Interview: Liana Werner-Gray, Founder and Author of the Earth Diet

We caught up with Liana to talk natural eating, favourite recipes and Explore Cuisine pasta...

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It’s been quite the decade for natural health advocate Liana Werner-Gray. Back in 2009, she made the decision to embrace a natural lifestyle, pursuing a year-long diet solely composed of foods directly from the earth. To help her track her progress, she started a blog: The Earth Diet.

Within three months of changing her eating habits, she managed to cure herself of a number of health conditions including chronic fatigue, digestive issues and excess weight. And as she experimented with recipes, she not just hit upon dishes that boosted her health – but she found a way to make them taste delicious, too.

She’s travelled the world teaching others about the healing capabilities of the Earth Diet, released three fantastic cookery books, and heads up a team that helps people harness the powers of natural food through recipes that suit them. Inspirational, eh?

We caught up with Liana to talk natural eating, favourite recipes and Explore Cuisine pasta.

What are the principles of the ‘Earth Diet’?

The Earth Diet is about focusing on the abundance of what the Earth provides naturally, in regards to food, but also what we put on our skin and products we use around the home. It's a lifestyle that is about living as natural as possible, while in this modern tech world.

The Earth Diet (TED for short) encourages people to get back to nature and enjoy all the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, organic meats (for the meat-eaters), wild fish and seafood. TED helps people to transition from eating processed refined foods to eating more whole, natural foods.

TED has helped tens of thousands of people to get off refined table sugar and eat natural sugars like honey, fruits, dates and monk fruit instead. The "upgrade system" is about replacing a craving for cookie dough for example, with one made with natural nutritious ingredients instead.

Liana's Classic Green Smoothie

Liana's Classic Green Smoothie

Describe what sort of things you might eat and drink on a typical day.

Every day I have a green drink, whether it's a green juice, green smoothie, or liquid or powdered chlorophyll in water. I'm a big believer in a green that contains the transforming compound chlorophyll every day – keeps the doctor away! So that's what I usually start the day with.

At some point in the day I have some cacao, homemade chocolate or an unrefined chocolate bar. I love that cacao has 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries and it's a proven neuroprotective. Excellent brain food!

For lunch and dinner, I try to listen to my body as much as possible – whether it needs fats, proteins and/or carbs, etc. I do eat Explore Cuisine gluten-free pasta every other day, and mix it up between the red lentil penne, the chickpea fusilli and the mung bean fettuccine. It's just so easy with some pasta sauce, or frozen organic veggies during this quarantine!

I eat a majority plant-based diet with some grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild seafood as well.

What inspires you to eat well and keep healthy?

I love the feeling of being healthy; it's what keeps me being healthy. It's the best, most freeing feeling in the world. When I was 21 I was at rock bottom with my health – with a 3.7cm tumor in my neck, an addiction to junk foods, chronic fatigue, my digestive system not functioning correctly... I felt awful. My health was a mess. I never want to feel that way again!

I also love helping others to find these healthy foods and recipes; it is so rewarding. They keep me going and doing what I do. When I hear a testimonial from a person who healed or transformed their health it is so inspiring, and it's a ripple effect – because now they can go and inspire their community to eat nourishing foods. I don't like the idea that people have to suffer with their health, so I want to reach everyone who wants to learn about a natural lifestyle.

Liana's Vegan Tacos

Liana's Vegan Tacos

What’s your biggest food weakness?

I would say I don't have one anymore. I've only eaten natural organic foods for going on eleven years now. I eat what my body and brain craves, but in a natural way. I am healthy and so grateful.

It used to be all the bad foods you could imagine, though! I would eat gummy bears for breakfast, cookie dough for lunch, chocolate all day, fast food like KFC for dinner and pizza for dessert – haha! I would have a craving or an impulse to eat something and had to get it. I was ruled by food.

Now it's easy. When I crave pasta I enjoy Explore Cuisine, when I crave ice cream I whip cashews in my Vitamix and make homemade ice cream. I love making homemade tacos, I go to Bareburger when it's time to eat a grass-fed burger and fries... There is a way to enjoy all my favorite foods, so I replaced all the food weaknesses with strengths – as in, food that not only tastes good, but provides some nutritional value as well.

What would your advice be to someone trying the Earth Diet for the first time?

I would say start with one green drink a day. You will feel the difference after the very first drink! After seven days it becomes addictive; you know it's doing so much good for your body. Then I would say eat as clean as possible, make your transition, and don't give up – because it is a process!

Replace one thing at a time. What is your biggest food weakness or obstacle? Start there. For me, it was chocolate. I ate the wrong type of chocolate that made me sick, with white sugar, dairy, soy and who knows what other fillers. I craved chocolate the most, and so that was the first I replaced. I made chocolate balls with almond flour, honey, cacao powder and added some peanut butter. They were delicious and did the trick; I was able to not crave the unhealthy chocolate and instead ate these whenever a craving hit!

The result was I got way healthier. My body could heal. I was giving my body so many nutrients from these chocolate balls, and I lost weight! You can replace anything unhealthy you are craving with a healthier version that still tastes good. It's exciting!

Liana's Chocolate Coconut Cups

Liana's Chocolate Coconut Cups

Do you have any advice for those struggling to find what they need at the shops?

Lemon is a really great go-to! It's usually quite affordable, accessible and available everywhere. It's also loaded with Vitamin C, and helps to flush the liver and detox the body when you squeeze it into water and make lemon water.

Always shop in the vegetable section; stock up on vegetables! We cannot go wrong with eating more vegetables – all those antioxidants, mmm! And that includes potatoes – it's healthier for you to eat three potatoes then a bag of potato chips!

What is it that you like about Explore Cuisine pasta?

Where do I start? A pasta made from lentils, beans and chickpeas is a dream come true! It's delicious but also so healthy; there's no guilt associated with eating it, especially because it's got way fewer carbs then white flour pasta. It is has more protein and fibre than the traditional pasta, too – so no bloat (yahoo!).

And there is so much you can do with it. Cook it up and just add some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, or add a pasta sauce, or throw it into a stir fry with some veggies and protein... I also meal prep and keep it in my fridge and freezer so it's good to go for days. Very satisfying.

Explore Cuisine's Edamame Spaghetti

Explore Cuisine's Edamame Spaghetti

How does Explore Cuisine pasta compare to ordinary pasta?

It's made without wheat and other allergens. The ingredients are so simple – some of them being just chickpeas, or non-GMO edamame. I appreciate brands that use one or two ingredients; it shows they are confident in the flavor, and that is so healthy for us!

Gluten has proven to be unhealthy for so many, and unfortunately causes so many health issues – so Explore Cuisine is a relief to all of us who want to east pasta for the rest of our lives, but without all the gluten. Explore Cuisine is also 100% USDA organic so we know we are getting the best quality.

What’s your favourite dish to make using Explore Cuisine pasta?

I love using the chickpea fusilli when making mac 'n' cheese – I find that one works so well with it. I love the red lentil penne with a tomato sauce, the edamame spaghetti with pesto... All of them, truly!

I would have to say the green lentil no-boil lasagne noodles have a special place in my kitchen, though. It's as easy as adding the sheets to a pan with some sauce and cheese and then popping it into the oven for 40 minutes, and voila – amazing lasagne dish! I love to make a cauliflower cheese sauce to keep it plant-based, it goes so well with the green lentil noodles.

Explore Cuisine's Red Lentil Penne

Explore Cuisine's Red Lentil Penne

What swaps would you suggest to people starting to eat more healthily?

For pasta, try Explore Cuisine! If you want to try the one that tastes most like usual pasta go for the red lentil penne – that's the one I use to "convert" my family and friends! It pumps in so many veggies to your body. The body cannot really get enough of the antioxidants and vitamins from vegetables. Always eat plenty every day.

Try eliminating the "usual suspects" as much as you can; that is, foods that have been proven to cause health issues. White table sugar unfortunately comes in at first place, followed by dairy (especially for those who have lung issues), gluten, soy and anything genetically engineered (such as additives and flavorings). You will notice a big difference right away; just be aware of some detox symptoms, but it is worth it! If you have any questions at all, I would love to hear from you on Facebook or Instagram @lianawernergray.

Favourite detox:

Chlorophyll or bentonite clay

Favourite smoothie:

Chocolate Nut Berry Smoothie (in my books!)

Favourite vegetable:

Broccoli sprouts

Favourite snack:

Chocolate Balls or strawberries

Favourite meal:

Walnut crusted salmon with yucca and greens, mmm!

Best place you've ever eaten:

Byron Bay in Australia. So many epic Farm To Table places

Which country's food is the best?

America's organic food scene is the best. No other country can compete – sorry but it's true!

Favourite drink:

Homemade Margarita

Favourite comfort/hangover food:

Organic potato puffs

Signature dish:

People probably know me most for my desserts: the Chocolate Balls, Chocolate Cups, Cookie Dough, Cashew Cheesecake, Cashew Ice Cream...

You can find out more about Liana at The Earth Diet.

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