(I took this pic earlier this year as we were driving through the Grampians on our way home to Adelaide from Victoria. I couldn’t help but think that this windy, hilly, road was a rather apt metaphor for a life and health journey).
Health is a journey
Years ago, I saw the passage by Souza which finishes with “Happiness is a journey not a destination”. I loved it and ever since then I’ve said “Health is a journey not a destination.”
If you’re going to successfully navigate this alternative cooking journey for the long term, then you need a good map & the right guide for the different parts of the journey. What we mean by this is to make sure you’re getting the right advice from the right people.
So who are the “right” people? For starters, it’s not just one person, it’s more of a team of people.
- Your qualified healthcare practitioners: If you are food intolerant, looking to transition to a plant based diet, or have another particular diet style which has restrictions, a qualified nutritional healthcare practitioner will help you identify what foods you need to avoid (if you have a food intolerance), help you identify what nutrient deficiencies you may already have or need to be mindful of in the future as you follow your particular diet for the long term, and most importantly, they translate generalised popular nutritional advice, into advice which is suitable for your specific needs. This information creates your map).
- Your helpful guides show you how to make this diet and lifestyle work in your lifestyle (for the rest of your life).
- Your inspirational cooking guides help to give you something to look forward to, to help you create new favourites meals and recipes, and new memories.
Finding a nutrition guide
There is a lot of nutritional advice out there nowadays, especially online. Sadly, not all of it is sound, and some of it is so general that it wont be appropriate for your individual needs. Also, when the advice comes from people who have not been following their particular diet very long, it can be naive to the long term pitfalls and nutrient deficiencies that can occur with restricted diets. So it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutritional advice for your needs.
A good place to start when looking or the right nutritional advice is to find a healthcare practitioner that has a formal education in nutrition (eg. Advanced Diploma, Bachelor degree, Masters or PhD). You don’t want to be getting nutritional advice from nutrition enthusiasts.
In order to give clinical advice, at a minimum the healthcare professional should have studied an undergraduate course which covered topics like pathophysiology (so they know what the important health “red flags” are, how to integrate general nutrition and health information with your particular health history and importantly, when they need to refer to someone else, eg. a doctor). These courses should also cover ethics and legal issues (so these people are unlikely to be making outlandish claims on their websites or social media pages). Lastly, they should be a member of a professional society requiring them to keep professional indemnity insurance and to keep their knowledge base up to date (sometimes referred to as continuing professional education).
The undergraduate courses eg. Bachelor degrees and Advanced Diplomas are usually between 3-4 years full time.
Honours, Masters and PhDs are post-graduate degrees, so this means the person has already studied a Bachelor degree first (although some universities include Honours with their Bachelor degree programs).
Honours and PhDs are fully research based, while Masters degrees usually contain some course work, a clinical component and or research component. The benefit of a research based degree means that the person has had training in being able to interpret and “critically evaluate” scientific research (and to conduct research).
The importance of inspirational guides
Food is a pretty important part of our culture. It’s a way we share, a way that we nurture and not being a part of special occasions and family gatherings because of your dietary needs can make you feel pretty lonely. So that’s why inspirational guides are important. Inspirational guides show you how to transform your old favourites into new versions that suit your dietary needs and taste amazing.
When it comes to cooking, inspirational guides are chefs, cooking enthusiasts, food enthusiasts, foodies, whole foodies.
They give recipe ideas for a particular dish, or occasion, not a long-term meal plan.
Formally trained nutritionists who develop recipes can also be inspirational guides, with the added benefit of having an understanding of nutrition and who the advice is relevant for.
For advice that is practical when you have a food intolerance or you follow a plant-based diet (or perhaps you’re plant based with a food intolerance), it can be really helpful to see a health care practitioner that also has a food intolerance (you’re even luckier if they have the same needs as you, although because there can be so many combinations when it comes to food intolerances, it is unlikely you’ll find someone with the exact same needs and formal qualifications in your local area). A healthcare practitioner with a food intolerance though understands the gravity of “cutting out gluten” or “cutting out dairy and soy” because they’ve been through it and may also be able to give you ideas regarding local shops which might stock alternatives suitable for your needs.
The same is true for when you follow a plant based diet, or are looking to transition to one. Finding a plant-based friendly healthcare practitioner means they’re better able to understand your nutritional needs, your ethos and also to have a dispensary (if it’s a naturopath or nutritionist for example) which is vegetarian or vegan friendly.
If you’ve got kids or want to bring more whole foods into your cooking, you’ll get more practical ideas from chefs, whole food enthusiasts and nutritionists who have kids (because they’ll understand how pushed for time you are in the kitchen) and they might have some good ideas for getting around fussy eaters and other situations.
There might not be a guide for every single situation but the closest to your situation you can get, will help. Helpful guides can be either inspirational or nutritional, just check out their qualifications to understand which they are first.
Knowing where to get the right information is definitely important for any new alternative chef kitchen. If you want to check out the other 2 important things for success at this alternative cooking journey, check out this post about equipment and this one about having the best mindset for the road ahead.
Until next time, happy cooking!