I used to think that people who didn’t eat processed foods had to be crazy. Who could ever give up refined sugar? And pizza nights? It turned out I could, when push came to shove. And I’ve never looked back.
Giving up processed foods was something that “happened” to me when I found out I had a stomach condition called leaky gut. This basically meant that I had to cut out all processed foods and eat solely organic everything for the rest of my life unless I wanted to continually develop new allergies.
This news scared me at first, but once I got started, it became easier and easier until I really didn’t miss the things I used to eat.
MAP IT OUT
The best way to avoid difficulties is to write everything down, otherwise it’s hard to figure out what recipes you can still make and what you can’t. First, make a list of the things you will allow yourself to eat. My list includes:
- all organic meats
- all organic, low glycemic fruits
- all organic vegetables except nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, etc.)
- organic yams
- only “clean” grains (gluten free and organic: brown rice, oats, corn, etc.)
- plain organic nuts
- unsweetened organic dried fruits without sulphites
- organic unsweetened juice
- organic olives
- apple cider vinegar
- organic olive oil
This diet is gluten free, sweetener free, dairy free, low glycemic, anti-inflammatory, and organic. Once you’ve completed your list, you can do two things: (1) sort through your recipes and see how you can alter them to fit your new diet as well as look for new recipes online, and (2) form a shopping list.
DON’T JUST CUT IT OUT – REPLACE IT
The last thing you want to do is cut things out of your diet and feel deprived. The key is to replace everything with its clean equivalent. When you cut regular, processed juice out of your diet, for example, replace it with organic juice. Places like Whole Foods and Wegmans regularly carry these things, and stores like Shoprite are picking up on it now too.
If you cut out processed chocolate, you may want to consider allowing yourself allergen-free dark chocolate (70% or higher) with as few ingredients as possible, all organic. There are several options from which you can choose, each with 3 to 4 organic ingredients so it’s easier for you to make your decision based on your particular health needs. If you’re looking for variety, melt your chocolate of choice, mix in your favorite fruits and/or nuts, then refrigerate for a treat even your guests will enjoy.
If you cut out dairy-based ice cream, but find you can’t live without that sweet creamy treat, many coconut- and soy-based ice creams offer a healthier alternative with all natural, organic ingredients – look for the ones with the fewest ingredients.
If you decide not to eat pineapple or mango anymore because they’re high glycemic, organic pears and grapes offer a good alternative because of their sweetness.
Things like frozen dinner and lunches as well as box mixes should be completely eliminated from your kitchen. Instead, opt to bake and cook things from scratch, that way you know exactly what ingredients have been added. This is the safest way to keep your diet clean.
ENJOY YOUR FAVORITE THINGS – CLEANER
Do you like baking cookies? Cakes? Breads? You can still do all this, but in a much cleaner and healthier way. Use gluten-free coconut, oat, or almond flour instead of regular all-purpose flour. Replace sugar and other sweeteners with organic apple juice concentrate, pear juice, or diced organic dried medjool dates. Lean towards organic almond butter instead of peanut butter, and use it as a binding ingredient. Choose almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk instead of dairy milk.
Don’t be afraid to experiment – the more you do, the more exciting your baking repertoire will become.
YOUR BANK ACCOUNT DOESN’T HAVE TO BREAK
Look for coupons from places like Whole Foods – you’d be surprised how many they offer. Find less expensive alternatives – use coconut flour instead of almond flour for a price break. Stock up on the fruits that are on sale each week. Buy family portions of assorted raw chicken parts and only buy the meat that’s on sale each week (stock up on it, too!).
You can also make things like chicken stock, almond meal, and almond flour at home. The internet is rife with recipes for these things and more.
DON’T GIVE UP!
Cleaning up your diet may seem tricky at first, but it’s worth its weight in health benefits. Over time, maybe as little as a couple of weeks, you may notice an increase in your energy level, less pain in your joints, and fewer symptoms to many chronic illnesses. Even as a short-term plan, it can help detox your body; it’s also a natural, healthy way to lose weight and keep it under control.
If you feel hopeless or alone, go online; there are plenty of communities and blogs based on cleaning up your diet as well as allergies and other similar subjects. As Americans become more and more aware of what they’re eating, groups based on supporting this movement continue to form, and you will soon find you are one of many instead of one of few.
About the Author: Christie Stratos is a two-time award winning author who enjoys discovering new ways to eat clean without depriving herself of the foods she loves most. She has dedicated herself to creating new and exciting recipes for others, and will be publishing a clean eating recipe book in 2013.