I am often asked what the guiding principles are to my diet — and how closely do I keep them?
Basically I try to adhere to what I term a ‘modified’ Esselstyn diet. Dr. Esselstyn’s diet is simple, a feature in a diet that I consider very attractive. It states:
- no meat
- no fish
- no dairy
- no oils
What could be simpler! Essentially no products that come from animals. I do not have to count calories — I can eat as much as I want subject to those four limitations.
I do modify the diet in a few simple ways:
- Firstly, I have a gluten sensitivity, so no gluten — that means nothing with wheat, barley or rye grains. I do eat whole grain oats, brown rice, quinoa, and various other flours. (Note that gluten is in almost all processed foods — for example, in all but one or two brands of soy sauce!)
- Secondly, I avoid adding salt to anything I prepare and always look for low sodium versions of the few processed foods I consume (e.g. I will use low sodium, organic canned kidney beans if I haven’t had time to prepare beans from scratch)
- I do eat nuts, but only small servings. For example, I often put 4 or 5 whole walnuts in my smoothie and I will put shaved almonds on my salads or in my trail mix cookies.
- I almost never eat refined products such as white rice or quick serve rolled oats (one needs to consume the old fashioned rolled oats that take at least 15 minutes to cook). However if one is in a restaurant it is difficult to get brown rice or long cooked anything!
- I almost never consume sugar or sweeteners. I will sometimes use a little honey (preferably organic — my neighbor, Steve, an apiarist provides mine) or agave nectar or molasses. I do not eat the usual range of deserts — I stick to fresh fruits or, occasionally a cobler which is made with gluten free flours and no added sugars.
As a general rule of thumb I avoid processed foods. However, I do use frozen foods, preferably organic, if they do not have preservatives added. Similarly I use some canned goods, but again, preferably organic, low sodium and without other additives.
And do I sometimes stray from this diet? Yes. This happens particularly when travelling or when I go out to a restaurant. I eat a lot of salads and hold the cheese, chicken or shrimps, and dressing, but sometimes a bit of oil creeps in and I don’t fight with the kitchen. And I might order an entree that really sounds vegan but does come with much more oil that I would ever use myself. Too, I do eat tortilla chips sometimes — in small quantities and low salt — with a dip, however I prefer to use celery or carrots or broccoli for such occasions.