Dr Hazel Wallace: Diet Myths, Veganuary and The Food Medic

This post is in association with Balance Expo

Dr Hazel Wallace is a qualified medical doctor and Personal Trainer, best-selling author and content creator. She is the face and the brains behind The Food Medic which started out as a health blog documenting her own journey until she began to grow a huge following which eventually led to two book deals and a podcast.

Her first book The Food Medic made it to number one on the Irish Bestsellers list and her second book The Food Medic for Life also made it in the bestseller charts. Hazel has over 315,000 followers on Instagram where she posts daily recipes, nutrition and exercise advice as well as updates on her daily life. She has also had some amazing guests on her Podcast such as Dr Rupy Aujla (The Doctor’s Kitchen), Dr. Alex George (Love Island) and Dr Anita Mitra (Gynaegeek).

Hazel was the headline speaker at this year’s Balance Expo, Ireland’s Premier Event for Healthy Lifestyle Enthusiasts, which took place in the INEC Killarney on 20th January. Hazel she took to the stage for a cooking demo where she made her delicious rice paper rolls with a peanut dipping sauce which was followed with a Q&A session with the audience.

I was delighted to have been given the opportunity to ask Hazel a few questions as I have been a fan of her for years. Be sure to follow Hazel on Instagram and Twitter and check out her website where you will find plenty an educational hub, recipes, the link to her podcast as well as events that Hazel will be attending.

The Food Medic Q&A

  1. What initially sparked your interest in diet and exercise?

I had finished my first degree in medical sciences which was a three year undergrad. I had just applied to do post-graduate medicine and just thought that if I wanted to be a doctor that I should practice what I preach and look after my health. 

At that point I had lived the typical college lifestyle of a lot of fast food and not enough exercise. 

My interest really started as a personal project. It was quite selfish in that I had just wanted to get myself healthy. Once I had started on my journey I realised that there is a lot of science out there to support a healthy diet and exercise in preventing lifestyle related diseases. I was astonished that we weren’t talking about this in medical school.

This was why I started my blog ‘The Food Medic’ and what started as a personal journey became my vocation and I’ve been doing that for seven years now.

2) You highlight in your Ted Talk the areas in which are going wrong in the prevention of diseases. What are the top three changes that we can make to improve our health?

The first thing I would say in relation to my Ted Talk is to move everyday. I think we view exercise as something that we should use as a weight loss tool when there are so many other benefits. We can link physical inactivity to over 20 diseases and not just obesity and type 2 diabetes but also depression, dementia, breast and colon cancer. I think it’s important that all health care providers start prescribing exercise and get everyone moving.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. You could go for a power walk, do yoga or anything that gets you moving.

The second thing would be to have a healthy diet but not overthinking it. We can go to extremes and look for the silver bullet that is going to make us healthy but theres no right or wrong way of having a healthy diet.

There are some core principles such as getting as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as well a fibre from plant based foods.You can get healthy fats from oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and you should include a good serving of protein such as chicken, fish, tofu, beans and legumes.

The last thing I would say is to get enough sleep. There is a lot of science to support that we should be maximising our sleep. Focus on the hours but more importantly on the quality of sleep. Turn off your phone an hour before bed, don’t have a TV in your room and have a nice bed time routine that helps you to unwind.

3) We are a generation that have become very conscious of diet and exercise. Do you think that we may be taking it too far (over-exercising, ‘clean eating’)?

Absolutely! I think there’s definitely a cohort of people, particularly females within the world of Instagram, who support one another and encourage this. I don’t think people are doing it purposely but they may believe that this is the only way they can achieve health when in reality its not. 

I think we need to encourage people to stay active and be mindful of the messaging that they are using as well as encouraging people to live their lives. Don’t be afraid of the odd glass of wine or to take a day off of the gym.

4) You have two incredible books; The Food Medic and The Food Medic For Life. Which of the two books would you recommend for people who are new to the health and fitness world?

The first book is quite a nice introduction into the basics of nutrition but I think the seconds book covers it also. I always tell people to start with the first and then move to the second but it really is much of a muchness. There are some home workouts in the first book for people who would like to start exercising.

5) What is your favourite recipe from your books?

I love the rice paper rolls with a peanut dipping sauce from the first book. They tend to be a hit with everyone. The chocolate beetroot loaf and the chickpea curry from The Food Medic For Life have also gone down really well!

6) There are 15 episodes of The Food Medic Podcast released to date. Which has been your favourite to record? 

I would have to say the final episode of the first series with Dr Sandro Demaio on global health.

Myself and Sandra are co-hosting a new podcast which will launch this week. The podcast is centred around the EAT-Lancet commission that was released last week which Sandro is heavily involved in. I did not commission or write any of the paper but I am helping to dissemble the information to the public. We break it down so that people can understand what is means to them as consumers and what we have to change as well as where the science is coming from.

7) Which diet or exercise myths bother you the most?

When it comes to diet there are myths that there is one ‘bad’ nutrient. One week it could be sugar, the next week it will be carbs and then it’s fats. People tend to go in roundabouts but when we look at the research we can see that all diets can be a good diet depending on what they are made up of.

8)There are a lot of people taking part in Veganuary. Is it necessary for us to supplement a vegan diet?

If you are only doing it for a month you don’t really need to worry about supplements. The biggest thing that you can’t get from a Vegan diet is Vitamin B12 which is largely from animal products. If you are only taking part in Veganuary for a month your B12 stores will be sufficient as they will last for 2-3 years. As for Vitamin D, it is not something per se that vegans need to supplement but instead something we all need to supplement with. Once you are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds you should be getting most of your vitamins and minerals.

I have written an in depth blog post about plant-based nutrition. If you are going vegan long term it may be useful to have a look it at.

9) Skipping breakfast has become very common with people using the excuse of a lack of time. What are your favourite quick breakfast to make when you are in a rush?

I think I’m a stickler for overnight oats. I’ve gone back to Uni for my masters so I feel like a jar of overnight oats is all I eat now for breakfast. I think it it something that sustains me and keeps me full while still being delicious. 

Other things I love is making up my own yoghurt pots by getting a jar, adding some fruit and granola  or oats. I’m also a huge fan of having rye toast with peanut butter and berries on top!

10) Quickfire Round

Chocolate or Nut Butter? Chocolate

Crossfit or Yoga? Crossfit

Porridge or Food Medic Fry Up? Porridge

Podcasts or Audiobooks? Podcasts

Matcha or Coffee? Coffee

Oat Milk or Almond Milk? Oat Milk

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