The Freer Guide to Food
Today, Amelia Freer works as a nutritional therapist and her ten step book Eat. Nourish. Glow gives insight into how to lose weight, look younger and above all, feel healthier. We caught up with Amelia to discover how our diet could be affecting day to day life.
What promoted you to rejuvenate your diet and change the way you ate?
The inspiration for me to change my diet was purely my health and feeling so unwell. I’d grown up eating a relatively normal diet, my mother cooked evening meals from scratch but then when I moved to London and started working I don’t think I came anywhere close to a home cooked meal for quite some time. I was really quite dependant on what I now know was convenience food but I was so unconscious then - as I think lots of people can become - you just get used to buying your food readymade. My health took a massive decline, I had chronic acne, I had really bad digestive issues, really bad energy and a foggy head. I kept going to the doctors but couldn't really get any relief from anything that the doctor suggested. It was only when a friend who knew quite a bit about nutrition said, “You know, your diet is not very good.” I remember getting a bit defensive and saying, “Don’t be ridiculous, I eat well.” She said, “Maybe you want to have a look at it, maybe you could cut down on bread…” She gave me a bit of a hint and I started to become more aware of what I was eating each day and realised it was terrible! And then I went to see a nutritional therapist and it was a revelation.
Going gluten-free is currently all the rage but you’ve said that gluten free isn’t necessarily always the healthier option. What advice would you give on opting gluten free in the most nourishing way possible?
Well, not everyone needs to be gluten free but if they want to try it, the key is to ensure they are eating real food. If it’s been made in a factory and it’s in a packet labelled ‘gluten free’ that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. You can get organic sugar but that doesn’t mean it’s any better for you than ordinary sugar. I think again it comes back to consciousness and awareness. It’s perfectly easy to eat foods that don’t contain gluten and accepting that we don’t need to have a substitute for all of the gluten foods. When I first went gluten free the first thing I did was go to the gluten free aisle and try to buy all of the alternatives. Slowly I realised that wasn't the solution and I don’t need life with a slice of bread in it anymore, because I’ve learnt other things to cook. It’s awareness and not falling into that trap of just trying to find an alternative. Look at what you’re eating day to day instead.
You say to make fat your friend and sugar your enemy – why is fat getting such a good rep at the moment when before it’s been seen as the baddie?
It’s just mixed messages and old science. When studies first came out stating that fat was contributing to cardiovascular disease and weight gain, the food industry adapted and created foods without fat. But again, we have to be more conscious – if something is made in a factory and it’s had the fats removed, then we must look at what is being added to make it taste nice and to secure it’s texture and shelf life. In most cases, fat-free products have added sugar or artificial sweeteners, which we now know are far more detrimental for weight management and cardiovascular health. Thanks to research over the last 20 years we now know that not all fat is contributing into making people fat, it’s actually elevated sugar and processed fats that are what we need to avoid.
Eat. Nourish. Glow is big on coconut – why is coconut so beneficial to our diet?
It’s a natural fat that has been shown to speed up our metabolism and help us lose weight as well as decrease appetite. This doesn't mean to eat it in large qualities but it's a brilliant replacement for butter if someone is avoiding dairy produce and it has been shown to have multiple health benefits when consumed in moderation. I use it in place of olive oil when cooking and in place of butter when baking and sometimes in place of cream in my coffee.
Is there a food source we typically think is good for us but we should be avoiding?
A lot of people think yoghurt is a health product but it isn’t always. As I said earlier, if it is flavoured and low fat, it will be high in sugar. And dairy produce is now not such a natural product and often lots of hormones and antibiotics are used so it’s not something I’d encourage clients to eat in large quantities.
When people talk about eating clean they often reduce carb intake – is that something you’d recommend or be wary of?
I think we all need to be really clear on what carbs are. I don’t advocate a high protein diet – I believe that we need to be eating an abundance of plants mainly in the form of vegetables with minimum amounts of fruits. I don’t think that we need to be eating an abundance of grains; certainly not the amounts I see people eating (all three meals). Research in this area is telling us that excessive carbohydrate consumption is contributing towards more than diabetes and weight gain but also suggesting that neurodegenerative diseases can be exacerbated by high sugar, high carb and high grain diets. So I don’t advocate a carb free or a high protein diet, but I think that grains should be reduced and that we eat most of our carbs in the form of vegetables, a small amount of fruit each day and occasionally pulses.
Chicken Nuggets with Mango and Avocado Salsa
Here’s a recipe for the whole family, a healthy version of chicken nuggets. Throw in a good measure of childhood nostalgia and enjoy.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
250ml coconut milk
115g coconut flour
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp tumeric powder
½ tsp ground coriander
75g desiccated coconut
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
4 large lettuce leaves from an iceberg or cos lettuce, to serve
1 avocado, peeled, stoned & cut into small cubes
1 mango, peeled, stoned & cut into small cubes
15g fresh coriander, torn
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced
2 tbsp coconut aminos
Put the chicken cubes in a bowl with the coconut milk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the mango salsa. Mix the avocado, mango, coriander, onion and chilli together in a bowl and pour over the coconut aminos.
Refrigerate until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
Put the flour and spices in a bowl and put the desiccated coconut on a plate.
Take a chicken cube, roll it in the spiced flour, then roll it in the desiccated coconut until it is well coated, then put it on a baking tray. Repeat with the remaining chicken cubes.
Pour the melted coconut oil over the chicken and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crispy.
To serve, put a spoonful of the mango salsa into each lettuce leaf, add a few chicken nuggets, fold in the sides of the lettuce to enclose it and eat like a sandwich.