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9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density (AIP/Paleo)

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density
My go-to nutrient dense meal - hash with a side of fermented vegetables
9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density!

The thing about the Autoimmune Protocol – or any healthy approach to eating – is that it is just as much about what you add to your diet as it is about what you remove. When you start out down this rabbit-hole, it’s very easy to focus on all the things you are no longer able to eat. In the process, you can lose sight of all the things you can, and should, be adding.

“Take care of your body. it’s the only place you have to live in.” – Jim Rohn

Focusing on adding nutrients is a paradigm shift for many of my crew – they tell me it has been useful for them in managing feelings of deprivation.

So, here’s my ‘starter’ list of 9 ways to add nutrient density… Let me know what you think? I’d love to know what ways you add more nutrients to your plate.

1. Add at least one more vegetable to every meal

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

Dr Terry Wahls* is well known for her recommendation of nine cups per day. It’s a pretty good goal – and, nine cups is an awful lot of veggies if you’re not an avid veggie fan. She advises you break your veggie eating down into the following:

3 cups of leafy greens: Includes kale, arugula, beet greens, chard, collard greens, lettuce, spinach. (Excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, and B.)

3 cups of colours: Includes avocado, celery, beets, cherries, blueberries, olives, plums, carrots, mango, squash (Bright colours are an indication of high levels of antioxidants.)

3 cups of sulfur rich: Includes the entire cabbage family, mushrooms, and the onion family. (Sulfur supports the liver in detoxification and is important for synthesizing protein and producing collagen.)

Let’s face it – nine cups is a lot! If you’re a newbie at eating this many vegetable in a day – every day – why not set yourself a goal of adding just one more vegetable to every meal? Oh – and if you’re wondering about the coleslaw in the pic, that’s my SUPERFOOD Hauskraut ‘Slaw. It’s a good recipe if you’re after variety.

And, while you’re at it, how about making a game of adding a vegetable you’ve never tried before to your diet every week? Who knows – perhaps kohlrabi will become your new favourite? Maybe celeriac will start to trump potatoes for you?

“The power of healing is within you. All you need to do is give your body what it needs and remove what is poisoning it. You can restore your own health by what you do – not by the pills you take, but by how you choose to live.” – Terry Wahls, MD

*Terry guest-posted about The Science Behind Eating for your Cellular Health and I also interviewed her as part of our Healing Protocols podcast. It was a great episode. It is possible that I even made the great Terry Wahls cry!


Sea vegetables grow in the world’s largest, oldest, most complete mineral bath. As a result, they are among the richest sources of iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and other minerals essential to the human body.

And, while I know that eating more sea veggies are good for me, I am guilty of forgetting to eat them. So, I add them to bone broth, include them in my homemade fermented vegetables, and make my AIP version of furikake and also seaweed salt!

Making your own seaweed salt could not be easier. All you need is some good sea salt and some dried sea vegetables – like dulse, nori, wakame or kombu. For every 1/4 cup of salt, you’ll need at least 2 teaspoons of your seaweed-of-choice. Throw your two ingredients into your mortar and pestle and give it a good mixing before storing in an airtight container.

Bonus – seaweed counts towards your daily vegetable goals!

3. Experiment with Liver PÂTÉ

Liver is widely recognised as one of nature’s superfoods.

Unfortunately, despite its nutrient dense profile, not everybody finds liver the most palatable of foods. But I’m here to tell you that eating more liver is one of the very best ways you can add nutrient density to your diet.

Arguably, one of the easiest ways to eat this not-so-universally loved ingredient is in liver pâté. I grew up on My Mum’s Chicken Liver Pâté (and it remains my favourite way to eat it) but, if you’re after a few more options, check out this post – The GREAT AIP-Friendly Liver Recipe Round-Up.

Finding a liver recipe that you actually enjoy eating is a great way to ensure you’re maxing your nutrient density. And – small hint – liver pâté tastes fantastic on apple slices!

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

If you’re still not convinced, consider that the Weston A Price organisation has this to say about liver: –

“Liver contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. It provides:

– An excellent source of high-quality protein
– Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
– All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
– One of our best sources of folic acid
– A highly usable form of iron
– Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
– An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
– CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
– A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.”

4. Create a Signature Green Sauce

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

I’m a massive fan of the green sauce – that lovely herb-filled number with a myriad of uses.

It seems I’m not alone in this. The Italian’s call it salsa verde. So do the Spanish. The French call it sauce verte. The German version is either Grüne Soße or Frankfurter Grie Soß.

Whatever you call this little number, it’s a great way to add nutrient density to your plate. It’s chock-full of anti-oxidant containing herbs. It lifts the most simple of grilled meats or fish, and it tastes great over simple roast veggies, too.

At last count I had seven different recipe posts on green sauce, Have I mentioned how much I love it as a way to add more nutrient dense oomph to my meals?

There’s my Lucky Dip Green Sauce Equation or my How to Make Green Sauce, if you’re feeling experimental. Alternatively, if you prefer a proper recipes, I give you:

I really love green sauce!)

5. Have a homemade salad dressing recipe (from memory) up your sleeve

I’m pretty fast and loose with my salad dressings. But, I do follow this basic principle:

A classic vinaigrette-style dressing has a ratio of 1 part vinegar or other acid (like lemon or lime juice) to 3 parts oil (like olive or avocado). This will give you a well-balanced taste.

To make 1 cup of the simplest AIP-friendly dressing, I use my No Frills Salad Dressing as a base.

Of course, while it’s absolutely fine as is, you can add optional extras to lift your homemade dressing even further. Fresh pepper, if successfully reintroduced, is a no brainer.

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

Other options are:

  • minced shallot
  • chopped fresh herbs
  • dried herbs
  • seaweed
  • minced anchovies
  • minced capers
  • mustard (if seed spices have been successfully reintroduced)

Once you start making your own salad dressings, you’ll never go back to store bought.

And, don’t even get me started on homemade mayonnaise!

6. Cook once to eat twice (or thrice)

You already know that this is my mantra! I’m one of those lucky people who enjoys pottering around in my kitchen. But, even I don’t want to spend endless hours cooking meals from scratch every day.

My answer is to cook once to eat twice (or even, thrice)!

I often double my slow-cook recipes. I can squeeze two generous pieces of brisket or five very large lamb shanksinto my le Creuset dutch oven. That means I have the protein element of 3, or even 4 meals, for the two of us sorted. And, it makes life so much easier!

When I’m roasting my vegetables, I make a  h u g e  tray – enough to last me a few days. I’ll eat these re-heated with some leftover protein, happy fat and fermented veggies for breakfast or cold as part of a salad. They are good as an extra serve of veggies on a pureed soup in the winter, too.

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

7. Make friends with your local farmer(s)

Here in Sydney, we are lucky to have access to a wonderful array of farmers’ markets. Long before I started my personal AIP health caper, heading to my preferred market was one of the highlights of my week. It still is.

I now get twitchy if I miss a Saturday morning at the markets. It’s where I catch up with the farmers and providores and learn about what’s happening in my local region. I love it.

Lauren and Greg from Linga Longa Farm have become friends. So has George (and his family) at Farmer George Lamb. And, don’t let me forget Beth at Burrawong Gaian Poultry or Sally from Holbrook Paddock Eggs , too. Kurrawong Organics sells the best local and organic vegetables – and I know it’s all seasonal and free of nasties.

My weekly market expedition gives me opportunities to try new cuts of meat and previously un-tried types of vegetables. We share ideas – Lauren is making wonderful bone broth as a result of our weekly chats (and selling it!). Making friends with my local farmers allows me to feel connected to my community in a way that I would never experience at my local supermarket and, I have the added benefit of trusting that the product I am buying is good for me, too.

8. Make nutrient density your (new) hobby

9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

There are oodles of options to consider when considering a new ‘nutrient dense’ hobby. And, the best thing about this option is that it will probably end up saving you money, too.

One thing about this way of life is that it takes time. This has been a good thing for me – it has meant slowing things down. Often, nutrient dense foods take time – nature doesn’t rush. So, making nutrient density your hoby has other, unexpected health benefits, too.

If you are (still) following a strict AIP elimination diet, consider these options:

  • shop at your local farmers’ maket
  • start a herb garden
  • grow your own vegetables
  • Ferment your vegetables
  • Make your own kombucha. (My buddy Eileen from Phoenix Helix has a whole series dedicated to the mighty ‘buch!)
  • Make your own additive-free coconut yogurt 
  • prepare your own seasoned salts (see above for my seaweed salt number)

9. Use your freezer wisely

Of course your freezer can be used for storing your animal protein after the market shop for the week – but, with a little planning, it has lots of other uses, too.

  • Things like cauliflower rice, pureed roasted pumpkin and nightshade-free Tomato Passata Replacement can be prepared in bulk and frozen into portion sizes ready to defrost in no time at all.
  • Freeze your in-season leafy greens: Pick up a BIG haul of in-season organic leafy greens (like chard, kale or spinach). Using your blender, blend up your greens with a little water to help it along. Once it’s blended, pour it into a muffin tray and let it sit in the freezer until fully frozen. Once they’re frozen, pop them out of the muffin tray and store them in a container. Great for smoothies and soups.
  • Use leftover herbs and spices to make flavour bombs. These babies are one of my preferred ways to add nutrients to my meals.
  • Make a double batch of my Soup Equation soup and freeze in mug-sized portion sizes.
9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density

So, there you are. My starter list for adding more nutrient density to your diet. Perhaps you have some tricks that you’d like to share? Please don’t be shy about leaving a comment below with any tips you use for increasing nutrient density…

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Comments (6)

Petra Chambers-Sinclair

These are such great ideas! Thank you, Jo. I’m inspired.

I’m sure you have some banging tricks up your sleeve, Petra…?!?

Great tips! I love the seaweed salt idea and will be making some today! 🙂
My tip: If we end up with more leafy greens from our garden that we can eat while fresh, I dehydrate and powder them to sprinkle in everything…soup, smoothies, salad dressing, etc.

Hethyr – you’re a rock star! I loved that tip the first time you mentioned it and it was GREAT to have a reminder. Thank you!

I reckon some of your dehydrated greens added to a good salt woiuld be good, too…

Great post, Jo! Last year, I had WAY more kale than I could eat. It was also getting tough. Lazy, I just tore it off the stems & stuffed it into freezer ziplocks. No washing or prepping (eat dirt, right? ?) This winter, I. crushed some with my hands into a colander, rinsed, squeezed extra water off, added to my soups. It worked great! Plus, it was tender!

I LOVE this. Not least because it’s an example of how a little fore-thought can mean added nutrient density down the track.

Here’s to eating dirt, too!

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