Today I'm coming at you sans recipe but loaded with lots of foodie and health inspired information!
This post has been a long time coming. I have been planning, drafting, thinking about and doodling down ideas for this post for the last month. The trigger for it, really, was when I suddenly realised that I couldn't pigeon hole my diet and say that I strictly followed any food rules, which is fine! In my journey in health and wellness I have met and discovered many people as 'into' health and fitness as I am but they are all able to define their diets and state it in one clear concise little word - 'vegan', 'paleo', 'vegetarian' etc. But then there's little Emily in the corner - I'm not strictly vegan, or even vegetarian. I occasionally enjoy things that aren't so brilliant for my health (not significantly detrimental but enough to classify them as a 'sometimes' treat) but in moderation. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish and healthy fats (chia, avocado, coconut oil etc) and also consume free range and preferably farm raised meat once or twice a week. In a nutshell - I enjoy eating clean.
'Eating clean' has been a bit of a buzz word as of late - but what does it mean exactly? Chowing down on dishwashing detergent and sponges? Mmm squeaky clean! Clean eating, to me, means consuming foods that give me energy without weighing me down, leaving me to feel bouncy, happy and healthy after every meal, and is really about the consumption of foods at or close to their most natural states. Unprocessed, untouched and un-unhealthy. I shop at farmer's markets where possible (I know - very very blessed to have that luxury down here!), I buy organic where possible, I experiment and listen to my body at every single step. What irritates it? What made me feel incredible? Our bodies give us hints, both subtle and blazingly obvious, every single day as to how they want to be fed, moved and nourished.
I came across a beautiful post by The Gracious Pantry that discussed the concept of clean eating and described the crux of it all so well. Please please please check out this beautiful site, and ogle over their amazing catalogue of recipes, but for convenience' sake I will outline the essence of their 'clean eating manifesto' below -
+ Eat lots of plants. Do I mean garden weeds? Heck no woman, put down the poison ivy! Fruits and vegetables and herbs and everything in between are nature's gifts to us. They can be consumed in their whole, perfect, complete natural state. If it grows on a tree, comes from the ground, or a vine - I eat it.
+ Include meats. Gracious Pantry advocates for meats straight from the butcher, not packaged or handled in any other way. This way, you know exactly what you're buying. I might also add to always try and source grass fed, farm raised meats; choose the leaner cuts of meat and look for the certified free range endorsement on the sellers' advertisements etc.
+ Enjoy grains. My rule? If there's a 'brown' option, choose that. I don't eat anything 'white' (other than the occasional potato of course) as I will usually feel the effects of white bread, white pasta, white rice etc fairly quickly if I choose these options. I have learnt the hard way that these foods just do not agree with my body - they flare up my IBS like nobody's business; make me lethargic and moody and I genuinely prefer the taste of my wholegrains! Choose grains that are as close to their natural state as possible, unprocessed and unrefined.
+ Read labels. This is a biggen! I lived off packet soup in my uni years because at 100-150 calories a pop, they were satisfying, diet approved lunch options! Win! Berm berrrrm. The ingredient list in these soups, and other similar packaged food items, are scary. I read an amazing piece of advice once in a book called Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (keep an eye out because I'll be doing a bit of a write up on this baby soon) that discusses packaged foods and the rules to abide by when purchasing them and Michael says "Avoid foods containing ingredients that a third grader couldn't pronounce". I love that! Simple but poignant advice. Of course there are certain exceptions to this rule, as I'm fairly certain a third grader could proudly and confidently read the word 'sugar' but it ain't something you want to consume when it's hidden in packaged foods. Refined white sugar, artificial sweeteners and sugar in all its other deceiving forms (HFCS; sucralose; glucose etc) are hiding in so many of our packaged foods these days and my general approach is that if there's added sugar - I don't buy it. I started off avoiding foods that listed sugar in its first three ingredients (as the ingredients are listed in order of the most to least amount of that substance in the item) and slowly have begun to avoid it all together. It just isn't worth it and we don't need it. Read your labels and choose wisely.
+ Eat fewer ingredients. It ties in quite nicely with the point above, but try to choose items (if you do buy packaged foods) that have the least number of ingredients. Something can be packaged but contain 100% whole wheat barley or 80% italian tomatoes and 20% fire roasted peppers or something. But ingredient lists exceeding 6 ingredients? Maybe just be mindful and make sure that everything that's in there you would be happy to eat on its own. Would you sit down to a bowl of Preservative 220? No. So maybe leave it out of your canned goods!
The biggest piece of advice or nugget of wisdom that I have learnt is this - define your own rules. What works for one person might not work for you and that is completely fine and should be cherished. We, and our bodies, are NOT all the same and thank frik because it would be so boring if we were! Although I've dished out some information and advice above I, in no way at all, am saying that this is the sole way to go. If you choose to eat whatever the heck you want because that's your choice then I will hug and love you regardless. I would never ever judge someone for what they choose to eat, and would hope for that same respect to come around the other way when people see me chowin' down on whatever superfood I'm crazing at that moment!
I hope this information has helped to clear up a bit of confusion as to what exactly clean eating is and maybe even have inspired you to create your own food rules and listen to (and love) your body.
Blessings from my foodie face x