What's Your Ideal Meal?

Ali Segersten Jan 28, 2009 16 comments

I recently received a birthday gift in the mail from my mother-in-law. It was a colorful apron that she picked up during her travels to Salt Lake City. On the pocket reads: "One World, Everybody Eats."

So what do you eat, I ask?

We are all so genetically, biochemically, and just plain old individually unique. As Dr. Jeff Bland always says: "The food of one can be the poison of another" or something to that affect. Tom and I eat very differently, what works for him doesn't work for me and what feels good to me makes him sick!

As we age and become wiser, hopefully we listen to the cues of our bodies and consume foods which will truly nourish us....as individuals.

Think about this:

  1. Do you experience digestive upset after eating?
  2. Do you experience "brain fog" shortly after a meal?
  3. Do you tire easily?
  4. Are you anemic?
  5. How about overweight/underweight?
  6. Do you have recurring headaches?
  7. How about arthritis?
  8. Do you have skin rashes?
  9. Do you frequently get sick?

If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions chances are that your current diet might not be serving you. Take some time and write down your diet for a few days to really see what you have been consuming. About 10 years ago I took a serious look at my diet. I would have answered "yes" to about half of these questions then (#'s 1,2,3,6, and 9 to be specific). I decided to detox and change my diet. After a number of different cleanses I followed The Body Ecology Diet book by Donna Gates. That did the trick, I felt energetic again and my digestion was strong...still is strong! We have an excellent Elimination and Detoxification Diet that has helped hundreds of people identify problem foods and find a diet that works for them.

Once you have identified "problem foods" then you can move on to enjoy the plethora of tasty whole foods that are available. I live in just this world. I know what works for me so each day I am free to choose a meal, an ingredient, a dessert, or a snack that my intuitions call forth. In addition, as a mother who cooks for her family, I work to incorporate everyone's needs for a meal.

Let's see...Tom is vegan, doesn't eat sesame or gluten among other things, likes things spicy, no sweets, loves beans and rice; Gracie cannot tolerate gluten, loves mushrooms, green smoothies, quinoa, and nuts; Lily wishes she could eat bread all day every day, loves potatoes and butter, hates eggs and dairy (except butter), asked for a green smoothie in her lunch today; the babies don't eat gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and nuts among other things but eat a lot of what I do feed them, they love green smoothies, salmon, and quinoa and frozen berries for a treat, and drink mama's milk throughout the night, they had a rash from lemons and limes so don't eat these anymore, at least not for now.

Our food choices change throughout the seasons. In the winter we eat hearty, warming, cooked foods to keep our bellies full and our bodies warm. I just cannot bring myself to eat a cold salad in the winter (at least right now), I prefer to drink green smoothies at room temperature and eat lots of cooked dark leafy greens such as, kale, collards, and chard. When spring comes and the tender greens begin to sprout from the ground, our bodies are signaled to eat more bitter, raw greens such as chickweed, dandelion, and bittercress. We become more active, and gently detox from the fall and winter. Summer is full of fresh fruits and vegetables and so we eat a lot of raw foods during this season. When fall turns the corner we begin to eat warming root vegetables, soups, and stews once again.

Not only do our food needs and tastes change throughout the seasons, but even through days and weeks....and well, our lifetime. Listen to your intuitions, if you don't already, and trust them. Ask yourself what your body needs daily. Asking questions is like a daily meditation practice or yoga practice. You will know what is best for you! There is no perfect one-size-fits-all diet out there, only a gazillion options for you to choose from.

Here is my ideal meal (at least at the moment):

Wild Alaskan King Salmon (I buy it from a local fish market), Roasted Yams, and Apple Spiced Collard Greens. That's it, no bread, no dessert, just this perfect meal.

For the salmon pictured above, I drizzled it with a few teaspoons each of honey, lemon juice, and olive oil and then sprinkled it with Herbamare, dried thyme, and freshly ground black pepper. I baked it at 400 degrees until it was done. I never watch the time, but will occasionally check it with a fork for doneness. Take it out of the oven when the thickest part of the fillet is still a little underdone because it will continue to cook when it is out of the oven. This ensures that it doesn't get overdone and dry out from too much cooking.

The yams I peeled and cut into half moons then tossed in olive oil and sea salt. The trick to cooking these properly is to only place a single layer in the pan (use two pans if need be). I cooked them at 400 degrees until done, about 45 minutes.

The collard greens I rinsed off and then cut chiffonade, which is a technique of cutting where you stack the greens on top of each other and then roll them tightly. Slice them with a sharp knife into long, thin strips. I cooked them according to my recipe for Apple Spiced Collard Greens from my Cookbook.

Please comment below and let us know what is Your Ideal Meal!


About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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Oh my goodness.....I accidentally clicked a link that removed your comment as I was reading it. So sorry. I don't know how to undo it!

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Greens and beans -- and eggs lol
I love that meal. Fry up the greens (& onions/garlic) with bacon grease, s&p, pour on some hot beans and top with bacon-grease fried over-easy eggs. I am good to go. I love how it makes me feel. Lots of fat, lovely beans and egg yolk sopped up by the greens YUM
Besides that; a steak

Just happened to have an awesome, pretty close to ideal, incredible flavor combo meal 2nite... :)... Oven roasted baby brussel sprouts with evoo n Spike seasoning, big chunk of dark rye to sop up juices...for dessert I broke off a chunk of super-sharp white cheese to pair with my rediculiously sweet, ice-cold honeydew melon chunks...ahhhh yeahhh... Pure ambrosia!!! Oh n BTW... No... I'm not vegan... ~*~

I have to tell you how inspired I am by this website! I love how you encourage each person to listen to the land and their own inner voice. So much more than food! That said, every dish I make from one of your recipes comes out delicious and leaves me wanting to experiment more in the kitchen. Thank you!

Lately, I've been craving simple dishes like brown rice, black beans, roasted pumpkin or other winter squash, and kale or chard, maybe with a little salsa and avocado. Roast chicken is a favorite around here, with crispy kale, yams and a lemony salad. The bone broth makes the best soups and dal-- another favorite meal in the winter.

I've been following your blog and cooking from your book for a while now, but somehow missed this post. I love it! I have learned to eat intuitively also....some days more protein, others more plants, raw in the summer, cooked in the winter, etc.

I would love to hear more about your experience/recipes/meal plans with the Body Ecology Diet. Our naturopath tested my family for a couple different diets and BED came out the strongest. I've been researching for a while, but sometimes it seems so overwhelming.

Anyways, thanks so much for all of your wonderful recipes!

I've just discovered your blog, and I love it!

I think my ideal meal would be buckwheat porridge with bananas. I just love breakfast!

What a great opportunity ("blessing") for the world and most especially our little corner of NW Washington to have the food/nutrition experts available to us through Whole Life Nutrition. To be able to ask Ali or Tom a question and get an answer right here in our own homes.
Thanks Ali for starting the blog, for your inspirational thoughts about food, sharing your experiences with your children and specialized diets, for your wonderful recipes (and The CookBook) - you are a gift to us !

Shakti - Thanks for all of your wonderful ideas and recipes. Your Black Bean Stew looks wonderful!

Esther - So happy you enjoyed the collard recipe. I like to sprinkle extra red chili flakes over my serving for a little extra kick!

April - Love hearing about your happenings in the kitchen! Thanks for sharing the link, I will check it out!

Well, I made your chewy chocolate chip cookies today, Ali. And they were so, so good. But for dinner we had leftover Sausage, Lentil, and Greens soup made from a recipe we found in PCC's Sound Consumer newspaper. Here is the link - http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/cgi/recipeget.cgi?id=704. Two thumbs up for being super easy to make and incredibly tasty. I also crave practically any meal - roasted salmon, roasted red potatoes, steamed broccoli and red peppers, for example - with lots of the lemon tahini dressing from your cookbook. I LOVE that stuff. It reminds me of my first favorite restaurant in Seattle, which has been closed for years - anyone remember The Gravity Bar in Capital Hill? Love - April

Tonight I made the apple spiced collard greens recipe from your cookbook. I enjoyed it so much! I will definitely be making this over and over again since my husband has a couple of collard greens plants growing in our garden.

I've been thinking of this for a day or two. It seems like every time I make a great meal it becomes my ideal meal. I agree with Ali about the seasons changing. Even within my life as I reflect on how many different diets I have done. I was vegan for 10 years, then I introduced fish. Then when I was a nursing mom I ate a lot of meat. It was very radical for me and all my friends were shocked. They still believe I'm vegan and it's been 5 years. My husband did a candida diet for 6 weeks and a gluten free diet for 4 months and so the list of changes continued. At one point he thought his problems were stemming from a bean allergy and I had to change my ways again. We currently do an Ayurvedic diet and our incorporating vegetable juices daily. In fact, one of my new favorite foods is to juice Kale/celery/appple/lemon or lime and ginger occasionally sneaks in there. Then I make pumpkin seed milk (which is so easy) and mix it with my green drink. I then add a cup of red clover sprouts and mung bean sprouts mixed. The lemon or lime covers the taste of the sprouts. The blender completely liquifies the sprouts and you have a very complete meal. And it stays with me for hours. I feel very nourished and energized from it. My 3 year old even likes it, although he'd prefer it without the milk and the sprouts. Sometimes I make the pumpkin seed milk and add 1/4 banana, a tsp or so of maple syrup and then 1 cup of sprouts. If I need to add lime to it I will. It's very smooth and creamy.

I am not gluten free but we do many recipes that are. I bake a lot with sweet rice flour and millet flour. The combination makes for a really nice muffin. So I will close with a favorite recipe of mine. It was very creative when I made it and I actual wrote it down. The naan is obviously not gluten free. Although I believe it could be made that way. I just haven't tried it yet.

Indian Naan
INGREDIENTS (I doubled this for extras to freeze) I also cut them into 8 pieces to make the smaller and have more.
•2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
•1 teaspoon active dry yeast
•1 teaspoon white sugar (used Sucanat)
•2 cups all-purpose flour (I used kamut flour, whole wheat works fine too)
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/4 cup ghee (since I doubled I used ¼ cup oil and ¼ butter)
•2 tablespoons plain yogurt (used goat yogurt)
•1 ½ tsp garlic powder (don’t double this…it was for 4 cups of flour)

1.Whisk the warm water with the yeast and sugar until the yeast is dissolved. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.
2.Add flour to large bowl add the yeast mixture, half of the ghee and all the yogurt. Mix into a soft dough then knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size .
3.Punch down dough then knead for 5 minutes. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out into 8 inch round naans.
4.Heat your oven to 500 degrees and put a cookie sheet in there. Heat a cast iron skillet on med high temp. I rolled the dough to about 6” or so and buttered with the left over ghee (or butter) and placed butter side down on very hot skillet for 2 min. It will puff some. Watch out it doesn’t blacken to the point of burnt. Flip over and place on cookie sheet in oven for 2 min. Viola!


Coconut Chutney
1 cup grated fresh or dried coconut
2 cups yogurt
2 tsp oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 large jalepino chili, seeded and slivered (optional)
¼ tsp asafetida
¼-1/2 tsp curry

Mix the coconut and yogurt in a bowl. Fry the oil, mustard seeds, chilies until the seeds crackle and pop. Add the asafetida and curry and let sizzle another 10 secods. Pour into the yogurt mixture and mix. Let refrigerate 30 min and then serve. (by the way, this is amazing with another to die for recipe that is Indian Dosas with gingered potatoes and the coconut chutney) That’s another fabulous dish!


Black bean Sweet potato and ginger stew

1 cup dried black beans cooked in crockpot (with about 4 cups water). (or however you want, I just don’t know the exact amount of beans)
2-3 carrots round sliced
2 small to med sweet potatoes
2-3 T fresh grated ginger
½ cup dried apricots (non sulphur) (it was a handful, guessing it was ½ might have been more)
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for sautéing

1.In a large skillet on med high heat, add oil, ginger, carrots and sweet potatoes. Cook for 5 or so min and add a little water to prevent sticking. Add apricots and keep adding a little water each time you stir it. To prevent sticking and it will began to carmelize a little. I guess for 20 min or longer. Until sweet potatoes are cooked and tender.

2.Satuee oil and add seeds and cook till crackle and pop. Add to sweet potato mix.
3.Add beans and liquid. Cook another 20 min. Add salt to taste.

Serves about 4.


Jacqueline - That sounds great, sometimes we do something similar as a quick meal on the go or a busy night's dinner. Thanks for sharing!

Amy - Thanks for the cookbook feedback, so happy to hear you are enjoying it! I love coconut curries too!

Shirley - Thanks for your comment! My ideal meal changes frequently too, its just all part of listening to our own intuitions and needs of our bodies. I really like your meal ideas, I can tell you live on the other side of the country!

I like the apron's message and I love this fantastic post! Now that question on the ideal meal is hard and I think that's a good thing. Isn't it great when we have several that we think are ideal for us? Mine would include the following.

Grilled wild salmon, grilled vegetables like peppers and onions

Steamed shrimp, steamed artichokes

Savory roast chicken, baked sweet potato, peas

In summer, steamed crabs ... maybe a little cold salad (spinach and romaine, avocado, etc.) ... not much is needed with steamed crabs

I am going to be rereading this post time and time again ... it really speaks to me. I am even going to share it with some folks who will appreciate it. Thanks, Ali!


Oh I love wild salmon! My sister lives in Seattle and when we visit her we eat the freshest fish! I love your cookbook by the way. I can't imagine living without it, I use it nearly every day! My ideal meal? Some sort of vegetable coconut curry with rice, I could eat that everyday.

My ideal meal is steaming hot quinoa topped with baked yams, steamed kale, black beans, and chopped avocado. I also squeeze a little lime over it all and toss in a few pinches of celtic sea salt. Your salmon looks really good, I will have to try baking mine that way. Thanks for the cooking tips.

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