Taste of more: Doctor's diet allows you to eat carbs and chocolate

A diet that allows carbs and chocolate? We’re loving it already. Carolyn Moore talks to a doctor turned nutritionist about how to drop weight and keep it off in 2018.

Like many people, you probably started 2018 a little (or a lot) over your desired weight. Maybe your weight is becoming an ongoing issue you’ve failed to get a handle on, or perhaps it’s a temporary blip caused by festive overindulgence. Either way, Dr Michelle Braude says seeking a quick-fix solution could do you more harm than good.

A qualified doctor with a degree in nutrition, Dr Braude, 31, is on a mission to change the way we eat; debunking the food myths pedalled by the diet industry and encouraging us to eat for enjoyment and health, all the while losing weight.

Through working with clients at her practice in London, Dr Braude has developed the Food Effect diet. By combining her medical and nutritional knowledge to treat conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure with food, she discovered a way of eating that’s nutritionally sound, scientifically based, and offers long-term health benefits and guaranteed weight loss.

When she graduated from medicine in 2011, mounting clinical evidence was proving that food has a massive impact on our health and wellbeing. Dr Braude was stunned to see colleagues handing out prescriptions for drugs where prescriptive diets might have worked. She started a nutrition practice five years ago, and “thankfully it just grew and grew”, she says.

Initially focused on finding dietary solutions to problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol, she soon realised that as they got healthier, her clients were also slimming down. “The results were fantastic,” she says. “They were getting off their medications,
improving their blood work, and losing weight.”

Soon she had people coming to see her specifically to lose weight. “In many cases, these were people who’d dieted their whole lives,” she says. “They’d struggled with the ups and downs of fad diets, juice cleanses, and detoxes, enjoying short-term success but never finding a long-term solution.

“Of course if you drink juice for a week you’ll lose weight, but if it’s not eating normally, it’s not sustainable, and crash diets are so restrictive that you can’t be on them for a long time. In the long term, they slow down your metabolism, so when you regain the weight, you actually put on more than you lost.”

Understanding the body’s nutritional needs don’t change with passing food trends, Dr Braude set about devising a food philosophy to “offer that long-term solution. I’ve seen so many people dieting where coming off the diet is their end goal, but the Food Effect is for life.”

To this end, she made the plan simple and accessible. A foodie herself, she also made sure it was delicious and satisfying. There’s no cutting out food groups; you can enjoy late-night treats, dine out, drink coffee and alcohol, and eat chocolate; and because foods are split into three categories — Eat this, Be careful, Stop — there’s no calorie counting.

“Counting points and weighing your food isn’t a way of life,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be about that. It’s about showing people how to eat normal, healthy food.”

A chapter on portion size teaches you “to recognise a normal portion size without having to use your kitchen scales”; there’s a guide to eating out; and she includes allowances for nightly treats like dark chocolate or a glass of wine.

Dr Braude advocates an active lifestyle, but, citing a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, says: “Regular exercise is great for mood, heart health, and stress release, but it has no effect on weight loss. You can follow the Food Effect without exercising and you’ll still lose weight.”

The promise of 6lb-12lb of weight loss in the first four weeks — the Attack Phase — without going hungry or having to exercise may have seasoned dieters asking ‘What’s the catch?’ but it’s difficult to find one.

The first four weeks are quite regimented, but the Food Effect is not a low-carb, low-fat deprivation diet. “Carbs are our main source of fuel and energy; without them our bodies don’t work as efficiently. Your metabolism slows, you might even experience brain fog, or feel tired and lethargic.”

If these are side-effects you associate more with a post-carb crash, you’re not alone, but Dr Braude says it’s not about giving up carbs, it’s about choosing the right ones. “The carbs in the Stay Away column are simple carbohydrates that give you an energy crash because they’re converted straight into sugar and fat.

“What the Food Effect allows is complex carbohydrates — things like brown rice, oats, sweet potato, and whole wheat foods. They’re digested slowly, don’t raise blood sugars, and they won’t cause you to gain weight,” she says.

Like the misinformation about low carb diets, Dr Braude also debunks the myths around wheat-, gluten-, and dairy-free diets. “From first-hand experience and all the studies I’ve read, there’s no scientific evidence pointing to wheat, gluten or dairy as a culprit for weight gain.”

Blaming the “clean eating craze” for the three-fold rise in people opting to go gluten-free, she says: “You have celebrities advocating gluten-free diets and people jump on the bandwagon, but gluten-free products often contain more sugar, fats, fillers, and calories.”

Another area rife with misinformation is fats, and she advocates a generous intake of good, unsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds. “Your body needs fat to burn fat,. It makes you feel fuller for longer, prevents sugar cravings, and it’s great for skin and heart health too.”

With no proven health benefits, saturated fats are off the menu, as is red meat, which is a no-no in the attack phase, and allowed once a week thereafter. Dr Braude cautions: “Nitrates and compounds in red meat have been strongly linked with cancer, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s.”

In terms of weight loss, “Studies show people who eat less red meat are slimmer than those who eat more, and this tallies with my experience. Cutting out red meat has helped so many of my clients lose weight, and they feel so much better.”

At every stage of the Food Effect, health is Dr Braude’s primary concern. Alcohol is allowed in moderation (a drink a day is OK after the Attack Phase). “Red wine is good for the heart, and studies show moderate alcohol consumption may boost the metabolism.”

One study, of 19,000 women over 13 years, showed women who consumed one or two alcoholic beverages daily were 30% less likely to gain weight than non-drinkers.

Enjoying that glass of wine in the evening also has its psychological benefits. “Having an evening treat to look forward to helps keep people on track during the day, which makes the plan manageable and sustainable,” says Dr Braude. “You’re not going through this wondering, ‘When am I coming off this diet?’ Experiencing weight loss while enjoying food and optimal health and vitality makes the Food Effect self-reinforcing; you look and feel better, therefore you stick to it.”

NOTE: See recipes and pictures below - an added bonus for online readers. 

Two-Ingredient Sweet Potato Protein Pancakes

These pancakesare all natural, gluten, dairy and sugar free and provide a healthy, filling, nutritious, delicious breakfast. The pancakes can be reheated in the oven.

Makes 6 decent-sized pancakes. Serves 2

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large sweet potato (250g)
  • 6 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp stevia (or sweetener of choice)
  • Cinnamon and salt, to taste
  • Olive oil cooking spray or 1 tsp coconut oil
  • Agave syrup, 0% Greek yoghurt and berries, to serve

Method:

Cook the sweet potato in the microwave (8 minutes on high) or oven, until completely soft.  Scoop out all the flesh into a bowl (discard the skin or eat it separately). Mash the flesh well with a fork. Add the beaten egg whites to the bowl, mixing them in lightly with a fork (any small remaining lumps don’t matter).  Mix the stevia (or sweetener of choice), a generous shake of cinnamon and a pinch of salt into the batter.  

Use non-stick cooking spray or coconut oil to coat a non-stick frying pan. Heat over a medium heat until hot. Once hot, drop 1/4 cup of batter per pancake into the pan. Cook until the edges look firm, around 1 minute. Flip and cook on the other side until fully cooked, around 2 more minutes. Grease the skillet again with oil/ spray between cooking batches of pancakes.

To serve, top with your desired toppings, such as agave syrup, natural yoghurt or Greek yoghurt and mixed berries.

Avocado, Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Sweet Poppy Seed dressing

This recipe is delicious served with smoked salmon, but if you don’t eat fish or want a vegan or vegetarian dish, the salmon can be omitted (and replaced with additional avocado).

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 small or ½ large avocado
  • 55g fresh spinach leaves
  • 75g strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1 Tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
  • 60g smoked salmon – optional

 

Dressing

  • 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp White vinegar
  • ½ tsp soya sauce
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp stevia or xylitol
  • ½ tsp poppy seeds

Method:

Slice or dice the avocado into chunks and set aside. Mix the dressing ingredients and toss through the spinach leaves and strawberries. Fold in the avocado. To serve, arrange the mixture on a plate and top with the smoked salmon (if using) and toasted flaked almonds.

Turkey stuffed peppers

This recipe can easily be doubled to make two portions.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 100g lean turkey mince
  • 200g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Handful of fresh spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 red pepper, top removed, cored and deseeded

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Spray a pan with cooking spray, add the onion and garlic and fry until the onion is translucent. Add the turkey mince and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the chopped tomatoes and spinach, stir well and cook until the spinach leaves wilt, about 3 minutes and add the salt, pepper and turmeric.

Using a small spoon, fill the red pepper with the turkey mixture. Place the pepper upright in a small baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes until the pepper has softened. Serve with a fresh green salad.

Best-ever Healthy Home-made Hummus

The quantities of ingredients here make quite a small batch. I always double the recipe if making the hummus for guests (or for the week), and recommend doing so.  Leftovers never go to waste.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 60g tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon OR 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp water (adjust according to consistency)

Method:

Place the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process for 1 minute until fully blended. Add the olive oil and 1 Tbsp water, then process again until fully combined and smooth.  Add the additional 1 Tbsp water if a thinner consistency of hummus is desired, and blend. (The recipe can also be made in a blender or using a hand-held blender with the ingredients placed in a large mixing bowl.) Transfer the hummus to an airtight container and store in the fridge.Serve with whole-wheat pitta, crackers or crudités, or simply eat and enjoy it as is.

Guilt-free Chocolate Protein Pudding

This protein-packed pudding is ideal for a mid-afternoon or post-workout snack. It’s also delicious eaten as a dip with apple slices or carrot sticks, and makes the perfect late-night treat when you’re craving something sweet.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 170g 0% Greek yoghurt 
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp agave syrup, to taste (plus extra for drizzling)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • Toppings (optional): blueberries, dark chocolate chips, sliced almonds, dessicated coconut, chopped walnuts

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together well in a mixing bowl, until the cocoa powder is fully mixed in, with no lumps left, and a smooth, pudding-like consistency is reached. Spoon into a serving bowl. Top with toppings of your choice. Drizzle with additional agave. 

To make the pudding more ice-cream like, you can pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before tucking in.

  • The Food Effect Diet by Dr Michelle Braude is published by Piatkus, €16.99. See @thefoodeffectdr on Instagram.
  • Visit irishexaminer.com for Dr Braude’s recipes


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