Jennifer McGruther: Nourished Kitchen
Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another Smarter Science of Slim show. Very excited about today’s show. We have a food educator. Just a food enthusiast. I love that. We need more food enthusiasts. Food is definitely something to be enthusiastic about. I don’t know the last time I was enthusiastic about some processed soy lecithin or this nonsense. I want to get passionate and educated about realfood. She is the proprietor and founder of the wonderful website, if you haven’t checked it out, please do so, NourishedKitchen.com.
She is the author of the upcoming Ten Speed Press title Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle, which – I like the traditional foods lifestyle. I like to call it the “what we did before everything went wrong lifestyle,” which makes a lot of sense to me. Jenny McGruther, welcome to the show.
Jennifer: Thank you so much, Jonathan. I’m really happy to be here and I definitely share your appreciation and enthusiasm for real food. And so much joy.
Jonathan: Well, Jenny, it’s a pleasure to have you. I just got off an interview myself and they’re like, “Is what you’re talking about this Paleo caveman diet?” and I said, “When did eating things that we ate for the entirety of human history become a diet? Isn’t that just the normal way to eat?”
Jennifer: I know. I can really identify but it’s amazing how quickly and how profoundly our relationship with food changed in the last fifty to a hundred years, even. It hasn’t been that long that we’ve been reliant on processed foods and during that time when our food systems and culinary heritage has changed. We’re really seeing a decline in overall wellness, and I’d say a decline in our true enjoyment of real food as well.
Jonathan: That true enjoyment of real food, Jenny, I think is the key to overcoming this because so often health – there’s actually been studies done on this and if you say that this is a healthy food or a healthy recipe, the feeling people get is a negative feeling. Health is associated with negativity whereas what we’re talking about here, these traditional whole healing foods, are really the most delicious foods available to us.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and I think that’s one of the biggest things I try to combat in my work is that the idea that healthy foods and eating a nutrient-dense diet is somehow restrictive or punitive. We need to stop looking at our relationship with food in terms of good and bad and as well as punishment and not. I see a lot of newcomers to the real foods movement struggle with the concept of truly enjoying their food. Enjoying the butter, enjoying the pates or enjoying fresh fruit and heirloomvegetables. There always seems to be some sort of component where there’s an element of worry and element of restriction and an element of good versus bad as though we have to paint all of our food within this microcosm of black and white.
Jonathan: I love the point about conscious – it’s like we’ve been brainwashed into thinking our bodies are stupid. Unless we intervene, they’re just going to go crazy and they don’t know what they actually need to eat. We need to consciously count calories. We can’t trust when we’re hungry. We can’t trust when we’re satisfied and it seems there’s some truth there. When you eat nonfood, your brain circuitry goes haywire, but when you eat actual food just like everyone did prior to the obesity and diabetes epidemic, no one thought about this. They just ate and they didn’t get fat and they didn’t become diabetic. It’s not too good to be true. It’s reality, isn’t it?
Jennifer: Absolutely. We talk about our great, great grandparents offhand saying, “Well, my great-grandfather, he ate bacon and smoked cigarettes until he was ninety-nine years old, so how do I know what’s healthy and what’s not?” and I find that very funny because I think that it shows how much we’ve lost in terms of being in touch with real food, in touch with hunger and satisfaction as well. I think that a lot of us, especially in the last, I would say, thirty years, there’s been a diversion from just simply sitting down to eat at the table, to eat and enjoy your food and there’s been a focus on calories in, calories out, macronutrients and – as though we can – if we only consume specific things in a specific way, we’ll certainly have health.
I think that we really need to embrace and trust our bodies and eat with conscious effort, mindfulness, and intention. When you trust your body and you can say “Okay, now I’m satisfied,” it’s a very liberating feeling. I think that an embrace of traditional and real foods, however you come by them, is the first step on making that happen.
Jonathan: Jenny, some people hear what you just said, which I agree with and I know the listeners agree with wholeheartedly, they hear that and they think that’s a little woo-woo: listen to your body. But again, I just don’t get why people think that animals who are not nearly as intelligent as humans, in fact, they don’t even have the portion of the brain, the neocortex, that allows us to count calories (not that we need to). But there’s a reason your dog doesn’t count calories and can’t, but somehow animals “instinctually” know how to feed themselves. Are we to believe that we are less capable at staying alive than our animal brethren?
Jennifer: I think that’s a very valid point. That’s a struggle for a lot of people who have come to the traditional foods movement from outside to begin to trust their instincts in terms of eating and normalizing their eating habits in that respect, but you’re right. Animals, they know what to eat. They eat until they’re satisfied and they go on their way.
There’s not a head game associated with their food intake, and I think that that’s where we need to return if we’re going to seek true health. And remember that health isn’t just how our body functions and health isn’t just the absence of disease like obesity or diabetes. Health is a holistic way of practicing our life. It’s lack of stress. It’s finding joy in everyday things, and if you’re obsessed with food intake, with restriction, then I think you’re missing a large component of health.
Jonathan: Jenny, one thing I like most about your message and your philosophy is this simple approach, and simple in the sense that we’ve got more important stuff to do than count calories and calculate macronutrient ratios. At the same time, the traditional foods movement definitely has a segment of it that seems to purport another type of complexity, which is this real – while it seems like everyone in the traditional foods movement and ancestral movement is “Ah, you don’t need to count calories.” We all agree on that, but then it’s like they introduced a new type of complexity into “You should have kombucha or bone broth” or “This whole food is evil and this is the one that should be prioritized.” What is your take on that?
Jennifer: I’ve noticed that as well and I think that that’s an offshoot of the past thirty years where we have been obsessed with restriction and that there hasn’t been a difference between restricted diets and healthy diets. I think that that’s a big struggle for people to come to a traditional foods movement or come to the ancestral health movement and let go of that restriction on a conscious level. I do take issue with the idea that you have to consume kombucha or that you have to consume or not consume it or that all of a sudden dairy is bad or grains are bad or this [inaudible 8:33] is wonderful.
The thing is that we’re all individuals and each of our bodies have individual needs and I think that we need to respect that and honor that our path may be different from the path of somebody else, but I don’t buy into the idea that any whole food is a bad food. I take issue with that restrictive component of the ancestral health and the traditional foods movement.
Jonathan: I love that. It sounds like your barometer for success is what really everyone’s barometer should be and does this food further your goals? There’s no right or wrong. There’s does it further your goals? If it furthers your goals, it’s right. If it inhibits your goals, it’s wrong.
Jennifer: That’s exactly right. It’s about trusting what works for you and finding that out. Also, I think it’s important to be open to the idea that what works for you at one point in your life may not work for you at a different point of your life. And that we all need to go through cycles where we examine how our actions, not just with relationship with food and diet, but with movements, with stress reduction techniques and things like that, how all those components of health either assists us or inhibits us in achieving our goals.
Jonathan: Jenny, you are extremely articulate and passionate, so I’m curious what set you on this path to begin with.
Jennifer: Well, like many people, in my teenage years I found the vegan and the vegetarian movement, and I found it because I was very greatly distressed by what I saw in the treatment of animals in the industrialized system. I didn’t know that there was an alternative, and as I became a vegetarian and then later a vegan, I found that my health was declining rapidly, and it didn’t makes sense because I was doing everything I should have done. I was minimizing animal products, of course, as a vegetarian and then vegan. I was eating the low fat diet. The fats I was eating were things like canola oil. I was doing everything by the book.
I was exercising aerobically a ton, and my health was getting worse and worse and worse. Finally, when I was in college, I was exhausted all the time that I couldn’t sleep and I had all these health issues. I went to doctor after doctor and they kept telling me that it was stress. And eventually, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is one of the most common causes of infertility. I was gaining weight despite the fact that I was eating what was considered to be a healthy low fat diet, and I was suffering from Graves’ disease as well. At one point, I was looking down the barrel of osteoporosis and I was only twenty-four years old.
Finally, I reached out and I found an endocrinologist, who was treating me for the thyroid disease, and it was working with her I went on a gluten-free diet. And I began to find traditional whole foods while I was exploring this journey of why my health was so poor when I was so young. Despite the fact that I had all these health issues and conditions and I had literally been told that I would never have children — imagine hearing that as woman of only twenty-three, twenty-four years: “You’re never going to have kids and plan to adopt.” It was a troubling time for me.
In working with the endocrinologist, I went on a gluten-free diet. From there, I discovered a whole new area of traditional foods, as well as the ancestral health movement and I began to embrace real fat, real food, grass-fed meats, and I was pregnant within three months. And so it was this movement, this desperation, this sense of illness and loss, it was that time in my life that I came to traditional whole foods and then recovered my health. I’m so thankful for having been sick because if I hadn’t been sick, I would never have been able to explore this movement with such passion.
Jonathan: Jenny, I so appreciate you sharing that story with us because it is so inspirational. I think it’s so representative of the challenge millions of Americans face, which is getting into this mindset where they must be wrong or broken because they’re doing everything they’ve been told. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked with that say, “Jonathan, I’m eating 1,400 calories per day and I’m exercising until I’m exhausted and I feel sick and tired. What’s wrong with me?”
Jennifer: Right. That’s exactly right. I wish it weren’t common, Jonathan, but I think it really is quite common that people are essentially doing everything by the book, and they still are not seeing the perfect health to which we’re all entitled.
Jonathan: Well, Jenny, I know one of the biggest, “weapons” in the arsenal that we have against this battle of nonsense and getting back simply to whole foods and simple, enjoyable eating is your work, and you have a big inflection point coming up with your new book NourishedKitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle coming out in Spring of 2014. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired this book and what we can look forward to reading in it?
Jennifer: Well, the Nourished Kitchen, it’s a beautiful book and my inspiration in writing it largely came from my kitchen garden or the pasture where we go and we look at the edibles that feed us. For example, we go visit our milk cows or we go visit the rangelands where we see the truly free-range cattle who will then later become dinner for my family. It was inspired largely by the farms and the gardens in my area, and it’s a tribute to those farmers whose hard work has nourished my family and brought my family to profound health.
In the book, I talk about my journey, my love affair with farm-to-table cooking and real food, and the book also focuses heavily on just back-to-basics old world recipes. I also teach a lot of simple techniques for making bone broths and stocks, organ meats that are wonderfully delicious, heirloom vegetables, and of course, everything that’s served with a healthy dose of honest-to-goodness real fat as well. And that’s the essence of the book. It’s a tribute to local farms. It’s a tribute to traditional cooking and it’s a celebration of lard and butter and heirloom vegetables and all sorts of wonderful things.
Jonathan: Well, certainly, the word “celebration” is apropos based on the description you just gave. Well, Jenny, where can we learn more about the upcoming book, what you’re doing in general and just get more nourished kitchen Jenny McGruther goodness?
Jennifer: Well, the best thing to do would be to visit NourishedKitchen.com. That is my website. On the website, you’ll find some wonderful things. Lots of traditional foods recipes. They’re posted a couple times a week through the blog. We also offer meal plans, so for those families who are new to the traditional foods movement or new to the ancestral health movement, and they just want some simple guidelines for getting real food on the table, we’ve got some excellent meal plans that provide shopping lists, to-do list and some basic recipes. Also, you’ll find more about the book on NourishedKitchen.com as well.
Jonathan: Beautiful. Well, Jenny McGruther, thank you so much for joining us. It has been an absolute pleasure. And listeners, if you haven’t already checked out, please do. Pop over to Jenny’s website which is NourishedKitchen.com. It is absolutely something to celebrate, and we’ll help you bring a little bit more common sense and just savory goodness and simplicity back into the kitchen, which is what we all need. Again, Jenny McGruther, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Jennifer: Thank you.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much as I did, and please remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.
Jonathan: Wait, wait don’t stop listening yet.
Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at carriebrown.com.
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