The "Paleo Mom". That's how most people refer to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. And rightfully so. She's the blogger behind the award-winning blog www.ThePaleoMom.com, cohost of the top-rated and syndicated The Paleo View podcast, and New York Times bestselling author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook.
Sarah is not only passionate about science (Ph.D. in medical biophysics), but she has a unique ability to distill complex concepts into straightforward explanations that are easy to understand. In addition to her scientific work, she's also a devoted mom and wife. Sarah has an amazing story and "walks the walk" every day.
We were honored when Dr. Ballantyne agreed to participate in a Joovv AMA. So without further ado, here are Sarah's answers to your questions...
If I opened up your fridge right now, what would I see?
You’d see what I lovingly call “the wall of food”. We eat so much fresh produce every week, it’s a challenge to fit it all in there! Right now, I’ve got lettuce (three varieties), fennel, fresh rosemary, fresh cilantro, fresh mint, carrots, celery, cucumber, green beans, turnips, zucchini, onions, lemons, limes, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, and mango.
There’s also 6 dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens (we typically go through 3-4 dozen per week), kombucha, coconut water kefir, sauerkraut, lard, tallow, schmaltz, duck fat, capers, pickled herring, mustard, ketchup, three different types of raw vinegar, coconut aminos, fish sauce, anchovies, olives, a few different nut butters, truffle oil, a few different salad dressings, ghee, dates, bacon, almond flour, grass-fed beef hotdogs, grass-fed lamb summer sausage, coconut milk yogurt, wakame seaweed, leftover chicken breast, and one lonely bottle of gluten-free beer.
What is your favorite paleo recipe for each meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)? The ones that are always tasty and never get old.
I make a double batch of my Paleo Waffles every weekend and freeze them for easy weekday breakfasts. My husband and kids eat a waffle with either scrambled or hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit nearly every day. Although, my 9-year old is also a huge fan of my 50/50/50 burgers with fresh fruit for breakfast. My own breakfast is typically leftovers because I can’t eat eggs.
A typical lunch for my kids includes grass-fed beef hotdogs, carrots, celery, cucumbers, and apples. Mine is typically leftover meat and mounds of lettuce with a piece of fruit. If I don’t have any leftovers, I make Shrimp, Avocado, Mango and Fennel Salad.
Dinners typically consist of a simply-prepared meat (most commonly broiled or roasted) and 2-4 veggie sides (eg. steamed broccoli, roasted brussels, a starchy vegetable and a salad) and often some kind of fresh fruit.
What 3 supplements can you not afford to live without?
I take Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure Organ Delight on days when I’m not cooking organ meat for one of my meals. I like that it contains organs that are hard for me to source. I put Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides into my tea or coffee every single day. I also have taken Prescript-Assist, a soil-based probiotic, for 4 years and definitely notice if I forget to take it for a few days.
What is something you like (or enjoy) that most people would be surprised to learn?
I do improv for fun. I take weekly, short-form improv classes at a local theater and find it to be a wonderful creative space that also builds my public speaking skills and comfort in a room full of strangers. Plus, it makes me laugh and is a great stress reduction tool!
You were able to successfully convince your husband and daughters to adopt a paleo diet and lifestyle. I’m trying to do the same thing with my family. What 2-3 things can I do or say to convince them to follow the paleo way?
The biggest sell for my family was that food could still taste good and they wouldn’t feel deprived. At the same time as we were having conversations about the health benefits of certain food choices over others (obviously different levels of detail for my husband versus my kids!), I was putting a lot of effort into Paleo adaptations of their favorite foods and making sure I was catering to their preferences whenever I was trying/modifying new recipes.
Have you used red light therapy? If so, did it work?
I have never tried it and haven’t researched into it enough to make any kind of statement about it’s validity; but we do set our Philips Hue bulbs to a red color in the evenings to protect circadian rhythm entrenchment!
Do you get 8 hours of sleep per night?
Yes. I just don’t feel good with less and will get sick (with whatever germ is going around) if I go more than a few days even at 7 hours. I sleep 8-9 hours every single night and it’s not up for negotiation. Ever.
You presented a keynote and participated in a panel at PaleoFX 2016. Coming out of that conference, what did you learn that you didn’t expect going into it?
I spent a lot of time at PFX16 defending science. I’ve seen a growing distrust for scientific studies in the Paleo community in the last year, and a tendency to dismiss any study as invalid simply because the results don’t conform to a person’s beliefs. I believe that we need to always be willing to engage in a conversation about new studies, how they fit into the body of scientific literature in a given field, and be willing to reevaluate our tenets in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary.
It actually surprised me that some thought leaders in our community were engaging in anti-science sentiments. Scientific research is grossly underfunded and under-supported. The reality is that scientific studies are not inherently flawed, nor are scientists biased by pharmaceutical industry funding and out for career advancement above the pursuit of knowledge. If we allow anti-science sentiments to grow, we become a religion, not a template for an optimal human diet based on current scientific understanding of the impact that individual foods have on our bodies at the cellular and molecular level.
You’re well-known for your work regarding the autoimmune protocol. I’m trying to get my mom to consider it, but she’s a bit overwhelmed it. What advice would you give her?
It’s okay to take it in baby steps. The first step is just being aware of what foods are on the AIP and which ones aren’t. And then try to get used to meals with some good quality meat or seafood, veggies, and maybe some fruit. That could be a salad with meat or seafood for lunch, steak and some roasted or steamed veggies for dinner - meals that most of us choose from time-to-time and feel completely normal. Breakfast is, of course, a bit more of a challenge. Certainly some bacon and fruit fits the bill, but my preference is leftovers or soup, both quick and satisfying in the morning! The last piece of advice is to work on sleep. Getting enough sleep fosters good dietary choices and helps our bodies adapt to changes faster. Plus, sleep helps regulate the immune system too!
What person(s) of influence are you closely following right now?
I’m in love with Grace Lui from thegutinstitute.com. Her knowledge base on the gut microbiome is phenomenal and I love that she’s a voice of reason, science, and myth-busting!
If you could put a billboard anywhere, what would it say and where would you put it?
Oh gosh! I think that if I had to distill everything I do to a short, simple message, it would be that micronutrients matter. I think the best things we can do for our health is to focus on a diet that is mostly made up of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us - quality meats (snout-to-tail), seafood, and tons and tons of veggies. I'm serious, like tons of veggies. :)
Maybe the billboard would say #threequartersveggies and just have a dinner plate that contains a rainbow of vegetables with a piece of grilled salmon or steak. Small print on the bottom could be “Getting all the nutrients we need is easy with quality meat and lots of vegetables.” Where would it go? Wherever it would most be seen! Maybe beside the freeway exit to all the fast food places? Lol!
Thanks for submitting your questions for Sarah! And thanks again to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne for being a part of the Joovv AMA family! Also, don't forget to check out Sarah's site, the Paleo Mom. It comes highly recommended!