Whether you’re a conscientious carnivore, a vegetarian or going gluten-free, we love Jared Koch’s Clean Plates site and cookbook for restaurant reviews, recipes and tips to help boost our health and keep our taste buds happy. Jared graduated pre-med from the University of Michigan and is a nutritionist and health coach certified by the Teachers College of Columbia University, Global Institute of Alternative Medicine and as well as another school we love, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. We asked Jared to fill us in on a few of his ideas about what he calls “bio-individuality” and sculpting a healthy lifestyle perfect just for you.

Vegan. Raw foodist. Vegetarian. Forager. Carnivore.

The question isn’t “Which should you be?” It’s “Which one are you?”

That’s the basis for bio-individuality, which essentially means that we’re all unique beings with unique nutritional needs. What’s best for you may not be best for the person next to you (or even for other people in your family). And once you figure out the foods that make your body thrive, you’ll be at your healthiest. Here’s how to tailor your own custom-made, ideal diet:

1. Send dogma to the dogs. People often get caught up in the rules of a specific diet, such as vegetarian, raw foodist or vegan. But not every aspect of those diets may be right for you as an individual. Listen to your body: sticking to rigid rules can make us stop paying attention to our real needs.

2. Tune in. If you suffer from stomach upset, skin problems or chronic lack of energy, that could be your body telling you that its biochemistry is off – and that something in your diet isn’t right for you. You may love wheat and eggs, but if they don’t love you, it could be worth trying a change.

3. Experiment. If you’re showing symptoms, you might try going off certain foods for three to four weeks, to see if they clear up. Common culprits include dairy, sugar, gluten and highly processed foods (because they can contain so many chemicals). Often, it’s a chemical or a dye, not even a food group, that causes a sensitivity.

4. Cook something up. Trying out recipes from different dietary styles can also help you understand what your body needs. In the new Clean Plates Cookbook, we included recipes to suit everyone from raw foodists to meat-and-potato lovers (plus quite a few of those recipes come from celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver and Iron Chef winner Marc Forgione), so you can mix and match according to your taste.

And remember the key tenet to bio-individuality: no matter how convinced someone is that their diet is right for you or how tempting an extreme diet may be, to feel your best, just be yourself.

  • Roasted Tomato Soup, from Ann Gentry, founder of Real Food Daily, serves 6 to 8

  • Ingredients:
    • 4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, quartered
    • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
    • 12 large garlic cloves, chopped
    • 6 Tbsp. organic extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • fine sea salt to taste
    • freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 2 medium-size red onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
    • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
    • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 4 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
  • Instructions:
    • Preheat the oven to 500F.
    • In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, 1/4 c. of the olive oil, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture, along with any accumulated juices, to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, skin side down, and roast until charred on the edges, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then slip the skins off the tomatoes.
    • In a large saucepan or small stockpot over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the basil, parsley, and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Stir in the roasted tomatoes, along with any accumulated juices, and 5 c. of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook gently to allow the flavors to blend, about 8 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
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