Last week in Part 1 I outlined how I got to this point. Oh the many years of believing spray butter was healthy. I was so wrong.
I firmly believe that food is 80% of the battle. You can exercise all you want, but if you eat garbage, that’s all your body will ever be. You are what you eat, right. If so, I wanted to be bright, colorful, and healthy, not fake and carcinogenic.
So what exactly is eating clean? I guess it could mean slightly different things to different people. To me, eating clean is basically eating real, whole, and natural foods. Your food shouldn’t come from a package or have ingredients that you can’t pronounce. That mean no more Oreos. Don’t freak out.
When I began this journey I simply stopped buying crap. I let Tony finish up the few “bad” things left in the house and began from scratch. I stopped shopping in the center aisles at the grocery store (with a few exceptions). I began viewing processed food as poison, because that’s what it is.
So what do I buy? What do I eat? It’s very simple. So lets say your typical dinner plate consists of 50% meat, 30% carbohydrate, and 20% vegetables, my dinner plate looks drastically different. My plate typically consists of 70% vegetables and 30% carbohydrates. Remember, I don’t eat meat, only on a rare occasion. If you don’t think you can completely cut meat, change your ratios around. Vegetables should make up at least 50% of your meal. Your carb should be a whole grain. Try recipes that use meat more as a side dish or as a flavor enhancer. A lot of Asian and southwest dishes come to mind.
Take a look in your pantry. Make a list if your favorite things (or everything for that matter). You need to find replacements for them all or eliminate them from your diet. Read the back of every label. I guarantee that only a few things are worth eating.
Swapping your food won’t be as difficult as you think. Your peanut butter should be just that, peanuts (and maybe a little salt). Take a look at your favorite coffee creamer. I bet you will be shocked that it’s not cream at all. Most likely, the first three ingredients are water, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oil. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to “cream” my coffee with oil. Swap it for some half and half. Watch the non-organic kind though, sometimes they have emulsifiers and preservatives, both of which are a chemical-slurry-no-no. As for butter, real is always better. Margarine has absolutely no nutritional value, bugs won’t even eat it. Stay away from the fake stuff (any butter replacement) and enjoy some butter.
Look to your veggies for inspiration. For the first few weeks, look for vegetarian recipes online. Try new things. If you don’t know where to start, check out my Pinterest food boards. Get creative! I can’t even begin to tell you how many fruits and veggies I had only had frozen from a can. Don’t be afraid. Try to buy as much fresh fruits and veggies as possible. I do not buy anything canned, with the exception of these two bad boys.
I love cooking with coconut milk. I made a vegetarian curry just last night. I tried it with bulgur instead of rice… AMAZING! I use San Marzano tomatoes to make pasta and pizza sauce. I just add a few herbs and spices, drop it in the blender and it’s ready to go. Canned veggies are better than none, but avoid them if you can. The cans are lined with BPA, which is no bueno (and another post all together).
As for frozen, I like to have corn, peas, and maybe pearl onions on hand for soups. That being said, I ONLY buy organic frozen veggies. TWICE I have found metal shards in conventional frozen corn, but never in organic. I’m not taking a chance with my family. Fresh fruits and veggies are not that expensive. Try everything, you will be pleasantly surprised when you find new favorites. In the first few weeks of eating clean, cooking and eating became an adventure. I was experiencing flavors and combinations I had never had before.
So you want specifics? This post could go on forever. I’ll give you a few examples.
At breakfast you eat a bowl of fruity pebbles (or insert any other commercial cereal here). Put them down. You are killing yourself with overly processed grains, sugar, and artificial colors and flavors. Instead, make a bowl of 6-grain oatmeal. Yes, the kind you actually have to cook. Food should never be fast or cheap, that’s my motto. Top it with fresh fruit and maybe even some chia seeds. If you are missing the sweetness, drizzle a small bit of raw, unfiltered local honey or REAL maple syrup in top. A little goes a long way.
Swap everything for the REAL version. Yep, I’ve lost 20 pounds eating butter, no joke. I’m giving you permission. If it’s not real, it has no business being in your kitchen. If it says low-fat or fat-free, it doesn’t belong (with a few exceptions). I buy full fat dairy. Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, etc. I do buy 2% organic milk and my yogurt and cottage cheese are reduced-fat/fat-free of some sort, but that’s just how they come. Fat free translates to “full of sugar.” We don’t want any of that.
I love love love plain Greek yogurt. I put it on everything. I use it like sour cream. You can make it sweet (with fruit and honey) or savory (add fresh herbs and spices). Get creative!
Stay away from sugar-free, no sugar added, and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are fake and don’t belong in your body. If you need sugar for something, use organic raw cane sugar. I use hardly any sugar anymore. In fact, I only buy it by the half-pint (Our local bulk store lets me bring my own jar!). Once you wean your body off of it (in about 2 weeks), you will no longer crave it. Seriously!
If you are going to eat meat, try to find 100% grass-fed and organic if possible. Your body can’t handle all those hormones and antibiotics (this is why 9-year-old girls have boobs). All seafood should be wild caught, never farmed and definitely not from China.
So what are some of my new favorite foods?
- Avocado – Full of healthy fats, this fruit goes with everything. If you’re not sure about it, try it several ways. I use it in salads, wraps, pasta and rice dishes, pretty much everywhere. It’s Ava’s favorite food. She eats it straight from the skin.
- Quinoa – This is sort of new on the scene. It’s actually a seed, not a grain. It cooks up just like rice. It is a complete protein, which is great for vegetarians. It has a slightly nutty flavor.
- Chia seeds – These are the same seeds from everyone’s favorite chia pet. They don’t taste like anything, so they are a great addition to just about anything. They are high in omega-3 and fiber.
- Beets – Really! I use them in tacos or slice them up and grill them for a beet slider. Top them with some homemade green goddess and you’re ready to go.
- Sprouts – I never liked sprouts because I thought they were all from mung beans. You can sprout just about anything. I love broccoli sprouts and I have some quinoa sprouts growing. They are great to top salads, sandwiches, or soups.
Eating clean isn’t difficult. Once you get through the initial week or two and you’re no longer addicted to sugar, you will look at cakes, donuts, and candy as toxic waste. I’m not going to lie and tell you I’m perfect. I did have ice cream last night and I occasionally indulge in an 85% dark chocolate bar (eaten over a few nights). You will not get it right 100% of the time, but you can try your best. Eat fresh, real foods and cook from scratch, that’s my best advice.
If you have any specific questions about eating clean or any recipes, leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Here’s Part 1 if you missed it. Stick around for Part 3: Beating the Sugar Addiction.