I very rarely follow recipes and have had to be disciplined in noting amounts of ingredients as I throw them into an unknown dish, allowing me to post them on social media or my site. Just last week my daughter shouted into the kitchen “Mum, Whats for tea?” and my response was “I am not sure, I am making something I just don’t know what it is called yet”, it makes me laugh just to think about the lack of objections made to this statement.
After years of trying different foods and flavours and teaching food, I have come to learn what I like and what tastes good, therefore the aim is always to have a store cupboard of staples and fresh fruit and veggies each week. I am sure we can all relate to the busy modern lifestyle, where convenience is an essential element. Having said this, please note I am not a trained chef, I do get into food ruts every so often, particularly when life gets extremely frantic and I wanted you to know this because these things are normal even for a registered nutritionist.
However, if you are new to clean eating planning is important, over time clean eating becomes habitual and enjoyable. Firstly, you must plan to ensure you have the foods you will use for meals and snacks in the house, then you will have a small repertoire of go-to recipes. Start small and then add a new recipe each week or month. After a time, you will notice clean eating is easy, a way of life and being consistent is key.
To fully satisfy and satiate, it is important that you include a variety of flavours into your dishes, tackling the various taste receptors e.g. sweet, bitter, umami (savoury), salty etc. Having these flavourings in the house and trialling your personal preferences will make a huge difference in incorporating healthy recipes and learning how to adapt them to your taste buds.
Essential flavouring ingredients for clean eating:
1. lemons (juice and zest)
Lemons are packed with vitamin C and although an acidic fruit lemons do have an alkalising/anti-inflammatory (preventative of illness and disease) effect on the body. Always have fresh organic lemons on your shopping list and include the juice and zest in salad dressings with olive oil, in hot water for your first drink of the day, add a slice of lemon to a green smoothie with ginger for healing and immunity-boosting effects. Lemon zest goes a long way when flavouring healthy desserts, a great addition to clean pancakes, cakes etc.
I have a confession to make I am a little bit obsessed with garlic, I love garlic added to almost any savoury dish. Garlic is packed with nutrients, its zinc properties for immunity boosting. Any sign of the sniffles and the garlic is loaded into a veggie soup! If you want to be prepared you can chop your garlic in advance and pop into freezer bags, ready to pull out for stir fry, soup, chilli, curry etc. I also do this with my ginger and saves lots of chopping time within a busy week.
I could write endless posts on the health benefits of the chilli pepper(Capsaicin), however for the purpose of this blog I will keep it short and spicy! They are known to have inflammatory properties and studies are looking into the beneficial effects, with regards to reducing pain in arthritis and even delaying the onset of some conditions. Capsaicin are packed with nutrients including B vitamins, vitamins e, k, iron and potassium. They are known to be heart healthy, boost your immunity and even help with weight loss. The hotter the chilli pepper the better, as the heat your body produces when consuming these spicy little nourishing beauties uses up energy/calories. Use different varieties of chilli to create different flavours. I like to add cayenne pepper to my morning lemon and water, dried chipotle is my favourite ingredient for a chilli and my homemade hummus. Red and green traditional chilli peppers are fantastic for curries and stir-fries. Also chilli has long been a matching ingredient with dark chocolate so don’t be afraid to add it to a chocolate clean dessert.
4. sea salt, pink Himalayan or Celtic salt
I avoided salt for so long because of healthy eating guidelines stating that too much salt causes high blood pressure. Although, If your diet is very low in processed foods you will not have a problem adding salt, as most of the salt we eat is what is added to packaged/tinned foods. I am also now aware that adding salt to foods can help curve sugar/sweet cravings. Opting for more natural salt means that you will not be consuming the additives and anti-caking agents in regular table salt. Also pink Himalayan and Celtic salt often contain higher amounts of minerals.
Tamari is absolutely one of my favourite ingredients and is always in my cupboard ready to add to a stir fry or salad dressing (I tend to buy the clear spring organic range). Tamari is a fermented soy gluten-free food, aiding digestion whilst feeding our good bacteria. It also has strong antioxidant (anti-ageing) and anti-cancer properties. This an excellent gluten free seasoning which can be added into most dishes.
Miso is also a fermented food, which is so good for our gut health. If you have not started to include fermented foods into your diet, this is the best ingredient to start with. I use miso as a replacement for stock occasionally in soups, and as a flavouring with tamari in stir fry.
7. herbs and spices
Again this could be a post in itself, therefore my advice for clean eating is to trial a few spices at a time as adding herbs to a variety of dishes can be a fun experiment. My favourite spices to throw into a curry with garlic, chilli and ginger (of course) are garam masala, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and cardamom pods. Following on from this I love to add fresh coriander to my salads and into a homemade hummus, salsa or sometimes guacamole. I also love fresh mint in many dishes including tzatziki, tabbouleh or quinoa salads.
8. dates, xylitol/erythritol/stevia (optional plant sweeteners – use sparingly)
It is always best to keep sweet things a minimal part of your diet and fruit is always a natural sweetener. A particularly popular natural sweetener in clean desserts is dates , however, these are very high in fructose, therefore, include in the 20% part of your week (80% 20% rule). Xylitol, stevia and erythritol have been well studied to be safe natural sweeteners, although xylitol may cause a laxative effect if too much is eaten.
Having olive oil and organic cider vinegar is also a good idea to make salad dressings in which you can add lots of different ingredients including those listed above. Enjoy experimenting!
Lots of love and health,