Meghan Telpner’s UnDiet: Review, Interview, and Orange Zest-Infused Stew
April 23, 2013

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If you’ve been reading food blogs for a while, then you definitely know the lady pictured above. That’s Meghan Telpner, creator of a fabulous lifestyle approach that she calls “UnDiet.” UnDiet means no calorie counting, no deprivation, no forcing your body into an unsustainable and joyless way of eating, and no hard and fast rules. It means taking pleasure in the everyday, exercising mindfulness about eating, and seeking out high quality and nourishing ingredients. In short, to “undiet” means to seek out a lifestyle in which you love, respect, and give your body what it needs, rather than trying to control or stifle it.

That’s a journey worth taking, if you ask me!

I’ve known Meghan for ages. We began blogging at roughly the same time, and we’ve always had a very similar outlook on health and self-care. I’ve always been impressed with the way she balances strong, passionate views on health and wellness with a gentle, loving, and laid back manner as a health advocate. One of my favorite quotations from her new book is “my approach is to make healthy living as fun as possible: take what you can, leave what you’re not ready for, and maybe you’ll come back later and give it a try.” In this era of alarmism and health extremism, I wish that more people would have such an open, unassuming approach to sharing information and welcoming people into more wholesome habits.

UnDiet, Meghan’s new opus, is more of a lifestyle guide than a cookbook, though it does feature 40 wholesome recipes. The book is not vegan, but honey can be easily replaced by maple syrup, and eggs can be replaced by flax eggs nearly all of the time, so it’s a very vegan-friendly book to cook from. The book offers really valuable information on shopping, menu planning, food storage and prep, dealing with busy schedules, and health and healing. Meghan comes from a history of Crohn’s diseases, so she has tremendous empathy for those with special health challenges.

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In the book you’ll also find:

  1. Delicious content: 264 pages of full colour, image rich vibrant living inspiration.
  2. Easy to make and Impress Recipes: Over 40 mouth-watering, delicious and simple plant-based gluten-free recipes.
  3. A Superhero Posse: Featured recommendations from Meghan’s superhero posse of experts.
  4. Quotable Content: Loads of mind-blowing stats, and beautifully designed tips and tricks that you’ll want to share with everyone you know.
  5. Recommendations That Fit Your Life: Nothing in here is too over the top. The recommendations made are the baby-steps that result in big transformation- served up with a smile.
  6. Accessible At Every Level: From the recommendations made to the fabulous ingredients in the recipes- all can be purchased at your local supermarket.
  7. Meal Plan To Rock Your World: A complete seven day meal plan to help you put this into action.
  8. Bonus Guides and Info: This book was so jam packed that some of the content had to overflow. We have a complete UnDiet Toolkit where you can download even more info (included with book purchase).
  9. Intentions Into Action: A full eight-week transition program so you have guidance every step of the way.
  10. Healthifying Your Life Can Be Fun and Easy: And that is just what you will discover throughout this book.

In order to convey the real meaning of Meghan’s book, I wanted to give you a chance to hear about it from her directly. So today, I have the honor of welcoming Meghan to CR to answer a few of my questions. (“A few questions” in the world of Gena means a lot of text, and Meghan was seriously a gem about responding with patience and care.)

Meghan

1. I love the title of the new book. Can you tell me a little bit about what “UnDieting” is, and how it differs from popular slim down plans or “cleanses” we might stumble across online?

Why thank you Gena!

UnDiet is about breaking some rules, cleansing out the clutter in our lives that isn’t serving us and really focussing on tips, tricks and strategies to help live the life of our dreams. This has nothing to do with slimming down or cleansing- though if that’s what your body needs, it would likely happen as a sweet side effect of living the UnDiet lifestyle. The book is a guide, a toolbox, for lifestyle transformation. UnDieting is about going back to eating real food and avoiding the toxins we eat but also in beauty products, home cleaning products and relationships.  There’s a section on why calories don’t count and how we need to question the paradigms of conventional nutrition that just aren’t working. UnDiet differs the most in that it isn’t a diet at all. It’s about tuning in to our body, doing our very best, whatever that may mean, and picking up and doing what we can and coming back later for the rest. It is a judgement free guide to help people live their best life, in their most optimal state of health.

2. One of the reasons the book’s philosophy resonates so much with me is that you’re promoting body love and acceptance, rather than trying to push an ideal size, exercise regime, or food protocol. Body image is a big topic here at CR. Have you struggled with body image in the past? How has eating a nourishing and plant-based diet helped you to treat yourself compassionately?

My greatest challenge when it came to my body was not really as a teenager or in my early 20’s when I think most women first become aware. For me the toughest time was after I was sick. When I was sick with Crohn’s, I got pretty teeny tiny and people would tell me how great I looked. When I started getting healthy, healing from the disease and being able to eat again, I was putting my weight back on and was so conscious of it. I went straight from that into nutrition school where we were learning about all these whole grains, and nuts and healthy fats and I was eating tons.

I was learning to cook, and hand’t yet figured out how to discern what the best foods were for me and kept putting on weight. This is really when I was most self-conscious- when I was supposed to be the picture of health and instead was carrying about ten extra pounds. It’s not a lot but at five feet, it’s noticeable and definitely wasn’t the ideal for me. That was really when I started looking at what evolved into the UnDiet. That it really isn’t about following any regimented protocol but tuning in to our body and really paying attention to what works for each of us individually.

Eating a plant-based diet, free of any chemical processing, or processed sugars, salts and all that junk means that I can really feel how what I eat makes me feel and through this I have been able to find my balance. It also allows me to know when rest is best, or when I should push myself to move and shake a little.

3. You place a big focus on mindfulness in the book, not only as a means of healing, but also as a means of maintaining a good quality of life. As someone who is balancing pre-medical education (and med school down the road) with blogging, writing, and clinical work, I really struggle to create space for mindful practices in my life. What are a few things I could do that don’t demand much time, but might help me stay focused?

As soon as we bring mindfulness into what we’re doing, we’re bringing a level of attention.

We don’t polish off that bag of chips (vegan or otherwise), or react in a way we later need to apologize for, or over drink and all those other habits when we are paying attention to our life. Some of the things I talk about in the book are around mindfulness in a practical sense. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of meditation but listening to a meditation download while doing the dishes or driving isn’t quite the same as dedicating time in your day to just being still.

For me, this is the time in my day that my mind opens up, that it all calms down a little and usually when I have the biggest and best ideas of my day. Sometimes we think we don’t have time, but as far as my experience has been, we really need to make some type of daily practice a non-negotiable. I also know that a regular meditation practice may not be for everyone but you can bring mindfulness into your life in other ways. As I share in UnDiet- we can commit to eating our meals at a table intended for dining, we can bring an awareness to our cravings and when they strike, or even change up our daily routine with purpose. This means changing up the order we do things in the morning, or taking a different route to school or work. This forces us to wake up from auto pilot and pay attention to our lives. It’s amazing what unfolds, what we see before us and what opportunities, or amazing people and gifts land in our lap. When we just wake up to what’s going- we are instantly open to receiving all kinds of goodness- and to giving more goodness too.

4. My ultimate goal (though it might well change!) is to practice gastroenterology, so your healing story from Crohn’s is very inspiring to me. What were the most significant changes you made in your life that helped to bring about healing? How do you maintain your health now? Is it mostly through food choices, or are there other things that keep you in balance and flare-up free?

This is totally three questions! I’m going to answer each one separately as they’re all so important.

What were the most significant changes you made in your life that helped to bring about healing? 

The most significant wasn’t even around food at all. I had transitioned my diet by the time I was diagnosed to a pretty simple one. It wasn’t super healthy but it was simple. I ate white rice, boiled root vegetables. some fish, loads of soups and a lot of rice cakes. I didn’t know any better. I don’t think at this point I even knew brown rice existed, or what quinoa was.

The biggest shift for me was opening up to what would come. Due to being so sick, I had to quit my job in advertising and I actually moved to California. I went initially for three weeks to meet an acupuncturist my family knew and he said he could help me. My GI hadn’t given me any options outside surgery or medication and at 26, I wasn’t jumping on either of those. So I found myself living by the sea, in a place where the sun shone every day, organic food was plentiful and there was a yoga studio on every corner. I had never cooked before, or done a yoga class. It was all brand new. I feel that the combination of the yoga, the meditation, the acupuncture, the good food, the walks in the sunshine and the rest are what did it. The food,  important though it was, was one small component. The biggest shift was in my outlook. I was scared out for mind, for sure. I didn’t want to be sick my whole life. But something had also shifted in me as I took on all these healing practices and everything was just feeling so right. It was right on a cellular level- and at that point I still didn’t have any of the knowledge I do now to understand what this was. Within a month I was symptom free and have had no sign of the disease since without any medications.

I also chose never to identify with one way of eating, or putting a label on it. I assumed that my eating would evolve and it continues to. I have never labelled myself as vegan or vegetarian or raw or macro on any number of titles out there as I imagine it will forever be changing as I constantly strive to stay in balance. I never wanted and still don’t want the pressure of having to live up to any labels.

To heal is truly a mind/body thing. We need to be in a state of calm, and we need to chose for ourselves the best path. This is what worked for me. It reversed all the factors that had built the disease and that was why I healed.

All of us are unique. We have our own genetics, environmental factors, stressors and life experiences that will build our health or build our disease. This is a key thing that is missing in the approach of many conventional GIs. They are looking for a magic pill and approach to help all. Everything that goes on in our gut is completely connected to our emotions. One thing that is universal is that no one will heal from anything if they are still fuelling on processed food and negative thought patterns.

How do you maintain your health now?   Is it mostly through food choices, or are there other things that keep you in balance and flare-up free?

My health is my priority. It’s easy to get caught up in work because I love it so much. And I feel to ignore one email for a night- could extend someone’s suffering for a night if I have an answer that can help. I have been symptom free from Crohn’s for nearly seven years and have been running my business for five years. If I am not healthy, everything in my life suffers- from my marriage to my work to my social life. I make time in my day, every day, to meditate, go for walks, go to yoga or be okay, guilt-free, to go home at the end of a work day, take a bath, eat dinner and do absolutely nothing. I also travel a lot- I crave the sunshine in the winter so I make it part of my job to be somewhere sunny-that’s what my retreats offer.  And as I write in the book- I often seek out the silver lining, the sunshine and rainbows in any given situation.

And of course food comes in. Eating good, clean, real food is a non-negotiable.

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5. Tell me about the recipes in UnDiet. If you had to pick, what would some of your favorites be, and why?

My goal with the recipes in UnDiet was really to lure in the unsuspecting. I don’t use the words vegan or even vegetarian anywhere in the book as that isn’t the point. We know plants are good for us but I would hate for someone to feel that because they’re not ready to commit to being 100% this or that, that the information doesn’t apply. For this reason, there are no recipes that try and fake out the meat, or dairy. It’s just not there. I also did my best to avoid any ingredients that were available exclusively at health food stores. I wanted people to be able to go to their local supermarket and make these meals- which definitely helps with the transition.

The recipes in UnDiet cover the staples. There are just over 40 recipes that cover everything from almond milk, granola, oatmeal, and power smoothies to soda alternatives and homemade crackers to main course meals like my Life Affirming Chili and Booyizzle White Bean Green Curry. There are great desserts and treats like the Almond Power Cookies, Almond Butter Cups and amazing  Cinnamon rolls. Everything is plant-based and gluten-free. Everyone has been asking about my favoruites but I can’t really answer that. The recipes I shared are my favourites- they are my own staples, what I make often and what I make when friends come to dinner. They are what I would consider to be transition recipes. They’re not too out there, most of the ingredients are pretty common place and most importantly, they are pretty fool proof. I wanted UnDiet readers to gain confidence in the kitchen and have their creations work- so they feel encouraged that the whole UnDiet lifestyle will work.

Thanks Meghan!

In order to give you a true sense the book, I thought I’d feature a recipe. The following vegetable stew with orange zest really captures Meghan’s culinary style: wholesome, satisfying, and nutritious. I hope you enjoy it, and I thank Meghan for sharing it with my readers!

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Meghan Telpner's Orange Zest-Infused Stew (courtesy of UnDiet, 2013, Skirt! Publishers)

Author - Gena Hamshaw

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger root grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 cinnamon sticks 4 inches each
  • 2 cups sweet potato cubed into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 cups butternut squash peeled and cubed into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cut carrots sliced into 1/4 inch coins
  • 1 cup parsnips sliced into 1/4 inch coins
  • 15 oz. can organic chickpeas drained
  • 1 medium tomato diced
  • 1/3 cup organic sulphite free apricots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp organic orange zest
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp arrow starch optional
  • Sea salt and cayenne to taste

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until warm. Add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, sage, rosemary, and cinnamon sticks. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until onion is tender and translucent.
  • Stir in vegetables, chickpeas, tomato, apricots, orange zest, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
  • Remove lid and simmer for another 15 minutes. If it looks too watery, remove 1/2 cup of liquid and reserve in separate bowl. Whisk the arrowroot starch into this reserved liquid and then add it back to the main saucepan.
  • Once desired thickness is achieved, add sea salt and cayenne to taste.
  • Remove the stew from heat, remove cinnamon sticks, and serve warm over quinoa, brown rice, or other whole grain.

To learn more about UnDiet, check out the website. Then, take advantage of the book’s rich information and recipes, and order a copy for yourself!

To learn more about Meghan, you can:

Follow her on Twitter

Check out her Facebook page

Follow her on Pinterest

Enjoy! And I’ll be back tomorrow with a delightful treat.

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    21 Comments
  1. I agree with some of the other commenters that I resonate with Meghan’s message of not labelling yourself. Everybody will benefit from incorporating more healthy and whole foods into their lives but I think that quite often the labels of vegan, raw, vegetarian etc, end up making people feel guilty if they “fall off the wagon”, and guilt is not a healthy emotion.

    • Thanks, Sarah. I have a slightly different feeling about labels (it’s personal, of course), but I love that Meghan inspires compassion and self-respect within the realm of food choices.

  2. Gena it makes so much sense for you to share Meghan here 🙂 You two are similar in that you’re advocating better choices for our health. I am so grateful to have you both cheering us on and leading the way – I really do feel like you both genuinely care about each reader. I just got my copy of Undiet in the mail and I can’t WAIT to dig in!

  3. This is so cool – Gena I’ve been following you for some time, almost a year probably, and recently I discovered Meghan and started following her too! I love that she’s a fellow Canadian and her fun approach is really enticing. Love seeing all these smart ladies out there doing good things (that means you guys). All the best.

  4. Such a great idea. I wanna undiet haha! I love being vegan so much but sometimes I hate feeling like everyone places such emphasis on labels. The minute I tell someone I’m vegan they make so many assumptions I have no control over or voice in. I’m so much more interested in having conversations with people about my priorities and how to eat well than about “what we call it when”! Undiet is a great word! 🙂

    • I do relate to that. I am also a vegan. And let me tell you… people that i meet sometimes make vegan jokes when they find out I am one. but you know what by the time they hit 45years old they are gonna look like they they are 60, and they will look back at us and ask, “what skincare are you using?”…

  5. Wow, looks like a great book, I am truly interested now and considering ordering a copy for me!
    Are there photos of the recipes in the book?
    Thanks
    Ana

  6. “We know plants are good for us but I would hate for someone to feel that because they’re not ready to commit to being 100% this or that, that the information doesn’t apply.”

    –Love this! Beautiful articulation of a genuine and wonderful thought.

  7. TWO ladies after my own heart 🙂 I love Meghan! She radiates health in such an authentic way… too often, the poster girls for plant-based living mostly tout the lifestyle as a means to achieving glowing skin, shiny hair and six pack abs. Meghan touts the lifestyle as a means to happiness!

    I think that’s what irks me about some of the ladies who’ve hit it big as proponents of going raw: they all seem to be saying that you’ll be happier on a plant based diet BECAUSE you’ll look better, whereas Meghan’s goal seems to be happiness for its own sake. ANYWHO, thanks Gena! Thanks Meghan! Looking forward to getting my hands on a copy 🙂

  8. I’ve loved your blog and recipes for almost 1 1/2 years now! Thanks for introducing me to another fabulous, talented and inspirational woman. Definitely putting this book on my list. I have told many friends who are also on this path about your blog and I share your feelings about the Gastro world and the true need to talk about nutrition instead of taking a pill or scheduling additional endoscopies. At 18, I knew something wasn’t right and at 24 I remember hearing a Dr. say something about gluten. That was almost 30 years ago and without a google search available, I had no idea what gluten was all about. After many GI visits with no real answers, I continued to seek for answers. My true curing path started with a nurse practitioner identifying my intolerances in a way that I was able to grasp. A black and white report of my “allergies” made it all real to me. Then my neighbor Anne from Anne Gulick Health Coaching helped me take this on (yes, I’m feeling lucky that we landed across the street from each other)! She introduced me to your site too and I am grateful to be on this path with you. Your recipes are easy to follow and most often, include ingredients that I am now happy to say are already in my pantry or refrigerator.
    Thank you….and wishing you so much continued success.

  9. The interview is very engaging and informative. Like Elisabeth, i never heard of her before but it is so refreshing to read what she is all about.

    I neeed to pick up the book to learn and apply some of it.

    Thank you for this wonderful story of wonderful person. thanks Meghan.

  10. Great interview.
    It still amazes me how emotional and environmental factors have such a big influence on illness’s that seem to be internal such as chrones.
    I haven’t yet dedicated time to meditation but many times during the day I have a minute where I just close my eyes and breathe. I think this Is a good start for now

  11. This was such a wonderful interview! I’ve actually never heard of Meghan, so this was a great introduction to another lovely, vibrant woman like yourself. Having an eating disorder history, the parts about mindful eating and living really resonated with me. I try to set aside time each day to go for a walk, so that I can simply meditate and reflect upon my day. I don’t do it to burn calories or anything like that; I do it to relax, to enjoy the scenery around me, and to live in the moment. During my eating disorder, I remember that I constantly was thinking about events in the past (what I’d eaten that day, etc.) and the future (the exercise I was going to do to burn off what I’d eaten, etc.), but never the present. This was a great reminder to listen to my body more. Plus, that recipe sounds awesome; it reminds me of a Moroccan tagine!

  12. Fabulous post Gena! What a way to celebrate an amazing, vibrant woman…

    I was first ‘introduced’ to Meghan about a year and a half ago through reading her blog, and had the pleasure of meeting her in Toronto last March. Wow, once you let her into your life you will be changed for the better!

    Through her Fab Uplift Detox and other amazing courses I learned the value of whole, clean foods, and ditched the processed junk. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free food can still be junk food if you’re not paying attention. I was caught in the ‘it’s gluten free it must be good for you even though it’s packed with sugar and devoid of nutrients’ trap for a long time. When I was diagnosed with Celiac over 11 years ago, I was completely lost and should have paid more attention to basic, made from scratch foods instead.

    I, like you, love her approach to wellness and well-being. She tells it like it is, but gives you the freedom to choose what it means to you. No rules.