I am on a mission to feed my family and myself clean, nutrient dense food. Eating clean means eating whole/real foods (one ingredient) and keeping your food as close to nature as possible. For the most part we try to cut out processed foods. However, even cooked vegetables are technically processed so when it comes down to it, I think it's safe to say we avoid heavily processed foods.
Here you will find the basics for eating clean and keeping your food as close to nature as possible.
Whole Wheat & Unrefined Grains
Must be 100% whole wheat or whole grains.
- Always look for whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is different than wheat flour, so make sure the word "whole" is listed. Simply put, whole wheat is the entire grain of the wheat (known as the wheatberry) ground up, which contains all of the nutritional content. There is also the option of white whole wheat flour (which is what we mainly use) and it is still considered whole wheat. It is just a lighter grain, but the entire grain is still used when it's turned into flour, which keeps the nutritional content.
- Examples of whole, unrefined grains include brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and popcorn.
Fruits & Vegetables
Organic when possible.
- Focus on eating fruits and vegetables as much as possible and getting in a good variety.
- When deciding organic/non-organic, focus on buying organic for items that contain the highest amount of pesticide residue. That list can be found under the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) Dirty Dozen List (which is updated yearly).
Always organic and full-fat.
- Look for organic dairy for two reasons. First, antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited under organic certification. And second, to support farming practices where the animals are humanely raised and where no synthetic chemicals have been used.
- Buy full fat/whole milk products. Whole milk is closer to its natural state as more processing has to occur to remove the fat from the low-fat versions of dairy.
- For cheese, buy blocked cheese and shred yourself as much as possible. Pre-shredded cheese has an added anti-caking ingredient, so more ingredients that aren't needed. Also, orange/yellow cheese has an added ingredient (annatto seed) to dye the cheese. While this really isn't bad for you, it is still an added ingredient that takes away from the more natural form of cheese.
Meat & Seafood
Organic and grass-fed beef, organic poultry, and wild-caught or sustainable seafood.
- Grass-fed beef is much healthier, is better quality, and is better for the environment. Organic ensures the animals aren't given any growth hormones or antibiotics. Look for organic and grass-fed on the label.
- For chicken and other non-beef meat sources, organic ensures they are given organic feed and aren't treated with antibiotics (federal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones in poultry and pork). It also means they have access to the outdoors.
- Look for wild-caught or sustainable seafood.
Focus on using oils like olive oil (EVOO), sesame oil, and coconut oil (avoid canola oil and soybean oil as these are both derived from genetically modified crops and are highly processed). Stock up on avocados and add in nuts/seeds (raw and unsalted).
Natural and unrefined.
- Honey, pure maple syrup, or coconut sugar. These have increased health benefits and are easier for your body to process compared to white/refined sugar. Enjoy in moderation.
Let's talk about packaged food. It gets hard to make everything from scratch and I do stray from the above as sometimes convenience wins! When I do buy packaged food, I read the ingredient list, not the nutrition label. Have you ever heard of the saying "count chemicals, not calories"? Well, that is what I go by! When reading the ingredient list I look for foods with minimal ingredients, typically five or less. Why you ask? The less ingredients the less processing. And the more our food is processed, the more likely that nutrients are taken from the food. I also look for ingredients that are real/whole foods that I could actually buy at the grocery store. For example, we love Lara bars. The ingredients in the Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bar are dates, peanuts, and salt. Yep, I could buy all of that and make it myself... making it a clean packaged food!
But I have a secret for you... sometimes I break all the rules for clean eating and enjoy a nice meal out that's not always clean, or buy my kids a special treat at the store. I truly believe everything in moderation! And while these are my clean eating basics for our everyday, there are times that call for trip to the local ice cream shop, a drive through Panera, or a donut from the bakery down the street.