Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nutrition changes (Southern Spoon goes a little paleo)

Some big dietary changes going on in the Southern Spoon household the past couple of weeks that I wanted to share. Pour a cuppa tea, this post is a little longer than usual.

rocket salad with roasted eggplant, dukkah-crusted pumpkin,
grass-fed beef steak, and garlic, olive oil, tahini vinaigrette
If you read this blog, you know that I cook whole foods and work around a number of food intolerances: preservatives, artificial colors / flavors, peanuts (and lentils), and foods with high levels of the natural food chemical salycilates (tomatoes, for example, are out for the hubs, as is wine). Since moving from England to Australia in 2011 we have adopted what we presumed was a more healthy diet: making many more meals meatless, eating a wider variety of vegetables (produce is so much better here!), and being more active in the balmy weather.

However, despite those dietary changes, a massive reduction in stress levels, getting more sleep, and losing a little weight over the last two-and-a-half years, recent medical tests have revealed extremely high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. In an effort to ensure we're treating our bodies as best as possible, a doctor referred us to a nutritionist.

This nutritionist has planned a dietary approach with the goal of reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is believed by a number of medical and nutrition professionals to be a major cause of poor health (including heart disease), and it's not hard to trust that reducing inflammation through dietary and lifestyle changes is a good idea.

cauliflower crust pizza with chicken & veggies: delicious
On this nutritionist's plan, breakfast is the carb-iest meal of our day: carbs with a protein and a fat, preferably working in barley and soy milk (to up soluble fiber and help clean up bad cholesterol). Lunch and dinner should have a protein, a fat, and what the nutritionist calls *free foods*, basically low-carb vegetables (so excluding potatoes, grains, legumes). This diet is meant to keep insulin and blood sugar levels more level during the day, and thus help reduce inflammation.

This means our lunches and dinners are very similar to a paleo-style eating plan, emphasizing plenty of protein (mostly animal-based protein, since higher-protein plants like legumes and grains are to be avoided), vegetables and some fruit, and sources of fat from things like avocados, olive oil, even butter. The nutritionist didn't cut out dairy, and even recommended some cheese, yogurt, etc, so we're still eating some dairy.

salad with roasted tomatoes, eggplant,
dukkah-crusted pumpkin, & chorizo
We've been eating this way for two weeks. We both feel more energetic - physically and mentally - and I find that my blood sugar swings are hardly non-existent, whereas I used to rush home after work starving for dinner, even after having a big, veggie and grain-based lunch, and a granola bar snack. I feel full more quickly when eating increased levels of protein and fat (lots of eggs, yum!), but without feeling bloated. We're also trying to get out and move a little more: walking to the beach, running a few laps, doing more strength training.

It's been an adjustment to think of our typical dinner dishes without grains, legumes, or potatoes, but so far we've made it work, and everything tastes just as (if not more) delicious. I'll be interested to see what the medical tests reveal about cholesterol and blood pressure levels in three months after the next check-up, but mostly I'm interested in simply continuing to feel a little bit better, in mind and body.

From now on I'll be sharing some of the dishes we're enjoying on this eating plan: they'll be low-carb, usually grain- and legume-free, with an emphasis on quality protein and fat, and a variety of vegetables. The photos in this post are some of the meals we've enjoyed so far, recipes to come.

Hope you like these dishes too, and, of course, always communicate with a medical or nutrition professional before making big changes in your own diet. Happy Spring, all.

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