What is “Clean Eating”? And How to Get Started

A Beginner’s Guide to the “Clean Eating” Phenomena

The practice of eating Real Food!

Clean eating is the popular term these days that refers to the simple practice of avoiding processed and refined foods, and pursuing a diet consisting mostly of whole foods, aka “real food”.  The benefits from readjusting your eating habits in this manor are vast.  You can gain proper nutrition, control your weight, help prevent and manage diseases/ailments, detoxify, and generally improve your health.

When I first started my nutrition program last year I knew I’d want to start a blog to practice sharing my new knowledge, despite my hatred for blogging – which is really a fear of having absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to write/post about.  (A thriving fear, based on the paltry number of posts up thus far!)  So I asked a few friends what they want to know about getting healthy, and one of my best friends asked “What is clean eating? And how will it make me skinny?” Well, six months later I’m finally putting something up for you. Sorry it took me forever!


Beginner's Guide to Clean Eating - What is "Clean Eating"? And How to Do I Do it (easily)?

GOOD BASIC PRACTICES TO JUMP-START YOUR JOURNEY TO EATING CLEAN

  • EAT WHOLE FOODS – whole foods are foods that haven’t been touched at all in a manufacturing plant or lab.  “Straight off the farm” :

o   Fruits (look for local & in season)

o   Vegetables (look for local & in season)

o   Whole grains

o   Grass-fed and free-range meats, poultry & fish

o   Unrefined fats and oils

o   Eggs from free range hens – they eat grass, grubs & bugs

  • AVOID PROCESSED FOODS – Strictly speaking, processed foods are any foods that have a label.  You don’t have to eliminate these from your diet!  But READ INGREDIENT LABELS! And if they contain anything you don’t recognize and/or can’t pronounce, don’t put it in your basket.
  • ELIMINATE REFINED SUGAR – if you’re going to eat sugar, eat it in the form of raw honey, pure maple syrup, dates, or at worst cane sugar, NEVER artificial sugar.
  • COOK YOUR OWN MEALS – with your own whole and real foods and real sugar, so you know what’s going into your food.  Best alternatives to sugar:

o   Raw honey

o   Date sugar

o   Pure maple syrup

o   Agave nectar

  • COMBINE PROTEIN AND CARBS – when you do snack or eat a meal, make sure that it’s balanced, so that you’re satiated (full).  If you eat real food, and a balanced combination, you’ll feel fuller faster.  Meaning your body won’t feel the need to eat as much but will be able to utilize the nutrients and kcal more productively.
  • EAT 5-6 SMALL MEALS / DAY –  Split up your normally larger 3 meals / day into more meals throughout the day. This will help increase your metabolism, plus you’ll never feel hungry because you’ll constantly be snacking.

HOW REAL FOOD AND CLEAN EATING WILL HELP YOU STAY HEALTHY & TRIM

While initial adjustment from modern foods and conveniences may seem [like a burden/monumental], you won’t feel you need to compromise or missing some of your favorite foods.  Quite the opposite.  Modern ways of processing and treating food remove satiating nutrients, which is one of the reasons why many of us eat far larger quantities than ever before.

 

  • Regulating your weight helps reduce risk of several other diseases
  • Eating a variety of foods helps ensure you get adequate amounts of most essential nutrients
  • Whole foods are an excellent source of micronutrients
  • Many artificial additives – such as aspartame – have the adverse affect people expect it to.  While the sweetener has zero calories, it actually destroys receptors in the process of digestion and also tells the brain that you’re still hungry, resulting in your eating more, not less… Whole foods on the other hands keep you longer fuller so you’re less likely to be tempted for junk food.
  • Foods high in micronutrients help regulate blood sugar and healthy cholesterol
  • There are some nutrients present in whole foods that we cannot yet separate adequately for supplements
  • Eating whole foods help keep your digestive tract regular
  • Avoiding artificial ingredients helps keeps your cells strong and your body working more efficiently
  • Eating well makes you stronger so you can be more active
  • If you feel good, and your body is working as well as it possibly can, you’re more likely to take care of yourself in other ways, too.

SPICE UP YOUR LIFE – CLEANLY!

Eating clean doesn’t mean bland!  Food before artificial sweeteners (think grandmas cooking or Greek food, etc!) was full of flavor!  This is a calorie free way to flavor your food in bold ways.

BONUS POINTS: Herbs and spices not only bring flavor to your food, but they bring added health benefits, too.

  • Cayenne Pepper – reves metabolism; relieves pain, flu symptoms, congestion; reduces cholesterol, and blood clots
  • Basil – cardiovascular health, strong antioxidant
  • Oregano – antibacterial properties, cancer fighter, highest antioxidant activity of fresh herbs
  • Parsley – anti-oxidant, detoxifier, neutralizes carcinogens, inhibits tumor formation, prevents artery build-up
  • Cinnamon – anti-infalmatory, blood-sugar stabilizer, metabolism booster, improves arteries, brain function
  • Ginger – immunity booster, digestive aid, relieves headaches and migraines
  • Cloves – relieves pain, nausea, diarrhea
  • Turmeric – anti-inflamatory, and pain reliever
  • Garlic – immunity booster, antibacterial/antiviral, anti-fungal, promotes healthy cholesterol levels, prevents artery build-up, cardiovascular health
  • So many, many more……
  • Sea salt! not table salt.  Even better, when you come across sea salt with pigmentation – like Himalayan Sea Salt (pink hue) – this tells you it’s nutrient dense with other minerals, so it’s an even more ideal way to go. Not always easy or cheap to find, though.
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Wine Gummy Candy

Wine Gummy CandyMakes 12 Candy Hearts

Gluten Free, Not-for-Kids: muahaha

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine (fruity, not dry) – I used inexpensive merlot
  • 4 tbsp unflavored gelatin – can find it in the grocery store next to/with the jello
  • 3 tbsp pure Grade B maple syrup
  • Silicone molds
  • metal whisk
  • strainer

Directions:

  1. Over low-low heat, warm .5 cups of red wine in a small saucepan (you never want the wine to heat more than about medium heat because that will burn off the alcohol, but the gelatin will dissolve better in warmer liquids)
  2. Slowly add in the gelatin, mixing with a whisk the whole time to help it dissolve
  3. As the liquid warms up, add in the maple syrup
  4. (I added in the maple syrup after about 2 tbsp of gelatin to help the liquid::powder ratio)
  5. Once all the gelatin is added, turn off the heat and remove from the hot burner.
  6. Stir in rest of wine.
  7. Pour mix into molds through your strainer in order to get any chunks of gelatin from setting in.
  8. Put in the refrigerator until gummies harden – about 2-3 hours.
  9. Enjoy wine night with friends!

Green Superfood Supplements

Green Superfoods SupplementsThese guys are an easy way to have your green nutrients laying around so you can just toss them in your smoothies! Plus they’re pretty adorable…so that helps.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3-1/2 cup coconut oil – melted but not hot (you’ll want ~1tsp/mold, so with my heart mold where each is a bit on the larger side and there are only 12 molds, I used 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (UH, I could go on and on AND ON about how amazing honey is, but for now I’ll just emphasize that you want RAW honey for all the nutritional benefits)

+ equal quantities of each of these: 3-4 tsp

  • Spirulina
  • Green Superfoods (a combination of chlorella, spirulina, barely grass, alfalfa and organic marine plant minerals) – you can also add ea or any of these separately if you don’t want all of them. I adapted this from another recipe and wasn’t about to go open up an apothecary, but already had my green superfood powder with all the same ingredients at home, so I added that.
  • Protein Powder of your choice – I think vanilla is a nice addition

*optional additions:

  • Wheatgrass
  • Maca powder
  • cacao powder if you’d rather chocolatey supplements/smoothies vs vanilla
  • Maqui berry powder
  • cinnamon

Directions:

  • Soften the coconut oil over the stove on low, low heat stirring frequently, or in the microwave in 20sec incroments stirring in between. Until melted but not hot.
  • Mix in honey.
  • Add the powders.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Spoon into silicon molds.
  • Place in fridge until firm.
  • Pop ’em out, store them in sealed glass container!
  • They should be fine to be stored in the cabinet, unless you live somewhere uber hot.  But see how they hold up, you may prefer to store them in the fridge, up to you.
  • Throw them in smoothies!

They are a great source of healthy fats from the coconut oil. Coconut oil is great for insulin resistance which makes it good for weight control and your metabolism. It also supports your immune system as it is has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is, however, very high in fat (healthy fat, but fat, none-the-less), so remember a little goes a long way.  Which is why I think it’s important to make sure each supplement is less than 1tbsp.

Chlorella (in the green superfoods), spirulina, and barley grass are all great sources of protein that have a balanced pH.  All of these super-greens have antibacterial properties, strengthen your immune system, and provide intense cell repair.

We can go on and on about the benefits of green foods, but chlorella specifically is an amazing detoxifier.  It’s the highest known source of chlorophyll, and essentially acts as natures blood transfusion by powerfully eliminating toxins from the body.  It has been known to help eliminate heavy metals, including mercury, as well as some pesticides and herbicides.

I got the Wiltons Silicon Mold, but there are tons of other shaps and brands to choose from.

Recipe adapted from a very fit hippy, she has some cool recipes!

Keep It Simple Stupid

Maybe I’m not as smart as I’d like to think of myself, but all of the information out there gets extremely overwhelming for me.  There’s a new fad too often to keep up with.  Someone will raise a topic or cite an article that’s out this week and I go into a frenzy trying to recall resources or fact check if/how that could possibly be right?!  It can have me constantly second guessing my own insight and knowledge about nutrition.  I’m no expert, and currently I’m officially a student, but I will ALWAYS consider myself learning and growing, but ultimately what I need to be open to learning about is the person I may be consulting with.  Every person is different.  Through my own experience I have learned that my best resource is my own intuition about my body.  I can’t have a voice for everyone who sits across from me, they have to tell me themselves how they’re feeling and further than that I can only give general guidelines.

Maybe I’m not as comprehensive as everyone else, but my experience and this realization … and one lonely night on the couch with a glass of wine and the wise words of Michael Scott: Keep It Simple Stupid … has lead me to my underlying approach: keeps things basic.  Things really should be simple.  While everyone has a different biochemistry, it’s true that none of our bodies will respond well to pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals.

I also know that in today’s world there are countless harmful pollutants, many of which I can’t or are harder to avoid on a daily basis.  Hey, sometimes I drink out of a plastic water bottle.  I breathe our polluted air.  I take ibuprofen when I have a headache.  One thing I can help for my health, are the chemicals I ingest in my food.  And that’s actually a huge difference, so I’ll take it.

Choose produce that hasn’t been treated with pesticides.  Choose eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood, that haven’t been treated with antibiotics.  Choose grains that haven’t been processed.  If you don’t recognize an ingredient on the label, your body won’t either.  It should simply be simple to read.

3-ingredient Pumpkin Oat Cookies

3 - ingredient Pumpkin Oat Cookies

3 – ingredient Pumpkin Oat Cookies

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Friendly, Vegan

Makes 7 small cookies

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup oats, old fashioned
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix (or just 2 tsp cinnamon)
  • 3 oz semi dark chocolate, melted over double boiler
  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Line cookie sheet with Al foil and grease lightly with olive oil.
  2. Mix pumpkin puree, oats, and spices in a blender.  Form into small balls and put onto cookie sheet.
  3. Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes.
  4. Melt chocolate over simmering water in double boiler.  Drizzle over cookies when they’re done.

Cheesy Tips & Tricks

Calorie Cutting Tricks without losing flavor in your recipes!

Calorie Cutting Tricks without losing flavor in your recipes!

I’ve always hated cheese, so that’s where I got lucky on the calorie-saving train.  Too bad I’m obsessed with chocolate, haha.

But one of the best calorie-saving tricks I’ve ever heard was for cheese swapping in your recipes:

  • use cheeses with Bold, sharp flavors, so you’ll need less, thus fewer calories
  • always buy good quality cheeses.  They’re provide bolder, better flavors and ingredients
  • never buy the grated type!  Do it yourself and you’ll use less, especially if you use a microplane grater

Go for cheeses like: (you all may even know more about the kinds of cheeses than me since it’s not my thing. The point is to go for bold tastes -> you need less.  For example, mozzarella can easily just be thrown into a recipe for texture vs flavor and tack on a ton of extra calories).

  • Parmesan
  • Gruyere
  • Havarti
  • low-fat swiss, but never baby-Swiss because it’s more mild

And when cooking, if a recipe like lasagna calls for a ton of mozzarella, you can reduce the amount of calories by reducing the amount of mozzarella and adding in a smaller amount of another cheese, like parmesan.  A great recipe to try this with is this Spinach and Mushroom Veggies Lasagna.  I HIGHLY recommend the Cook Yourself Thin women!  They’re the ones who taught me this trick!  Check out more of their recipes there.

Sesame Brussel Sprouts

Chopped Sesame Brussel SproutsCHOPPED SESAME BRUSSEL SPROUTS

• brussel sprouts – amount dependent on how much you want to eat!

• 1 tbsp sesame seed oil

• 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

• 1 tsp minced garlic or ~3 cloves

• 3/4 tbsp hoisin sauce

• 1-1.5 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

• 1 tsp Bragg’s liquid amino’s (= gluten free sub) or to taste.

• garnish/optional sesame seeds

Prep: chop brussel sprouts lengthwise, almost as if you’re grating them.

In large sauce pan or wok, heat sesame seed oil over med-high heat, add red pepper flakes and garlic for about 1 minute.  Add chopped brussel sprouts, lower heat to medium; stir and heat until lightly browned (about 4-6min).

Turn heat off.  Add rice vinegar and mix.  Add hoisin sauce and mix.  Add Bragg’s liquid aminos and mix.  Taste.  If needs more flavor, add any of these last three ingredient, just *sparingly* at a time and taste while doing so.

(You can also swap out green beans for the brussel sprouts and this recipe is great!  And/or tons of other veggies)

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings with Cashew Dill Dipping SauceCASHEW DILL DIPPING SAUCE:

  • 1 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water at least 1hr
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER WINGS:

  • 1 c gluten free flour of your choice (chickpea flour is a good option here)
  • 1 c milk of your choice.  With diary, or for diary-free/vegan options: almond milk, coconut milk, or any other non-diary milk
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into medium-sized florets
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder or minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup
  1. CAULIFLOWER: Preheat oven to 450* F.  Line baking dish or cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Whisk together flour and milk until smooth.
  3. Dump your cauliflower florets and stir them around until all are well coated with the “rue” mixture.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  (You can dump them onto the baking sheet, but I would recommend letting/pouring the excess mixture onto the sheet with the cauliflower.  I did this my first time out of habit, since usually I’m pouring sauce on my ingredients and want the extra flavor, but the result was they were kind of baked into a swamp of tasteless stuff when I pulled them out (since the rue is for texture not taste)).
  4. Roast for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine rest of cauliflower wing ingredients: apple cider vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, sweet paprika, sea salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, onion powder, maple syrup, olive oil.
  6. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low heat, and cook until beginning to thicken, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  7. When cauliflower is done, pour the buffalo-style sauce over it, toss to coat, and return to oven for a final 8 minutes.
  1. DIPPING SAUCE:  Strain cashews and add to blender with all ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, dill, sea salt, water.
  2. Puree on high speed until very smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of blender as needed.
  3. Transfer to a sauce bowl, cover and refrigerate as needed (will keep up to 5 days).

Serve Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings with your Cashew Dill Dipping Sauce, celery, carrot sticks, etc!  Especially tasty on game days!

Recipe courtesy of Jason Wrobel

Don’t Eat Kale Raw

Massage your kale!Most of us have heard the benefits of Kale praised from the roof tops loud and clear….however, did you know that kale is really hard for the human body to digest when it’s raw?  Yeah, I just heard, too.

That doesn’t mean you have to apply heat, though.  Think ceviche (ya know, sushi grade cooking of ahi or shrimp?).  You can “cook” your kale with acidic natures like citrus or vinegar.

Taste wise, I suggest squeezing the juice of one lemon or about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar over your kale.  Give it a few good squeezes, really massage in the liquid to break down the proteins, and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before eating.

Feel free to add salad dressing, but you certainly won’t need too much because you’ve already added some extra flavor!  A little healthy fat, in the form of avocado, or your chosen oil in your dressing is good, though, because the nutrients in your fruits and veggies are both water and fat soluble – meaning you need both water and fat to dissolve/absorb them.  But you only need a little, haha, I didn’t just give you a license to fat-up, sorry!

Clean Eating

In my opinion, Clean Eating can simply be characterized by two things:

  1. eat Real Food
  2. how you prepare your food

What does that mean:

My basic theory on nutrition comes down to this: think about what our bodies have evolved to learn how to process over the millions – or perhaps to make it more cohesive: the last few thousands – of years: fat, sugar from fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates from grains.  However, chemicals and preservatives have only been introduced into our diets in about the last 50 years; our bodies haven’t evolved to learn to process those.

You’re better off grabbing that full fat yogurt off the shelf at the grocery store than the fat-free version, because your body knows how to break down fat, but doesn’t know how to break down the preservatives used to alter the seemingly healthier version.  Read your ingredient labels.  Not just the nutrient labels.

  • REAL FOOD: these are “old foods” foods  (that have been around long time and we’ve been eating a long time) and “traditional foods” (traditionally raised and processed foods).  Choose unprocessed foods, without preservatives/chemicals.  Foods with the fewest ingredients.
  • Old Food“:
  • meat, fish, eggs, we’ve been eating for millions of years
  • diary is more recent (thousands of years) – but margarine – a hydrogenated vegetable oil made solid and dyed yellow – has only been introduced within the last century
  • Traditional Food“: (meaning can vary slightly by ingredient)
  • Fruits and Vegetables best when local & in season
  • Grains should be whole
  • Fats and oils should be unrefined

Consider these examples of Real Food (directly from Nina Planck, love her!), I couldn’t have said it better myself: “the traditional method of farming, processing, preparing, and cooking enhances nutrition and flavor, while the industrial method diminishes both.”

  • Real beef is raised on grass (not soybeans) and aged properly
  • Real milk is grass-fed, raw, and unhomongenized, with the cream on top
  • Real eggs come from hens that eat grass, grubs, and bugs – not “vegetarian” hens
  • Real lard is never hydrogenated, as industrial lard is
  • Real olive oil is cold-pressed, leaving vitamin E and antioxidants intact
  • Real tofu is made from fermented soybeans, which are more digestible
  • Real bread is made with yeast and allowed to rise, a form of fermentation
  • Real grits are stone ground from whole corn and soaked with soda before cooking
  • HOW TO PREPARE YOUR FOOD:
  • cook foods with healthy fats (olive oil, grapeseed oil, ghee, coconut oil) – choose fats that have burning temperatures when applying heat to them, and remember that a little goes a long way
  • herbs and spices! Remember those? They add flavor. And in most cases health benefits without any downsides.  So add lots, and play with combinations.
  • season with vinegar: balsamic, rice, apple cider. More health benefits.