Are you searching for the best diet for your family that improves digestion and nutrition while tasting great? Try the traditional diet or Weston A Price Diet!
The very idea of being penned in a by a specific diet makes me feel a bit rebellious. Some “expert” telling me which foods I can and cannot eat simply goes agains human nature.
Our human psyche naturally makes “diets” impossible to stick to. When we are told we can’t have something, it makes us want it that much more.
The additional challenge for me is that I’ve seen firsthand how cutting out food groups often leads to severe nutritional deficiencies. Our bodies have a specific balance of nutrients that must be obtained, or symptoms like fatigue, allergies, anxiety, skin conditions, and a plethora of other diseases pop up.
Also, it simply doesn’t make sense to me that God would create beautiful foods that are “bad” or “off limits” for us.
For these reasons, I forsook anything that had a specific diet attached to its name.
At the same time, I wanted to be healthy. I just knew there had to be a nourishing way to eat, that includes all of God’s foods, tastes wonderful, and doesn’t leave me feeling deprived.
I started wondering, “What is the healthiest diet in the world?”
While I bucked against the idea of restrictive diets in my quest for the healthiest way to eat, there was one eating principle that made complete sense to me: Don’t eat fake foods.
By “fake foods” I mean chemicals, colorings, additives, preservatives, or foods that have been processed beyond the point of recognition. To me, those foods aren’t difficult to give up because I don’t feel good after eating them anyway.
The principle of “don’t eat fake foods” also aligns with my belief that God made foods for us in their natural form, and that messing with them carries the repercussion of suboptimal health. For more information on this, read “What Does the Bible Say About Food? Does God Care What I Eat?”
Because of my aversion to diets in general, imagine my surprise when I found a diet that actually does resonate with me. But it’s more of a non-diet diet. Allow me to explain.
My Discovery of Traditional, Weston A. Price Diet Principles
I was first introduced to the Weston A Price diet when I leafed through a large yellow volume on my mom’s kitchen bookshelf. Titled “Nourishing Traditions,” I was immediately drawn to the beautiful colorful illustrations on its cover.
Also intriguing is the premise behind the book – it focuses on traditional foods that have been eaten by traditional cultures for thousands of years. It remains my favorite book on my shelf, to date.
Written by Sally Fallon (Morrell) and Mary G. Enig, Nourishing Traditions is actually a cookbook filled with traditional, real foods that have been eaten for centuries by a variety of cultures. This type of eating was, in large part, discovered by Weston A. Price.
Weston A Price was a dentist in the 1930s who noticed a sharp increase in cavities, tooth decay, and dental crowding in his patients (particularly children). He reasoned that a lack of nutrients might be to blame. So, he and his wife set out on a journey across the globe to find which cultures had the best dental structure and fewest cavities.
What he found was that primitive cultures with no access to modernized convenience foods had the best teeth (and as such, a better bone structure also). He discovered tribes who had straight, white teeth, no cavities, and strong jaw structure, and (surprisingly) a lack of disease in the body as well. Aside from this, these people had high levels of energy & vitality and were extremely fertile also.
Based on this research, Price wrote the classic health book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration which concludes that a modern Western diet filled with sugar, refined flour, and processed vegetable oils is to blame for many of the health maladies experienced today.
While each of the cultures Price studied ate different types of foods (mostly indigineous to their environment), each had the same basic principles, as outlined below.
Traditional Diet & Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) Diet Principles
Here’s a quote from the Weston A. Price Foundation website that perfectly describes their principles:
People seeking health today often condemn certain food groups — such as grains, dairy foods, meat, salt, fat, sauces, sweets and nightshade vegetables — but the Wise Traditions Diet is inclusive, not exclusive.– Weston A. Price Foundation
We show you how to include all these nourishing traditional foods in your diet through wise choices and proper preparation techniques. The result is vibrant health for every age of life, including the next generation.
I love that! The WAPF diet is inclusive, not exclusive – the key is in the preparation techniques. Below, I’ve outlined the recommended foods and gone into further detail.
1. A strong focus on clean, pasture raised animal foods including organ meats (the most nutrient dense foods on the planet).
All of the traditional cultures studied by Price included some sort of animal foods in their diet. One of the things that set them apart, though, was that they didn’t eat the muscle meat by itself (typical of American culture). They consumed all parts of the animal: organs, marrow, etc. These foods were revered by ancient cultures as “superfoods” and have since been proven to be the most nutrient dense foods you can possibly eat.
Take beef liver, for example. According to Healthline, “People often look to fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, but liver far surpasses them all in terms of nutrient content.” One 3.5 ounce serving contains:
- Over 3000% of the daily recommended amount (RDI) of B12
- 860-1,100% RDI of vitamin A
- 1,620% RDI of copper
- 210-260% RDI of Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- 80% RDI of Iron (35% for menstruating women)
- and more!
(FYI, I take dessicated liver capsules from Perfect Supplements.)
Liver is just one example of a nutrient-dense organ meat. There are many more! These ancient cultures knew these organs possessed vital nutrients. They were especially sure to feed them to pregnant and nursing mothers.
Not only does eating the “whole animal” give you extra nutrition, it actually helps you absorb the nutrients from muscle meats better, as well. The animals they consumed were also pasture raised, typically raised and loved by the family they nourished as well.
2. Lots of healthy fats which contain plenty of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K.
Healthy, natural fats are absolutely essential for absorbing vitamins and assimilating protein. Our brains are made up primarily of fat, and fat actually helps us absorb our vitamins and minerals better.
Healthy fats include fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, & K which are essential to life. Not just any fat will do (modernized plant and vegetable oils are a no-no!) Healthy fats include:
- Fats from clean animal sources (beef tallow, chicken fat, duck fat, and lard)
- Lots of grass fed butter
- Coconut oil
For more info about why the right kind of fats are so good for you, read The Skinny on Fat by Butter Nutrition.
3. Raw and cultured dairy products
Modern pasteurization and homogenization methods destroy most of the beneficial enzymes and probiotics in milk, which causes dairy sensitivities in many people. It’s also messing with the amount of nutrients we are absorbing from our dairy products!
For example, raw dairy contains the enzyme lactase, which helps to break down lactose (making it more friendly for lactose intolerant individuals). This enzyme is destroyed in commercial pasteurization.
Cultured dairy (like kefir and thick raw milk yogurt) adds even more probiotic benefits and reduces lactose even further! Here’s how I make kefir from scratch (it’s like a pourable yogurt and has even more probiotics).
One note of caution for consuming raw milk. It’s vitally important that you get it from a clean source. Visit the farm, see the cows’ living conditions, ask questions about how they are raised. And for further safety, read this wonderful piece from Traditional Cooking School, Raw Milk: Questions to Ask Your Farmer.
We get ours from My Dad & Me Family Farm. If you’re in the Alabama or Georgia areas, definitely see if they have a co-op near you! Can’t say enough good things about them and their farming practices.
4. Locally grown produce, often cultured or fermented (extra probiotics)
When you eat produce that’s locally grown, not only does it taste better, but it also retains many more vitamins and minerals than produce that is shipped from far away in the off-season. Plus, it’s cheaper to eat foods in season! It also makes home grown tomatoes and blackberry cobbler that much more exciting.
With our modern conveniences, we actually have the best of both worlds since the freezer section is filled with flash frozen produce that contains almost as many vitamins as when it was picked. So our family does a mix of fresh, in season produce and frozen off season fruits and veggies. Stay away from canned, since canned foods contain less nutrients!
Another tenet of the traditional diet is naturally fermented, cultured, or pickled vegetables and condiments. People preserved their fresh produce using methods like lacto-fermentation, which enhances nutrient content and adds probiotics to the diet for gut health.
5. Properly prepared grains and legumes – either soaked, sprouted, or fermented.
Grains and legumes are actually an amazing food God created for our nourishment. What makes them so great is that they are literally self-preserving. The bran/germ/shell on the outside of the grain creates a protective barrier for it. This gives the grain/legume an extremely long shelf life. This was absolutely essential in times before refrigeration and freezers, so people always had access to nourishing foods in the winter months when produce was scarce.
But with the built-in convenience of storage for long periods comes a trade off. These foods must, absolutely must, be prepared properly.
Have you noticed how many people are sensitive to grains these days? In many cases, people aren’t reacting to the grains or legumes – they are reacting to improper preparation methods.
Our instant gratification society has also extended this ideaology to food prep. People just grab whatever grain or legume they like and cook it right then and there. Traditional cultures, however, understood that these foods needed careful preparation before cooking. Grains and legumes were always soaked for long periods and rinsed well before cooking, or sprouted/fermented for maximum nutrition.
The reason soaking/sprouting is so important is that it breaks down the phytic acid within the grain, which is the indigestible part of it. This phytic acid binds to vitamins and minerals, making them unable to be assimilated by the body. Soaking virtually eliminates the phytic acid, unlocking all of the amazing vitamins and minerals within the grain!
Getting in the habit of soaking beans, oatmeal, rice, etc. is so simple. You just have to think ahead and soak whatever you are going to use the night before. For bread, traditional sourdough is the best option since quick-rise refined breads are hard to digest. Here’s an incredible resource on starting your own sourdough routine! (If you don’t want to bake your own yet, ALDI makes a yummy sourdough loaf.)
For more specifics on the recommendations of the Weston A. Price Dietary Guidelines and a Weston A. Price food list, see this article on their website. For extra tips on incorporating this type of diet into your daily life, read How to Transition to a Real Food, Traditionally Prepared Diet.
Why I love the Traditional/Weston A Price Diet
Now that I’ve outlined the dietary principles of WAPF, let me tell you all the reasons I love this way of eating SO much. If you’re wondering “What are the advantages of traditional food?”, read on!
1. It is the most reasonable and balanced of all diets.
Essentially, it’s not a “diet” in the restrictive sense of the term. It’s a lifestyle and way of eating for people who love food and want to get the maximum nutrition from it. And who also don’t want to be penned in by a specific set of rules.
A Traditional Diet also aligns with a Biblical diet – God told people to eat plant foods and grains (Genesis 1:29), and animal foods (Genesis 9:3), so they must all have benefits for us!
2. It prevents nutrient deficiencies and makes foods more digestible (gut health), helping the body better absorb vitamins & minerals.
I love that this entire way of eating focuses on healing the gut and making the foods as easy to digest as possible. It’s so logical – rather than cutting out foods that might be irritating, why not learn how to prepare them the correct way!
You don’t have to sacrifice to have a happy gut and benefit from maximum nutrition. Eating by WAPF principles ensures your body is absorbing the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals, thus preventing nutrient deficiencies and disease. Having struggled with iron deficiency recently, I want to do everything I can to prevent things like this in the future.
3. It makes your food taste better! You learn to love real food.
Since incorporating the WAPF principles into my life, I have noticed myself truly enjoying my foods more than ever. High quality meats and dairy? YES! Real butter? Most definitely! And my beans and grains taste so much better, creamier and more delicious after being soaked.
Instead of missing out on life’s pleasures, I am enjoying them to their full potential with the satisfaction that my family is being truly nourished.
4. The emphasis on fat/protein was something I was missing.
While I’ve always tried to eat healthy, somewhere along the way I think I subconsciously subscribed to the notion of limiting or reducing animal products (particularly fats). I was careful not to overuse butter, cheese, fatty meat etc. because I was afraid of weight gain or health issues.
But learning from the wisdom of traditional cultures about how key protein and fat is (particularly for women of childbearing age) for optimal health has given me liberty to eat the amount that I feel like eating. I’m just listening to my body.
Postpartum, I struggled with iron deficiency anemia which (I have since learned) can be exacerbated by improper grain preparation and a lack of protein and fat in the diet. In the last 6 months, since increasing the amount of fat and protein I’m eating at every meal and preparing grains/legumes properly, my iron levels have stabilized (and actually gone up) on their own, without the need for lots of supplements! I’m so happy!
Another benefit of eating more fat/protein is that I’m more satiated, so I’m snacking a lot less between meals.
5. An emphasis on optimal health instead of weight loss
One thing that bugs me about most diets (whether Weight Watchers, Keto, Low Carb, etc.) is that the over-arching focus seems to be on losing weight. Which is important for many people, of course. But it’s not as important as enjoying good health.
In my opinion, the point of any particular way of eating should be to achieve optimum health, not simply to lose fat. And many times, when a person reaches better health, weight normalizes on its own.
I still have 10-15 pounds I need to lose, but my past health issues really threw my cortisol and hormone levels off balance. This can also contribute to weight gain.
So right now, I’m just focusing on reaching my highest level of health before I put a lot of emphasis on losing weight (I’m also reducing my sugar intake). I think once everything is balanced back out, weight loss will be a lot easier. I’ve already noticed improvements!
6. An emphasis on a pre-conception diet
The emphasis on an ultra nutrient-dense, pre-conception diet is one of the most intriguing aspects of WAPF principles. In traditional cultures, a huge importance is placed on preparing for pregnancy and breastfeeding with a period of special foods that are extremely high in nutrients.
This is a concept I never considered before having children. “Pop a few prenatal vitamins, and I’ll be good to go,” I thought. I had no idea what a serious undertaking it was for my body to grow and sustain another human life!
Pregnancy and breastfeeding require a lot nutrients to ensure that a baby is born healthy and free of defects, and that the mother has everything she needs for optimum health also. This is one reason we see so many new mothers (myself included) struggling postpartum. Things like anemia, low vitamin D levels, and postpartum depression are so common. Our bodies literally don’t have enough nutrition to keep up with the demands of our system functioning and growing a new baby!
The practice of a pre-conception diet perfectly embodies the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ensuring your baby is super strong and healthy goes a long way toward disease prevention for them throughout life.
WAPF principles suggest a period of 6 months following the pre-conception diet if you are already healthy before trying to conceive, and a period of 1-2 years (or more) if your health is compromised in some way. This ensures a healthy and easy pregnancy for mother and baby.
For more specifics on this practice, read Sally Fallon Morrell’s new book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care.
The easiest way to incorporate these Traditional Diet principles into your life
When I sat down to write this post, I felt a bit daunted by the task of listing all the reasons I love the Traditional/Weston A. Price Diet so much. But I found that the words just flowed because I am so passionate about this wonderful way of eating! It really is so life giving and nourishing! I can’t say enough good things about it, and my kids love eating this way too.
While eating this way is so simple to me now, there is a bit of a learning curve when you first get started. That’s why I love Traditional Cooking School!
Wardee from Traditional Cooking School is a mom who transformed her family’s health by following the principles outlined in the Nourishing Traditions book. She wanted to find a way to make this lifestyle easy for busy parents and create a new culture of cooking foods the way they were meant to be cooked!
The easiest way to get started nourishing your family with a traditional diet is by signing up for Traditional Cooking School’s eCourses. These eBooks and courses really helped me take solid steps toward traditional cooking and didn’t overwhelm me. I highly recommend the Fundamentals I & II eCourse!
If you want to learn traditional cooking step-by-step, check it out! I am so impressed by how easy, practical, and user-friendly the courses are. She is so good at explaining and breaking everything down.
You can also sign up for the FREE Traditional Cooking Cupboard to get 14+ eBooks & recipes. You can go as deep as you want or keep things super simple.
I’m also blessed to work with Wardee’s writing team at TraditionalCookingSchool.com as a monthly contributor. I have been nothing short of blown away with the great resources TCS has available.
Huge fan, right here (can you tell?)!
Do you eat a traditional diet? Do these principles resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!