I often get asked with regards to eating clean “Where do I start, and what should I buy?” The answer will be very different for people and will depend on factors such as what dietary requirements you have, what your cooking skills are (although anyone can learn) and what your health goals are. In my household, my husband and I are eating a clean non processed, gluten, pasteurised dairy free diet with minimal grains (80/20), three of our four children still have wheat, gluten products and some dairy, but our baby has eczema and is on a gluten, dairy free diet. Basically, in my family my father has a confirmed diagnosis as celiac, and I have intolerances (I have not been tested for celiac). My partner has chronic arthritis and our eldest son has immunity issues. I firmly wanted an overhaul and decided to start cutting out processed foods and eating as cleanly as possible. This did seem overwhelming at first as I am time poor due to running my own businesses, studying and caring for 4 children. I have since been pleasantly surprised regarding how simple this really is, possibly because I LOVE cooking and enjoy creating healthy alternatives to food we used to have way too often.
How I got started was by doing a whole30 program. I had read about this diet program for a while, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop having toast in the morning and worried about losing the convenience of a sandwich for lunch, changing just seemed time consuming, but then I read on a forum someone said, just pick a day and say “I’m doing whole30 from today.” So I did. I was extremely surprised that my hubby jumped on board too, he loves having a beer or 10, so I was trying not to jump up and down with excitement, freak him out and make him second guess his decision. I had already kicked dairy completely, as I was still breastfeeding my son who cannot tolerate it, so the rest was surprisingly easy. I learnt so much on that program, like just how many additives, sugars, soy and sodium are in what I used to consider healthy, packaged foods. As a mostly home cook, I realised that even my somewhat healthy diet needed huge improvement, simply adding store bought bread crumbs to meatballs or ‘gluten free’ mayonnaise to a salad, was full of crap that I just didn’t need. As many of you know I owned an imitation thermomix type machine, so this helped heaps with making my own mayonnaise and other staples. During this overhaul, I started replacing all the packaged foods for the kids. I did this little by little, and started replacing fish fingers with home made fish sticks, and tiny teddies with home made sugar free bikkies. What I was really surprised with was how little time it took to implement. With each change, my kids got used to eating this way and no longer whinged about not having ‘Arnott’s shapes’ in their school lunch and looking forward to mummy’s home made crackers or tortilla chips. After our whole 30 was completed in June, hubby noticed something dramatic, he was feeling less pain in his hips and back! For the first time in 10 years, he could see improvement for a condition that he had no relief from previously. I felt better in myself, my GI symptoms had improved and we both had more energy and lost weight.
Obviously having a Thermomix has been a huge help with this, we now have homemade tomato sauce (ketchup), refined sugar free cakes, fruity ice cream, puffed rice & date LCM’s, refined sugar free biscuits, homemade gluten free pizza and plenty more. In saying that, we managed to start living this way without the official machine, but it obviously helped in my decision making to get one (and no I am not a consultant.) I honestly believe that many of our modern day diseases are attributed to diet and that eating real, nourishing foods, cooked from real, organic produce where possible can improve life quality and health in a long term, dramatic way. I suppose my diet has been likened to a paleo lifestyle, but I prefer to look at it as clean eating. Naturally derived, high quality, well sourced food. I only apply the ‘rules’ to myself based on what makes me feel good. I still eat some sweet stuff, but I try to make choices that are better than refined sugar such as dates or molasses. I still eat some grains but only gluten free such as rice and only around 20% of the time. I still have weaknesses, I drink coffee every morning and sometimes in the day, but I choose organic, fair trade coffee and have it with raw milk or coconut cream with no added sugar. I still drink alcohol, but wine only, sometimes too much if I’m feeling festive. I love eating good fats such as coconut oil, unsalted butter, coconut cream, avocados, olive oil and good quality animal fats.
So here are my practical tips for getting started on a better eating plan
- Start by replacing something you really want to change with something healthier. An example of this would be instead of having icecream at night, freeze some fruit and try it with some coconut cream or a dollop of dairy cream if this is not something you want to give up.
- Invest in some helpful kitchen appliances, I know, I know the thermomix, not necessarily, but a really good food processor will certainly help you start making those home made creations much easier.
- Check out your local farmers market and see what they have to offer, compare the taste of this produce to the stuff you buy at Woolies, I am telling you, it will be lifechanging.
- Set little goals for yourself like grain free tuesday and thursday or meal from scratch Sunday.
- Don’t worry about set backs, just get back on track your next meal. You are only human, I have gone off track with some things, but after doing a whole 30, I actually ‘feel’ it physically if I shouldn’t have had it.
- Stock your pantry and fridge full of staples that are easy to have on hand so you can whip things up if you are time poor. Read my post here about what I have in my pantry and fridge for inspiration.
- Don’t expect results overnight, it won’t happen. I have lost 6kg in total, and still have about 20kg to lose, but I am happy with this. I AM losing, not rapidly, but sustainably. I started in May, it is now October, and so that is just over 1kg per month. Some people will find it faster, we are all different. Celebrate the wins!
- Read the backs of packets to see what ‘stuff’ is in the ingredients. It might surprise you to learn how much added crap there is in food that is marketed as healthy.
- Most of all, experiment and have fun. If this is going to be a life-long thing, make it enjoyable. There is no way I would give up having a few wines here and there, but I did stop the bourbon and cokes. I think if you take it all too seriously and don’t enjoy some things in life, it will all become too hard and this is the last thing you want.
- K.I.S.S Keep it simple, stupid! It really doesn’t have to be complicated, some free range scrambled eggs fried in cold pressed coconut oil, with mushrooms and tomatoes is a wholesome, simple breakfast, that can be whipped up in no time.
I wrote this post just to highlight that it isn’t too hard to start taking control of eating better. It is up to you to start, and when you do, you will be investing in your own health for your own future. There is still so much to learn and the science is ever evolving. Take control by trusting your own body and putting into it what you know is good.
By Mindy Bridgeman