Eating a whole food diet is simply to enjoy real food; that is, ingredients in their most natural state. Whole grains, full fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables – honest food, without hidden salts, sugar and additives. I find that eating unprocessed foods helps to avoid getting sucked into the quick-fix promises of fad diets, detoxes and cleanses.
I am hesitant to outline exactly what I consider are whole foods, as the world of health and nutrition is constantly changing and evolving. However, I believe that eating a whole food diet encourages you to have a relationship with the food you’re eating – it forces you to be in tune with the seasons. Growing up on a sheep and cattle property in rural Australia, my brothers and I have always enjoyed being in the kitchen. With no option to go to a store to buy food, cooking was the only way to enjoy delicious, tasty food. It only occurred to me until much later in life that we ate from the garden and the food we ate was based on what we harvested.
The notion of cooking for yourself and family is a positive act.
For me and for many people, it is the ultimate display of kindness and love. We have all heard about mindful eating but I am a believer in what British food personality Nigella Lawson describes as mindful cooking. Most days I find myself in a frantic state, stressing about something or running from one thing to another, so by the end of the day, my time in the kitchen is where I decompress and calm my mind. The simple act of chopping onions or picking through herbs – focusing on these seemingly mundane tasks casts a sort of spell, a trance if you’d like – and forces me to live in the moment.
We live in a society that is very focused on how we can improve ourselves, from our minds to our bodies and I think some eating philosophies prey on this self improvement through a focus on our individual insecurities. I want to be clear – food is there to be enjoyed, first and foremost. Food can make you strong and healthy but you first must accept yourself for who you are. Focus on your strengths, not your weakness and, most importantly, nourish our bodies for what they are, don’t punish them for what they’re not. Eating a certain way shouldn’t consume our every waking though, either. There was a time in my life when I was extremely focused on avoiding certain food groups and ‘clean’ eating and it consumed too much of my life. It didn’t make me happy. Sure, I believe we need to be mindful about what we eat but nourishing our bodies shouldn’t be stressful.
Michael Pollan, an American journalist, author and activist, has a back-to-basics philosophy that makes sense to me. One of his most well-known quotes is to ‘Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants’. I wish I could say I was more diligent on the ‘not too much’ part but I do believe in eating a largely plant-based diet. He also says ‘Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,’ which of course is exactly the whole foods philosophy. It is easy to get caught up in buzz words like ‘super foods’ and ‘clean eating’ but at the end of the day, healthy whole-food eating is just common sense.
‘Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants’
Why whole foods?
I want to briefly explain how I got to this point in my life and the reason why I advocate a whole foods diet. I have always been a health conscious person, exercising regularly and eating what would be considered a ‘healthy’ diet. It was only until I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that I really started to question my lifestyle choices. I was devastated and despite everyone telling me how ‘normal’ it is, I couldn’t shake it. I read everything I could get my hands on and, to be honest, nothing was particularly helpful. I was then diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) and it was only then that I knew I had to take action in to my own hands. I stopped taking the contraceptive pill, started ordering full fat milk lattes (no more soy milk), eliminated gluten from my diet and quit refined sugar. Sounds drastic, right? I’m not going to lie, I still miss my soy lattes bitterly and I’m not gluten free 100% of the time but I got to the point in my life where I needed a change. My body needed a change. The thought of not being able to have children would, quite simply, break my heart. Now, I enjoy Mother Nature’s source of sugar, fruit, in abundance. I’m not afraid of fat – I eat plenty of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and full fat dairy. I don’t buy any gluten free products, which are generally highly processed.
However, please let me stress that I don’t believe in setting up guidelines for others, I don’t preach everybody to follow this way of eating – it is important to find out what works for you. If a food makes you feel lousy, don’t consume it. Whether it’s wheat, kale, dairy or holy water – listen to your body. There is no one single lifestyle that will suit everyone. Rather than pigeonholing, I believe in an intuitive eating philosophy. If you can tolerate wheat, feel free to adapt and change my recipes. I simply want my recipes to inspire you to cook and eat in a way that works for you and your family.
Photography: Kai Leishman and Kyle Manning.