One of the things that herbalists work on with clients is diet, because it is so vital to well-being. It is also one of the hardest things to shift. The food we eat is bound with tradition, family, culture, geography, taste, schedule, convenience, lifestyle…
Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food Lab found in a recent study on food and psychology that we make around 200 different food decisions a day. That is a lot of chances to choose! Not just what we eat, but what we put on it, how much of it we eat, when, and how.
When I was treating Lyme Disease, I found that changing how I ate was really, really hard. First of all, I thought I ate really well. Once I cleaned out my kitchen and only bought whole foods, I faced a steep learning curve in the kitchen and it took a lot of time. I fully embraced cooking every day, for a time. It was way more than a hobby. I became totally rigid in my eating habits, which socially can be a nightmare. After six years of constantly choosing and feeling it out, I’ve found a happy middle road that supports my health but makes me feel like I can celebrate life too; loving food is a big part of my life.
Changing food habits requires support and dedication. My sisters, friends, and clients have all asked for help with dietary change and I made a short packet of easy to assimilate information to start them off. I’ve copied it below.
I hope this site can provide some support on your journey. Using your own filter and feeling out what is best for you is so empowering. To your health!!
Sample Diet Change Plan
1: Clean out your kitchen. You won’t eat it if it isn’t there. Get a big garbage bag or a bin and remove all processed or packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients or any ingredients that you don’t know what they are. Read all the labels. It is also a good idea to remove processed foods with any white sugar in it. It just doesn’t support you well. (I make an exception for chocolate – as long as it is 70% or more cacao.) Remove all rancid oils. The only oils for cooking are EVOO (with onion if cooked longer than 2 minutes, or it goes rancid too), Coconut, or Ghee. This is fun! Pitching it and clearing out will feel amazing. Everyone in the whole house benefits.
2: Go shopping. Get meat, colorful veggies, leafy greens, some sulfur veggies like brassicas and onions, beans, and raw, unroasted, unsalted nuts. Some apples and colorful dark berries, lemons. EVOO, pasture butter (Organic Valley in the green label or Irish butter), and refrigerated oils for salad dressings – like hemp or flax if you want. Plain whole milk yogurt, Greek or European. Stick to that simple list. If it is in a package, just leave it for now. It will make shopping way easier and less traumatic – reading labels is a chore. Keeping it easy at the store is just nicer.
3: Make some stuff. Prepare a few key things that you enjoy, taste good, make you feel abundant and nourished, and will be easy to grab when you need it. You want to have things that are AS EASY as grabbing a slice of bread from a package. I like to have on hand AT ALL TIMES: a dressing, a dip, a treat, and some partially prepped veggies / meals.
My favorite is a reduced apple cider with EVOO, shallots diced very fine, thyme, salt, and ACV or lemon. Recipe at http://ecologicalherbalist.com/thyme-evoo-cider-dressing/
- 6 T olive oil
- 2 T apple cider vinegar OR lemon
- 1 T prepared mustard
- 1 T honey, mixed with 1 T hot water if solid
- 1 clove peeled and pressed garlic (can leave out if dragon breath is an issue)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Baba ganouj, Hummus, bean-based dips are great for nutritional value. If Dairy is in: Yogurt-based herby dips are great too.
BLACK BEAN DIP
- 2 cups cooked black beans, drained well
- (you can use chickpeas, cooked red lentils, or even steamed parsnips here)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water (may omit if you like it thicker)
3 cloves garlic, chopped (or a little scoop from your fridge container, see below)
1 Tbsp sesame seeds or tahini
1/4 tsp each of ground cumin, smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, marjoram & basil
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro or parsley; 2 tsp toasted sesame oil; 1/4 tsp ground coriander; 1/4 tsp dried parsley
garnish: drizzle of olive oil, sprig of parsley, and/or chopped green onion or chives
Place all ingredients except garnish in a food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape into a serving bowl and garnish. Dip colorful veggies ad libitum!
So important – something satisfying. These are great for ‘getting over the sugar hump’. Later you can add herbal powders to make ‘zoom balls’ and other treats with the same nutty base. They are like truffles!
CAROB NUT BALLS
- 3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raw honey (MUST say raw)
1 tsp vanilla (high quality)
1 cup simple, one-ingredient puffed cereal (If you have the option, choose a tiny puffed grain like quinoa or millet.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (Use any seeds or chopped nuts you like, lightly toasted pecan pieces are sweetest.)
Finely chopped nuts/seeds or almond flour
cocoa or carob powder combined with a dash of cinnamon
Thoroughly combine the almond butter, carob powder, cinnamon, honey and vanilla. The dough will be quite stiff. Knead in the nuts and cereal. With wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Make sure the surface is glisteningly damp. Choose which coating you’d like to use and roll balls in. It is easy to coat by shaking the balls in a ziploc bag with the coconut. Refrigerate til firm, or freeze in an air-tight container to store for a week or more.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- 2 large avocados
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ½ cup sweetener (dates, honey, maple syrup)
- 1/3 cup coconut milk or almond milk (made with soaked almonds and warm water in the blender and strained, not store bought)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 pinch cinnamon
Blend avocadoes, cocoa powder, brown sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate pudding until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Pre-prepped Breakfast and Lunch
This is the ‘continuous kitchen’ idea you can find on my site (http://ecologicalherbalist.com/continuous-kitchen/ and http://ecologicalherbalist.com/recipe-requirements/) – it is so important to success. You want to have things on hand that make meal prep easy and not stressful because you know you are making nourishing choices.
Another key to portion control throughout the day is knowing you need a high protein breakfast. This will help you curb carb/sugar cravings, equalize mood, and help you exercise and think better. You want ~30 g in the morning meal.
Here are some examples good protein foods:
- 1 egg = 6 g
- ½ c beans = 8 g
- 2 Tbsp or 1 ounce nuts = 6-7 g
- 1 Tbsp nut butter = 8 g
- 5 oz tuna = 20 g
- 1 cup yogurt = 14 g
- 1 cup Greek yogurt = 18-20g
- 3 oz beef = 31 g
- 5 oz pork loin =33 g
- 1 oz cheese = 9 g
- 3 oz salmon = 22 g
- 1 c kidney or white beans = 29 g
- 1 c soybeans = 29 g
- 3.5 oz chicken = 30 g
So, 2-3 egg omelet with chives or spinach (better, has some carbs) and a sausage and you are rocking it out. Or lentils and a poached egg. Or turkey bacon and some cottage cheese or yogurt with blueberries. The idea here is, think a lot harder about a well-rounded breakfast than dinner. Because we are working out a ton, some carbs are critical so having a big pot of cooked rice around is awesome. Dinner can be soup – easy. Make breakfast really count for everybody.
Other ideas for pre-prepping:
- Pre-mince garlic covered in EVOO in an airtight glass container in the fridge
- Pre-wash and chop greens make easy salads, soups, or braised greens
- Pre-measure packets of seasonings
- Make stock – from vegetables or bones; just always have one going (flavor!)
- Roast – roasting rocks out even cold lunches with caramelized flavor
- Mandoline or julienne or shred or grate carrots, fennel, cabbage, even apples, and squeeze lemon over the pile, put in a glass airtight container and grab a handful to put on your salad greens for an elevated salad
- Keep everything in easy to store glasslock containers that go fridge to table and back to fridge
EASY and SATISFYING SOUP
- 2 cups water or broth you made ahead
- 2 cups leafy greens, washed and torn (about 2 handfuls of chard, kale, etc.)
- handful of baby carrots
- 1/2 apple, chopped
- small handful of red or french lentils (about ¼ cup – but get to use your hands so it goes faster + easier)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled (or a little scoop from your fridge container, see above)
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp each turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander
- garnish options: tahini, cilantro, parsley, hemp seeds, flax oil
In a small pot pour in the water and add the greens, carrots, apple, lentils, garlic, ginger and spices. Cover and let cook half an hour to 45 minutes. When you’re ready to have the soup, puree and pour into a bowl and garnish. Enjoy!
Drizzle some tahini into the soup just before pureeing, then stir in 1 Tbsp each chopped cilantro and parsley, a drizzle of flax oil and a smattering of hemp seeds. The secret is the bit of apple to give some sweetness, and the tahini really makes it creamier.
You can fill out the menu planner if it helps you shop and use what you have – I start by filling out the side with stuff I need to use, then create meals from there, then make the shopping list of what I need to make that food.