Whenever I share the things I eat on the blog or on my Instagram account, people are often confused.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to eat that!”
“How is that clean?”
“Why do you eat that?”
I mean, and I get it. So much information, so little accuracy out there. It’s confusing. I totally understand.
To be honest, my definition of clean eating isn’t the same as a lot of other people’s, and that’s okay. I don’t do it the body builder way – I do it the hippie way, the anti-processed food way. Primarily because it gives me the ability to get – and keep – my emotional eating in check, but also because I can truly understand food and how to enjoy it properly.
In other words, I’m not eating dry ass steamed broccoli and cardboard, unseasoned chicken breast. Get. Your. Life.
So, how do you eat clean like I do? Living the unprocessed food life? I’ve got 5 commandments for ya! (Eat clean with me… you know I got it! Okay, my bad.)
1) Thou shalt stick as close to unprocessed products as possible. Make your dishes consist of as many veggies and quality sources of protein as possible. What do I mean by quality sources of protein? Beef, pork, poultry, seafood, different kinds of grains, and even some veggies have high amounts of protein in them. Stick to those. If you have to venture out into buying something pre-packaged – which, let’s face it, it happens – be wary of three things:
- How much sugar is in the entire container? – Not just the serving size, but the entire container. Many processed food manufacturers will reduce the serving size of a product simply so that the calorie, fat and sugar counts look “acceptable” per serving size. Most serving sizes wouldn’t feed a 5 year old, and most people usually eat, on average, three servings of any given product as opposed to the one serving size they see represented on the label. Know yourself – if that package says it serves six and you know that you and your boo split the entire container and eat it together, look at how much sugar you’re consuming. After learning just how negatively sugar contributes to your body, ask yourself: Is it really worth it?
- How many chemical additives and preservatives are in it? We don’t do additives and preservatives. Not only do they alter your understanding of the way foods should actually taste and the way foods should feel in your mouth – I still have no idea how a candy bar with chocolate, ‘nougat,’ peanuts and rice disappears into a soft, frothy bulb in your mouth – but it alters your brain’s reaction to food and in a lot of ways, can affect your ability to maintain self-control. Who wants that?
- How much fiber is in it? Fiber is essential. It is vital. If a processed food is going to insist on having sugar, the least it could do is have some semblance of natural fiber in it. This is even a complicated one, because there are chemical sources of fiber – fructooligosaccharides, anyone? – but at least you don’t have food jamming up into your digestive system with no recourse for getting itself out. Anywhere above 4 grams of fiber, and you should be good.
Everyone’s income is different, and your ability to go processed-food-free will be affected by that. Doing your best – with your money – to keep the sugar and preservatives to a minimum, while keeping the fiber high, will make a huge difference.
2) Thou shalt determine thine own serving sizes. SO many people ask me “how many servings does this recipe make?” and I have to admit, I don’t know. What is a serving size? I’ve felt, for a long time, that serving sizes are a scam. The only person who can determine how much you should be eating in your serving is you, and you do that by knowing the calorie amounts in your food – and you know that through prep – as well as knowing what you need for your daily intake per meal. If I told you that I eat three meals, at 1,000 calories per meal and that’s what my serving sizes reflected in my meal recipes… you’d have a heart attack when you looked at my recipes. I can’t eat your portion sizes, and you probably couldn’t eat mine. Find out how many calories you need for your daily consumption for each meal, and then fill those calories with delicious, quality meals that contain lots of veggies cooked in ways that you enjoy.
3) Thou shalt invest time and energy in learning to cook. I once spoke at an event where one of the women shared, “Every month, I go to the grocery store and I buy something I’ve never heard of before. I look it up on my phone, and try to find a recipe to cook it in that looks good.” And I thought, “Damn, that’s brilliant.” It’s not too financially taxing, it’s not too overwhelming, and it’s not too high-risk (what if you use it and it tastes like crap?). Why not? Be adventurous. Try something new? Bookmark a few recipe websites, scour the web for recipes that contain lots of ingredients that you enjoy as well as the new ingredient that you have. Learning to cook not only teaches you new techniques – listen…the day I learned to carmelize onions without oil, I felt liberated! – to use on other vegetables (I can carmelize apples, bananas, carrots, celery, cashews, whatever!), but it also exposes your mind to different flavor and taste combinations. You like Latin food? Caribbean food? You’ll probably be the first to enjoy something Creole. Like French food? Try something Italian. Everybody likes a little Soul Food. Over time, you’ll be accidentally creating fusion masterpieces, all because you in vested a little time each week – or month, as your schedule permits – in learning how to cook.
I’m doing the Clean Eating Boot Camp (and yes, those e-mails go out tonight) the way that I am so that it can demystify different items and ingredients – everything from storage and prep to spice and flavor combinations. I’m hoping to expose people to flavor combinations, techniques for preparation, and even dreamy recipes that they’ll call their own.
4) Thou shalt not be embarrassed to like fatty foods. Look. You guys keep asking me about my hair and skin. I keep telling you collard greens and oil and avocado. You guys don’t listen. That’s why, every time you see one of my YouTube videos, my ‘fro keeps getting bigger. I’m a good Southern girl who eats practically a bag of frozen collards every day.
Stop playing and do what your Meemaw told you. Eat those greens. (Don’t eat the okra though. Okra’s disgusting. No debate.)
When you’ve got a majority-veggie plate, guess what? A little fat from a good, tasty oil not only makes those veggies more enjoyable, but it makes certain vitamins and minerals more readily available to your body. Why deny yourself the pleasure of a light, creamy sauce that you’ve made yourself (so you know what’s in it) for your spinach? Why deny yourself a well-done roux for your soup, or a slightly-fatty cut of meat, provided it’s within your calorie range, to go with your kale?
Do it the smart way! Temper your intake, but don’t be embarrassed by your like or love of it.
5) Thou shalt always remember – planning is what makes the magic happen. If you stay ready, you never have to get ready. That’s in terms of food, but also in terms of life. It’s about prep work – map out your meals for the week. Make a list of what you’ll need. Shop from the list. And, if you’re in the kitchen cooking something, instead of standing over that hot stove, stick your head in the fridge or freezer and do prep work for tomorrow or any other day of the week. For goodness sakes, stay ready! If you know you’re gonna come home at almost 6:30 Thursday because little Junior has football practice and you’ve got to get dinner on the stove quick, then spend Wednesday doing a little bit of prep work! Or – even better – cook it in advance!
More importantly, remember that this isn’t about a quick-fix weight loss thing. This is about changing how you live in a most permanent fashion. If I stay in shape, I never have to worry about getting in shape for anything. That is how you do it, sans yo-yo dieting… and let me tell you, yo yoing is no way to live.
Make sense? What’d I leave out? What would you add?