to enjoy and appreciate your food much more. I have a number of favourites including
– My hubby’s sweet potato shepherds pie
– And Danielle Walker’s waffle recipe. It’s so versatile! I’ve adapted it to make pizza crust and sweet waffles when I feel like a treat.
4. What is your wellness routine?
My number one wellness routine is prioritizing sleep. If I don’t get enough restful sleep, I cannot function well through the rest of the day. Oh, can we talk about the hangry? You’re going to be hangry if you’re not sleeping well. During work nights I aim to get a solid 8 hours of sleep which means I need to go to bed early. I also go to bed early so I can carve out time for exercise. Exercise varies from day to day but I like to recommend doing an activity you actually enjoy because you’re likely going to stick with it. I love jump rope, it’s fun and you can challenge yourself with speed and technique. During the pedestrian portion of my commute, I take the stairs and do full step ups with each step. I also make a point to get up regularly from my desk because Sitting Disease. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Overall, an attitude of gratitude is important to keep this life style sustainable. If it’s an option for you feel like having regular pizza, treats etc. enjoy every bite and appreciate it rather than feeling like you’re “cheating” and feel bad after for eating something you enjoy on occasion.
5. Any tips or advice for those participating in the 30 day Spring Clean Up Paleo Challenge?
For the paleo challenge, meal plan and follow through. Preparing your meals ahead of time will save you from wondering what you’re going to eat and stay on track. I typically make two large batches of food for my family, so when I come home from work, there’s not really any work to do other than warm up your food. Whole foods puts you to work in the kitchen, make a day of it! Play your favourite music as you meal prep to make the experience more enjoyable. Also, a slow cooker could be your saving grace. Things like curries, and stewing meat take a long time to cook but if you prepare and chop your ingredients in advance, you can throw it in the slow cooker over night/before you head off to work in the morning and return home to something delicious and healthy. Handle your hangry by packing extra nutrient dense foods. This is especially helpful when you find yourself in a bind, hungry, and reaching for the most convenient “phood” around. I would also keep a food journal, noting how you’re feeling day to day so you can have a qualitative record of what you’ve experienced and note any changes. Lastly, it’s a challenge, so it might be tough for the first few days or week but once you get going, it will be second nature.