What makes you feel healthy?
A good night’s sleep, summer months and bright nights all make me feel great. Also, when I’m exercising and not stressed.
What do you believe are the cornerstones of a healthy, balanced diet?
Firstly, I don’t believe anyone eats a balanced diet all of the time. Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to achieve due to the way we live our lives today. A lot of women I see feel guilty about food and the tyranny of the “should eat” and “shouldn’t eat” recommendations slip in.
“It’s impossible to eat well all of the time so I always recommend working to achieve the 80:20 rule.”
It’s impossible to eat well all of the time so I always recommend working to achieve the 80:20 rule – eating well 80 per cent of the time. For me, a balanced diet has the following cornerstones:
Blood sugar balance – during their reproductive years, most women have “yo-yo” blood sugars and are ruled by their foods, moods, cycles and hormones. So eating foods that keep our blood sugars stable are of huge importance, especially for fertility.
Plenty of protein – Protein is really important for egg development and to make hormones. Many women I see don’t get enough protein, and if you are a vegan or vegetarian, it’s often harder to get the amount you need.
Good fats – these can go a long way to balancing our blood sugars as we feel fuller for longer and have less of a tendency to snack. Trans-fats from low-fat products are very damaging to health and fertility.
Plenty of fruit and vegetables – these are rich in antioxidants, which neutralise free radicals.
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I believe there are far too many food fads today, especially extreme diets. Both women and men are confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat, especially in the world of fertility where I constantly see women cutting everything out of their diets thinking this will help them conceive, which is misguided, unhealthy and certainly in no way helping their body’s to be baby ready.
“I constantly see women cutting everything out of their diets thinking this will help them conceive, which is misguided, unhealthy and certainly in no way helping their body’s to be baby ready.”
The body needs to be nutritionally strong to carry a baby and so is more likely to allow itself to conceive if it has a good range of the important nutrients required to feed both mother and a baby. It’s easy just to focus on diet when fertility is a whole body event that encompasses your stresses, emotional fragility and lifestyle factors such as drinking and smoking, all of which can rob the body of the key nutrients it needs to conceive. Generally, with the way we live our lives today we are nutrient deficient and need to add and not take away from our diets.
What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid?
I avoid processed foods, ready meals, refined foods, low-fat foods, cured meats, sugary drinks, trans fats (such as margarine) and refined carbohydrates. I like to use fresh ingredients, dairy products and foods that are close to their natural source. Also, I avoid cooking foods at high temperatures, which destroys many of the nutrients.
“I avoid cooking foods at high temperatures, which destroys many of the nutrients.”
Does your diet change throughout the year?
Yes, absolutely it changes. In winter I have lots of warming foods like soups and carbohydrate-rich meals, casseroles and potatoes to satisfy my cravings for comfort foods. I particularly love a Sunday lunch. In summer, I tend to eat a lot more salads and have lots of fresh juices and cooler foods.
What is your food routine?
I tend to eat like a bird – I can’t eat until I’m really full. A large portion on the plate puts me off my food. For me, it’s quality rather than quantity. I hate eating late into the evening, so would never eat dinner in a restaurant at 9 or 10 at night.
I eat breakfast religiously – never skip it! As an acupuncturist and follower of traditional Chinese medicine, I believe in the Chinese philosophy of “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper”, so two or three times a week I will have a very light meal in the evening. I don’t feel the need to eat a three-course evening meal.
“It’s not just about the food we eat but how we eat it.”
I believe in the Mayr philosophy that non-hereditary disease and illness largely begins in the gut, so it’s not just about the food we eat but how we eat it.
Hummus, gluten-free oat cakes and, as a treat, dark chocolate. I love nougat.
What supplements do you take, if any?
I take inositol for blood-sugar balance, Vital DHA for omega 3 and Vitafem Boost for anti-oxidants. In the winter months, I will also take a daily spray of vitamin D.
Do you believe in diets or detox programmes?
I don’t believe in detox or diet programmes, especially in January and February as I think they are almost impossible to achieve then. The long dark nights and the cold make it miserable to go through a diet programme. Many women understand the word detox, but really it’s about cutting out bad habits as opposed to being too extreme. I find making small long-term changes far more beneficial than drastic changes to your diet, which tend to last only for the short term.
Cleansing in an achievable way is important, however, particularly in my field of fertility, but it’s about changing habits rather than being a quick fix. Like many women, I have probably done every diet plan possible. I now know what works for me and that is not snacking between meals, making sure I have proteins and carbs together and not eating late at night.
“Very few people these days spend long enough digesting food. When you’re eating – eat. When you’re thinking – think. And when you’re working – work.”
The way we eat food is also important – not on the run but taking time to sit down quietly at a table, as very few people these days spend long enough digesting food. When you’re eating – eat. When you’re thinking – think. And when you’re working – work.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for people looking to kick-start a healthier diet?
Rome wasn’t built in a day – small tweaks, making changes over a four-week period and not trying to do everything at once is generally a more sustainable way of approaching diet. You lose the willpower if you try to make too many changes at once.
What is your go-to meal after a busy day?
I am really enjoying the recipes in my new book Eat Yourself Pregnant (I know, I would say that, wouldn’t I!), so at the moment red pepper and tomato nut spread and I’m loving soup, especially roasted butternut squash and ginger soup!
Are there any cookbooks you couldn’t live without?
Eat Yourself Pregnant!
Which ingredient was your greatest discovery?
I didn’t know what sumac was until I lived in the Middle East for a time and it’s used a lot there – it’s a herb and really delicious. I also discovered pomegranate molasses.
What’s your exercise routine/schedule?
My clinic has six flights of stairs and I have an app on my phone that registers me walking anything up to 40 floors a day! I also walk to and from work, and I regularly do salsa dancing.