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My kitchen seems to be in a constant state of mess – the creation of a fresh meal from scratch tends to leave so much more mess than the ready made, stick it in the oven / microwave kind of affair or a takeaway. But I’d rather a bit of mess you can see than a whole list of additives you can’t, so while my kitchen might seem messier than most – I think it’s pretty clean by ‘clean eating’ standards!
What exactly do they (those crossfit-going, farmer’s market-shopping, green-smoothie-chugging, yoga-practicing, Lorna Jane-outfit-wearing types) mean by ‘Clean Eating?’ Here’s a few definitions I found – all valid & worthy of consideration when placing a food item into your trolley / bag / pot / mouth.
– being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin & your plate
– focuses on whole, healthy, unprocessed foods
– not a diet, it’s a happy & healthy lifestyle
– eating whole foods, or ‘real foods’, those that are un- or minimally processed, refined & handled, as close to their natural form as possible. Low H.I foods (Low Human Intervention).
-what eating was always about
– real food not encumbered with things that compromise health
– a way of eating that lets you eat until you’re full & satisfied, & the side benefit is weightloss
– it’s an investment in your future health
….ok sold, it sounds pretty good – but where to start? If you’ve never really explored clean eating further than scrubbing your potatoes, here’s where to start – the kitchen (your pantry & fridge is where this battle needs to take place)! Bring the wheelie bin round to the front door – or better still to avoid wastage, throw your last ‘dirty eating’ party, & eat all the bad stuff you still have left (maybe just invite people you don’t like much / don’t need to impress). Or better yet, donate what you can to a charity organisation – homeless & hungry folks will appreciate your unwanted processed food – clean or unclean!
Here’s a rough guide to help you sort through the shelves:
1) LOOK AT THE LABEL
Throw out anything from the fridge or pantry that has a looong ingredients list with numbers & weird chemical names – ie looks like this:
Compared to this:
Get rid of all your cheap crappy sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise, spreads etc – these can be a really sneaky way to absolutely ruin an otherwise great clean meal. The ingredients list will make it obvious.
Invest in a food processor you can use to quickly whip up your own – easy once you’ve experimented a bit with olive & macadamia oils, herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, natural yoghurt etc. Or you can find some better quality gourmet things like pesto, hommous, aoli, tamari etc in health stores & farmer’s markets – check ingredients though – watch for cheap ‘vegetable oil’ & canola oil, these ruin many otherwise good products.
3) EMPTY CARBS
White is out – white flour, white bread, white sugar, pastry, pasta, crackers, biscuits, etc. Out. Even if you seem fine with wheat & gluten, & have no obvious symptoms, when you look at the vast quantities we consume of highly processed products made mostly from wheat flour, it makes sense to cut back & make room for some foods with more to offer nutritionally than some quick carbs! Instead of the cheap ‘light & white’ pre-sliced loaf, opt for a heavier, seedy sourdough loaf with organic rye or spelt – made with passion & some quality not-too-refined ingredients. Use seaweed or rice-paper wraps, lettuce or kale leaves as wraps. Or just eat your sandwich filling on a plate, much better without the giant serve of bread. Use veggie sticks for dipping, or make your own crackers using quality non-flour ingredients. Use spiralled zucchini as noodles / pasta, the machines are cheap & homemade pesto tastes amazing on these. Try out all the options for sweetening food – many of the sugar alternatives are still very much ‘sometimes foods’, but at least they have some nutrient value – things like molasses, coconut sugar, rapadura sugar, maple syrup, raw honey – there are at least some useful bits in amongst the sweetness!
4) BREAKFAST CEREALS
Don’t be fooled by their ridiculous marketing! Iron men don’t eat them. Aussie kids are fatter than ever. They’ll eat it by the boxful cos its full of addictive sugar. They are too heavy on sugar, too light on nutrition, just not right at all. That red skirt & heels will eventually become a tent dress & diabetic-friendly support shoes. Chocolate milkshakes are not for breakfast, crunchy or not. Snap crackle pop go bones with no minerals in them…this could get out of control, but I think we all know that while the marketing is powerful, the box is less harmful for us to eat.
Some cleaner breakfast options include smoothies, porridge (use organic whole oats – throw them in a pot at night, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, vanilla essence & pour the kettle over the lot & leave on the stove covered overnight. In the morning just heat gently & eat with some nuts / Blend 11 / yoghurt / fruit / smoothie). Quality free range eggs & free range, nitrate free bacon with greens & buttery mushrooms, a vege omelette (blend eggs, herbs, salt & pepper & pour over tomatoes, mushrooms & spinach in your pan). Make a few Blend 11 parfaits in advance & keep them in jars in the fridge, ready to go for those rushy mornings! Packaged cereal is now sounding decidedly boring!
5) SUGARY DRINKS
Juices, soft drinks, cordials, flavoured teas, sweet chocolate drink powders…ya gotta be made of water. (Sorry one more). Man marketing gets stuck in your head – goodMix needs a jingle ASAP! To change up your liquids drink fresh veggie juices with a bit of fruit to sweeten, sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, Kombucha & Kefir-type fermented ‘soft drinks’ (still watch the sugar here), real herbal teas, real cacao hot chocolate….Or just good old H2O!
6) TAKEAWAY NIGHT
Please tell me there’s not more than one of these a week – takeaway food should be just a special treat / last resort, not a regular occurrence. Getting the family hooked on takeaway food might save you some time & energy in the short term, but the downside can be pretty sad. Even though the pizza might have a few veggies on it, the burger has some lettuce & tomato, the fish is fresh from the trawler, the chips are made of potatoes, the lovely Chinese / Thai / Indian family cooked it using grandma’s recipe…it’s all going to be swimming in cheap vegetable oil & heavily laced with sugar / MSG / unseen additives. The takeaway joint needs to make a profit, & you just can’t if you’re selling $9.95 pizzas made with extra virgin olive oil instead of cheap & nasty ‘vegetable oil’. And I’ll bet the fish & chip shop ain’t frying in coconut oil either. You may think ‘oh it’s ok – we grew up on fried food as kids’ – it was different fat that was used back then. The fat that’s used now is the number one dietary cause of heart disease & the ideal daily intake is zero. Not once or twice a week – ZERO! No wonder our kids are getting so fat, it’s because their parents are too darn busy to spend the necessary time in the supermarket & kitchen! So what to do on those ‘I simply cannot cook tonight’ nights (they happen in healthy homes too!). Here’s a few ideas – Omelettes (use the blender for speed) smoothies, toast & avocado / beans / tuna /hommous, something frozen from a leftover dinner, a platter (or a pile) to pick from including things like olives, celery, carrots, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, beans, cucumber, snow peas, boiled eggs, cold leftover meat…dinner doesn’t always have to be cooked… Although in the winter, or if you need something warming – a quick bowl of ‘instant’ miso soup with a handful of baby spinach, cabbage, broccoli or other greens thrown in is great – & maybe even a can of tuna / salmon if you’re a bit more hungry. Even porridge with some yoghurt, nuts & berries, some Blend 11…it’s not really gourmet dinner but it’s nutritionally much better than a giant pile of trans fat with a few token veggies.
7) SWEET TREATS
Lollies, cakes, ice-creams, flavoured & sweetened yoghurt, sugar free yoghurt with artificial sweeteners, yoghurt’ desserts (?) The term yoghurt is pretty loose nowadays…eg those weird pots with cartoon characters on the packaging that little kids get in their lunch boxes which bear no resemblance to actual yoghurt). Choose instead nutritious ‘raw desserts’, homemade raw chocolate (so easy), bliss/ energy/protein balls, homemade smoothie ‘icecream’ & natural yoghurt with fruit – just google or check out Pinterest for endless amazing recipes, sweet treats can be clean too! Many on trend Cafe’s will have some healthy options available now too.
8) PROCESSED MEATS
ie poor quality sausages & ham, salami…there’s good stuff to be found in the Farmer’s markets, just avoid the mass produced, cheap & nasty stuff, those ‘fresh food people’ have giant warehouses to store months & years worth of stock.
9) READY TO EAT
Frozen, ready to eat meals – often full of nasties, but once again you can find the odd ‘diamond in the rough’ – check the ingredients list. If you happen to be time poor but $ ok , there are also some local companies that will deliver fresh, clean meals to your house ready to heat, in most major Australian cities – google or ask around at local gyms /enquire with local personal trainers.
10) BAD OILS
Top of this list is margarine (throw it out, butter is fine), followed by canola oil, & any ‘non-specific’ (means the cheapest nastiest we can find) vegetable oil’. Some great clean fats & oils are as follows: Coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, butter & ghee. Add these in moderation & always opt for organic, cold pressed, grass-fed versions where you can! Avoid anything manufactured, even if it says ‘clinically proven to lower cholesterol’. The heart foundation tick looks all nice & official, but ignore it – it’s based on dodgy disproven ‘facts’.
…ok, now that your kitchen overhaul is complete – get ready for the mess! A good kitchen should generate some mess, it shows you’re using some raw ingredients, & taking the time to create something nourishing from real ingredients – rather than just opening up a jar & a packet. A suspiciously clean kitchen is the sign of a lazy, dirty eater, I say! Go mess up your kitchen & get some good, clean food happening!