INTERVIEW: GEORGINA THEOPHANOUS – GT HEALTH
Pre- COVID-19 we met up with lovely Georgina Theophanous to discuss all things nutrition. We’ve been following her account for quite some time now and we decided it was time to meet up! Here’s what we discussed:
Are you a matcha latte or espresso lover?
I’m like 80% coffee 20% matcha. A strong espresso shot is essential to kick-start my day but I will enjoy a warm matcha latte in the afternoon if I need a boost of energy without messing up my cortisol levels. They both have their health and beauty benefits!
What are some of your food philosophies?
When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating there is so much noise and public confusion! The truth is that everyone has a different opinion and they want to share it, creating the belief that if something works for one person it will automatically work for everyone! This leads me to one of my strongest food philosophies that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A diet or way of eating that works for me and my lifestyle may not be the best for you and this is what I keep in mind when working with my clients. My goal in both my practice and my Instagram blog is to help people understand the importance of sustainability. For me the best diet is the one you will stick with in the long-term and the one that helps both your physical and mental health.
However, the things I believe benefit most people are variety, balance and moderation. We need to eat a variety of foods as no one food contains all the macro- and micronutrients our bodies need. We should also be flexible and allow ourselves to enjoy social occasions and have a healthy mindset around food. I aim for my clients to feel better after eating than before.
This leads me to another food philosophy that healthy food is delicious. This is one of the main reasons I started @gt.health . I wanted to show people that healthy food can be equally tasty and enjoyable. Sharing my healthy recipes and getting the feedback and support from my followers is what keeps me going!
At times like these – what are the best ways to boost your immune system?
The fear about coronavirus resulted in online searches and plenty of misleading information about how to strengthen the immune system. Here’s what works:
- – Eat a well-balanced diet. Be sure to include plenty of fresh colorful vegetables & fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, legumes and lean meat.
- – Eat foods that are high in Vitamin C including sweet peppers, broccoli, kiwi and lemon.
- – Reduce mucous-forming foods. Decrease your intake of dairy, sugar and processed foods and cut back on alcohol.
- – Add ginger, turmeric, onion & garlic in your meals or drinks. These herbs & spices are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
- – Stay hydrated – Drink at least 2 liters of filtered water every day.
- – Improve your sleep habits- Get a good night’s sleep and take time to rest and relax. 8 hours of sleep is a must.
- – Exercise regularly – exercise promotes good circulation, which allows the cells of the immune system to work efficiently.
- – Check your vitamin D level – Research has shown that the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off viruses. You can get vitamin D naturally through sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in some foods, including fatty fish like salmon, and in small amounts in eggs, cheese, and mushrooms. Taking a vitamin D supplement under the guidance of your healthcare professional or clinical dietitian might also be a good idea.
What you see is not what you get when it comes to grocery shopping…What should we look at when we are grocery shopping?
As the importance of good nutrition gets well know globally, more and more people choose to buy healthier foods. However, we as consumers need to be able to look beyond the front of a package as many times foods that are labeled as “healthy”, “vegan”, “low fat” or “low carb” are NOT as healthy as we think. My top tips when grocery shopping are:
- – Bypass the front of the package and rely on the nutritional label and ingredients list. Learn how to read labels and look for high fibre, high protein, low saturated fat and low sugar foods. However, make sure when using the labels, to check the serving size and adjust the portion for you.
- – Avoid foods that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, sugar or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- – Choose “real” whole foods with no or minimum processing. If you want more salt or spices, add it by yourself when cooking.
- – Buy organic according to the Dirt Dozen List. This is a list that ranks fruit and vegetables according to contamination by pesticides. I dedicated an Instagram post on this you can check it out!
Beauty & Nutrition – Why do these two go hand in hand?
I know it sounds like a cliché, but beauty comes from within. We can use all lotions and creams but basically beauty is a matter of health. Our skin is our body’s largest organ; therefore, it reveals the state of our inner health. A nourishing diet and lifestyle will be reflected with glowing and clear skin, as well as shining and resilient hair.
As a dietitian/nutritionist, I’m often asked about my tips for healthy hair and clear skin and the truth is that is easier than you think! Here are some of my tried-and-tested beauty secrets:
- – Eat a balanced wholesome diet – For skin and hair health, focus on enjoying good fats, lean proteins, fruit rich in antioxidants, dark green veggies and wholegrains. At each meal, fill half your plate with greens and don’t be afraid of good fats such as avocado and nuts.
- – Reduce your intake of sugar, dairy & alcohol. These can increase inflammation in your body and can cause redness, skin irritation and eczema. Particularly, sugar attaches to collagen causing it to break down and that leads to early skin sagging, wrinkle and acne.
- – Look after your gut health – Healthy gut equals healthy skin. Take a daily prebiotic and start adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar to a 2 L water bottle and sipping it throughout the day.
- – Last but not least stay hydrated – It’s so important to drink at least 2 L of water each day. It helps nourish your body’s cells and maintains the elasticity of your skin.
Carbs vs Sugar – What’s the difference?
A very good question. I will try to explain it in the simplest way possible☺
Carbohydrates are one of the 3 main macronutrients — the other two being protein and fat. Carbohydrates are the body’s most important source of energy and they are part of a healthy diet. Now, carbohydrates are sugars that come in 2 main forms – simple and complex.
- – simple carbohydrates (or simple sugars): including fructose, glucose, and lactose and are found in fruit and dairy.
- – complex carbohydrates (or starches): found in foods such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, rice, bread and cereals.
All carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars to be digested and absorbed. Simple carbs are easily broken down and cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, while complex carbs are broken down more slowly and allow blood sugar to rise gradually. The best carbohydrate sources include complex carbs which are also high in fibre, such as brown bread and brown rice.
Now table sugar (white sugar) falls under the category of refined simple carbohydrates (simple carbohydrates that have been processed). This is a category we want to avoid and this is the category that is highly linked with weight gain and development of diseases. In this category we also find brown sugar, dextrose and different kinds of processed syrups.
What are your thoughts on vegan and keto diets? What’s the best approach to take if we are vegan or doing the keto diet?
I’m asked so often to share my thoughts on specific diets and my answer is usually based on this philosophy: If the diet you choose to follow is not sustainable, causes social isolation and is harmful to your own mental and physical health, then you should reconsider it.
Keto is the biggest diet trend of 2019. It is highly restrictive and is definitely not for everyone. It even encourages you to monitor the fruit and vegetables you’re eating! With keto, sustainability is a big issue. I have seen a lot of clients who have tried the keto diet and nearly all of them have gained all of their weight back (sooner or later). GTHealth encourages people to live their happiest and most sustainable life without guilt and deprivation.
I am not personally vegan but I have a lot of respect for people who choose to be vegan especially for the ethical reasons. I see many vegans in my clinic and I really want to help them achieve and maintain a balanced diet. The problem is that many vegans will often feel fatigued due to nutritional deficiencies. It’s therefore vital if you want to switch to a vegan diet to get the proper education around veganism. Work with a registered dietitian who will assess your needs and help you achieve a nutritionally adequate vegan diet.
What are your tips on reducing bloating?
Waking up with a flat stomach and watching it expand throughout the day can be very uncomfortable. I have experienced bloating and it is a very common issue for many women and men. My top tips on how to beat the bloat are the following:
- – Avoid raw veggies – the truth is that raw greens are so good for us but for some people they can cause a lot of bloating. The key to still enjoy them without getting bloated is to lightly steam them. This way they are much easier to digest and be broken down.
- – Reduce your intake of gluten and refined sugar – They can be difficult to digest. You can try and avoid them for a period of 2-4 weeks and see if you notice any improvements; I bet you will!
- – Stop chewing gum – it causes you to swallow excess air leading to bloating.
- – Slow down your eating – try chewing your food 10-20x. Digestion starts from the mouth.
- – Add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar into your water bottle.
- – Avoid fizzy drinks – bubbles = bloating!
- – Stick to one cup of coffee a day.
- – Be careful with beans and legumes – instead of avoiding them, eat them on days you are less busy and you have more time to relax and digest them!
- – Drink ginger and chamomile tea after meals – they help ease stomach discomfort.
If we are eating out – what should we be careful/mindful of?
What I always tell my clients is to follow the 80/20 approach – 80% of their diet is clean and the other 20% is eating foods that aren’t 100% clean but are still consumed mindfully! It is vital to remember that your body will respond to what you most of the time rather than sometimes. Of course I emphasize the importance of home cooked meals but there is nothing wrong with eating out once or twice per week especially if you can make healthy choices. Some nutrition-approved tricks when eating out are:
- – Order a big green salad as a starter to fill you up and get your digestion going.
- Avoid fried and go for a main meal that includes grilled protein (fish, chicken, meat) or legumes if vegan/vegetarian. Also there is nothing wrong in asking the waiter/tress to minimize the amount of oil used as even for the steamed or grilled options they tend to use oil.
- – Any dressings or sauces order them on the side. This way you can control the amount added. Also, go for olive oil, balsamic and lemon based dressings rather than mayonnaise-based or sweet dressings.
- – Avoid drinking with your food. Drinking dilutes the digestive enzymes. Try to drink some water 20-30 minutes before your meal.
- – Last but not least. Have a protein-rich snack before eating out. This will prevent you from over eating at the restaurant.
What is your ultimate way to chill?
I have a couple of routines that help me chill out and manage stress. I love listening to my favourite playlist on Spotify while getting busy in the kitchen experimenting new healthy recipes. I also love going to the gym! Working out helps my mind relax, improves my mood and gives me a boost of energy when I feel a little bit sluggish.
What does your wardrobe look like? Boring neutral/pop of colour?
The truth is that black is my happy colour☺ I love how simple and chic a total black outfit looks! I would describe my wardrobe as neutral. By neutrals, I mean black, shades of grey, white, brown and navy, as well as khaki. However, when it comes to my activewear I go for fun leggings & sports bra with a pop of colour! They give me an extra boost of energy and motivation to hit the gym!
Which is your favourite set from our SS20 collection?
I love the blue @lilybod leggings and the leather black @lurvsportswear leggings. You can easily style them with an oversized blazer and make a chic and effortless workwear outfit!
What are your fav nutrition books?
- – Eat Beautiful: Nourish your skin from the inside out by Wendy Rowe
- – How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger
- – Nutrition Stripped: 100 Whole Food Recipes Made Deliciously Simple by McKel Hill
- – In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan