Written by Christopher Kelly
Feb. 3, 2016
Julie: Hello and welcome to the Paleo Baby Podcast. As usually, I'm Julie Kelly and today I'm very excited to be joined by Diana Rodgers who I followed for a long time over on her site, Sustainable Dish. And now she's doing all kinds of wonderful things from several podcasts to writing really beautiful books and continuing to really produce a really beautiful blog over at Sustainable Dish. Welcome, Diana. I'm really excited to have you here.
Diana: Thanks so much for having me.
Julie: So for people that -- I don't need you to do the whole story because I think people should definitely go to your site and read all about you if they don't know who you are because you've been at this for a while now and you're really good friends with Robb Wolf who many know as the godfather of Paleo. You've been around a long time in this world so you've got lots of knowledge to drop. So I don't want to spend a ton of time doing all the background stuff.
Give us an idea of how you started in this and you've got this background -- Your husband has a background in farming. You have a farm together. So your connection with food and farming is probably much deeper than a lot of people who find Paleo and are really just at it for health purposes or fixing a disease or a disease state. But you also have celiac disease. You have this interesting relationship with your food and where it comes from and your health and then also the health of your family and where it's brought you to what you're studying in terms of being a nutritional therapy practitioner and now getting your RD. From your standpoint, where are we with Paleo? And are we going in the right direction? What's the state of the union of the Paleo community if you will?
Diana: That's funny. I was actually on the Paleo State of the Union panel at Paleo f(x)last year with Chris Kresser, Dallas Hartwig, and Robb and me -- I feel like I'm forgetting -- Mark Sisson. So that was kind of interesting to be on that panel with all those guys. And so, I think people are going in a lot of different directions. So Chris Kresser is focusing more on teaching other practitioners how to be in line with the ancestral health movement and Mark's got his brands that he's working on and lots of other like more commercial ventures.
And then Dallas is going off in his own direction with more like lifestyle and being unplugged. And Robb and I have really been just banging our heads against the wall trying to get people more interested in sustainability issues. But I think it's taking hold. I'd like to think it's taking hold. It's been really exciting to see some of the organizations like the Xavier Institute that are talking about the importance of building good soil and how herbivores can do that. And, of course, we're like, "Yey, herbivores. We like to eat them."
And it's funny because I mentioned to you before we got on the call that I've been talking all day on all these different podcasts that I've been doing today and one of the calls I was on was actually with some Germans who are putting together a Paleo convention in Berlin in August and they were telling me that over in Germany veganism is really huge and they've invited me to come and speak at their convention just to kind give people a little more ammunition when it comes feeling like meat is an okay thing to eat for sustainability reasons.
And so that's really where I've been focusing my energy and all my talks this year, sort of going to be focused around that. And I just got back from New Zealand at the AHS conference. That was the whole focus of my talk, was why herbivores are not only ideal for human nutrition as we know in the Paleo community but also they're excellent for the environment.
Julie: Right. So for people who don't really, haven't checked into this conversation yet, I mean, because I guess that's the biggest question that I always get is for people that are coming to me and as a nutrition consultant, one of my main jobs is converting vegetarians back to eating meat. But sometimes that is part of their argument. "I don't feel that it's sustainable for the environment." Even if they're not bleeding heart just animal rights kind of people, they're really very stuck on the idea that there's no way to sustainably eat meat. So what do you say to those people that are still there in that world?
Diana: Yeah. Well, I mean, I try really hard not to engage with people who feel like it's a religious decision on their end and religion not meaning only like Hindu or something like that.
Julie: Right. Exactly.
Diana: But also just have such an emotional, illogical disconnection from natural systems because it's just you're not going to win. So although I did just write a post that will probably be live when this show goes live on Robb's site as a retort to a blog post that was just put out by Outside Magazine written by a vegan on why Paleo people need to be clubbed for their choices of eating meat. So I kind of outlined very specifically how red meat is not the devil and really we need to be looking at processed food is really the biggest issue here, not read meat.
So, I mean, there's a lot of -- The WHO came out with the red meat is cancer. So it was a lot of more ammunition for the anti-red meat people in addition to the environmental argument. But really when you look at responsibly managed herds of cattle they improve soil quality. So if you have a field that's just allowed to lay fallow that grass is not stimulated to grow because nothing is eating it. If the grass just sort of lays down and dies and turns brown, it's not improving the soil.
You need cow poop or any herbivore poop, any animal poop to really help build the microbiome of the soil. If the soil is nice and rich and full of lots of organic matter it also helps retain water better. So it makes it more drought resistant. When you look at mono cropping, grain intensive agriculture that's miles and miles wide of farmland of just one type of crop like wheat or soy, that's not improving the soil. That's just drawing away from the soil. And you're using fossil fuels to fertilize it. It's not a natural system.
So a truly sustainable farm is really one that incorporates animals and vegetables into its production so that you've got both going on. So on our farm, we have -- We're mostly a vegetable farm. We have a vegetable CSA outside of Boston. But we also raise animals and the animals go through -- Like it's winter right now. The mobile chickens are right in the middle of one of our fields kind of eating up all the spent vegetable matter that's in the fields. They're pooping on the soil. They're improving the soil while getting their nutrition at the same time. And then their eggs are going to be a lot healthier for us to eat. We also raise goats and sheep and graze them through the fields when we're not growing vegetables as well.
Julie: That's great. So where does -- I mean, why is the nutrition community so silent in all of this? I mean, do you think that it's lack of education or they just are focused on having bigger fish to fry? I mean, because I see the head beating on the wall thing. Because this is like -- I studied food and agriculture in college and so I've just been slightly more privy to the conversation for a long time. I mean, I guess, I haven't noticed as much but then when I take a step back and I look now from where I am, I see what you're saying and the head beating against the wall thing is pretty obvious to me now. What is it that's holding people back from this conversation?
Diana: Well, there's the conventional nutrition community which has its own issues and then there's the real food community like the Paleo community and everybody else. I mean, it's not sexy. Sustainability doesn't sell books. Flat abs sell books and skinny people and beautiful people. It can be a challenge to try to talk about sustainability when people really want a picture of a Paleo brownie on the cover of whatever they're going to buy.
So for people who are motivated to be in this to make money, it's not a financially sustainable avenue to go down. I think that's part of it. And then in my RD training, sustainability is never brought up once. I mean, you have to study a lot of food service in order to be an RD.
So we had to take a lot of classes in purchasing and things like that. Sustainability for institutional food systems is not just a topic that's covered at all. It's just all about the cheapness of it. I see that even at the hospital I work at. Like right now, in my clinical rotation, I'm at the hospital that still uses Styrofoam. I mean, even from a marketing perspective, that doesn't make sense. Don't you even want to make it look like you care a little bit to your customers? So it's just so far away from the conscious level of any conventionally trained dietician.
Julie: Right. What made you go down the RD path? Because there was a point in my life where I was kind of at my crossroads. I was studying food science and nutrition and was also studying agricultural business and it was kind of like, "Okay, what's next? Is it this path or that path?" And I then wasn't even as savvy about real food nutrition as I am now, obviously. I was still pretty hung up on the traditional standard American diet recommendations.
But even then I kind of felt like if I went down that RD path, I wasn't really sure that I would really be able to help anybody because I could already see even though I didn't have the answer, I could kind of already see that it wasn't working. As a country, we are getting sicker and sicker and it just didn't seem like that's where the answers lie. So I'm really curious as to what -- I mean, I feel like you're really brave for making that choice because I went into grad school and I studied dairy science which I hated every minute of but for different reasons and I just -- If I think now about going out and getting my RD, I would have hated it equally as much because knowing what I know now I would have been surrounded by people that are spouting out all these things that I know to be untrue. So how are you doing it and why are you doing it?
Diana: I've been interested in nutrition my whole life. When I was a kid, I really just wanted to know the right answer on how to eat. My blood sugar regulation issues have always been a problem and my digestion was always a problem. So undergrad, I did take a nutrition class and I just wasn't -- It seemed so overwhelming and way too sciencey at that time for me. I was an art major and my undergraduate life was pretty much about having a good time.
Julie: Yeah, mine too.
Diana: I wasn't at a place at that time to be seriously academic. And then I found out I had celiac disease in my mid-twenties and really was like, "Oh my god, okay, I really have to learn more about nutrition." I started working for Whole Foods and thought I could maybe use my career in marketing as a vehicle for my interest in food. And then I learned more about Weston A. Price. I went to Weston A. Price Conference and I went up to Sally Fallon and said, "What can I do? I want to be a nutritionist. I want to learn more about nutrition."
She said, "Go get your RD." And I was like, "Ugh, I'm already so old. I can't do this. I can't go back to school. That seems like so much work." And then I met Robb Wolf who also said, "Go get your RD." And so what I ended up doing was I went to Nutritional Therapy Association first, which was a really great primer in real food nutrition. So it was like a one-year program where it's basically just they teach real food nutrition, not very heavy in science. It's more just about the basic principles of how digestion works and why real food nutrition is the right answer.
I opened a practice and started seeing people as a nutritional therapist. I kept seeing a lot of really sick people and was feeling like I really didn't have all the tools in my toolbox to be able to help them clinically. And so I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be able to take insurance because it just helps me reach a broader population. And I also wanted to have more credibility because there's just so many people walking around saying they're a nutritionist. I mean, anyone can say they are a nutritionist with no degree. And so, I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to be recognized as a medical professional. And so I reluctantly went back to school.
I was lucky enough to have Mat LaLonde. I don't know if you know who he is.
Diana: So, he and I became friends and I was able to -- We worked on an agreement where I would trade him organ meats from our farm in exchange for knowledge and papers. So he would send me papers and also he was very helpful and available to me as I was going through my program. I would sit in the lecture and they would be talking about how to supplement with folic acid and I'll just text him like, "This doesn't make sense." And he'd explain the right answer to me.
So having somebody who you can talk to, who can help you kind of weed through the information was certainly pivotal for me in order to get through the program. But also I think it was Mat who suggested to me to just do this as your side thing. Like have your nutrition practice and do your work and this could just sort of like be your hobby, getting your RD. And so that was really, really helpful too because I think if I had done it full time I would have been pretty miserable.
It was also I had a lot going on with having kids. I couldn't just be a full time student. So now, I'm just finishing. So I finished the course work last spring. And it's been a challenge. It was a challenge all the way through the program. Most of the professors are obese vegans or vegetarians. And so it's hard. They're drinking their Diet Coke and they've got their Jelly Beans on their desk and they're telling me what to eat? That they're right and everything in moderation?
Julie: It's my least favorite saying on the planet. It needs to die. Even moderation. Yeah.
Diana: It's really rough. It was helpful to know the biochemistry and all the hard sciences. That was really, really good. And funny enough though, you don't get very much training as a therapist. I ended up taking a separate psychology class and counseling and motivational interviewing because that wasn't one of the core classes which I just think is way too bad. Because they just don't teach you that in the standard RD program.
But then as I was applying for my internships, I ended up getting rejected with a 4.0. So that was really crushing to me too because it's very hard to get an internship. And my advisers thought it was because they Googled me and saw the Paleo books. And even had a lawyer reach out to me who had heard about this and said, "You have a case for misrepresentation, fraud," all this stuff. Discrimination. And I was really, really discouraged. So that was last spring.
But then I ended up finding an even better situation through another, a distance program where I was able to line up all my own rotations. So now I'm just finishing up. I'm working. I did some really cool community and outpatient work and actually one of the women that I did my outpatient work with, she and I started Real Food Radio podcast together and we're going to be doing some stuff together and hopefully one day even running our own internship for RDs.
Julie: That's cool.
Diana: That would be really fun. So now, I've been doing my hospital rotation and I actually just wrote a blog post about that, about being a real food nutritionist working in this crazy situation where we're dousing people with corn syrup and high fructose corn, with soy bean oil and not really helping them very much nutritionally.
Julie: Being there for them is one thing, I guess. That's what I learned to.
Diana: That's what I'm in the middle of doing now. So I've got a few months left.
Julie: That's cool. I mean, I think I can see that and I can see how -- Just with the internet. I mean, the internet has changed everything. I have to assume that there's at least a handful of other people out there. I mean, Robb Wolf has interviewed several RDs that have woken up and come to mid-education or just post-education and realized that everything they had been taught is questionable at best.
And so I think there's definitely probably more people out there that are probably going to see a revolution of some kind I hope. Because, yeah, I mean, how amazing would that be if you can go on to foster this in other RDs and spread the word that way and it can be a bottom up of change. But, yeah, I can't foresee. I love that description, the obese vegans and vegetarians with their Diet Cokes and Jelly Beans. That's what horrifies me more than anything.
Diana: Yeah. And unfortunately -- I'm 42. But the rest of the people on the program are mostly young skinny girls in their early 20s or even late teens in some of my classes. They're just sponges for all of the crazy outdated--
Diana: -- information and they're not questioning any of it.
Julie: That's unfortunate.
Diana: So that's really sad. When I advise people on -- I get people all the time that are interested in real food and want to become a nutritionist and I always advise them to learn about the real food first because it's really hard to unlearn something. Even my boss at the hospital, she's overweight and she's been on Weight Watchers forever and it's, of course, not working for me. And so I very softly day after day after day after day sort of said, "Meat is not really all that bad. You might want to have more protein," when we're eating lunch together. And I'm telling this to a seasoned RD who's in her early 50s. And now she's doing the Whole30 and it's blowing her mind.
Julie: That's awesome.
Diana: And she's just like, "You're blowing my mind. I can't believe. This is against everything I've ever been taught and you were sent to me for a reason."
Julie: That's amazing.
Diana: Yeah. And she actually let me -- One of the patients at the hospital, she let me encourage to do kind of a ketogenic type diet for weight loss and mood healing. So we'll see.
Julie: That's incredible. Yeah, so I mean, I think -- Yeah, kudos to you for being brave enough to do that because I think I just couldn't see the forest through the trees I think at that point because there wasn't a lot of -- I mean, Paleo didn't really exist then. But I think it's incredible. Yeah, I mean, there's small seeds of change, right? That's something at least and I think that that's going to -- I think it's going to snowball. I hope it's going to snowball and change. That's all I can really hope.
Diana: Yeah. We'll see what happens when I actually have the credential and people see some of the things that I put out there hopefully.
Julie: Yeah. I mean, if anything, I think it's a positive way for you to -- And because, I mean, if I know anything it's that working within the medical community or knowing, trying to have a conversation with anybody that's in the medical community is very difficult if you're not a credentialed medical professional. So it's almost like getting an inside pass to be able to start those conversations and hopefully have a little bit more influence where people who aren't necessarily certified won't necessarily have that same opportunity or be provided with as many opportunities to have that conversation with other medical professionals.
For example, just that conversation with your boss and being able to influence that way, because there's a different level of respect, I think, among, for medical professionals than there is any other way. Because I think ego is a big issue in the medical community. So, I think, hopefully, that will serve you well as well.
Diana: Yeah, yeah. That's what I'm hoping.
Julie: Yeah, exactly. So what does it look like, I mean, in real life, this kind of marriage of real food eating and sustainability and how does it -- Like a traditional family. Because we're kind of on the cusp for house hunting right now. We're looking for a home with at least enough room to garden, have some chickens. I just want Ivy, my daughter, to be able to go outside without fear and wander and explore and dig in the dirt and play and all of that.
But I know not everybody has that opportunity or can do that and I know also that -- I've lived in very small apartments and been able to grow some of my own foods so I know it's possible on a lot of different levels. But I guess my question is more specifically like for a family starting out and maybe they're in the beginning of their Paleo life and they're figuring out how to feed their family, how do we make sustainability part of that conversation from the beginning as opposed to trying to weave it in later? Like, "Oh, I'll just worry about changing my habits now and then sustainability later." Is there a way that we can have those conversations together or make them one and the same from the beginning?
Diana: I think that for a lot of families that get into real food, it's sort of a natural progression. First, you start cooking from scratch. And then you realize that the meat you're buying at the grocery store stinks and you want to find the Cow Share or you want to start buying your meat from a farmers' market.
There's lots of things that I think everyone can do at every level. And in my book The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook, I sort of take people through that steps, those steps. So even though I -- It's a full manual for actually raising your own chickens and sheep and cow, all that kind of stuff. But I also talk about container gardening and the importance of community gardens. I mean, even if you live in an urban area, there's community gardens which are absolutely fantastic works of art in my opinion not only just visually but you get great food and then there's that whole community aspect of connecting with people that you don't fit within your--
We're so -- I don't even know what the word is -- All of our friendships are now -- like we only want to talk to people who have our same political views. We're so tailored in our Facebook lives with only communicating with people who are exactly like us. And I think that's a real shame. So that's one of the great things that community gardens can do. You might have a garden plot next to a guy that just got here from Cambodia who's growing all kinds of really cool Asian greens and stuff.
So community gardens are just to me one of the best things. Or just finding a farm and doing a work for share at a farm. So we have some families that instead of paying for their CSA share, which is also great, because they come -- I know a lot on the west coast, it's more like delivered box shares but we really believe that people should come to the farm and have a connection with us. And so we're out there in the field. The crew is out there in the fields available to talk to people while they're picking their cherry tomatoes. And so they can connect with the farmers that way.
The kids get to see what a strawberry tastes like warm straight from the plant. And so just having that time out on a farm -- The community really feels like the art, that the farm we're at is their farm. And they want to know through our newsletter when we write about how there's been -- We've had some issues with foxes or coyotes or whatever. We'll be out at a restaurant and they'll be like, "What's going on with that coyote you catch?"
So even if they have, they don't have chickens or even a backyard garden, they have a connection to their local growers. So we're really big into education programs. We work at the local school and make sure these kids come here on a regular basis to see sheep shearing or whatever the topic is that we're doing. and not just to turn them into farmers but to turn them into farm lovers so that when they go off and be doctors and lawyers and whatever these kids in our wealthy community are going to go off and do, they're going to be much more likely to have respect for keeping regional agriculture projects going instead of being turned into development.
Because that's really the biggest issue that small farm space is -- Like the land that we're on right now is worth so much more if it was condos. So just trying to maintain these small farms that are in communities is really the most important thing.
Julie: Interesting. So if I was to -- I mean, what are some really simple ways? I mean, the community garden is a great one. I definitely encourage people to look into it. Even if they do have gardening space, I think you can always have -- Like if you have gardening knowledge or you are a seasoned gardener, check out the community garden or get involved because I think you have something to lend there as well. But always check out the community garden.
But what about -- I mean, for practitioners particularly, who are out there recommending these people eat really clean meat and/or find grass-fed meat at whatever cost basically, I feel like there can easily become a disconnect between just finding this product in order to improve your health and really taking the time to kind of source out food that comes from things that you really believe in. Granted, there's always situations where people are kind of in the middle of nowhere and they don't necessarily have access to really good quality meats or produce and they need to order from, for example, like an online company and have things delivered. But for people who do -- I mean, I guess, what's the best way to kind of, to figure that out? Like what's the best source?
Because I think a lot of times it's confusing. People are like, "Oh, I only want local meat." I don't think that that's necessarily always the most sustainable answer. Because if you live -- Like for example, I live in California and we have major drought problems and grass-fed beef is not something that really works everywhere in California. So I would actually be more concerned if I was getting grass-fed meat from somebody down the road because I think it's probably more sustainable for me get it from a farm maybe a little bit farther away where they're actually employing really good practices in raising their meat. So, I guess, I'm just wondering what's the best way for people to figure out how to source the best products for them where they are?
Diana: It's tricky because I'm really in support of regional food systems and not so much the shipped meat or the driving long distances to get your meat. So finding local growers, there's a great website called eatwild.com that can connect people with really good growers and people who raise sustainable meats. CAFO beef is on the scale of things, honestly, not as bad as CAFO chicken or CAFO pork.
There's just all these different levels of, I guess, your holiness or the sustainability. For us, we've got our freezers full of meats that we raised and a cow share. We don't raise cows but I buy a cow share and we've got all that. We've got all our produce here right from the farm. I tend not to buy a lot when I go to the grocery store, pretty much just stapes from the pantry like spaghetti sauce or something like that.
Farmers' markets for produce and meat if it's available there and then just talking to the growers and finding out a little bit more about how they raise their animals, maybe visiting the farm. It's tricky. But I would say there's definitely like layer -- I'm picturing something visual but I need to develop where basically the worst offenders in my mind are CAFO chicken and CAFO pork. Because those animals never see the light of day ever and they're only fed mono cropped GMO grain. The conditions are terrible for the animals. Antibiotic use is really high so you get this super bug resistant bacterias that are really horrible for the whole society. But at least the cattle, most cattle are raised, even CAFO cattle are raised outdoors.
Julie: Right. Can you describe what CAFO is for people that don't know it?
Diana: Sure. So it's the big factory farm. So they can find animal feeding operations. So it's what everyone envisions when they see all these anti-meat documentaries where they tell you the meat is so awful. They only focus on CAFOs and they never show a small sustainable farm where we live. But a cattle, a cow for beef, spends most of its life out on grass and only goes to the feeding lot towards the end of its life and still when it's at a feeding lot, it's at least outside. It's not black and white. There's definite gray areas. Nicolette Niman's book Defending Beef is really fantastic at illustrating that. I had a really good interview with her on the Modern Farm Girls podcast that I do. I don't know. If you have show notes, you could maybe link to that one.
Julie: Yeah, I'll definitely link to that.
Diana: And also killing one cow versus killing 30 chickens to feed your family, there's all these different -- Again, there's just different levels. Do we really -- Is organic spinach the best if it's grown on the other side of the country from where you live and in a mono crop type situation or maybe if your farmer up the street grows really fresh spinach and if they use a little bit of spray occasionally? I don't know. Maybe the local is better. It's really putting on your thinking cap and trying to make the best decisions for your family.
Julie: That's good advice.
Diana: Instead of just trusting labels and big industry to tell what's best.
Julie: Right. Yeah. Because that's worked out really well for us in the past.
Diana: Like chickens eat -- Birds eat seeds. So chickens who I know that there's farmers that raise their chickens completely unpastured with no grain at all. But chickens actually do pretty well with some grain because that's what works for the animal of a chicken, their digestive system. And so if your farmer up the street gives them a little bit of non-organic grain but the chickens are outside and the chickens are happy and the farmer is doing a good job of keeping the place clean, those are probably going to be better than maybe what your perception of an ideal chicken is.
And the same goes with pigs. Pigs actually do pretty well converting grain to flesh. So we do a mix of -- They get forage from the farm and spent vegetables but they also get some grain. And we have been able to find an organic non-soy grain but that's not a reality for a lot of farmers. But it's still so much better than a pig raised in a CAFO.
Julie: Yeah. So it's kind of figuring out your hierarchy of priorities in terms of all of that and then weighing them carefully, which I think is -- Again, it comes with the territory and I think it happens over time. I don't think that anybody should be daunted by this conversation thinking, "Oh, I just wanted to go Paleo. Now I have to learn all of this stuff about CAFO farms."
Diana: I know. And I know that what works for a lot of people is "yes this, no that." That's why Whole30 just works for so many people because they just say yes or no. But in my mind, having a little polenta once in a while instead of a Paleo cupcake every day, I'd rather have a little polenta. So that's just where I'm at with all that stuff. To me, everything is just on scales.
Julie: Yeah, I think it is. I think it's important to have those conversations too especially when you're starting out because I think it's very easy to pick up a book and see what's available in that Paleo cookbook and be like, "Oh, I get to have all of these things." And I go, "Well, yeah, sure you can eat those things but is that any different than where you're coming from? What are you actually changing here in the big scheme of things in terms of your health and trying to get well if you're going to also -- yeah, like you said -- eat a Paleo cupcake every day on top of your everything?"
So, yeah, I think it's important. I mean, also it's the responsible -- I mean, if you're going to make this change for your health and for the health of your family then I think having as much information as possible is probably a good thing. Whether or not you act on all of it at once is up to you, I guess. But I think, yeah, looking at it in terms of, okay, this is the big picture, how do I make all of these changes instead of just picking and choosing what's convenient for me? Because I don't think that that's the answer.
And I think that people will and I hope that people will just naturally make that progression because I think one thing leads to another. Like once you start to feel better and your brain fog is lifted and you have more energy and you can dedicate a little bit more brain space to some of this stuff, I think you almost feel -- at least I did anyways -- like I owed something back to the diet, like I owed something back to this way of life that helped me and my family feel so much better and perform so much better.
And I think that's what's driven my husband and I to start the business that we have and also try to help other people, is because I feel like we owe so much to it. So I'm interested to see how the sustainability conversation grows. I'm hopeful that a part of it is demand driven. I hope that things start to change naturally as well just in the market just because people are demanding more sustainability from the people that are producing our food and raising our food as well. Hopefully there's a natural market force that help us as well. We'll see.
Diana: Yeah. So all that thinking stuff that I was talking about and probably boring your listeners is why I wrote the Homegrown Paleo Cookbook the way I did because I wanted people to understand this is how chickens are raised, this is how a farmer does it. So now you're empowered, even if you're not going to raise your own chickens, to go, when you visit a farm, here's what to look for.
Julie: I think that's great. And it's a beautiful book.
I definitely recommend that people pick it up. I mean, the pictures are beautiful. I can't wait to be able to actually put it to use when we have some space. Because I think it's a beautifully done book and I think it was a much needed book as well. I'm glad that you did it because I think it at least puts an idea in people's head like, "Oh, I can do this for myself. I don't just have to rely on these Paleo outlets to get my Paleo life. I can make my own Paleo life." And that's actually probably more Paleo than anything.
Diana: Yeah. And I always recommend, when I'm putting my nutrition hat on, that people just fix themselves first. Don't stress about, "Oh my god, is this beef kissed by unicorns?" So doing whether the 30-day prescription and the Paleo solution or the Whole30 or whatever kind of clean elimination diet, I always recommend people do that. And some of the people that I work with, they're not ready yet to do that and that's okay too. So we work on, okay, let's try just cooking everything at home and let's get off the case of Diet Coke and the McDonald's three times a week. So eventually we get there to an elimination type diet. And then once you're there, you can start thinking about, okay, do I really want to buy my steak at the grocery store or not? It's really just starting with yourself first.
Julie: Yeah. What about kids? I mean, you transitioned when your kids were either before they were born or when they were really, really young. Have you figured out -- This is something that I'm trying to learn. When your kids go to school -- I'm planning on home schooling Ivy at least for a while. But my husband's biggest concern even since I was pregnant was like, "What do we do when she's out in the wild? How do we keep this going?"
Or also I'm just thinking of just interacting with other parents and other kids as Ivy join home school groups or take her out to other outdoor school and things like that. How do I approach this in a healthy way without creating any kind of weird food issues with her and also just -- I want to encourage people through our interactions with this lifestyle and I don't want to just be that weird mom who says, "No, my kid can't have all of these things. Please don't feed my child," kind of mom. I would much rather encourage positive conversation and inclusion instead of exclusion for Ivy and other kids. If you have any tips and suggestions on that?
Diana: Yeah, a lot. Well, so I went Paleo -- So our house is gluten free and it's been gluten free -- It's always gluten free just because that celiac and cross-contamination and that kind of stuff. But I didn't go Paleo until my kids were already born. And when I first did, I was sort of a Nazi about it like, "No, you can't have any candy ever." And I think a lot of people, that's sort of a natural reaction when you first go Paleo.
And then I noticed in my son's closet hidden between his pants were wrappers. And I was like, "Oh my god, candy wrappers. What am I doing? I don't want them hiding food." I've really dealt with this. And I decided to chill out and let the kids make their way on their own and just try to be as good as we can at home. I always stress the importance of having protein and fat with our meals so the kids don't have just some kind of sugar.
And it's funny because actually yesterday my daughter who's in fourth grade got into a little argument in her school because they were comparing whose breakfast was healthier. And everyone in the class including the teachers said that Little Johnny's fruit smoothie with only fruit in it was healthier than my daughter's sausage and eggs for breakfast. And she was like, "Mom, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say?" It's hard because it's just so embedded in our society. Fruit is good and fat is bad. And I can't imagine what would happen if I send my kids to school on pure sugar, right? And she said, "It wasn't sugar, Mom. It was fruit." And I said, "Yeah, but fruit is sugar."
And so she kind of gets it. She knows that I'm right but she's not able to articulate it and it is a little stressful for her. I do let them get school lunch occasionally. They don't react to gluten. I mean, we don't feed them gluten all the time, but we also sell to the school. They know that school lunch is a treat and it's junk food pretty much. And when they're at their friend's houses they can eat whatever. And I usually get reports from every play date like, "Oh my god, Mom, you should have saw what so and so -- what they had in their cabinets," or whatever.
But we also try to point out how they feel. My son loves baseball. He's a huge athlete. And so when he's had not enough fat and protein before practice he just doesn't perform well and he gets it. He really understands it now. And he actually doesn't even do sleepovers because he just doesn't sleep well at other kid's houses and he just realized that he does much better if he just sleeps at home and he needs a lot of good quality sleep.
That's another piece to this whole Paleo lifestyle. Just sort of teaching your kids, okay, this is how you're going to feel best, this is optimal, you can make your own choices when you're outside but these are ramifications of them. I feel good about that because I've had them both tested for celiac and they're both negative. I think they do very well now. Halloween is a little tricky to navigate because they want to dig into their candy right away. We've come up with a lot of good solutions like, okay, you can have a few pieces of candy then the rest goes.
And so by being a little bit more moderate and relaxing a little bit and trying to point to them sort of the nutritional values of certain foods, like this is going to help you run faster, this is going to build muscle for you, and just constantly doing that at every meal, they're much more informed instead of like, "My mom won't let me eat that."
Julie: Right. Yeah. I think that's probably part of it, is taking the wall, like removing the wall from the eyes not just trying to snow them and be authoritarian about it and have yes versus no. Really understanding the why is probably really important piece of that.
Diana: Yeah. But also I have to add, in my community, not a lot of people know what I do. So I keep it kind of quiet. And so some of them know I do nutrition or wrote a cookbook but they don't really know. Which is better because I don't want to go to sports practice and have to defend myself at every single -- I just want to sit there and watch a game.
Julie: Yeah. It's definitely difficult to try to figure out which battles are the right battles to fight and things like that. We go to this really great natural foods market and the butcher there is fabulous. He's done a really great job of getting grass fed meats into the store so they're more available to everybody else. He'll get things specifically, really does a really good job sourcing things and become a really good family friend of ours.
One of his assistants or apprentice was coming back from his lunch break and he had a sandwich in his hand and had meatballs on it and I could see and Ivy asked him, "What's that?" And he goes, "Oh, it's a meatball sandwich." And she looks at me and she looks at him and she goes, "Have gluten in it?" I was just cracking up. She's two. But if she sees something she doesn't recognize or isn't familiar with, she kind of -- She's already making that connection that maybe it's something that we don't eat or maybe there's a reason that we don't eat it and apparently she's lobbed on to that gluten thing pretty quickly.
It's just really interesting to watch how it manifests. I'm trying really hard to just kind of stand back and see what happens and take each new challenge as it comes without freaking out about it because it's a long road ahead of us.
Diana: Yeah. It was definitely easier when I controlled everything. I mean, I made all their baby food from scratch when they were little and controlled everything until they got to school and play dates and things like that.
Julie: Yeah. And I think that's the best. I mean, at the end of the day, that's the recommendation. You do the best that you can and hope for the best and teach them well and hopefully they make good choices. More than anything, I think it's that connection, that understanding or that ability with your son to be able to recognize how what you're eating or doing makes you feel.
And I think that's the greatest gift that we can give our kids because all of the adults that I work with, they still don't have the ability to make that connection. They've never been taught that. So even just having that ability for a two-year old or a 12-year old is a huge step up in the world. Like even if they do make some poor choices, their intuition or their ability to say, "Hey, I ate that, now I feel like crap." I think that's a gift. If I give her nothing else, I think that's a huge win as a parent who's trying to keep someone towards a healthier life and making sound choices. So thank you for those tips. That was really helpful and it's always just nice to hear another parent that's going through it and know that it's not all horrible.
Diana: Yeah. When I first met Michelle Tam who runs a blog Nom Nom Paleo, she and I immediately connected and we've gone on family trips together. She raises her kids the same way as far as food goes. I think it's the reasonable path.
Julie: Yeah. I mean, if you just ask yourself what would you want? I'd want to be empowered to make my own choices and I wasn't even nearly as close to as independent and headstrong as my daughter is. I can only imagine that if I respect her in that way and let her be her own person and make her own choices, I think she'll -- She's more likely to do what I'm hoping she does as opposed to if I take the authoritarian approach and just do the "no, you can't" way of thinking.
Awesome. It's been really great chatting with you. I'm sure we could talk about a million other things for several more hours. I really encourage everybody to go check out your Sustainable Dish website. You can link to a lot of the amazing things that you're doing through there including your really beautiful cookbook, Homegrown Paleo. And another really useful one that I recommend a lot is the Paleo Lunches and Breakfast On the Go. I think that's another great cookbook that people should check out. Anything else that you're working on that you want us to know about or you want people to check out? Where people can get a hold of you?
Diana: Yeah. Once I'm done with my RD program, I'd be much more like a full time practitioner and I'm just trying to figure out like my office space now and what things are going to look like, possible website redesign and all that kind of stuff. At the moment, yeah, I'm just focusing right now on finishing this RD and getting it behind me so I can actually go out there and help people on a more full time basis because I'd been sort of doing it part time, which has been great education too. Like just learning so much about how people change through actually working with them. And I've got another book in me down the road, probably focusing a little bit more on sustainability. But for now, yeah, I'm just finishing up the credential and going to focus more on my practice as a nutritionist.
Julie: Awesome. Well, keep doing what you're doing. You're doing a great job. We're all better for it. I appreciate what you do and I hope we get to chat again sometime soon.
Diana: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.
Julie: Awesome. Well, take care, Diana.
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