As her new book of family recipes hits the shelves, dietitian and foodie Nadia Lim shares her thoughts on diet fads and how to eat for your best life
On common diet mistakes
I think there’s a big misconception that being healthy often means watching calories. Of course reducing your calorie intake is going to help you lose weight, but it’s not the be all and end all. The most important thing is that you nourish your body with all the nutrients it needs. You’re never going to lose weight until your body is feeling really nourished and is in a good position to start losing weight.
Another mistake is believing someone else who maybe has lots of letters behind their name is more qualified than you to tell you how to eat. I’m a big believer that there’s no one diet that fits all. Everyone’s so genetically varied that there isn’t one single diet that can fit every single human being. You look around the world, and there are populations that eat a very high meat diet but they’re healthy, and then there are populations that eat no meat and they’re healthy. So people rely on someone else to tell them how to eat, when actually if they listen to their body, they know best what suits them.
For example, I feel fine when I eat gluten so I don’t feel I need to cut it out to be healthy. So it’s just about listening to your body and its cues, and how it reacts with different foods and different styles and ways of eating, then doing what suits you best. I guess it’s being a flexitarian.
On living healthily
An everyday change you can make to be healthier is to be in tune with how you feel energy-wise; how your gut feels; what your bowel motions are doing; how you feel – whether you feel stressed or anxious. Your mood of course is super, super-affected by all of those things, and often people don’t realise it, including myself sometimes. So paying attention to those signals is a key thing.
Most people need to get more greens into their diet, this isn’t news, most people know that. And you can do this in so many different ways. You can have greens at breakfast when you have your poached or scrambled eggs on toast: wilt some spinach in the pan after you’ve done your eggs – it only takes 30 seconds – with a bit of olive oil, a little knob of butter. I have a green smoothie every day. I used to be a big sceptic of green smoothies, because I thought ‘how can it taste good?’, but they do taste delicious if you pair them with the right things. I’ve got berries in mine, orange, lemon, turmeric and ginger and you can’t really taste the bitterness of the greens. It’s really refreshing. Then at lunchtime and dinner, always have some kind of salad on the side, maybe some pickled vegetables as well.
Another tip would be trying to be more mindful and pay more attention to how you’re eating. Just ask yourself, whenever you’ve got a piece of food in front of you, ‘Does it provide lots of vitamins and minerals?’ If it does, great! Instead of thinking about ‘Is this high in calories? Is this going to make me fat?’ you should be thinking ‘Is this going to give me lots of useful nutrients?’
On our relationship with food
It’s really important to have a good relationship with food because it’s probably the main way the modern human race stays connected with nature. There are not many other ways, in such an urban world, that we’re actually connected with nature anymore. That relates to not just what you’ve got on your plate, but looking at the journey of the food and thinking about it before it gets to your plate. I think if you understand and are mindful and interested in the processes that go on behind your plate, how the food actually gets there, you learn to appreciate it much more, because nature has to put in a lot of effort and time to grow everything for us to produce all of this food.
On popular diet trends
I think with most diets there is always a bit of truth in them, but I wouldn’t take them as gospel.
For example, why do you have to go 100 per cent sugar free? Can’t I have a piece of pavlova at Christmas time? I don’t think that’s going to kill me; it’s going to make me really happy and I’ll get to socialise and eat with everyone else, so I think that’s a positive thing. So going 100 per cent sugar free
I don’t think is necessary, but definitely limiting as much sugar as you can is a great thing. As for going low-carb, some people do feel better having a
‘Trust your instincts because no one person
is the same genetically, and therefore no one
diet fits all’
slightly lower amount of carbohydrates, but I think it’s important people realise and understand that carbohydrates aren’t evil. It’s not carbohydrates themselves, it’s the type of carbs people often eat that aren’t great for them and don’t make them feel great. Really, really highly processed carbohydrates or simple sugar carbohydrates are generally not going to be that great for you in large quantities, so yes, good idea to limit them. But if you’re talking about carbohydrates like kumara and potatoes themselves, or carrots and parsnips – they’re high in carbohydrates too, they’re fantastic for you, they provide your body with so much nutrition. Why would nature produce something that wasn’t going to be good for you? So I’m not anti-carb at all. It’s all about the amount that you eat and the type that you eat.
On her food philosophy
The diet that I believe in is called ‘nude food’. It’s not really a diet, it’s more of a philosophy. It’s based on three key principles. First, ignore all the fads and marketing because they’re just distractions. The second key principle is eat real food, which is food that comes from the ground, the sea and the sky, and less out of the factories, as much as you can. And then the third one is trust your instincts because – as I mentioned before – no one person is the same genetically, and therefore no one diet fits all. You’re your best guru to tell you how to eat better than anyone else.
On Let’s Eat
This is the first book that I have selfpublished. The book is a bit of an evolution that reflects the way our family now eats, because now we’ve become a family of three, my cooking style has slightly changed again, as it does when you go through different life stages. The meals and recipes in this book, Let’s Eat, are very much a reflection of our family table. So there are family recipes from our table that me, [husband] Carlos and [baby son] Bodhi eat a lot of and cook for our friends and family when they come around to visit, but also family recipes like my dad’s Malaysian chicken rendang.
Let’s Eat is out September 7. To celebrate the launch, Nadia will be doing a nationwide book tour. For more info, check out nadialim.com.