Why no oats in the oatmeal? Let me explain…
Over the past couple of years, as I prepared to start this blog and my health coaching business, I have been in super learning mode. I have devoured every new nutrition book, diet perspective, detox plan, and cookbook I could find. Because food and healthy eating is my passion, this has been anything but a chore for me. Not only have I read these books, but I’ve also taken what I’ve learned out into the “field” and have tried out every way of eating in the name of research. If I am learning about a raw food diet, I go whole hog – I am cooking, eating, and experimenting with raw foods.
Some of the diets I tried on for size over the years: the raw food diet, vegetarian diets like the Engine 2 plan, anti-inflammatory diets like Dr. Weil’s plan, weight loss plans like Ann Louise Gittleman’s Fat Flush, traditional food diets like that of Dr. Westin Price, healing diets like the Body Ecology diet, and the Atkins, paleo, and primal eating plans.
Through my tour of eating, I gathered many nuggets of nutritional wisdom and learned a lot about what diet works best for me. First, I’ve learned that none of the health and nutrition gurus have it ALL figured out (although I do have my favorites). Nutrition has to be the most un-exact science, and most experts claim to have an eating pyramid and diet plan that is the answer for everyone.
Second, I’ve learned that everyone is different. The eating plan that works for me won’t necessarily work for all of my friends. For example, people have different protein requirements based on their activity level, genetics, and who knows what else. And, each person feels best eating different sources of protein. Some feel their best without any animal protein while others feel weak, unfocused, and depressed without it.
So how have I learned what I should eat? How did all this “research” help me? Through experimenting and paying attention to how my body feels in the process, I have figured out a lot about what makes my body tick. For example, when I experimented with a vegetarian diet (which by the way, any time I try a diet, I am completely convinced it is the way to go while I’m on it…until I start learning about another one), I felt awesome! My head felt so clear, I loved the way my skin looked, and I loved the way my body felt too. Then Thanksgiving came after weeks with no meat. We always have our Thanksgiving meal on the Wednesday night before because my parents go to the Cowboy game on Thanksgiving Day. The turkey smelled so good that night, so I had a little slice. The next day, on Thanksgiving morning, my family ran the Turkey Trot. At that year’s trot, I ran faster than I ever had before. I had so much energy! I realized really quickly that I need animal protein in my diet.
But, a few months later, I began studying the paleo and primal diets. I read up on the Whole 30 plan and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, and off I was – the new carnivorous me. A few weeks into it, I started to feel heavy and just yuck…I was on animal protein overload and missing my vegetarian lifestyle. I still love the foods included on these plans (primal more than paleo as it’s a little less strict!), but I needed to re-arrange their pyramid of eating to fit my body’s needs. I learned that vegetables and fruits need to be the base of my pyramid, with the second tier being other plant foods that give me healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils. Fats are a good steady source of energy for my body that help this high-strung girl keep both feet on the ground. Animal protein is included in my pyramid, but it is more like the third tier up than the base. Too much of it, and I’m heavy and dragging.
That brings me to the third thing I have learned from my stint of researching and experimenting. Most of these diets and detoxes I have tried do not include gluten. I got to thinking…is that why so many people feel so much better on these different diets? Obviously, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I do not eat any wheat or gluten. I believe omitting it has had the biggest positive impact on how I feel and my overall health. But not only is there no gluten on most of these diets, but also there are very little if any grains either. Could that be the common thread as to why everyone feels better when trying these eating plans? The grain containing foods we eat today (especially wheat but also gluten free) are processed so much more than say a carrot or apple. And, usually extra sugar and junk is added, so the texture and taste is just right. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs are not processed at all, or at least very minimally. No sugar or flavorings are added to these fresh foods. In addition, grains in general contain anti-nutrients, lectins, and phytates because they are really just little seeds that need to protect themselves. And their means of protection doesn’t always do our bodies good. The glycemic index of grains is also higher than most vegetables, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs. When we process our grains, it jumps even higher. Eating a high glycemic diet causes weight gain and inflammation in our bodies, leading to heart disease and insulin resistance – diabetes. Inflammation leaves us feeling overall lousy too. Now, not only do I eat no gluten grains, but I have also moved all grains from the base of my pyramid where they’ve been most of my life to the tip top, reserved for the occasional treat.
So the conclusion I’ve come to after my years of eating is really pretty simple…
- Real, whole, fresh foods – not processed and packaged – are most nutritious.
- Vegetables are where it’s at – eat a LOT of them. Choose local, organic, and a good helping of raw.
- Eat a lot of plant foods in general – nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs, spices, and healthy oils.
- As far as animal foods – experiment with how much you really need, and always choose animals raised in their natural environment.
- Get rid of the gluten – I promise there is life without wheat, and you will love it. In fact, there’s life without grains, and you may love that even more.
- Striving for perfection never works – eat how you feel best MOST of the time, but don’t sweat it (stress can be even more detrimental to your health!) and enjoy life, and that includes your food!
- Pay attention to how food makes your body feel – how do you feel after eating different foods? How is your digestion, your energy level, your mood and focus? Food really does heal and make a difference in how you feel, so experiment a little…
Start with this blueberry no-oatmeal. I love a good warm porridge on a dark winter day. As I stated above, I feel better when I don’t eat many grains, so I decided to try this grain free option. Chia seeds and hemp hearts take the place of oats in my breakfast, and I’d say they do a mighty delicious job. Both are known for being energizing foods to help you get your day off to the right start. Let me know if you like it!
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 1½ cups almond or coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- handful of blueberries
- handful of chopped walnuts
- In a medium bowl, stir together chia seeds, hemp hearts, milk, pumpkin pie spice, and honey.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Transfer to a small saucepan, and heat over medium-low until the no oatmeal is warm.
- Divide between 3 to 4 bowls, and serve with blueberries and walnuts on top.