A wholesome diet of carefully sourced clean food is the foundation of good health. If you are struggling with IBS or intolerance to common foods such as dairy, soy or gluten, this is especially important. Charlotte shares her insights about discovering the diet that’s perfect for you, and how to eat well on a limited budget.
Paying attention to her body’s responses to food showed Charlotte, the blogger behind TheRumbleCure.com, the link between the food she ate and how healthy and vibrant she felt. Whole foods are the backbone of the recipes she now concocts, designing new versions of her old favorites, from tacos to shortcake to soup. Charlotte’s recipes rely on high-quality, yet budget-friendly ingredients, and she makes a clean food diet look delicious, easy and affordable.
She also blends her cooking expertise into her work as an AmeriCorps VISTA member working in an anti-poverty program by handing out healthy recipe cards at the farmers market in Tennessee. She tells Ethical Foods about her food journey, beginning with her realization that the standard American diet was hurting her health to her decision to draw upon her informal culinary training to create better versions of traditional recipes for her blog.
What is your food philosophy? What are some important guidelines you use to decide what to eat and where to source ingredients?
My philosophy is simply to eat whole foods that come from the earth. Nature hardly ever steers us in the wrong direction. From these foods, I eat what makes me feel vibrant, full of energy, and happy. I pay close attention to what my body needs, and how how the foods I eat make me feel. Paying attention to how you react to foods is the best thing you can do in order to find a healthy balance.
I tend to fill my plate with lots of vegetables and fruit, and some days I feel like eating a bit of humanely-raised meat or bone broth, while some other days I gravitate towards my favorite grains, like wild rice or buckwheat. Needs can change daily and throughout life based on activity level, hormones and gender, time of life, etc.
When it comes to animal products, there are so many different labels and very few people really know what they mean. It can be very confusing. How do you decide which ones to purchase, and why?
The best way to figure out where to buy good sources of animal products is to ask a ton of questions! I talk to the farmer who raises the animals, or research the farm if I don’t have that option. My meat and dairy come from local sources that I know and trust. I ask questions to make sure the animals are eating a diet that’s natural to them (i.e. grass and hay for cows, bugs and non-GMO grains for chickens, etc.), that the animals are given adequate space to roam and graze, and that they aren’t treated with antibiotics or hormones.
Was there a turning point in your life where you decided to change your diet?
During college I began having chronic digestion issues. My diet relied on the required freshman meal plan in a dining hall that served conventionally raised meat, genetically modified produce, and hydrogenated oils. I had low energy, feelings of fuzziness (especially after eating), bloating, cramps, and gas pains every day. My irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have become much more debilitating if I hadn’t taken the steps to diagnose and address my diet.
What are the biggest changes you’ve made in your own eating, and how have they affected you?
By far the biggest change I’ve made is listening to my body. It’s definitely something that takes time and patience to learn, but it’s worth the effort. A good way to start to learn how the body responds to foods is to do an elimination diet. This is what I did to address my IBS. I did this my sophomore year in college, and here’s what I did: For a month I went without sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or any refined/processed foods.
The first two weeks were a struggle. I think I had some serious sugar withdrawals. But after that, it was like a layer of fuzziness was lifted from my life—everything was clear and vibrant and I had so much energy. At the end of the month, I reintroduced each of these food groups one at a time (except for the highly processed foods, which I kicked to the curb forever). My body’s reaction told me I could tolerate dairy. But when I reintroduced gluten, I felt bloated, sick, and tired again.
Since then, I’ve drastically decreased the amount of sugar I eat, cut out gluten completely, and stick to only whole foods. I feel amazing. I recommend experimenting with food, see how your body feels after eating certain things, then adjust accordingly.
Do you find it costs a lot more to eat carefully sourced sustainable foods? If so, do you have any tips for eating well within a budget?
Buying a choice cut of of organic, grass-fed steak every week is not realistic for most people. I have a limited budget as an AmeriCorps VISTA member (we’re paid a stipend that reflects the average poverty level in our area). To get high-quality forms of protein on a budget, I buy bags of (organic and grass fed) beef bones for $2 to $3 dollars per bag. I make bone broth with them and use this nutrient-dense, sustainable protein source to cook grains, beans, and to make soups.
When I do buy whole cuts, I find deals based on what there is an abundance of. I also use meat as a topping or side, and usually don’t consider it the main dish. I buy high-quality raw milk as a delicious form of protein as well.
Is there a lot of trial and error involved in creating these recipes? Do you have any formal culinary training or are you a self-taught cook?
Trial and error is a big part of cooking and perfecting a dish. It’s a joy to experiment with grain-free and gluten-free baking because there are so many possible combinations with all the flours there are to choose from. My culinary experience comes from traveling and cooking my way through four regions in Italy, where I learned the art of pasta making, cheese making, bread making, and wine drinking. I also traveled to Scotland, where I learned to smoke fish, pluck and dress pheasants, make scones, and more.
However, the basis of my cooking experience comes from helping my mother, who is also a self-taught cook, in the kitchen from an early age. She has mastered a variety of cuisines, including Italian, Thai, Indian, and more. I also study cookbooks and get inspiration from the vegetables, fruits, and herbs that I grow.
My two biggest motivators are that I love food, and I am very much against the Standard American Diet—SAD—which is full of terrible ingredients. So, I make any dish that I’m craving (tacos, shortcake, or soup) in a way that’s healthy and satisfying.
You recently visited a farmers market, where you handed out recipe cards. What made you decide to step outside the blogger format and introduce your recipes in person?
I wanted to make my recipes accessible to everyone, regardless of Internet access. Many people don’t have the luxury of logging onto a computer to search for recipes to make for dinner. Many people also don’t have the luxury of being able to to afford to buy cookbooks. I decided the recipe cards were a good way to inspire healthy cooking on a budget for those people shopping at the farmers market. Customers were especially excited about the card for the pesto recipe, which is always a crowd pleaser.
What do you hope readers take away from your blog?
I hope that readers can find inspiration for eating a whole foods diet from my blog. Most people want to eat healthy, but it can be hard with all of the tempting treats, the fast paced lifestyles we live, and the limited budgets. When I’m tempted by something tasty, like the wedding cakes mentioned in my ‘grain free lemon pound cake with strawberry whipped coconut cream,’ blog post, I recreate a healthy, whole foods version, and post it to inspire others to choose the best ingredients for their bodies.
I want my blog to be a space where I can share simple dishes that inspire others to live full, happy, and healthy lives.
With so many different, and sometimes opposing, views about what people should and shouldn’t be eating, what simple advice can you offer readers who want to make healthier choices?
Eat whole foods from the earth, cook at home as often as possible, and listen to what your body says it needs. After much research and sifting through convoluted and often controversial studies and health advice, I’ve come to learn that nutrition and health are personal journeys, none of which will be the same. I recommend exploring different foods and seeing what fuels your body the best. Knowing what’s in your food and cooking at home are key to becoming healthy.
Visit Charlotte’s website: TheRumbleCure.com
Learn ways to eat more healthy foods in season
Tips for saving money on organic, local, humane foods.
In The Kitchen