We spoke with Cathy Russell, registered holistic nutritionist at Feeding the Whole Family. This mom, wife, fitness enthusiast and nature lover is inspiring busy families and individuals to live their healthiest lives. We found out how she handles each family member’s eating styles, which oil makes the best salad dressing, and cleanse that men are raving about.
You live and work in a small town – advantage or disadvantage?
I am lucky enough to live in a very health conscious and ‘green’ town. Bolton, ON is great community and believe it or not, we have quite a few leading edge holistic practitioners here. We all work together to make sure our clients are well supported. Being part of this network is extremely empowering and rewarding. I used to work in the city so I sometimes miss the hustle and bustle, but being close to nature and our fantastic holistic network more than makes up for it.
Is it ok to cheat on your diet?
First of all, I don’t believe in diets. I believe in eating a variety of whole foods that are minimally processed and sourced as close to nature as possible. This usually means preparing it yourself. And I am a big believer in creating balance in all areas of your life. So there is no such thing as cheating or deprivation. It’s okay to incorporate ‘fun’ foods in your repertoire as long as it doesn’t make up the majority of your food intake. I like using the 80/20 rule with my clients and family. 80% of the time you eat cleanly (at home) and when you go out, enjoy yourself. This would of course make up the 20%. But I do preface this by saying, that what you indulge in should not make you sick or uncomfortable or take you out of commission for more than a day. Respect your body and be aware of what you eat and how you feel when you eat certain foods. Awareness is the simplest and single most important thing that you can do to make long-lasting improvements to your health.
Working parents are busier than ever. Does it take a lot of time to prepare healthy meals?
Oh my gosh, what a great question. No, it does not take a lot of time to prepare healthy meals. In fact, it is very easy to make very healthy, cost-effective meals in less time than it takes to get ‘take-out’. It simply requires a little advanced planning and a stocked pantry. I get it! I know people are busy these days so I have made it my mission to bring together super simple healthy recipes to the families that I work with. And it must also taste good too! I am the parent of a picky eater, which has pushed me to create recipes that are not only simple, but incredibly tasty as well. (People always say I’m so “lucky” my kids eat well – but it’s not luck. It takes work!)
Do you prepare meals that your whole family can enjoy together?
Eating together as a family is one of the most important things that you can do together, and is something that many busy families today are severely lacking. My family is made up of 3 very different eating styles which can make eating together rather complicated. I eat a vegan diet, my husband is a meat-lover, and my son is a simple eater with allergies… (we don’t believe in labels either!)
I incorporate vegetarian meals at least every other day, and on the other meat-eating days I make sure there are common elements that we are all enjoying together. My son doesn’t like certain textures, or food mixed together, so I just purée what I’m making or separate it in a way that works for him. It is not hard to do, it just takes a bit of practice. Serving it up family-style works well also so each person can choose their own food and how much or little they want on their plate.
You offer 4 week group cleanses – are people starving at the end of the month?
People do think this! I have developed a very simple cleanse that works for everyone. I call it my ‘Gentle, Guided, Group Cleanse’. The name is a bit cumbersome but I hesitate in changing it because it really says it all. Essentially, I show people how to easily and gently modify their diet to eat cleaner over a four-week period. Four weeks seems like a long time, but we gradually eliminate the most congesting foods over the first three weeks and then I show you how to add them back in and what to watch out for as far as any symptoms go when you do. You will not starve on this cleanse. I talk to you about how to remove certain foods and how to easily replace them with tasty, healthy alternatives which I prepare for you and let you sample. Most people love how they feel when they do this cleanse, and many continue eating this way on their own. Not only that, people lose their cravings, their aches and pains go away, they drop some weight, their skin clears up, hormones are balanced, and they sleep better, etc, etc. I am constantly blown away by the results. I recently did a ‘Men’s Only’ version of this cleanse and they all loved it -and to be honest, I wasn’t sure they would. They were amazed at how little you need to eat when you eat the right nutrient-dense foods. They were not hungry and didn’t feel deprived at all.
In your opinion, do we really need to cleanse?
I wrote all about that in this post here, with more answers to frequently asked questions about cleanses.
Do you prefer one on one, or speaking to groups?
I love meeting with my one-on-one clients but there is something magical that happens in a group. In a group setting, you may be inspired by the success of another individual or you may be able to relate to their hardships too. We learn from each other in a group setting and I love that dynamic.
If you could only eat one thing the rest of your life, what would it be?
Without hesitation, avocado! I probably eat about half an avocado per day, at least. And some days I make myself not eat them, just so I am not eating them everyday. Avocados are loaded with healthy fats and easily digestible protein that can turn a dish from blah to extremely tasty and satisfying. I don’t like using isolated oils, so I often use avocados as my salad dressing, mushed together with some apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. And I love adding them to a green smoothie to create a creamy satisfying delight.
Your 3 favourite healthy living tools?
1. My blender. I have a green smoothie almost every morning, so the Blendtec blender has been my trusted sidekick for the last 7 years. If you are looking to make changes to your health, this simple blender is a must. Also, the Blendtec has a great attachment called The Twister Jar, which I use to blend up single serving amounts of my picky eater’s meals. The Twister Jar gets a lot of use in our house!
2. My food processor. The Blendtec can be used as a food processor and with The Twister Jar, you can make hummus, nut butters, etc., but I still prefer the Cuisinart as a food processor because you can do larger amounts, the bowl is easier to scrape down, and you can shred and chop veggies in no time at all. I have two sizes, but prefer the larger 14-cup. It comes in handy when making large batches of cultured veggies and sauerkraut, which I like to do a few times a year.
3. My Juicer. Even though I am a green smoothie girl, I still add a healing green juice a few times a week. I love starting Monday mornings with one, it gives me loads of energy and makes me feel so good, inside and out!
Having the right tools is a great investment in your health. It can make creating healthy meals very simple and much less time consuming. (You know we agree!)