Balance between clean eating and deliciousness without compromise
Brownies for Breakfast
One of my goals for this year is to ‘cut out processed foods.’ But this is pretty vauge… Eat healthier, sure, eat cleaner, sure…but what exactly do I mean by ‘processed,’ and why am I so focused on cutting something out, instead of focused on building the new? Also, how am I supposed to eat clean when I am the kind of silly person who likes eating brownies for breakfast?
So in my attempt to define exactly what this means for me, I set some smaller goals (more on this in my blog about GOALS)
First, I paid more attention to what I was consuming every day. What are the nutritional qualities (or lack thereof)? How does my body feel after consuming this? What are the ingredients in this?
With just that tiny bit of mindful attention, it was obvious that my diet really was not serving me. Often, after a meal I would feel really heavy and full, I would get tired rather than energized. I couldn’t identify exactly what the ingredients were, let alone pronounce some of them!
"Also, how am I supposed to eat clean when I am the kind of silly person who likes eating brownies for breakfast?"
In working towards my goal, I needed to answer a few more specific questions: What specifically do I want to eat? What specifically do I not want to eat? I’m not one to put myself into a box i.e. I don’t like the idea of following a strictly vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, no this, none of that diet. In the past, attempts to this avail were unsuccessful because of the pure lack of flexibility. For me, the rigidity involved with eating in a very calculated way doesn’t work; I get overwhelmed and abandon ship.
Beyond eating habits even, when you put yourself in a box with super specific rules to follow it becomes very difficult very quickly. We don’t live in a vacuum with variables that are easily manipulated or controlled. We live in the real world with constant change, and most of the time I am running around like a unicorn with my corn sawed off. So we must find a way to adapt and roll with the changes.
It’s just about finding the balance.
"You have to figure out a combination that serves you and it’s going to be different for everyone."
I realized that by ‘cutting out processed foods,’ I really just wanted to eat more whole foods, to eat ‘clean.’ So I started defining clean eating ideas: incorporate more greens, experiment with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and try different cooking techniques: baking, roasting, and steaming instead of frying or sautéing. I decided to challenge myself to be more adventurous in the kitchen and try things I’d never cooked or eaten before. Slowly incorporating new things was the perfect place to rest my focus in this ‘eat clean imitative’ rather than keeping focused on the ‘cutting out.’
In this way the ball started rolling, ideas flowing.
I started to seek out cool recipes and adapt them to suit my taste buds, my budget, and what I’ve got on hand (aka flexibility!) It has been fun to be creative in the process and experiment with exotic ingredients. Just imagine me in the kitchen: bubbling and steaming pots and pans, like I am brewing a potion, every once in a while shouting out onomatopoeias like Emeril Lagasse. Incense burning and my main man Jack Johnson singing in the background. Whispering mantras and well wishes to the lovely and colorful foods from the earth that I will soon consume ;)
"Just imagine me in the kitchen: bubbling and steaming pots and pans, like I am brewing a potion, every once in a while shouting out onomatopoeias like Emeril Lagasse"
It’s become a fun ritual (more on this here!) to come home and meal prep, get creative with new farmers market finds, and know that I am nourishing my body (and soul!) in the process. Plus instilling an ability to be disciplined yet flexible. To find the right balance.
Cooking and creating the food myself puts me in control of exactly what I am consuming. In this way I can easily cut out superfluous ingredients that take away from my ‘eat clean’ plan.
I try to stick to fresh produce, and one ingredient items (i.e. nuts, oats) taking more care to review what ingredients are listed on the package of foods and elect only foods with relatively few ingredients.
It is honestly intuitive. Pretty easily I was able to cut out buying foods that have ingredients that A) I cannot pronounce B) Sound like they came straight off the periodic table: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate Milk Derivative, Dipotassium Phosphate, Monoglycerides, Sodium Aluminosilicate…just to name a few.
"It is honestly intuitive."
In any case, it came to be clear that those aren’t the types of things I want to be consuming. So I am not! I’m buying whole-foods, eating clean, learning to cook in healthier ways, and having a lot of fun in the process. Plus focusing on the new keeps me motivated. I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything because I am so excited to try the novel items.
In all honesty, my homemade food may not necessarily taste extraordinary compared to its pre-made (read: processed!) counterpart, BUT at least I know exactly what the ingredients are and feel good about nourishing my body with it- plus that I made it with my own lil hands which feels like a useful life skill! Often it feels like I’m eating unicorn food, because whatever I’ve made is alive with color and is made of ‘superfood,’ or as I like to call it SupaDupaFood.
Anyway, instead of trying to be so calculated and identify myself based on what I consume, I am just happy to feel good, and reflect on the positive changes I’ve made. Here’s a few examples: 60 days meat free, dropped coffee intake down by 75%, cut use of oil by half! No boxes or labels needed, just good old fashioned progress.
"Just good old fashioned progress."
I’ve tried so many new greens and beans, started making cold pressed juices, bring in delicious lunches to work (saving money and eating clean= double whammy!,) baked amazing superfood sweets and even started to sprout some of my own veggies to grown in my casa (stay tuned for a blog on Urban Gardens!) Not to mention all the cool people I’ve met, new restaurants I’ve tried, and friends I’ve made with similar interests just by giving this clean eating thing a whirl.
All in all. I don’t want to preach about what to eat, or why. There is a ton of information available on that if you’re interested; everyone wants to give you their two cents, just google: best diet... it’s a lot to digest (so punny.)
I just want to share my experience that I recognized a pattern in my life that wasn’t serving me, and so I changed it. In this case, my eating habits, but the same idea applies across the board for all of our patterns. You just have to pay attention and take note of what feels good for you. Don’t let anyone put you in a box, not even yourself. You can go with the flow and steer the ship. It is possible to do both... that’s what sailing is!
"You just have to pay attention and take note of what feels good for you."
And on a day when someone offers you some cake, or brings donuts into the office (attn: Louise!) have one.
And enjoy it.
And donut feel bad.
(sorry I couldn’t help myself.)
SupaDupaFood Black PB Brownies
This blog would not be complete if I didn’t share at least one of my concoctions with you!
Here is a recipe for SupaDupaFood Black PB Brownies! It is superfood, oil free, vegan recipe and so delicious you wouldn’t even know it.
SupaDupaFood Black PB Brownies
- 1 cup oats
- ½ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 ½ cup black beans in liquid
- 1 cup cacao
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup liquid sweetener (I used organic honey)
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- Nut Pieces (I used pecans)
- 1/3 cup Peanut Butter
- Handful Pitted Dates
- Splash of Almond Milk
- Pinch of Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly greased 10x15 glass baking dish.
In food processor pulverize oats, coconut, chia. Blend in black beans, cacao, salt, sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder. Add vanilla, liquid sweetener, baking powder than fold in nut pieces, mix well. Pour batter into pan and bake about 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Brownie will be moist. Allow to cool.
To make topping, blend ingredients together until spreadable. When brownies are cool, spread topping on. Sprinkle with a dust of cinnamon and fairy dust and serve. Store in dry cool place with cloth cover, or in fridge.
Extra Points: Share brownies with friends and after they’ve tasted it, see if they can guess the ingredients. Black beans are a big surprise!