Coming to the end of February, I feel a little like that, so I thought it would be a great time to do a challenge.
Yes, that's right, I'm feeling the itch and there's no better time than the first day of March to start a Clean Eating Challenge.
I've been chatting to friends, and getting lots of feedback from followers on IG who have expressed an interest in eating better and improving their health.
This post will contain some info on what I believe clean eating to be, some foods that you can't live without as well as some overall tips.
At the end of the day, clean eating should really be a part of your overall lifestyle and not just a fad.
To me, clean eating refers to eating foods that are as close to nature as possible.
Sure, some foods you have to cook, but that is because it makes them easier to digest. This is fine.
What you want to avoid or greatly minimise, is the amount of pre-packaged or pre-prepared food you eat.
Everything that is packaged has had to go through some type of handling and processing. You are not there at the time, so you really don't know what is being done, added, handled, when this takes place. And whilst Australia adheres to some strict food handling guidelines, at the end of the day, human error can still impact on how things turn out the other end.
Nothing beats choosing your fresh ingredients, and making a meal from scratch, where you know absolutely everything that you have put into it. You know that you've cleaned your produce to your level of satisfaction, you know that you haven't added any harmful additives, and more importantly, you can pronounce every ingredient.
So what should your clean eating pantry look like? This depends of course on what you eat but of outmost importance, is having an abundance of fruit and vegetables, of as many varieties as possible.
I have what I call non-negotiables, foods that I will have in my fridge no matter what.
- baby spinach
- cos lettuce
- red cabbage
- fresh herbs
- medjool dates
- bananas - must be ripe (LOTS of frozen and also fresh)
- berries (frozen and fresh)
- cold pressed organic flax seed oil
I also get whatever other fruit and veggies are in season, as I love to try new varieties and also love tropical fruits - figs, prickly pears, pitaya, stone fruit, pomegranate, e.t.c.
NOTE: frozen bananas will save your life. No joke. You can add them to your smoothies and it gives them the creamiest consistency. You can add it to your food processor and it will make ice cream for you. I mean, I just love them, I can go through 6 a day, no sweat.
Things I like to keep in my fridge but can live without:
- young coconuts
- almond milk
- 100% pure organic maple syrup
- coconut nectar
Non-negotiables for the pantry:
- raw cacao powder
- cacao nibs
- Himalayan pink salt
- herbs and spices
- apple cider vinegar
- nutritional yeast
- organic corn thins
- coconut oil
- extra virgin olive oil
As you can see, my life in regards to food, is pretty simple.
My meals as a result are also simple, sometimes they only contain a few ingredients but it works for me.
What you must NOT consume whilst doing Clean Eating March:
- highly processed foods
- deli meats
- canned foods
- refined sugars
- soy products
For those of you who eat meat and fish, I would encourage you to always buy grass fed meat, and to buy sustainable fish.
Always buy the leanest possible cuts and do not, whatsoever, buy packaged or deli meats. There's a reason why they've been linked with an increased risk of developing cancer.
For those of you who eat grains, make sure you keep it to whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth, and make sure you rinse them carefully and thoroughly, and soak for at least 10 minutes if possible.
Oats in themselves do not actually contain gluten but they are usually processed with grains that do thus they become contaminated and individuals who are sensitive to gluten should avoid them. You can buy uncontaminated oats, you may just have to get them online or I think the Freedom brand has some.
I say dairy and soy because they are in the top 5 food allergens list, along with eggs and tree nuts.
Dairy is not really something that humans breakdown very well, as of course, we are not cows thus lack the enzyme to break it down, and that's simply because we are not meant to be drinking another animal's milk!!
Soy products are highly processed, and some are genetically modified. If you can't live without soy, try tempeh, it's better for you as it has been fermented. You can also use unpasteurised and raw miso which is also fermented. Works great as a seasoning instead of salt if you are trying to cut down.
Whilst we can preach about eating clean and lean, organic, local produce, we do have to exist in this world. And this world is fast, it's also very expensive and an abundance of money and time is something most people don't have, myself included.
So, in order to successfully change to a clean lifestyle, you do have to be prepared. As the saying goes, 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'.
I strongly believe that, especially if you are starting out. After a while, it will become second nature, you'll know what foods work for you, what to avoid and what your go to meals are. This will make day to day cooking and food preparing easier. Trust me!
Okay so here are some basic tips to get you started. Please read about clean eating, food combining, e.t.c, to get some added and varied information and see what sits well with you.
The following are things that I've learnt on my journey, they really work for me and I have to say, I've never felt better.
- Start your day with a green smoothie, fruit smoothie or fruit salad.
- Eat a big salad before anything else at lunchtime. Sometimes this will be enough and you'll find that you won't have room for anything else. If you are going to eat animal products, you could have some boiled eggs, or some lean meat/fish with your salad.
- Eat your heaviest meal at the end of the day, when you won't be eating anything afterwards, and your body has a chance to break it down without further interruption. If you are eating grains, this would be the best time to eat them. You can have some gluten free pasta with a vegetable sauce. I wouldn't recommend eating grains and animal proteins together. Both really hard to digest, together, they are double trouble for your digestive system. Animal protein and vegetables is ok.
- Eat as many fruit and vegetables as possible. Vegetables specially should be the bulk of all your meals.
- Drink water.
- Make as many of your meals as possible.
- Use lemon juice as dressing, or, if you're after something creamy, mash an avocado, mix it with lemon juice and put it through your salad.
- Get as much sleep as possible. Hard if you have kids, I know that, but you can always try.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Keeping active is important, it helps with your cardiovascular health and also keeps you energised. Even if it's 30 minute brisk walk, or you could try an exercise dvd, youtube video, e.t.c. Again, everyone is different so find something you like and stick to it. An idea for those who just don't like the idea of exercise, is to get off one train stop before yours and walk the rest of the way. Anything that gets you moving!
- Take a deep breath. At the end of the day, it's just life, and if you don't do so well today, you get another chance at acing it tomorrow :)
Whilst it annoyed the crap out of me no end, I didn't let him know that it did.
I just quietly and patiently reminded him that the food I put in my body was a personal choice, one I wasn't inflicting on him and for that reason, what I ate had no bearing on what he ate. Of course this was partly the truth, as what I ate most certainly had an impact on him, I was calmer in mind, healthier in body, and therefore, an overall better and happier person to be around! My food choices also meant that I stopped buying harmful foods thus unknowingly, he had also stopped eating those things.
Having a diet largely made up of fruit and vegetables also means that there's always healthy choices for him and the girls to have as snacks.
Seven months later, he's my biggest supporter and has adjusted to our new life.
So I just want to make a point. This is not meant to be hard, it's not meant to be a about losing weight, it's actually about eliminating harmful foods.
Whatever particular diet you follow, whether it's plant based or not, there is always an opportunity to make it healthier.
Bottom line here is, keep it clean, keep it lean, and enjoy making wonderful new foods to keep you interested.
Simple is best and the end of the month will be the test.
Hopefully we'll all be feeling better for it and we would have learned a few new things.
If you need some breakfast ideas, please see my previous post for some smoothie recipes but really, who can't make a smoothie?! Go nuts experimenting, that's the best part!
If you can't live without your cereal in the morning, I would recommend switching your packaged cereal for some home made yumminess.
You could make some overnight oats by placing 1/3 cup of wholegrain oats and mixing it with your favourite smoothie and leaving it overnight. By the time you crack it open in the morning, it will be soft and filling and feel like you're eating a delicious dessert. WIN! it's also the best as a take away breakfast.
If you can't live without coffee, just cut down to maybe one a day, or have a cup of green tea instead.
I'm going to completely cut it out in March, it's going to be hard but I'm sure I'll manage, yikes!!
I'm so excited for everyone who is going to do this with me, and I hope we can keep each other motivated and discover new and amazing recipes.
Remember, if it causes you too much anxiety, maybe you're not ready, just focus on one thing and go from there.
It's meant to be a good thing!
See you at the finnish line peeps!
Peas, love and mungbeans