Changing to a whole foods diet

changing my plate.jpg

It is now two years since I made significant changes to my diet. I just want to preface this post with how I use the word diet. I use diet as defined in the Oxford dictionary:

noun

1 The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

I think we are accustomed to equate diet with restriction and with the choices some people make with their diet, it can be. I would also like to state that this post in no way offers advice, guidance or tips on how you should be eating or any nutritional matters, it is simply my experience.

The main reason for me writing this post is because I receive so many queries about my eating and running, that by having it written up here, I can answer the questions and have it as a reference point.

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When I first made changes I moved to traditional Paleo guidelines. I eliminated dairy, grains, refined sugars and processed foods. I made the change as I needed to start eating more whole foods and less processed foods, I didn’t have any known allergies.

For me sometimes when I need to a make a change, I need to make it big to stick and in a way that works with my personality. Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times best selling author and also writes a blog called The Happiness Project. A number of years ago I read a post on her blog that enabled me to understand my own personality/behaviour to a greater degree. Understanding your own personality and behaviours is key to making sustained change.

Rubin studies human personalities in a number of different areas and contests that we are either moderators or abstainers. These are Rubin’s definitions:

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits {source}

After reading this I knew instantly I was an abstainer. When I finally stopped smoking for example, while I never felt like having a cigarette, I made a commitment to myself that I would never ever touch on again and I never have and have never felt like it. When I was pregnant, I had no issues giving up certain foods or alcohol, it was just part of being pregnant.

In hindsight looking back at how I changed my approach to my diet, I unconsciously chose an abstaining model. I set up rules and I stick to them. I have had no trouble doing this and I do not feel at all that I am missing out nor do I crave any of the old foods I ate. This is just now how I eat.

Changes in my diet

What I have done however is modified my rules to suit my body and my lifestyle. I took on much of the feedback from Katie180 when she analysed my day on a plate last year and have made additional changes to suit my lifestyle and needs:

More carbs

Matcha green tea smoothie
In Katie’s feedback she wrote:

WHERE are your carbohydrates Nicole? There’s 2 cups of rice, some sweet potato and a bit of carrot.

I wasn’t necessarily aiming to be low carb, but my food choices did make my diet quite low carb. While this potentially could work for someone with a relatively sedentary lifestyle, I found it did cause me issues with the intensity and volume of exercise I undertake (marathon running and CrossFit).

It took me some time to work out how to increase my carb intake and through what sources. My main sources of carbs are fruit and veg particularly sweet potato and bananas. If you follow me on the PWK Facebook page and see my weekly food preparation photos, you might have noticed that shredded sweet potato makes a weekly appearance. Even if it isn’t in the photos I make it every single week. Most days I would have at least one large sweet potato and quite often two.

In the peak of my marathon training I also include white rice in my diet. I adore sweet potato, but even someone like me who is very happy to eat the same foods on a daily basis needs to mix it up!

Love the good fats

I consume lots of the good fats. I eat an avocado almost daily, cook with plenty of coconut oil and butter and enjoy nuts in moderation. My approach to eating nuts has changed since last year. You often find many people who transition to a Paleoish type diet hit heavily on nuts as an easy snack. As Katie pointed out in her analysis of my day on a plate last year I was definitely consuming too many nuts:

You’re eating at least two cups of nuts here, which is a lot of nuts (and nut fat, although it IS good fat!)

I used to make this amazing nut cereal but haven’t made it for over 9 months now as my abstainer personality truly came to the fore with this delicious dish. I simply couldn’t moderate my consumption of it. I would have some for breakfast – quite a large serving and that was okay. What wasn’t okay was every time I felt even a little bit hungry I would find myself at the pantry eating it by the spoonful from the canister. I worked out I was better off not making it and I was also better off only having minimal nuts stored in the house.

Now I consume nuts only as an addition to meals not has a snack, for example:

Sweet treats

When I first transitioned to whole foods, I also baked lots of sweet treats with natural sweeteners, nut flours and the like. I would make cakes, muffins and biscuits for snacks. What I found however was that these snacks weren’t that filling and in reality I knew I could be having far more nutritious and satisfying snacks without all this baking.

I still bake cakes etc on special occasions, but other than that the only sweet treats I make regularly are my Larabar inspired recipes. They are perfect for an abstainer like me. I make them up and freeze them in batches, so I don’t over consume them. I will have some pieces of this if I feel like I need a little sweet hit or grab one quickly if I have to head out unexpectedly and need something to tide me over.

Breaking my rules

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While my abstainer nature makes it easy for me to stick to the rules I have created, I am now more comfortable breaking my rules as I see fit. I do however tend to make this decision in advance, so it is a conscious decision, not just a knee jerk reaction.  The interesting thing is that I really don’t feel like doing it very often, but do it more so I can enjoy the company and socialise with others.

When eating out with friends and family, I try not to be that difficult person asking a thousand questions about what is in every dish. I stick to gluten free and dairy free because I find these are the things that are likely to cause me upset and then choose from the options available that suit my personal preferences.

At home I still bake a lot for the family which contains gluten, sugar and dairy. I am never tempted to eat this food, but am very happy to prepare it for the family. While the family still eats everything, there has been a natural decrease in the processed foods they consume which makes me happy and it is a continual work in progress. You can read more about it in these posts:

I will still have the occasional drink of alcohol, but in general my abstinence from alcohol is due to spending so many early mornings running more than anything else!

My day on a plate

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So what does my day on a plate look like now compared to this time last year? You can check back to my post from this time last year to see how it compares here – Changing my plate – my journey. There are a few key changes to note:

  • I would be eating a greater volume of food – I don’t count calories, so couldn’t tell you in terms of that measurement. But in terms of volume of food for a similar time in my running training, where I would have been having one sweet potato a day, I would now have two. Where I was having one banana in my smoothie I now have two. When I first started increasing my food intake I put on a couple of kilograms but my body fat percentage stayed the same. Most importantly though, I feel better in my running, I recover better and feel that I am fuelling better for both pre and post exercise.
  • I am eating three main meals and no snacks – this is the norm for me now, but there are odd days where I will snack. I do love a good big meal and love feeling comfortably full after a meal. Not snacking also works for me in terms of meal preparation; I don’t have to think about snacks and it something less I need to prepare. I wasn’t great at moderating my snacking either, so this is taken out of the equation too.
  • I listen to my body more – with the above said as to how my day generally looks, if I am hungry I eat. Some long runs (or heavy strength sessions) take it out of me more than others. I make sure for the next couple of days after, I listen to what my body is saying and focus on nurturing foods for my body.

At the time of writing this post, I was in the peak of marathon training, so my day on a plate reflects that.

Exercise – strength training 30 minutes and then 70 minutes running (easy pace)

Supplements – fish oil, magnesium

Drinks – homemade ginger kombucha, green tea

Breakfast –  Matcha green tea smoothie

Drinks – Pukka three ginger tea, peppermint tea, through out the morning

Lunch – 1 large sweet potato, 1 avocado, 3 eggs, dukkah and kimchi – this recipe, but just a lot more food.

Dinner – Roast beef and roast veggies – potatoes, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, tomatoes and onion

Drinks – Pukka peppermint and liquorice tea (Best tea ever! You can read my reviews on some teas here – 7 delicious teas to taste.)

Water – would drink about 2 litres across the day. Sometimes more on days with long runs.

I do eat lots of the same meals and I oscillate from thinking I should add more variety, but then I think I am actually really happy to have the same thing for lunch most days! I will just switch up the protein (for example left over taco meat for eggs at lunch) or change the main carb (switch rice for sweet potatoes).

I have three favourite smoothies that I choose from to start my day with, but again I am really happy having a smoothie each day for breakfast. Dinner is the one meal that changes the most as there are many preferences to take into account and hypocritically I want the kids to have a varied diet and try new things!

I am sure there is more I can do to improve my diet. It is a work in progress like all things with me and I will continue to make changes as I learn more and work out what works best for me.

What about you? Has the way you eat changed over the last 12 months?

PS. This was a long post! Thanks for reading all the way to the end :)

Comments

  1. says

    Fantastic post Nicole. You’ve made some great changes to your diet over the past couple of years Tell me, how has your husband gone with all of the changes? Was it easy to get him on board or more challenging? I’ve just got my certificate of nutrition and am completely on board with healthy eating at home. I also went down the paleo path and felt great, I then found out that I am fructose and lactose intolerant so a lot of the foods I typically cook are riddled with onion and garlic. :) The family are now on a low sugar lifestyle but include wholegrains in our diet. I think we are all better for it too. :)

  2. Angie says

    I really like this post and I find these sorts of discussions inspiring for changes I want to make for myself. I like the ideas and recipes as well. You are really good at finding a happy medium between extreme food ‘that’s way too hardness’ and healthier food – ‘I could do that-ness’ if you know what I mean!

    Also, I think you ‘vacillate’ – waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive
    rather than ‘oscillate’ – move or swing back and forth in a regular rhythm.

  3. says

    Thanks for the update Nicole, it is so interesting how you’ve changed your diet and personalised it over time. I am still super-impressed that you have kicked the diet Coke and now have more herbal teas! Do you drink black tea or coffee?

    In the last year, I had to be super-strict while breastfeeding to accommodate bub’s food intolerances and now that he has weaned, I’m adding back a wider range of foods. I’m trying to add back veggies and a wider range of protein snacks rather than processed foods.

    I’m an abstainer by nature too. Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits was an engaging read!

    • says

      Loved Better Than Before and intend to do a review on the blog at some point this year. Go abstainers!

      Before I kicked the diet coke habit, I did start drinking green tea. I have never drunk coffee – I just don’t like the taste. Now I would have one green tea a day and probably 3 or 4 herbal non caffeine teas.

  4. Nicki says

    Hi Nicole, I love these posts! My diet has changed a fair bit in the last year also. At the moment I am doing the green smoothie 30-day challenge. It has been really fun but I don’t think I will keep up with having a smoothie everyday. I have cut down on dairy a lot and am now making more plant-based meals. I have increased my water consumption a huge amount and cut down tea to one per day, as advised by Katie. I am also a fan of the Pukka mint and licquorice tea :-) Still haven’t cut out the wine though, I am definitely a ‘moderator’. By the way we love your Larabars!

    • says

      How good is the Pukka Peppermint and Liquorice tea?? Adore it. I have thought about doing a smoothie challenge, I pretty much have a smoothie everyday, but am such a creature of habit I am not sure I could try something new each day! How did it go for you after the 30 days? Any noticeable changes etc?

      • Nicki says

        Actually my skin looks a lot better, of course I don’t know if it is a coincidence! I have kept up with having a smoothie most days since the challenge ended, I decided I really like one either as pre or post workout drink. You should give it a look Nicole, there is no requirement to try all the recipes though they do recommend switching up your greens on a weekly basis to avoid “alkaloid build-up”. The next Simple Green Smoothie challenge starts in June I think, if you fancy it!

  5. Emma D says

    It’s encouraging to see your experiments, what’s working for you, & how it’s influencing your family’s eating.
    I’ve tested a few things, settling on FODMAP a while ago & now trying some WAP principles (one is choosing cod liver oil over fish oil for increased benefit). I’m seeing how that goes.
    Over Easter I tried some Coke w Stevia a few times, & I was surprised how my chin cleared, w no other changes made, and despite cheap Easter Eggs ;). So I’ve been googling around the issue and I am going to give the ‘low stomach acid’ theory a try. Interestingly it’s more prevalent in Blood Type A’s, it confirms why Lemon water makes me feel so good, it gives fermented food & drink a go while ‘they’re hot right now’, and potentially explains why I’m low in minerals most blood tests. Cld be a false lead, but I think it makes some sense. And it’s a temporary thing – u can increase it. Stress, processed foods, etc reduces it. My fave health authors Sarah Wilson & Dr Libby have written about it, the latter suggesting liver detox to complement.

    • says

      Love fermented foods, I have made one batch of Kimchi and intend to get a process so I make it regularly (so expensive to buy!)

      I also make my own Kombucha which not only I love but three of the kids do too!

  6. Jenni Luis says

    Nicole,

    We eat too many boxed things..terrible.

    NO need anything that came out of a box.

    How difficult is it to cook healthy at home or bring almonds, cherry tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, a piece of fruit, boiled egg, ..? Super easy and..way CHEAPER & HEALTHIER than boxed & processed stuff! Don’t you think so?

    For the people that are really struggling to get started planning out all the details (shopping, eating what and when) then I like to point you to my (personal) favorite step-by-step Paleo plan from Tim’s blog at http://timreviews.com/paleo-recipe (I hope he doesn’t mind)

    Remember, food is like medicine.

    You don’t want to feed your body with food that came form machines and that contains masses of sugar and chemicals.

    Jenni

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