Remember the interview series with wholefood mamas? Well today I am very pleased and grateful to welcome Meagan from This Whole Family to share her wholefood story. I know you are going to be inspired by this! Thankyou so much Meagan for taking part. Over to you...
Hi, I’m Meagan, wife to supportive husband, Brad and mother to a vivacious 5 year old, North, feisty 3 year old, Indigo and bubbly baby Juniper. I began researching play-based and natural early childhood learning over four years ago when I stumbled across some Waldorf inspired blogs that resonated with me deeply. Since then I have passionately shared my parenting journey including our transition to a TV-free home, our parenting style and beliefs, and some delicious holistic recipes on my blog This Whole Family. You can also browse my series of seasonal and Waldorf-inspired Family Rhythm Guides at www.wholefamilyrhythms.com.
What do you remember being taught about food when you were a child?
I have a mixture of helpful and not so helpful food memories. I can remember baking with my Grandmother and Mother at an early age- things like apple pie and oatmeal cookies. But I also grew up at the time that calorie counting was a huge fad and have memories of my Dad constantly wanting to lose weight and meticulously counting calories. Although we ate a pretty well rounded diet, for better of for worse, from a very young age I was conscious of the relationship between foods and words like “good”, “bad”, “fattening”, and “low-cal”.
How would you describe your approach to raising a wholefood family?
My approach to our family’s eating is how I would describe every other aspect of my life and beliefs- a journey. I am constantly reading research, articles and books about whole foods, what they are and whether they are even good for us. For example, since reading a lot of Ray Peat inspired articles I am very wary of minimising our Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) intake as a family and this means minimising most nuts and seeds (and their oils) which are generally considered ‘health' and ‘whole’ foods.
Has there been a wholefood 'turning point' for you, or is it a way you have always eaten? A turning point would definitely be my daughter’s fish allergy diagnosis. My entire family was pescatarian (we ate only fish) and ate very little dairy up until my second child, Indigo turned one. Although she had been eating fish from around 6 months to 1 year, just after her first birthday she had an anaphylactic reaction to white fish and we rushed to the hospital. I was then faced with the decision to raise my children completely vegetarian or to begin eating meat. I did a lot of reading about immunological disorders (which in a nutshell are what allergies are) and came across the GAPs diet which emphasises a lot of homemade bone broths and minimises starches and grains. So, we dove into as close to “ethical meat-eating” as you can get. You can read more about that journey here.
What changes have you made to your diet in recent years that have made the biggest impact on how you feel?
When my daughter was diagnosed we began to slowly incorporate meat and especially broths into our diets. I also switched from using wholewheat flour at the time to only using spelt flours and added in some raw goat’s milk to her diet. At that time we were still consuming soy milk, almond milk, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes. As time has gone by I have seen that my daughter’s digestive system (and mine, and my husband’s) is extremely sensitive and I began cutting out the majority of nuts and seeds, all soy products (I am horrified at how much soy I ate at one point) and legumes.
My third daughter, Juniper is almost one and she has also developed terrible eczema since before she even started solids. This in combination with a few more allergic reactions to foods and environmental triggers from Indigo, has catapulted us recently into what I would call the Full GAPs diet with Ray Peat inspired themes. Essentially, we eat meat, including offal once a week, homemade broths and gelatin almost everyday, lots of vegetables raw, cooked and fermented, we combine our fats and proteins with freshly squeezed OJ, a lot of ripe, tropical fruits or stewed fruits and lots and lots of honey. Currently we avoid all grains, starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes) nuts, seeds, legumes and refined sugars. We also take a daily probiotic and eat a generous amount of dairy, but Indigo is not having milk at this time, only yoghurt and butter.
This is not totally in line with Ray Peat because he advocates no probiotics or fermented foods, lots of fresh cow’s milk, minimal amounts of dietary fibre (ie. vegetables or shredded coconut) and a good serving of white refined sugar everyday in combination with a nutrient-rich diet. We are also occasionally eating almond flour just so Indigo has some kind of a ‘treat’ option at a birthday party or holiday etc which is not ideal, but a temporary compromise.
(Note: my son is eating grains everyday at school and has strong digestion and I will likely start Juniper on well cooked potatoes and sweet potatoes soon).
With so much information available on what to eat and not to eat, how do you make sense of it all?
As you can see from my answer above I am experimenting constantly. I am trying to find what works for each of us individually and part of our food journey is healing with food. I am trying to heal Indigo’s gut, at which point (maybe in a year or so?) I am hoping we can slowly introduce small amounts of properly prepared grains and starches.
Which cookbooks, food blogs or websites do you turn to for inspiration?
The Nutrition Coach (Ray Peat inspired nutrition advice) www.thenutritioncoach.com
Ray Peat’s site www.raypeat.com
180 Degree Health www.180degreehealth.com
Digestible Kitchen (Ray Peat inspired cooking) www.digestiblekitchen.com
101 Cookbooks ww.101cookbooks.com
Holistic Squid www.holisticsquid.com
Nourished Kitchen www.nourishedkitchen.com
Against All Grain www.againstallgrain.com
All of my ‘whole food’ pins on Pinterest
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell
All of Jude Blereau’s Cookbooks.
I noticed in one of your posts that you have a thermomix. I don't have one and am not convinced that they offer value for their big price tag, also I think they take something away from the intuitive aspect of cooking. I would love to hear your thoughts, what do you like about it and do you consider it has provided value for money?
I totally understand the idea that the thermomix takes away the 'intuitive aspect of cooking’. I do believe there is something to be said about slowly, mindfully and lovingly preparing your meals. We eat a lot of slow-cooked stews and broths which are prepared from scratch. However, the thermomix has been a life-saver for things like pureed soups, gluten-free baking, pasta sauces, custards, puddings, bliss balls, daily smoothies and pate. When we weren’t completely grain -free or sugar-free it also makes an amazing risotto, fluffy marshmallows and kneads dough beautifully. What I love is a) the convenience (I don’t need to lug and clean 2-3 appliances out all day long) b) the speed when you’re flat for time and need to make something healthy and delicious c) the quick and easy clean-up.
Sweet or savoury? Which do you crave and what satisfies you?
Both. I love pate with vegetables. But I always need to end a meal with something sweet and I like to go to bed with a cup of warm milk and honey.
Any tips for mamas starting out on their wholefood path or who are dealing with 'fussy eaters’?
I have a whole post on this, see here. An excerpt from the post: Children need to try a new food 10-15 times before they acquire a taste for it. My children know they only have to try one bite of their meal and after that bite, if they still don't want it, they can instead choose to have it taken away and to sit quietly at the table while everyone else eats. Their meal waits for them in the fridge and of course nothing else is offered until the next mealtime.
Yes, it can be exhausting and quite depressing to have worked so hard to cook a beautiful meal only to have your children take one bite and then walk away but for me this is an indication that perhaps they have been snacking a bit too close to mealtime. In my experience if they're hungry, they'll eat.
A favorite recipe to share?
Hearty Yang Stew
This is a hearty meal. It is deliciously satisfying especially on a cold day. According to Chinese philosophy and medicine, “yin” and “yang” are two opposing, but interconnected forces. The cold and wet winter is a yin time of year, so this yang infused stew will balance you out, warming you to the bone.
500g diced beef chuck
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
homemade beef bone broth
Grated zest and juice of one orange
150ml red wine
sprig of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 180˚.
In a large, oven-proof dutch oven brown the meat with a bit of coconut oil.
Add the onions, garlic and celery.
Add the carrots sauté for about three minutes.
Return the meat to the saucepan and add the stock, orange zest, orange juice, wine to cover.
Add the rosemary and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer.
Cover with lid and and cook in the oven for about 2-3 hours.
You'll find more inspiration over on Meagan's blog, here are some posts and recipes to get you started:
Thank you Meagan xx