Q&A: Elly McLean

We chat with nutritionist Elly McLean from The Natural Nutritionist on all things food and diets.

Elly McLean knows food. Real food, that is. We chatted with the nutritionist from The Natural Nutritionist, a Melbourne-based company that offers everything from consultations to recipes to get your health on track, about the importance of what we eat, the best way to cook kale, and what kind of diet means you don’t have to worry about counting calories.

Tell us more about your journey becoming a nutritionist, and your background in general.

My interest in the area all started as a teenager – I was fascinated by athletes and what they ate so I went on to study it. After university I worked in Corporate Health, it gave me insight into what life for the average corporate is like. On the most part, people are detached from their own bodies and the role that diet, happiness and stress play in keeping healthy – a really depressing thought.

I’m a marathon runner myself and have had to overcome my own gut health challenges (trying a range of tests as well as almost every diet under the sun to get there) and I love being able to bring all of my personal experience and knowledge together to helping clients overcome their own challenges.

Can you define ‘real food’?

If it comes out of the ground or off a tree, you know it’s real food.

What is the role of real food in strength, physically and mentally?

Real food is everything. Ultimately what we eat, digest and absorb goes on to become our blood, our tissues our thoughts and our feelings. If we focus on eating a wide variety of whole, real foods we needn’t worry about calorie counting, cases of the ‘hangries’, energy slumps and depression, or relying on cupboards of supplements to help us get there. Of course, there are some vitamins we either can’t get or aren’t as bioavailable through real food on a plant-based diet, namely B12.

Healthy nutrition tips for busy people?

  • Avoid foods in a packet or box, or JERF (refer to point two).
  • Plan what you’re eating in a meal, a day or even a week from now, so you don’t get caught out
  • Slow down. Taking time to chew each mouthful and breath between them sounds like such basic advice, but it does wonders for digestion, nutrient absorption and energy levels.

Best advice for supporting a vegan’s metabolic efficiency?

Nutrient density – to ensure all of the right fats, phytochemicals and vitamins are present to aid cellular processes and energy production.

Nutrient timing – For those on a plant-based diet many of our protein-rich foods are also relatively high in carbohydrates (think lentils and chickpeas) so it’s really important that we support the body in being metabolically flexible/efficient by paying attention to when we eat certain foods. The post-training window is always best for protein sources like quinoa, lentils and chickpeas due to their carbohydrate content. However, a tofu-based dish would be better suited for a meal that wasn’t following a workout.

Favourite way to prepare kale?

My all-time fav would have to be washed (still wet) kale thrown in pan with plenty of coconut oil, slithered garlic, lots of salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Cover, let it sit for a few minutes to wilt in the oil and water and then serve away. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and (most likely) a little extra sea salt.

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Published: 05/11/17

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