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Having battled ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease, the modern-medicine way for many years, Danielle Walker took matters into her own hands and set out to regain her health through the medicine of food. She runs the popular grain-free recipe blog Against All Grain and has a cookbook by the same name hitting shelves July 30th.
- Danielle’s battle with ulcerative colitis and playing detective with her own food sensitivities. [3:52]
- Managing flare ups and what Danielle eats now to keep herself healthy. [12:48]
- How Danielle feeds her son, Asher. [18:05]
- Danielle’s take on grain-free treats. [27:22]
- Egg substitues. [31:28]
- Paleo foods Danielle avoids with her UC. [36:19]
- Quick & easy meal ideas when busy/on-the-go. [45:13]
- Her new book, “Against All Grain,” due out this summer! [53:29]
Click here to download this episode as an MP3.
Diane Sanfilippo: Hey, everyone, welcome to Episode 88 of the Balanced Bites Podcast. This is Diane, and Liz won’t be joining us this week. She is nose to the grindstone doing some work, which I’m excited about for her, but in her place, we have a fantastic guest today, Danielle Walker from Against All Grain. And I’m sure many, many of you know Danielle pretty well, but in case you don’t know her, we’ll have her introduce herself and tell a little bit about her story. But just a little bit of background about Danielle: Having battled ulcerative colitis and autoimmune disease the modern medicine way for many years, Danielle Walker took matters into her own hands and set out to regain her health through the medicine of food. She runs a popular grain-free recipe blog, Against All Grain, and has a cookbook by the same name hitting shelves July 30. Welcome, Danielle!
Danielle Walker:Thanks, Diane!
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s great to have you here. It was really fun to get to spend a little bit of time with you at PaleoFX a couple of months ago. I know we met really briefly at the Practical Paleo book release party, but as you probably can tell, I was a little bit out of it that day. I was like: Yeah, yeah, great to meet you! Uh, who? What?
Danielle Walker:Yes, that was a calculated plan. I came out to kind of scope out and see what the deal was with Victory Belt and your book, and I had seen your site and heard your podcast before, so it was like: Well, I’m right here. I may as well go by. But yeah, you had a nice big line going out the door.
Diane Sanfilippo: So you were a stalker.
Danielle Walker:I totally was. Yeah, absolutely. And then I’m like: Oh, PaleoFX. There she is!
Diane Sanfilippo: I was wondering why you kept popping up next to me at every talk. No, I’m kidding! It was cool because I know you and I talked briefly about the whole book writing and publishing situation, and you are now in the same sort of publishing family that I’m in, which I’m thrilled about, and I’m so happy that we’ve been able to kind of talk about all that stuff and kind of partially commiserate on the process of what it is, right? It’s grueling, isn’t it?
Danielle Walker:Yeah, it’s grueling. That’s why I wanted to find someone to be able to talk to, especially when you’ve never done it before. I was such a rookie, so it’s nice to talk to people that have done it.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. It’s also one of those things. I’m not trying to diminish being pregnant or giving birth, but I do feel like you can’t possibly understand both the horrible part of writing and creating a book and also the amazing part of having it out there in the world and helping people. But it is like one of those experiences where you just can’t understand it until you go through it. Don’t you think?
Danielle Walker:Yeah. I’ve done both! I’m trying to rank which one was worse. No, it is kind of like pregnancy, though. Just when I think I’m done, there’s more. And I’m like: OK, let’s just get this thing out, both ways.
Danielle’s battle with ulcerative colitis and playing detective with her own food sensitivities [3:52]
Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, it’s awesome. Well, for the listeners who don’t know much about you, which I think there may be two because I’m pretty sure our fan base really overlaps, which I think is awesome, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about your story because you kind of have a unique experience?
Danielle Walker:Yeah. Let’s see. It was about five years ago, two months after my husband and I got married, actually, that I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. And it came on extremely suddenly. I had what I thought back then was a fairly healthy diet. I didn’t do a bunch of junk food and fast food, but I definitely ate wheat and dairy and all sorts of things. And I started out just with fatigue and migraines and a ton of just really uncomfortable bloating and constipation and a lot of other things that you don’t need to hear! And I just was all of a sudden diagnosed with this disease, and I had no idea what it was. I was otherwise a very healthy person growing up besides the occasional stomachache or things like that. And it also doesn’t run in my family, which they say it’s hereditary, so it was just a huge shock.
I was 22 and newly married and just graduated college. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I have a ton of doctors at my disposal, which is really great, and really great facilities, like UCSF and all sorts of stuff, and I started seeing all types of different doctors, but at that time just Western medicine doctors. And I saw about five or six gastroenterologists, and every single one that I met with, my first question was, well, what can I do to change my diet to help this? And they were like: Well, there’s nothing you can do. Diet doesn’t matter. You just need to take this prescription and you’ll be fine. And I was like: OK. Well, if a pill can make me fine, then I guess I’ll do it. But I still in the back of mind was like: There’s just no way that a disease that is in my colon cannot have anything to do with the food that I’m putting in it and that’s going through it and getting digested, so I started kind of researching on my own but also took the medication and was on steroids and all sorts of terrible drugs with really awful side effects and just continued to get more and more sick. And I’d have two to three what they call flare-ups a year that were extremely debilitating. I would usually lose 20 to 25 pounds within a three-to-four-week period, was hospitalized for weeks at a time, and had multiple blood transfusions – just in a terrible state. And then on top of that, the drugs that they were administering – at one point I was on 100 mg of prednisone, which is a steroid, and that’s an extremely high dose – just added so many more symptoms to what I was already dealing with that it just became really unbearable.
And someone handed me a book on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet called Breaking the Vicious Cycle, and I kind of just tossed it aside because so many of these medical doctors who I had to trust because they were the only people that knew anything about my disease said food didn’t matter. So I was like: Well, I’m not going to do this. And I also love to cook, and so the thought of cutting out all the things that I knew – I’m Italian, so cutting out pasta and all that stuff, I was like: Well, if it’s not going to help, there’s no point. And then after researching and finding some stuff online and then actually meeting just a random stranger at that point but friend now who had done the diet and had seen a lot of relief, I decided to kind of take the plunge. Yeah, so I started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and I started seeing a lot of improvement, not enough, but enough to actually where I was able to get pregnant with my son who is 2-1/2 now. But I just over a couple-year period continued to have flares. They weren’t as bad as they were when I wasn’t doing anything diet-related, but I still was sick.
And so I started seeing a naturopath in Burlingame, and she did some food allergy testing and then also some elimination diet things and ended up cutting out a lot of things from my diet that I was eating daily and things that actually seemed to be OK with SCD, mainly eggs and homemade yogurt, which is fermented for 24 hours, so they say that the lactose is pretty much gone, but I just never realized that I needed to listen to my own body rather than just following the book line by line. I was eating all these things that they were saying are OK and thinking: Well, if they say they’re OK, then they must be OK. And after working with this naturopath and getting on a lot of different gut-healing supplements and things of that matter as well, I just really learned to kind of pay attention to my own body and realize that things that I might be consuming might actually be causing me more harm. And so after a big, long process of elimination, we cut out a ton of things and within 24 hours my symptoms improved, and I’ve been flare-free now for a year and a half, which is huge with my history. I mean, I was sick six months of the year before. This summer it will be two years, I think in August. So that’s kind of where I’m at. And in terms of paleo, basically everything we cut out just kind of ended up looking like the paleo diet, so that’s basically what I am now, but kind of my own modified version of paleo, which seems to be what we all do, kind of what we can tolerate.
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s a great story. It’s so cool to hear where people come from, and I think everyone has a really unique experience, whether it’s something much more severe, like in your case. I don’t know if people might be driving or doing chores while they’re listening to this, but you said 25 pounds in a matter of three to four weeks, and for how many people are out there who might be thinking: Wow, I would love to lose 25 pounds in three or four weeks, Danielle is not a very large person. So to lose 25 pounds and then obviously be hospitalized, that’s obviously saying something about how malnourished the body becomes when this type of condition happens. And not to diminish how serious the disease is, but I feel like this happens to people on a daily basis really often when they’re just not digesting food well and they’re not absorbing nutrients. And it may not be 25 pounds in four weeks, but it may just be this sort of lack of nutrient absorption over years and years that causes deficiencies and illness and things that people never think about. It’s really important to recognize how critical that process is. And I love what you said about how you really needed to start listening to your body more and following what your body was telling you about how different foods feel versus just following a book to the letter. I get people all the time who tell me: The meal plans in Practical Paleo are fantastic; it’s my bible. And just the way that people will sort of put the information on a pedestal, in some ways to say it’s ‘the way,’ I absolutely don’t feel that anybody needs to do that with my book or any other book, and I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there with that, to really listen to your own body.
Danielle Walker:Yeah. Definitely it’s a guideline, and I think when you’re in such a desperate time, like when that first book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, was given to me, it did become my bible because I felt like I was so lost. I was like: I don’t know what else to do! This is the way I used to know how to eat. So sometimes you do really follow it strictly, but if you’re not seeing the improvements that you’re supposed to see, then that’s when you really have to start kind of digging in and really breaking every little nuance apart and saying: Well, it could be egg whites. It could be egg yolks. It’s all these little things, and it can get a little bit tedious.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, or when it stops working.
Diane Sanfilippo: It may have worked pretty well for a while, and then you realize there are even more nuances to it than that.
Managing flare-ups & what Danielle eats now to keep herself healthy [12:48]
Diane Sanfilippo: Just kind of building on your story a little bit, I know that you do eat eggs now. I’m sure people will be interested to know about your trials of reintroduction and kind of how you at the time maybe or even now continually kind of figure out which foods feel good for you and which don’t and what you maybe use in the way that you feel to go by since you were saying that the flares might have happened a couple of times a year. That’s obviously not a day-to-day thing, so how do you kind of manage that?
Danielle Walker:Well, because it’s not day to day and they do happen and they would last for six months at a time, I learned that eating a certain way actually builds up and then it kind of just explodes, and that’s when I would have the flare-ups. So I’m still really careful, but I cut out similar to the autoimmune protocol, which I don’t follow on a daily basis now because I’ve seen that I can tolerate things, but we cut out eggs and all nuts and all dairy, and I was off of those things for… gosh, I think it was probably almost six months and then just started adding in one group at a time, and not just one group, not all dairy, like very specific dairy, so just goat cheese at first. And if I could tolerate that after a week or so and didn’t see any symptoms, then I would try something new, like raw cheddar or something of that sort. I’ve found just for my specific body that I can handle low-lactose dairy, which is allowed on SCD as well, but mostly hard cheeses. Goat’s milk and goat cheese doesn’t seem to bother me at all, which is fantastic because I love it! I still don’t do any milk or cream or anything of that sort, even if it’s raw and grass-fed. My system cannot handle it. Eggs were the same thing. I cut them out. It turned out that I was more sensitive to egg whites, and so I cut out both for quite some time, and then ended up adding yolks back in. And once we found that I could do yolks, then started doing whites. And it’s kind of a similar thing with nuts and seeds, just giving my body a time to let the gut heal before I was able to add those things back in. And I still do them in moderation. Nuts and seeds I do in moderation. I find that if I eat way too much and especially the baked goods where there’s just a ton of almond flour in them. If I eat them every day, I will definitely start to see symptoms, and that’s usually when I’ll pull it all back. I try to be really good about being really strict. Usually I hit myself in the head when I get to that point where I’m like: Oh no! I have symptoms! Why was I eating this way for the past month?! Or what kind of stress did I let get in that is causing this?! And then I usually reel it in really tight and I can tend to keep things under control. But nightshades I still kind of keep as kind of a special occasion. I don’t do a lot of raw tomatoes. I find that that has a little bit more effect on me than certain things.
Diane Sanfilippo: As far as symptoms for you, is it mostly digestive? Do you notice a change in your digestion, bloating, and maybe running to the bathroom? Or is it something else?
Diane Sanfilippo: OK.
Danielle Walker:No, that’s exactly it, more bathroom trips, bloating. I’m just kind of uncomfortable, not having a lot of energy. I get anemic pretty quickly, too, so I’ll start to notice that kind of immediately. And it’s all kind of in line. I don’t know the whole scientific part of it, but when you have ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, you don’t absorb the nutrients, and so it’s generally pretty apparent to me pretty quickly. Obviously when you see pretty much everything coming out all through the day, you know you’re not absorbing anything. Then I start to feel the symptoms. But yeah, that’s usually how it presents itself for me.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think it’s really important for people to understand how those symptoms that might be happening for you, you take those as really a big red flag because you have this condition that you know you can sort of flare up again, but I think a lot of people are kind of quick to dismiss what may be happening in the bathroom and they don’t realize the bigger effects that those can have, so I think it’s really important for people to hear about that.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, absolutely.
Diane Sanfilippo: Cool. Well, you and I could probably talk about a million different topics for a couple of hours, as we’ve done!
Diane Sanfilippo: But I know we have a lot of questions from my readers and your readers, and I think it would be cool to kind of get into some of those and then talk a little bit, of course, about your book that’s coming out soon.
How Danielle feeds her son, Asher [18:05]
Diane Sanfilippo: So let’s just jump into a few of these questions here. We have one from Elizabeth. She says: “I’m so excited. You’re my favorite! I’m curious if Asher was a picky eater, and what did you feed him when he was about a year old? I cannot get my little Zoe to eat any sort of veggies. She loves her eggs, meat, and sardines but won’t even touch a carrot.”
Danielle Walker:I can’t believe she eats sardines!
Diane Sanfilippo: I know! I would be perfectly fine with that. I’d be like: Great! We’ll get to carrots later.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, he would throw it on the ground, I’m sure, if I put that in front of it. Everyone that’s followed me for quite some time knows that I’ve been much less than perfect with Asher’s diet. I have learned so much now over the last couple of years. When I had him, I had the worst flare of my life, when he was 9 months old, and so honestly at that point my focus, because he was perfectly healthy and could tolerate everything, I was just getting myself under control, and so I kind of let his diet go a bit and fed him what most people feed their kids. I mean, to some extent, not a lot of the processed junk. But he definitely ate some stuff that now if I could go back I wouldn’t do. He went through a picky phase, but when he was 1 and he first started eating, I feel like he kind of ate everything I put in front of him. The easiest thing for me was incorporating veggies into whatever I was feeding him. My biggest thing that I learned with him was just not underestimating that things that he would like, because one of his favorite dishes of mine was a vegetable curry, which I never even thought to let him taste, and then one day when he actually asked for a bite, he loved it and started eating it. He’s been difficult over time. He went through a phase where he threw everything off of his tray that I put in front of him, and he ended up eating gluten-free chicken nuggets that I bought at Whole Foods every single day because it was all he would eat. Or the Applegate grass-fed, organic hot dogs. He ate that for every meal with some fruit, I think, for a good month or so when he wouldn’t touch anything else. Kids are hard and especially if you’re trying to have them eat paleo. I’m doing it now more than I was. He still eats a few things, like some rice. He loves rice cakes, which, I figure, are better than crackers.
But yeah, I’m not the best person to talk about kids. Stacy from Paleo Parents has had her kids paleo, and I listened at PaleoFX when she and Sarah Fragoso and Chris Kresser were talking about the way they feed their kids, and that was kind of a turning point for me, actually listening to that and realizing: Oh my gosh. I really do need to be a little bit more strict on what he eats, because I’m not putting it into my body, then I don’t want to be putting it into his either. So I’m learning, but I would really suggest reading The Healthy Baby Code by Chris Kresser and then also going to some of those parent sites that really focus on paleo and kids because they have a lot more knowledge than I do.
Diane Sanfilippo: Of course, I don’t have kids, and so I haven’t been through it, but I even know just as an adult that if it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t ever mean to stand here and tell parents how to do something that I haven’t done, but at the same time, there are people out there giving advice on many, many things they’ve never done specifically. The reality is I think it takes a lot more patience and tenacity and just a bullheadedness. If the kid’s screaming, they’re going to scream because they want the thing that you’ve been feeding them for however long. You have to expect that that uproar is going to happen, and I think it’s just a matter of being well rested and well fed yourself so that you can handle that uproar. I absolutely would expect if that were me I just would not have the things in the house or it just wouldn’t be an option. But I can understand there are people who are transitioning, where the kid ate this for the last year or two or more. And now all of a sudden you take it away. Asher isn’t that old, so if they’re an older kid, they might need some kind of explanation as to why the food doesn’t exist anymore in the house.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, he’s been pretty good because he’s young. That’s what’s nice. I’m fortunate that I’m learning this now, and obviously with the next kid then it’ll be even easier because it’ll be right from the get-go. But I do understand how difficult it is. I mean if I put up as much of a fight as I did to change my diet, then a kid who doesn’t understand and doesn’t understand the benefits is definitely going to put up more of a tantrum, I’m sure, than I did.
Diane Sanfilippo: Well, do you see in his choices and his habits and his behavior a difference when he is eating “better” food that it kind of is self-fulfilling, like he’ll continue to eat better food, and then when things get off track, it sort of snowballs? Or do you not notice anything either way?
Danielle Walker:You know, he’s an extremely strong-willed child, so he was putting up fights for bed and just all sorts of things a couple of hours at a time, and so I’m like: Well, let’s just really reel in his diet. Maybe he’s acting this way because of diet. And it didn’t change anything. I’m super blessed to have a kid that doesn’t seem to have any problems. I think that those could develop over time, and that’s kind of my biggest reasoning of wanting to change his diet, especially because you see Crohn’s is hereditary and just that he has bigger risk factors, and so I want him to be healthy early on so that those things don’t develop, but he’s still at an age where he doesn’t really make conscious decisions on eating “healthy,” but he likes the things I give him. He eats everything I make for dinner, and he likes the muffins and things that I’ll make him every once in a while so that he has something sweet. When I give it to him, he likes it. I don’t know if I were to put a grain-filled muffin with white sugar in front of him and one of mine whether he’d choose the good one or the bad one, I’m not sure at his age, but I do notice for sure sugar, especially because of how little he has, he is a fruit addict. Sometimes I don’t even think about it, but you know, he’ll eat 10 pieces of watermelon at dinner and then won’t go to sleep until 10:00, and so it’s very much about watching their behavior too, just like learning to know my body, just realizing that even though it’s fruit, it’s still sugar and it’s still going to give him a burst of energy at night. So keeping those things to earlier in the day and not letting him have as many, that’s been good for me to see because a lot of times I just don’t think about it, and I’m like: Oh, he’s little. He’s resilient.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Well, I guess I’m curious, too, more about… Like you were saying, he usually eats what you put in front of him, that aspect, not necessarily that he says: I want this, or I want that. But just if that continues to perpetuate where his behavior around what you’re feeding him is positive as you feed the things that you think you should, and then if something gets off track, does he then complain and want the “bad” food?
Diane Sanfilippo: I’m wondering if that’s kind of what derails things.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, that’s the hard part. He just started going to a friend’s house who has a sitter with their son, and he’ll ask for things that I’m like: Where did you even get that? I’ve never bought that before. How do you know about that?! Or grandparents sometimes like to spoil him.
Diane Sanfilippo: Keep him in the house! Never let him out! No, I’m just kidding.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, right?! I know. So that’s the thing. You can only fight the battle at home for the most part. Obviously when they’re in school… And I send him with food when he does go somewhere, but you can’t control everything, which is unfortunate, but I guess it’s good for us at the same time. But yes, even at a young age that he is, if he has something that he enjoyed because he can’t distinguish whether it’s junk or good food, then he’ll ask for it. And sometimes I’m like: What are you asking for?! Like, I’m not even sure where we were, but we drove by something, and he was like: Oh, that’s the milkshake house! And I was like: What?! How do you know this? Who’s giving this stuff to you? But yet, they’re so impressionable, and all they basically know at that age is I like it and I want it.
Danielle’s take on grain-free treats [27:22]
Diane Sanfilippo: Right. It’s so funny. Chrissy Gower, who has the blog Growing Up Paleo, she feeds her son, Kayden, paleo. I think she was paleo through his whole pregnancy and all that, and I remember she was telling a story or she wrote on her blog somewhere about how they made a popcorn garland for a Christmas tree and popcorn balls for some kind of decoration, and it never occurred to Kayden that he could eat the popcorn because she had never fed him that before. It was one of those things where it’s like you know it’s going to happen that they’re exposed to things, but I guess it’s sort of the vote for why we want to keep those things out of the house as much as possible while we’re in control of it and not also have that feeling of guilt or feeling bad that the kid isn’t getting to experience something. I think a lot of times it’s because the parents feel like the kid is missing out. You know, birthday cake for a 1-year-old, I’m not judging it. I mean, I’m sure I ate birthday cake as a 1-year-old, and I would love now some grain-free birthday brownies or whatever it is, but I think the feeling that our kids are missing out is just a lot more our own social pressure than anything else, right?
Danielle Walker:Right, and we’re kind of at the forefront of this new lifestyle.
Diane Sanfilippo: New-old lifestyle, right?
Danielle Walker:New-old, right. Exactly, so we’re going off of how we grew up, so yeah, the birthday cake at the first party where they smash their hands into it and get the frosting everywhere. It’s like you have to have that picture.
Diane Sanfilippo: Blue dye and…
Danielle Walker:Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of my outlook on this. I posted something the other day. I got an email from a mom with a 3-year-old who was having very frequent seizures, and she was listing some of my treats that she’s able to make that have made the transition just be so much easier. And I think for kids, especially if they have a disease where they’re not old enough or really have the brainpower to understand why they have to have this disease and no one else does, first of all, and then to say you can’t have the cookies and the cupcakes and the things that all your friends are eating at school, to have those things as an alternative, to me, I think, is so huge. I never say to eat it every meal, but to have the options. I hear a lot of parents that will make a batch of my cupcakes and they’ll keep them in the freezer so that if a kid is celebrating a birthday at school that they can take one in and they can eat a cupcake with everyone else and not have people be like: Well, why can’t you eat that? It’s those little things, I think, that help, and that’s what I figure I’ll do with him as he grows up, is have the options and the alternatives. Luckily, right now he doesn’t have any allergies and he doesn’t have any behavioral issues, so if he does get fed something when he’s out, I don’t have to freak out about it. Obviously with my body I can’t take those chances, but with him, I know he’s going to be exposed, and so I figure as long as we can set a really good example at home and he can start to understand why we eat the way we do as he gets older and how it makes him feel and things like that, then we can start to teach him those lessons as we go, and then he can hopefully get to the point when he is older that he can make those decisions for himself.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s sound advice. I’m all for the kind of alternatives and whatnot. When they do get older and they are around the social settings, you don’t want them to feel left out, so I think there’s that line between what we impose on them at home while they’re still very, very young, and then when they’re out there seeing what other kids are experiencing, and making sure that we do the best we can to provide for them and educate them as they are old enough.
Egg substitutes [31:28]
Let’s see. We have another question here. This one’s kind of a recipe ingredient question from Megan. She says: “Egg substitutes, especially when used as a binder in recipes like meatloaf, crab cakes, etc., I hate using powdered egg replacer. I don’t think it would work here. The same with chia seeds or applesauce. I see so many recipes I would love to make, but my daughter and I have an egg allergy.” I guess she wants to know what can she use instead of eggs. And I know there are probably some answers here when it’s like one egg versus if it’s a six-egg, coconut flour…
Danielle Walker:Like, five eggs.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. So what do you tell people?
Danielle Walker:It’s hard. Grain-free baking without eggs is really difficult, especially if you’re not using starch. I know Kelly from The Spunky Coconut is like: You don’t have to use eggs as long as you use arrowroot starch or tapioca. And the SCD diet, which I still try to make many of my recipes fit just because I know that there are so many of my followers that still follow that or GAPS, they don’t allow any of those starches. So I’ve done a lot of experimentation, and I’ve fallen flat on a lot of it, especially with coconut flour because it absorbs so much moisture and those eggs are really what make it work. For an egg as leavening, I haven’t found anything that really works. You can do baking soda and some apple cider vinegar to cause that acidic reaction and cause a little bit of lift, but the eggs really do what they’re supposed to do! In terms of binding, my favorite is probably the “flax egg” or the flax slurry, which I hate that word, so I never use it. I don’t really love the flavor or the texture of chia, so I don’t use it often. I think I’ve tried it a few times. But I think I’ve had the best results with flax. You can find the substitution online, but a couple tablespoons of flax mixed with warm water equals one egg.
Diane Sanfilippo: And that’s ground flax, right?
Danielle Walker:Yeah, ground flax. And it kind of creates almost a gel-ish substance, and you put it in in place of the egg. I have a couple of cookie recipes that I’ve done it in. But yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t exactly know the science behind why the grain-free and the egg-free thing is a little bit difficult, but there are a lot of sites out there that do it and that look like they do it well, so that’s what I always suggest to people.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think a lot of vegan websites have egg replacer ideas, but I think we basically covered them. The only other one I can think of, and it wouldn’t work necessarily in something that you’re eating warm, I don’t think, but just using gelatin from an animal source. I don’t think it works if you’re serving it warm, though, because gelatin pretty much gets soft when it’s warm and then it’s more firm when it’s cold.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, but otherwise, you can replace eggs with applesauce and bananas. Obviously those would be more for the sweet items. You wouldn’t want to put a half a cup of applesauce in your meatloaf or a banana, probably. It think that the flax would probably work well in meatloaf. I haven’t tried it, though.
Diane Sanfilippo: People have asked me a lot about binders in meatballs, and I don’t put a binder in my meatballs.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, I don’t think you really need it.
Diane Sanfilippo: I just smash meat together with spices and bake it. So I think you could really easily make meatloaf. You know, it wouldn’t have that same sort of light texture, I suppose.
Diane Sanfilippo: But I think what you could try to do with a meatloaf – probably not crab cakes, but since meatloaf kind of gets smashed into a pan and baked – is doing shredded zucchini or carrot. It wouldn’t work to bind, but it would lighten it up a little bit.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, definitely.
Diane Sanfilippo: That might be a good idea, too.
Danielle Walker: Yeah. You could probably grind some bacon up in there to help bind it because bacon gets kind of tough when it cooks. It tastes good!
Diane Sanfilippo: Let’s see. A couple of these questions that we had here you’ve pretty much answered just through your story.
Diane Sanfilippo: We had one that was asking about what kind of dairy you might eat and about preventing flare-ups, which you obviously do that through kind of maintaining your daily diet and kind of checking in with yourself after a few days a week or even a month if you got off track.
Paleo foods that Danielle avoids with her UC [36:19]
Adriana would like to know if there are any paleo foods that you avoid. She said her husband is going to start weaning off of prednisone following a very strict paleo diet and was wondering if there were still some paleo foods he should avoid.
Danielle Walker:Paleo foods that he should avoid in weaning off of prednisone, yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: I have recommendations just based on general digestive health, but I guess are there any foods that you specifically avoid? You’ve mentioned nightshades and not overdoing it on nuts and seeds and things, and you actually said that basically after a long time of not eating any of those foods, you can now do a little bit here and there after you went through some gut healing.
Diane Sanfilippo: This is something we always talk about on the show, that this doesn’t mean you never eat an almond again. It might just mean in six months or three months of however long, you can have them now and then. Anything that you still pretty much avoid completely?
Danielle Walker:No, nothing that I avoid completely. I think everything that I’ve said, usually if I start to feel any sort of symptoms coming on, those are kind of those key items that I generally just strip completely for a few weeks to a month and then seen how I’m doing after that – eggs and too much dairy and too many nuts and seeds, and it’s interesting and I’m not really sure why, but raw nightshades, like raw tomatoes as opposed to cooked.
Diane Sanfilippo: Well, a lot of times when we’re cooking vegetables, we’re starting to break down some of the antinutrients, so whatever component is irritating for you might break down a little bit more once it’s cooked.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think if Adriana wants some more ideas or a little bit more of a strict guideline of what to follow, in Practical Paleo, I have a meal plan for digestive health, and some of things that I recommend… This is one of the times when somebody is trying to heal and figure out what’s going on with their digestion, and it’s not about 80/20. That stuff makes me crazy, because if somebody is sick, 80% doesn’t do it. It’s not even that you get 80% better. You might not get better at all because this is the time to really be strict about it. It’s almost like saying to somebody who has heavy metal poisoning, mercury poisoning to just have a little bit of it all the time. Continue to eat a little bit of heavy metal-laced fish or something like that. At this point, it needs to be gone completely, so things like gluten, really making sure none of your sauces or foods or places you go out to eat, that you’re not getting exposure. Things like green leafy vegetables, like kale – A lot of people want to eat kale because they think it’s a superfood, and it can be super irritating to your colon because it’s really rich in insoluble fiber. These are just things that people don’t always think about, and if somebody’s saying: Oh, just eat paleo and that’ll fix everything, it could go a really long way, but there are sometimes other nuances and, as Danielle said, listening to his own body. Look, if you follow my digestive health plan, and there’s still something included that after three months you’re like: I’m following this to the letter and something’s still not right, there could still be a food in there that’s not working for him. But I would definitely recommend starting there.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, I agree with that. I forgot, actually, about the raw fruits and veggies. I mean, even your GIs will tell you to stay away from that kind of stuff if you’re having digestive issues, and especially with the lack of being able to absorb those, too. Those, I’ll see, definitely will move right through me if I’m not careful. Yeah, so a lot of cooked veggies and things like that even though they’re in their best nutritional state, obviously, when they’re raw. That’s huge. And I even found when I was in my sickest periods that I had to be really careful about everything. Paleo focuses definitely on grain-free and grass-fed meats and things like that, but I was even finding that the eggs that I was buying, even though they were organic, they were still being fed a feed. Day to day I couldn’t have them, just every once in a while, but I bought pastured eggs because I could tell that the grain that was in their feed was actually affecting me. The same with dairy: Not all organic dairy is grass-fed, and I was noticing a difference with that, too, because I’m particularly sensitive to corn. I was buying some cheeses and things and the cows were on a grain feed, and I would notice a difference. And once I switched, I was able to tolerate it a lot better.
Diane Sanfilippo: That’s a really good point, too. It’s one of the things that I get a little up in arms about. For some reason, I think a lot of people can be sensitive to even grain-fed meat, but there’s something about the dairy products, and I think it’s because of what I know about just how much passes through from mother to a nursing child, that if the cow doesn’t tolerate something, there are going to be some proteins that are not broken down that are passing through into the milk. So I almost think if you’re eating dairy and you’re eating meat, I think it’s more important to be getting dairy from a grass-fed cow if you’re eating dairy at all than it is even to be getting the meat. Of course, grass-fed meat is important. It’s what I source. I buy a cow and do the whole thing, but there’s something about the grain-fed dairy that just gets under my skin when people are eating dairy and this is the quality of it. I think it’s just a different thing. I don’t know what it is.
Danielle Walker:Well, and it so often goes hand in hand with the growth hormones and things of that sort, too, so it’s really making sure you know what’s in the food that you’re eating as well.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. And maybe it’s also because I think dairy is almost a very optional food. There are obviously some really great nutrients we can get from it: vitamins A, D, and K2 if it’s from grass-fed animals, and I love that, so I’m almost super in favor of people trying their best to find a way to get grass-fed dairy in, and I’m almost on this little kick myself where I’m scoping out grass-fed yogurts and cottage cheeses and finding the ones that are non-homogenized, as those seem to do better. It’s this weird mission that I’m on, and I’m finding that it’s becoming easier and easier, surprisingly. I think just a few years ago it would have been pretty hard, and I think a lot of farms are catching on. That’s a little random side note there.
Danielle Walker:I have another random side note about grass-fed. It’s not completely random, but I was at a wedding this weekend, and my cousin just married a rancher. And he was telling me that they just recently got certified organic, and so I’m asking him: OK, are your cows grass-fed and grass-finished? And he was like: Well, that depends. And I’m like: Well, how so? And he said: Well, we just sold all of our calves to Whole Foods. And I’m like: Oh, that’s so great, and will they be grass-finished? And he’s like: Well, if they pay us more, then we will finish them on feed, and then if they don’t want to pay us more, then there’s no point in us wasting the money on the feed and we’ll just grass-finish them. And I was like: Really? Well, why then is the grass-fed meat at Whole Foods so much more expensive than the grain feed-finished? I was curious, like does anyone know the answer to that? I guess it’s just because it’s in high demand right now, so they figure they can charge us all more for the grass-fed. But yeah, I was interested to hear that.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, that is really interesting. To me, it’s like the ‘duh’ point. Like just grow some grass. You don’t need to bring feed in or make feed. You just need to figure out how to grow the right grass. And it’s not just regular grass that you grow out on your lawn. It’s a very specific grouping of types of grasses. This is something that I learned from my local grass-fed beef rancher. Part of their job – actually most of their job – is figuring out how to grow the right kinds of grasses that are going to yield the best results in the types of cows that they have.
Diane Sanfilippo: So it’s really, really interesting stuff. But yeah, that is crazy that it’s costing more to do the grain-finishing. It’s crazy, but it’s also kind of awesome that he said that because now you’re like: That’s my point!
Danielle Walker:Yeah, exactly! It makes sense when you think about it.
Diane Sanfilippo: Nuts.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think we have time for one or two more questions, or one more question maybe and then I’ll ask you some questions about your book.
Quick & easy meal ideas when busy/on-the-go [45:13]
Diane Sanfilippo: This might be a good one to sort of wrap up on. Amanda wants to know: “What are your quick meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? I just had a baby a month ago. I’m quite busy and sleep deprived, but I want to continue eating paleo. I have had a lot of help from my parents and my husband in the beginning, but now I’m struggling with getting to the store and preparing meals. I’ve managed to avoid getting take-out. Also my son loves to cluster feed from 5 to 7. How many carbs do you need when breastfeeding?”
Danielle Walker:That’s also not a good question for me because I was not doing well during that period of my life, so I’m reading up now and trying to learn for the next one, but the calorie thing… Gosh, I remember hearing that it’s really not much more than…
Diane Sanfilippo: Just carbs. She’s wondering just about carbs.
Danielle Walker:Oh, just carbs. Oh, gosh. I don’t even know. I seriously don’t know. I’m sorry! I can speak to the meal thing because I try to do quick things. Even with having a toddler, there’s just not always time to prepare an elaborate meal. I started using my slow cooker more once I had a kid. That’s for sure. And we grill all the time. I throw burgers on the grill probably three nights a week because it’s so easy. Or salads, like big Cobb salads, things that are filling for me and my husband because he eats the way that I do just more out of support and because now he’s actually kind of figured out that he’s gluten intolerant. But yeah, preparing things in advance. Because we’re just a small family of three, I usually try to double my recipes instead of just making enough to just feed us for one night. I try to make extra and either have it in the freezer or just leftovers even for lunch because I’m on the go with him a lot, and so I’m feeding him, and a lot of times I’ll forget to eat lunch, so something that’s fast that I can just reheat from the night before is great. Breakfast, we fall into the pattern of eggs and bacon a lot. And I tend to get sick of it, but it’s easy and it’s fast, so that’s usually what we eat. And actually I started making coconut milk yogurt that will be in my book, so I’ll eat that with berries in the mornings, or that’s my snack a lot, too. And I have a carrot-zucchini muffin in my books that date-sweetened, and I’ll keep a dozen of those in the freezer for those days where I’m just absolutely out of time or so tired from the night before when he was little – like you’re experiencing now – where cooking is just not even an option. And I’d pop one of those in the oven, and that would carry me through lunch, just with the protein from the almonds and everything. I mean, that’s not an ideal breakfast, but it’s good to have that kind of stuff ready to go.
Diane Sanfilippo: A couple of things that I eat when I’m really pressed for time, and that’s not with a child but writing a book!
Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, it’s all I can do to just keep the house from falling apart and also try and write the book. I’m realizing last year I was writing Practical Paleo. I was still living at my parents’ house. I shouldn’t say ‘still,’ I had moved out for quite some time and was back living with them while I was figuring out where I was going next. But just having someone there to help do anything, you know, my mother to just help do anything was so amazing, and now I’m like: Oh, shoot. I have to feed myself! It’s just too much sometimes.
Danielle Walker:Yes, which you’d think wouldn’t be difficult when we’re writing cookbooks, but for some reason, dinner time comes and I’m like: We have nothing to eat!
Diane Sanfilippo: Right. Or the days where I make things that I really don’t feel like eating that day, because it’s just not the right season or temperature or whatnot. It happens. But some of the things I grab that are really quick: I keep a lot of wild canned salmon in my pantry. I keep that for myself and also when I’m in a pinch for my cat. But I’ll just mash some of that up with some lemon juice and olive oil and some tomatoes and olives and just kind of make a quick little salmon salad and some avocado and just kind of get everything in one little bowl.
Diane Sanfilippo: One of the other things I do not that often, but a decent amount, I’ll get kind of a larger pack of chicken thighs, and they’re not the best quality that I can possibly find because pastured chicken is really hard to find anywhere.
Diane Sanfilippo: And then after that, it’s really hard to find in parts. I don’t love chicken breasts. But anyway, I can get some air-chilled, organic thighs, so it’s like do the best you can, but I’ll bake a whole bunch of those. And chicken thighs, for me, are one of my favorite kind of go-to foods. It takes about 25 or 30 minutes to bake them, and put some kind of seasoning on them, and you’re good to go.
Danielle Walker:That’s a good idea, and they stay moist, they don’t dry out when you reheat them, which is nice.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, and I’ll reheat them just in the toaster oven. I just pop them in there while I do something else. Or I’ll just eat them cold. I mean, that’s kind of what I did today. And one of the other things I threw together today is I have pickled herring, again with the fish, with a whole avocado, some raw carrots, and just whatever I can eat quickly. Hard-boiled eggs, that kind of stuff.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, that’s true. I do hot dogs often, the US Wellness Meats ones. I love just having those when I’m really in a hurry, with some sauerkraut. Farmhouse Culture is my favorite.
Diane Sanfilippo: My favorite. I miss it!
Danielle Walker:Do you guys not have it out there?
Diane Sanfilippo: No, it’s from the West Coast, so I’m torn between wanting them to be local and keeping it local, but there’s nobody out east here making it that way. There are some local companies, and they’re just not as good. And I’m like: I want it here! It’s the best sauerkraut.
Danielle Walker:It’s the best. Yeah. If I’m out on the run, sometimes I’ll get… There’s one brand of roasted turkey deli meat at Whole Foods that’s decent. It doesn’t have the carrageenan in it. And I’ll slice avocado and put sauerkraut and just a little bit of mustard and roll those up if we’re out and I can’t get anything else to eat. That’s one of my favorite lunches. Or I’ll roast a turkey breast here and slice it really thin and have that in the fridge, too.
Diane Sanfilippo: That sounds like a really good idea. Do you have a meat slicer?
Danielle Walker:No. I need one. But no, I don’t need one. I need another kitchen contraption like I need a hole in my head. But it would be nice to have it.
Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, we’re such old ladies. I say that all the time, too. I need that like I need a hole in my head!
Diane Sanfilippo: I’m always joking with Bill and Hayley, the Food Lovers. They have a meat slicer, I think, now. And I’m like: I need to bring something over there just to slice it. I just think it would be fun.
Danielle Walker:Yeah. But no, I slice it just with my really sharp knives as thin as I can get it. But a meat slicer would be pretty sweet.
Diane Sanfilippo: One thing, too: You were mentioning deli turkey. I think if you go to the deli counter and look for Applegate or some kind of turkey breast there, they don’t have the same additives that they have when you get them in the package. So ask them to look at the label, and I actually think the one that I saw recently, the Applegate one, was just turkey or it might have been turkey and salt.
Danielle Walker:Just the organic one, I believe, because they have the Natural Applegate meats, and those generally have some stuff in them, but if you go to the deli counter, they do. Just make sure you look at the ingredients. I even saw one that just had maple syrup. There wasn’t any other sugar or anything in it, which is awesome.
Her new book, Against All Grain, due out this summer! [53:29]
Diane Sanfilippo: Cool. Well, to kind of wrap up, I know that you actually have some quick meal ideas in your new book because I got to get a little sneak peek.
Diane Sanfilippo: I love being on the inside of all those things.
Danielle Walker:I know.
Diane Sanfilippo: But yeah, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your book and let people know what they can expect, and tell us a little bit about what your point of view is and what’s different about it?
Danielle Walker:Yeah, I’m really excited about it. If feels like it’s been a really long time in the making, but we’re going to print this week, as far as I know. But it’ll be out on shelves July 30. And it’s available for preorder now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but yeah, it’ll be shipping July 30. It’s pretty big. There are over 150 recipes. It’s close to 400 pages. The biggest thing that people want to know, I think, especially ones that have been following my blog for so long, is whether they’re just going to be buying a carbon copy of my blog, and I am here to assure you that I think about 90% of the recipes are brand new, so you are going to be getting your money’s worth for sure. I included some of my fan favorites from my blog so that people have them in print and they don’t have to keep reading through my blog or going through their printed pages every time they want to make something of their favorites.
It’s kind of a really well-rounded cookbook. There’s no general theme. There’s everything from appetizers to salads and soups, and there’s even a beverage section. And of course, the dessert section is a little bit hefty because I tend to go a little heavy handed on the desserts, but those are in there if you choose to make them. And there’s definitely a Thai and Asian influence. I think I’ve always loved Thai food, specifically, and we lived in Kona for the first few months while I was writing the book, and as I was going through it, I was like: Oh, well, there’s definitely an Asian, kind of island influence on some of the main entrees, specifically. But it’s all colorful and vibrant and definitely dishes that will not allow you to miss the things that you’ve cut out, and that’s kind of always been my outlook on it. I love food. I don’t want to sit down to a plate of grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner. I want to set down to the things that I remember and the things that I love, and so I’ve kind of made it my mission over the last few years to recreate those things and give people dishes and recipes that don’t let them feel deprived, that really let people enjoy their food. There’s also kind of a kid’s section, but all of the dishes will be just as appetizing to adults, and some things of how to present dishes that typically would be mundane to kids but present them in a new way so that they’re excited to eat these paleo foods and not wanting to eat the things that their friends are eating next to them.
So yeah, I’m excited. The photography – I guess I can say it – it’s beautiful. It’s my own! But I mean, you’re going to open the book and you’re going to want to make everything you see.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, this is true. I can attest to that. Well, I actually just wanted to eat it all, but I want you to make it for me! I don’t really want to have to make it. What’s so funny, though, is when I have finally made something when I’m cooking for my own books as well, and I’m like: Wow, this stuff is really tasty! Because what I normally eat is ground meat with spices wrapped in lettuce.
Diane Sanfilippo: But your book – Not only did I think I wanted to eat everything in there, but I was like: Wow. I need to step my game up with these pictures that I’m taking. It’s really exciting to see a book that’s paleo and grain-free and doesn’t look like amateurish, I guess, in the photography. And I think that’s a testament to everyone in this community. We’ve all kind of stepped our game up. I know you’ve probably seen Bill Staley’s photography from The Food Lovers Kitchen, and we all probably see each other’s work, and we’re like: Wow, mine needs to just keep getting better and better. But I think that’s a great service to the whole community at large, that we’re able to make recipes that even people who don’t eat a grain-free diet, they can look at this book and say: Wow. That looks amazing.
Danielle Walker:Yeah, definitely. I think that we eat with our eyes first. And me, in particular, if I see a recipe and the food doesn’t look good in the picture, I’m like: Well, I’m going to waste my time making it if it may or may not taste good.
Diane Sanfilippo: Right.
Danielle Walker:And then there’s the other side where you can style food to make it look amazing and it can taste absolutely horrible. But I really pride myself on having things look like they’re going to taste, and having people that are not paleo or not grain-free that can look at it and be like: Oh, that looks really good, and I want to make it, regardless of what the ingredients are.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think, too, just to kind of make people feel a little bit better about the fact that the dessert section in your book may be hefty, the reality is those are the foods that people don’t know how to replace.
Diane Sanfilippo: Most people are eating steak and chicken, and we don’t need to replace that. And I think your point of view of it’s not for every day, and I think that people who make the transition at first tend to go a little bit crazy on that, and I did, too. And I think when you have had that experience yourself, I mean, you’ve witnessed your own evolution in that, so to speak, where you come full circle where after a few months or a year or even more you don’t do that anymore, partially because you’re lazy, right?
Diane Sanfilippo: You’re like: I’m going to bake this every day!
Danielle Walker:Yeah, exactly.
Diane Sanfilippo: But partially because you know what’s going in that. You know it’s like two cups of ground almonds and half a cup of some kind of fat and all these ingredients that you’re like: Well, this is great for when I want to have something special and it’s not something that we do every day, but I think it’s fantastic to have that because I don’t bake, so I do the best I can with a few recipes, and for the most part, didn’t have stuff like that in my book, and it’s not just because I was trying to make a little bit more of a clinical book in a way, but I just can’t bake! So it’s like: Hey, guys, my book looks healthy, but it’s really just because I don’t have the skills!
Danielle Walker:Yeah, well, I should actually clarify that. It is not hefty compared to the rest of the book. There are over 150 recipes and, I think, 25 or 30 in the dessert section, so definitely the savory dishes outweigh the sweet, but they are there. And that is exactly it. I have grain-free hamburger buns and grain-free tortillas, and I tell people, I’m like: Well, when I first started, yeah, I made those things and that was really great for us to transition. Now, more often than not, I just use lettuce wraps because it’s easy and I don’t want to sit and make buns on top of dinner, but it is really nice to have it as an alternative or if you’re having a dinner party or you’re having friends over who don’t typically eat paleo but that you want to be able to present them with something that’s familiar to them and not have them being like: Oh, I’m still hungry or I want a starch, or something like that, that you have that option, which is great to have.
Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Well, I’m really excited about your book. I’ve been able to see it a little bit in the process, which, like I said, has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to get it, and I can’t wait for other people to get it!
Danielle Walker:Aww, I can’t wait to get it, too!
Diane Sanfilippo: We’ll put a link to where folks can go ahead and buy the book in the show notes, and we’ll put a link to your website and Facebook and all that good stuff. So thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy book-editing day!
Danielle Walker:Yes! Of course, Erich just called, actually. My publisher just called while we were on, and I’m sorry, but I declined your call, Erich, to talk to Diane!
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t think he’ll hear this podcast, but that’s OK. Well, that’s it. Many thanks to you, Danielle, for being here and sharing your experiences. It’s so much great information for people. Be sure to pick up her book, Against All Grain. You can find her at AgainstAllGrain.com. And we’ll be back next week. Liz and I will be here talking more about Paleo Pitfalls Part 2. Until then, you can find me at BalancedBites.com. You can find Liz at CaveGirlEats.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week!
Danielle Walker:Thanks for having me, Diane.
Diane Sanfilippo: Bye-bye!
Diane & Liz