How to Boost your Immune System Naturally

Citrus fruits for vitamin C

Our bodies are wonderful machines and are fully equipped to deal with and dispose of most intruding bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other fungi. Sometimes, however, they are not quite capable of dispatching those and we end up getting sick.

So to beat those winter or mid-season sniffles, helping your body fight back seems like a good idea. But, now, just how to boost your immune system? Is there a single magic pill that will just do the trick? Do you need to change your diet? Your lifestyle?

Hello, I’m Isabel, and, through Simply Go Clean, I want to help you clean up your diet, one step at a time, and achieve better health through Clean Eating.

Have you ever heard that statement: 70% of your immune function comes from your gut?

Well, it does, which means that, when it comes to fighting colds and viruses, the state of your digestive system really matters. Notice, though, that it’s called a ‘system’. It’s not a single organ or molecule, it’s a whole balancing act inside your body that is taking place.

So how can you boost your immune system? Well, let’s try to understand a bit how it works, so we can figure out how to strengthen it better.

How does your Immune System work?

Let’s imagine that your body gets in contact with pathogens, which can cause disease. It will launch a number of steps to identify, isolate, and destroy those pathogens. This will involve various organs, cells in your skin, blood, bone marrow, and tissues.

For the whole system to work in synergy, every component needs to be in top shape. Which is not always the case. If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to keep the system in optimum condition, or if it using too much of those nutrients for other functions in your body, the immune system will be depleted.

Let me give you an example

The winter slump. What happens in winter?

Not-so-nutrient-rich food…
  • We get fewer nutrients in – Our body is often getting less exercise and not getting fed optimally (Hellooo, Christmas chocolates…), as there are less nutrient-rich foods in season and we tend to cook those, rather than eat them raw. We also get far less sunshine and don’t make quite enough vitamin D.
  • We use up more nutrients – At the same time, our body has to use more energy adjusting to colder temperatures, fight more pathogens that tend to thrive in colder temperatures, and somehow still provide the nutrients needed by every cell in the body.

So when that end-of-winter cold virus comes along (you know, the one that hits you just when you thought you were safe…), your immune system is unprepared and you get sick.

I’m grossly simplifying the whole process, of course, and to this day, we don’t even understand fully how the immune system works. But you get the gist of it.

So let’s see how you can boost your Immune System in 4 steps. These were suggested by a French naturopath, whose magazine I receive regularly. The whole process made a lot of sense to me and didn’t involve any fancy, exotic ingredients or expensive supplements, so it felt natural for me to share.
However, let me just clarify:

This post reflects my opinions and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. These reflexions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. You should always obtain medical advice from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them.

With this blurb out of the way, let’s dive in.

How to boost your immune system in 4 steps:

  1. How to increase your ATP
  2. Know which nutrients you need
  3. Increase your intake of the right nutrients
  4. Remove unnecessary aggressions

– Molière

“One must eat to live and not live to eat.”

In other words, make every mouthful you eat count.

Step 1. How to increase your ATP

You must start by strengthening and increasing the basic chemical reactions in your body.

How?

There’s a molecule that sets your cells in motion, supports energy production and the body’s defenses… Science has identified it. It’s called ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate. This molecule is found inside your cells, in the mitochondria. Its role is essential, vital. It provides the energy necessary for all the basic functions of your body:

  • The chemical reactions of your metabolism
  • Cell division
  • The transport of vital chemicals and elements
  • And so on

In short, it is essential for your body to work properly. If you produce more ATP, your body will work better and faster, especially when it comes to antibodies production and immune-boosting.

So let’s go through a few recommendations to give your ATP production a quick boost:

1. Consume more unsaturated fatty acids

They are an easy fuel for your cells, which accelerates the production of ATP.

2. Boost your intake of magnesium

Nuts are a good all-year-round source of magnesium.

Take magnesium. It is THE energy mineral. It is an essential substance for all the metabolic reactions that allow the production of ATP … And 75% of Americans just don’t meet the recommended intake!

3. Increase your intake of B vitamins (B1, B2, PP)

They are all essential for ATP synthesis.

4. Do cardiac coherence and respiratory exercises.

If your breathing is too fast and too shallow, most of your tissues are poorly oxygenated. Your body needs a lot of oxygen to produce ATP. If you do not breathe properly, you don’t release carbon dioxide properly, and your body becomes acidic – which lowers your ATP reserves, among other things.

With extra ATP, your body is better able to quickly react to attacks. All your systems benefit …

Now is the time to…

Step 2. Know which nutrients you need

Your cells need these nutrients – and fast.

Here we are even more in the concrete: here is a list of nutrients that play a capital role in the functioning of your immune system.

Zinc

Zinc is involved in all stages of the production of antibodies and white blood cells. It is zinc which helps you make proteins (mediators and antibodies) capable of fighting against viruses and bacteria. It is zinc who operates the cell divisions that are used to “manufacture” the immune army.

And yet, the vast majority of people over the age of 60 are deficient in zinc.

Be careful though: zinc is poorly absorbed, and it will take several months to eliminate deficiencies. Also, avoid taking it DURING an infection, because zinc is not just a growth factor for us humans … but also for all living cells, including bacteria.

Vitamin C

Oranges are a preferred source of Vitamin C.

As you probably know, vitamin C is a major contributor to your immune defenses by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system.

Vitamin D

As the first line against viral attacks, vitamin D is involved in the differentiation of white blood cells. You should aim to spend at least 20 minutes in full sun every day to get optimal vitamin D levels.

Glutamine

Glutamine is the favorite amino acid in white blood cells – it’s their fuel, which makes them able to devour foreign bodies that attack your body.

Probiotics

The microbiota in your intestines is the seat of your immunity. This is why you must feed it with the right strains of probiotics, preferably a good variety. A strong bioflora also means that nutrients will be better absorbed.

As they say, ‘You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb’

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are needed to feed the probiotics, strengthen your gut flora and therefore your immune system.

Step 3. Increase your intake of the right nutrients

…by adding more of the following to your diet.

Through Clean Eating

Clean Eating is a great way to get nutrients in
  • Unsaturated fat (olive, avocado or canola oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds)
  • Leafy greens, figs, avos, bananas, nuts, legumes, and green veggies, for magnesium.
  • Beef/chicken, seafood, legumes, seeds and nuts for zinc
  • Nutritional yeast on your food, for extra B vitamins
  • Raw peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, and broccoli, all good natural sources of vitamin C. [Note – Vitamin C is easily destroyed though, so aim for high freshness and as little to no processing, chopping, cooking, etc.]
  • Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, amasi, kimchi, all preferably home-made, to boost your gut flora and better absorb the other nutrients
  • Ground flaxseed or chia seeds, to increase your prebiotics.

With the right supplements

Sometimes, we just don’t have the right nutrients-rich foods at hand. It’s not the right, or we can’t find them, or we just don’t like them.

And sometimes too, the food we eat does not contain enough nutrients to make a difference. You would have to eat 4 fresh oranges to get 200mg of vitamin C. Every day.

So supplementation might come in handy. And the supplements below are easy to find.

Vitamin C

Ideally, choose vitamin C from plants, like acerola – because it comes with the right phytonutrients.
Avoid effervescent or chewable forms, which might be more processed and less effective…
the body can only absorb 200mg at a time, so it’s better to take 200mg several times a day rather than a single 1000mg dose.

Zinc

Zinc citrate is a cheap and easily available supplement. Better taken over the long term, rather than in high doses for a few days only.
Stop taking it when you’re coming down with something, as it will equally boost the virus you’re trying to fight.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is best taken with other food containing oil or fat. Taking it at the same as your Omega 3 is a good idea, the omega 3 oil increasing the vitamin D absorption.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a preferred source of energy for white blood cells. Although we can get a fair amount through our food, the body’s needs in times of stress can be higher, making supplementation a good idea.
As a supplement, aim for 1 to 2g / day.

Probiotics and prebiotics

Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, are a great source of probiotics

Aim for quality, certified products to guarantee their effectiveness. We use those at home as gut health is a bit of a priority for the whole family. And because they work.

Echinacea

Both for prevention and when getting sick, echinacea has been proven to help.

Step 4: Remove unnecessary aggression

Limit your stress levels, this weakens your immune system.

Stress is always accompanied by a decrease in our immune defenses – science has proven it time and time again.

Let’s go through 5 steps you can take to reduce your stress levels.

1. Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and alcohol, in small doses, also acts as a stimulant.

Bonus tip – While you’re there, cut down on sugar and refined starches, to avoid the glucose spike… soon followed by the crash.

2. Get more active

Being physically active has a powerful effect on those happy hormones, so get moving. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but just 30-minutes of walking outdoors is enough to relieve anxiety and stress.

Bonus tip – And if you *smile* and focus on happy, positive thoughts while exercising, you get a double-whammy of happy hormones!

3. Get more sleep

We are all different. Inside and out. Everybody’s sleep pattern is different. And can change, depending on your current circumstances. So make sure you sleep enough.

Bonus tip – Taking naps is a very effective way to top-up on rest. Between 10 and 25 minutes seem to work best for most people, so experiment to find out your sweet spot.

4. Experiment with relaxation techniques

Relaxation can help boost your immune system

Whether it’s breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, cardiac coherence, EFT, or any other technique, there’s got to be one that works for you. One which is both effective and easy for you to fit in regularly.

Bonus tip – Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. So try and find a relaxation technique that you can easily do any time of the day, so you’ve got no excuse to not do it.

5. Push the ‘Off’ button

Turn off the television, your smartphone, laptop or whatever screen you use at home, at least 1 hour before bedtime. 2 hours is best. This is to avoid blue light from the screens disrupting your sleeping pattern.

Bonus tip – If you ‘must’ spend the evening in front your screen, you can try activating the Blue light filter on your device, or investing in a pair of tinted glasses designed at that effect.

Now you know how to boost your immune system

…easily and naturally. So don’t forget to go back to this post whenever a change of season is near, you’re experiencing more stress in your life, or you just feel like your immunity is not up to speed.

You might want to find out How to Detox with Clean Eating too, so you can keep your body in top form all year round.

And if you have other tips on how to boost your immune system that you’d like to share, please do so! Feel free to comment below and share the goodness.

Keep well, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more Clean Eatings hacks & tips!

Eat right, go well,
-Isabel 🙂

The Dirty Dozen 2020, or when to buy organic

The Dirty Dozen list 2017

We all know that eating organic is essential to reduce the amount of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in our bodies. They don’t know how to deal with them, and it can lead to inflammation and a whole host of other issues over time.

So if you live right next to earn organic farmers market or grow all your own produce in your back garden, you’ll do great.
But let’s be realistic here: very few of us out there are actually able to buy everything organic.

And this is when 2 nifty lists come in: the Dirty Dozen 2020 and the Clean 15.
Or When to buy Organic fruits & vegetables,
and When conventionally-grown fruits & vegetables will do just fine.

The Dirty Dozen 2020 is the list of the 12 most toxic fruits and vegetables. This list is compiled every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Luckily for us, they also publish a list of the Clean 15, i.e. the fruits and vegetables containing the least pesticides. Very useful when you want to eat as clean as possible, but can’t really buy everything organic.

How are the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists established?

According to Wikipedia,

“the Environmental Working Group is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.”

They publish every year since 2004 the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide ranks 47 popular fruits and vegetables from the most contaminated to the least. The results are based on more than 35,200 samples tested by the USDA and Food and Drug Administration.

Their aim is to inform the public of the dangers of toxic chemicals around us and to help consumers make better choices.

The samples are tested ready-to-eat

The samples tested were first prepared for consumption. That means washing thoroughly the fruits & vegetables and peeling them if needed, just as you would at home.

So the residues found would be present in the fruit or vegetable as you and I would eat it, with no further way of removing the pesticides.

The impacts of residues have long been documented

Over the last century, agrochemicals have allowed crop yields to more than double, in line with the population increase in the world. Although the increase in food production happened at the right time to feed the ever-increasing world population, this came at a price.

The use of fertilizers and pesticides increased sharply over the last few decades and doubled every 10 years. They have now become a necessity for farmers everywhere in the world. This has an impact on the environment, ecosystems and human health through consumption.

Are fruits clean or not?
Agrochemicals can have a direct impact on babies and young children.

Babies and young children are particularly sensitive to these toxic residues. Parents have long been advised to feed their children healthy clean produce as much as possible. Some pesticides are banned in Europe after linking them to behavioral disorders in young children.

When to buy organic in 2020

In an ideal world, we should all be eating organic produce. To reduce our intake of residual agrochemicals and to protect other living species affected by them.

But not everybody can afford the higher prices of organic produce. I certainly can’t.

Or lives near a well-stocked organic farmer’s market, for that matter.

Fortunately, some fruits and vegetables tend to need less and retain fewer petrochemicals. So the end product is pretty much of the same quality, whether grown organically or not. Hence the Clean 15.

So by using those 2 lists (keep them at hand on your phone when you go shopping or next to your fridge), you can identify when to buy organic, and which fruits & vegetables you can buy just about anywhere without fear.

The Dirty Dozen 2020

These are the fruits and vegetables that you should always try and buy organic, particularly if babies or children will be eating them.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Top 3 Dirty DozenNectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

This year, the EWG found that more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.

Several samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides. Together with kale, spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.

The 2020 Clean Fifteen

These next fruits and vegetables contain the least amount of pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy all your produce organic, these are the ones that you can safely buy even if they were grown through conventional methods.

Top 3 Fifteen Clean
The top 3 cleanest fruits & vegetables
  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupes
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Kiwi

According tot he EWG, this year, avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest, with fewer than 2 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides.

With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.

Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.

Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

The full 47 fresh produce list

Altogether, EWG tested 47 different produce. Here is the full list, in case you wonder how toxic or safe a specific produce is:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
  13. Sweet Bell Peppers
  14. Cherry Tomatoes
  15. Lettuce
  16. Cucumbers
  17. Blueberries
  18. Hot Peppers
  19. Plums
  20. Green Beans
  21. Tangerines
  22. Raspberries
  23. Grapefruit
  24. Snap Peas
  25. Winter Squashes
  26. Carrots
  27. Oranges
  28. Summer Squashes*
  29. Bananas
  30. Sweet Potatoes
  31. Watermelon
  32. Mangoes
  33. Kiwi
  34. Honeydew Melon
  35. Cabbage
  36. Mushrooms
  37. Broccoli
  38. Cantaloupe
  39. Cauliflower
  40. Asparagus
  41. Eggplant
  42. Sweet Peas Frozen
  43. Papaya*
  44. Onions
  45. Pineapple
  46. Sweet Corn*
  47. Avocados

* A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce. Source – EWG.

At the end of the day…

Organic produce
Eating more fruits and vegetables is key!

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as raw as possible, is still better than none. So don’t let the lack of availability or the higher price of organic produce stop you.

Just try to replace the most toxic ones with others further down the list.

And always aim for seasonal, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. If you can, find local farmers and talk to them to know how they grow their produce. Those will not have spent too long in storage and transport. Which means they are likely to be more nutrient-rich than out-of-season imported produce.

Eat well, go well,

– Isabel

Other articles you might be interested in:

How to best store your fresh fruits and vegetables?
What is Clean Eating? 
Juicing vs blending – the best way to get your juice in

Your Stay-at-Home Guide

Family at home

I’m an affiliate for these products because I think those resources are brilliant value for money and will help you. This means that, should you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you.
For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

So the whole wide world is officially Stuck at Home. Or most of it is.

Somehow, it feels like some higher force put us all in Time-out and told us to “Think about what’s we’ve done”.

So here we are all, trying to make sense of the whole situation. With more or less success.

I have a complete and total newfound admiration for home-schooling moms out there. And teachers. Quite clearly, I’m starting to realize it’s not always “the teacher’s fault”…

I’m Isabel, I’m passionate about Clean Eating, all things nutrition, and feeding my family all the goodness they need. And sharing all this with you, to help you on your way to get healthier.

Anyway, I wanted to help you with a Stay at Home Guide and starting checking out how other families were using. I’ll be updating your Stay at Home Guide, so feel free to send me your tips below!

Click here to submit your own Top Stay-at-Home Tip!

Then I came across this Stay-at-Home Survival Bundle. I can’t just keep it to myself. And I know this might not help you much in your Clean Eating journey, but I’m guessing that eating wholesome food might have slipped lower in your list of priorities right now. I get you.

Stay at Home guide

So this bundle has been put together by Ultimate Bundles. I have been a big fan of their products for years and love the fact that they always put together the best bundles of digital products out there.

So this time, they are helping us dealing with the challenges of lockdown and other social distancing rules:

  • How to keep the family busy?
  • How to look after ourselves?
  • How to stay organised?
  • How to work from home?

If you need a little help with any of those, do yourself a favor and check out the Stay-at-Home Survival Kit content below.

What’s in the Stay-at-Home Survival Kit

Kids Activities (7 products worth $140.94)

Kids activities
  • Calendars for Kids by Hena Bilal (Printable) $11.00
    A calendar is the first tool for teaching your kids to stay organized. Just give it a year!
  • How to Draw by Kathy Barbro (Workbook) $25.00
    A collection of 200 tutorials created by an art teacher.
  • Letters Around The World by Molly Callister (Workbook) $15.00
    A preschool learning packet that introduces children to 26 new countries around the world, one for every letter of the alphabet!
  • Life Cycle Bundle by Jolanthe Erb (Workbook) $6.00
    Learn all about the life cycle of both the monarch butterfly and the frog, with these two printable activity packs.
  • Nature Journaling by Hannah Stevenson (eBook & Workbook) $18.95
    A thoughtful resource for those who are just starting out.
  • Teaching Reading Through Play: A 36-week Early Reading Course by Lisa Tanner (Workbook) $45.00
    Help your child take their knowledge of the alphabet and learn to read with these carefully sequenced games and activities. 
  • The Activity Gratitude Journal For Kids by Katy Boykin (Workbook) $19.99
    Help your child cultivate an attitude of gratitude in a fun and creative way!

Parenting (4 products worth $179.00)

Your Stay at Home guide - The Intentional Stay-at-Home Mom
  • Back to Basics: The Screen Time Formula by Nicolle Embra (eCourse) $67.00 Find your family’s screen time formula! 
  • Digital Homeschool Convention: America Homeschools Edition by Holly Chubb Summit $39.00
    A crash course in how to homeschool when you never imagined you would be homeschooling!
  • Family Conversation Cards by Katie McGowen (Printable) $3.00
    Spark fun discussions with your family as you go through these 80 conversation starters.
  • The Intentional Stay-at-Home Mom by Amy Webb (eCourse) $70.00
    A course to help moms find more joy and meaning in their role at home by focusing on mindset change, self-care and activities.

Preparation & Organization (5 products worth $92.82)

Spring Seasonal Living
  • Better Than a Box by Katie Kimball (eBook) $16.95
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    Learn the simple steps to create your very own digital scrapbook pages.
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    Keep all of your important emergency medical information at your fingertips.
  • Spring Seasonal Living by Kathie N. Lapcevic (eCourse) $17.00
    Flourish in all the goodness of the spring season with an eCourse dedicated to using all the earth provides in its natural rhythm.
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    Learn different ways that you can make changes or adjustments in your life to help save the planet.

Self Care (3 products worth $43.44)

Your Stay at Home guide - The Tired Mom's Guide to Getting it Done
  • Anti-Stress Mandalas Adult Coloring Book by Kim Mills (Printable) $6.45 20 fun and relaxing patterns to color and enjoy.
  • Gratitude Builds Fortitude 30 Day Challenge by Holly Bertone (eCourse)  $9.99
    Build your fortitude with 30 easy daily gratitude challenges!
  • The Tired Mom’s Guide to Getting It Done by Allison Kijak (Workbook) $27.00 This guide will reveal the things that have been holding you back and show you how to overcome them by creating a realistic plan of action to finally get it done.

Work at Home (2 products worth $36.99)

Profitable work at home
  • Profitable Work at Home Starter Kit  by Chhavi & Amit (Workbook) $27.00
    All you need to unlock the secrets and launch a profitable service-based online business in a short time. 
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    This book links you directly to 144 work-from-home companies that are nearly always hiring.

That’s a lot to take in! Luckily, Ultimate Bundles allow you to download only the products you need, when you need them. They think of everything. Got to love them…

So, to recap, the Stay-at-Home Survival Kit, it’s:

  • Contents: 11 workbooks & printables, 5 eCourses, 4 eBooks & a summit
  • Price: $24.97 
  • Value: $493.19

Ok, now, you might ask: What if I buy this, and I don’t like it?

Ultimate Bundles 30-day Guarantee

No problem. Ultimate Bundles offers a 100% happiness guarantee refund policy as standard. If you don’t love every bit of your bundle, just email customerservice@ultimatebundles.com and ask for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

If you have other tips and resources out there that you’re using to deal with the current situation, please do share them with us in the Comments, I will update your Stay at Home Guide so everybody benefits!

Click here to submit your own Top Stay-at-Home Tip!

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for other Clean Eating Hacks and shortcut to wholesomeness.

Stay home, go well,
– Isabel

Best Tips for Healthy Meal Planning

Best tips for Healthy Meal Planning

I’m an affiliate for these products because I think those resources are brilliant value for money and will help you. This means that, should you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

None of us have got enough time in the day. Especially once you have kids. And you still want to stay away from industrial food. 24 hours just aren’t enough. Meal planning is, luckily for us, is an easy way to save time on a daily basis, simply by changing your shopping/routine a bit.

And to help you along the way, I’ve compiled these 19 Best Tips for Healthy Meal Planning. With a little help of fellow moms like us sharing their own best tips for healthy meal planning.

If you’ve got an awesome tip to share that isn’t covered here, feel free to share it with us, I’ll update this post regularly.

Click here to submit your own Top Stay-at-Home Tip!

See, at some point in our clean eating journey, I was the only one in the family having to avoid processed food and cooking from scratch for health reasons. So I had to make plans, every day, to prepare food for the family, then for me. You can imagine that, by the time I was finished cooking for everybody else, my time and energy had run out, kids (then both under 5) and husband were *hangry* and we just had to sit down and eat. So I ate a lot of salads, topped up with whatever meat, fish or egg was cooked and ready to eat. For months.

But I was craving warm, cooked food. So I started cooking a large batch of veggies at the weekend, or in the evenings, for myself in the evenings. And soon found out that the rest of the tribe was eating away at my large batch before the week was over. So I researched new recipes. Cooked even larger batches in advance, that the whole family could eat. Together. That ticked all the boxes for my health.

And that’s how I started thinking of recipes ahead of time, shopping for them (I only ever do 1 shopping trip per week, this momma’s got no time for driving around…) and serving them to the whole family.

That’s basically Meal Planning. Some people like to prep their food in batches over the weekend and freeze their meals for the whole week. I don’t personally, but I can see the benefits. Check out my Pro and Cons list of Meal Prepping in this post on Healthy Meal Planning in 9 Easy Steps, see Step 8.

Best tips for healthy meal planning

How can *you* create your own Clean Eating Meal Plan?

Meal Planning involves changing your routine. It’s not so much about what you eat, it’s about thinking about it a bit earlier and changing the steps you take to put food in your plate.

Clean Eating involves, by and far, changing what you eat and how you eat it. One little step at a time.

Related postWhat is Clean Eating?

It’s a lot of changes, I hear you. Hopefully, you’ve already started taking baby steps towards eating cleaner food. If not, I have covered various ways you can start Eating Clean to give you ideas.

But I’m getting side-tracked.

Meal Planning is more about the process.

And this process is as individual as your family is, really. It will be different from anybody else, because you are different from anybody else.

We personally have to eat clean for health reasons, but you might want to eat cleaner food to save money. To avoid additives and GMOs. Lose weight. Eat a more vegetarian/vegan diet. Reduce your impact on the environment. Add vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in your diet.

Whatever the reasons, they are personal to you. So as much as other people’s experiences are useful, they are only tools to help you build your routine.

So along the way, you might need to tweak your new routine to suit you. I’ve asked my friends, family, and readers to share their very own Top Tips, which are all different. These are all great ideas to help you along.

Want to share your own Best Tip for Healthy Meal Planning? Please do so below and help everybody else out there:

Click here to submit your own Top Tip for Meal Planning!

19 Best Tips to Create a Clean Eating Meal Plan

The (not so) ultimate list of Tips for Healthy Meal Planning that works for you!

Tip 1. Start small

Meal planning can be as small or as involved as you want it to be. But it can also be quite overwhelming to start with.

Meal planner close-up

So keep breakfasts and lunches the same, and focus on 2-3 dinners per week to start with. Then every school/work dinners. Then add lunches/breakfast, if needed.

We like to keep weekends fairly free here. Some families like their Friday pizza. Others have a No Cooking Evening so the cook can take a break.

Our breakfasts and lunches are fairly similar every day: Hubby and I usually eat leftovers and the girls’ lunchboxes are filled to their liking with a choice of proteins, starches, fruits, and veggies from staples that we buy every week. It frees up our minds from having to scratch for food every day.

Tip 2. Keep it realistic

Yes, we’ve all seen images of freezers loaded with a month’s worth of meals and boxes neatly stacked up to the ceiling. But those didn’t just happen overnight. I bet they started with a few meals and a handful of boxes…

So start with meal planning for 1 week. It’s much more manageable as you’ll be able to fit all your groceries and prepared meals in a normal-sized fridge/freezer.

Note – If you’re ready for a bigger challenge, I’ve come across this awesome post about Seasonal Meal Planning. Definitely the next step up, but Leigh Ann makes the process easy. Food for thought…

In the same line, pick recipes adapted to your cooking levels, so you don’t spend hours slaving over hot stove every night (defeating the whole time-saving purpose of meal planning).

And pick ingredients that you can easily find either at your usual shopping spot or at least locally. So you don’t spend the weekend running around for ingredients with unpronounceable names.

Keep your fancy recipes for the weekends or days when you genuinely have the time (and the energy) to cook.

Tip 3. Focus on 1 main ingredient

Find 2-3 recipes using the same ingredient (it’s cheaper and prepping can be done at the same time). So when bell peppers are in season, and we can pick up loads of it really cheap at the market, they’ll be on the table at every meal! Diced in a salad, sliced and braised with pasta, stuffed with a savory muffin mix or savory mince, you name it, they’ll be there!

Purple kale leaves

Or prepare one ingredient in large quantity and use it up in a variety of dishes throughout the week. Like a large batch of chicken, which can be used in a soup, a salad, an oven bake and so on. Thanks for the tip, Jessie from Life As A Strawberry!

Tip 4. Bulk up

Irma Stretch (of the Fearless Affiliate fame, but a keen clean eater in her spare time) suggested this: “Purchase a freezer. Always having food on hand makes planning meals easier. It is cheaper to buy boxes of chicken breasts or bulk containers of meat. And if you have a warehouse-type store nearby, stock up on large bags (2kg) of frozen veggies.”

Double up on your quantities for a few meals a week, then freeze the leftovers. Here’s your back-up plan there and then. For those just-too-busy evenings. Sorted.

Tip 5. Streamline your shopping

Prepare a complete shopping list first, so you don’t go for last-minute errands (coz you don’t have eggs… or sugar…).

Try and buy all your ingredients from the one shop. You save time by not having to shop around. You save money by not driving around. And if they happen to deliver for a small fee, you get more weekend time.

Tip 6. Get creative with themed meals

Think Taco Tuesdays, but for your family! It doesn’t have to be every week the same either, but it helps to find new recipes within that theme.

Variety of food on a table

I would definitely keep a Leftover day during the week, preferably just before your shopping trip. It saves money, avoids food wastage, and creates space in the fridge for your fresh produce. Oh, and it only takes minutes to put together! What’s not to love…
Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Mexican/Italian/French day,
  • Meatless day,
  • Try something new day,
  • Let’s cook together day,
  • Mexican Mondays,
  • Pizza night (home-made, of course),
  • Breakfast-for-dinner day,
  • No-cook day (raw food),
  • Crockpot night, etc.

We’re big fans of Picnic dinners, where basically everything is presented in small bowls and we pick and choose what we want to eat. A sort of deconstructed meal. Works wonder on hot summer’s day with salad-type ingredients. Or leftovers.

Tip 7. Teamwork gets it done

Enroll the better half (and the kids, if they’re old enough to not ask for pizza, pasta or chips every meal) to pick the recipes. Not only will they suggest ideas of recipes you might have forgotten about, but it will help choose a New Recipe of the Week that suits everybody.

Along the same line, get your team to check out those Best Tips for Healthy Meal Planning. We all remember and focus on different information, and this is quite a long list!

Tip 8. Create a thorough Recipe list

First, remember to write down a basic recipe list. Even if it’s only 2 recipes. It’s amazing how quickly we can get side-tracked when evenings get busy…
While writing down your list of recipes for the week,

Shopping list
  • add the quantities it caters for (important for the shopping list…),
  • where it’s from (cookbook, own recipes, Pinterest),
  • how long it *actually* takes (once you’ve made it),
  • any possible swaps (if you can’t find the right stuff in the shop or need to cater for a specific diet), etc.

Basically, anything that will save you time later on.

Tip 9. Check your Family calendar before picking your recipes

If you’re pushed for time on a busy evening, avoid those recipes that need to chill overnight or take 1 hour to prepare, let alone cook.

Or avoid catering for a small number when friends or family have planned to drop by.

It also helps you shop wisely. Like, not buying BOGOFF cabbage heads on a week when nobody will be home… Got that t-shirt.

Tip 10. Keep your pantry and freezer stocked up

We all have staple items that we use on a regular basis, whether (carefully chosen) tins, dry groceries, or frozen products. So a lot of your family recipes will be using those. Just make sure you add them to your shopping list to replenish them regularly.

Tip 11. Use up existing fresh products

…before buying new ones!

Check your fridge/fruit basket before heading to the shops, to make sure you’re not spending unnecessary money on items you already have at hand, and creating waste in the process.

Fresh produce aisle in supermarket

Likewise, you might realize that the ingredients you needed for a specific recipe disappeared in the kids’ lunchboxes or during a late-night snack attack.

Tip 12. Only add one new recipe per week

Trying new things is great, food variety is awesome and it’s easy to get overzealous when browsing the Healthy Recipe section on Pinterest.

But bear in mind that trying new recipes usually involves more effort, takes a little bit more time, and can add a lot more stress to your evening routine.

So try and stay clear of meals that are completely foreign to your household and keep it simple during the week. Your weekends might be better suited for those.

Tip 13. Have a backup plan and be flexible

We live in a busy world and little can throw our schedule out all the time. Got stuck in traffic longer than expected? A last-minute late meeting at work? A late school assignment that needs your help?

Don’t fret. Just have a back-up meal at hand [see Tip 4 above]. It can be a frozen meal, a quick pantry recipe, an omelet or quiche, or your Leftover dinner. Right there.

Or you can just swap meals around if you have a quick recipe lined up for another day of the week. Like that.

Tip 14. Prioritize your recipes based on your fridge content

Highly perishable ingredients are best eaten earlier in the week. This way, you eat them at their highest nutrient value and you don’t end up trashing them. And having to buy fresher ones later in the week.

Meals using your Staple foods and Leftover meals are ideal for the end of the week.

Tip 15. Focus on time-saving hacks

Time is usually of the essence during weekdays. Try and find quick recipes (15-minute or 30-minute meals), make use of your crockpot, over-cater, and freeze some meals for later, have a meal of leftovers, etc.

Clean eating back-up meal

My favorite hack is what I call a fous-y-tout (to be pronounced phoo-zee-too with a French accent). Literally, Dump-it-all. I’m sure most families have got one of those recipes.

You basically take small leftovers and other bits and bobs from the fridge, and you make a meal of it. You can smother them with tomato sauce and herbs, or cheese and cream, and bake them. Or cover them with mash for a Pie of the day. Or beat some eggs over them for a one-of-a-kind quiche or omelet.

Be aware that most of those come up really truly delicious and you’ll never ever be able to repeat them again… You’ve been warned…

Tip 16. Establish a routine

…but be ready to change and improve. Meal Planning screams “I’m super-organized, efficient, totally in control”. But it’s actually merely a tool to help you along the way.

In an ideal world, we all want to really establish a Meal Planning routine and make this a weekly habit to eat better, save time and money.

In reality, though, we all live different lives and some of those Best Tips for Healthy Meal Planning might not work for you. Or at least not every week.

It’s OK, change what needs to be changed and start again the next week. No hard feelings.

Tip 17. Make use of cooking shortcuts

One-pot dishes are your best friends. Crockpots and sheet pans are a godsend for busy evenings. Loaded salads slash your cooking time (especially if you add leftovers, like cooked chicken or roasted veggies, to your fresh produce).

Saving time also happens ahead of cooking. Think about stuffing freezer bags with all your recipe ingredients ahead of time and throwing them all in a pot/crockpot during the week when you need it.

Extra tip – if your oven allows for it, prepare 2 sheet pans, rotating them half-way through to get them nicely roasted, and freeze one!

Tip 18. Create a Family Cookbook

This will help pick a few tried-and-trusted favorites every week. Saving you time and stress, as you could prepare them with your eyes closed.

You can add new favorites as you go along, to keep things interesting.

The ideal format is entirely up to you. I have a notebook from my pre-digital years with all my staple recipes. But I’m using my Notes on my smartphone for adding new ones these days. Which makes it easier to share, to tweak, and to use when we’re away.

Find a system that works for you. S-note (for Samsung smartphone users), for example, allows for a search on 1 ingredient, which makes it a godsend for finding a recipe for whatever is left in your fridge.

If you have several cooks in the house, or if you use your tablet and your phone for your recipes, a shared platform like Evernote might come in handy.

Tip 19. Make use of tools

We live in a world where we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. Make the most of it.

Use Pinterest or recipe websites to find new recipes (don’t forget to save them!).

Get the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle*. Not only does it come with a wealth of recipes, but you get free meal plans, printables, etc.

Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019

Check out a few meal planning apps. Some of them offer recipes, create your shopping list, and even get the ingredients delivered to your door. The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle comes with a 1-month free subscription to RealPlans, so you can try this one out for free.

*Update – the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle isn’t available anymore, but it was in high demand so I’m sure it’ll be back, sooner or later!

If you want to be sure not to miss it this time around, just sign up to my newsletter below and I’ll make sure to keep you posted!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Meal Planning

Meal Planning is a tool. It can help you eat cleaner food, save you time, and save you money. And keep your sanity at a decent level. That’s why I compile those Best Tips for Healthy Meal Planning.

But there’s no one-solution-fits-all here. Creating your meal planning routine is a process. There’s no right or wrong, only tips that don’t quite fit your own family or current situation.

So try it out, one tip at a time. And along the way, please share below the tips I missed but that work wonders for you!

Click here to submit your own tip

Go well, eat well,
Isabel

Healthy Meal Planning in 9 easy steps

How to create a healthy meal plan in 9 steps

Everybody wants to make their life easier. And healthier. And save time. And money. Well, believe it or not, here’s one single habit that can actually help you with all this: Meal Planning. Read on to get started on your very own Healthy Meal Planning, in 9 easy steps.

Meal Planning?

You’re here reading this because, like a lot of folks out there, you would like to eat healthier, cleaner food and be more in control of what you put in your plate.

Related – Clean Eating for Beginners in 6 steps

And like most people, you’re probably finding out that getting clean, healthy food on the table isn’t quite as quick and straightforward as grabbing a takeaway or convenience food on your way home.

I hear you. But while clean eating can seem to be a lot more time-consuming and expensive than processed food, it doesn’t have to. You just need a little bit more planning!

Clean eating meal - Red and orange pepper salad

And this doesn’t have to be a full weekend affair either. You Meal Planning can be as involved or simple as you want it to be. If you only want to plan ahead for a couple of dinners of week, it’s fine. It means that, for those few nights, your mealtime prep and cooking will be that much easier. And that’s great!

Want to plan ahead for the whole month so most of your meals are on auto-pilot? Very ambitious, but completely feasible. Although I would suggest to get started with a few meals, and build on from there. You might find that your own sweet spot is somewhere in between…

So let’s get started…

1. Decide on your Why

I know I keep badgering you about Your Why, but this is super important. First, because it will determine how in-depth your meal planning will be. If you really need to save time in the evenings, bulk-prepping might be your best option. But it might involve bulk-buying if saving money is your main motivation.

Second, it will help you stick with it. Habits do take time to set in. And there will be evenings when there is no time for cooking, the cook of the house is unwell or some other micro-crisis.

Remembering Why you are doing this will help you go back on track that much quicker and easier.

Clean eating - Colourful fruit salad

Your Why can be:

  • saving money,
  • eating clean,
  • freeing time in the evening,
  • eating better breakfasts/lunches/dinners,
  • reducing food waste,
  • adding variety in your plate,
  • preserving what is left of your sanity (my personal Why).

2. Decide how many meals you need to cater for

Will you plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinners, or just dinners? Check the week ahead: any busy or pushed-for-time evenings, any evening out, guests?

Tally up the number of people to feed and number of meals.

At this stage, check also whether the season or weather calls more for salads or soup? What’s your budget for the week? How is your shopping routine shaping up for that particular week (i.e. if you’re away that weekend, when will you shop)?

3. Draw your Recipe List

Meal planner close-up

I would strongly suggest involving the other members of the family at this stage. You will get more ideas (and variety) and hopefully fewer grumbles later on. It also means that your other half is more attuned to what food needs to be bought, in case they do the shopping.

Start with recipes that everybody likes, using seasonal products and stuff that you already have in your pantry/fridge/freezer. It’s easier to shop for them, store them and prep them.

Add maybe one new recipe or ingredient per week. To try something new, or for a special occasion. Don’t get too excited about all those Pinterest fancy recipes! To start with, stick with your old favorites while the routine sets in. There’ll be time for fancy later on.

If you need inspiration at that stage, the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle is a goldmine of recipes (over 1000), meal plans (all 38 of them), and other cooking tips. It even comes with pretty printables for meal planning.

4. Create a Meal Planner

And make sure it is visible.

Whether it’s just a sheet of paper, a magnet or board, place it on the fridge or in the kitchen, in full view. If you prefer a digital meal plan, create a Meal Calendar on your favorite calendar tool (Gmail, Outlook, Evernote, etc.) and share it with everybody in the family.

My meal planner
Our meal planner. Simple and effective.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. This is what ours look like. We got loads of cheap red and yellow peppers recently, so most recipes will include some of them.

You can make it more detailed if it will help you later on. So you can add which fruits & vegetables are used, where the recipe comes from, how long it will take (I find a star system works well, 1 star for quick and easy, 3 stars for difficult/time-consuming), the number of guests at the table and so on.

There are also a whole host of meal planning apps out there. Look out for (in random order):

  • their price tag (if any),
  • the option for uploading of your own recipes,
  • if they cater for dietary preferences,
  • if they let you sync with your calendar,
  • whether they will generate a shopping list generated,
  • if they give you the nutritional information for your meals,
  • any other preference of yours (online shopping etc.)

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle come with a 1-month free subscription to Real Plans, by the way, so it gives you plenty of time to try this one out.

5. Create your Master Ingredient List (optional)

This is the list of all the ingredients you’ll need for all your meals. I’ve marked it as optional because if, say, you only decided to plan for 3 of next week’s dinners, you can probably just skip to the next step (Shopping list).

But this step might come in handy, for example, if your meal plan covers a whole week or more. Or if you’re new to clean eating and cooking from scratch. Or if there are quite a few new recipes involved (for a birthday or family meal, for example).

So this is how you create it: you just go through your recipes and write down all the ingredients needed, together with the quantities, making one list for pantry items and another one for perishables.

Then you check what’s in your pantry/fridge/freezer/fruit basket and cross those out.

What’s left is basically your Shopping List.

6. Write your Shopping List

If you’ve made a Master Ingredient List (see Step 5 above), then your Shopping List is what is still not crossed out.

Fresh produce aisle in supermarket

If not, go through your recipes and write down all the ingredients (and quantities) that you don’t have at hand.

Then add stock items that you might need later on and will be used in your recipes.

Related – How keep your fresh produce for longer?

My tip – I usually do 1 list per shop, so we’ll have one list for the farmers’ market, and another one for the supermarket.

My other tip – On your list, group the ingredients based on their location in the shop. So all the fresh vegetables together, then the fruits, then the meat, the fish, the bakery items, the grocery items…
It saves time in the shop as you can quickly go through each aisle, pick up everything you need there (and only what you need) and be out in a flash.
I also find it saves money, as I don’t have to go through the candy or snack aisles with the kids… if you see what I mean.

Another random and useful tip – At this stage, just make sure that you have enough space to store all the ingredients you’ll be buying. I still vividly remember that time when I put “cabbage” on the shopping list, needing some for a stir-fry, and my better half walked in with 4 whole cabbage heads. Apparently, they were on BOGOF…
So we had to chop and cook them all up, stinking up the place for days, fill the freezer and the fridge up to the brim with cabbage… and eat cabbage. a lot of cabbage. every day. for what seemed like forever.

7. Shop for your ingredients

You can find more useful tips on shopping for clean food in this Clean Eating Shopping Guide. So you’re prepared for everything the shop will throw in your way to distract you from the clean food you need!

But basically, since you’re buying for more than just the day, follow your list. to. the. letter.

That’s my kids’ job. They enjoy reading the list, locating the product, checking it’s a good fit, crossing it off afterward. Keeps them busy, keeps the shopping trip quick and to the point, keeps me sane. Win-win.

8. Sunday prep (optional)

What about prepping? Meaning preparing and cooking your meals ahead of time and freezing them?

A lot of folks swear by their Sunday prep, which makes dinners (and lunches) a breeze. Simply take your meal out, thaw it, warm it up, and ta-dah!

Salad in a mason jar

While I can see the benefits in terms of time and money (as you can buy in bulk and cook in bulk), there are downsides too. So let’s go through the Pros and Cons of Meal Prepping…

Pros of Sunday prepping

  • Less time spent cooking during the week.
  • More variety, as you can swap one frozen meal for another easily.
  • Saves money: you can cook a large batch of one recipe and freeze it into several meals. So it’s the same cooking time for more meals.
  • You also save money by buying perishable products in bulk, like meat, vegetables, or fruits.
  • More flexibility: if you end up not eating much at home that week, you just don’t take any meal out of the freezer. So there’s no perishables wasted. You also can eat as early or as late as you want to.
  • You can turn it into a family activity on Sundays.

Cons of Sunday prepping

  • Everything is cooked, so a fair amount of nutrients are lost. To make it into a nutrient-rich meal, you need to add a fresh salad, a raw soup like gazpacho or some other crudites. Thus adding back perishables and prepping time.
  • It takes time on a Sunday, even with everybody’s help.
  • You need a large freezer. That’s an important one as you must have the money and space for it.
  • You need a lot of suitably-sized freezer containers.

So whether you decide to do a large meal prepping session ahead of time or carry on cooking every night is entirely up to you. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing event either. It can be a weekly prepping session or a monthly one.

In our household, we don’t really prepare meals in advance (no large freezer and I like my food nutrient-rich), but we do buy in bulk whenever we can (freezer space permitting) and prepare in bulk there and then. Not necessarily on a Sunday, it could be an evening activity for just the two of us.

9. On the day, cook, relax, and enjoy

Don’t forget to refer to your meal plan regularly during the week, so you know when to take frozen stuff out to thaw. Or to check whether a specific meal needs to be swapped or prepped in advance as life happens.

So what’s your Healthy Meal Plan going to look like?

Now you’ve got all the *ingredients* (see what I did there…) required to get started with Healthy Meal Planning in 9 steps. One step at a time.

I’m pretty sure you already have some of those steps in place or some other tips and hacks that you use all the time. If they save you time and/or money, we’d love to know about them!

Send me your Best Meal Planning or Meal Prepping Tip/Hack through the little form below, and I’ll publish it in my next post!


And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more clean eating tips and recipes!

The Beginners’ Guide to Healthy Meal Planning

Beginners Guide to Healthy Meal Planning

No matter how dedicated to clean eating we all are, some days it’s just harder than others to put healthy yummy plates on the table, day in, day out, for a whole year.

This Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Meal Planning is one of the essential tools to help you with this. It might seem daunting at first. Vivid pictures of neatly stacked boxes of meals for the whole week might start appearing in front of your eyes… (damn you, Pinterest!)
You might think that you’ll have to give your Sunday up to industrial-style prepping or cooking. (sigh)

But fear not, this is simply about How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan.

What is a Healthy Meal Plan?

Basically, meal planning is planning ahead of time what you and your family will be eating over the next few days.

Meal planner

That’s it.

Whether you go all out and plan for the whole month, or just a few days in advance, or only for the weekend, it’s up to you. Your Healthy Meal Plan will be as individual as you are and as your lifestyle is.

The whole point, however, is to save time, energy and money (and sanity). How come, I hear you ask?

A Healthy Meal Plan is your new BFF

Healthy Meal Planning is to your mealtimes what Marie Kondo is to your house. It makes (almost) everything fall in place. Effortlessly. Let me show you.

Scenario 1

Picture this: you come home after a day’s work, everybody’s back in the house, each with their stories to tell, homework to do, activities to get on with. Dinner time is approaching and you find yourself scrambling through flagging vegetables, frozen uncooked meat and random tins of food, trying to come up with a recipe that:

  • Will be ready in less than 30 minutes
  • Can be made using whatever ingredients you have at hand
  • Will be tasty and filling
Take-away sign
Take-aways hurt your wallet and your waistline

Now, we’ve all been in that situation. The outcome is fairly unsavory and is usually one of those:

  • a late dinner as we had to defrost/prep/cook something (all the quick-sticks options having been used the nights before)
  • a random dish that doesn’t quite meet everybody’s approval around the table (you know what your lunch will be the next day… and maybe
    also the day after!)
  • a takeaway (which doesn’t do your wallet or your healthy eating resolutions any good)

Scenario 2

You have prepared a Meal Plan last week, shopped for the ingredients on your list of recipes, and maybe prepped some ingredients upfront.

You come home, check quickly what’s on your menu for tonight. No time for *that* particular recipe? No worries, check which other recipe of the week takes less time and go for it.

Healhty cooked meal with chillies
Photo by Elli O. on Unsplash

The ingredients you need are fresh and ready to cook or need very little prep, you have a recipe to follow and you know how long until dinner is ready. Dinner time is relaxed, enjoyable and your sanity, intact (priceless).

So, before we get to your Steps to the Perfect Meal Plan, let me explain why you really need a meal plan to start with.

A Healthy Meal Plan will save you Time

Because…

Recipe on kitchen counter
  • You choose ahead of time which recipes you will use, how long they will take, what you need and where they come from. No more scratching around for potential recipe -> ingredient check -> potential recipe -> ingredient check and so on, at the last minute.
  • You will have shopped for all the ingredients needed for that recipe. And if need be, you would have prepared them ahead of time (like peeled, cube, blanched and frozen a pumpkin).
  • You would have checked today’s recipe yesterday and would have taken out of the freezer anything that needed to defrost.
  • You know where the recipe comes from and you can find easily. Pinterest makes it super easy to find yummy-looking recipes, but it’s an equally dark deep abyss if you happen not to have pinned that recipe… so I’ve found out.
  • You know when to start preparing the recipe, and how long it will cook for, so you can plan the rest of your evening accordingly.
  • You’ve involved the rest of the household when picking the recipes, thus sparing yourself many complaints later on when your dinner choice doesn’t meet everybody’s approval.

A Healthy Meal Plan will save you Money

Because…

Fresh produce aisle in supermarket
  • You’ll have made a shopping list and will have bought all your ingredients upfront. No more additional trips to the shops at the last minute to get butter, eggs or fresh vegetables.
  • You’ve also selected recipes where most ingredients can be bought from the same shop/area, saving you time- and money-consuming trips to various remote shops.
  • You’ll have selected recipes based on what’s currently in your fridge/pantry/freezer, so anything that was running out of date is being used before it has to be thrown away.
  • You will have checked what’s in season and have tried to combine several recipes around a cheaper seasonal product.
  • You have planned early in the week the recipes using your perishables. So you don’t come across wilting or browning vegetables at the back of your fridge days later.
  • If you prepared a few meals ahead of time to freeze them, you will have saved on electricity by batch-cooking some ingredients or baking a few dishes back-to-back in a hot oven.
  • You’re avoiding last-minute takeaways. Even if they don’t feel that expensive on the spot, they will quickly add up. Especially if you had perfectly fine ingredients in the fridge that could have been eaten instead.

Meal Planning will help you with Clean Eating

Because…

Clean eating egg dish
  • You will have selected clean eating recipes to start with. Or swapped the ingredients of a specific recipe for cleaner ones.
  • You will have shopped for those clean ingredients and won’t be tempted to use more processed ones instead.
  • You can decide to pick a wholefood store or farmers market to do all your shopping, rather than the little supermarket down the road several times a week. Even if it’s a little bit further away, buying better-quality food in bulk for the week makes it worth it. So you avoid the temptation of processed food and other shortcuts.
  • You can actually cook from scratch and know absolutely-exactly-completely what you are putting on your plate. Every day.
  • You can decide to steam your vegetables, for example, and have allowed for the extra time to do so. No more cramming veggies in the microwave to save time at the last minute.
  • Healthy meal planning will help remove some of the stress in the evening. And also remove the cravings for junk food that come with stress.
  • If you’re handling the main dish like a pro, it’s much easier to find the time to add a salad, a juice or a healthy soup on the side.

My Healthy Meal Plan

My meal planner

I will admit, my meal planning routine isn’t fancy. We use an A4 magnet that stays on the fridge and on Friday we just write recipes ahead of time for the weekly dinners.

We go to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning (we’re so lucky to have a large one just 5 minutes away…) and get our fresh produce, meat, honey, spices etc. from there. I also usually fit in a monthly shop to a supermarket to get the free-from stuff (flours, vegetal milks, etc.), frozen fish and things like tins and toiletries.

We don’t have a big freezer so there’s only so much we can prepare in advance, but we’ll buy pumpkins and other bulk vegetables, and prep those ahead of time.

For the kids’ lunchboxes, we try to be organized enough so they always have healthy stuff in there. So I try to make some egg or grain-free muffins, boil some eggs or make cookies ahead of time. The girls can then grab what they need when they prepare their lunchboxes in the evening.

How to get started with Healthy Meal Planning?

1. Decide on your Why

Your Why is important. This is what is going to make healthy meal planning a habit that sticks or not. It can be:

Variety of food on a table
  • saving money,
  • eating clean,
  • freeing up time in the evening,
  • eating better lunches,
  • reducing food waste,
  • more variety in your plate,
  • preserving what is left of your sanity (my personal Why).

2. Count how many meals you need to cater for

You’ll need to know which meals you’re planning for: just dinners, or breakfast and lunches too? Every day, or just a few days of the week? How many people for?

Think also about any changes in your schedule:

  • more or less guests than usual,
  • special occasions,
  • dietary requirements,
  • your budget for the week,
  • seasonal changes (soups or salads?)

Basically, anything that can impact your choice of recipe and the quantities you need.

3. Write your recipe list

It’s a good idea to get the family involved here. Less head-scratching for recipes, fewer grumbles during the week. Win-win.

Start with your usual favorites, those recipes you know and love. It saves time as you know what’s needed and how long they take to prepare. Don’t forget to check your fridge, freezer, and pantry for products you already have.

You can gradually add new ingredients or recipes as you get more comfortable with meal planning.

If you feel uninspired, the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle can help. With over 1000 recipes, ready-made meal plans, and other cooking tips, it makes my healthy meal planning a doddle.

4. Create your Meal Planner

Choose your format:

Meal planner close-up

A physical meal planner can be a simple sheet of paper. Of course, you can find very aesthetically-pleasing ones to print out on Pinterest… Just saying… It can also be a board of sorts (black or whiteboard). Anything will work as long as it’s in full view!

A digital meal planner could be a Meal Calendar created on your phone and shared with the whole family, for example.

Meal planning apps are also an option, although most of them come with a subscription. But it might just be what you need to stick with meal planning and eat healthy all the time!

5. Create your Master Ingredient List (optional)

This is useful if you’re planning ahead for a lot of meals. Maybe not so much when you’re just planning for 2 or 3 meals.

It’s the list of all ingredients you need based on your recipes, together with the quantities. Remember to cross out anything that you already have at hand.

6. Write your Shopping List

Shopping list

If you’ve written down a Master Ingredient List (see Step 5 above), your Shopping List everything not crossed. Plus any stock items.

You can write on a piece of paper or on your phone, whatever is easiest. I personally use the AnyDo app on my phone and my shopping list is shared with my husband. Works for us as small bits of papers do tend to get buried (or upcycled as origami) in our house…

7. Shop for your ingredients

Now head to the shops! Ideally, you’ll have picked ingredients that can be bought from the same shop, to save time and petrol.

We do our shopping in 2 steps though, once a week at the farmers’ market, and about once a month in a supermarket. Works for us as I still get all the fresh food I need weekly.

My Clean Eating Shopping Guide can help you navigate a typical supermarket for clean food, reduce your shopping time, and save you money in the process.

8. Sunday prep (optional)

Healthy Meal Prepping

Prepping your meals is essential if you want your dinners pretty much on auto-pilot the rest of the week. Whether it happens on a Sunday is up to you, but bear in mind that it might take a few hours.

9. Enjoy your delicious, stress-free meals…

Check your Meal Planner daily so you know what’s cooking tomorrow. Then you can defrost if need be, swap meals if life happens, etc.

What do you need to get started

Because meal planning can range widely between a large monthly cook-off and just organizing a few meals in advance, I can’t give you a definitive list of stuff you’ll need. But the list below should set you well on your way.

Kitchen with utensils
  • A meal planner of sorts – whether this a physical meal planner or a digital one, do make sure it is in plain view and you can check it every day!
  • Recipes – mix up recipe books, online recipes, own recipes: the process is more fun if your meals are varied. Don’t forget, if you find recipes online, to bookmark them, pin them or save them!
  • Freezer containers – if you want to prepare meals in advance. How many you need is up to you and your freezer space. Plastics are best avoided here, even the BPA-free ones. All plastic containers release estrogenic chemicals and are potentially unsafe. Your safest options are stainless steel and glass containers.
  • Kitchen utensils – check you have everything at hand before embarking on an epic prepping session! In particular, if you are new to clean eating, equip yourself with a kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons, enough mixing bowls. Oh, and pots and pans of appropriate size. It may sound silly, but I have found myself many a time having to divide a large batch of food among several baking dishes, as none of them was big enough… Thus negating any energy-saving, as I had to cook 2 batches of food instead of one…
  • A kitchen processor – this can come in handy to take care of chopping, grating, slicing or blending large quantities of food.
  • Positive energy and good spirit – healthy meal planning is a very helpful tool but might need a bit of adjusting at the beginning. So breathe in and focus on how much easier your week or month ahead will be!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about your Healthy Meal Plan

Meal Planning is a wonderful tool. It can literally turn rushed, frustrating evening routines into a more controlled and enjoyable experience. Trust me on that one!

But there are no hard and fast rules here. The Ultimate Meal Plan is the one you’re going to create for you and your family. So keep an open mind, try a few new things, ditch what doesn’t work for you and stick with what works well!

In the process, please help your fellow family chefs out there. Share your Best Tips for Meal Planning/Prepping below.

I have collated all the ones received from my faithful readers, friends, family, right here! You’re bound to find some that will simply just work for you!

You can also follow my Clean Eating Recipes board on Pinterest for heaps of yummy ideas.

The Ultimate Clean Eating Meal Plan Solution

Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019

Sorry, this awesome bundle of products is unfortunately not available at this time… I’m sure an updated Healthy Meal Planning Bundle will come back again soon! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be sure not to miss it! And grab your freebie while you’re at it…

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This post contains affiliate links. This means that, should you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

How is your clean eating meal planning working out for you lately? For me, it goes something like that:

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

I don’t know about you, but this is one of my daily nemesis. Because I know my husband (or my girls, they do chime in like that) will, at some point in the evening, come and ask me *just* this:

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

At this point, I’ll have to start sifting through the fridge, the fresh produce basket, and the pantry frantically for a few minutes. Then I’ll have to come up with something that is:

  • Clean eating, because we have to in our family, takeaways aren’t an option around here
  • To everybody’s taste (now that’s an interesting concept!)
  • Not too similar to something I’ve done, say, in the last couple of weeks
  • Using ingredients I do have at hand (because, by now, the shops are closed anyway)


“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Alan Lakein


Healthy meals don’t just happen. We have to make them happen.

Eating clean, healthy meals means avoiding processed food, using fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch. So takeaways and convenience food are pretty much out of the window.

We have to plan our meals in advance, draw a shopping list, shop for the best ingredients, and finally prepare them. Seems like a lot of hard work when I put it like that, doesn’t it?

Notice how it all starts with Meal Planning though?

For me, I will admit, this is my downfall. I mean, I can find a lot of lovely recipes out there (thank-you Pinterest!), but finding the one I have all the ingredients for, the time to prepare and that will tick everybody’s taste buds? In a few minutes? Every night? Really?

And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person out there facing this on a regular basis, am I right?

Luckily for us all, I have stumbled upon another great bundle from Ultimate Bundles (of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle fame).

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019

This bundle is an absolute goldmine for busy people like me trying to eat as clean as possible. Not only does it offer loads and loads of healthy recipes (over 1000!) and meal plans (all 30 of them), it now also comes with a very handy index.

Which means that you and I can easily come back to those new favorite recipes instead of trawling Pinterest, desperately trying to remember which one we used last.

The clickable index allows me to weed out the recipes that are not to my liking or dietary preferences, so I can truly create my very own recipe book in a flash.

So basically, the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019, it’s:
  • A carefully curated library of nutritious, simple, whole food recipes, all 1072 of them beautifully formatted in 12 digital cookbooks
  • An easy-to-use index for every single recipe, to help you sort by
    eating style, food allergy, quick meals, cooking method, etc.
  • 38 unique made-for-you meals plans, complete with shopping lists and prep reminders (4-week dinner plans, school & work lunch plans, breakfast rotations, party plans, and much more!)
  • Plus healthy eating resources on clean eating, a flavor crash course (so your food tastes simply a-ma-zing!), strategies for picky kids, allergies or oral Sensory Processing Disorder, and more!

All this, for only $49.97! I do like a good bargain like this, especially when it comes to my rescue every. single. night.

No more deep diving…

Clean Eating Meal Planning every night
A mom’s dream…

I will admit, I do like diving in Pinterest to find a new recipe… but time is against me! When I have only a few minutes to find *the* quick, easy, healthy and tasty recipe that I will put on the table tonight, going through pins and pins, looking up the posts and the comments is a luxury I don’t really have…

And I have already mentioned the next dreaded question:
Can you please do that yummy recipe you did (last week/month/year)?

The truth is, it is tricky for me to find easy and quick recipes without gluten or dairy, without all of them tasting a bit samey. So when I do find one that works, that is easy to make, tasty, and that everybody at the table can digest properly, I should save it, right?

Only, usually I’m pushed for time on the spot, and I need to wait until a bit later to check whether everybody’s tummy is OK with it… and so I forget… And the new-and-wonderful recipe gets lost in Pinterest oblivion…

With the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, I have hundreds of recipes available in one place, so I can find the one I need quickly, without further distraction.

Oh, and more importantly, I can find it again super easily the next time I need it!

RealPlans = Real Deals?

This new edition of the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle can be integrated into RealPlans, a meal planning app that allows me to create weekly meal plans based on our family size, eating schedule and (this is the part I’m excited about) dietary requirements!

I’ve never used a meal planner before for just that reason: it was too much hard work having to go through every recipe and sift out all the ones containing gluten, dairy, pork, soy and what not.

Clean Eating Meal Plan like a boss

But, when I bought the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, I got 1 month free subscription to RealPlans, with all the recipes automatically loaded.

So, on paper, this promises to be a very useful tool for us. I am definitely giving it a try, so stay tuned, I’ll give you some feedback on it shortly.

The 38 meal plans are also complete with grocery lists and prep plans. Combined with RealPlans ability to streamline my online shopping with Instacart, methinks my life may just have become a lot easier!

So where’s the catch?

Well, that’s the beauty of the Ultimate Bundles deals… There isn’t one!

For just $49.97, we get 1072 recipes, 38 meal plans, meal planners and printables, plus eBooks and eCourses on topics like clean eating, cooking on a budget, learning how to cook, or even teaching kids how to help in the kitchen. It’s really a no-brainer of a deal.

30 Day Guarantee
Happiness Guarantee

Now, what happens if you buy the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, but it just doesn’t work for you?

No problem. Ultimate Bundles offers a 100% happiness guarantee refund policy as standard. If you don’t love it, just email customerservice@ultimatebundles.com and ask for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

If you’re ready to stick to your clean eating resolutions, whip up healthy meals every day, and quit wasting food and time, I recommend you check out the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle.

Make your Clean Eating Meal Planning a doddle…

With the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, for only $49.97, we get:

  • Over 1000 healthy recipes grouped in 12 recipe books, such as Breakfast, Dinners, Salad and side, Snacks…
  • A clickable index of all the recipes, allowing us to curate the list and design our very own recipe book
  • 38 designed-for-you meal plans, including Gluten-free, Budget, Kid-friendly, Lunchbox, Vegetarian, Paleo, Whole30, Short on time and many, many more
  • Over 12 ebooks and printables on Clean Eating, Meal planning, Picky eaters or Freezer meals
  • 1 month free subscription to the RealPlans app, with all recipes and meal plans, preloaded
  • A 30-day full refund happiness guarantee

This bundle is truly a great resource and I am so pleased with it so far! I hope you will be too.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that, if you purchase this product using one of those links, I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you.

How to Juice for Health

How to Juice for Health

(Part 2 of Juicing for Health)

Juicing is all the rage and seems to be an easy and convenient way to cram those pesky 5-a-day into our daily diet. But is it really worth the investment (a decent slow juicer will set you back a few hundred dollars) or the commitment (buying the right fresh fruits and vegetables, prepping, juicing, cleaning)?

That’s what we’re set off to find out.

In Part 1 – Is Juicing really good for me?, we’ve looked at the potential benefits and downsides of juicing in terms of nutrients.

In Part 2 – How to Juice for Health, we’ll go through the steps required to juice to improve your own health.

What do I need to get started?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy shortcut here, you might need a juicer. Preferably a decent one.

Why?

Regardless of whether you want your juice to be pulp-free or not, since we’ve seen in Part 1 that extra fiber *does* have a lot of benefits, you want to preserve as much of the nutrients in your juices as possible.

But which one best preserves nutrients, a blender or a juicer?

There’s actually a lot of controversy on that subject and not that much scientific information online. I found this video below, which seems to make a lot of sense and walks the walk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T3qJEcsbvs
And yes, they sell both juicers *and* blenders

So basically, the sources of nutrient losses can be of 3 types: through heat, oxidation from air and oxidation over time.

Heat is ruled out as even a 1-minute blending time isn’t really enough to create much damage.

However, a blender works by aerating the fruits and vegetables at high speed, typically for 1 minute. Which is much longer than the time it takes to juice the same amount of fruits and vegetables. This is where a lot of the nutrients are lost.

Centrifugal juicers, which use blades to chop the fruit/vegetable and centrifugal force to separate the pulp from the juice, are faster than blenders. But again, a lot of nutrients are lost due to oxidation from air during the juicing process. They are, however, notably cheaper than their masticating counterpart.

Hurom HE slow juicer
The Hurom slow juicer I use

So a slow masticating juicer, like the Hurom, reviewed here, is best for nutrient content. They are more expensive though.

If you need more information on which equipment might best suit your budget and your health needs, this post on juicers vs. blenders might help.

So do I need a blender at all?

Well, yes, preferably. See, a blender has many other uses (sauces, soups, and, ahem… cocktails…). So it’s well worth having in the kitchen anyway.

It also allows for a wider variety of food to be added, such as nuts, bananas, avocados. Those might make the difference between your kids turning their nose up at your glass of green goodness, or guzzling them down.

Or between needing to eat something more substantial at 10 am or going through the whole morning on your glass of green stuff at breakfast.

If unsure about the juicer/blender situation, I have covered their pros and cons in a separate post.

Calcium, the odd one out

From the above video on nutrient retention in juicers vs. blenders, it also came out that calcium levels were higher in the tested smoothies than in juices.

This is important if you need more of the strong stuff, in case of osteoporosis, for example.

How to juice/blend for health

OK, so far, we’ve covered
…the reason why juicing might be beneficial, by allowing the body to benefit from more nutrients from fruits and vegetables (Part 1 – Is Juicing really good for me?)
…the tools you’ll need, whether it’s a juicer or a blender (or both)

So how can I choose the fruits and vegetables to best suit my own body?

Remember, fruits should only be a treat…

…to avoid your blood sugars spiking. 2 or 3 per day is a good rule of thumb. Then again, not all fruits are created equal, and some do contain a lot more sugar than others. Think grapes.

Fresh fruit juices

Aim for local, seasonal and organic fruits to ensure that you get more nutrients and a good variety of them. This is essential to ensure that your digestive system receives the whole range of antioxidants, enzymes, prebiotics, etc.

Find what fruits and vegetables work for you

Everybody is different, therefore every body is different. This is called bio-individuality. Basically, it means that what your neighbor, however fit and healthy they are, eats, might not be right for you.

I would know. If I were to follow the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, the grains and dairy components would be sending me cramping within 2 hours. Even if I tried to follow the Mediterranean diet, whole grains and fruits would quickly be an issue. To be comfortable, I need more vegetables that the ketogenic diet suggests, and far less pulse than the Paleo diet recommends.

So listen to your body. Carefully. Attentively. Regardless of the pleasure provided by the taste or texture, how does your body feel after eating specific fruits or vegetables? It can be right after (think heartburn, hives or other allergic reaction), a few hours later (digestive disturbances, headache, major energy slump) or even in the next few days (eczema, fatigue).

Food journal
Noting down every food and drink you consume, as well as possible symptoms, is a great tool.

You might need to keep a Food Journal for a while, to pinpoint what food can cause this or that symptom. If carrying a notepad with you and remembering to write down everything you eat seems daunting, try an app, like Cara, to keep a tab on your food and water intake on the go.

The key is to shut out all the fads and trends out there, to take a good hard look at what we are putting in your mouth, and to be mindful of what that food does to our body.

Do your research

If you do a quick Google search on “best food for…” and select a few serious, research-based websites, you should come up with a few ideas already. Just make sure the website has done their research and that the claims are backed.

If you have no issues to report (lucky you!), then feel free to experiment with colors and flavors at your leisure. The more varied the juice, the better, as your body gets a good variety of nutrients. So knock yourself out!

My Juicing for Health Hack!

This website, JuiceRecipes.com is an awesome starting point. Pick your health conundrum, whether you want to prevent something or cure something, and all the juice recipes that can help come up. You can check the benefits of each one by clicking on it.

However, do check the comments left by fellow juice guzzlers. If a lot of them complain about the taste, find another recipe. We want to create daily healthy habits here, so better make the experience pleasurable!

Remember,

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. Hippocrates

Juicing is only one way to get more of the right stuff in your body.

A word of caution…

Once you get clued up about what fruits and vegetables your body actually needs, cramming them all into a juice might not be a very good idea. Trust me on this one, I tried it. It tasted bitter (too much spinach, turmeric, and wheatgrass), with a super sharp aftertaste (too much ginger), and I can’t quite remember what else was in there, but I know my stomach immediately protested. Soon followed by the rest of my digestive system. Lesson learned.

I now just eat my baby spinach raw as a side salad and my fruits whole during the day, thank-you.

Carrot and ginger juice

But juicing definitely can help you quickly absorb nutrients from fresh produce that you would normally not eat raw, or not in those quantities. Think beet, cruciferous vegetables, carrots, leafy greens, ginger, etc.

So get those juices flowing!

Juiced or blended, green, purple or orange, just get in there and give it a try. Our diet is naturally fairly poor in nutrients and our needs for nutrients have never been so high. Stress (let’s face it, who isn’t stressed these days?) depletes our B and C vitamins, magnesium and iron levels, among others.

So we all need to find affordable, convenient ways to add more of those vitamins and minerals into our daily diet. Juicing might just be that solution for you.

If you’re still not sure whether Juicing is actually any good for you, you might want to read Part 1 on Juicing for Health.

Try it, and let us know how it worked for you and what your favorite recipe is in the comments below.

And feel free to get inspiration from Pinterest for those juice recipes!

Disclaimer: Please note that this post relates to my own personal story and information I have gathered from my own research and experience. I am not a dietician, a nutritionist or a doctor. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, are being followed by a doctor, or take medication, please see your doctor before making changes to your diet or embarking on a juicing fast.

Juicing for health

Juicing for Health

(Part 1 – Is Juicing really good for me?)

Everything is about juicing for health these days. All kind of juices. Especially the green ones. I mean, if Salma, Gwyneth, Jennifer, and Blake do it, we should all be downing the green stuff, right?

The question is: should we be juicing?

If you’re anything like me, you need a good reason before jumping on a bandwagon, whatever it may be. There have been many a fad diet endorsed by celebrities at the time, and they’ve all but disappeared into oblivion.

Juicing, however, might just actually be good for you…

Let’s check it out.

[Note – As I was writing this post, I kept finding various other aspects of juicing for health worth mentioning… and the post just got longer… and longer… So I’ve decided to split into 2 more easy-to-digest chunks.
You can find Part 2 – How to juice for health, with more practical tips on juicing and healthy recipes here.]

Juicing and nutrients

First, let’s get one thing straight. In case you need to be convinced further of the benefits of adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, this research-based article on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables should put your mind at ease.

Perfectly packaged nutrients

Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables contain water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are all essential nutrients our bodies need. Neatly packaged in its optimized shell to protect it from damage and oxidation. Until said fruit or vegetable gets picked, that is.

Nothing beats that.

The problem is, as soon as the fresh produce is harvested, it starts loosing much of its nutrients. Cooking further decrease its nutrients content. Industrial processing practically depletes it completely of some nutrients.

So we know that we should eat more raw fruits and vegetables, as fresh as possible. The problem is, few of us do manage to get freshly picked fruits and vegetables, let alone eat enough of them raw.

When juicing using a slow masticating juicer (like this one), most of the vitamins and minerals are retained. So if you battle to fit in enough fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, juicing might just be an answer.

My basic juice recipe includes
1 beet,
1/2 stalk celery,
1/2 inch ginger,
1 cup spinach,
2 carrots
and 1 apple (for taste).

Not only does it taste quite sweet and flavorsome, but I would otherwise be pushed to fit in raw beet, carrots, ginger, and spinach into my daily meals.

How do I get the maximum nutrients?

Now, as you probably know, decades of intensive farming, chemical fertilizers and longer storage times mean our fruits and vegetables are not what they used to be. By and far, today’s produce contains far less vitamins, antioxidants and minerals than their ancestors from the 50s.

Whatever the reason for this, however, we do have access to far more of them than our own ancestors did in the 50s. So let’s make the most of them.

How?

By buying the stuff that contains naturally the most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Namely organic produce.

And yes, I know, they usually are more expensive that their conventionally-grown counterparts. But if we only rely on one juice or smoothie per day to load up on nutrients, might as well use the best produce, right?

Fruits and vegetable market

In the long run, we might just save on medical bills and/or supplements. While encouraging a more nutrient-dense way of farming.

Check out my post on the Dirty Dozen (and the Clean 15) to know which fruits and vegetables are worth splashing just a little bit more on and buying organic. And which ones you should, if not organic, religiously peel whenever possible.

What about convenience juicing?

As with any trending product out there, the retailers have quickly jumped on the juicing bandwagon to offer more convenience.

Fresh juices

Beware of pre-prepared juices. Their nutrient contents will have been severely depleted by all the processing and storing. Whether prepared at home or sold in the shops.

Juice bars are a better option, provided you drink the juice within 30 minutes for maximum benefits.

Similarly, try and refrain from prepping your fruits and vegetables, say, for the week, to speed up your juicing process. Once the fruits are washed, cut up or peeled, they start losing nutrients quickly.

Rather aim for fruits and vegetables that require no or limited prepping during weekdays, for example. And keep the more labor-intensive ones for the weekend. Check the Clean 15 list to figure out which fruits and vegetables don’t need peeling, even if conventionally grown.

How to store your juice

Unfortunately, the second your fruits and vegetables are being harvested… they start loosing vitamins and nutrients. Even more so when they are being stored, displayed, processed, chopped, peeled, masticated, blended, pulsated, you name it.

Fresh green juice

That’s why it is recommended to drink our fresh juices within 30 minutes of making them. We can keep them in the fridge for a few hours and still retain some vitamins, but it’s best to make fresh juices during the day.

Freezing is your best option here, if you must preserve your juice for later. Some nutrients will be lost during the thawing process though, and this thawing time might just replace the time you saved bulk-juicing in the first place.

The role of fiber

Proponents of juicing will answer that removing the fiber makes the vitamins and minerals more easily absorbed by the body. Which is true.

Detractors of juicing will argue that it removes the bulk of fiber, which an essential macro-nutrient to our bodies. And they would also be correct.

Of the benefits of fiber

Fiber is needed to help digestion, remove toxins, feed our gut flora and slow down the absorption of sugars, among other things. So not something to be sniffed at.

One thing is certain, we need fiber for optimal digestion and well-being.

So, if your intake of fruits and vegetables is very low, consider blending, rather than juicing, to retain all the fibers.

If, besides juicing, you also eat a fair amount of fresh and cooked fruits ad vegetables, you’re probably getting enough roughage in your diet. Juicing is then a good option for you.

And of its major downside

However if, like me, your digestive system is somewhat on the sensitive side, blending is a big no-no. Juicing allows me to up my intake of plant food without unwanted side-effects.

Check this post to help decide which one would work best for you, juicing or blending.

Mind that sugar

You probably have read that juicing can be bad for you, as it leaves the sugar from the juiced fruits unchecked. Those can easily add up and cause your blood sugars to spike and crash afterward. Just like any form of sugar.

This is true… if you’re mostly blending fruits or sweet vegetables (think carrots or beets).

Now, let’s stop for a moment here.

How much fruit should I be eating?

Nature knows best, and until the last few decades, as much as vegetables were available pretty much all year round, some of them for several months in a row, fruits remained extremely localized and seasonal.

A form of natural treat, if you would.

And that’s probably how we should carry on eating them, as a treat.

Fruits for juicing

So if you aim at eating no more than 2 or 3 fruit portions during the day, but cram 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1/2 cup of strawberries and 1 cup of pineapple chunks into your juicer, you will far exceed your target.

And without the fiber to slow down the absorption of the fruit sugars, your healthy morning juice might turn into a craving bomb, sending you reach for doughnuts by 10am!

So how should I have my fruits?

So do you limit the amount of fruits in your juices?

Everybody would agree that most vegetables, whether raw or juiced, lend themselves to extra flavors, whether a tangy mayonnaise with crudites, a sharp vinaigrette on a salad or other herbs and olive oil drizzle.

When juicing, one could add similar flavors to your juice (mint juice, anyone?), add some punch with ginger, for example, even a lemon zing… or add a couple of fruits to drown the bitterness of some vegetables.

This is generally the preferred option, but the fruits can quickly add up. So what can you do?

You could…

Carrot and ginger juice

… try juicing vegetables that already taste sweet, such as carrots, beets or sweet potatoes.

…try adding some of the above more “savory” flavors, salt/pepper, lemon juice, other condiments. My preferred method if I add a fair bit of cucumber to my juice. Tastes a bit like a gazpacho, yummy!

…add some ginger. More or less, depending on how much of a kick you like. It definitely adds some zing to your juice and drowns out less palatable flavors.

…add some fruits, within reason. I find that one apple is usually enough to make the greenest of juices palatable, but everybody’s taste buds are different. Just be mindful of how much fruit you cram in that juicer.

…use a blender as well. One of my friends first juices her wheatgrass, then mixes it to her blended smoothies for breakfast. In come bananas, chia seeds and other avocados for creaminess, protein powder or nuts for sustenance and whatever other goodies she throws in there for flavor.

Where to next?

We’ve covered the Why you should be juicing and the pros and cons of juicing to improve your health.

If you want to know how to create healthy juice, how to pick the right fruits and vegetables for your body etc., plus some basic recipes to get you started, check out Part 2 – How to Juice for Health.

Disclaimer: Please note that this post relates to my own personal story and information I have gathered from my own research and experience. I am not a dietician, a nutritionist or a doctor. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, are being followed by a doctor for any disease, or take medication, please see your doctor before making changes to your diet or embarking on a juicing fast.

Eat clean and detox in 8 easy steps

Detoxing is a process. It’s a permanent, continuous process that our bodies perform every day, every minute. Sometimes, this process becomes sluggish, overloaded and inefficient, and this is where we feel the need (or our body tells us, through illness, poor condition or just feeling rubbish) to detox deeper.

If you Google “detox”, you’ll come up with short, intense detox diets, some of which involve fruits and vegetables. This can be handy for a detox boost, after a slightly overindulgent few days (Christmas comes to mind). Or to kick-start your healthy eating journey.

I used to regularly feel the need to go on such short detox diets (extra weight, constant bloated feeling, skin breakout, sluggish liver, fatigue, you know the feeling…). Now that I’m mostly eating clean, however, I do a milk thistle cure every 6 months or so, to be sure, but without suffering from any of the symptoms!

So this post will look at clean eating as a long-term solution to detoxing. Because clean eating is a long-term approach. And will deliver more long-term cleansing. Without your body feeling all gunked up and telling you about it.

Why detox and how long for?

Toxins are present in our environment and we live in highly polluted times, so there’s a lot more of them to deal with than ever before. But toxins also accumulate in our bodies as a by-product of our metabolism and digestive processes.

And due to the sheer volume of additives and lack of nutrients in the typical industrial food diet, we also produce more toxins than ever before. Unfortunately, our sedentary, medicine- and chemical-laden, water-depleted lifestyle isn’t conducive to a proper elimination of all those nasties.

Red and orange pepper saladSo how can eating clean help?

Well, in more ways than one. A clean eating diet is rich in nutrients, which will strengthen our cleaning organs, both primary ones (the lungs, large intestine, kidneys, bladder, and skin), and the secondary ones (the liver, gallbladder, and lymphatic system). Understanding how these cleaning organs work is key.

Before you embark on any detox journey, please read this…

Please always consult your primary care provider to find out if a detox diet is appropriate for you. People who should not follow a detox diet generally include pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with anemia, eating disorders, heart problems, lowered immunity, low blood pressure, ulcers, diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, ulcerative colitis, unless recommended and supervised by their primary care provider.

Step 1 – Stuff to remove from your diet

Processed food

Anything in a package, basically. This indicates they’ve been processed, and processed food are typically loaded with additives. Which our bodies don’t need, usually don’t absorb and will try to get rid of.

Refined sugar and starches

In their natural state, those fruits, plants or grains would have been useful, but in their processed, refined state, they are pretty much devoid of nutrients. Worse, they trigger inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a useful defense and repair mechanism that alerts you something is wrong (redness, swelling, for example), then works at fixing it.

But if triggered constantly by food like sugar, the inflammatory system becomes dysfunctional, leading to low-grade, chronic inflammation. Which is linked to a whole host of serious disease, like diabetes, cancer or heart disease.

{See how, so far, this ties in nicely with the basic concept of clean eating?}

Inflammatory food, as much as possible

These include wheat (and other gluten-containing grains), dairy products, fatty meats (unless organic), sugar, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, energy drinks, for example. Those are most known to trigger inflammatory responses in your body, so it’s important to avoid them at this stage.

They can be reintroduced slowly after you’ve finished your detox. If any of them trigger acute symptoms, like bloating, cramp, diarrhea, headaches, skin breakouts etc., it’s best to avoid them as much as possible in the future. It just means your body doesn’t break them down easily and properly.

Step 2 – Stuff to add to your diet

Lemon waterWater

Drinking enough water is paramount to your health, you’ve heard it before. And you’ve also heard before that our bodies are 70% water and just need the clear stuff to function properly. So go ahead, drink water!

But if, like me, you battle with drinking that clear, tasteless liquid neat, find a way that works for you. For example, round our neck of the woods,

  • I alternate a hot drink and a glass of water. So if I have a hot chicory/cocoa drink/almond milk, I’ll make I follow that with a large glass of the clear stuff.
  • My kids love it with a dash of lemon in their school bottle and at home, either a few slices of strawberries or a few sprigs of mint.
  • Hubby packages his water in 500ml water bottles which he carries around and refills during the day.

Water is best, but plain non-caffeinated or lightly caffeinated teas and herbal teas seem to be fine too. Just don’t add sugar or milk. Think herbal teas, green tea, rooibos etc.

Find whatever works for you. And just stick with it!

How to calculate your water needs per body weight?
  • Take your weight in pounds. Let’s say 175 pounds.
  • Multiply this by 2/3 (or 67%, i.e. by 0.67 on the calculator). We get 117. This is your basic number of ounces of water you need to drink per day.
  • Add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Organic proteins

Livestock farming accounts for 80% of all antibiotics sold in the world. Enough said.

Organic, sprouted grains

Whole grains are great, but sprouted grains contain more proteins, vitamins, and minerals and neutralize phytic acid. What’s that, you’ll ask? Phytic acid is a substance present in grains which inhibits absorption of nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables,
  • preferably organic. The idea is to provide your detox organs with a maximum of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
  • and fiber-rich (see below).

Fruits and vegetable fruit appetizerStep 3 – Get serious about fibers

Fibers are the roughage part of grains and seeds and are indigestible carbohydrates. They are mostly contained in the husk (outer shell) of plants. They work by grabbing the undigested bits of food as they move along your intestinal tract then flushing them out. Fibers basically come in 3 formats:

  • Insoluble fibers do not absorb water or get dissolved. They travel through your body pretty much intact.
    Good sources are whole grains, zucchini, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, grapes and root vegetables, skin-on.
  • Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a viscous gel. They help you feel full for longer and stabilize blood sugars. But they also play a role in flushing out bile loaded with fat and toxins and replenishing it with fresh bile.
    Good sources are pulses (dried beans, peas, lentils), whole grains (whole oats, rice bran, barley) and fruits & vegs such as apples, strawberries, citrus fruits or carrots.
  • Gelatinous fibers act like a sponge to trap the toxins and flush them out. Add them to your smoothies or your porridges to speed up the detoxification process.
    Good sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, aloe vera, psyllium, slippery elm, and seaweed.

Dietary fibers (all kinds) also play a large role in keeping a healthy gut and helping it flush out toxins. How? They feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, improving its barrier function (against toxic matters), its immune functions, and its hormonal response, among other things.

They have also shown to improve your enzyme levels, particularly the detox and antioxidant enzymes in your liver. Enzymes are essential to break down all the food and nutrients you eat, so the healthier and stronger they are, the better you absorb the nutrients you need and get rid of unwanted matters.

Step 4 – Increase your glutathione levels

Glutathione is a sort of master antioxidant, produced by the body. Unfortunately, taking supplements or increasing your intake of glutathione-rich food doesn’t provide many benefits. It’s better to eat the right foods and adopt a lifestyle which will encourage your body to increase its production of glutathione.

Cruciferous vegetablesFoods to increase glutathione levels

are proteins (beef, fish, poultry, organic please), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, watercress etc.), allium vegetables (garlic, onions).

Eating more vitamin C-rich food

(such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, papayas and bell peppers) can also help. But to increase notably your vitamin C to the appropriate levels, it is far easier to take a good supplement (500mg per day). Some studies (like this one and this one) showed an increase of glutathione levels of 18% to 47% by taking a vitamin C supplement.

Add selenium to your food

Good sources are beef, chicken, fish, organ meats, cottage cheese, with vegetarian options being brown rice and Brazil nuts.

Take milk thistle and turmeric extract supplements

Those are inexpensive and easy ways to give your liver and your immune system a boost and make sure they’re on top form to despatch whatever toxins come their way. I personally take a milk thistle supplement every 6 months and a turmeric supplement (or even better, a curcumin supplement, its active ingredient) every 6 months as well, alternating the two. My liver is definitely my weak point and I find that this routine keeps tummy bugs and difficult digestion after large meals at bay.

Get enough sleep

I know this is not food-related, but it’s nevertheless part of a clean lifestyle and plays an important role in detoxing. Why, I hear you ask? Well, because sleep is when the body eventually stops trying to digest all the food we’ve eaten during the day and actually gets to focus on other important matters. Like repair, growth, cell renewal… That’s why, for example, giving your body a 13-hour window (plus) without food intake can drastically boost its cancer-fighting capacities.

Exercise regularly

Preferably combining cardio and weight-training exercises. This has been proven,  and again, although not directly food-related, it’s super important to help your body cleanse itself day after day.

Step 5 – Eat more herbs for detox

Luckily for us, most common herbs and spices have powerful detox and chelation properties. Our ancestors clearly knew they were onto a good thing when they started cultivating and using them.

Herbs in potsHerbs are good for chelation

This is basically the process of removing heavy metal toxins, including lead, mercury, and arsenic. Cilantro and garlic help with chelation.

Check this easy lunch recipe for optimum everyday health! Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad), as seen on The Taste Space.

Load up on diuretic herbs

Parsley, ginger, dandelion, and caraway seeds are among the best diuretic herbs. Team them up with green or black tea to help flush those toxins.

Tip – Replace the lettuce in your sandwiches and lunch salads by dandelion leaves or parsley for a hassle-free health boost.

Best anti-inflammatory herbs & spices

Turmeric and cinnamon are powerful anti-inflammatory spices, along with ginger, cayenne, garlic, black pepper, and clove. They’re packed with antioxidants and will help your body recover.

Golden latte is very popular lately, only takes minutes to prepare, is really easy and delicious! Check this golden latte recipe and add some gold goodness to your drinks.

Step 6 – Jump on the juicing bandwagon

If you haven’t done so already, start juicing (or blending if you prefer, check this post on blending vs. juicing to find out which one would work best for you).

Beets are a great way to improve your liver. Team them up with greens (spinach, celery etc.) and carrots or apples for taste, and you’ve got yourself the perfect pick-me-up to start your day.

For tasty and healthy recipes of juices including vegetables, you can check the following post on how to create colorful vegetable juice recipes.

Pinterest is an endless source of yummy and nutrient-packed juice recipes and I’ve been compiling them for you! Follow me there!

Step 7 – Start sprouting

Sprouting is a great way to add much-needed nutrients to your diet, while neutralizing the bad stuff, like phytic acid (inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc) and enzyme inhibitors (works against our own enzymes).

Easy starters are lentils, mung beans, quinoa, sesame seeds, almonds or sunflower seeds. You simply need to soak them for a specific period of time, then drain and rinse them for a few days. Et voilà! Check out this blog for soaking/sprouting time.

Elzed -tier sprouterThere are a lot of nifty sprouters out there, from single mason-type jars (with the added bonus of looking pretty on a window sill) to three-tiered ones or large trays. I have plastic 3-tier sprouters like this one, and I love the fact that they’re so compact.

Step 8 – Now is the right time to try fermented food

Sauerkraut (the home-made one), kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, all these fermented food and drinks contain a whole lot of goodness. They also play a key role in detoxing. How? They contain a lot of probiotics, which are beneficial to your gut bioflora. You need a strong and healthy gut to be able to remove toxins on a daily basis from your body.

Try a few of them and find out which one you prefer. Be wary of the ready-to-eat varieties in the shops, as pasteurization basically kills all the good bacteria.

What have we tried at home?

We tried milk kefir for a while, coz the kids love it (especially with a teaspoon of raw honey…), but my daily schedule would always become hectic at some point and those poor grains would be forgotten and suffer.

Since then, my neighbor shared her secret: she makes one batch of kefir, then rather than starting a new batch, she puts her grains in a bit of milk in the fridge, on hold until needed again. Then she gets them out and into a new batch of milk as and when required! For her, it’s about once a week or so. Far better than my stringent (and somewhat hit-and-miss) daily schedule!

We now have kombucha going and we ferment cabbage, carrots, chilies, beetroot etc. One day maybe, when I feel brave, I’ll go back to making kefir again!

And if you’re not sure how it all works and how to get started, Cultures for Health (link https://www.culturesforhealth.com/) is my bible for anything fermented.

The take-home message – get in that kitchen!

Oh, and listen to Grandma (or whoever around you still knows how to preserve, sprout or ferment stuff!)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the majority of the tips listed above involve rethinking what we eat and how we prepare our food. And that’s a common factor in any of the diets embraced by those niche populations who have outlived all the other. Be it the Sardinian diet, the Okinawan one, the centenarian, the Mediterranean and other longevity diets, all those diets start with raw, unadulterated, organic ingredients, associated with mindful and careful preparation.

It doesn’t mean you have to slave over a hot stove for hours every day, oh no! Preparing sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) only takes us minutes, once per month or so. Juicing can be super quick if you have all your ingredients at hand. A healthy salad takes minutes to put together, and a hearty soup not much longer.

In fact, because it is best to eat food raw or with very little cooking, your healthy meals can become a doddle. Check good’ol Pinterest for more ideas on meal prepping!

To make the most of your detox, don’t forget to re-think your lifestyle too! Sleeping enough, managing your stress and living mindfully are essential to support your cleaning organs.

Eat well, go well and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more tips and recipes!

Eat clean and detox