What does it mean to be healthy?
I think the number-one sign of being healthy is enjoying great energy and a positive outlook. Waking up in the morning and looking forward to the day and being happy in your skin is a sign of health. Health is as much an emotional state as a physical state – you can’t really separate the two.
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I follow a Paleo diet because it makes me feel well and it feels good to be eating the kinds of foods that human beings are genetically suited to. Paleo to some people means loads of red meat, which I don’t think is a great thing, but I do eat eggs, fish and chicken. Our genes haven’t changed much in the past few thousand years, but what we eat has changed dramatically, even since the war.
“The processed food we eat today may be good enough to keep us alive, but alive is very different to truly healthy.”
Why is it important for you to feel (and look) healthy?
I first got interested in nutrition when my son was little. He had constant colds and flu and was given lots of antibiotics, which made him even more ill. I tried all kinds of things to make him better. One day I picked up Patrick Holford’s book, The Optimal Nutrition Bible, and I weaned my son off wheat and dairy and gave him probiotics, and he began to recover. That’s what all mothers want most in the whole world, for their children to be happy and healthy. So I came to do what I do today, and what I love to do, out of love for my son.
What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid?
I don’t touch gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut) ever; that is the one thing that I avoid 100 per cent. I’m really careful to avoid it because if I’ve unwittingly eaten something containing gluten, I wake up the next morning feeling seriously fuzzy-headed. The conventional wisdom is that the number-one organ affected by gluten is the gut but in fact it is the brain.
Gluten is associated with all kinds of mental illness including depression. And gluten is definitely bad for the gut – it makes it “leaky” and a leaky gut means the immune system is always on alert, and it is in this way that allergies and other immune problems can begin. I believe that everyone is better off without it.
What do you think are the most nutritious foods?
Green vegetables are the most important and broccoli is king. Getting a variety of different-coloured vegetables and fruit is vital. I eat as many different-coloured plant foods as possible – lots of green vegetables, salad and seaweed, but also root vegetables such as beetroot, carrots and squash, and red and purple berries. The colours represent different phytonutrients and the more we get of these, and the greater variety, the better they are for our health.
“Green vegetables are the most important and broccoli is king.”
The Ayurvedic traditions of using turmeric, chilli, garlic, ginger, and all the other herbs, have profound health benefits. Italians and all Mediterranean people have a long tradition of using herbs in their cooking – rosemary, dill, thyme and tarragon, as well as lots of garlic and chilli. Those herbs are great anti-inflammatories and important for our skin, joints, hearts and immune system. Many of them are good for raising our spirits as well.
We all need protein. We are actually made of the protein that we eat – our hair and nails, skin and muscles and all our organs are made of the proteins in our diet. Eggs are a perfect protein source and contain all the essential amino acids from which we can manufacture all the other proteins we need.
Do you cook and eat the same types of foods as your children?
Perhaps the best way to teach children how to eat is by sitting down with them at a table where everybody’s eating the same food – like they did in the old days when they were probably really hungry! And a bit of subterfuge can help, The Art of Hiding Vegetables by Karen Bali is a great book and a godsend for parents of picky eaters.
“Perhaps the best way to teach children how to eat is by sitting down with them at a table where everybody’s eating the same food.”
What is your optimal breakfast?
I hardly ever eat it and never eat it before exercising. If I’m hungry after exercise, I’ll have it, otherwise not. We all need to find what’s right for us personally, although it’s an important meal for children. For some, it’s their favourite meal of the day and becomes a ritual. But for me personally, I find I’m better off without it.
How do you stay on track when you travel?
Being prepared helps me avoid the horrible airplane food. I usually take an omelette and some fruit with me on the plane – it depends how long the flight is – or some nuts. Drinking loads of water before, during and after flying really helps – dehydration is the enemy of energy and good skin. Drinking water also results in less hunger, so it’s easier to avoid snacks.
What is your food routine?
When I trained as a nutritionist, we were taught to teach people to eat little and often. But since using the Metabolic Balance Programme and since studying evolutionary nutrition, which is part of psychoneuroimmunology, I understand that the less frequently we eat, the better. Every time we put anything in our mouths the immune system migrates to the gut and this results in inflammation.
Men would do better eating about 15 meals a week and women, 18 (that’s for adults of course, not children). Insulin is pulsed out by the pancreas at regular intervals and as long as there is no digesting to be done, it acts as a growth hormone and sets about repairing things in the body – so longer periods between meals is actively good for us.
“Men would do better eating about 15 meals a week and women, 18 (that’s for adults of course, not children).”
What are your tips for eating healthily in restaurants?
Avoid the bread, however tempting it as and however hungry you are. Ask for olives or crudités instead. And if you’re planning on a pudding, wait 15 minutes after your main course before you order it. You’ll probably find you don’t even want it – this tip really works!
What is the hardest part of the day for you to avoid temptation?
Before I studied nutrition, and before I put into practice what I had learned about blood sugar and the adrenals, it was the classic time of between 4-5pm. That is the time when blood-sugar lows are likely to strike, leaving us longing for something sweet. Once blood sugar is under control, there is neither a 4pm slump nor any sugar cravings. For many of us it’s typically mid-morning and mid-afternoon when sugar cravings are worst.
Are there any specific food brands you love?
I love Inspiral for getting kale out there and presenting it in such a delicious way and for their fabulous grain-free crackits – really innovative foods that taste good. And I love CoYo for giving people a delicious alternative to dairy yoghurt.
And Koko for their coconut milk because the alternatives are not good for us at all; soy milk interferes with iodine uptake which can lead to thyroid problems and rice milk is contaminated with arsenic.
Favourite food treat?
My guilty pleasure is almond butter! I love it with apple or carrot sticks or just straight off the spoon. And chocolate, of course, but it’s got to be dark and preferably organic. I’ve discovered that if you resist the urge to bite the chocolate and just let it dissolve in your mouth, you get all the amazing flavour and aroma in a concentrated way so you don’t need to eat very much of it.
“In my opinion the best diet is Metabolic Balance, which involves eating the right balance of protein to carbs, in the right amounts and at the right time of day.”
Have you ever tried a diet or detox that worked for you?
In my opinion the best diet is Metabolic Balance, which involves eating the right balance of protein to carbs, in the right amounts and at the right time of day. This is a great programme for resetting anyone’s metabolism. It works by balancing insulin and blood sugar levels and by ramping up the metabolic rate – and it is a detox diet in itself.
A detox diet to many people means a raw-food or raw-juice regime and, while it’s great to give the body a rest from caffeine, fats and processed foods including sugar, it’s not great to live on juices for too long. After a couple of days the body starts to break down muscle for fuel. And we need proteins to make the chemicals we use for detoxification itself.
Do you power up for exercise with specific foods?
Research is showing – and it makes sense – that exercise is best done in a fasting state – caveman style! If we are exercising hard, we are definitely not digesting anything. If someone says they have to have something before they work out, I recommend Ribose powder as an energy boost.
Is there anyone you consider a healthy role model?
That’s a toss up between Calgary and Gwyneth!