Part two of our interview with Wholefood for Families’ Nutritionist, Emma Dean shares her recommended eating principles and her tips for making long-lasting changes.
Do you recommend any eating principles to follow?
Our individual biochemistry, how those systems mentioned earlier are functioning, differs between each of us and can shift throughout our own lives. This is why a ‘one-size fits all’ approach when it comes to eating principles doesn’t work.
As a foundation, I think most people can benefit from predominantly plant-based eating, which means animal protein is still included but limited to once or twice a week. Limiting our intake of refined carbohydrate foods, inflammatory foods and intermittent fasting can see great results. From there, food intake can be tweaked based on an individual’s nutrient requirements, health status and preferences.
Research consistently shows that a ‘Mediterranean’ style of eating has long term health benefits, not only for our bodies, but our gut microbiome and mood. Ketogenic principles and intermittent fasting are also gaining recognition as being beneficial in supporting health.
Problems following any one ‘eating principle’ seem to arise when they are taken to the extreme. For example, when whole food groups are removed without working closely with a GP, Nutritionist or Dietician, and when people are influenced by marketing instead of research or their own personal experiences. Incorporating any new eating principle shouldn’t be difficult or obsessive. Instead it should be introduced in a flexible and slow manner, ensuring daily nutrient requirements are still met.
Is there anything else we should consider when following a healthy eating principle?
It is important to know where your food comes from and how it was grown. Not just for our own health, but for sustainability.
Ideally we are supporting local producers, growing food ourselves and using organic methods as much as possible. The further away we are from the food source, the less control we have over the quality and transport/storage methods which can impact nutrient levels.
This question also brings awareness to the growing concern around eating animal or fish protein that is farmed in ways not natural to that animal, and the added hormones, chemicals and antibiotics added during the farming or manufacturing process, that are not beneficial for us to be consuming.
How do we maintain healthy eating?
This is about finding what I call your ‘middle ground’ – a foundation of eating that is right for you. It’s easy, enjoyable, maintainable and flexible when you it to be.
To find this you need to be clear on your health goals and aware of your relationship with food. Seek support in creating change in these areas if needed, don’t let them hold you back. Evidence shows we're more likely to succeed in changing our eating habits when we're supported by a healthcare practitioner, not to mention moral support from friends and family.
Quick fun fact - what does your ‘healthy meal’ look like?
I love green. I literally NEED to see green on my plate. My average plate of food is something like ½ non-starchy vegetables, think leafy-greens and bright colours (eat the rainbow!), ¼ plate or small serving of quality protein (plant or animal), roughly ¼ plate of complex carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, quinoa, buckwheat or rice) and then a drizzle of some healthy fats and flavour/texture factors (either olive oil, avocado, crumble of goat’s cheese, nuts and seeds or herbs). Most importantly the plate is smaller, beautiful and ‘mine’, I try to create rituals around eating….in between wrangling two small children!
Emma is a qualified Nutritionist passionate about reducing the complexity around food, health and wellbeing. Her approach is holistic, supporting physical, mental and emotional aspects of eating so that individuals and their family create change around their beliefs, dialogue and habits with food.
Emma has a private practice on the far north NSW Coast, where she works within the local community and NDIS space, as well as supporting clients online through her business, Su Luna.
Information provided is not a substitute for a professional medical opinion, nor is it a diagnosis. Please seek the advice of your GP if you have any concerns around your health and/or to consult with them first regarding any changes to your diet and lifestyle