Category Archives: Tips

Reading Labels and Other Boring Crap That’s Totally Worth Your While

***This will be a short post, because I’m not concerned with you reading what I have to say. I’m just a lone lunatic. After looking over my brief rantings, I want you to check out the resources toward the end of this post.***

I know making the transition to clean eating is overwhelming and daunting. It can make you want to pull your hair and say, Well, what in the hell CAN I eat???” Here are a few points that may help you discern the real food from the overly-processed.

“Gluten-free”: All that’s gluten-free is not good to eat. Tortilla chips are gluten-free. Cocoa Krispies are gluten-free. Hand sanitizer is gluten free. Gasoline is gluten-free. You should try to avoid ingesting these items, and only drink gasoline in moderation. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but that was a joke. Please don’t drink gasoline. Not even oh-so delicious diesel.)

Oils: Heavily processed oils like corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil and margarine are not the “healthy alternatives” I grew up hearing they were. Even the term “vegetable oil” can be misleading (or an outright lie). A few “vegetable” oils – corn oil (corn is a grain, NOT a vegetable), soybean oil (legume, NOT a vegetable), and canola oil (canola is a cultivar of rapeseed… Wait, rapeseed? No thanks). The oils I just mentioned go through such an ungodly manufacturing process, your body can’t even recognize them as food. The good news – there are others that are also considered vegetable oils which are derived without the ridiculous amount of processing. When looking for oils closest to their original state, opt for those like olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and animal fat.

Labels: You won’t get the vital information from the front of package (such as “all natural”, “gluten-free”, “low fat”, or “possibly maybe hopefully safe for human consumption”). Read the ingredients on the back. If you can’t pronounce it, then it probably isn’t good for you. Also, “natural flavors” is NOT an ingredient… I’ve never had any luck growing a “natural flavors tree”. The details of this “ingredient” are noticeably absent. Oh, and if you see the vague “vegetable oil” as an ingredient, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that it comes from a quality source.

Of all the literature I’ve read that is geared toward regular people, the following resource has to be one of the most useful and easiest to digest. (Pun absolutely intended.) Liz Wolfe co-authored THIS AWESOME GUIDE that will hit many of the above points in greater detail.

In addition to this guide, I recommend Liz as a source of information and inspiration. She shares her knowledge an research in a way that is not only funny, but also easy for the average person to understand. (In my case, a below-average person.) For some entertaining posts/podcasts/recipes on topics from clean eating, to skin care, to homesteading, check out one of her blogs HERE.

Take the next step. Apply this information. Research it for yourself. Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! Or, if you have to give something up, give up highly-processed oils.

Husbands CAN Like Vegetables

“How can I get my husband on board with clean eating?” This is a common question I get from women whose significant others are dead set on staying far away from leafy greens. He may fall under one of these categories: Doesn’t like fresh vegetables… Won’t give up *insert junk food name*… Won’t ever try anything new… Is kind of a turd. I assure you: I was once that husband, (sans turdishness).

For most of my life, I not only “didn’t like vegetables”, I was actively “anti-vegetable”. I almost wore it on my sleeve as a badge of honor that I was a carnivore, or at the least, a Ramen Noodle-ivore. To give my sandwiches that lettuce crunch, I added… Potato chips.

I was only okay eating canned green beans (the squishy cut ones), canned peas (as long as they had extra salt and hadn’t been convicted of any felonies), and canned corn (a grain, not even a vegetable). How would I ever eat salads, broccoli, or (*gasp*) Brussels sprouts?

Here are a few fresh ideas. If they hit home, let me know, and I can go more in-depth in a future post.

1. Trying to force the issue will not work: Serving up a steaming pile of broccoli with the disclaimer “if you don’t like it, you can cook for yourself” will backfire. In this case, not only will he cook for himself, but he will make the most unhealthy convenience food choice possible (Ramen, potato chips, frozen pizza, chocolate-covered MSG, etc).

2. Bacon! Just. Bacon. My wife warmed me up to so many different vegetables by simply slicing up a reasonable amount of (nitrate-free, uncured) bacon and frying it up in the same pan as some steamed (organic) veggies. It added richness and flavor to them that my uncivilized palate could not yet handle without bacon. Fresh whole green beans and Brussels sprouts were two of the first I was able to warm up to, all thanks to this miracle meat. “Bacon covers a multitude of vegetables,” as the Good Book says.

3. Focus on the positive: After your spouse has started to make better choices, focus on the progress, not on the shortfalls. I am the first to admit I don’t eat vegetables with every meal, but I eat them 10x as often as I did before (probably more… and fresh instead of canned). THEREFORE, I cheer myself on how far I’ve come, not how far I have left to go. Instead of casting a sideways glance and a sigh when your husband pops a pizza in the oven once a week, remember when pizza was on the menu three nights a week. What progress!

I could list several other things, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Most important: BE PATIENT! My wife rarely chided me when I mixed in my former food choices with the real meals she prepared. Before she knew it, I was cooking real food meals we could both enjoy.

Over time, my pantry, fridge, and appetite have evolved. We simply don’t buy junk food any more, because it’s no longer my favorite thing to eat.

…Except tortilla chips. My weakness. OMIGOD. In my defense, I only eat tortilla chips that are grass-fed and humanely butchered.

How to Survive a Snack Attack: a Field Guide

Here’s a popular topic for clean eating: “What is the best way to raise, butcher, and cook my own giraffes without my spouse/the police finding out?”

Well, I’ll be honest… that’s a little outside my scope of expertise. I can’t hide anything larger than a zebra without the law dropping by. What I CAN do, however, is answer the question: “I get hungry between meals or after dinner. What are some real food snacks that are pre-packed or super easy?”

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1. Trader Joes Plantain Chips – I personally love Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips. They satisfy a tortilla/potato chip craving and only have 3 ingredients: plantain, sunflower oil, and salt. They go well with salsa, fresh avocado, or are even good plain! They cost $1.69/bag regularly. Not bad!

Pay attention to the Nutrition Facts, however. They are NOT low-calorie or low-fat. You cannot eat an entire bag and expect NOT to have “the heavy craps” the next morning. These are just a snack, and should be treated as such. “Honor thy serving size and Nutrition Facts.” (Commandment 5. In the Bible. Look it up.)

2. Nuts – If I’m in-between meals, a small palmful of nuts is the way to go. You can even add some dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries to satisfy a sweet craving. I wanted to show you the proper serving size, but when a Googled “a handful of nuts”, I couldn’t share any of the pictures that came up.

Again, Trader Joes is a great place to find some natural nuts for a reasonable price. (WARNING: Peanuts are NOT nuts… they are legumes and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.) Walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamias are a some examples of tree nuts.

After eating a small palmful, WAIT 20 minutes before going to the fridge again. Your body takes a while before it realizes you had fed it, kind of like a Doberman gnawing the leg of a would-be intruder on the front lawn of a Beverly Hills mansion.

3. Eggs – You can hard-boil a dozen at a time and have them at the ready, or you can fry/scramble a couple in a jiffy. Add some salt and pepper, and you have a snack that can satisfy a savory craving. The eggs have some protein that will tell your body, “I just ate something, so quit bugging me!” (The same goes for a reasonably-sized chunk of cheese made from grass-fed cow’s milk.)

4. Dark Chocolate – The darker, the better. Like, 85%+. Organic fair-trade source preferred. I don’t often have a craving for sweets, but when I do, this hits the spot. Again, keep an eye on the serving size. One or two small squares will do the trick. (“The trick” just so happens to be a modern twist on the old “make the Statue of Liberty disappear”, but without the Copperfield-esque greasy Euro-coif.)

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The main idea here is that you will not need (or even feel the urge) to snack if your main meals are balanced. From my own experience, when I eat meals balanced with plenty of vegetables, some protein, healthy fats, and a carb/fruit, I usually don’t crave snacks.

The other question I have been asked: “I’ll be traveling out of state. I usually double-fist gas station Red Bulls and Doritos. What is an easy way to take a healthful snack for the road?”

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With very little pre-planning, you can throw some hard-boiled eggs, Applegate lunchmeat, tomatoes, 2-ingredient fruit bars, plantain chips, nuts, and cheese in a cooler.

This should help give you clean energy (if you are also solar powered, try leaning out the window!) that will get you to your destination without unexplained sweating and feeling like there’s a tiny person in your stomach trying punch his way out.

I hope this helps! If you have ready-made or easy real food snack ideas, please share!

Other reference: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/05/kid-snacks.html

How to Make Frozen Vegetables That Don’t Suck

If you’re like me, you have a hard time working vegetables into every meal. If you’re like me, you also have beautiful green eyes, but that’s beside the point.

I do not naturally gravitate toward raw vegetables. You’ll never find me leaning against a wall casually chewing on a carrot, although that would look really cool if I was wearing a leather jacket. For the most part, I cook my vegetables. Here are my tips for cooking 5-minute steamed vegetables that will blow your socks off, across the room, and likely into the neighbors’ house.

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Step 1 – Selecting a Bowl:
I found some awesome microwave-safe bowls at TJ-Maxx for $5-10 that include vented lids. They have numerous sizes to fit the needs of any size family. In lieu of that you can simply put a plate over a bowl.

Step 2 – Choosing a Vegetable:
This method works awesome for most frozen firm vegetables (broccoli, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.). For this example, I’m using Trader Joe’s Organic broccoli florets. Using frozen veggies is an affordable way to buy in bulk and eat otherwise out-of-season vegetables.

Step 3 – Fill That Mother Up!
Don’t worry if you can’t quite close the lid. As they cook, they will soften and allow the cover to seal/vent.

If you are steaming frozen vegetables, you do not have to add any water. The ice on the veggies will steam them without making them soggy.

Put your bowl in the microwave. Cook on High for 2 minutes, stir, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add additional time, depending on your desired firmness. Finally, I tip the bowl to one side and soak up any standing water with a paper towel.

A few points to remember:
-DO NOT put fireworks in the microwave with your vegetables.
-DO NOT mistake balls of tin foil for vegetables. It’ll wreak havoc on your microwave and cut the hell out of your gums.
-DO NOT throw your microwave on the ground in celebration of perfectly-cooked broccoli.

Step 4 – Season to Taste:
I personally like a little bit of grass-fed butter with salt and pepper. Feel free to experiment with other spices.

Step 5 – Enjoy!
Pair with some meat/seafood, another veggie (fresh sprouts or sweet potato), and maybe a little dairy (cheddar from a grass-fed cow).

Frozen vegetables don’t have to suck, and by following these steps, you won’t suck at cooking them!