Seven healthy 'undiet' tips from nutritionist Meghan Telpner

We chat with the certified nutritionist about healing her Crohn's symptoms, her new book UnDiet and get a berry crumble recipe from her health-filled roster.

Nutritionist Meghan Telpner cooks up one of her healthy recipes (Photo by Vanessa Farquharson).

Nutritionist Meghan Telpner cooks up one of her healthy recipes (Photo by Catherine Farquharson).

Q: Congrats on UnDiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health. Why do you think people are taking to your approach to healthy living so well?
A: Thank you! The feedback we’ve been getting on the book has been outstanding. I think people are tired of being preached to about what they should or shouldn’t be eating. As well, the statistics show very clearly that 85 percent of all diets are failing those who attempt them — meaning it may work to reach a certain weight for a short time, but there is no education or foundation upon which to build a lasting healthy lifestyle. As I write in UnDiet, “A diet built on counting calories is like a mansion built on sand” — it will eventually crumble.

UnDiet is a different approach. I don’t tell people what they should eat or shouldn’t eat in any specific way. I am simply offering factual information in an engaging, humorous, and entertaining style that is easy to read and even easier to understand, so people can make that personal connection. This is not a diet; it’s a way of living, and it was therefore important for me not just to make recommendations as to what we should all be doing for our health, but also explain why and how to make them happen. When we understand the why and the how, it makes it so much more relevant to us, so we want to do it, and stick with it. As a big plus, UnDiet shares how truly simple it is to live life well and offers some seriously convincing reasons why we need to care.

Q: How did you become interested in holistic living, and what has your journey been to get to this point?
A: I got into it because I had to. I had graduated from fashion at Ryerson and was working in advertising in Toronto and my body was literally starting to implode from the level of stress I was holding onto — without having any skills to effectively process it.

Like most young women in their early-to-mid 20’s, I was dealing with digestive challenges that were only getting worse. By 2006, at the age of 26, I had to leave my job as I was too physically sick on most days to even make it into work. That summer, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an “incurable” autoimmune disease of the digestive tract. The options presented to me by my doctor were surgery and medications — and nothing else. This didn’t sit well with me.

At 26, I didn’t want a future that involved being in and out of hospitals, feeling powerless to this disease. I made the decision to try something else. I went against the grain, and empowered myself to understand the disease and find a solution.

I took a dedicated three months to learn and experience all I could, and within the first month I was symptom-free — and remain so going on seven years now — from a disease I was told was incurable. Through my own research and experimentation, I was inspired to take it further and become formally certified as a nutritionist, and I now have a career writing a bestselling book, teaching classes in person and worldwide online, running annual retreats and now offering a full certification program in culinary nutrition.

Q: What would you say is the number one thing people over-complicate when it comes to their health?
A: Great question! Can I say everything? Healthy living is not complicated at all.

We need to stop over-focusing on the details and the ways we think we can cheat. We need to get over the idea that because it says ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ or ‘light’ that this makes it a better choice as it is now ‘healthier’ than its full fat or regular counterpart. This way of thinking hasn’t gotten us any healthier; in fact, it has done the exact opposite to our population. “Healthier” is not the same as “healthy” and eating well — eating whole, real food — is the truest and simplest form of being healthy that will prevent disease and give us that abundance of energy, a calm and stable mood, a happy disposition, great sleep, and a beautiful glow.

If we focus on getting the right amount of sleep, enjoying our work, taking the time to love those that we have chosen to share our life with, drink loads of clean water (that didn’t come from a plastic bottle), shake our booties in a way that feels awesome and is fun, and do our best to eat real food, health is the sweet side benefit that comes to us with really the least amount of effort.

Q: In the average day, what snacks and foods would you say you eat the most?
A: I drink loads of smoothies. My schedule has been rather insane lately and I find being able to throw frozen berries, fresh greens, a few superfoods and herbs with a base of green tea, mint tea or ginseng tea is an amazing way to get a powerful base in for the day. I eat a lot of salads, and a lot of fat in the forms of oils, coconut, avocado, olives, fish and the occasional raw cheese if I can get it at the market.

The fats are important to balance with so many raw smoothies to keep my nervous system fuelled. If you asked me in the summer, my answer would probably be different from now, just as it would be different in the fall and winter. I like to roll with the seasons. It costs way less, the food is way better and fresher, and it just makes sense.

Q: What foods/products do you absolutely avoid?
A: I do my very best to avoid foods that had to pass through a processing factory. Any food that is processed has had some vital parts removed, and then is often reconstructed or has had synthetic versions of these parts added back in. These are things that will carry words like “enriched”. I do my very best to keep it as whole as possible, as much as possible. I also avoid the foods that have been constructed in a chemistry lab and were followed up with loads of testing to prove they won’t cause brain tumours, heart tremors, or my hair to fall out. I don’t want to eat food that first had to be proven that it wouldn’t cause harm. As I write in UnDiet, “When in doubt, keep it out.” This applies to artificial sweeteners, artificial and ‘natural’ flavours, and various other flavour enhancers, additives and preservatives. I offer a complete breakdown in my book of the top chemicals we should try to avoid and why.

Q: You have some packaged foods in your book that you say are not bad. When people are looking at the difference between a good and bad packaged food what should they look for?
A: It’s rather simple. With any packaged food, you want to know that you could make the exact same thing in your kitchen. This means you would be able to buy each one of the ingredients in the product at your supermarket. With that in mind, I’ve never seen giant gallon bottles of glucose/fructose (how Canadian food processors label high fructose corn syrup), or packages of tartrazine or emulsifying agents. This one guideline can be very helpful.

Q: If you could give people one piece of advice when it comes to taking health into their own hands what would it be?
A: Today is the day!

Once we decide we want to do this, it’s amazing how we start to notice the information we need is right there in front of us. If we truly want to take ownership over our health, we need to start trusting our own best judgment above and beyond any label claims, advertisements, or “quick fix” promises. Getting healthy is an ongoing process and requires our commitment. You have to trust that as you make your own transition — whether you use the eight-week transition program in UnDiet, or the guidance of whomever you choose — that it only gets easier.

The things you crave, the things you think you can’t live without, the vices and old habits, do fall away and get replaced by upgraded, more awesome versions. Taste buds change, cravings change, and the way you feel changes — and it is amazing! The best bit of advice is this: take what you can and leave what you’re not ready for. You want to make this sustainable and maintainable and only you can decide what the first, second and tenth step will be.

For a look inside the delicious, and healthier ways, you could be eating.

Try this fruit crumble recipe from Meghan’s new book:

Meghan Telpner's super berry fruit crumble

Meghan Telpner’s super berry fruit crumble (Photo by Catherine Farquharson).


Serves: 8
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

Fruit Bottom
2 cups (500 mL) blueberries
2 cups (500 mL) strawberries, quartered
2 cups (500 mL) apple, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup (125 mL) raw honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) arrowroot starch

Crumble Topping
2/3 cup (150 mL) brown rice flour
2/3 cup (150 mL) rolled oats
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup (125 mL) raw honey
1/4 cup (50 mL) coconut oil
3/4 tsp (4 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) allspice

1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

2. Mix fruit and raw honey and spread in an 11×9-inch (2.5 L) glass baking dish, and flatten with a spatula.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all topping ingredients.

4. Crumble evenly over fruit mixture. If fruit doesn’t look completely covered, add additional flour, almonds, or oats until surface is covered.

5. Bake at 350F (180C) for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling.

Excerpted from Undiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health. Copyright © 2013 Meghan Telpner. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved. 

Meghan Telpner is a Toronto based nutritionista and bestselling author of UnDiet, Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health. Join her community on twitter @MeghanTelpner