EAT: NUTRITIONIST CLAIRE BARKER'S DO'S & DONT'S
Posted on 21 January 2015
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, my name is Claire and I live in the beautiful Bondi Beach. What anyone will tell you, is that I love my food! As a child I was fixated on anything sweet and growing up, I never really had any appreciation for what I was putting in my body, as long as it tasted good! Over the last 5 years since moving to Australia from the UK, I was faced with a few health problems that led me to look more closely at how what I was eating might be affecting my health. This concept seemed foreign to me. Could what you eat really impact your health? Well the answer is YES. I soon realised not only did natural whole foods taste delicious but they gave me more energy, my skin was more radiant and overall it improved my health.
Following being awarded a scholarship to study Nutritional Medicine at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies, I decided to quit my full time job and now, I am a passionate Nutritionist. I am committed to empowering others with the knowledge they need to improve not only their physical health but mental and spiritual wellbeing. I want to dispel some of the confusion and misconceptions around health to educate that: healthy does not have to mean difficult, time consuming or boring. Healthy living can be simple, easy and best of all, delicious!
What is your active life Mantra?
I have always been a very active person and enjoy making the most of the amazing outdoor lifestyle Australia has to offer, whether swimming, running, beach bootcamps or walks with friends. Yoga is also a huge part of my life, as I find it gives me physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I used to be a bit of a gym junkie, forcing myself to spend hours in the gym but now I do what I enjoy and what makes me feel good so this is definitely my active life mantra.
What is your food philosophy?
Simple. Whole natural foods as nature intended. This means if you cannot understand the ingredients (i.e. chemicals, additive/preservative numbers) then do not eat it. What we put in our body is the most important and nurturing thing we can ALL do for ourselves EVERY day, not only to feel good but to radiate health on the outside!
Don’t get me wrong, of course I like the occasional treat, what would life be if we couldn’t enjoy these? they are nourishing to our souls in other ways. I believe it is all about BALANCE! 80% of the time eat fresh and clean with an active lifestyle and 20% of the time you can enjoy those indulgences, guilt free!
I understand we live in a time poor society and many do not have the time (or perhaps the interest) to cook and prepare many of their meals. This is why I like to give people simple ways, whether easy and versatile meal options or lifestyle tips, to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
What can you explain about good calories vs bad calories when it comes to nutrition
I do not believe in counting calories or telling people things are ‘bad’. It is all about the quality of what you are eating. Some foods can have exactly the same calories but this does not mean they are both good for your health! For example, compare foods loaded with preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and chemicals to a dish made with locally sourced organic produce, I think it is clear which is better for you. If you apply the 80/20 rule above then you should not need to count calories but enjoy a delicious diet abundant in fresh produce and nutritionally dense foods.
What do you think is the biggest health misconception?
This one is easy, FAT! Fat has long been demonised and blamed for causing cardiovascular disease, among other chronic diseases but in fact the right types of fat are essential as part of a healthy balanced diet. They can even support weight loss, by regulating blood sugar levels and giving you earlier satiety, meaning you will be fuller quicker and eating more nutritionally valuable food. It is important to note here that despite low fat diets long being cited as good for our health, obesity and cardiovascular disease have actually increased, suggesting perhaps this is not the problem. It is now well established that the science behind telling people fat is bad was severely flawed and in fact it is sugar we should be paying more attention to!
In regards to nutrition, fat is something I am very passionate about. I used to believe what we are told through the media that ‘fat makes you fat’ until I went to study Nutritional Medicine and found out just how wrong this is. Our brain is around 60% fat (including saturated fat), it is required for every cell in our body and without it, fat soluble nutrients cannot be transported and absorbed. Therefore, it is essential for good health and if we remove it from our diet we are putting our health at great risk.
Of course there are some fats you want to have more of than others but the one universal fat everyone should stay away from is trans fats. These are those commonly found in processed, packaged and fast foods. These synthetic fats are in no way beneficial to our health.
Healthful fats come in many forms and sources but for simplicity I have given a brief overview below:
Predominantly found in animal sources such as red meat. Excess can increase risk of cardiovascular disease but small amounts are important in a balanced diet, especially organic virgin coconut oil and organic meats.
Monounsaturated Fats: Great health benefits, can improve cholesterol levels and regulate insulin levels to control blood sugar levels. This is what makes a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a perfect salad dressing! Other examples are avocados, macadamia nuts and almonds.
Polyunsaturated Fats: These include omega 3 & omega 6 essential fatty acids, ‘essential’ means we have to get from our diet as our body does not produce enough to meet our needs. Good choices include oily fish such as salmon, sardines and walnuts.
For good health avoid at all costs. Usually found in processed, packaged & fast foods.
So what are your thoughts on sugar?
As I touched on above, sugar has a big part to play in many health problems today including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, acne, obesity, psoriasis, cancer, to name only a few. In excess, sugar turns to fat, it disrupts our hormones and imbalances our blood sugar levels leading to spikes in insulin and causing, yes, sugar cravings.
As a self-confessed former sugar addict, as good as sugar may taste, excess is detrimental to our health and when it comes to sugar, moderation is definitely the key. You want to select whole food varieties such as an apple with the skin on, over just the juice that gives you the sugar but without the health benefits of the fibre (the skin) that slows absorption, prevents insulin spikes and subsequent sugar cravings. I think sugar in the form of whole fruit and in moderation is important for good health, giving us many vital antioxidants and nutrients. Excess, especially of those sugars added and hidden in so many of our food choices today, should be avoided or left for times of indulgence. Our bodies were not designed to receive the quantities of sugar many consume today and the result is growing health concerns.
What do you think of raw vs cooked food?
Again, I think it is all about the right balance. Personally I love my nutrient dense vegetable juices, as they give me a natural energy boost and taste delicious but I also love warming foods, especially in the colder months when I think our bodies naturally crave them. Yes, raw foods retain more of the nutrients than cooked foods but that does not mean cooked foods cannot be highly nutritious, with the right heat, oils and of course ingredients! Traditional stews, soups and broths (especially bone broths) are some of the most nutrient dense foods you can have, retaining all their goodness in one big pot! Additionally, some foods can in fact provide different health benefits when they are cooked such as tomatoes, producing the phytochemical lycopene when cooked. Raw food may not be suited to everyone, especially those who have digestive problems. Raw foods are very difficult to digest and can actually worsen symptoms and cause discomfort and pain. Get a balance of good quality fresh raw and cooked foods. Listen to what your body needs that day.
What are some of your favourite healthy recipe's to make at home?
Oh wow, this is a hard one as I have SOOOOOOO many! I love making healthy and delicious food and creating healthy alternatives to popular dishes (especially treats!). Some of the things I could not live without are my homemade pesto, frittata for on-the-go brekkie/snack (I couldn’t live without eggs!), throw together salads, bliss balls, my almond, walnut & chia bread and homemade dairy free chocolate.
Chocolate Raspberry & Hazelnut Bark – dairy & gluten free
- 5 tbsps cacao
- 5 tbsp coconut oil
- 5 tbsp good quality maple syrup
- ½ cup frozen raspberries
- 40g hazelnuts, chopped
- Optional: coconut flakes, zest of one orange/8 drops orange essential oil, 1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt (the latter is for those salted choccie lovers!)
- Gently warm the cacao, coconut oil and maple syrup in a saucepan and pour into a baking tin (approx. 20cm x 20cm) lined with baking paper. You can alternatively line and use a dinner plate. The bigger the tin/plate, the thinner your chocolate bark will be, experiment to desired thickness.
- Evenly and generously scatter the raspberries and hazelnuts (and any other additions) over the chocolate so each piece gets some (be sure to do this quickly before the chocolate starts to set).
- Place in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes for the chocolate to set and serve as is or perhaps with your favourite dessert, coconut ice cream works very well!
Wining and dining can be difficult, what are some healthy tips to look out for when ordering from restaurants?
When eating out I would recommend selecting fresh salads, fruits, vegetables and steamed, grilled or poached meats. Avoid fried foods, creamy dressings and anything you cannot recognise as a food. I believe, indulgences are necessary so we do not feel deprived, however, these should be occasional treats not daily food choices. When you do have a cheeky chocolate brownie (yum), enjoy it, do not feel guilty for days afterwards but know you deserve it, as you lead a predominantly healthy and balanced lifestyle 80% of the time.
Where are your favourite healthy hangouts in Sydney?
Again, this is a hard one, as there are a growing number of places to get great tasting and nutritious food! A couple of my favs have got to be Porch and Parlour in Bondi Beach and Henley Wholefoods in Bondi Junction. Both offer quality produce made with love and your health in mind.
If you want to seek some more yummy recipe's or find further information on the benefits of healthy fats visit wholehealthnutrition.com.au or check out Claire's awesome Instagram page wholehealthnutrition. Claire is also offering Vie Active lovers the chance to recieve 50% off a nutritional consultation, so take advantage of this opportunity and shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on 0420492900 to book an appointment.
(Images were photographed by the PictureCollective)
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