Healthy Eating Tips from a Chef and Chiropractor

Many of us are hungry to understand how to eat healthy.

Interview with Dr. James Ryan and Chef Alexander Dixon:

Emmy Vadnais: Do you believe nutrition is individual to everyone, i.e. do they need to have an individual diet based on their unique constitution/blood type and/or are there general food/diet recommendations that are good for all?

Dr. James Ryan: Yes, ultimately nutrition is individual. But there are some guidelines that can help. Favoring regional and/or your genetic heritage can be a good place to start if you are not sure of what to do. You can work from that basis to discover what works best for you.

Emmy Vadnais: Based on the average American diet, if you could give one food tip to someone that you feel would be one of the most important things to remember, what would it be?

Dr. James Ryan: A tough one. I think unhealthy oils – trans fats, polyunsaturated fats are the worst thing for most people. But if diabetes is a big risk/concern, then sugar/HFCS/artificial sweeteners are a priority to avoid.

Emmy Vadnais: What is your top 3 – 5 do’s and don’ts when it comes to diet and nutrition?

Dr. James Ryan: Having done a bunch of fad/radical/restrictive diets, I would say “don’t do that”. They never last and ultimately you end up back at some baseline diet. Research tends to show that people who just stick with an eating routine (even if it’s not the healthiest) maintain their weight better than folks who fad. Fads tend to create the yo-yo weight effect and any diet that deprives one of something significant will create a rebound of some sort, usually with weight being the most obvious one.

Another is not to starve yourself or skip meals. limiting food intake too much is like limiting your income. Hard to spend a lot (burn calories) when your body thinks you’re starving! Do eat a variety of foods – restrictions tend to create nutritional deficiencies and will eventually derail any diet and/or your health.

Don’t try to be too perfect. Achieving a good body weight is not a precise accounting game. Relax with measuring caloriesa bit. Things will even out over time. Don’t weigh yourself too often! The emotional roller-coaster is not helpful. Once a week is plenty. Make sure you do that on the same scale, at the same time of day and with the same amount of clothing on.

Emmy Vadnais: What is the biggest mistake you see people make when attempting to eat healthier?

Dr. James Ryan: Trying too hard. Trying to do too much too soon. One or two gradual changes that become ‘permanent’ will do more good in the long run than more heroic but short-lived efforts. I have personally experienced this and it’s not fun. 

Emmy Vadnais: What are your thoughts on the Paleo diet vs. the Mediterranean diet, vs. the Zone, etc. Is there a best one or is each person individual?

Dr. James Ryan: Paleo is sort of a joke – very vaguely defined and more a modern construction than a real throwback to old ways. Mediterranean is fine, but not everyone is Mediterranean. If you like it, do it. If you don’t, find something else. I found the Zone to be too hard to do – too much effort at perfectly balancing each meal. Similarly with the blood-type diet. Plus, I found many people don’t naturally seem to eat what their blood type says they ‘should’. Avoiding all those ‘avoids’ is the most important part but also the hardest to do, in my experience.

Emmy Vadnais: What do you feel is the biggest challenge to people eating healthier and what recommendations can you share that can assist them to be successful as the try to eat healthier?

Dr. James Ryan: Learning to cook and prepare your own food will help a lot and should save money as well. Relying on shakes or food buying programs gets old and then you are back to where you started. If you learn to cook, you can always refine your skills and shift directions or make progress.

Emmy Vadnais: How much should people be supplementing their diet with taking a multivitamin, vitamins/nutritional supplements? Should they have blood analysis done first?

Dr. James Ryan: Supplements are important, and should be just that, an augmentation of a healthy diet. Whole food complexes are best as opposed to highly concentrated, out of proportion/context conglomerations of nutrients someone decided was good.

Emmy Vadnais: What do you think constitutes a healthy meal?

Chef Alexander Dixon: Obviously this will be different for different needs. But, in general for an adult 25 to 65 years of age; 15% protein: 20% fat:65% carbohydrate. The protein can be vegetable or animal. If the protein is vegetable try to construct it from a variety of grains and legumes consumed in the same meal to contain as many different amino acids as possible. Also try to have the carbohydrates derive from complex low glycemic value carbs as much as possible. Avoid refined and simple sugars whenever possible. For fats I don’t feel butter and saturated fats are a huge problem, but they should only be derived from organic meats and dairy since the fat is where most toxins are stored. Nor should those saturated fats be the only fat source. Otherwise all vegetable fats should be okay as long as their source is also organic and non-GMO. Some fats contains higher omega 3 fatty acids which are beneficial. READ THE NUTRITIONAL VALUES LABEL ON EVERYTHING EVERY TIME.

Emmy Vadnais: What do you think is the biggest barrier to people eating a healthy diet?

Chef Alexander Dixon: TIME and MONEY!!!

TIME – People need to realize the importance of slowing down to consider the value and structure of upcoming meals and the preparation of those meals as well as taking the time to thoughtfully and consciously consider every meal. Consideration and reflection during the intake of the meal is important to effectively refuel the body/mind to the meal’s maximum benefit.

MONEY – Buy less of higher quality ingredients. They will taste better. They will be better for you with fewer side effects (food is just like a drug it does come with side effects and interactions). If you buy less you will consume less resulting in a more reasonable caloric intake (assuming you consume as an average American). Less food takes less time to prepare. Less food purchased means less food produced means more food to go around means less waste means easier on the environment. Save yourself, save your children, save the planet, save your children’s children.

Emmy Vadnais: What do you think could support them to eat healthier?

Chef Alexander Dixon: Education: Biology of human life. Biology of plant life. Chemistry of cooking. Chemistry of nutrition. This doesn’t have to be Phd. or even Master’s or college level. If basic high school biology and chemistry is taught and understood relative to how our body and mind work then that knowledge will give way to common sense.

Sense of personal value/self esteem: We should foster programs that illustrate to each individual why THEY are important and valuable. If they feel good about themselves and take pride in themselves then they will take care of themselves. NO ONE is going to do it for you the way you can do it for yourself (EVEN IF YOU WERE TO PAY THEM).

Emmy Vadnais: Based on the average American diet, If you could give one food tip to someone that you feel would be one of the most important things to remember, what would it be?

Chef Alexander Dixon: I would say the one tip that will insure success in healthy eating is to do what makes you happy satisfied and makes you feel good. Use moderation in consumption of all the good things AS WELL AS the bad things. Don’t sentence yourself to gustatorial/sensory deprivation or nutritional perfection. The first is undesirable the second is unobtainable. Their results would be depression and failure.

Emmy Vadnais: What are your top 3 – 5 do’s and don’ts when it comes to diet, nutrition, and healthy eating?

Chef Alexander Dixon: Get more exercise! This will make use of what you have consumed. You could engage in athletics. You could do more manual labor. You could get off your ass and go for a walk when you’re bored. The outdoors ALWAYS presents something interesting. Did you ever notice how dogs on a walk are obsessed with every little smell and insignificant detail? This is because when they finally get out of their house or cage everything matters more. You could see the world the same way! Smell the lilacs. Notice the birds. Look at the stars in the sky. Think of the possibilities.

Emmy Vadnais: What are your thoughts on the Paleo diet vs. the Mediterranean diet, vs. the Zone, etc. Is there a best one or is each person individual?

Chef Alexander Dixon: As humans we are cursed with a hunger (no pun intended) for variety. All of these diets have something to offer. All of these diets can become boring prisons. I like to mix it up. Look at the goal and benefits of each diet. Borrow from each diet the parts that will work best for you and keep you interested and on track for your own goals. You CAN do it. It’s not rocket science. Experiment. Succeed. Enjoy yourself and the journey.

Emmy Vadnais: Do you think people should be supplementing with vitamins and supplements or do you think eating a healthy diet would give them all the nutrition they need?

Chef Alexander Dixon: If you are generally healthy, if you have no diagnosed deficiencies, if you vary your food selections, if you already feel good then NO SUPPLEMENTS should be needed. Over-supplement can and probably will upset the natural balance of your body chemistry. If you suspect any problems or know that you have deficiencies then consult a professional to guide you as to what and how much you may need regarding supplements.

Emmy Vadnais: Are there any other thoughts or suggestions on food and healthy eating?

Chef Alexander Dixon: Just do it! It’s natural! It’s fun!

Dr. James Ryan, D.C. received his BS in Food Science from Michigan State University in 1985 and his Doctor of Chiropractic from Northwestern Health Sciences University in 1991. He provides Medical and Taoist QiGong and Polarity Therapy Energy work, and Craniosacral therapyHe has studied various forms of meditation including Transcendental, Vipassana, Shambhala and Taoist Water method. He has also studied Aikido Yoshinkai and was as an Assistant instructor and is a current student of Chinese internal arts of Tai Chi and Hsing-I. He has two hundred post-graduate hours in advanced clinical nutrition. 

Alexander Dixon is a Chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He has owned and operated restaurants for 35 years. He is an ardent presenter of the locally-sourced slow food movement.

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