Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Clean Eating Challenge: information, recipes, plan, togetherness!

So have you been hearing a lot about Clean Eating?
So have I. I've written several times about my parents and how healthy they are, and how that has impacted my view of health and food. We were never into eating junk at our house, but these days even food that seems safe is becoming so preservative and GMO ridden that it's hard to navigate the grocery aisles safely. We have tried to eat real food and to pay attention to labels, but now it's time to really up the ante. I decided to really give clean eating a go and asked the FACEBOOK group if they'd like to join me. The consensus was YES! SO here's the promised post.
First of all, what is Clean Eating? Dr. David Katz who is the director of Yale University Prevention Research Center helps define clean eating by saying, "Food that’s clean is food that’s for the most part real food and not encumbered with things that compromise health: artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, sugar substitutes." 
When you consider that definition, clean eating seems much more attainable! Nothing is off limits, it's just a matter of making sure that everything is *real*, actual food. The problem is that a lot of our food is filled with nasty preservatives that are extremely dangerous- including produce (see my post about that HERE). And we really want to avoid GMO's, which are ingredients- especially corn related (sugar from beets, corn syrup, corn starch)- that have been tampered with. Just so you know- GMO corn has been outlawed in many countries, including RUSSIA because of the enormous tumors it causes in lab testing. Yuck.
Let's keep it easy, ok? I'll include some links at the end for people who want to go more in depth. Here's a cheat sheet for the rest of us:
1. Stick to organic. A great, easy way to eat clean is to buy organic. This is the number one way! Sauces, meats, produce, grains- nearly everything you need can be purchased organic and save you the worry of wondering. If you notice something you eat often is on sale, stock up. I'll buy several jars of organic pasta sauce when it goes on sale for $2 at Mejier because we will go through it!
2. Consider your sugars. Refined white sugar is not for us! Stick with raw sugar which is brown in color with larger granules. Other acceptable substitutes? Honey (raw and organic local is best!), agave and stevia. Be careful with your stevia brand- make sure it's all natural.
3. Look at labels. Check the box for stamps of approval- you will often seen stamps that look like the ones below. One signifies that the product adheres to standards for USDA organic food and the other shows the product is part of the non-GMO project and contains no ingredients that have been genetically modified.
4. Make big dinners. The easiest thing for lunch prep is to just make a big dinner and take the extra for lunch. Carry it in BPA free plastic or glass containers. Don't buy them from the Container Store. Right now you can get Disney/Avengers themed food containers and sandwich holders at Target in $1 section. It's also good to check the clearance at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls + Homegoods. If you're an anti-left over person, consider trying it a different way. Fish or poultry from the night before can become part of a salad. There are ways to re-work it so that you don't feel like you're eating the same thing twice. 
5. Follow blogs! I always recommend this. But here are some great blogs to follow about clean eating with lots of recipes, a quick google search of "clean eating" and "blog" will help you find the perfect blog for your personal tastes and needs. 
6. Use a tracker app. If you have a smart phone, download a free app that tracks what you eat. We will all have different goals or motivations for clean eating, but whatever they are, it's easier to stay accountable if you use a food tracker. There's something about having to record the food that makes you second guess if it's the right choice or if there's something better you could feed your body. If you want, you can join me on My Fitness Pal, my user name is aunak. That would be a great way to commit! I checked out some clean eating apps, most were generally about recipes and how-tos, but not really accountability apps. 
7. Remember: beverages count. What you drink can also be filled with a lot of yuck. Drink water, or FLAVORED WATER, organic coffee (lots of crazy pesticides in coffee beans) and organic tea. Honest Tea is a company we recently tried that makes organic beverages including lemonade. 
1. Eat processed meat. Avoid standard deli meat, bacon, sausage... anything like that. I read a study HERE recently that showed how pancreatic cancer rates go up in people who eat them. Yikes! At Whole Foods I did see a lot of organic bacon (pork and turkey) and lunch meat. I'd have to look into it more, but they'd at least be better options than standard deli meat and other processed yuck. I read how processed meat was produced and almost gagged. 
2. Buy produce on the naughty list. You can see that list again HERE. It's really important to avoid conventional fruits like apples, which can have up to 80 pesticides in them! Organic is the way to go in that situation, but not all situations. So it's good to check the list :)
3. Forget about dairy! Dairy can be tricky. Try to buy organic milk, sour cream, cream cheese, greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Stick to grass-fed cheese. As for butter, I prefer Kerry Gold (Sam's Club, Whole Foods, etc.) over organic because it comes from Ireland where the cows graze on fields with low pesticide risk. 
4. Ignore seasonings. Remember- seasoning is often contaminated with preservatives and other bad ingredients. Make your own by combining your favorite spices with some powdered garlic and onion! Use delicious fleur-de-sel, freshly ground pepper and home-grown herbs. Also remember to buy organic salad dressings and look out for things like Miracle Whip, which have several GMO ingredients. 
5. Stress too much. The goal is health here! Maybe you can't make all of these changes at once, so try to just make a few and see how it goes. I do promise that it gets easier as you learn more about what to look out for and how to make substitutes. You will have a healthier you and a healthier family, one change at a time. 

Favorite sweet recipes:
This is one of my favorite clean snack bases- just a few tablespoons of organic almond butter + organic raw honey and a dash of cinnamon. You won't believe how good it is! You can use it on celery, organic crackers, apple slices... the list is endless. So delicious. The picture quality isn't great- it was impromptu since we happened to be eating it late last night. See THIS BOARD for more recipes.
Favorite brands:
Late July- they make the MOST delicious organic tortilla chips. There's a mild green mojo flavor that I can't even talk about. 
Applegate Organics- they also have an Applegate Naturals, but the Organic line is awesome- bacon, deli meat, chicken sausages- you name it! SO delicious! As I said before, I'm not sure how good this is for us since there still must be some processing involved, but if you need to have these things- Applegate is a good alternative. I see it all the time at Whole Foods, but I just checked and you can get it at some Walmart locations, too, so if you haven't got a WF, there you go!
Annie's- This is a great brand for families with small children. Awesome organic shells + cheese (white and yellow cheddar), to-go snacks and more! They are a little on the expensive side, so look for sales. They also have gluten-free for those of you who are Celiac. 
Full Circle- This brand is widely circulated and even is carried at our *extremely* small grocery store in town. They have mostly canned goods (delicious baked beans), but also sell dry beans + quinoa to go. I really like the quinoa to go, you can just pop it in the microwave and eat it in a few minutes. It's delicious with just a little salt and pepper. I try not to use the microwave, so this is a rarity. They do also carry a good variety of organic milk. 
Back to Nature- they have a HUGE array of delicious crackers. 
**There's a good brand of fresh chicken sold at Walmart. It isn't as awesome as locally raised, organic chicken, but it's a good and nationally available alternative. I can't remember the name, but will update this asap. 

Further reading:
I've created a PINTEREST BOARD which you can follow for recipes, articles and information as well as pin to yourself! Community!
The Gracious Pantry is a great blog for clean eating, as well as Clean Eating Mag
Fit Day's article HERE.

Final thoughts:
A great way to detox your system in conjunction with this challenge is to squeeze the juice from one lemon into a cup of hot water 3 times per week. Lemon is acidic, so it isn't a bad idea to rinse your mouth with water afterwards and avoid brushing your teeth immediately. If you ever see that pin going around about using lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide on your teeth- avoid it. That's a horrible idea. 
I've just seen some really disturbing things about US grown rice on the news over the last few days. There's a shocking amount of arsenic involved, you may want to google it and decide for yourself what the best course of action is for your family.
Remember, again, not to stress! If you want to do any or all of this challenge, that's awesome. Don't feel pressured to be perfect or change everything at once. We're all about health here, and even tiny changes can make a huge impact! You can join me at my fitness pal if you want to connect that way (aunak) or pin to/follow this BOARD on pinterest. I would also love to hear any feedback or advice that you have about Clean Eating!
All the best and as always, thanks for reading! 


  1. Replies
    1. Yes! That is one of them- there are two... do you know the other? Thanks so much!! Smart Chicken is Meijer... but there's one other brand at Walmart too that's pretty good.

  2. I become "clean-ish" in the summer - I eat more fruits and veggies - for the rest I'm a milk and crackers person - seriously I can live my whole life with milk and crackers :) - I can't tell whether Ill live untill 100 yrs, but for now I'm ok :)

    1. For the sake of planet earth- I hope you live well beyond 100!! I feel that way about cheese and bread (which is like milk and crackers in a way?), but alas am allergic to cheese :(


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