Pete Evans is an Australian chef, restauranteur, TV personality, and author of multiple cookbooks – with his most recent publication being ‘Bubba Yum Yum‘ – a collaboration between Pete himself, Charlotte Carr, and Helen Padarin. Bubba Yum Yum explores the Paleo diet for new mums, babies, and toddlers and is packed full of nourishing recipes and natural remedies. But what it (and Pete) seems to have earned a notorious reputation for, even before publication, is the controversial use of bone broth within the baby formula recipe ‘Happy Tummy Brew’.
Being a mother of three and raising my youngest on a fully Paleo diet I began to empathise with the scrutiny and misunderstanding that Pete was being subjected to within the media. I decided to contact Pete’s PR and request an interview. I wanted to further understand the fears and prejudice being projected toward the book and Pete, but I also wondered if Pete could help those of us raising our children Paleo on how to cope with the battles that we face day-to-day and how we can dispel the myths and stigma surrounding the Paleo diet in relation to it being harmful to children. As you can imagine I was absolutely elated when I received the news that Pete was happy to answer my questions.
In this interview Pete and I talk Paleo, parenting, and Bubba Yum Yum!
I’m sure that I am not alone with the view that the Paleo diet is a far more nutritionally balanced, dense, and maintainable diet than that of the typical Westernised diets of today. To me there seems to be a general misconception, particularly within the UK, that following a Paleo diet is detrimental to your health purely due to the omission of certain food groups. I asked Pete how he would explain to those misinformed that although we may omit a couple of food groups we certainly do not scrimp on nutritional value. Pete came back with a response that I probably could not have worded any better, not even back in my pre ‘baby brain’ days:
Pete: Eating in this way is all about consuming real food that’s as full of as many nutrients as possible – so mouthful for mouthful you are giving your body and mind everything it needs to function at optimal health. Gone are the blood sugar crashes, the ‘hangry’ (hungry/angry) feelings that used to come between meals, the sluggishness, bloating, and fatigue all of which would leave me, personally, feeling pretty unwell after many meals.
Instead the food I eat now helps fine-tune my body’s systems, giving me lots of energy and allowing me to enjoy good digestion and increased immunity. That’s because, at its heart, Paleo isn’t about omitting foods. It’s about simply eating nutrient-dense meals that satisfy the body, the mind, and the palette. It’s a celebration of vegetables, of living and eating with the seasons, of making sustainable choices by getting food straight from the source and embracing a wide variety of good-quality proteins and fats.
… there’s a lot of scientific research that continues to back up the potency of Paleo, such as the key role fat has in powering the brain, which is made up of 60% fat, and why increasing the amount of good-quality fats in your diet can be both a physical and mental game-changer.
And there’s a lot of scientific research that continues to back up the potency of Paleo, such as the key role fat has in powering the brain, which is made up of 60% fat, and why increasing the amount of good-quality fats in your diet can be both a physical and mental game-changer. Sure, we might take our cues from what our ancestors ate prior to the invention of agriculture 12,000 years ago but this knowledge is also further refined with the most up-to-date 21st century nutritional science available.
We also have far more challenges than our ancestors ever faced with environmental toxins and pollutants wreaking havoc on our health, as well as our top soil being washed away and with it many key minerals that our bodies need to function well. As each year passes, more and more scientific research backs up the reality of just how many more nutrients (and key vitamins and minerals) your body can absorb by eating a diet abundant in organic, seasonal vegetables, some fruits, quality protein from land and sea, good fats, nuts and seeds, and a bit of fermented veg to give your digestion a good, natural hit of probiotics.
Research has also pinpointed processed foods, refined sugars, and carbohydrates and wheat as causing reactions and physical anomalies in so many people. That’s why gateway allergens – such as gluten and dairy – are removed because they cause issues for so many of the world’s population. The types of casein in dairy and the type of gluten now present in our modern grains is particularly hard to digest and has been shown, countless times, to increase intestinal permeability – i.e. leaky gut. This increases chances of digestive disorders, inflammatory conditions, and immune disorders such as allergies and sensitivities. Think along the lines of reflux, colic, constipation, diarrhoea, and painful wind. What happens when these types of foods are eliminated from the diet is that it begins to address this wide range of issues head on.
Pete hits the nail right on the head; Paleo isn’t about omission, it’s about nutrient density, improved health, and of course the celebration of food. But despite all of the scientific research Pete mentions, the Paleo diet is still often labelled as being a fad diet. A fad in my books is something short term, it isn’t a way of life, it’s something temporary and often painful, laborious, and downright boring. I don’t feel that my lifestyle really reflects any of those things at all, in fact I think that it is empowering, energetic, and yes it is most definitely a celebration – I don’t think I could ever turn back.
…it’s important to be aware of the politically correct food myths out there and the multinational corporate agendas that have shaped our conversations around food since the 1960s when cheap, processed Franken-foods began mass circulation in the Western world.
My relationship with food is the healthiest that it has ever been. But with a constant stream of Google Alerts coming through to my mobile phone on a daily basis, they are most often or not filled with articles trying to debunk the Paleo, claiming a lack of validity rather than embracing and joining in with the celebration of thriving. I wanted to know Pete’s thoughts on why currently, there is a phobia geared toward the Paleo diet within mainstream media today.
Pete: It isn’t really a phobia. Instead, it’s more of a calculated campaign to derail a valid discussion because, the reality is, Paleo comes from a grassroots level. It puts the health and wellness of each individual first. Conversely, to understand what is going on in mainstream media, it’s important to be aware of the politically correct food myths out there and the multinational corporate agendas that have shaped our conversations around food since the 1960s when cheap, processed, Franken-foods began mass circulation in the Western world.
What’s important to understand is that up until just a few years ago when the current food revolution first began, much of the focus around the food we ate was based on profit instead of health. How could companies feed the first world’s exponentially expanding population as cheaply as possible and still turn a profit? Unfortunately the collective consciousness that has been caused through the Paleo movement and the discussion around real food is causing some sectors of the industry globally to become very uncomfortable and this is influencing what we see today in mainstream media. For example, many large multinational food corporations are associated with, or financially in bed with, dietician bodies in order to influence our global food agenda. That’s why I encourage everyone to keep sharing information about where our food comes from on social media because by doing this we will change our food supply and protect our health and the health of our planet for future generations.
What Pete says really hits home with me. I often have conversations with my children when they return home from school about what other children are eating or maybe about a class they have had focusing around healthy eating and what that entails. They are always so confused about what teachers and other children are saying healthy eating is. In fact, the other day my son was quite upset at being told about how wrong his perception of what ‘healthy’ was, upon mentioning good quality saturated fats were healthy (super proud mother moment here) he was told that grass-fed butter, and pretty much all fats are bad fats. He was devestated. Was I surprised by this news? Sadly not. Why? Because schools receive their nutritional guidelines and information from the likes of the NHS whom are still running outdated nutrition campaigns with the notion that a healthy plate of food can contain foods and/or drinks that are high in processed sugars, and a third of the plate consists of processed grains and starches – worrying huh?
Georgina: I don’t often discuss my children’s eating habits purely because I know all too well what the response is likely to entail. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to parents with regards to these criticisms that are trying to guide their children on the Paleo way?
Pete: Do it your way and remember it’s okay to ‘fit out’, not fit in. Don’t take the criticisms on board because you know what is best for your child. Each child is different and individual.
And Pete is right, it is about doing it your way and not thinking about fitting in, but I guess I often hear the same things being repeated; ‘Paleo is a meat heavy diet with no dietary fibre’, and of course my absolute favourite – ‘human beings must consume dairy, legumes, and grains in order to obtain enough dietary calcium’. Being largely vegetarian the majority of the time, with the inclusion of fish, I know all too well that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It isn’t just the school, it’s not just the media, it’s people like you and I that are often the ones making these claims without the knowledge or research.
Georgina: Is it me or has everyone become nutritionally brainwashed?!
Pete: I’m not sure about ‘nutritionally brainwashed’ but what I do know is don’t believe the food pyramid! There’s lots of fibre in veges and low-sugar fruits so if you supplement your diet with organic veges you will get all the fibre you need. And when it comes to calcium, I’ll leave it up to our The Paleo Way expert, world-renowned nutritional specialist, Nora Gedgaudas – author of Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life.
Nora is determined to smash the long-held dietary myth that we need to consume dairy in order to have optimal levels of calcium in our diets. Instead, she explains, “Calcium is, in fact, the single most abundant mineral in our food supply. Even if you completely avoid dairy products (which isn’t the worst idea in the world) there would still be plenty of existing calcium in other foods to meet anyone’s daily requirements.”
She goes on to state that if, for some reason, someone finds themselves truly deficient in calcium, the problem isn’t likely to be a ‘deficiency’ of dietary calcium. The problem is much more likely to relate to issues in the body’s ability to absorb essential co-factors, such as magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D3, vitamin A, vitamin K2, boron etc.
And no, this isn’t about running around all caveman-like, rounding up woolly mammoths (if they actually still existed) or making like Fred Flintstone and consuming huge amounts of ribs, although ribs are pretty tasty in moderation! Paleo is as much a celebration of seasonal veges as it is of meat and the reason we focus on eating organic and pasture-raised meat is for health reasons. It is scientifically proven that there are so many more nutrients in animals that have been left to graze and roam freely and develop naturally. For example, grass-fed beef gives your body significantly higher amounts of essential fatty acids omega-3s than wild-caught fish. Plus, animal welfare is vital to ensure both sustainability and better health for ourselves and our animals.
Georgina: All of this talk of vitamin and mineral deficiency brings me back to when I first heard that Bubba Yum Yum was being dropped by Pan Macmillan due to the whole vitamin A fiasco. I started to scour the internet for vitamin A toxicity related deaths and much to my surprise the only information I could find was in relation to that of synthetic vitamin A – in India. In fact there are thousands of deaths recorded due to vitamin A deficiency.
Our formula provides a daily dose of only 9034 IU of naturally occurring Vitamin A. You would need to have 33 times more of this drink for it to achieve the toxic amount. This would require 132 bottles of the drink in one day.
Although I understand Pan Macmillan’s decision to drop the book, I cannot understand the lack of education about the natural absorption of vitamins – surely this was something they had looked into?! Even more alarmingly though is that pregnant women are often told to avoid vitamin A rich foods such as liver and butter, but not margarine and fortified cereals which both have high levels of synthetic vitamin A. Could Happy Tummy Brew really cause a case of vitamin A toxicity?
Pete: High levels of many things are harmful to children and adults. High levels of vitamin A, particularly synthetic vitamin A may result in toxicity. The trick is understanding what these levels are. The Merck Manual states, “Acute vitamin A toxicity in children may result from taking large doses (> 300,000 IU), usually accidentally.”. Chronic vitamin A toxicity infants who are given excessive doses (18,000 to 60,000 IU/day) of water-miscible vitamin A may develop toxicity within a few weeks.
Our formula provides a daily dose of only 9034 IU of naturally occurring Vitamin A. You would need to have 33 times more of this drink for it to achieve the toxic amount. This would require 132 bottles of the drink in one day. For the 18,000 – 60,000IU for a few weeks you would need 7.9 – 26 bottles per day. The primary cause of vitamin A toxicity is supplementation with high dose, synthetic vitamin A. Synthetic vitamin A is metabolised very differently to naturally occurring vitamin A.
And there you have it, Pete answered the pentultimate question, the one that the media has approached in a one-sided manner. The answer was pretty much along the lines of what I thought it was going to be. So with the big Q out of the way and all of the myths having been dispelled I could now put my mind at ease and talk a little about the book itself – I was lucky enough to receive a copy for review so keep your eyes peeled ladies and gentlemen!
Georgina: Even though I’m British I use the word ‘bubba’ a lot so the title ‘Bubba Yum Yum’ definitely gave me a little chuckle, oh and I just love the cute ‘zoodle’ bowl on the front cover. I mean who doesn’t love a good zoodle bowl?! As a creator of delicious Paleo foods myself, I have to ask – which recipe were you most proud of developing and why?
Pete: The girls and I both love the free-range chicken nuggets because they are a healthy re-work of an old family favourite.
Georgina: Chicken nuggets, I think most people would agree are a family favourite, and in most countries too! What I love about chicken nuggets is that they are so affordable! Have you any advice to parents on a tight budget on how to obtain the highest quality foods for their little ones? I know that I often struggle in this department myself and it is a question that I am asked frequently by others too.
Pete: Shop local, support good suppliers, plan ahead and make the most of leftovers. I love leftovers because I reckon our secret to making a Paleo way of life work as a busy family is the fact that Nic and I create double and triple serves of everything so there’s always something we can reach for in the fridge or freezer when we are peckish. It’s the way we make the ingredients we buy from our local producers go as far as possible (and means we don’t have to shop as often). We’ll have soup for breakfast, bacon, poached eggs and spinach for dinner and meals mixed around all different ways, which is also a great way to make the budget go further.
Georgina: If I could sum up what the Paleo lifestyle meant to me in one word it would simply be ‘life’. Paleo has given me an outlook on life that nothing else has been able to do, well really it isn’t the Paleo diet and lifestyle and diet that has done that for me, I have done that for me, but it has certainly enabled that mental clarity that had been lying dormant for years on end. If you could describe what the Paleo diet meant to you in one word, what would that word be?
(I thought it would be a nice to end the interview with Pete’s one word but he gave me the rather cheeky and lovable answer of…)
Pete: Sorry but it has to be three words – ‘a healthy balance’.
It was great to talk to Pete about his thoughts on parenting, the media, and Paleo – his passion for the lifestyle, the food, and his love of this earth and mankind shined bright. Pete really is a lovely soul and I wish him and his family all of the best for the future. Once again I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Pete’s PR team for doing such a cracking job! If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of his latest book Bubba Yum Yum just click here for more information.
Have you experienced any prejudice or misunderstanding whilst raising your children Paleo? Feel free to leave a comment using the comments box below!
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