Blender vs Juicer – The best way to get your juice in

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According to recent data from 2017 published by the CDC, over 90% of American adults do not eat enough vegetables, while 87% don’t eat enough fruits. Fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies are a great way to quickly and easily add whole fresh goodness to our bodies. They should definitely be part of your new clean eating diet.

But here comes the dilemma: which one is best: clean juices or creamy smoothies? Blender vs juicer? To help you choose which equipment would suit you and your family best, we’ve compared blender vs juicer and highlighted the pros and cons for each.

Difference between blenders and juicers

Basically, a juicer will separate the fibers, while the blender keeps everything.

The preparation is the same, although some vegetables and fruits lend themselves more to one type of juice than the other. But in both cases, you have to wash your produce and chop it into smaller pieces that will fit nicely into your equipment. Preferably right at the last minute, to preserve the freshness.

The benefits of juicing
Fresh fruit juices
  • You’ll end up with just the water, flavor and nutrients. Without the fibers, and provided you have your juice on an empty stomach, those will be quickly absorbed for a quick health fix.
    You can pack more fruits and vegetables in your glass. So if you just need to cram your 5-a-day quickly, this is an easy option. I find I can more easily “hide” some vegetables in my kids’ juices than in a smoothie.
  • As fibers accelerate gastrointestinal transit, too much of it can cause diarrhea. Which means your body won’t have the time to absorb your precious nutrients. By removing the fibers, the vitamins and minerals stand a chance to be fully absorbed.
    For that reason, I, for one, would not be able to have my basic juice recipe in one sitting if I was blending the ingredients. I would have to spread my intake of raw food over the course of the day.
  • You don’t have to peel every fruit and vegetable you put in, as it will break the cells and extract the nutrients for you. Great for making the most of the vitamins and minerals contained in your fresh produce and saving time in prepping.
  • You can basically juice any hard fruit or vegetable, even leafy ones. Cheaper blenders might battle to give you a smooth texture with hard vegetables or leafy ones.
The benefits of blending
  • Rich berry smoothie
    Fibers play a positive role in your digestive system. By feeding the good bacteria in your gut and keeping you full longer (soluble fibers). And by bulking up, flushing toxins and keeping you regular (insoluble fibers).
  • Even though too many fibers can accelerate your transit, the right amount of it will slow it just enough to ensure the nutrients are absorbed. It helps in particular with the absorption of minerals, like calcium.
  • They have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.
    You end up with less wasted products at the end, as most of your fruits and vegetables are being used.
  • They keep you full, so if you combine fruits and vegetables with some healthy source of protein or fat, you can turn your juice or smoothie into a full meal.
  • They are easier to clean than juicers, which will require you to dismantle and rinse various parts every time. With blenders, you usually only need to rinse the jug.
  • They take less space. Juicers tend to be bulkier and will take more space on your countertop.
    They are cheaper. You can find some affordable juicers, but a good reliable juicer will set you back $100. Whereas a decent blender costs half that price.

Which juicer to choose?

There are a lot of juicers out there, with prices ranging from $35 to $800. Why such a big difference? While all juicers remove the bulk of the pulp, some do a better job at it than others, meaning that you’ll get more juice for your produce.

Some juicers also do a better job of preserving the nutrients than others. The centrifugal ones will heat the produce up slightly as it works, destroying a fair amount of nutrients in the process, for example.
The higher end juicers are more quiet, more powerful, last longer and are more versatile. You can, for example, use them to make nut milk or nut butter.

Centrifugal Juicers
Centrifugal juicer, the level-entry contestant for juicing
Ideal if you’re just starting with juicing or have a limited budget.

The juice is extracted through centrifugal force. These are among the cheapest on the market, but as the internal blade spins to separate the juice from the fibers, it destroys some of the nutrients.

They’re good level-entry juicers but might not be ideal if you’re aiming at juicing for optimum health benefits.

Masticating Juicers
Slow juicer to make your clean, nutrient-loaded juices
This is my current type of juicer. Compact, powerful and easy to clean.

Also called slow juicers or cold press juicers. The fruit or vegetable is slowly squeezed to release the juice and separate the pulp, so there’s less loss of nutrients. You end up with almost pure juice, and each glass is guaranteed to be loaded with whatever vitamins and minerals.

They’re the ones to aim for if you need to juice for maximum health benefits. This is the one I have. I bought an Hurom HE series a few years back and have never had any issues with it. It’s a bit of an investment, but I wouldn’t (nor would my kids) be able to stomach the same amount of raw fibers in one go. You can read my review here.

You can also find twin-gear juicers, which are the Rolls Royce of the family. They extract far more produce and release more nutrients that the single gear version.

At the other end of the scale, you have hand crank juicers. They are like a bike. They’re cheap, and they will only take you so far: they’re usually specialized in one type of fruit, like citrus, or vegetable, like wheatgrass. But they can have their place in your kitchen. If you only want to juice that specific fresh produce, or if you need something portable and energy-saving.

Which blender to choose?

The blender’s job is basically to liquidize everything you put in the bowl. If you don’t want to taste some of the peels, like peaches or carrots, you might want to peel them off first.

The price tag for blenders is not as high as for juicers. The most expensive ones will give you a much smoother consistency, last longer, tackle most food and have some nifty features.

Jug Blenders
Jug blender to make quick and easy smoothies
Whether it be for smoothies, soups, or purees, every kitchen needs a blender.

These are your standard blenders. They’re affordable and a bit of a must in most families, for blending soups and pureeing. An entry model might not be able to tackle harder fruits and vegetables, like carrots, dried fruits or even nuts. They will accommodate soft fruits, yogurt, nut butter without issues.

A sturdier model will allow you to blend virtually anything, including seeds and nuts. The larger jug makes it the perfect blender for a family or blending in larger quantities at a time.

Single-serving Blenders
Nutribullet blender for portable smoothies
The NutriBullet, aka the Superfood Nutrients Extractor

These have appeared in recent years and offer a quick and portable solution.  The Nutribullet is the market leader. The bowl is smaller and will usually only blend one serving at a time. A nifty system of tight lids means you can just blend, add the lids and go. Perfect for a takeaway smoothie.

These are great to turn your smoothies into a whole meal, adding proteins or fats to make them more filling. Some are even battery-operated, so you can blend your smoothie at the last minute at work.

So…?

Which one would win this contest in your house: blender vs juicer? Which contains the most nutrients, a cold-pressed juice or a smoothie? Which option is best, with the fibers, or without? This could go on forever but is not particularly useful.

Forget the debates about blender vs juicer, just load up on juices and smoothies

It is far more useful to remember this:

  • If drinking juices or smoothies allow you to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, in their raw state, just do it. We don’t consume enough of the stuff anyway, and when we do, it’s mostly in processed form, at least for most vegetables. Get some great vegetable juice recipes here.
  • If you do mind creating more waste, and your digestive system can stomach it, blend it. We have to go for juicing and find clever ways to use the leftover pulp. I make mini-quiches with it when juicing vegetables, and the fruit pulp goes straight to our worm farm.
  • If the price is an issue, go for a blender, as expensive as you can afford. They are a useful tool in the kitchen for a variety of other dishes, so you won’t feel like it’s wasted money if you don’t do smoothies for a while.
  • Fruits and vegetables are the only foodstuffs that can be consumed with no or minimal processing. They’re the perfect clean food and allow you to save energy along the way. They also have the lowest water footprint, so any way to increase your intake is good.

Almost forgot, my easy peasy juice recipe is super easy and takes care of most of my 5-a-day of raw fruits and vegetables.

I don’t need to peel anything, just to wash them and chop them to fit. To get this awesome, super simple but super tasty recipe, just sign up below to access my Resource Library.

I even added the nutritional table for the juice, so you’ll know exactly how much goodness you’re getting in, isn’t that nifty?

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If this recipe doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, feel free to check my other vegetable juice recipes.

What’s your favorite juice/smoothie recipe? Please share in the comments below!

And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more delicious juice and smoothie recipes, selected just for you.

Clean Eating Lunch Ideas at work, school & home

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Eating clean on the go can be tricky at the beginning. Especially for lunch, which is an important meal of the day and needs to be filling enough to carry you until the evening. For most of us, lunching doesn’t happen at home, so your meal needs to be portable, easy to prepare and easy to eat. A tall order? Not so much with those few clean eating lunch ideas.

Eating clean at work

Salads

Healthy quinoa salad as clean eating lunch ideasLet’s start with this, as it’s easy to pack, doesn’t need reheating, full of nutrients and easy to prepare. I used to cook a bowl of brown rice, millet or buckwheat at the beginning of the week, and just add leftovers and raw salad veggies on the day. With a little mayonnaise or salad dressing in a small container, bob’s your uncle, lunch is served.

The beauty of them is that you can add really what you want. Back then I was using whole grains as my base, but these days I’m loading them with proteins and healthy fats. Are you a sweet tooth? Add some grapes, apples or any seasonal fruit for a sweet and sour taste.

Salads in a jar

Salads in jars as clean eating lunch ideasYou can even prepare them ahead in canning jars for the whole week. There’s a knack to it to make sure the leaves don’t get soggy, so make sure you layer your ingredients up in the right order:

  • Always start with the dressing at the bottom.
  • Then add your less absorbent ingredients, like onions, carrots, peppers, sweetcorn.
  • In goes the more absorbent stuff, like whole grains and proteins, in layers.
  • And finish with your leafy greens.

When it’s time to eat, empty the jar in a bowl, and toss. Ta-da! I also find them particularly appetizing in the jar, especially if you’re going for a good mix of colors in your vegetables.

Another bonus is that the most perishable vegetables will happily keep a few days longer when stored like this in your fridge. No more brown, soggy lettuce!

There are plenty of awesome suggestions out there, in particular on Pinterest, so get some canning jars and start layering.

Left-overs

Meatball with saladMy old favorite. I always try to over-cater the night before, so I don’t have to worry about lunch the next day. It’s all cooked and ready to go. I try to stay away from having to warm my lunches, so I’ll quite happily turn my leftovers into a wholesome salad. I simply add a few leaves of lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar of choice.

If you prefer warm food, just make sure you pack your leftovers in a microwaveable container. Saves you having to transfer it to a glass or ceramic bowl at work.

Takeaways

Convenience food manufacturers have long sussed out that there was a massive market out there at lunch. Luckily, some of them now start to cater for the healthiest folks as well. So it’s possible to find clean sandwiches and wraps. Mind though, not everything labeled “healthy” is clean.

Aim for brown, whole wheat, rye bread or similar. Check the filling and go for a minimal list of recognizable ingredients. These should be perishable foodstuff, so if not kept in the fridge section and to be eaten within 24 hours, it is sure to be loaded with additives.

Sushi is another fairly clean option. It contains a limited list of ingredients, all identifiable, and it’s fresh. Most of the additives will be in the soy sauce though. It’s probably not the best clean food out there (unless you make it yourself, of course), but once in a while, I personally think it’s OK.

Home-made sandwiches…

Home-made sandwich as clean eating lunch ideas…are fine of course, and let you be in control of what you put between your slices of bread or in your wrap or pita bread. Start with the whole grain variety for you “outer”, and enjoy whatever clean filler you fancy.

Home-made sushi and other summer rolls are also a good option. Although they take a bit longer to prepare, they can be a welcome change from your traditional sandwich. And are still portable and easy finger-food.

What to put in a clean eating lunch box?

Kids need to eat enough at lunch to keep them sharp all afternoon. Regardless of how healthy and clean that lunch box looked when you prepared it, if it doesn’t get eaten, it’s no good. Here are a few clean eating lunch ideas to get your kids to have a clean lunch box *and* actually eat it.

Involve them

Lunchbox filled with clean healthy food as clean eating lunch ideasI can’t say it enough. If they’ve chosen their food and prepared their lunch pack, they’re far more likely to eat it. My girls prepare their lunch boxes the night before, with my help. Looks like something like this most days.

I found that a good variety of bite-size food works best for my primary-school kids. And investing in decent, leak-proof and fun Bento boxes was a must. I use silicone cupcake molds too keep the food separate and add a bit of fun.

Go along with their tastes.

Colorful tomatoes in a trayIf the only fresh vegetable your child will eat is cherry tomatoes, stick with it. Change the varieties, you can get yellow, green or even purple ones these days. Vary the dressing, give them humus, cocktail sauce, garlic mayonnaise etc. (all home-made or carefully selected, of course).

Make sure to add one source of protein, this will keep them going for longer. Whether it’s loose in the box (a matchbox piece of cheese, a hard-boiled egg or a few pieces of jerky), or layered in their sandwich (brown bread or best-of-both, if possible).

Made-ahead options

Crust-less quichesI like to prepare batches of savory muffins or crust-less quiches during the weekend and pop one of those in my kids’ lunchboxes. That’s their “main course”. And it saves times compared to preparing fresh sandwiches every day.

Tickle their taste buds

Most children like a bit of crunchiness, so let them have a little crunchy something. Popcorn is a safe option, easily made at home with a little salt or sugar/cinnamon. I sometimes find very plain and basic corn chips, tortilla-style, and this also works for us. You can make your own chips, but I’ll admit I don’t quite have enough hours in the day to make fresh ones during the week.

However, I do make sure there is a little healthy “treat”. It can be cocoa-coated hazelnuts, salted almonds, roasted corn kernels or a home-made cookie. Just something a little bit more indulgent and “snack-like”. (Notice how all of them can be made in batches ahead of time)

How to master clean eating family meals?

Not all lunches are on the go, and you might find yourself having to entertain friends or family at the weekend. While still wanting to stick to your clean eating food. And while not necessarily wanting to sound like a complete health-freak either. Sounds familiar? I think we’ve all been there. But from experience, as daunting as it may sound, it’s actually not that hard. Here are some clean eating lunch ideas that you can adapt to the whole family, the season of the year or the occasion.

Appetizers

Tomatoes and dipsThink crudités and dips, maybe with a small bowl of plain tortilla chips for the ones needing some crunch. For the veggies, baby zucchini, carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, mange-tout, and baby corn are my go-to snacks and look great together. For the dips, try a garlic mayonnaise, hummus or a yogurt-based dip like tzatziki.

Starters

Mixed salad with cheese as a clean eating lunch ideasGo for a lovely, colorful, hearty salad. The kind of salad with lovely greens at the bottom. Topped up with various chopped veggies like beetroot, sweetcorn, peppers or any other. Covered with some more “meaty” ingredients, whether it be cheese, chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, or avocados.

Feel free to add some seasonal fruits for a zing. I like grapes and apples, for their sweetness and their crunchiness, respectively. But when I get the chance, mangoes and papayas also find their way in. Or pomegranate, for the color.

Main course

Roast meat with vegetablesKeep it simple. Forget about pastries and fancy fare. A piece of meat, fish or another source of protein, some vegetables, and a starch. Can be all cooked together if your oven is big enough: think cottage or shepherd’s pie, sheet pan, stuffed eggplants, chili con carne etc.

Or cooked separately. A roast is a good option as the side dishes are versatile and let you be as clean as you want. For the starch, forgo bread and offer roast potatoes, rice or any other whole grain. I tend to roast sweet potatoes with onions, quartered, and carrots. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. It hits the spot with the kids, who like the sweetness of it, and with the grown-ups, who like the traditional feel of roasted vegetables.

Desserts

Clean eating doesn’t mean ditching all the sweet treats. It does mean making sure that only healthy, clean ingredients find their way into your dessert plate. There are loads of lovely clean recipes out there. Cakes are an option, but once the heavily-refined cake flour is out, they tend to use less processed flours like almond or coconut. These lend themselves to more dense and moist cakes. Think brownies rather than sponge cake.

Fruit saladYou’ll find more choice in terms of puddings. A lot of them, like chocolate mousse, only need to be refrigerated and can be prepared ahead of time.

Otherwise, make a large, colorful fresh fruit salad, and add a little bit of orange juice. Or bake some cored apples with cinnamon and raisins for a winter warmer.

 

What are your go-to clean eating lunch ideas?

The above might have given you pointers as to what to have for lunch, but feel free to share your own menus with us, please! Let’s make sure that lack of inspiration is *not* an excuse for having some industrial additive-laden food at lunch.

If you’re feeling stuck for breakfast ideas, check my post here. And if at snack time, you feel most inclined to buy processed food, get some ideas here. Need inspiration for clean eating dinners? I’ve got you covered!

12 Clean Eating Breakfast Ideas on the go

Breakfast is by definition the first meal of the day. A healthy and sustaining breakfast is essential to a good start of the day and comfortable morning. Yet, somehow, this is the meal that we spend the least time thinking about or preparing. So I’ve rounded up 12 clean eating breakfast ideas to make sure you can still run out the door while giving your body the goodness it deserves.

I used to hoover up sugary cereals or jam on toasts in lieu of breakfast. For years, I had to put up with the 10am-slump, where nothing but more food would get my foggy brain back into gear. Entered clean real food and a better understanding of the expression “You are what you eat”, and my breakfast will now happily fill me up until 12. And the first sign that my body needs to refuel is a natural hunger pang in the stomach.

A clean breakfast can be anything really, sweet or savory, liquid or solid, and as substantial as you need or want it to be. Be creative. Work with your taste buds. But as the majority of us have busy lifestyles, I’ve aimed at 12 suggestions that you can whip up in 5 minutes or less.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

Grab-and-go clean eating breakfast ideas

No-frills, no-prep breakfasts can still just do the job. For the workaholics or the supermoms out there. Or for “those” mornings.

1. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits

Dried fruit mixNuts and seeds are always great clean food to fall back on. They contain vitamins and minerals, fibers and enough good fat to keep you going all morning. To enjoy plain, roasted (with only a hint of salt added), creamed (if shop-bought, make sure nothing was added).

Dried fruits are also a good option, but team them up with yogurt, nuts or seeds. Why? Simply because they contain a lot of sugar and will be quickly converted into glucose and absorbed by your body. To avoid the mid-morning slump, slow the glucose conversion down with healthy fat and/or proteins. Think of yogurt sprinkled with them, a trail mix or a snack bar (preferably home-made, so you know exactly what is inside).

2. Shop-bought clean breakfasts

The food industry is slowly but surely starting to cater for people that need clean, healthy convenience food. It is not impossible to find those options in the shops these days. Be very vigilant with any added ingredients, especially sugar and preservatives:Granola cup to take-away

  • Plain yogurt with healthy muesli or granola
  • Clean cereal bars
  • Clean shakes
  • Clean smoothies (to team up with nuts or seeds)

 

Not a fan of eating much first thing in the morning? Check out some Clean Eating Snacks ideas to curb those mid-morning pangs without reaching for the biscuits or the chips!

Made-before-the-time options

Another option for a grab-and-go clean breakfast is to prepare it ahead of time.

3. Energy bars

Muesli energy bars… and other energy balls are all the rage and are dead easy to make. They contain few ingredients, using either the fat content of nuts or a “sticky” seed like flax or chia to bind it all together. Some require a little bit of baking, some none. There are so many recipes out there, it’s just a case of taking your pick.

They’re filling, highly portable and will keep well. So, it’s worth preparing a batch once a week to have them at hand, for an on-the-go breakfast, a snack or a lunchbox filler.

4. Muffins

Home-made pumpkin muffinsI’m not talking about industrial, sticky-sweet blueberry muffins here. But the lovely home-made ones which you can fill with healthy, real ingredients. Here again, there are lots of recipes out there. Just make sure they use whole grain flours, or almond flour, or something like sweet potatoes as the main ingredient. And are sweetened with honey or fruits, rather than sugar.

We’re a bit restricted in what I can bake at home, for health reasons, so I use a basic mix like this. I’m no baker, but I can still whip up a batch of savory or cinnamon muffins in no time and with minimal effort. And the kids can pack those in their lunchboxes. Lunch sorted.

5. Paleo muffins

Also known as egg muffins, or crust-less quiches in my book. But whatever they’re called, they tick all the boxes of clean food. And they’re versatile and easy to make:

  1. Paleo muffins with cheese and tomatoGrease a muffin tray,
  2. Add some ingredients of your choice (we like chopped peppers and onions, with paprika and a bit of cheese on top),
  3. Whisk some eggs with a bit of milk and pour the mixture into your muffin tray,
  4. Cook in the oven until the egg is set.

Voilà!

They’re great for using leftovers too and will keep a few days in the fridge. I’ve frozen batches before without hassles. You’ll find loads of ideas on the web for different fillings. Just make sure to avoid processed meat and other industrial food though.

Clean breakfasts ready in 5 minutes

These are for when you have a bit more time in the morning, but not that much time either. Or if you want something fresh. Or warm.

6. Eggs

They’re my go-to breakfast these days, I must admit. Usually fried in coconut oil with some tomatoes on the side. The kids like theirs scrambled or into an “egg pancake”. [2 eggs, beaten with a dash of milk and cooked in a pan, then used as a base for any filling they want, and rolled up like a pancake].

Frittatas or omelets are also a good idea. You can use your leftovers or fresh vegetables to add different flavors.

7. Smoothies

Creamy breakfast smoothieWith endless recipes on the net, and the possibility to add just whatever you want, smoothies are quick to make, versatile, and highly portable. You can make them as rich and filling or light as your appetite dictates first thing in the morning. The only thing you need is a blender of sorts.

What takes the longest, at least for me, is to pick the recipe!

8. Fresh juice

Fresh fruit juicesI’m referring to the ones made using a slow juicer, also called masticating juicer (this is the one I use at home). They retain all the vitamins and enzymes but remove the fibers. Although not as filling as smoothies, those juices are full of goodness. They can just hit the spot when you’re not feeling up for anything more substantial.

They need to be drunk quickly to make the most of the enzymes and the vitamins, so portability is limited. But as they only take a few seconds to drink, that isn’t really an issue.

9. Porridge and oatmeal

Muesli porridge with fruitsThis is an old favorite, for reason. Admittedly, it uses grains, which can be heavily refined. Stick with whole grain to enjoy all the goodness of a cereal that won’t have been heavily processed, complete with fibers, proteins, vitamins and all.

Don’t limit yourself to oats, try a few other grains if you feel like it. Millet and quinoa come unprocessed and are a good source of protein, for example.

Their only downside: the cooking time. The “instant” varieties are chopped or ground, refined and pre-cooked, usually with added sugar and flavorings. Stay clear of those.

Most whole grains can be cooked the night before and quickly warmed up in the morning though. Before being diagnosed with gluten intolerance, we used to have rolled oats most mornings, prepared the night before. I would just warm them up in the morning, and add whatever flavors we fancied (salt, black pepper, and cheese for me, please!).

10. Grain-free porridges

Another healthy option, brought into the limelight by the gluten-free-paleo-primal trend out there. Although still confidential in the shops, they are easy to whip up at home.

My favorite is ground flaxseed, shredded coconut, and almond butter, with a lot of cinnamon. I just add warm water or milk and mix well. Delicious.

But there are loads of other recipes using almond flour, for example, for a rich and creamy porridge. Use flax and chia seeds as binding agents. Then add pretty much whatever you fancy and end up with a thick delicious porridge.

11. Yogurt with toppings

Muesli with yogurt on-the-goOr any other plain dairy product, like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Just make sure it’s plain. And full fat (meaning “unprocessed”). If this is scaring you, let’s put this in perspective:

  • A fat-free 225g yogurt will save you less than 8g of fat from the cream.
  • The low-fat version will sit somewhere around 4g of fat removed (that’s less than a teaspoon…).

Unfortunately, the cream is what makes the yogurt, well, creamy and moreish. Thus, the likelihood of starches and sugar being added to low-fat or fat-free yogurt is very high.

To turn your dairy product of choice into a breakfast, add fruits – fresh, dried, or cooked – nuts and seeds, and whatever other flavors you fancy. Pour into a container to take-away. I have a thing for Greek yogurt with fresh mango, pistachio nuts, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cardamom…

12. Quick pancakes

Home-made pancakes topped up with fruitsThere are oodles of quick and healthy pancake recipes out there. Using 2 or 3 ingredients, simply mixed and cooked in a pan, usually for less than 10 minutes. OK, this is a bit more than the 5 minutes I was aiming for initially, but it’s still feasible, even on a rushed morning.

Admittedly too, these are not super portable. They might be better suited for the weekend or a brunch. But I still feel they deserved to make an appearance here, if anything because they are easy to make and can accommodate all diet restrictions. Maybe also because they feel that little bit more decadent than the other breakfasts suggested.

What is your clean breakfast of choice?

I didn’t give full recipes here, as there are simply thousands of them out there. But feel free to share your favorites in the comments or suggest other clean eating breakfast ideas I have missed.

The point is, even pushed for time, there’s no excuse not to have a healthy, clean breakfast.

And if you’re running out of ideas for clean eats to go through your day, read on:

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for a whole lot of selected Clean Eating Breakfast recipes!

 
 
Clean eating dinner breakfast

Clean eating shopping guide

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

Deciding to love your body and only feed it healthy, clean food is one thing, doing it is another. Having made the decision, you might be wondering how to go about shopping for clean food and preparing it. Here’s where this little clean eating shopping guide comes in. 8 tips to help you with those first shopping trips, one step at a time.

 Where do I get clean food?

Now, if are lucky enough to have a farmer’s market nearby, it should become your favorite shopping haunt. But for the majority of us, the supermarket is where we head to for our weekly groceries. So this guide has been drawn with this in mind.

We’ve learned to rely so much on convenience food for our everyday life, so going back to basics might need a little bit of organizing.

1. Preparing your menu is a must

When you cook from scratch, unless:

  • you’re an awesome cook (which I have no doubt you are or are about to become), and
  • you are able to go to the shops and can visualize the prepared meals just by looking at the fresh food, and
  • you remember the actual recipe, and
  • you know exactly what’s in your fridge/freezer/pantry…

Well, let’s just say it’s easier to pick recipes at home, check what you’ve got already and write down a shopping list…

Which takes us to the next important step…

2. Make a shopping list

The good ol’shopping list has many benefits:

  • It makes sure you get ALL the ingredients needed for those scrumptious recipes
  • It allows you to focus ONLY on those needed ingredients. So you’re less tempted to buy other less virtuous products, even if they’re on specials
  • It ensures you can save as much money as possible by buying only the items you need, so none of it will get wasted. And because you’ll have picked the right recipes, by buying only items that are in season (cheaper), or keep well (bulk)
  • It saves you time, and a lot of it (especially if you have to trawl the shops with the kids).

My mum used to have (still does) a notepad on the fridge where we would write down any household items that would have run out. She would top it up with recipe items right before the time, checking with us (sometimes) what we would like to eat. This way, only items that we needed appeared on the list.

3. Follow your shopping list

Unfortunately, processed foodstuff packaging and merchandising are where marketing companies make their money. Hence the sugar-, salt- or MSG-laden industrial products trying hard to lure you into buying them. And hence the attractive packaging, special offers, and displays to convince us they’re natural, healthy, and absolutely essential in our diet…

Think ahead of time about the meals you want to prepare, draw a list accordingly, and try and stick to it as religiously as possible. Your budget and your health will thank you for it.

The ultimate clean eating shopping list…

…is the one you’ll gradually build for yourself over time. Based on the type of food you and your family enjoy, what’s available locally, and what fits within your budget. You’ll find in my grocery tips some useful pointers to help you choose your products wisely and define your list.

You’ll soon figure out what your staples are. For example, I tend to know which brands of tinned chopped tomatoes (yes, I’m lazy like that) only contain tomatoes and salt. No sugar, thickeners or preservatives. So I’ll just stick with those.

If you need a little help with it though, sign up to receive my newsletter (and other awesome tips) and receive my Ultimate Clean Eating Shopping List, as a little Thank-you.

4. Shop around the perimeter

Fresh produce aisle of a supermarketIn supermarkets, the central aisles are where the processed packaged foods are. Your fresh produce, butcher, fishmonger, and baker will find themselves on the perimeter of your supermarket. So start with the perimeter, and only pick from the central aisles the items that are left on your list (typically, dry goods, toiletries, household products).

And make sure you’re not hungry when you hit those central aisles. This is where the bulk of the special offers, snazzy packaging, and free tasters are.

5. Read the ingredients list

There is still some processed food you might want or need to buy, like wholegrain bread, whole wheat pasta, basic sauces, spices, and condiments etc.). Much of clean eating revolves around eliminating anything that was not part of the fresh produce as it left the farm. So the list of ingredients must be short and obvious.

If the “tomato” part of your tomato sauce is buried far down the list, forget about it. Ingredients are listed in order of importance, so your main ingredients must be right at the top of the list.

The ingredients list is also supposed to show the percentage of the food that the product claims to contain. So if that tomato sauce only contains 7% tomatoes, move along.

For more pointers as to which ingredients should be on your list, you can check my recommended grocery list.

6. Put your freezer to good use

Frozen red currantsThe freezer will now become your best friend. Especially if you live in an area where organically-grown or unprocessed foodstuff is not available all year round. Or if you are lucky enough to be able to buy those in bulk.

So when you see clean food at a good price, buy in bulk and freeze. Most vegetables can be kept in the freezer, although some of them need blanching first.

Just because you don’t want to buy industrial food, doesn’t mean you can’t make your own convenience food. Especially for those nights when cooking is the last thing you want to do, or those days when the fridge is desperately empty.

When cooking, double the quantities and freeze your left-overs in portions. So you can just take those ready-made meals out and ta-da! Food is ready!

7. Make bulk-cooking a weekly habit

You can push this concept further and prepare meals in bulk for freezing/refrigerating.

Frozen prepared spinachThis ticks two important boxes:

  • it saves you time later on, so you get the benefits of “convenience” food,
  • …while still getting all the goodness of clean, natural ingredients.

Only meals involving raw or very lightly cooked food, like salads, juices, steamed veggies or stir-fries, are best done at the last minute. This way, you make sure you get as much of the vitamins as possible.

Over-cater on purpose

For the rest, I tend to “over-cater” every time. Admittedly, sometimes it’s so delicious that once we’ve all had seconds (or even thirds), well, there’s not much left to freeze or keep for tomorrow’s lunch… I just console myself by thinking that we just stuffed ourselves with healthy food!

I particularly like to double (or triple) my portions for stuff that keeps out of the fridge or freezer, like biscuits and cookies. I’m not much of a baker. But since I have to supply the school and the grandparents with suitable treats to give my kids, I bulk-bake and store much of it in tin boxes.

Admittedly, the cooking takes a while (I only have a small oven that can only take one small tray at a time). But I make sure I have 2 or 3 hours ahead of me when starting, and I make the most of the cooking time for reading or writing.

Get into family batch-cooking

Some folks I know spend one Sunday afternoon per month preparing and cooking their food in bulk as a family. They decide ahead of time what they want to prepare, shop for it on Saturday, and have themselves a big fat cooking Sunday.

The kids get involved in the menu planning, the preps, and the cooking. They told me they were looking forward to it, as they get to spend time with Mom and Dad and decide what they’re going to eat in the next few weeks. Then they freeze 4- or 2-people portions (for dinner or lunch), marking them as they go along.

OK, one needs a large chest freezer for this. But it’s a great way to save time and money, as you can buy in larger quantity stuff that is in season or at a reduced price.

8. Enroll the spouse and the kids in the process

Even if they are not as keen as you are to give up on industrial food, involving the rest of the family in your new eating clean habits will make your life easier. To ease them into it, you can start by replacing their favorite convenience meal with a home-cooked version. Then remind them of how much less sugar and other horrible stuff it contains after their taste buds have agreed that it does, indeed, taste at least as good as the “old” stuff.

They’ll then be more tempted to help you choose other recipes to swap, shop for the ingredients and prepare them, just to see. Starting with the family’s usual dishes and popular flavors first helps. Then you can move on to meals that are a bit different from what the family usually eat, just to see.

My husband likes to shop in bulk. “the bag of 10 pumpkins was barely more expensive than just 2 pumpkins”. Or the old favorite, “it’s far cheaper to buy 5kg of carrots than to buy just one kilogram at a time”. So, short of eating pumpkin mash or carrot soup every meal, one has to become creative and find recipes using those ingredients.

This is a good opportunity to get the family involved here too, taste new flavors and adopt new favorite dishes. I find online recipe sites and Pinterest useful: the kids can pick what “looks” good on picture. I can then check the ingredients and validate the recipe.

Supermarket shoppingWhen it comes to the shopping itself, I enroll my kids in the shops. Their job is to:

  • read the shopping list,
  • locate the items,
  • read the lists of ingredients
  • and strike the items off the shopping list.

This distracts them from all the processed foodstuff on display everywhere.

I hope this clean eating shopping guide…

…will ease you into clean eating, one step at a time. Don’t get hang-up about only buying clean food at the beginning. Start with a couple of recipes and a shopping list. You’ll find that, soon, more recipes will beg to be tried and clean food will naturally find its way into your trolley.

Tip – If you need more hands-on help with getting started on Clean Eating, I highly recommend this ebook from Kristin at Live Simply. She also talks the talk and walks the walk on clean eating, and has put together this nifty 12-day Real Food Planning Challenge. She challenges you to change but helps you every step of the way.

You can click on the link to the 12-day Real Food Planning Challenge to find out more.
Please note that this is an affiliate link. If you do decide to buy Kristin’s ebook (which I personally think is of great help to anybody needing a little day-to-day help with Clean Eating), I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If I’ve missed any tips or if you have more of them like these, feel free to add them in the comments below to share with everybody out there.

And if you need help figuring out what’s “clean” and what’s not in the shops, check my tips on grocery shopping. At this stage, you might also be keen on finding out which method is best to start clean eating.

Clean eating shopping guide

Clean eating snacks ideas

Eating clean usually involves a lot of cooking from scratch from raw, natural ingredients. Snacks, by definition, tend to be quick fix-me-ups. Super processed. Usually laden with salt and/sugar because we need a treat or a little pick-up. And with so many unhealthy, but convenient options available out there, it might seem that snacks just cannot be clean, right?

Well actually, there’s plethora of snacks out there that are quick, easy, clean, and delicious. Read on for a few clean eating snacks ideas. For those last-minute lunchboxes. Or those no-time-let’s-skip-lunch moments. Or simply for those time of the day when one needs a little help pushing on.

Ready-to-go clean snacks

Perfect for the kids’ lunchboxes. These come straight out of your pantry or fridge. So if you get into a habit of stocking up on them, you’ll never be caught out when you need to grab something and go.

Fresh fruits

Bowl full of fresh raw fruitsThey’re ultimate portable snacks for a quick fix. A lot of them come already wrapped in their own natural packaging to protect their vitamins and nutrients. Remember to pick them carefully in the shops (check this post to know which ones should be organic) and store them properly (more tips on this here). And wash them before eating.

If chopped in the morning and carried in a box, make sure you eat them early in the day to make the most of their nutrients.

Perfect for that sweet craving, without the guilt trip or sugar crash. Favor the ones where you’ll eat the skin as well. The skin usually contains a lot of nutrients and the extra fibers will balance the sugar out.

Dried fruits

Dried fruit mixLess bulky and messy than their fresh counterpart, dried fruits are easy to grab and will hit the spot when you need a boost of energy. Be careful when choosing them though, some of them contain added sulfites, sugar, flavorings, anticaking agents etc.

Buy them organic if you can, as you can’t wash them or peel them to remove the pesticide residues.

Fresh vegetables

Cheery tomatoes to take-awayNo thanks, I hear you say. But some vegetables are just nice and satisfying raw and plain. Think about baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, baby corns or mange-tout. My nephew enjoys raw green beans in his lunchbox. I have a thing for raw sweet potato. Find what works for you and enjoy.

And if it is the ‘plain’ part that doesn’t tickle your fancy, try teaming them up with dips (see below) in a small container. I find the soy sauce containers from sushi to take-away to be a perfect size.

Nuts and seeds

Bowl of mixed nutsThese are perfect to tame hunger pangs, as their healthy fat will provide you with steady energy and keep you full for a while. Nuts contain a variety of nutrients (vitamin E and magnesium for almonds and hazelnuts, omega 3 for walnuts, selenium for brazil nuts etc.). Feel free to swap and change to avoid boredom and get a good balance of vitamins and minerals.

Even better, use your organic dried fruits above to make your own trail mix!

No-bake snacks ideas

These suggestions are for when you don’t have time to sit and wait for something to cook but have a little bit more time on your hands. Most of them involve a food processor or a high-speed blender. At this stage, think about increasing the quantities so you don’t have to prepare those snacks every time you want them. Those extra portions then turn into “on-the-go” snacks. And you’re saving time and electricity in the process. Win-win.

Dips

Dips with mango saladThey only take minutes to make and are great with fresh veggies or a hard-boiled egg. Humus, tzatziki, mayonnaise, salsa sauce, just to name a few, are all easy to whip up and are sure to hit the spot. Make a batch for the week and keep it in the fridge.

The beauty of them is that, from a basic recipe, you can add your own ingredients and spices to create your very own favorites.

Nut (and seed) butter

Peanut butter on a slice of appleSame principle, different basic ingredients. Nut butter is dead easy to make if you have a decent food processor and go a long way towards keeping you going, thanks to the healthy fats. To get a smooth consistency though, they need to be blended/pulsed for a few minutes.

For something indulgent, think about adding cocoa and honey to a hazelnut spread. Or honey and cinnamon to your walnut or almond butter.

If you want to buy them already prepared, aim for the ones where nothing has been added, no sugar, salt, or emulsifier.

No-bake bites

Choice of no-bake ballsUsually made with only a few ingredients, these come in sweet or savory flavors and simply rich and delicious. The basic recipe is super easy: measure your ingredients, pop them in your food processor or high-speed blender and blitz until you get the desired consistency. Shape them into balls and roll them in a dry ingredient to stop them from sticking, like cocoa, shredded coconut, paprika etc.

They are usually best kept in the fridge as they make use of healthy fat as the binding ingredient. But they’ll keep well, so it’s worth preparing a larger batch ahead of time.

Great for lunchboxes, and picnics too.

Smoothies & Juices

Smoothies and fruitsThe principle is the same, i.e. pour all your ingredients in your food processor and blend until smooth. But you’ll be aiming for a drink. Which also means that there will be water or milk involved and your snack will not keep long.

These are best prepared at the last minute, to preserve the vitamins and nutrients, and are not so portable. On the plus side, the basic recipes are flexible, and you can pretty much add anything you fancy in there.

Bake-only snacks

These are snacks involving very little preparation, but you need to allow a bit of time for cooking.

Roasted nuts, seeds, and peas

Candied almonds in jarsOK, we’ve covered the plain variety earlier on, but it’s easy to add some flavor to nuts and seeds.

You can try sweet praline nuts in a slow cooker, spicy smoked nuts in the oven or roasted chickpeas for a change.

Vegetable chips

Standard chips involve a lot of processing, primarily because they use refined starches as a base. By using vegetables, you remove a lot of the processes, while still getting the flavor and the crunch. What’s not to love?

Kale chips are a staple, but why not try bell pepper chips, plantain chips, or sweet potato crisps?

Beef jerky

Slices of beef jerkyThe traditional beef jerky uses few ingredients and not too many processes and is a nice addition to the clean snack family. Beware of jerky made from shredded and reformed meat, often laden with additives and preservatives.

Alternatively, you can make your own, thus controlling precisely the ingredients. Once prepared, the beef jerky will keep for several weeks without refrigeration. The perfect on-the-go snack for a protein boost.

More indulgent snacks, for when you have the time

There are many other snacks out there, requiring a little more preparation and cooking time. I’ll just mention a few that I particularly favor.

Mini-quiches

Mini crust-less quichesI personally like to turn family dishes into snacks. So, when making a crust-less quiche, I’ll double the quantities and cook half in cupcake molds. You end up with the most perfect mini-quiches for the kids’ lunchboxes or for picnics.

I happily do the same with most other dishes, to be honest. It’s a great way to use left-overs: chop all your odds and sods, scoop them into silicone cupcake molds and cover them with beaten egg and seasoning. The unusual flavors created are usually delicious, but on the downside, they’re almost impossible to recreate!

Muffins

Apple muffinsThese are easy to make at home and can be as sweet or as savory as you wish. You can hide grated carrots, onions, greens, zucchini or most other vegetables for a moist, super healthy snack without the sugar load.

They will keep well in the fridge, can be frozen and are very portable. Well worth a little time spent in the kitchen.

These are just a few pointers…

… and I’m sure there are loads more simple and delicious clean snacks out there. If you were ever tempted to go for highly-processed, additive-laden snacks to go through your day, I hope you’ve found one or two suggestions that might just work for you and your taste buds.

And if you do have any other go-to clean snacks I haven’t mentioned, feel free to add a Comment below to share the goodness with everybody.

To read further:

Not sure where to get started with clean grocery shopping? This post will point you in the right direction.

And if you need ideas to get you going, check these posts:

What is the best way to store produce – How to keep fruits and vegetables fresh?

If you’re like me, you probably loathe having to throw away fruits and vegetables that have long passed their prime and just cannot be consumed anymore. But what is the best way to store produce and enjoy it fresh and tasteful, without having to go to the grocers every day?

Read on to understand in a few easy tips why we should mind our fresh produce and how to always eat your fruits and vegetables at their best.

Let’s start with a few facts…

Fact – About one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted every year. That’s 1.6bn tons of produce per year, with a value of about $1tn.

Fact – American families throw away between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy every year. This costs the average family between $1,365 and $2,275 per year.

Fact – Fresh produce starts to decay the minute it is picked. Some varieties only have a shelf life of a few days even if stored in optimum conditions.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential to a cleaner diet, but they come at a price. I find it very frustrating to discover that the gorgeous punnet of berries I bought just a couple of days ago has gone moldy. Or that the lettuce I was eager to toss in my salad has gone soggy…

If stored and cooked properly, fresh produce is a fantastic source of nutrients, fibers, and antioxidants. In a bid to save you money, make sure you make the most of your fruits and vegetables and reduce wastage on earth, here are 10 tips to:
– understand why fresh produce spoils,
– and see how to best store your fruits and vegetables for maximum goodness.

Tip 1 – First, a quick lesson in ripening:

Once picked, fruits and vegetables will carry on breathing for a while, between a few days and a few weeks. In the process, they will produce a gas called ethylene to speed up their ripening.

Some, however, produce more ethylene than others. Fruits tend to produce more ethylene than vegetables, hence the next tip:

Tip 2 – Always keep the fruits and the vegetables separate.

Raw fruits and vegetablesA lot of new fridges now boast two crispers (one high-humidity compartment and one low-humidity one). The difference is usually a vent that can be opened or closed: vegetables tend to want a higher-humidity environment than fruits.

Here’s a quick guide to which fresh produce you should keep where:

  • High-Humidity crisper: for ethylene-sensitive vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, greens (chard, spinach), lettuces, parsley, peppers, squash, and sweet potatoes, and ethylene-sensitive fruits, such as citrus and berries.
  • Low-Humidity crisper: for ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples, apricots, avocados, ripe bananas, cantaloupes, figs, honeydew melons, kiwis, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, and plums.

If your fridge only has one crisper, it will be by default a high-humidity one, better suited for vegetables.

Tip 3 – Washing your produce.

Even if you buy all your fruits and vegetables organic, they will have traces of soil, pesticides, and residues that you’ll want to wash off before consuming.
[Some will be more polluted than other, check this post on the Dirty dozen to know which ones]

Most produce will do best stored unwashed until you’re ready to eat them, as the moisture will speed up their decay. If you wash your fruits and vegetables first, then store them, make sure to dry them thoroughly before storing.

No need for detergent here, wash them off under running water, scrubbing hard vegetables with a brush if need be. “Polish” the fruits covered in a waxy substance with a cloth after washing.
For leafy greens and lettuces, dip the leaves in a bowl of water and gently shake to let the soil fall at the bottom. Then lift, shake dry and use.

Tip 4 – Always separate your produce from meat and dairy

Raw meatMeat and dairy can carry harmful pathogens. You might eat some of the fruits and vegetables raw or only lightly cooked. It is therefore crucial to avoid any contact with your meat and your dairy products.

The meat drawer is typically located at the bottom of your fridge to avoid contamination of the other products through dripping.

Tip 5 – Fruits and vegetables to keep in the refrigerator

See the full list given above in Tip 2. Place in the fridge as soon as possible after purchasing, unwashed. Make sure to separate the ethylene-producing varieties from the ethylene-sensitive ones (see Tip 2).

Vegetables will do better in ventilated packaging and not packed too tight. Make sure that their bags have got holes in it, and that they have space to breathe.

The best temperature of your fridge should be less than 5°C, so it’s cold enough to slow down the ripening process.

Tip 6 – Fresh produce to leave at room temperature…

…to ripen, then move to the fridge if need be.

The following fruits (or veggies?) will benefit from staying at room temperature for a while to ripen, and will then be placed at a colder temperature in your fridge to stop the ripening.

The benefits are two-fold:

  • You save the fridge for your fast-ripening produce that needs to be eaten first, making sure you eat produce at its best throughout the week,
  • You save on energy by not needing to put all your produce in the fridge at once.

AvocadosAvocados – once soft near the stalk end, they will keep for a few days longer in the fridge.
If you need them to ripen faster, you can wrap them in a newspaper or place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature.

Tomatoes – these will do best kept at room temperature until fully ripe. If kept in the fridge, they tend to lose their flavor and texture.

Tree fruits (peaches, nectarines, pears, apples etc.). These you can keep these at room temperature until they ripen and reach their peak flavor.

Tip 7 – Cutting speeds up the decaying process…

…so it’s best to keep your fruits and vegetable whole until the last minute.

The minute you cut a fruit or a vegetable, it will go into “auto-destruction mode” and activate some enzymes that will speed up the spoiling process. Hence apples or peaches going brown shortly after being cut. So it is far better to keep your fresh produce whole, and only peel them and/or cut them right before you need them.

Tip 8 – If you can’t eat it fresh before it’s past its prime, freeze it or juice it!

Although freezing is likely to affect the texture of the fruits and vegetables, it will preserve its flavor, color and a fair amount of nutrients.

It’s actually a great way to:

  • avoid having to toss the fresh produce that you won’t be able to eat in time,
  • preserve your fresh bounty for later, when the fruit or vegetable will not be in season and readily available.

Depending on what you need to freeze, you might need to blanch your produce to keep the flavor. Check first what freezing technique is required for your fruits or vegetables, to make you enjoy your produce later on.

Juicing or blending also allows you to make the most of your fruits and vegetable, even if you don’t have time to prepare and cook it.

Tip 9 – Buy from local growers to get the longest shelf-life.

Fresh produce on shelvesThis is valid for just about every fruit and vegetable out there: the longer it has to travel, the more it will be handled and the longer it will be stored. All of which will affect its shelf-life.
Imported produce is usually picked green, and will have to ripen during transit and storage. They will also be lacking the optimum conditions to do so, like natural sunlight.

Locally grown produce have less to travel, and, even if bought from your local supermarket, are more likely to have been picked closer to their prime. They will have also undergone less handling. Of course, your local market or pick-your-own trips are even better.

Tip 10 – Buy your products at different stages of ripening.

For example, instead of picking all your avocados ripe, pick:

  • a few to eat now (soft to gentle pressure on top and bottom),
  • some to eat in a couple days (soft near the bottom, but still quite firm near the stalk), and
  • a couple to eat in a week’s time (firm all round).

Or ripen some fruits at room temperature, but move some in the fridge to slow down the ripening process.

So here we go,

10 easy tips to help you get more goodness out of your fruits and vegetables, save money and help reduce global waste in the process.

What’s your tip to make the most of your perishables? Please share it with us below.

And if you need some help with your grocery shopping trip for clean food, check this post.

Clean eating grocery tips – How to pick Clean Food

OK, so now you’re convinced of the benefits of clean eating, you have your list of new yummy recipes at hand and you really want to give this a go… but you’re not too sure what exactly is going to be left in your pantry? Let’s go through some easy clean eating grocery tips to guide you along.

We’re going to go through each category of foodstuff and show you:

Sad smiley for Bad foodthe stuff to avoid like the plague (the Bad),

Happy smiley for Good clean foodwhat is acceptable (the Good), and

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodthe optimal choice (the Best).

 

Fruits and vegetables should be high on your shopping list…

…because they’re:

  • easy to find as natural as they get.
  • cheap and nutrient-rich
  • versatile, there’s bound to be at least one or two that the whole family enjoys
  • increasingly grown organically and locally
  • The foodstuff with the smaller water footprint.

Whole vegetables in a basketAim if possible for fruit and vegetables that are in season and locally produced. If you can afford it, buy organically-grown. The Dirty Dozen lists the ones that need to be bought organic as a priority.

Some produce is actually best kept out of the fridge until they’re fully ripe. Like avocados, tomatoes or tree fruits. You actually get to save on fridge space (and electricity), while eating them at their best. It’s a win-win situation.

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Any processed fruit or vegetable, whether washed, cut, cooked or pre-packaged for convenience.

Imported fruits and vegetables, as those will have a high carbon footprint through conservation and transport.

Non-seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they will also have a higher carbon footprint through greenhouse cultivation and storage.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

Fresh fruits and vegs, preferably in season and locally produced. To get the best of your fresh produce, aim at shopping for them every week if you can, so they’re as fresh as possible when you consume them.

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

The organic stuff. Find yourself either a local organic market or an organic box scheme, and religiously get your weekly fix of organic goodness.

Or start growing your own, even if only in pots on a windowsill or a balcony at first. It quickly becomes addictive and nothing beats the pride of eating the fresh produce “from the garden”.

[For help figuring out which fruits and vegetables *need* to be organic, and which ones will not hold on to much pesticides and other chemicals, check this post]

Starches should be whole grain…

…as those still contain all or part of the outer envelope of the grain (the bran), which contains nutrients Whole grain breads are bestand fibers, making them low GI,

…as they will have been less refined and less processed than their white, bleached counterpart,

…for their reduced carbon and water footprint (less processing = less electricity and water needed),

… for the health benefits of the extra fibers, proteins, and oils.

Check out my posts on whole grains to understand why eat more of them, and how to add some your diet.

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Refined carbohydrates: highly processed and stripped of their nutrients, the body transforms them into glucose, making them no better than sugar.
Those include normal pasta, white bread, white rice, and any white refined flour.

Most kiddies cereals contain 20 to 30% sugar, plus a whole host of additives. But they have added vitamins and minerals, I hear you say. Well, that just shows you that there wasn’t much of that in them to start with, methinks.

Anything puffed, fluffed, shaped, colored, flavored should go out of the window.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

Wholegrain pasta and brown rice.

Whole wheat or crushed wheat bread, preferably with the smaller amount of additives.

Potatoes/sweet potatoes and other unprocessed starches.

Morning cereals that need some element of preparation is usually a sign that the product has not gone through too much processing. So you can’t beat plain porridge. Rolled oats or steel-cut oats have gone through the least amount of processing. Grits and oatmeal still have their place in a clean eating household, as long as they are not flavored, sugared or pre-processed to cut down on cooking time.

(I do admit to buying plain cornflakes and puffed rice as a weekend cereal for my kids, as long as they don’t contain more than 5% sugar)

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

Organic whole grain pasta and brown rice, as grains are conventionally grown with the help of much fertilizers and pesticides. Some of those agrochemicals will be found within the grain itself after harvest.

Artisanal bread, which contains far fewer additives and preservatives.

Organic, non-GM plain porridge.

Tidbits – Originally, baker’s bread does not contain much beyond grains, salt, yeast and water and does not keep more than a day (hence the traditional daily trips to the bakeries in France, for example).
To increase industrial bread’s shelf-life so it can be sold to convenience stores, many chemicals had to be added to make sure it doesn’t go stale or moldy within a day. As well as flavor-enhancing additives, like sugar, salt and fat, to make it more appetizing.

Meat, fish, and dairy should be in large chunk or whole

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Any highly processed product: if the texture of the original product has completely disappeared, it is probably not very clean. Think salamis, hot dogs or fish fingers.

Any products where meat or fish is not first on the list of ingredients, or where that list contains many preservatives, flavorings, colorings and other additives.

Any dairy product containing more than three or four ingredients. That’s all it takes to make yogurt, cheese, cream etc. Any more than that, and you know this product is laden with additives.

Eggs from caged hens. Regardless of where you stand in terms of animal welfare, hens raised in those cramped conditions are given heavy doses of antibiotics to keep them laying regularly. Some of it will make it to their eggs, and therefore to your plate.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

With regards to meat, aim for large cuts, rather than ground meat. For fish, for whole fish or fillets/steaks. They will not only have been less processed but will also keep for longer in your fridge or your freezer.

Prefer meat from smaller animals, as their water footprint, although high, is less than that of beef, for example.

For dairy products, try and aim for full fat, plain products. You can happily add your own (natural of course) flavorings or sweeteners afterward.

Prefer free-range or cage-free eggs. Although this is no guarantee that the hens were not given antibiotics, they should need less of it to stay healthy.

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

Grilled chunks of meatAgain, choose organic or grass-fed if you can afford it and if it’s available. You will spare yourself the antibiotics and other chemicals added to farmed chicken, cattle and fish. And you will also do your bit towards cleaning the farming industry. You will be encouraging a more extensive, slow, clean farming rather than intensive and chemical-laden one.

Oils, seeds, nuts, spices etc.

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Anything highly refined. Vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower or corn oil are refined or purified through various treatments. Those can include heating, acid-treatment, bleached, neutralization, or deodorization. Doesn’t seem too natural, doesn’t it?

Margarine. Any.

Seeds and nuts in any other form than their original one. Nut and seed butter with added sugar, emulsifier or any other additive.

For spices and condiments, educate yourself on their ingredients list. Those with unpronounceable names, additives, starch, or a majority of salt and sugar are best avoided. Avoid irradiated spices.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

There aren’t that many oils that are produced with minimal treatment. Olive oil and coconut oil are good all-rounders for cooking, dressing etc.

Otherwise, try to stick with cold-pressed, unrefined oils, like avocado or flaxseed oils.

Butter is a good, natural source of fat. Previously blamed for a lot of heart-related issues, it is now recognized as having its place in a healthy, natural diet.

Nut and seed butter containing only one ingredient is fine.

Try and find spices and sauces that have a minimal list of ingredients made up of natural products.

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

Nuts, seeds and spices in glass jarsBuying organic products will ensure the source of oil or fat was grown or raised without the use of pesticides and chemicals, traces of which are usually found in conventionally-grown products.

Blend your own seed and nut butter if you can. The ready-made ones can be costly, so if you have the right equipment, this will save you a buck.

Look out for non-radiated spices.

Make your own sauces from scratch. Mix your own spices. Make extra and freeze for later or give some to your friends and family.

Snacks, treats, and sweeteners, because we can

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Those, along with convenience food, will be where the bulk of the processing and additives hide. The manufacturers know that those little daily extras will keep you coming back for more, so they put all their weapons into them. Nothing will be spared. Extra coloring, flavoring, additive, heavy processing, usually associated with either a comforting image or a healthy one. They will also be heavily aimed at kids, which are a soft target.

Read those labels, sift through the marketing. Figure out for yourself whether that product is genuinely good for you, or merely a gimmick to get you hooked on them.

Tip – Sugar should not be the main ingredient, and should be quite far down the line, as it is highly addictive.

White refined sugar, as well as most low-calorie sweeteners.

Sweets, chocolate treats, flavored chips, any.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

Dark chocolate. Or, at a push, good quality milk chocolate, although milk chocolate contains so much sugar that it does make harder to stop at just a few squares…

Roasted nuts and seeds.

Plain chips, if possible that include the least amount of salt and the maximum amount of fibers or extra goodness. I do buy vegetable chips and plain maize chips because it’s yummy with dips and they are usually fairly low in salt and with limited additives.

Lovely fresh, ripe fruits. You might not think of fruits as a treat, but they hit the spot in terms of sweetness. If apples just cannot be considered a treat, then indulge in a fruit that you haven’t had for a long time, or that is a little bit more expensive, once in a while. My kids enjoy a “twisty apple”, which is a plain apple run through a little corer-peeling-twisty contraption. I usually have to stop them at the fourth apple…

Least-refined sugar, such as muscovado or molasse. Honey. All other “natural” sweeteners will have undergone some level of refining and purifying.

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

Squares of dark chocolate for a rich treatDark chocolate with over 80% cocoa. It’s so rich and contains so little sugar that just a couple of square is actually very satisfying.

Plain seeds and nuts. You can then add a bit of honey or roast them yourself. There are also tons of seed and nut treats and snack recipes on the Web, so try some. Some of them are super easy and delicious.

Organic lovely, fresh, ripe fruits…

Raw non-radiated honey, preferably from a local source, so you can enjoy its benefits with regards to allergies.

I can hear you say: what about baked goods? Industrial baked goods are by definition heavily processed. They will require additives to keep from the moment they’re produced to the moment you’ll consume them. Home-baked products are best, although not ideal, as they usually involve refined products like flours, sugar and a few additives. But there are ways to bake with whole grain flours and with limited ingredients.

Drinks

Sad smiley for not clean foodThe Bad

Any heavily processed drink or with anything added. Soft drink, reconstituted juices, instant drinks like coffee or drinking chocolate, that kind of “on-the-go” drinks.

Happy smiley for Good clean foodThe Good

100% fruit juices, without preservatives.

Coffee and tea made from coffee beans or actual tea.

Herbal tea

Hot chocolate made from cocoa.

Fresh clean water is bestWater, of course.

Ecstatic smiley for Best clean foodThe Best

Home-made juices, preferably in a slow juicer, made from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Water, by far. Any other drink will use a vast amount of water to be produced. Water, besides being the only drink essential to us, is also the one with the smallest water footprint.

Are you ready to go shopping for clean food?

The above pointers should send you in the right direction with regards to what is actually out of bounds in a clean eating kitchen. For a more specific list, check my clean food list here. Feel free to ask if I’ve missed anything or if you’re not sure about particular foodstuff, I’ll do my best to help you along.

Want to read more about clean eating? Start here.

The Dirty Dozen list 2017, or when to buy organic

We all know that eating organic is essential to reduce the amount of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in our bodies. So if you live right next to earn organic farmers market or grow all your own produce in your back garden, you’ll be fine. But 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 and the Clean 15.

The Dirty Dozen 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 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide ranks 48 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 and vegetables and peeling them if needed, 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 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.

In 2017, the EWG found that almost 70 percent of the ready-to-eat samples contained residues of pesticides. They identified traces of 178 different pesticides and pesticide degradation products.

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. 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. This is where these two lists come in. They can help you identify which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic, and which ones you can buy just about anywhere without fear.

The 2017 Dirty Dozen List

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. Top 3 Dirty DozenNectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

Note – the EWG noted that almost every single sample of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples they tested contained pesticide residues. So these should definitely be top of your organic priority list.

Spinach is the produce that holds the most residue per weight, on average twice as much as the other fruits and vegetables.

The 2017 Clean Fifteen List

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.

  1. Sweet corn *
  2. Avocados
  3. Top 3 Fifteen CleanPineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas *
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew Melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

* A small amount of sweet corn and papaya 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

The full 48 fresh produce list

Altogether, EWG tested 48 different produce. But as results were different for a few varieties between the locally-grown and the imported items, the total list counts 51 entries. Here is the full list, in case you wonder how toxic or safe a specific produce is:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes
  13. Cucumbers
  14. Cherry Tomatoes
  15. Lettuce
  16. Snap peas – imported
  17. Blueberries – domestic
  18. Hot peppers
  19. Kale/collard greens
  20. Blueberries – imported
  21. Green beans – Domestic
  22. Plums
  23. Tangerines
  24. Raspberries
  25. Carrots
  26. Winter squash
  27. Oranges
  28. Summer squash*
  29. Green beans – imported
  30. Snap peas – domestic
  31. Bananas
  32. Green onions
  33. Watermelon
  34. Mushrooms
  35. Sweet potatoes
  36. Broccoli
  37. Grapefruit
  38. Cauliflower
  39. Cantaloupe
  40. Kiwi
  41. Honeydew melon
  42. Eggplant
  43. Mangos
  44. Asparagus
  45. Papayas*
  46. Sweet peas (frozen)
  47. Onions
  48. Cabbage
  49. Pineapples
  50. Avocados
  51. Sweet Corn*

* 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 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. 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. They are thus likely to be more nutrient-rich than out-of-season imported produce.

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

7 reasons why eating clean can make you lose weight

Have you ever wondered whether Eating Clean could help you shed a few kilograms? If so, check out those 7 reasons why eating clean can make you lose weight. We’re going to try and explain how a cleaner diet can help you lose a few cms.

First, let’s clarify a few important points.

Long-term eating habits vs. temporary diet

Clean eating tends to be more of a lifestyle than an actual weight-loss diet. A diet is usually aimed solely at losing weight. You stick to it for the time it takes to reach your goal weight or quit, whichever happens soonest.

Eating clean is a long-term choice and is seen more as a journey than an end in itself, with health benefits over the long term.

And because they are set in the long term, your changes, big or little, to a cleaner food intake become habits. And you’re thus more likely to reap their weight loss benefits for longer, without the yo-yo effect that fad-dieters know too well.

Clean food vs. reduced calorie intake

Clean eating for weight lossA lot of weight loss plans out there based on clean eating are in fact low-calorie diets. You will be reducing your intake of calorie-dense food, such as sugar and alcohol (good), but also fat (not so good, as your brain and other vital organs need some on a daily basis).

So while those might help you lose weight quicker, you are likely to swiftly come across the usual pitfalls of short-term diets:

  • Hunger and cravings (although reduced if you’ve cut down on sugar and refined starches)
  • Plateau once the body has adapted to the new reduced-calorie intake
  • Lack of essential nutrients, which can lead to fatigue and poor general health

That said, let’s go through the reasons why eating clean can help reduce your waistline.

1. Sugar and refined carbs are out of the window

Clean eating and weight loss
Sugar and refined starches are mostly out.

This is a major reason why eating clean can lead to weight loss. A little biology recap:

Insulin converts ingested carbohydrates, whether simple (sugar) or complex (like whole grains) into glucose. That glucose can then be used directly as an energy source by the body.

But, by and far, we don’t spend enough energy nowadays, so the unused glucose gets stored as fat, in case the body needs it at a later stage. Of course, we’ll consume more carbohydrates and produce more glucose before that fat store is actually needed…

Simple carbs transform into glucose very rapidly to produce energy but don’t otherwise bring many other beneficial nutrients (empty calories). Complex carbs get digested more slowly and contain other vital nutrients, such as vitamins and fibers.

A lot of the products out there containing sugar and simple carbs are processed. By sticking to lesser-processed or whole products, you are cutting out your major sources of refined carbs, and your body will produce less quick-release glucose. This is actually in line with the mostly sedentary lifestyle of today’s average man or woman. Our energy expenditure is basically moving around in a temperature-controlled house, driving in a car, sitting all day in front of a computer and rounding up the day with more sitting in front of the TV.

2. More complex carbs = fewer cravings and crashes

Eat clean for weight loss
Whole grains keep the sugar cravings at bay.

Another side-effect of refined carbs is the “sugar crash”. When large quantities of sugar or refined carbs are absorbed, the body will equally produce a large amount of insulin to deal with it. The insulin will promptly take the glucose from the bloodstream to either send it to the tissues for energy or get it stored as fat. Which then leads to an excessive dip in glucose in the bloodstream. This creates a sense of lethargy, irritation and general discomfort.

When this happens, the body sends strong signals to quickly replenish in glucose, making you crave more sugar and refined carbs. Which is why people are somewhat addicted to sugar, their bodies constantly craving their next “fix”.

But when those refined carbs are replaced by complex carbs, i.e. whole grains, the glucose uptake is much slower, leaving a steady flow of glucose in the bloodstream. This means that you don’t get that sugar crash. It means you won’t go reaching for that packet of sweets or doughnut mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Check my 2-part post on the benefits of whole grains and easy ways to add more whole grains to your diet.

3. Fewer GI spikes and crashes = day-long energy

Another consequence of the switch to more complex carbs is that you get a steady flow of energy throughout the day. This encourages a more active lifestyle.

It might mean simply walking faster, taking the stairs, spending more time playing with the kids or being more active around the house. But it all eventually adds up in terms of calorie expenditure and muscle toning, both of which contribute to weight loss in the long run.

4. Less processed food = more beneficial products

Losing weight with clean eating
Fruits help satisfy a sweet tooth.

And as industrial foodstuff tends to be sugar- and fat-laden, they also are calorie-dense, without being particularly nutrient-dense. With those out of the window, you’ll naturally have more space for whole food, which will provide more vitamins, minerals, fibers etc. without the heavy calorie count.

For example, fruits are also a great tool to satisfy your sweet tooth, while not piling up the calories too quickly or getting a sugar rush (and its evil twin, the sugar crash). But while it’s easy to go over 500 calories in a 100g packet of sweets, it’s much harder to eat 500-calories worth of apples in a day (around 5 apples), let alone in one sitting!

One the subject of calories, if you consider that a mere can of soft drink will set you back 150 calories from sugar alone, it’s easy to see how switching to plain water could lead to weight loss.

5. Fewer additives will give your body a detox

By simply removing a lot of the additives in industrial foodstuff, you will give your digestive system a break.

We know that your gut health has a direct effect on your general and mental health. Improving it will have a positive impact on the rest of your body. If your diet consisted of heavily processed food before and you decide to clean up your diet drastically, you might even get some of the typical symptoms of detox, such as headaches, spots, tiredness or even flu-like symptoms.

Once your body has adapted to your new clean food intake, though, you are likely to have more energy and generally feel better. This will go a long way towards helping you stick to your new way of eating and decrease or stabilize your weight.

6. More protein = more energy expenditure and slower energy release

Clean eating and weight control
Proteins keep you fuller for longer.

The vast majority of processed meat products does contain a decently high percentage of carbs: those cost less than the actual meat or fish, make for a great crust and are a cheap binding agent and filler at the same time. So switching to plain meat or fish is likely to increase the percentage of protein you eat.

How can it help you lose weight? Proteins take need around three times more energy to digest than carbohydrates. So you’re actually burning more calories through just replacing some carbohydrate by proteins. And that’s exactly what would happen if you choose, for example, roast chicken over the crumbed processed variety, plain fish fillets over fish fingers, or pork chops over pork sausage.

The digestion of proteins is also slower than carbs. They stay in your stomach for longer, keeping you, therefore, full for longer, and will provide a more steady release of energy than carbohydrates.

Proteins play an essential role in maintaining your current muscle mass, as your body will use its amino acids to build or preserve your muscles. They, therefore, help to slow down the muscle loss usually linked with normal weight-loss diets.

7. Full fat products will keep you fuller for longer

Normal, unprocessed foodstuff will contain some fat, more for meat and dairy products, and less for grains, but they will contain fat. Back when fat was touted as the root cause of most health issues, otherwise plain, clean products became processed to make them fat-free or low-fat. With added sugar, starches and other flavor-enhancing additives to make them addictive (think yogurts).

By switching back to these products in their most natural form, you’ll automatically end up eating more unprocessed fat. And this has the benefit of keeping you fuller for longer, as well as reducing cravings and helping you stay away from sugar- or starch-laden snacks.

So, to recap…

Eat clean and lose weight
Weight loss might well be the best side-effect of clean eating.

The only real way to lose weight to somehow create a calorie deficit, i.e. eating daily less energy than you spend. But one of the side-effects of clean eating might well be weight loss. You’ll be switching from calorie-dense foodstuff to nutrient-dense ones, which typically contain fewer calories.

You’ll also have more energy throughout the day. This is likely to translate into being generally more active and increasing your energy expenditure.

Some vitamin deficiencies can seriously hinder weight loss or even lead you to gain weight. A more nutrient-rich diet will go a long way towards meeting your daily requirements in vitamins and minerals.

And unlike most fad diets, which are unsustainable in the long run, clean eating is sustainable in the long term. It creates the basis for healthier habits, thereby ensuring that your new figure is here to stay.

So yes, even though clean eating should not considered a quick weight-loss solution, it might well lead to a trimmer waistline over time.

Other articles you might be interested in:

Want to understand what Clean Eating is? Need help getting started with eating clean? Could do with some ideas for clean breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks?
Stay a while, we’ve got it covered… And while you’re here, feel free to share in the comments below or with your friends!

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