Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Clean Eating March - Ready, set, HEALTH!

Weddings are wonderful, but they are also a little taxing on the mind and body.  All that celebrating, late nights, eating out, they really do take their toll.  Specially for me, as I can only handle being out of my routine for a short time before I feel frazzled and lost.
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.

The Basics

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.

  • silverbeet
  • baby spinach
  • kale
  • cos lettuce
  • zucchini
  • carrot
  • red cabbage
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • sprouts
  • onions
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs
  • lemons/limes
  • medjool dates
  • pears
  • bananas - must be ripe (LOTS of frozen and also fresh)
  • mangos
  • watermelon
  • berries (frozen and fresh)
  • avocados
  • oranges
  • 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
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • 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
  • gluten
  • dairy
  • 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 :)
Remember, we are all human, and we are influenced by others, specially  our loved ones.  So whilst some of us may find this transition easy, our loved ones may find it difficult.  I know when I stopped eating meat, my hubby was initially supportive, but only because he thought it was temporary.  After the 12 weeks was over, he kept on challenging me about my decision, asking whether we'd ever eat 'normal food' together again.
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



  1. your blog is so inspirational! it's so nice of you to take the time to write this and post beautiful photos of your meals. i haven't had a smoothie for ages - and have never not used milk. trying my first tomorrow morning! thank you x

    1. no worries and thank you so much for your feedback! Writing this blog is fun for me and also keeps me motivated. I'm just happy that others are getting something out of it too. I just want everyone to feel as happy and healthy as I do! Let me know how you go with your smoothie and if you have instagram, pop it up and tag @onehungrymami #cleaneatingmarch, would love to see what you come up with :)

  2. Hey I love your instagram and now blog, your meals inspire me to go vegan/participate in some of the challenges because you make it look so easy and delicious! I had a question about the clean eating March challenge- why do you suggest eliminating gluten? I understand regarding foods with white flour, etc, but what about high fiber whole grains like spelt, bulgur, brown rice- What's your opinion on incorporating those in your diet?

    keep killin it!! x

    1. Hahah OH MY GOD! Hi cousin Saidat--!! wow having a big family rocks.

      I follow one hungry mami too! Now that I've graduated and starting the second half of this year I deeply desire to leave all the awful eating habits I've developed in school behind and start CLEAN! It's so funny because this is the first day off I've had in a LONG time and I decided to start preparation for this new lifestyle. Cleaning out my fridge and pantries! SO excited. I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. SO COOL that my beautiful cousin is on here---! We need to hang ASAP.

      Brenda- thank you so much for all these amazing recipes- I'm facebook friends with your sister Elizabeth and she post your stuff and I'm always blown away by how delicious everything looks! Truly inspired, you show me being a mom and a wife. I'm single with no little one's of my own- I have NO EXCUSE.

      But my question for you is: Can you start a cooking show? Perhaps on a youtube page? Everything you make I want to eat and I've never been a fast food person so I'm always making my meals anyway. However, I will admit I get a little intimidated by the cooking process. I'm a visual person and when I see list of recipes I get kinda dazed and confused. I tried looking on youtube for someone who makes these types of recipes and I have yet to find them. So just as a plead from Chicago.. I would LOVE to see you snap in the kitchen. : )

      love and blessings- M


    2. Hi Mekaila

      Thanks for taking time to look through the blog and sending your feedback, really appreciate it!
      Would really love to do a cooking show, and youtube would be perfect though i'm pressed for time as it is! Maybe if you can let me know what exactly you're having problems with and i can do step by step or something like that?
      such a great idea though, will keep it under my hat and revisit when the time lends itself.
      you're awesome and thank you for the chi love xx

  3. Hi Saidat,
    Thanks for your feedback and that is a great question you ask.
    I added gluten because it is also one of the top allergens, which is why a lot of people are sensitive and some just outright allergic (coeliac disease).
    The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 "diseases" that can be caused by eating gluten. It is a long list but it involves all types of cancers, fatigue, osetopporosis, irritable bowel syndrome and anemia, to name a few.
    Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy. It has also been linked to autism.
    Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different "diseases."
    Gluten sensitivity also plays havoc with your adrenal glands which in turn affect your hormones.
    Humans have only been eating grains for the past 10, 000 years, which according to physiologists, is not long enough for bodies to evolve to being able to digest grains appropriately without doing harm. The whole purpose of cooking grains is to make them more palatable and easier to digest by the body. If we were to eat them in their natural state, one, we wouldn't be able to because they would be unpalatable (try eating raw rice) and two, our bodies would have an extremely difficult time trying to digest it.
    There's a reason why in a fat phobic world, where there is an increased supply of fat free products and a rise in gym memberships, people are still obese and the rise of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle disorders are on the rise. In short, whilst gluten is not the only culprit of disease, it definitely plays a big part. There's hardly ever a time when gluten is not mixed with fat/sugar in a food product.
    Whilst spelt and rye are wholegrains, they still contain gluten.
    If you are going to eat grains, you may want to try quinoa and amaranth. Brown rice does not contain gluten so it's okay to eat if you still want grains in your diet.
    Whilst I understand that going without gluten containing products is difficult, I do encourage you to give it a go, even if it's for just 1 month/31 days.
    If you increase your diet to contain a high amount of fruit and vegetables, it will give you all the fibre you need to keep your digestive system healthy.
    More so, fruit and vegetables will also provide you with an abundance of the vitamins and minerals your body needs and can easily assimilate.
    Hope that helps XX