Primary Foods

What is unique to the training I received from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) as opposed to other dietary or nutrition course available is the concept of “Primary Foods”.

Primary Foods refer to our lifestyle factors that help create optimal health. They can be broken down to four core groups: relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality.

In 2010, following a change to dietary guidelines, the USDA replaced their food pyramid (MyPyramid) with a food plate (MyPlate) identifying that the following food groups that need to be incorporated in your diet: fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins, with some dairy added too. IIN incorporates the same concepts in their plate (fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains) but also makes some variations: replacing dairy with water, adding healthy fats and oils and the most important variation, inclusion of the four core groups of your Primary Food. As Joshua Rosenthal, founder of IIN, explains: “The food you eat plays a critical role in your health and happiness…. But the four forms of primary food truly nourish you and make your life extraordinary.”

Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When your primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making WHAT you eat secondary food. The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods. The opposite is also true. The more we fill ourselves with secondary foods, the less we are able to receive the primary foods of life.

Let’s explore the primary foods in more detail:

Relationships – relationships come and go and during the course of our lifetime we have relationships with our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, children, friends, colleagues, the list goes on and on. The quality of these relationships plays a large part in the quality of a person’s life. We need to surround ourselves with people that will help us grow and develop and be the best that we can. Establishing relationships with people we enjoy being around that make us smile and laugh. Spending time and energy in relationships whereby the person does not support us and does make us feel good can truly be toxic to not only our minds but also to our bodies and can impact on the quality of our health. All relationships take a lot of work, but they can be extremely rewarding.

Physical Activity – Our bodies were made to move. If we think of our ancestors they were constantly on the move, they had to hunt and gather to live. In today’s society not only do most of our jobs involve sitting down all day, but at the end of the day we can also have all our groceries and meals delivered to our front door. Unless we are consciously moving, we forget that we need to. Physical activity does not necessarily entail training for a marathon or going to the gym 2 hours a day, it is simply about moving around. Perhaps you can take the flight of stairs instead of the lift, or get off the tram one stop earlier or just take your children to the park. Physical activity can be simple and different forms or exercise will give you different types of energy and will nourish your body differently.

Career – if we calculate how we spend the hours in our day, most of the waking part of our day is spent at work. Now let’s be realistic and how many of us can say that we absolutely love the work that we do and look forward to waking up and going into work each morning? I know I can!

But this took many years of trying different career paths to really find where my passion is and what drives me. Feeling helpless and unhappy in our jobs definitely is not a nourishing lifestyle. Finding work that you love is essential to living a healthy, balanced life. So many of us complain constantly about what we do but feel powerless to make a change, I strongly urge you to have the courage to make your job a more positive place to be. Discover what work means to you and what you need to achieve to be happy and nourish you. Feeling happy and productive in the place you spend most of your time will dramatically increase your sense of well-being.

Spirituality – Joshua Rosenthal says “Spiritual nutrition can feed us on a very deep level and dramatically diminish cravings for the superficial rewards of life”. We all search for the meaning in our lives and spiritual practice has a different meaning for everyone. Some people may find it in religion, or through meditation or yoga and others through the universe. Embrace synchronicity, believe that things happen for a reason and that you end up meeting people at the right place at the right time, things happen for a reason. Learn to read the signs, feel the direction in which life wants to go and then use your intelligence and creativity to make it happen.

It’s easy to overlook all of the things that contribute to our sense of nourishment and fulfilment. It’s not just the food we eat that affects our health, but all of the other factors present in our daily lives. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual awareness are essential forms of nourishment. I will support you in achieving all of your goals, from eating the right foods for your body to living an inspired, fulfilling life.

TED Talk: How Stress Affects Your Body

The effect of stress on our body is completely underestimated.  When talking about toxins in our body, the biggest one of all is stress. It is a proven contributor to all the major causes of DEATH including Heart Disease, Diabetes, Stroke and Cancer. Click on the link below to hear more about the impact on stress on our bodies.

Karen from Positive Healthwellness recently put together a great infographic that comprehensively covers how stress affects the body. See the image below, and click the image to visit their website.

Stress: How it Affects the Body

TED Talk: The Happy Secret to Better Work

Your career is one of the "primary foods" in our lives, and how happy you are at work will have a direct impact on how you feel outside of work, and can become a road block to your weight loss goals as well as affect your general well being. Here is a great TED Talk that explores the correlation between success and happiness, and how we have it completely backwards and are thus unable to truly be happy.

Heal Your Body

I have battled for many years with my weight and self-image, and over the years I have jumped around trying all different types of eating styles and methods looking for ways to get my body to respond to how I wanted it to.

What I have learnt is that I have had a love-hate relationship with food, and in actual fact, it wasn't about food at all, but about the way I was feeling about myself. Instead of loving my body and nourishing it, I would feed it a lot of negative talk and self-doubt which would manifest as stress, and therefore would not enable my body to work optimally.

More recently, and especially the past few months, I have tried to release all the negativity towards food and weight and so I wanted to share with you some of my tricks.

1) Don't beat yourself up for what you ate yesterday

No one eats perfectly... including me!! And really, what is the definition of perfect??? Take each meal as an opportunity to nourish your body and feed it with love. It's not serving your body to think about what you may not have eaten correctly and this will not assist you to reach your goals.

2) Practice mindful eating

Sit, chew and breathe with food! Try to remove any distractions, T.V's, phones, computers, iPads etc.... The more we use our senses and appreciate the food that we eat, the more our brain will be signalled that it's satisfied and therefore, we will be less likely to overeat.

3) Enjoy your food

Don't turn an enjoyable experience into a stressful one! Do not allow the negative thoughts of "I should not be eating this" or "I'm a failure and have no control over what I eat." This will increase the amount of stress your body will be experiencing, which in turn will increase your cortisol and potential fat storage.

4) Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations

Affirmations have a really powerful effect that can change your beliefs, behaviours and actions. They can help improve your relationship with food.

5) Stop comparing!

With social media these days we are surrounded by photos of beautiful women and perfect bodies but what you don't know is all the potential photoshopping that is happening in the background to create the image that you have seen.

Also remember, your body and nutritional needs are different from your friends, your sister and even your mother!! What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. Focus your energy on learning to understand your body and what works for you!

6) Are you hungry, or is there something emotional going on?

Learning to identify your hunger signs as compared to eating to satisfy your emotional needs can have a huge impact on your relationship with food.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify the differences:

Did you skip a meal or ‘forget to eat’?

What did I eat in my last meal and how long ago was it?

Do you use food as a reward mechanism?

What is going on for me right now?

Always stop and identify what it could be and if you realise that you are not actually hungry, then do something else that is pleasurable.

Go for a walk, massage, hot bath, manicure, watch your favourite TV show with a cuppa, read a book or have a chat with your bestie!

Remember, we only have ONE body. Feed it with the nutrients, love and care it deserves.

Treasure it, love it and it will love you back.

Cheese and Herb Muffins

Making sandwiches for the kids everyday can become boring, so I like to change it up a little. These savoury cheese and herb muffins are the perfect swap and are great as snacks too. Packed with a lot of flavour and goodness, you're kids will absolutely love them. They also freeze really well so it's always handy to have an extra batch prepared and ready to go.


3 cups Spelt flour (or flour of your choice)
50g butter
3 tablespoons mixed dry herbs (I used rosemary, parsley and oregano)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1.5 cups Almond milk (or milk of choice)


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease your muffin tins and set aside.

Place the flour in a large bowl and using your hands rub in the butter.

Add your dry herbs and cheese and mix.

Add your eggs and milk and mix so that it is all well combined. Be careful not to over mix.

Spoon the mixture into your muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Pumpkin Fritters

Moving away from the traditional potato fritters, here is a lower-GI version using pumpkin. These are so light and fluffy that you'll almost mistake them for your breakfast pancakes!


500g pumpkin, steamed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons spelt flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
cracked pepper to taste.
2 tablespoons coconut oil


Steam your pumpkin until it is soft enough to mash. Pat the pumpkin dry once it is finished steaming and then transfer into a bowl to mash.

Add your eggs, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper and mix so that it is well combined.

Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan on medium heat and then add 1.5-2 tablespoons of the mixture for each fritter. Allow it to cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and then carefully turn them over and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Once cooked, remove the fritters onto a plate with paper towel to allow some of the oil to be soaked and then serve.

Makes 10 fritters

Carrot Cake Bliss Balls

Bliss balls are a fabulous snack or after dinner 'treat' and what's even better about these ones is that they have a vegetable too! They are great for on the go and are super simple to make.


2 cups shredded carrot
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup desiccated coconut (plus extra for rolling)
8 Medjool dates, pitted
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and process until it is all well combined and smooth.

Roll 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture into balls and roll in the desiccated coconut.

Allow to set in the fridge for 30 minutes before eating. Store in a glass container in the fridge

Makes 16-20 balls.

Veggie Packed Chicken Balls

These balls are a favourite for my kids and it's a great way to make sure that they are getting their vegetables too without too much fuss. On a bed of rice or pasta, you have a simple, complete meal that takes minimal time to prepare. They freeze really well too so make sure you double the batch!


600g chicken mince
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup broccoli florets
1 corn cob, kernels removed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon coconut balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
½ fresh parsley, chopped


Start preparing your meal by steaming the corn by your preferred method and then remove the kernels and set aside.

The next process will be making the sauce. Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan on medium heat and sauté the onions for approximately 5 minutes. Add your mustard, paprika and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add your tomatoes, stock and vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow it to cook whilst you prepare the meatballs.

Pre-heat your oven to 120 degrees.

To prepare your meatballs, place your cauliflower and broccoli in a high speed blender and blitz for 5 seconds until it resembles ‘rice’.

In a large bowl, place your chicken mince, cauliflower, broccoli, corn and seasonings. Mix well so that everything is combined.

With wet hands, roll the mixture into balls and place them in the simmering sauce. Once all the balls have been rolled, place the saucepan in the oven and cook for 2 hours.

Makes 12-16 balls (depending on size)

Chocco Smoothie

Everyone loves chocolate, and being able to 'indulge' in a chocolate smoothie for breakfast is sure to get anyone leaping out of bed. This smoothie only has a few ingredients but has the perfect balance. Not only does it taste great, but it will keep you feeling full for several hours.


1 frozen banana, chopped
2 tablespoons raw cacao
2 tablespoons cacao nibs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk


Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend for 60 sec until smooth and creamy. Pour into glass and enjoy.

Serves 1

Gluten Free Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

This gluten free pie has everything you need for a complete meal. The filling is packed with protein and complex, fibre rich carbohydrates whilst the almond meal base gives you that dose of healthy fats that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. You can also change up the filling to include as many vegetables and flavours that you desire.


2 cups blanched almond flour
pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced
500g chicken thigh fillets, diced
200g mushrooms, sliced
4 silverbeet leaves, stalk removed and shredded
½ cup of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 175 degrees

Prepare your dough by placing the almond flour and sea salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the coconut oil and egg and pulse until it forms a ball.

Press mixture into a non-stick 24cm pie dish and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until it browns slightly. Remove crust from oven once cooked and set aside keeping the oven on.

Prepare your filling whilst crust is baking. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on a medium heat. Add the leek and saute for 5 minutes. Then add the thigh fillets, stirring regularly so that the meat does not stick and leeks don’t burn. Once chicken has been browned, add the mushrooms, silverbeet, vegetable stock and seasonings and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture into the prepared pie crust and then bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a beautiful side salad.

Serves 4

1 3 4 5 6 7 24