{Clean Eating} What Exactly CAN You Eat?

{Clean Eating} What Exactly CAN You Eat? ~ Plumfield DreamsIf you’re anything like me, when you hear about people cutting gluten and such from their diets you think, “So, what can you actually eat? I could never survive on so little variety…” It’s a common misconception that a clean diet means a lack of variety. Actually, there’s no truth to that idea.

We can still eat bread, muffins, cookies, pizza – we just make them without gluten, corn, or refined sugars. You’d be amazed at what great flavors you can achieve without the “junk”. The thing it requires is time. We don’t cook from boxes anymore, and we can’t just pick up bread from the shelf. If we want bread, we make it from scratch. I know it sounds intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as you’d think. Baking bread is not difficult – mix up the ingredients, let it rise, stick it in the oven. Voila! You can make your own gluten-free pasta, or better yet, vegetable pasta. You get the idea. You don’t have to be deprived.

Here’s what we eat:

  • Spices and seasonings – I’m starting here because it’s key to all the rest. If you want to eat good food, you need to get comfortable with spices and seasonings. In our house we love strong flavors and spicy foods. We don’t do bland food.
  • Vegetables – We eat all veggies, cooked a bunch of different ways (though simple roasting brings out wonderful flavors in most veg).
  • Meat – We primarily eat chicken, turkey, and beef. Of course there’s more variety of meat than that, we just don’t prefer them. We also eat fish – primarily shrimp and salmon. Again, that’s because those are what we prefer.
  • Fruit – Some people say you should limit your fruit intake, and maybe you should, but we don’t really. Aria loves fruit and eats it all the time. Andy and I eat less, but still partake regularly. Apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas are favorites around our house. We also eat a lot of tomato (including canned) and avocado. Both technically fruit, though they aren’t treated as such in the kitchen.
  • Rice – We eat quite a bit of rice. We like to make a cilantro-lime rice (basically a knockoff of Chipotle’s) to eat with our favorite shredded chicken taco meat. We eat several things over rice. Aria and I eat unsalted rice cakes with peanut butter and jam regularly. We also bake with rice flour.
  • Legumes – We don’t eat these nearly as much as we do the other things listed here, but they are still in our arsenal. For example, we eat black beans in some Latin dishes, and a variety of beans in chili (we don’t use chili beans, because they have additives). For some people legumes can trigger illness, so that’s something to keep in mind if you keep them in your diet. It’s best to use dried beans, but they take some prep, and we often eat dishes with beans because I’m in a hurry, so I’m not good about that.
  • Breads – As I mentioned above, we do eat bread. However, we don’t eat it with the frequency common in our culture. I may make a batch of muffins or a loaf of bread in a week, and it will take the three of us that week to eat. We may make a pizza for one dinner. We eat these things regularly, but not necessarily often.
  • Eggs – Eggs get a lot of play around our house. Fried, hard boiled (great in salads or as a snack or quick meal), and as omelets. We eat them every day.
  • Sweet Potatoes – These get their own bullet for a couple reason. First, there’s some controversy about whether they should be considered a vegetable or a starch. Second, we eat them a lot. They’re one of my favorite foods. We make chipotle chicken stuffed sweet potatoes for a healthy, yummy dinner. We make sweet potato fries regularly. I have a wonderful recipe for coconut cilantro mashed sweet potatoes (in the slow cooker). The other week we tried this wonderful beef brisket recipe that is eaten over sweet potato waffles (yep, you cook the sweet potatoes in a waffle maker). That meal was fantastic.
  • Almond milk and tea are our favorite cold drinks, other than water. Aria drinks unsweetened almond milk and dark chocolate almond milk regularly. We use this tea maker to brew tea, our family favorite. Andy and I also drink hot tea and coffee (I just do decaf).

There are many great desserts. I don’t recommend indulging often, but you can make pretty much any sweet imaginable without refined sugars or gluten. They’re not the same, but – get this – sometimes they’re better. This Salted Peanut Butter Cup is my favorite go-to when what I really want is ice cream.

So, What Do You Mean by Clean Eating?

What Do You Mean by Clean Eating ~ Plumfield Dreams

There are a lot of buzzwords out there right now surrounding food, and, frankly, it’s confusing. I am not going to attempt to define all of that for you here, because 1) that’s not really my purpose, and 2) I don’t wanna. 😉

Here’s what I do want to tell you: paleo and primal ways of eating are incredibly strict. We’re not subscribing to either of those labels, because we haven’t chosen to be that restricted in our diet. On the other hand, we are a little more restricted than the term “clean eating” typically suggests. Most people who say they are eating clean mean they are eating whole foods. Hey, look, another buzzword! In simple terms, “whole” foods are as unrefined as possible, with no additives.

I’ve chosen the term “clean eating” as the clearest way to label how we’ll be eating. The foods you choose for your family should be up to you. Some foods are probably not good for anyone. Some foods are good for everyone. Other foods are person-to-person specific. For the most part, the fads have good qualities, but may be overly-restrictive (or sometimes under-restrictive) in an attempt to cover everyone.

Here is what we have decided works for us. (This could change over time, but probably not by much.)

  • No artificial ingredients. That means most boxed, canned, and bottled foods are out.
  • Gluten-free, but not grain-free. We are avoiding gluten in our daily lives. However, we are still eating rice, oats, and quinoa.
  • Corn-free. Noah is allergic, so neither he nor I can eat corn. It’s highly genetically modified, so we decided Noah’s allergy is a good cue to pitch it entirely.
  • Soy-free. Noah is allergic to soy, as well. Soy is another that is likely not good for us, anyway, so we pitched it, as well.
  • Dairy-free, mostly. We’re still eating some cheese, but no other dairy. Noah and Aria are both sensitive to dairy, so we hardly eat it. I have learned their sensitivity may be due to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut which can be fixed through diet and a good probiotic supplement. (This imbalance was apparently passed to them from me in gestation.) So, I’m curious to see if these changes will yield a difference in their sensitivity to dairy. We will remain largely dairy-free, regardless.
  • Sugar-free, mostly. There are a few places we are still consuming sugar, such as in our homemade jams and the natural syrup we drink in our coffee. I am hoping we’ll cut even these eventually, but we are giving ourselves time to adjust to the idea.

This is not a diet. We are not tied to this way of eating. There’s no “I can’t eat that”. There’s “I’m choosing not to eat that right now”. If we want to get pizza every once in a while, we can (we’ll probably feel rotten later, but that’s what free will is all about, right?). 😉
We are not changing our eating patterns to lose weight. (Though, neither of us would mind if that were the result.) We are changing our diets because of Andy’s and the kids’ food sensitivities and because we’ve become increasingly convinced that the way our culture approaches food is unhealthy. Getting to where we are willing to make such drastic changes has been a long process of health issues, research, and baby steps.

Here’s the really great news: there is so much tasty food you can eat this way! This is not a matter of deprivation, not at all. Yes, we have to learn new patterns, but that’s a short-term problem.

If you’re thinking “I’d really like to do that, but I wouldn’t know where to start”, I feel you! And I would love to help. So, here’s what you can expect from me:

  • Meal plans. Each week I’ll share with you what we plan to eat that week.
  • Recipes. That’s the big deal, right? We all want to know there are actually foods out there we’ll enjoy eating. I’ll be posting recipes here, and I also pin to several specific boards on Pinterest.
  • Tips and tricks for making clean eating a lifestyle.

If you have questions, leave them here as a comment, or shoot me an email. Maybe I can answer you quickly, or maybe I can cover your question in a post. If you don’t subscribe to the blog but you want to keep up with this series, now is a good time to subscribe. You can do that by email or RSS in the upper right side of this page.

Thursday I’ll answer the question of exactly what we do eat.