“What do YOU eat?”
I get this question a lot. And it makes sense that people would want to know those details (beyond our natural human curiosity about what other humans are really up to in their lives! 😜)
As a holistic doctor with a primary focus on guiding people through changing their diets – often drastically – when I provide concrete examples of specific foods and meals (like what I eat), this is like giving you street signs for your road map. This is especially useful when you’re struggling, asking how in the world am I going to get from here (the way you are eating now) to there (the way I’m recommending you eat)?
So today I’m going to share with you the answer to that question, what do I eat, to provide you with some more of those street signs as you make your way along my Roadmap to Optimal Health.
As you probably know, in general I recommend (and eat) a high quality, lower carb Paleo diet, for its nutrient density and its anti-inflammatory, health-enhancing effects. (For more details on this, check out my post What To Eat for Optimal Health). This means filling our plates with:
- animal proteins from pastured animals or wild caught seafood
- organic, lower carb vegetables and fruits
- healthy fats
These are the basics of the dietary guidelines that I have been guiding people through for many many years now, and they have stood the test of time. I have seen this way of eating help 1,000s of people tremendously (including myself and my own family). And to achieve this for my family, my grocery list typically focuses on the oft-referenced perimeter of the store (or, from spring to fall, on what’s at our local farmers market or farm stand).
But what does that look like in terms of specific foods and meals?
I like to cook, and I love looking for and trying out new recipes. But like most people these days, I’m super busy and don’t have much free time, so I usually keep things pretty simple – I’ll often eat the same things for most lunches, and then get more creative with dinner a night or two a week and make extra, then eat the leftovers from those dinners on other days.
Wait a minute…
You might have noticed I didn’t mention breakfast. So, what about breakfast? Well, since starting intermittent fasting in 2015, I’ve been a “2MAD” gal – I eat 2 meals a day, lunch and dinner, and rarely have breakfast any more, just black coffee with a pinch of salt first thing, and then jasmine green tea, plain black tea (usually Earl Grey), and plain filtered water until it’s time to break my fast with lunch. Not having breakfast simplifies things a lot! (Plus the health benefits are huge.)
But when I used to eat breakfast, it was typically an egg-based dish of some sort, with some low carb veggies on the side or mixed in (I’ve been low carb since being diagnosed with Pre-diabetes in 2008 – which, btw, I reversed completely within a few months and it has never returned). Nowadays, I often still eat these meals, but I have them for lunch.
- scrambled eggs mixed with sautéed veggies – years ago, my nephew named this “Aunt Emily eggs” when I made them for him one day, and we’ve all called them that ever since in my family 😊
- fried eggs, topped with fire-roasted tomato salsa
- a square of my “breakfast casserole“: eggs, breakfast sausage or bacon, and lots of sautéed veggies – I still make this nearly every week for our lunches
- Green Shakshuka
- breakfast burrito in a bowl – scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage crumble, avocado or guacamole, cauli rice and cilantro
- leftovers from last night’s dinner
- and a cup of Jasmine green tea (my FAVE!)
Like many people, lunch is a bit catch-as-catch-can on weekdays for me, and I have a few staple lunches that I turn to most of the time because they’re quick and easy, and because I really like them! On weekends, I’m more likely to have “breakfast for lunch”, from the breakfast list above. My favorite and most frequent weekday lunches are:
- lettuce wrap with protein (sliced turkey or ham, egg salad, tuna salad, or bacon strips), and tomato, cucumber, salad sprouts, cultured veggies, stoneground mustard and Chosen Foods mayo
- poke bowl (without the rice): tuna or salmon sashimi with avocado, cucumber, pickled ginger, wasabi and coconut aminos
- or leftovers from last night’s dinner
I own dozens of cookbooks, and I also have hundreds of recipes on paper filling various folders and notebooks throughout my house, plus hundreds more saved on my computer. So the answer to ‘what do I eat for dinner’ is: it depends on what I feel like cooking that night or that week! But again, I basically make some version of “protein and veggies” and – here’s the most important part in my mind – an interesting spice mix or sauce. The joy is in the sauce! (Check out my post Let’s Get Saucy for some of my favorite sauces). That is what keeps food interesting and fun, especially in the absence of those oh-so-tempting carbs that we all love and that are so bad for us.
I also try to keep things interesting in part by switching up the form of our dinners, so I vary between making stews, soups, stir-frys, and chili, or a protein entrée of meat, poultry or seafood, paired with a salad (see below for details) with a yummy dressing or a vegetable sauté with a tantalizing sauce.
I frequently make a big complex salad for dinner, with my usual mixture being some combo of:
- red leaf lettuce (I like the color)
- arugula (yum)
- homemade salad sprouts (brassica sprouts are mega-nutrient-dense!)
- a few cherry tomatoes
- turnip slices (have you had Japanese baby turnips yet? OMG, delicious! they have a mild, slightly sweet and slightly spicy flavor, with a delightful crunch)
- cultured veggies
- marinated artichoke hearts
- shredded purple cabbage
- an avocado
- some protein (I vary this a lot, from taco meat to baked chicken to various types of seafood)
- and my easy, homemade ranch dressing or a simple vinaigrette or lemonette
Other than salad, some of my most favorite specific dinners are:
- Garlic-Thyme Baked Chicken Thighs and Faux-tato Salad
- Fish and veg coconut curry over cauli rice (super versatile dish)
- Red Chile Enchilada Shrimp & Cauli Rice (yes, I really love cauli rice, esp with loads of pastured butter 😋)
- Hamburgers topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, with a side salad, or steamed or roasted broccoli
- Stir-Fried Greens and Sausage
- Slow cooker roast and roasted veggies
- Pulled pork and coleslaw
One way I have found to keep the “same old” protein+veg meal equation interesting is to have a variety of tastes, textures and colors within each meal. So, for instance, if I make stir-fried greens and sausage, I’ll add another veggie of a different color and/or texture to the meal. This not only gives us more flavor and texture variety, but also gives us a wider variety of nutrients! (I think this is probably why it is innately appealing. 😊) Some of my favorite side-dish add-ons are:
- cultured veggies (I add a small side of these to most every meal, for a great flavor and probiotic boost)
- roasted cabbage (this is so simple and amazingly delicious and goes with practically everything)
- mashed cauliflower or cauliflower colcannon (these are both fabulous Paleo and low-carb comfort foods, and are especially welcome in colder months)
- cauliflower rice pilaf (usually with a sprinkle of herbs added for visual interest and flavor, like fresh or dried parsley or basil)
- zoodles with garlic butter
- sautéed mushrooms with garlic butter (I do love garlic butter!)
- pumpkin soufflé
- a small bowl of veggie soup
For my dinner beverage, I usually have plain filtered water (Zero water filters are the best, IMO) or mineral water (such as Gerolsteiner – because they use glass bottles, not plastic) with some lemon. On rare occasions, I’ll have a glass of low alcohol, uber-clean red wine from Dry Farm Wines for a treat – go here to try your first bottle for just a penny!
I try to avoid snacking, as not eating between meals is good for insulin sensitivity, gives the digestion a rest, and ramps up fat burning. But if I do, it’s a stick of beef jerky (pastured beef, no sugar added), a handful of salted macadamia nuts, and/or a square or two of very dark, very low sugar chocolate.
I’ll admit it – I love dessert. I always have… And in all my many years of being low carb, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is how much I crave it (way less), how sweet I like my desserts (not very), how often I actually have dessert (rarely), and what I have for dessert when I do have some.
Mostly, dessert these days means a small serving of fruit – a half a grapefruit, or 1/2 cup of berries, after dinner. I avoid fruit any time of day except evening, since having much fruit – especially earlier in the day – leads to more insulin stimulation, higher overall blood sugar, and more inflammation, and packs on the pounds. And if my clothes are starting to feel a bit snug, I’ll skip the fruit altogether for a while.
So, that’s the roundup of what I typically eat.
What do you usually eat? Share your typical menu and favorite foods on my Facebook page at facebook.com/dremilyfranklin