Through his undergraduate career, working part-time jobs, managing several wellness-focused community organizations all while juggling family and friends Zack Zeller has forged himself into America’s #1 practical nutrition coach.
When it comes to getting results with clients, regardless of their experience and time, Zack delivers, time and time again.
Zack also has an advanced research background in the field of Biological Engineering at Binghamton University. He continues to utilize his analytical research skills to use by studying the latest nutrition, psychology, and fitness information that comes out. His expertise is separating the concrete from the questionable to innovate better ways to cook, lose weight, gain confidence, and live the life his clients deserve.
In this call you’ll discover:
• Why a Calorie isn’t a Calorie
• How to Develop a Taste for Greens (or Cover them in Good Sugar, Oil and Salt!)
• Methods to “Sneak” Past the Taste and Texture of Vegetables
• How to Make an Herbal Salad
• The Ocean’s Eleven of Food Combos
• Quick Pickling for Passing Foods
• How to Make Quinoa Pizza Bites
• Templating Your Meals for Variety and Ease of Use
• 3 Reasons for a Plant-Based Diet
• And Much More
For more from Zack visit the following:
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.
Logan: Hello and welcome. I’m Logan Christopher with the Vital Way podcast where we dive into many aspects of health and performance. In today’s show, we’ll be talking a lot about nutrition which is a much talked about, very controversial subject so hopefully we’ll give you some tips actual information that you can take and apply into your own life. Joining me today is Zack Zeller who after dealing with own battles of weight has used his analytical research skills developing the field of biological engineering at Binghampton University to study nutrition, fitness and psychology, developing methods for permanent fat loss. He’s now known as a practical nutrition coach. So first of all, thanks for joining us, Zack.
Zack: Thanks for having me, Logan.
Logan: Yeah, and I want to dive a little bit more into your back story but why do you call yourself a practical nutrition coach? How’s that different from just a nutrition coach?
Zack: So yeah, I struggled a lot with my own weight issues in the past that you kind of talked about but kind of going more into that, when you’re young and going into figuring out how to lose weight for yourself, the one place you start looking is the internet. And you find out a lot of stuff there. All of it goes against the next article you find and none of it makes a lot of sense. The stuff that I guess is more of a better information is kind of vague. It gives you information about cutting calories or how to split your macros. That’s great in theory but what I love about the idea about practical nutrition is it’s more concerned with the actual doing of something rather than just the theory and the ideas.
Logan: Yeah, because theory doesn’t really help anyone. It’s only as useful if it’s put into practice, right?
Zack: Exactly. And so when you come up with all these ways to dial in macros and cut calories to lose weight, you’re missing out a lot on all the habits that you can change and leverage to create more lasting weight loss.
Logan: Yeah, I like what you said because really you’re right. This day and age, it’s not about lack of information; it’s more information overload. There’s so much available and coming at us every day that being able to sort through it to actually find what’s useful, what’s true and what will actually work for you is not an easy thing to do.
Zack: Yeah, and it’s crazy. I was reading the other day in How Not to Die by Dr. Greger, he talks about how 80% of like diets people go on, they end up gaining more weight in the long term. It’s just not practical. It’s just not easy to stick with.
Logan: Right. I think there’s a big mindset difference, and we can talk about this, is people go on a diet to lose weight. It’s a short term sort of solution scene to get to maybe I want my body to look better for a wedding or some sort of event, a short-term solution to get there rather, as you talked about, the practicality or permanent, really changing your lifestyle in order to have these results be long term, not a temporary sort of solution, in which case people lose weight but gain it right back, but instead something that becomes a part of their lifestyle. Therefore, they’re leaving at the ideal weight they want to live at.
Zack: Yeah exactly.
Logan: Yeah. So let’s dive a little bit into the idea of calories because I guess that’s one of the biggest things that most people still believe about nutrition. It’s all about calories. But also I was looking through some of your material and I liked that you say calories don’t exist. Could you explain this and why calories don’t work for you?
Zack: Oh definitely. So first off, if you look at any information, calories are a concept out there. I’m not just saying to ignore all of the research and all of that stuff that mentions calories. In fact, one of the main people who got me on this path, Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, always talks about how a calorie isn’t a calorie. Basically, calories are more of a theoretical concept. They’re made up to kind of say food has a certain amount of energy in it. For example, a really good way to picture this is if you’re cooking something, you could usually add in more fiber, more vitamin A, more vitamin C. Those are actual compounds. Those are real components of food. But calories, it’s just heat. It’s energy. When you compare calories in an apple with calories in a piece of chicken and a calories in a Twinkie, you can eat the same amount of calories in each of those foods and they’ll all have different effects on your health, on your body, on your weight management. So really, you can focus on calories and lose weight, but you can think about food in terms of quality and in terms of other aspects to really see nutrition at a more powerful level and to make it easier to eat foods that are real and lose weight with them.
Logan: Yeah, this is an area that I find kind of where we’ve looked at science and taken that as sort of gospel. Yeah, it’s not really as effective in the real life. If you have a lab where a person is hooked up to machines and they measure every single calorie that the person is expending and then taking in through food, then there yes, the sort of laws of calories and thermodynamics work where you will gain weight when you eat excess calories and you’ll lose weight if you have a deficiency of calories. However in our daily lives, we’re not that accurate. We have these formulas for measuring calories right but if you’re just a few hundred calories off, that can make a huge difference. Most people don’t know how the hormonal changes happen if you’re in a calorie deficiency or excess and how that then will change your metabolic rate. So even looking at calories at all, is that a useful data point? Or do you just forget about them and focus on other more important things?
Zack: Sometimes, I do like to bring up calories because people understand them. That’s part of like the language of dieting and weight loss but I use it as an example after the fact. So for example, I like to focus on dropping fat without diet or deprivation by focusing on incorporating more plant-based foods into the diet, which will naturally increase the fiber, water and nutrients you get to keep people satisfied and naturally would lose weight. For example, if I’m showing a recipe for—what did I do the other day? Oh, I did this cool thing where my dad and I ordered like a pizza from this local pizza place that we do once in a blue moon and we get it without cheese. We get extra veggies on it, like all of the vegetables they have at the place, they pile them on top. The email was all about how you can eat double but lose weight because if you look at the core breakdown, it kind of evens out. If you eat a slice of cheese pizza, that’s going to be twice the amount of calories as two slices of this kind of modified vegetable pizza. So I point out the calories so that it works and this kind of calms some people down who are new to the idea. But really, if you kind of dial in and make these mindset shifts, you don’t have to focus on counting the calories or counting macros.
Logan: So yeah, let’s talk about green, leafy vegetables a bit more. Let’s start with what people do if they don’t like the taste of them.
Zack: First of all, that’s a really good question. It seems that there’s a lot more green, leafy vegetables that people realize. There are the clichés of brussels sprouts and broccoli and even kale but there’s a whole world of beet greens, mushroom greens, broccoli raab, even things like mint, basil, little herbs that you could add into meals to kind of brighten them up. So finding even just one type leafy green that you enjoy and can eat will go a long way.
Now if you’re still a picky eater, I actually tell my clients that you could kind of add some enticing ingredient to make it easier to eat your greens. So you can sauté them and add a little bit of like maple syrup, or sprinkle a little salt, even sautéing them in like coconut fat or adding a little bit of olive oil on. That salt, sugar and oil will trigger your taste buds to pump up the flavor signals in your head so it will make it a lot easier to eat if you think it tastes a lot better. And if you add your own fat, sugar and oil, at least you know where it’s coming from and it’s not coming from all of these sneaky sources of premade food, packaged foods, things like that that you don’t even realize and you don’t account for.
Logan: Right. Yeah, I think that’s a big key. A lot of people think you’ve got to eat greens just by themselves, but there are kind of ways to get around that. One tip I’ve offered people in the beginning is that if you’re into juicing, that’s a way because often times, it’s not necessarily the taste of the thing—and this can be vegetables or other things besides that—but it’s also or separately it can be the texture of it. So with something like juice, you can kind of get used to the taste of it without having necessarily if it’s an off-putting texture to you.
What will happen is people don’t realize their taste buds actually can and will change over time. You can develop tastes for things. Just because you never have liked a food before, it doesn’t mean that you can’t like it in the future. As a kid, like I would eat a raw onion but then as I grew up, I went through a phase where I ate pretty much no vegetables or fruits at all. I hated them all, taste and texture-wise. But now, I will eat every single vegetable and fruit. There’s pretty much anything I won’t eat and certainly I’ll eat stuff that just taste awful and I can develop a taste of that, too.
Zack: Yeah, that’s definitely one of the hardest parts of actually going into the trenches and making those changes because your taste buds can and will adapt, but it could take like a week or two. Especially for people who are really used to eating more of the conventional American diet that’s high in salt, sugar and fat, that could really blunt the more delicate flavors of eating more vegetables and fruits.
Logan: Right. When we have all these like chemically over-engineered foods then yeah, the subtle taste of much more natural foods kind of goes past us. That’s a very good point. But the more you sort of shift away from that and get into more natural foods and actually just bring all your senses to it, like really taste the foods, just like someone that knows wines will enjoy a good wine, or someone that, any sort of herb, you can like taste the delicate components in it, a good chef when they prepare a meal, the more you can bring that sensory awareness, you can realize—
Here’s a way I like to think about food – things don’t taste good or bad, right? That’s kind of a label we put on top of them. Instead, if you can understand or get to enjoying the food for what it is, just bring your senses to it and notice what it’s like then you don’t even necessarily label it as such. It’s just we seem so quick to do that. Bitter things are bad while sweet is good. But each of these tastes, that clues us in that there are certain components in that food and we really should have a balance of the different tastes.
Zack: Yeah, I like that. It’s more of an exploration and more connect with the food.
Logan: Yeah. So what are some other methods of eating more leafy greens? How do you get people to do more of this? Because really I’m with you, right? If people just have more, especially leafy green vegetables, that’s the one thing just about everyone agrees on, right? Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or paleo, pretty much everyone agrees that people should eat more leafy greens. So what are some methods that we can do this?
Zack: So one of my favorite go-to methods to give people is to just dip your greens into like a hummus or a nut butter or something like that because hummus, peanut butter, almond butter, even guacamole, those all taste really damn good because they have a lot of fat in them. Also, those are great sources of other whole foods, nuts, beans and avocado respectively. So by taking the raw vegetable and kind of combining it with something that you do like, you can acclimate yourself to the taste and the textures but kind of slide into it a little easier as well.
Logan: Yeah, one of my favorite dishes, I have this pretty much every night but I see vegetables as sort of a transport vehicle for a lot of the fats you described but often I’ll also use butter. Butter on vegetables just taste great to me so I like that idea you can incorporate it with these sources of fats, which as you said many of them are good quality sources fats that you’re going to get plenty of nutrition from them as well.
Zack: Yeah. As a bonus, a lot of these vegetables aren’t high in fats so by incorporating a source of fat with the vegetables, you’re able to better absorb fat-soluble vitamins. So vitamin A, the vitamin C, all of those vitamins are more easily absorbed with that source of fat.
Logan: Absolutely. So should leafy greens be a part of every meal?
Zack: Yeah. I think that’s a good idea.
Logan: So if we think about the average American like breakfast, lunch and dinner, dinner, if people are going to eat greens that tends to be the time that they do it. They’ll have a salad or some sort of side of vegetables, but what about the sort of other meals? It seems maybe for many people a little bit more difficult to do this. What are some other methods you can add greens to these meals?
Zack: Yeah sure. So you talked about juicing. I’m kind of on the fence about juicing for everyone because it kind of takes out a lot of the fiber and a lot of, but you can definitely blend a decent amount of greens into smoothies. I like smoothies because they’re just a very quick way, a very easily digestible way of getting in a lot of nutrition, especially in the morning when you don’t have a lot of time. I put up to a cup of kale or spinach or whatever my leafy green of the day happens to be right off the gate in the morning in my smoothie blended up. When you combine it with food and again, I put like coconut oil or whatever in my smoothie as a source of fat, you don’t even taste the greens. So I’ll blend it up and so you don’t have to deal with the texture as well.
Logan: So that would be one of the ways that you can get the greens in without having to taste them because, like you said, if you do enough other stuff, yeah, you won’t even notice the greens that are in there yet your body will notice.
Zack: Exactly, and that’s the key. Also, what I really like to do is again, you could sauté or steam a pile of greens and have them on the side with your breakfast. Now for example when you sauté spinach, it kind of has a meaty taste to it because of the way that it wilts, the fiber, the water. You could again, add even a little bit of maple syrup. I actually really like adding balsamic vinegars onto them. They come in so many different types and flavors these days. I’ve been using up this peach balsamic vinegar that I have. It’s good.
Logan: Interesting. I haven’t done that so much. I see eggs as one of the best foods. That’s something that I have very often. I’ll have it for any sort of meal but it’s very often at breakfast. One thing I started doing, I guess this was a few months ago, I started adding greens to that meal, making sure that they’re there every time, like you were saying sautéing spinach. Baby bok choy is something that I use a lot for that but it can be all kinds of other stuff. But I feel like my body, I can feel just after eating that, it feels like a little bit more balanced of a meal. I feel like I have sort of a cleaner energy after doing that versus when I just have eggs by themselves, or eggs and something else. So yeah, I’m fully with you on that one.
Zack: Yeah, it’s a good way to start the morning with green eggs.
Logan: Yeah. And there are so many things you can do. You mentioned sort of the herbal leafy greens, tarragon, mint, basil, parsley and cilantro. There are all kinds of these different things. Do you treat these much the same? Do you use them to sort of flavor the other sort of more, I guess, the green leafy foods that you eat more of? You’re not going to eat an entire bunch of cilantro generally so how do you use the herbal leafy greens?
Zack: So yeah, those are great because they don’t taste like your kale or your spinach. They pack a lot of flavor and they tend to pack more nutrients, like volumes. You could eat a cup of spinach but if you ate a cup of parsley or something like that, you would get a lot more bang for your buck. So one of the really cool ways that I found with using these is you can just make more of an herbal salad. For my salad, the base is always two cups of greens. So instead of two cups of spinach, you can cut the spinach in half and have half a cup of parsley, half a cup of basil and then that adds to the fragrance, the flavor and you don’t need as much of a salad dressing that’s heavier or anything like that. It’s a good way to go with it.
Logan: That’s a great idea. I’ll have to work with that. I definitely incorporate lots of herbs but I have not done like an herbal salad. I like that description.
Zack: Yeah, that was a really cool thing that I found. Also, the herbs are great to again run with the smoothies. I like to actually cook with them a little bit. So one of my favorite things to do, like a five-second dessert, is I take half a cup of frozen blueberries, a frozen banana, I blend them all up with a little bit of almond milk and then I take 10 to 15 sprigs of mint and I blend it in with that. So it adds like a nice refreshing taste with the cool creaminess of the fruit and it’s a great way to kind of wrap up a meal with a dessert like that. It gives you that boost of greens.
Logan: Yeah, a lot of phyto chemistry going on there. Do you use more of the fresh herbs, dried or both?
Zack: Yeah, I do a little bit with both. So with the fresh herbs, I always come into that problem that they go bad faster than I could use them. That’s an issue. But I do like to use a lot of dried herbs as well. Those are really great because they last up to like six months to a year and even just a sprinkle of them will boost the like the antioxidant power of food or give you really interesting and unique benefits.
One example of something that I use a lot is turmeric. Now turmeric is something that’s great to use fresh because when it’s fresh, it tastes milder than the dried version. It’s really cheap especially if you go to like a specialty Indian store. I bought like a pound of turmeric roots and it lasted for three or four months by now and I have more months to go with it so that’s a great option. I just chop it, add it to recipes as a base or add it to smoothies. When you use turmeric, if you add like a pinch of just dried black pepper or something, it increases the absorption of things like curcumin and stuff like that. A great thing about plant-based foods is that they work together. The nutrients in them work together as a team.
Logan: Right, yeah. A lot of people point to the research that was done showing that curcumin is not really absorbed by the body well but if you have black pepper with it or black pepper extract that it can—I forget the number but it significantly increases it so a lot of the supplements are combining those. But if you just go back to the idea of actually using these herbs as foods, which is really how herbs ought to be used in many cases, that’s something we’ve gotten away from. So they didn’t generally just use turmeric together but it was a combination of the different spices and really our science can’t even begin to look at how all these things combine. So it’s something that can be fun and exciting to just play with and experiment with. If something tastes good, if you’re using natural things, not overly “chemicalized” things then there’s probably a lot of cool things going in as far as the chemistry of that and supporting your nutrition.
Zack: Yeah, that was one of the big concepts I actually got from herbalism specifically, listening to David Wolfe talk about how he kind of makes his super food herbal smoothie. He was kind of listing off I guess each food and kind of what its role is, that you have the fat that kind of slowed down the absorption to help I guess the more potent herbs if time released. You have like the maca and the mucuna, which feed the immune system more directly. You have like cacao that helps dilate the vessels and really deliver and absorb the herb. So I like to think about eating whole food exactly like that.
Research may not have discovered all these specific components, especially all the components that work as assistance to the main weight loss factor or the main cancer curing factor, whatever it may be. I kind of think of it like Oceans 11. You take a bite and you chew it up. You have some components that are kind of like the leg man. They get the food absorbed to the intestines. You have other people kind of guiding it to the circulatory system to where it needs to go. You have that smooth, charming guy to get it into the cell and then you have the active ingredient kind of doing what it does to boost metabolism after the antioxidant or whatever it may be for that specific compound.
Logan: Yeah, it’s something that, like I said, is fun to experiment with. You and I have both read a lot of science on this nutrition and these different topics but it’s kind of exciting to see what’s going to come out in the future. The way I see it, a lot of ancient wisdom, not that it’s flawless or anything like that but that’s getting sort of revealed to be oh, there’s a lot of truths in these things that we didn’t know about.
Zack: Yeah, exactly. After being around for thousands of years and eating just food that’s been growing out of the ground, I don’t see how there could be a way to really improve upon that. I don’t know. You can’t like reinvent our human biology by coming up with a new drug, or a new pill, or a new method to kind of try and hijack that.
Logan: Yeah, I mean most of the drugs and pills are just isolations of what’s in nature anyway.
Logan: Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about sort of the mindset shift that people need to go from this idea of dieting, which involves cutting foods out in order to lose weight, versus sort of changing your lifestyle and specifically the opportunity of getting to try new things like all the stuff we’ve talked about. People haven’t been doing that before. What really goes into getting your mindset and starting to move to the direction of what you do and what you eat in that direction?
Zack: So first again, you were kind of talking about it before, about not viewing the foods as good or bad but just exploring them and taking them for what they are, which is very powerful. I view it in a different light, as looking at the foods that you eat in general. For example, all the diets out there are pretty much defined by what you don’t eat. A vegan diet is no animal products. A paleo diet is no grains pretty much. There’s the Atkin’s diet which are no carbohydrates. People seem to kind of limit themselves into what they can eat by focusing on what they have to avoid. I feel like it builds a lot of deprivation into the process and can make it very difficult to actually make these changes because if you go into a grocery store and you know you can’t eat grains, or gluten, or whatever your specific diet of choice for that month is, then you don’t really know what to actually focus on a lot of the time.
One of the great things about food is that there are so many different types of it that you don’t even realize. You were talking about adding a baby bok choy with your eggs. When I was first starting out on my journey, maybe two or three years in, I might have heard about what bok choy was but that’s not common knowledge, I feel.
Zack: I remember Vince Del Monte, he came out with like a juicing product and he was talking about how he’s never really eaten beets before until he had them juiced and he started liking them. He found out how to roast them and enjoy them more. These are foods that are so powerful on their own and that a lot of people haven’t even heard of. When I first decided to adapt a more plant-based lifestyle, I found out about chia seeds and coconut oil. A lot of the stuff I’m talking about, I feel it sounds more mainstream now but even avocado and stuff like that like ten years ago, I feel that the general population didn’t really know what an avocado was until there was like that big Subway campaign and all of that stuff. But it’s just really interesting to kind of see how once you start exposing yourself to new foods, how they become a staple in your life and it’s something that you kind of can’t even remember when you didn’t have it.
Logan: I’m curious. You talked about not necessarily thinking of I’m not able to have this food, yet sometimes with that—I’m not a vegetarian or vegan now but I did experiment with those things earlier on and I thought that was like a useful lesson because by saying okay, I can’t have these foods, it does sort of force me into exploring this area that I do have access to more, getting to know more nut, seeds, vegetables, beans and all sorts of different things involved in that. So is it just about focusing on you getting to try new things and not focusing on what you can’t have? Or is there some sort of coming together of the two that can help people out?
Zack: Yeah, I think it’s definitely coming together of the two. It’s kind of like you’re climbing up this ladder, an impossibly tall ladder. You improve your health step by step and now all the advice and all the cliché movies and everything like that, they always tell you when you’re really high up, don’t look down because that’s going to make you see the drop. It’s going to make you see all that stuff underneath you. So when you’re starting a new diet or a new lifestyle, you don’t want to essentially look down and get stuck into all those old paradigms of what you previously thought. Because this is a new attempt, essentially it’s a new you as you go forward and try something else out to change your life. So by keeping your head on where you want to go, that’s much more powerful than somebody trying to avoid or run from certain foods that are not allowed essentially.
Logan: Right. Do you have sort of a systematic way of trying new foods? Even I’ll say for myself that I’ve definitely moved towards more healthier eating than what I used to do in the past and occasionally I try new things, but even within this, I get sort of stuck in my routine of what I’m eating. And I do eat seasonally so it depends what’s there, but here’s still kind of the staples of what I go to. Are there any sort of tips you would give for continually trying out new things?
Zack: Yeah, definitely. One of the really powerful things I did when I was first starting out was when I would go food shopping, I would kind of explore around the produce aisle and try and pick out one new piece of produce, or a new grain, or whatever it was to try and cook with or to try and eat that week. It’s really interesting when you’re kind of walking through the section, in the produce section and you see like a horned fruit, or you see like an acorn squash, or you see in the bulk bins or in the box like amaranth and you never cooked with any of these things that you just pick up a box.
If it tastes bad, or if you burn it, or you don’t cook it right, then that’s a $5 cooking lesson. thousands of dollars and go to school for years to try and learn how to cook but you spent I don’t know a half hour, maybe an hour, in your kitchen for ten bucks trying to figure out a recipe. And if it didn’t work, it didn’t work but if it did and you found an amazing new food, then you’re getting access to a completely different nutritional profile. Each and every plant food, I should say, has its own kind of profile of plant-specific phytonutrients that is really unique to that plant, even unique to the soil it’s found in and how it’s grown and different things like that.
Logan: Yes, that makes perfect sense. Just every time you go and buy food, get one thing new and give that a shot. I think I will start doing that.
Zack: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, too.
Logan: Yeah, and I definitely do it sometimes but I know like I regularly have a CSA box delivered here as well and I’ll throw like one new thing in there but then it just sits in the fridge, like I didn’t create a plan on how I’m going to cook that so sometimes it just goes to waste. So I need to be sure I could do that second part, which actually involves preparing it, right?
Zack: Yeah. There are different ways to prepare, too. You could roast it. You could bake it. What I do actually when I have a lot of stuff that might be kind of going bad in the fridge, obviously before it goes bad I pull it and you can do a quick pickle with it. You just kind of chop it very thin and let it soak in vinegar for like 15 to 20 minutes. You could toss them onto salads. You could just snack on it as is. That’s kind of a quick way that you cook it in acid and kind of have this nice little tart taste so you don’t have to feel that you’re throwing out and wasting all of this food.
Logan: Okay. Then it just preserves it for a bit longer, right? You can keep storing it in the fridge after doing that?
Zack: Yeah, because when you cook it with acid, it kind of deactivates all those enzymes that are oxidizing it and causing it to rot.
Logan: Excellent. So maybe now would be a good time;, what are some of your favorite meals or some things that maybe most people haven’t tried that could involve some of these leafy greens or other things?
Zack: Sure. It’s actually a great time to ask because I’m working on I guess the cookbook for permanent fat loss as a follow-up to the Master Keys of Permanent Fat Loss. I’m not very good at coming up with names for my products but one of the recipes that I love and I’ve been using for years are these quinoa pizza bites. Basically, what you do with that is you use tomato paste, pureed beans and quinoa as a base, along with fresh parsley, oregano—not fresh oregano—and fresh basil. What you do is you can kind of mix it all up like a meatball and you could form it into balls and bake it off. It tastes really freaking good. It has a very good texture to it, a very good, bright Italian flavor to it. That’s what I use. Since I don’t eat meat, those are my meatballs.
Logan: That does sound pretty damn good. Actually, it’s similar. I made meal last night. It was one of those meals like oh, I have a whole bunch of veggies that are starting to turn so I need to use these type of meal. So I cooked some quinoa and just as far as greens, just as I was cooking the quinoa I just threw these greens on top. There was charred parsley, cilantro and then I poured some olive oil in there and it tastes pretty good. It wasn’t like absolutely amazing or anything but it was just one of those quick meals that incorporated the greens in there. But yours, these pizza bites sound better.
Zack: Yeah. Those are what I view as more real recipes. I like to use a quick, more of a template when I cook just for I guess more casual cooking, if I have 10 to 15 minutes to make dinner or lunch or something like that. So I actually picked this up at an event that I met one of the really big plant nutrition guys, Jeff Novick. He has this idea of like a template meal, which is really cool. Basically it’s just five things that you have – spices, a sauce, whole grains, vegetables and beans. So you cook them all together and it forms pretty much any meal you want very easily. Yeah. So if you want Indian food, you could use peas, cauliflower, potatoes, like an Indian curry, spices and chickpeas. For Italian, you could use, you know like rice, broccolis, peppers, cannellini beans, beans and the Italian seasonings. So those are just really quick and easy ways to make a meal that way.
Logan: So I’m curious; why have you chosen a vegetarian approach or have you gone vegan?
Zack: Oh yeah, I’m full on vegan.
Logan: Okay. So how long have you been doing that and yeah what sort of led to that approach?
Zack: So I’ve actually been following a vegan way of eating for about five years. It was really since I went to college and kind of had more of my own flexibility to eat what I want and not have to worry about what my family is cooking and doing. Actually in college, I got there and I was talking to my dad one night and he was over 300 pounds. He had terrible sciatica so he would go in for cortisone shots for like once a month. We were talking and I told him that I wanted to try out this plant-based thing and he actually had just seen Forks Over Knives and so he wanted to try it as well to try and lose weight and stop going in for those shots because he was just constantly in pain from that.
So we both made the switch and supported each other, except he did it the smart way by going more slowly to ease in to cutting out meat. I kind of went instantly cold turkey, which was not a very fun experience. But the reason I did it, I did it at first as an experiment. I feel like as the time goes on and I as I dive deeper into the research, I find more reasons to kind of affirm that. But really, I guess I can narrow it down to three big reasons.
The first one is that definitely, I feel that it’s a lot more cost-effective because you could buy a lot of rice, a lot of potatoes, a lot of vegetables per calorie compared to meat, cheese, eggs, and all those animal products. Second, you have a lot of bioaccumulation of environmental pollutants that occur in meat, fish and other animal products. We don’t really see it much because America is industrialized and you don’t really see like how bad the environment is but all of these pesticides, insecticides, all these components in our plastics and all of these by-products accumulate in the environment and then kind of work their way up the food chain. A lot of them have been linked with mental disorders, obesity, increased risk of ADHD and a lot more stuff as the field of epigenetics kind of picks up over the years.
Then I’d say that the third reason is probably the most important and it’s that it just feels it’s a good fit for my body. So I would never say that my clients have to commit to cutting out all meat and stuff like that. I recommend that they try it because the only way to really know if something fits for your body, for your biochemistry is to give it a good try for about 28 days or something like that just so you can say that for your specific genetics, your biochemistry, all of that stuff, it promotes your health or it doesn’t promote your health. That’s again more of my practical side speaking.
Logan: All right. Yeah. Fair enough and I can’t argue against those reasons. The animal foods do cost more, especially if you’re going for the higher quality stuff, not the cheap quality stuff where you’re going to have much more of the negative effects of that bioaccumulation. Yeah, I do agree. You’ve got to find what works for your body. Absolutely.
So let’s talk about grains because a lot of people do have problems with gluten in grains, especially the wheat we have in the US here. Are there some better options with grains than for other people? There are some people saying you shouldn’t eat any sort of grain ever. I’m a little more relaxed than that but what are the best types of grains? What should people be looking for there?
Zack: Yeah, I’m definitely more relaxed with that, too. I think you can’t really cover it with a blanket statement. I know I was listening to Dr. Tom O’Brien, who seems to be like the doctor on gluten intolerance and things like that. He talks about how no one can actually digest and breakdown gluten. Gluten is something that is not digestible. Now I feel that just because you can’t really break down gluten and it could act out and cause all these things in a significant percentage of the population’s body, I don’t think that means you should avoid it. I think that there are times that you should cut back and times where you don’t have to. So I’ll explain that a little bit more.
It’s been my experience that when I’m under more stress, whether it’s in the winter time when I was in college and had projects, and finals, and life happens, you get busy, you get stressed, when that happens I feel that it definitely impacts my digestion and can cause more of a leaky gut syndrome due to that stress. So that’s the real issue here. It’s not what you eat; it’s what you absorb. So with all of these things, from your emotional state, to your exercise, to even the quality of the water you are drinking, it could make your gut either more of a staunch defense against the foods that you eat or it could make it leakier. So you have these grain storage proteins pass from your digestive system into your body, then they’re just antigens and your body doesn’t know what to do with them so it triggers immune responses. That’s where the real danger comes from.
Logan: All right, and like you’re just saying, it’s individual so some people are going to have much more of a problem with it than others. For some people, it would be best to avoid it completely. But what about some of the other grains? What are sort of your go-to grains? What do you like to use, I guess with the meals with those grains that you like to prepare?
Zack: Oh sure. Yeah, I like to rotate my meals, too. That’s really important for building a good digestive system so that you don’t become intolerant to a food. Because when you’re just over and over and over again exposed to the same food, you can build up an intolerance to it. So I like to divide my grains because they’re significant sources of calories in my diet into like the starches, glutinous grains and then pseudo-grains. That’s like splitting them up into root vegetables. So sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips and things like that and then having them—other categories such as whole wheat, oats, even some rye, I don’t really have much from that group but I do love oats. You can find those gluten-free as well. Bob’s Red Mill has gluten-free oats; it’s just that they can get contaminated in the process in the facility. I like to use a lot of like the pseudo-grains, which are more like seeds. That would include things like the quinoa, the millet, like—what else do I have?
Zack: Yeah, buckwheat, amaranth, things like that, Kamut, spelt and all that stuff. So again, I kind of like to experiment and try things out from that category. So they’re all interchangeable as well. Again, I use more of that template, which is fantastic because it just calls for some sort of grain which I could use, potatoes. I could use quinoa. I could use amaranth. I could use anything in that spot. I’m not trying to recreate a perfect Italian dish. Instead of pasta which I don’t really eat that much because it’s more processed and can jack up your blood sugar faster, I could use something like potatoes instead and still have a similar- styled dish but just swap out the main grains and have it in a new way.
And with this, I feel that a lot of people get stuck into a lot of these same themes and same meals when it’s really easy to kind of keep the meal the same but at the same time, make it something completely different and reinterpreted. So instead of having Chinese food with rice, you could have a Chinese-style dish with potatoes. You could enjoy the potatoes. In Chinese food, it brings in different textures. It brings in different flavor combinations, and it kind of stops you from getting fatigued with the same old foods because you’re swapping things out. You’re trying new things but you still have a basic sort of template to go with. So you do have that predictability, which you could use to leverage as a habit, to keep you on track.
Logan: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, the template. So you have one of these different things and you just basically plug and play them for endless variety once you’ve built up or figured out how to use enough of these different vegetables and grains and everything else in there. Well, we’re running low on time here. Could you tell people where they can go to find out more about you as well as a little bit about your eBook?
Zack: Sure. You can find out more about me at DailyNutritionHQ.com. And my new book just came out and it’s the Master Keys to Permanent Fat loss at KeysToPermanentfatloss.com. It talks about how to think, cook, shop, live and save time by eating more plant-based foods. I definitely think you should check it out.
Logan: Yup, I was looking it over and basically, it’s kind of like this call but a lot more detailed information on everything and much more. All right, well thank you so much, Zack. This was a fun conversation and I definitely picked up a few tips, like the pick up one new food every time you shop. That’s something that I’m going to start doing as of the next time I shop which might be later today. So t thank you very much for that and everything you shared.
Zack: You’re very welcome. Thanks for having me, Logan.
Logan: All right. Thanks everyone for listening. Do us a favor. Make sure to go check out Zack’s website, which we’ll have in the show notes. As well as leaving reviews on iTunes, that just helps what we’re doing here at the Vital Way and gets more people to listen to the show. Thank you everyone for listening.
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