labels

Homemade Tomato Sauce

IMG_7706

Have you ever read the ingredient list of your store-bought tomato sauce? You'd be surprised to find that it's most likely loaded with added sugar, preservatives, and excess sodium. I got in the habit of reading labels years ago. It's amazing to find what is in products that are even labeled "all-natural," "organic," "sugar-free," etc. Point is, why spend money on these products that are not good for our health when they're so easy and more flavorful to make at home? Preparing your own sauces, dressings, and dips is fun and provides lots of health benefits.

There are many types of tomato sauces out there. This is my go-to base recipe. It's so simple, yet full of flavor. You can add different herbs and spices to make it your desired flavor (i.e. roasted garlic, chiles, etc.). Use sauce on vegetables, grains, chicken, or fish.

 

IMG_7702Ingredients

8 Roma tomatoes

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon red chili flakes (less or more to taste, I like mine spicy)

1/4 red onion (optional, gives it more spice)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

small handful of fresh basil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Place tomatoes on a glass baking dish or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and skin has cracked.
  3. Let tomatoes cool for a bit and once manageable, take skin off and discard.
  4. Place tomatoes and remaining ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust if needed.

Makes ~2 cups

 

 

 

 

 

What is Clean Eating?

What is clean eating

You've probably already seen or heard the term 'clean eating' or 'eating clean.' But what does it mean? What is so great about it? I'd like to clarify what it means for those of you who are wondering and what it's benefits are. Clean eating is not a specific diet, it's a lifestyle choice.

First of all, there are many different definitions of clean eating, depending on what meal regimen one follows and recommends (paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, etc). For example, a vegan might say that a clean eating regimen is one that omits all animal products, someone that only eats a raw food diet might say that clean eating is an all raw-food diet, and so forth. I don't believe that one is better than the other, it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

My definition of  'clean eating' is to eliminate all refined and processed foods from your diet. Foods like white sugar, white rice, bleached flour, white flour, and enriched flour all are foods that have been refined in some way. When refined, their nutrients are removed resulting in ingredients that only provide empty calories (calories with no nutritional value) with a blood sugar spike.

A clean eating regimen consists of whole, unrefined foods in their most natural state. These foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Pasture-raised eggs and poultry
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Full-fat dairy products

Be sure to read labels when buying things in a package. Just because the box says "whole grain" or " natural" doesn't mean they really are. Read ingredients closely and choose grains that don't have additives. You'd be surprised what's in that box of "whole grain" cereal you love so much, not a whole lot of nutrition. Chicken that is labeled "all natural" is interesting to me. Shouldn't chicken be natural? Sadly it's almost always not the case; instead they are fed antibiotics and hormones. Labels are misleading and most of the time not true.

Talk to the butcher at the grocery store, ask questions, and read the ingredient list. Try buying products that have 5 or less ingredients. And make sure they are ingredients that you can pronounce and that are unrefined. Visit my post on reading labels for more information.

Benefits of a clean eating lifestyle:

  • Weight loss/fat loss
  • Increased energy
  • Better skin and hair
  • Better health
  • Increased mental focus
  • Better sleep
  • Better mood
  • Decreased cravings and sugar addiction

As you can see, eating clean is a great thing. It seems to have become more and more popular these days, when in reality, it has been around for a long time and just now people are starting to realize how important it is to make this lifestyle choice in order to be healthy and happy.

How to transition to a clean eating life:

  • Eat whole fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats,  and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth)
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water each day
  • Eat 5-6 times a day to reduce cravings and keep blood sugar regulated - include protein in every meal
  • Avoid all processed and unrefined foods (sugar, candy, pastries, white flour, white rice, bread, cereals, packaged goods, etc.)
  • Avoid beverages that are packed with sugar (soda, juice, Gatorade, energy drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks)
  • Avoid trans fats

Clean eating is the lifestyle choice I made and what I preach every single day. I have never been happier and felt more comfortable in my skin. If you are just transitioning to a clean eating lifestyle, take it slow and make small changes every day. It takes time, but don't give up. Know that your body will love you for it and you won't regret the health benefits from it.

Trust the process.

Don't be fooled by food labels - What to look for

We often think we're buying the right thing because we purchase foods with labels such as "All-natural," "organic," "free of pesticides," "cage-free," and "hormone-free." Be mindful that marketers will write anything they can in order to get you to buy their product. There are specific labels that you should be looking for and organic is one of the most important. In order to know if a food is actually organically produced, it must carry the "USDA Certified Organic" label. This label ensures that the food has been inspected and follows the food safety regulations of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).The term "organic" means that a food is free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Choosing organic produce and meats is essential in order to get the highest nutritional value. Conventional foods are filled with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and are genetically modified. Eating these foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and inhibit the ability of our body to absorb nutrients. By eating organic we are not only getting the most we can from what we are putting into our body, but maintaining soil health and supporting that animals are treated with respect. Buying organic foods might be pricier, but in the long run, it will keep you from having to spend on medications and medical bills due to diseases caused by food.

There are some exceptions when it comes to produce of what you can get by without purchasing organic, but it is highly recommended to always pay the organic dollar for animal products because these are the ones that are most chemically altered and harmful to our health. So don't deprive yourself from the nutrients you need by purchasing conventionally grown meats and dairy products.

"Choose local, chemical free, organic, and delicious foods. You'll feel the benefits and will have peace of mind and body as a consequence" -Ed Bauman, M. Ed., Ph.D

Here are some general guidelines for purchasing good quality meats and produce:

Chicken Purchasing the best quality chicken can be a challenge. A chicken that is labeled organic can simply mean that whatever it was fed (usually grains and soy) was organic. Although you want to look for chickens that are raised on pasture, chickens that are fed organically grown grains and soy still provide more nutrients and better health benefits than those that are not fed organic. Organic chicken can be hard to find and a lot of times what is labeled organic still doesn't necessarily mean it meets other requirements you want to look for.

Now a days, the way conventional chickens are raised is completely inhumane and sad. They are being fed genetically modified grains and kept in tight spaces which makes them stressed and messes with their immune system. This leads to farmers giving them antibiotics in order for them to not get sick and spread any disease to the other chickens. Once the chickens are slaughtered, they are dunked in iced-cold water combined with chlorine and other chemicals to speed up the temperature reduction of the chicken.

With all this said, there are many factors to consider when purchasing chicken. Reading labels carefully is very important because statements on the packaging can be misleading. Make sure to look for the proper wording of certain statements. For example, "antibiotic-free," "cage-free," and "all-natural" don't mean the same as "raised without antibiotics," "free-range," and "organic."

Here is what to look for when purchasing chicken:

  • Organic
  • Free-range
  • Raised without antibiotics
  • Hormone-free
  • Air-chilled
It might be hard to find chicken with all of these factors, but try to at least always purchase organic.

Eggs Look for:

  • Organic
  • Pasture-raised
  • Hormone free
  • Free-range
Note: Remember that "cage-free" is not the same as "free-range."
Organic, pasture-raised eggs
Meat and Dairy 
 
Like chicken, they way cattle is raised in industrial farms is unnatural and inhumane. Naturally, cattle should be fed grass, but industrial farms feed their cattle genetically modified grains and soy because it is cheaper and fattens the animals faster.
The first compartment of a cow's stomach is called a rumen. The rumen is designed to breakdown plant-based foods (grass). When ruminants (animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, bison) are constantly fed grains and soy, they become physically stressed and develop health disorders that ranchers then try to fix by introducing chemicals and antibiotics. These antibiotics and other drugs are present in the meats and dairy products we buy and put us at high risk of developing disease as well.
Meats and dairy products from animals that are fed organic plant foods are shown to have an overall higher nutritional profile. Dairy products include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Here is what to look for when purchasing meats and dairy products:
  • Organic
  • Grass-fed and grass-finished (The term "grass-fed" can sometimes be misleading because cattle that is fed grass for half of its life and grains for the other half can still be labeled "grass-fed." Look for the term "grass-finished" in order to reassure it was only fed grass. Be sure to ask your butcher for help if not labeled)
To learn more about grass-fed meats, dairy and eggs visit Eat Wild - www.eatwild.com and Michael Pollan's website - www.michaelpollan.com

Fish Choosing sustainable seafood is always the best choice. Seafood that comes from fisheries that meet sustainable seafood standards assures that the fish populations are healthy and that the fish is being caught or farmed in a way that is friendly to the environment. So not only are you getting good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, but you are supporting healthy oceans when you purchase sustainable seafood.

Depending on the species, some seafood is better wild-caught and some is better farmed.

Here are the best choices to make when purchasing seafood:

  • Catfish - U.S. farmed
  • Pacific Halibut - U.S. Pacific, wild-caught
  • King Salmon - Alaskan, wild-caught
  • Rainbow Trout - U.S. farmed
  • Albacore Tuna - U.S. troll/pole
  • Tilapia - U.S. farmed
  • Scallops - Worldwide, farmed
  • Sole - Pacific, wild-caught
  • Atlantic Cod - Iceland, Northeast Arctic, hook-and-line

To learn more about sustainable fish and recommendations visit Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch- www.seafoodwatch.org

Produce Fruits and vegetables are best when organic, but the level of pesticides varies in conventionally grown and some are safer than others.

Ferry Plaza Saturday Famers' Market

Here are what environmental workers call the "Dirty Dozen" which are highest in pesticides and should always be purchased organic:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes (white)
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens
Here are the "Clean 15" which are lowest in pesticides and are safe to be purchased conventionally grown:
  1. Onions
  2. Corn (non-GMO)
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avoado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms
To learn more about organic foods and a yearly updated list of the "Shopper's Guide" visit The Environmental Working Group news - www.foodnews.org or www.ewg.org
Amy and I visiting Earl's Organic Produce Market

Soy Due to their low cost, most soy products are unrefined and genetically modified.

Here is what to look for when purchasing soy products:

  • Organic
  • Non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism)
  • Unrefined and Fermented
Fermented soy products are:
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Tamari/Shoyu
  • Tofu (Not always fermented)
Purchasing local, organic, and sustainable foods will always guarantee you the best health. Stay healthy.

Sources Natural Chef Training Program Textbook, Bauman College, Spring 2012

Tips for Healthy Eating

Hello everyone. Here are some tips for choosing healthy foods to eat. 

1. Color your plate.
Make sure to include a variety of colors on your plate throughout the day by trying different fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Eating a variety of all of these natural foods will ensure that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs daily. 

2. Eat fresh foods.
Although snacking on a handful of raisins is better than a handful of chips, choosing fresh fruits and vegetables is always best. Most dried foods are packed with added sweeteners and preservatives. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible but if eating dried fruits, make sure to choose ones that don't have any additives. These are hard to find, but are refrigerated in health food stores due to the lack of preservatives.

3. Only buy food in a package if it's something you could make yourself.
I'm talking about foods such as breads and crackers that can be made at home but we don't always have the time and energy to make. These are okay to buy in a package, just make sure you read the ingredient list. If a packaged food has too many ingredients and/or ingredients that you can't even pronounce, then it is full of preservatives and additives that are not good for you. Check out my post on reading a food package for more detailed information: http://apurifiedlife.blogspot.com/2012/05/whats-in-your-food-reading-food-package.html


4. Don't be fooled by the packaging.
Reading labels is important. Marketing is everywhere and words like "All-natural," "organic," "hormone free," and "no additives" on packages are just a way to get you to buy the product. Make sure to read everything on the package. Look for the USDA Organic label and read the ingredient list carefully to really know whether there are additives or not. Always know where your food comes from.


5. Eat seasonal and local.
Nature knows best. Our body needs to be nourished differently during every season of the year. Seasonal fruits and vegetables provide us with the nutrients we need. Due to food processing, all types of fruits and vegetables are available year round at the grocery store but it doesn't mean that they are in season or have good nutritional value. Foods in season are fresher, have more flavor, and have a higher nutritional value. Ideally, the best place to shop at is at your local Farmer's Market. Farmer's Market only provides what's in season. If you don't have one close by, make sure you opt to buy organic and seasonal from your health food store (ask if you don't know which ones are in season).


6. If something can last months or years in your pantry, it's not real food.
Natural/whole food is meant to be eaten fresh and spoils easily. If you have food in your pantry or refrigerator that lasts forever, then it's not natural and you shouldn't eat it. Just think of all the chemicals that are added to a food in order for it to last months or years without spoiling, not very appealing if you ask me.


7. Eat whole foods.
Whole foods provide the most nutrients and are meant to nourish the body. Most foods available are broken down and are not in their original form. Eating whole foods means eating the most natural form. A lot of times when something is fat free or low fat means that it is substituted with other ingredients like sugar or artificial sweeteners. It is important to read the labels (especially for dairy products) and make sure that there are no added sugars, otherwise, it is better to get the whole food form. Fat is a very important nutrient for the body and it is okay to consume natural whole fat products such as eating a whole egg (egg white and yolk) or eating full fat yogurt and cheese as long as portions sizes are kept small and there is awareness of other fat containing foods in the diet such as nuts/seeds, oils, and avocado. Everything in moderation. I used to be scared of full fat dairy products, but now that I am learning more about whole food and how important it is for health I'm no longer in a fat-free craze and am able to enjoy a whole egg or piece of cheese without thinking I'm eating something bad. I opt for choosing the best quality fats and if I decide to buy low-fat yogurt for example, I make sure it only has the live cultures and no additives. Also, make sure to get organic dairy and look for pasture-raised eggs and meats for the best quality. 


8. Balance your meals.
Take a look at your plate once you've served it. There should be a balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you're eating a bowl of oats with fruit, all you have there are carbohydrates and small amounts of protein from the oats, try adding dairy or nuts to get more protein and some fat. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are sources of carbohydrates also.



9. Plan ahead.
Eating healthy is not easy and takes a lot of planning. Planning ahead is good for both snacks and meals. Have a healthy snack with you at all times to avoid going for something out of a vending machine when you're stuck at work/school. Small amounts of a left over meal is also a good snack to have. For meal planning, I usually cook my grains and/or legumes on Sunday night to have ready for the rest of the week and be able to prepare my meals faster. All I have to worry about then is chopping up my vegetables and cooking a piece of fish or chicken which usually takes no more than 20 minutes to prepare. Check out my post on healthy snacks for some ideas: http://apurifiedlife.blogspot.com/2012/04/happy-snacking.html


Sources


The World's Healthiest Foods http://whfoods.com
Balanced bites http://balancedbites.com
Natural Chef Training Program, Bauman College

What's in your food? -Reading a Food Package

I believe that learning to shop and read food packages is a major key element in health. Reading the package and Nutrition Facts panel of a food product can be a bit challenging. What should we look for? Most of us just turn it around and look at how many calories, fat, or sugar it contains and disregard the most important information on the packaging: INGREDIENTS. This will tell you exactly what you are ingesting into your body. Reading the ingredient list is the quickest way to filter out anything that is not good for you. I strive to buy mainly natural fresh products when I go to the grocery store, but there are some things that do come in a package and reading the ingredient list is the first thing I do regardless of what the packaging says.


Here are some guidelines to follow when reading the ingredient list of a product:

  • First of all, if it has more than 5 or 6 ingredients, it's probably already not good for you. Processed foods contain a high amount of ingredients that are added to preserve texture, flavor, and shelf life and most are harmful to our health.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order. Avoid products with added sugars that are not natural. Most processed foods hide the presence of sugar with names like "evaporated cane juice/syrup," "corn syrup," "high fructose corn syrup," "fructose," "maltodextrin," "natural flavors," and many others. If something contains added sugar, it is most likely refined and will only spike your blood sugar and leave you wanting more. 
  • Avoid products that contain "partially hydrogenated oils," which are trans fats. A trans fat occurs when a oil is chemically processed in order to be solid at room temperature. The consumption of trans fats can lead to an increased risk for heart disease. Note that the FDA allows manufacturers to list "0 trans fats" if the product contains 0.5g or less of trans fats, which is why it's important to read the ingredient list.
  • When buying bread: Avoid flours that are "refined," "unrefined," "enriched," "bleached," and "unbleached." These are all processes that harm the grain and don't provide the nutrients that the whole grain provides. Look for products that list "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grain" and watch those added sugars like I mentioned previously. Bread should not contain added sugars or fats/oils. 
  • Watch out for "soy lecithin." Soy lecithin is an oily substance that is extracted from soy beans. It is added to many processed foods and used as an emulsifier (helps keep ingredients together). Most soy is genetically modified (GMO) and it is important to avoid this ingredient in food and/or look for Organic and non-GMO Soy lecithin. 


Now that you have read your ingredient list, let's take a closer look at the Nutrition Facts panel and what are key facts you should focus on:

  • Serving Size and Servings Per Container- Keep these in mind and remember that the information listed is the amount per serving, not per container. 
  • Calories- Make sure these are fairly low and look out for foods with 200 or more calories per serving because overconsumption is more common and may lead to double or triple the calories, especially if you eat the entire package. 
  • Total Fat- This will help you manage the amount of fat you consume daily and remember it is listed as grams per serving and this too could add up if consuming an entire package of something. 
  • Saturated Fat- These are the fats that you should limit the consumption of to avoid an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Note that saturated fats occur naturally in meats, dairy, and refined oils and should also be monitored. Choose leaner meats like chicken and fish and low-fat or nonfat dairy products when possible. 
  • Trans Fat- These are the kinds of fats that should be avoided completely and are very harmful for our health. 
  • Unsaturated Fat (Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated)- These fats exist naturally in nuts, seeds, unrefined oils, and grains. 
  • Sodium- Most processed foods are packed with sodium. Avoid added sodium as much as possible and look for "sea salt" in the ingredient list to avoid refined salt. 
  • Dietary Fiber- If consuming a food product that claims to be "whole wheat" or "whole grain," it should have at least 3g of fiber per serving.
  • Sugar- Look for products low in sugar and look at ingredient list to make sure there isn't any added sugar. Fruit is naturally high in sugar. 
  • Protein- This is a good way to keep track of total protein daily intake especially if you're a vegetarian or vegan and need to get protein from other sources other than animal products. Nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains can all provide protein for these diets. 
The FDA has some standard rules that food manufacturers have to follow when writing nutrition facts and claims on food packaging. Here are some common claims and what they really mean:


Food Claim
One Serving Contains
Sugar Free
Less than 0.5g of sugar
Fat Free
Less than 0.5g of fat
Low Fat
3g of fat or less
Reduced Fat or Less Fat
At least 25% less fat than regular product
Low in Saturated Fat
1g of sat fat or less
Lean
Less than 10g of fat, 4.5g of sat fat and 95mg of cholesterol
Extra Lean
Less than 5g of fat, 2g of sat fat and 95mg of cholesterol
Light or Lite
At least 1/3 fewer calories or no more than half the fat of the regular product
Cholesterol Free
Less than 2mg of cholesterol and 2g or less of sat fat
Low Cholesterol
20 or fewer mg of cholesterol and 2g or less of sat fat
Reduced Cholesterol
At least 25% less cholesterol than the regular product and 2g or less of sat fat
Sodium Free or No Sodium
Less than 5mg and no sodium chloride listed in ingredients
Very Low Sodium
35mg or less of sodium
Low Sodium
140mg or less of sodium
Reduced or Less Sodium
At least 25% less than the regular product
High Fiber
5g or more of fiber
Good Source of Fiber
2.5 to 4.9g of fiber

You now have all the tools to hopefully be able to make healthier choices when buying packaged foods at the grocery store. Feel free to refer back to this whenever you need and/or print it out. You can also contact me with further questions. I am happy to be of assistance and help get you one step closer to purifying your health!


Sources

The World's Healthiest Foods http://whfoods.com/
http://www.fda.gov
Bauman College