10 things I sometimes enjoy that aren’t ‘Wholefood Organic’ and why I’m not a fan of 80/20 thinking

I’ve never loved the whole 80/20 vibe or undertone. It seems to imply to me that 80% is the non fun part, and 20% is where you get to ‘have fun’, enjoy and and not care at all about what you’re eating. It seems to slow down the ‘get on the real food train’ speed by implying we have to be ‘good’ ie not really enjoy ourselves 80% of the time. I feel like this stops us from looking at the big picture and seeing that there is loads of delicious fun to be had in the world of real healthy food. Plus, of 21 meals a week, 4-5 meals / occasions seems a lot to be ignoring what’s in stuff / how it’s made / where it comes from. What do you think?

Something I do agree with is that there needs to be times where you go with the flow and enjoy things that might not be text book ‘healthy’ but in the situation given, are enjoyable things with effort taken to offer them to you by others. This is the bit where you go with the flow and be in the moment. This is the bit that stops obsessive compulsive thoughts or being over controlling with food. This is the bit that stops you from stressing.

It occurred to me when a friend the other day said “Oh but you’d never have that” about a pavlova, that I needed to maybe check in and let you guys know that, yes in fact I would. This real food journey is not one filled with judgement, guilt or deprivation. There are times when a delicious home made treat made by a friend is A OK with me, even though I make stuff differently at home.

I thought I’d list the things I ‘let go on’ in an effort to demonstrate that I do not EVER stress about food. Yes I am a total health nerd. Yes I spend hours and days researching holistic medicine, creating allergy friendly recipes and eating gluten free. No, I don’t stress about food as is all too easy to do if you don’t make the conscious decision to *cue Frozen* LET IT GO.

Adopting the ‘real food’ lifestyle is so important, yes. We never stress as a family that we’re ‘missing out’ when it comes to additives, chemicals in foods and ‘cool packet snacks’. We simply don’t eat them. We’ve worked hard to deeply understand how they’re made and where they come from, and once I knew, I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating those things. They’re anything BUT an indulgence. I will add though, that I’ve always been a ‘justice for the people’ type of person, so when something involves back door deals, vested interests and profit without people’s health / planet health in mind, I intstantly would go off that thing in question – Even my beloved Peanut M&Ms of yesteryear – Can’t do it. Not. Even. One.

Stress is futile and counterproductive to health. It might even give you a worse digestion or MORE symptoms. Who needs that?

So, here’s my ‘let go list’ which equates to something like 5-10% of the meal times… This does not mean that the other 90% isn’t fun. Wholefood is a delicious commitment we make as a family and the 5-10% is the drinks and a few ‘what the hey’ foods, that I consciously enjoy, stress free AS WELL AS enjoying the food we eat everyday.

1. Champagne.

I used to be the National brand ambassador for Piper & Charles Heidsieck Champagnes and Remy Martin Cognacs – the things you don’t know about me yet, right? Well, when it comes to drinks and alcohol, my motto has always been to drink half as much and the best quality you can afford. I always had one or two glasses of champagne or a neat, old cognac (ok, except at my hubby’s 30th. Not too sure what happened there but never, ever again!) instead of chugging on cheap stuff all night. You feel better for it and you enjoy every single sip with mindful appreciation. These days, even though I drink maybe once a week, if champagne is on offer, I say yes to a glass! As an aside, a lot of people avoid Piper, thinking ‘it’s the cheap champagne’. Well, it’s the best value champagne there is, made by the multi award winning wine maker, Regis Camus (winner of 5 of the last 9 international sparkling wine maker of the year awards by the IWC). Just because I care about your Christmas festivity choices coming up!

2. Cocktails

I was a cocktail bartender for many years. I loved creating beautiful drinks and if you ever treat yourself to an unforgettable dining experience at EST in Sydney, you can still taste my Celestial cocktail. On occasion I’ll enjoy a creation in a bar, a beautiful classic Negroni or a Bloody Mary, Mojito or Bellini in the summer time.  Why not?

champagne cocktail

Pic: A cocktail I came up with that sent me to Amsterdam in 2006 to compete in a Global competition – I came 3rd! 🙂


3. Grilled fish and chips in the summer time.

I would have vegetable oil about 3-5 times a year in ‘out and about’ hot chip form. Grilled fish and chips by the sea with family and friends is one of those times. It’s summer. It’s togetherness. Enjoy every moment and don’t stress for a second! Just a word of warning for the gluten intolerant or coeliacs though: Some chips are dusted in flour, so ask the place to check their packet for the ingredients. just in case.

4. At friends’ houses

I will NEVER, I repeat NEVER ask if a salad or meat is organic, or turn down food, or ask whether the flourless chocolate cake or pavlova is refined sugar free. If it’s made with love and not store bought pre packaged weirdness, I think that deserves appreciation and celebration. (I say flourless because I can’t do gluten so I avoid that always, no matter what) If a friend knows me super well, they’ll make sure there is a gluten free option and that is so lovely of them, that honestly, I don’t give a second thought to the ‘spread’ other than enjoying time with friends. The only thing I wouldn’t have at a friends’ house is fake lollies / chips type food.

5. On holidays

If I’m away for a week, and things are beyond my control, it is not worth stressing about the fact that you can’t have what you’d ideally want. It will be counter productive to your enjoyment of the holiday on the whole. Choose the best you can. You can always make a choice, so when I found out the omelettes were done in vegetable oil at the place I was staying recently, I had fruit and natural yoghurt there instead for those couple of days. Easy. Stress free.

6. My son at birthday parties.

Because I’ve educated him from birth (yep, I talked him through everything as a baby!) he’s generally of his own accord, great at choosing to avoid the ‘fake stuff’. BUT, if he chows down on party foods that are less than desirable, that’s his choice. To try and control his choice would certainly mean unhealthy mental food issues down the track like secret eating or lying or worse! Knock your socks off sweetheart, and I’m kind of waiting for him to, but still he avoids fake stuff like the plague even when I’m not there… Maybe it’s because I’ve always said “you can have anything you want sweetheart, Mum is just telling you what’s in everything so you can make the best choice for you.” We also played the game “real food / fake food” in the supermarket to help him start to learn the difference, when he was as young as 18 months. He now sees a cartoon character on a cereal packet and says “I bet they’ve put that there to make kids want to buy it”! Such a good little sleuth.

7. Red wine

My 3rd form of alcohol of choice, and probably my most enjoyed in terms of regularity. I really enjoy a good drop of red. Organic, biodynamic wines are becoming more and more readily available, which is great too! Again, drink LESS and much better quality and you’ll be well on your way to limiting alcohol in a joyful way. If you have a normal functioning liver there’s no reason a glass of red a day is bad for you… The French certainly don’t believe so! Best, is to talk to your practitioner about your unique self.

8. Chocolate with ‘cane sugar’ in it. I’m a huge fan of Cocolo 70% dark and Alter Eco 85% Black out.

9. Corn chips. A couple of times a year, I have an unexplained and unrelenting craving for corn chips. So, I find the most natural, non GMO ones I can, or make my own out of Masa Harina and fry them in coconut oil and enjoy every bite. They make me very sleepy and it’s enough to remind me for many months later that they’re not a great food for me, but I thoroughly enjoy the experience each time!

10. Dessert in a really good restaurant – I fell in love with the artistry of desserts when I saw my now friend, Christine Manfield’s book “Paramount Desserts” on the shelf of my local bookshop back in 1998. As long as it’s gluten free for the allergy factor, I will always order a dessert in a really good restaurant. I’m curious about textures, technique and of course getting ‘healthifying’ ideas, and while it’s not the healthified version while there, I enjoy every single bite. I do though tend to steer clear of sorbets and meringues because they are just so super sugary and I genuinely don’t enjoy that any more.


Christine Manfield’s Gaytime Gone Nuts (image courtesy of eatshowandtell.com)


So there you have it. My 5-10% list. Care to share your ‘no stress list’ in the comments here?

Over to you!


NOTE: If you have leaky gut, PCOS, diabetes, autoimmune condition, neurological condition or something else that is really affected by food, then you might not have much wriggle room. Lucky there is so much deliciousness in nature to enjoy. Talk to your practitioner if in doubt.  I wrote this post, not as a green light to go nuts on the above, but merely to share the odd random thing I have and enjoy that isn’t part of my every day.


Comments 27

  1. Oh my goodness me! While out today all I craved was the giant piece of mud cake in the cabinet at the cafe. I ‘behaved’ and got the gluten-free orange and almond cake (I can tolerate a small amount of gluten).
    I love your honesty.
    Amen to you!

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  2. My treats are good quality italian gelati, Bahen & Co. Chocolate, proper corn chips with guacamole – they make me sleepy too but worth it! Sometimes I like to indulge in dessert at a restaurant and when I was in NY earlier this year I enjoyed Honest Jonea potato chips cooked in coconut oil and a couple of donuts made using sprouted flour & fried in lard – they were heavenly!! I’m also with you, I won’t eat lollies/chips and avoid gluten stuff like bakers delight bread when at a friends place but I will always enjoy whatever else they cook up.

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  3. I’ve never thought about the 80/20 like that Alexx – have always joked about something being my 20% but haven’t actually considered how much that is and that it does suggest the other 80 is ‘boring’ or ‘dull’. Shall have to change my wording! 🙂
    Mine is definitely wine – red or white – find red easier to buy organic than a good Sav blanc or Pinot Grigio but still love a glass or two (or three – depending on the occasion! 🙂 Agree with the grilled fish and chips too, ad being away on holidays. It is becoming easier to find healthier options which is wonderful! Oh and of course will eat anything friends or family make for me. Loved reading yours! 🙂

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  4. Your list is pretty much the same as mine!
    Except I would put red wine and dark chocolate at 1 and 2!

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      Hehe. They were in no particular order, but I’d say if I did have an order, red wine and chocolate would top it for me too!

  5. I’m in a bit of a tough spot when it comes to this. I chose to start eating real food a few years ago but since found out I have PCOS. To keep my symptoms under control I HAVE to eat right, every meal, even one slip up and I’m dealing with depression, insomnia and migraines and that’s just the start. But trying to eat right and avoid everything constantly is extremely stressful. Either way it doesn’t work out well for me :/ so my 5% is using frozen veggies or tinned pineapple instead of fresh..

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      Hi Kate,

      I’ve been there myself on the PCOS front and totally hear you! It can be extremely stressful and a bit ostracizing, can’t it? Thinking of you and hope you have a great practitioner supporting you x

  6. Alex, this is so weird – I was just thinking about this, this morning. My mum is currently visiting us (going home today 🙁 ) and last night we treated her to dinner at this amazing Mediterranean Restaurant in our neighborhood that has a varied and real food selection of mezze (one of my fave ways to eat!). We shared a bunch of those, all of which were delicious and afterwards we had their signature dessert, which is Baked Alaska. It was still warm (OK, mild!) enough to sit outside on their hidden patio (with heat lamps!), we enjoyed some drinks and good conversation for almost two hours, with awesome friendly servers. Overall I am very big on whole/real foods and they will be first choice almost always – but there is no way in the world I would have given up dessert and drinks outside with my husband and my mum for any super adherent dietary preference. Thanks for affirming what I feel! 🙂

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  7. Definitely with you on the Piper… and most of the other stuff. And as I told you: I could not live the rest of my life without a (top quality) almond croissant at once a year!

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  8. Love this list and your whole attitude.
    I had a problem recently when a “friend” brought a box of cakes and canoli to a play date. I had just had breakfast. I gave the kids 2 small cakes and then asked her what she would like and she said “oh nothing, I’m gluten free” I felt like I had to have a small piece of this crappy cake. I don’t really like cake and I wasn’t hungry but felt obliged as she had spent quite a bit of money and it was just us and the 2 kids so it would have been obvious if I didn’t have anything. I did find the whole thing quite uncomfortable and it put me off for the whole day as I felt guilty for eating the cake and tried to not eat anything else. I actually found the act of bringing those cakes that she wasn’t going to eat quite hostile especially as when she asked what to bring I said fruit!! Any tips on how to politely refuse such offerings??

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      Jo – I would have declined. It would be harsh but only happen once. You asked for fruit. She didn’t listen. You don’t eat those foods. Voila! She would have found someone to give them to and not brought them again when hanging with you. Don’t feel guilty about the cake. So not your fault. I in the past have said “Me and sugar aren’t friends or I’ve cut gluten too for me and the kids lately and we’re feeling really well so I’ll say no, but thank you so much for the thought. Looks like hubby’s the lucky one later on with these” … that way there’s still a thank you to her but a rejection at the same time. Hope that helps xx

      1. Wow! Why didn’t I think of that! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I’ve copied and pasted your words in my notes app for future reference (hope that’s ok!) Love your work, you are an inspiration. And I’m more than delighted that you fancy a glass of champagne from time to time – much better than cake!!

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  9. Hi there!!!!!

    To me the 80/20 rule thingy doesn’t so much mean that 80% is healthy and the other 20% is unhealthy, in our family I mean for it to be 80 ( approx!!!!!!!!!) food as fuel/nutrients that we think are yummy and the other 20 ( or so) is made up of not necessarily unhealthy stuff ( which I agree about 5% – fish n chip takeaway scenario….) but that’s the home-made raw chocolate or home made pizza, fried rice night where yes there’s probably not enough protein, good fats and vegies so shouldn’t be every meal and healthy snacks ( which I agree probably shouldn’t be every day necessarily) but they fit in our 20%.

    While I’m here…..I would love to know your thoughts on the sugar thingy in regards to bought chocolate? i’ve gone from the 90% Lindt ( around 6% sugar) thinking that, that felt good to me as small amount of fructose, however now my passion has gone from just looking at the nutrient profile and getting aboard the whole fructose band wagon ( which I do understand the importance) of but now for me i’m in the lets get rid of the chemical and toxins first and foremost whilst eating real wholefoods ( though and still living in the real world so not being dogmatic). Therefore, even if it is 6% white sugar in the Lindt – still bugs me that its bleached white stuff so chemicals????? although in my research cannot seem to find a definitive answer of whether its sulfur dioxide or bone char which may be a little more natural???
    Also, eat Green and Blacks 85% but now I believe that their soya lecithin is most likely GMO as it is not stated otherwise and therefore I have read that this prob very well is…. ( all other ingreds are Organic tho)
    Mmmm, so was super please when I saw your recommendaiton for Liefje choc – been looking for a wholefood TEMPERED chocolate – ( raw choc not the same without the snap!!)
    And yes, never say no to homemade WHATEVER if prepared with love (unless have condition/disease that you must)
    Thank you for all the research you do for us xx

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      Hey there. Good take on it. I feel that SHOULD be the take too, it’s just more what’s construed out there I guess… And re chocolate / sugar. Alter Eco and Cocolo are both unrefined sugar as are Loving Earth’s chocolates and Rawsome. I don’t choose Lindt for that reason. You’re super welcome xx

  10. I’m an 80/20 girl but have a bit of a different take on the 80%. I enjoy food 100% of the time, but I choose 80% of ingredients for nutrition and 20% (or once in a while) I get a free pass to eat whatever I want and thoroughly bask in the awesomeness of whatever it is.

    I have never thought of the 80% as bad or tasteless. The only time I do that is if I’m unwell and am forced to eat bland. Then, I simply tell myself that we’re giving my body healing fuel and we can enjoy the experience in a few days. It has served me pretty well 🙂

    A healthy attitude towards food is sometimes more important than the healthy food. LOVE your philosophy and thinking.

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  11. WOW I wish I had of read this sooo many years ago! I’m constantly thinking about food and what i’m eating especially food that has been prepared by others. What a lovely take on it you have – I certainly hadnt gown down the path of “if its been cooked with love etc”. I certainly will be trying very hard to change my way of thinking – and give myself a little break!

    Love your website and all your recipes I make so many of your dishes.

    Thanks for everything you do!

    Oh and I meet your friend Jo Whitton at one of her cooking classes in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago – I was telling one of the girls about your chocolate and said you have to try it! and Jo perked up and said Alexx is my friend!!

    Another truly amazing woman.

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