What I Eat – Simple, Plant-Based, Clean
I am not a health professional and the below is in no way a prescription. This post simply aims to answer the question that I am asked most often on the online forums, and in real life, which is “What do you eat/What can you eat?”
The simple answer is that: It has taken me years of trial and error, learning to listen to my body, to find that I feel and perform my best on an alkaline, plant based, gluten free wholefoods diet. What’s that in English you say?… It means that my blood work results, general wellbeing, comfort, emotional/mental and fitness performance have all shown to be optimised when I eat a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, activated nuts (I activate them myself at home as the ones you can buy are too expensive), seeds, healthy fats (avocado, coconut), legumes and gluten free wholegrains.
This way of eating reflects the common factors of the world’s healthiest long-living cultures (societies where most people live with great health and vitality until ages significantly greater than the average across the world’s developed nations). The most famous example being the Okinawans of Japan whom you can read more about in books such as ‘Healthy at 100’ by John Robbins and ‘The Okinawan Way’ by Makoto Suzuki. I also recommend the book ‘No Meat Athlete’ by Matt Frazier even if your fitness intentions only stretch so far as completing one short walk a day.
Prior to finding my sustainable fit with a plant-based diet, I experimented on myself, with everything from following the Australian government’s food pyramid and healthy eating guidelines (awful), to High Protein/Low Carb/Low Fat (before diagnosis with PKD), raw vegan, High Fat Low Carb, shake based weight loss plans, ‘cutting diets’, carb loading… you name it I’ve probably tried it. I undertook each method scientifically using weights and measures, skin fold and fitness tests, food and performance diaries and ensured near 100% adherence for at least 3 months at a time. Some of these methods were effective at triggering weight loss and meeting certain body image and/or composition and performance goals I had at the time but none have proven as easy, healthy, energising, balancing, practical and cost-effective long term as a dead set simple wholefoods plant based diet.
The best things about this nutrition methodology are that it is a ‘no-brainer’, low-stress, kidney friendly way of life and totally adaptable to both my training routines and to managing my IBS/food sensitivities and restrictions.
It involves eating little to no processed/packaged foods, no refined sugar (kick sugar and even broccoli will start to taste great) and no refined flours and instead just shopping for ‘ingredients’ ie. ‘real’ fresh food and then preparing this simply. Who has time to slave away in the kitchen for hours? Not me!
Regular readers will already know that I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gastritis, as well as PKD. To manage my symptoms for the best chance of being able to complete my twice daily triathlon training and generally live a happy, comfortable and sociable life, I have lists of foods that I religiously avoid. Some I avoid only before racing or certain types of training (because they will produce wind and mild discomfort) right through to ‘never’ foods that I can’t ever touch because they will keep me in the bathroom all day. Some of my trigger foods have been identified as a result of medical diagnosis whereas others I have placed self-imposed restrictions upon because they make me feel less than 100%. Going through the FODMAP elimination process (via Monash University – info here) helped me find many of the culprits but I felt that this method was incomplete without also trialing animal protein and individual grain elimination/re-introductions. I therefore extended this elimination experiment to create a more complete tolerance profile for myself. Afterall, you don’t need a Dietician’s supervision in order to identify that something gives you diarrhea every time you eat it!
The everyday staple foods that form the basis of my diet are:
|Pumpkin||Citrus||Buckwheat||Raw Cacao (in very small amounts as it contains caffeine which is suspected as being bad for PKD)||Pecans||Olive||Herbs especially peppermint, basil and coriander|
|Potato||Kiwi||Sorghum||Tofu||Walnuts||Coconut||Tumeric, Cinnamon (real, not Cassia), Nutmeg, Cardamon|
|Sweet Potato||Dates||Sesame/Tahini||Herbal (Caffeine free) Teas|
|Leafy Greens||Avocado||Coconut||Organic decaf coffee (max 1 per day)|
|Seaweeds||Flaxseeds||Real Maple Syrup|
*Note for people with PKD: I am in Stage 2 with good function and no issues with Potassium, Phosphorous or blood pressure as yet. The only medication I am on is 1 daily Pantoprazole to treat my Gastritis.
My IBS preventative ‘safest’ foods to eat prior to/during training or racing are:
- Steamed potato
- Iddly/Idli (steamed fermented rice/lentil ‘breads’)
- Gu Gels
- Almond and Date based homemade ‘energy’ bars (no refined sugars)
I religiously eat inside of the critical 30minute window after each work out when the body will most quickly absorb and utilise the nutrients towards recovery. Doing so markedly improves my energy levels and reduces muscle soreness the next day. Typically I will eat one type of fresh fruit, iddly or dates and a big green smoothie straight after training. I make the smoothies the night before and store them in big recycled jars in the fridge and then take them in a cold pack to training. They typically consist of one type of fruit blended with leafy greens, water and sometimes one spoonful of Endura Low Carb Rehydration electrolyte powder. As a treat I will sometimes have a decaf cappuccino or dandelion tea on soy, almond or rice milk if I stick around to socialise after training.
On top of my ‘base’ foods listed above, I add in my ‘sometimes’ and ‘not within 8 hrs before running’ foods (for managing IBS) as appropriate:
|Parsnip (home grown only)||Mango and other stone fruits (in small amounts)||Kidney Beans, Black Beans and Hummus (in small amounts)||Cashew||Chai|
|Broccoli||Custard Apple||Edamame||Pistachio||Coconut Kefir|
|Artichoke||Papaya and Paw Paw||Apple Cider Vinegar|
|Asian Greens||Rice Vinegar|
|Bamboo Shoots||Agar Agar|
|Fermented Probiotic Veg||Coconut Vinegar, Coconut Nectar|
And my NEVER foods are:
|Garlic||Starfruit (no good for PKD)||Wheat||Whole Chickpeas||Alcohol|
|Cabbage||Under-ripe Fruits||Barley||Sugar Alcohols|
|Green Capsicum||Pineapple (am allergic)||Dairy, Meat, Fish, Eggs|
|Brussel Sprouts||Artificial Sweeteners|
|Refined White Sugar|
I don’t buy expensive supplements and ‘superfoods’ because when you eat fresh produce everything you consume becomes nutrient dense and totally ‘super’ in so many ways! I access FREE fresh produce by arranging to ‘rescue’ fruit and veg that would otherwise be thrown out as surplus/imperfect by my local greengrocer (my sponsor Nature’s Fresh 4 Less). I eat out at least once a week (mostly Asian foods, Australian fusion or raw vegan) and when I do buy food I seek out organic, local, direct from the grower and the freshest/healthiest I can find. The most nutritious food is always going to be the deformed carrots out of my own garden, the dirty looking oranges from the local organic citrus farm and the big box of discarded black spotted individual bananas that your local fruit and veg shop will sell you for next to nothing.
For me (a 5’2” 56kg female office worker and triathlete), a typical day of eating tends to look like:
FIRST BREAKFAST 4.30am: 2 Bananas, herbal tea (no caffeine)
TRIATHLON TRAINING 1-2HRS (with water only)
SECOND BREAKFAST 8:00am: Fresh fruit (one type of fruit at each meal) followed by green smoothie (typically 1 head of greens, one type of seasonal fruit, lemon and/or lime juice, ginger or turmeric or fresh mint etc) straight after training. Then an almond, rice or soy milk decaf cappuccino, 1-2 pieces raw vegan dark chocolate (no dairy and sweetened only with coconut sugar)
SNACKS: Raw and/or steamed vegetables OR 1 type of fruit and 1tbsp peanut butter or tahini, water/herbal tea
LUNCH 12:00pm: Massive amounts of steamed/fresh veggies/salad plain or sometimes drizzled/topped with spices, mustard, dried seaweed, home-made dressing, rice or idly, water/herbal tea
SNACKS: Raw and/or steamed vegetables OR bananas OR couple of dates OR an avocado OR green smoothie
TRIATHLON TRAINING 1-2HRS (with water only generally)
DINNER either at 4:00pm or 7:00pm depending on training schedule: tofu, tempeh, lentils and/or rice, steamed and/or raw veggies, 1tbsp peanut butter or tahini or other nuts/seeds, green smoothie without fruit
DESSERT (if needed): Bananas (blended frozen as icecream is my favourite) OR citrus OR raw vegan icecream (cashew/coconut base), OR 1 piece raw vegan dark chocolate
When I plan a meal I don’t select my protein first and then the ‘sides’ to accompany this, like we tend to do in our overly ‘protein’ focussed Western diet. Instead I choose my main fruit or veg for the meal and then plan around that, as it will be the main bulk and focus. Any accompanying fats, proteins and flavours are added ‘wow’ factor and/or included according to scientific evidence of beneficial nutrient pairing (I will write another blog just on this in future).
You’ll notice that I eat very frequently throughout the day and in a somewhat ‘mono-meal’ style. The frequent eating pattern has stuck with me since I experimented with body sculpting because I found it the best method to keep hunger at bay and to control my portion sizes and food choices. The term ‘mono-meal’ means to eat just one main ingredient for that meal ie. You might only eat bananas for a meal or have a meal of only roast pumpkin. The ‘experts’ say you shouldn’t eat anything else for 2-3hours after a mono meal in order to allow your body a clear burn in metabolising this food, but I take a loose approach to this. I have fallen into the habit of mono meals often as a result of being too busy to prepare ‘recipes’ and because food is so easy to digest this way. I throw loads of uncut veggies and some rice, into my cheap, automatic multi-basket steamer twice a week and that keeps me sorted without the fuss of complicated cooking.
Mono meals also allow you to really savour the particular flavours of just one item of produce, which is particularly enjoyable if the food in question happens to be truly fresh and in the peak of its season. Dwelling on the nuances of flavour in just one item is an exercise in eating mindfully and leads you to truly appreciate the taste, texture, aroma and colour of simple ingredients.
But how do I get enough protein? Calcium? Iron? From all this veg?
I will write another future post to address this question in detail (with research references) but for now it’s enough to say that a vast body of reputable scientific evidence shows that it is a complete myth that humans need to consume animal proteins in order to obtain sufficient protein, calcium and iron. Eating a varied, balanced plant-based diet can provide you with the nutrients you need, if it is properly balanced. My blood and urine test results are all within the average healthy ranges, my weight and body composition are fine and I feel fantastic!
Do I ever break my food rules?
Never the ones about what I eat/don’t eat before training but otherwise yes, albeit rarely and becoming less often as I become more and more aware of how negatively these foods affect me, and how contrary they are to supporting my goals for sports performance, healthy body composition, strong immunity and general well-being.
What about treats?
I have a sweet tooth and love cooking so I often indulge in the afternoon after my big blocks of weekend morning training. I’ll make small batches of bliss balls, GF banana bread, cookies or ‘icecream’ but it’s all ever only made of my ‘yes’ foods and is always GF, SF, DF, wholefoods and plant based. My friends and family seem to agree that these treats taste every bit as good as, if not better than, the ‘standard’ store-bought options!
It has been a long journey of experimentation to get here now but I’m so glad to have finally realised that eating clean doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. My nutritional needs are being met by a completely plant based lifestyle and I feel better than ever before!
© morethanpkd.com | 2015