Monday, February 13, 2012


Sorry, readers! This took a lot longer than I thought it would, and it still feels... like I've merely scratched the surface!
This is a completely self-indulgent nutrition post.

What I Eat
(It's all about me, me, me!)

As someone that has lost a decent amount of weight (16kg / 35 lbs), and kept it off, I'm often asked 'What do you eat?'  

It's a difficult question to answer, because what I eat, and how I eat evolves and changes as I learn about nutrition and adapt to any changing life situations. For example, working from home, I eat differently than when I had an office job.

If you had asked me five years ago, I would have pointed you to an online calorie counter and told you that I weigh and log every mouthful. These days, I would rather clean the oven than do that every day (and I can't think of a single thing I dread more than the horror of oven cleaning).

This post will be a quick summary of what and how I eat these days. I won't go much into the why of it just now, but if you have any questions, just ask in the comments. I haven't mentioned supplements here; that will be a separate post.

As always, remember, this is just what I do and I'm not saying it's the only way to be healthy. This is a post for those food voyeurs that enjoy reading about the nutrition habits of others. I know I like it when a bloggers give a bit of detail about their eating habits, even if their 'plan' involves taking instruction from a higher power, or whatever.

The thing around which my nutrition hangs, the thing that makes it all work, is L.O.V.E.

L.O.V.E = Lots Of Veges Every day

Vege consumption is consistently correlated with prevention of chronic disease and degenerative conditions. In spite of decades of nutritional research it is still one of the few things that has shown a real  and repeatable protective effect. 

I aim to consume 'greens' (kale, spinach, silver beet) as often as possible - including in green smoothies, even though I can't say I love them. Apart from that, my rule is to eat a rainbow every day. The colours in veges are there by virtue of beneficial compounds such as carotenoids that protect against aging related macular degeneration (failing eyesight) and antioxidant polyphenols.

I aim for about ten cups of veges a day, but don't go into a diet panic if I don't make it. I don't restrict root vegetables like sweet potato. I'm not low-carbing.

There is one class of veges that I do not eat - nightshades. The reason is that I stopped eating them as an experiment in reversing osteoarthritis. To my surprise it worked, and I've stuck with the nightshade-free diet. Nightshades are: potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, capsicums and all other peppers (including spices like paprika). 

Minimal Processed Foods

I am not a fan of food that has been scientifically engineered to make us want more of it - basically every mass produced food in a packet.  When it comes to regulating my appetite, avoiding 'industrial' foods is key. Basically I am lazy. I can eat candy bars, cupcakes and McDonalds, but when I do, food becomes more of a big deal. That is, I think about it more and have to think about it more or I find myself accidentally overeating.

Eating unprocessed foods provides an easy and natural appetite regulation and I don't have to waste my brain energy calculating calories or exercise so much willpower with portion control. Plus, fresh food tastes better.


I try to include a protein source at every meal. This could be a complete protein source, like meat, fish, eggs or whey protein, or something a bit less robust like nuts. The most common proteins in my life are: grass-fed, animal-welfare lamb and beef, free-range chicken, free-range eggs and fish. I would get wild-salmon if I could but it is crazy hard to get around here. You have to 'know someone' (and I do, helloooo, you know who you are.. isn't it fishing season?)

That having been said, I do not stress out or imagine my muscles are catabolising if I miss a protein. For example, grabbing an apple in the afternoon is a fine snack.  I think the bodybuilding industry has everyone paranoid over eating protein every three hours. It's just not necessary, unless you are Mr Universe, probably.


I tend to agree with the Paleo people that vegetables (for example, kumara, carrots, pumpkin) are a better source of carbs than grains and pulses. Even though I understand that veges have more vitamins and less anti-nutrients, the real reason I agree is simply because I have more energy eating this way. Grains, particularly gluten grains, make me sluggish and gain weight if I overdo it.

However, life gets busy and sometimes the vege bin is empty! Grains/beans/pulses are not 'bad' foods and they are easy to store. Convenience often wins out. The non-vege carbs that I eat are: rice, chickpeas, kidney beans, buckwheat and rye. I eat grains about four times a week and will never give up baking. There is a reason why humans discovered fire. And that reason is: cakes.

I avoid gluten most of the time. I am not allergic to it, but I get very tired if I eat it regularly.

Fermented Foods

I blame the Whole Health Source and Seth Roberts for my growing fascination with fermented foods. Ferments are teeming with good bacteria that apparently help gut health (and I'm 100% convinced that gut health is a very big deal for total body health and function). This is one food group I want to feature more prominently in my life, but as yet, have not really ventured past yogurt, sourdough, sauerkraut and miso (what else is there?)

Foods I Eat 'Randomly'

Nuts and dairy are foods that supplement my diet regularly. Nearly every day but in small amounts. I like to soak nuts. This inactivates the native enzyme inhibitors and makes them more nutritious. As for dairy, I eat yogurt (cows and goats milk) and sheeps milk cheese.  Last year I discovered through my studies that sheeps milk is higher in protein, fat and most micronutrients than either goats or cows milk. My most regular dairy consumption is in the form of whey protein concentrate. I use this nearly daily in smoothies.

I eat one brazil nut every day. This meets my daily selenium requirements, and as NZ soil is deficient, it's something we need to pay attention to. Brazil nut trees are a 'selenium concentrator'. They are very clever that way.


Maca, cacao and sea 'vegetables' (sounds nicer than 'seaweed') are foods I eat as concentrated sources of nutrients. Since watching Terry Wahl's video Minding Your Mitochondria (well worth a watch, by the way), I've been reminded also of the superfood status of organ meats. I'm not really a connoisseur, so it's fortunate that one serve every week or two is enough.


Butter, olive oil, avocado, fish oil caps and the fat in nuts. I use these moderately but regularly. I do not use nut and seed oils like soy, canola and sunflower. This is because they are high in Omega 6 and my body just works better with a higher Omega 3:6 ratio. 


I bought a reverse osmosis water filter after last year's earthquakes messed with our water supply. It runs all day, filtering water for drinking and cooking. I aim to drink 1.5L a day (two refilled San Pellegrino bottles).


My biggest addiction! I am down to 2-3 espresso a day. My happy place is about four a week. More than this and I get the afternoon crashes coupled with nighttime insomnia - such an awesome combination.


My new rule is two glasses a week. 


Generally I eat four times a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner and a mid-afternoon post-workout snack. I'm not strict on this: if I'm feeling super hungry I have another snack and if I'm not really hungry I just don't eat right then. It's taken me a while to get to this 'knowing when I'm hungry or not', but it's a good relaxed place to be.

I am working on eating more slowly. I find this hard because I'm usually eating something between tasks. I've heard it's good for you to slow down, but I'm not sure if lingering over food is really my personality style. 

Exceptions and Treats

I have no hard and fast rules here, because I find that my mind interprets this as being 'off the diet'.  For example, setting up treat meals, or a treat day, always turned into pointless overeating just because I was 'allowed to'. My rule is to indulge a little bit if I really want to at any time.

Of course there are Foodie Fridays, but I have an unwritten understanding with myself that this is not a license to lose it.

Calories and Tracking

This is something I do now and then. For example, in my regular life, where I have control and know what's in my meals, I don't need to count anything, and I don't write down what I eat. I used to keep a food record every day, for years. However, sometime last year I started practicing mindfulness while eating and found the journal to be a hindrance. If I wrote down what I was about to eat, then I would generally eat all of it, mindlessly, just because it was already recorded. I found myself eating portions that were easy to record, rather than paying attention to what I wanted and how full I was.

However, if I feel a need to 'get a grip', say, I've had an off week, or have been travelling, I might go back to recording for a week or so until I feel back in the groove. When I am travelling I DO record my eating. It gives me a calming sense of control and stops me munching all day long. It may be a little inconvenient but it's nowhere near as stressful as coming home 5kg heavier (!).

I've tracked enough to know that if I'm eating mostly healthy stuff and a L.O.V.E, my daily calories will naturally fall between 1200 and 1800 without me having to restrict anything or give it much thought. 


I suppose I'm a little bit Paleo (nice article from Stephan Guyenet on the link), with a greater focus on veges - rather than the meat and fat approach of some paleo interpretations, moderate intake of dairy and grains and a controlled, guilt-free fondness for modern day treats. I am very interested in what seems to be called the Ancestral Health Movement. This looks at traditional, 'ancient' whole foods and preparation techniques, for example, the fermentation techniques that are popular in tribal societies and which make grains, beans and pulses more nutritious. Ancestral Health also embraces a return to home cooking and slow cooking using fresh ingredients and avoiding modern 'industrial' foods. It seems very 'me'.

I'd like to finish with the most important thing.

The Most Important Thing

I eat this way because it gives me a balance of two things I want:
a healthy body and  

If the fun factor was missing, then L.O.V.E wouldn't work for long.
If the fun factor was taking over, I probably wouldn't be healthy.
It's the balance that makes it work.

Fellow bloggers: Have you ever written a 'what I eat' post? 
If so, link me up in the comments. I promise to hop over and read it.


  1. LOVE this post!

    it's funny how we've both evolved our eating approaches and ended up in a similar place. Apart from nightshade avoidance (and I may yet give that a go...a little arthritis is rearing its ugly head in fingers and toes these days), I could tick the boxes on pretty much everything you've said.

    If I could just persuade my family to lean a little more to my way of eating, life would be so much easier... Oh well, the kids will leave eventually. :)

    I've been mulling over a "what I eat" post, but haven't actually done it yet. Might have to pull my finger out and get that done.

    1. It did take a lot longer than I thought to articulate what I do because it's not really based on any rules that I follow all the time! It's very flexible, but this is what I try to do most of the time. Some days I eat mainly nut butter and bananas. :D

  2. My way is also similar to yours, but I do think I've fallen into the 'eat meat' frame of mind to the detriment of fruit and veg. I will rectify. That Terry Wahls video is AMAZING. How can this not be well known information in the MS community?

  3. EXCELLENT post, so glad you follow a super healthy diet that we all should follow!
    Fad diets and their advocates drive me nuts.

    1. I don't know if it's 'super healthy' but it's good enough. I could do 'better' but then I'm not happy and can't stick with it. It really is a compromise. Also, it's a compromise with how I look. I'm happy with myself at 58kg, but I know I preferred being 52kg, however I'm not sure that I'm willing to do what it takes to stay that light! So, I just stay where I am and it's pretty good. :D

  4. Love this post and have linked in (i think!)

    1. I think you have to click the 'create a link' if you want your link in to show up in the bottom of my post. Might be worth giving it a try, then people can easily find your post too.

      One day I will figure this out... I like your post about the burger. That happened to me last time I had a snickers bar. I was like.... 'did I really used to love these sooo much?'

  5. Great post Sara, excellent overview.



I love to hear from you! Tell me what's in your brain, your heart or your dinner plate :D.