The golden years
Cutting out processed food, eating fresh transforming
Swapping lollies for celery sticks is one of the changes Tom and Patty Dudson have made to live a healthier life.
The Te Awamutu couple say a new way of eating — following the paleo diet — has transformed their lives. Tom is an advocate for the style of eating after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 20 years ago.
He wants more people to know the paleo diet is an option in the wake of Diabetes Action Month. This month, national organisation Diabetes NZ is raising awareness and encouraging Kiwis to “act now to live well”.
New Zealanders are challenged to live well through healthy eating, regular physical activity and establishing a support network to create better habits to reduce the risk of or manage the symptoms of diabetes.
The paleo diet recommends shunning processed foods and following a diet similar to that of our ancestors in the Palaeolithic period — that began about 2.6 milion years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago.
Since starting the paleo diet three months ago Tom and Patty have each lost 11kg and are reaping the benefits of increased energy levels.
For Tom, he has noticed a slight drop in his insulin levels.
Definitions of the paleo diet vary, but they exclude grains and dairy products.
Paleo encourages eating plenty of fresh food, including vegetables, and little or no processed food.
“If you can’t grow it or catch it, don’t eat it,” is how Tom puts it.
After trying various diets over the years, the couple finally settled on paleo this year.
Although Patty doesn’t have diabetes, she’s enjoyed supporting Tom and feeling healthier and slimmer.
Tom says the new way of eating is exciting.
“We’ve had a lot of fun cooking together and discovering things in the kitchen — it’s like our own Masterchef,” he says. “How can I complain when I have bacon and eggs — without the toast — for breakfast each morning?
Tom and Patty are both keen gardeners and eat vegetables from their backyard most days. They admit that having a vegetable garden isn’t an option for everyone.
“We’re fortunate to have the time to manage a garden and prepare meals.”
They say the start-up cost for a paleo lifestyle can be expensive, but reckon they save more avoiding processed treats and takeaways.
What you won’t find much of in their house is white sugar, flour and potatoes.
Tom and Patty still enjoy dairy products to keep their bones strong as they age.
They’ve given up on fizzy drinks, instead enjoying water with a slice of lime.
The couple have been married 44 years and say they are now having the time of their lives, enjoying an empty nest and regular trips in their campervan.
Now that they’re both retired, they want to enjoy every moment together.
“These are the golden years and we have to look after our health.”
New Zealand registered dietician and nutritionist Cathy Khouri, who works in private practice at Hamilton’s Nutrition Care Ltd, says there are benefits to reducing processed foods.
“There is something about the paleo diet that is consistent with good health — that is enjoying less processed, whole foods, and I am in agreement with that.”
However, she says to be careful about reducing dairy, grains and legumes.
“The result of that can be a diet that is a lot lower in those micronutrients which are important for good health — things like calcium.”
Cathy says Ministry of Health guidelines permit a wide range of diets. “What they caution again is to radically limit any particular food group.”
Cathy says the slower people lose weight, the more likely that their weight loss is long-term and sustainable.
Dietician and senior lecturer at Auckland University of Technology Dr Caryn Zinn supported reducing or eliminating grains.
“The paleo diet tends to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in natural fats — and I think that really should be the way that we should be guiding people with diabetes to eat. The lower carbohydrate approach is one that needs to progress, as long and people are getting their micronutrients and other vitamins from whole foods, then there's no problem in reducing or eliminating grains at all.”
Te Awamutu couple Tom and Patty Dudson say a new way of eating — following the paleo diet — has transformed their lives.