This is Week 4 of the No Takeaway April challenge, moving away from purchasing any takeaway for the month and slowly incorporating healthy choices to a clean eating lifestyle. If you’d like to jump back, you can find the Week 1 here.
How are we all??
I’d like to share with you a funny snap of Mister C today, while he’s munching away on some oranges. Oranges and mandarin’s are his favourite go to fruits. I personally love myself some peaches and bananas, sometimes strawberries – what are your favourites?
We are spending some time at my parents while Mister B is away, and it really nice to have some company. Being a stay at home mum, and having a partner who does fly in, fly out work, it can really be difficult to get some social interaction in and the days can seem to mesh into one. I am (TODAY ACTUALLY) 35 weeks pregnant, and so needing that little bit of help with the cheeky 4 year old is a blessing right now, and having some down-time away from the ‘to-do’ list.
All you mumma’s out there and even SAH dad’s would understand completely! The laundry and dishes call don’t they..
But to say that I’m having a holiday is not really accurate. I’ve brought along my laptop and besides writing up this blog, I’m delving into my studying trying to get my health coaching out of the way! So far I’m knocking back a module a week usually (Woop! Go Team! haha)
So this week calls for Week 4 of No Takeaway April, and so as I’ve almost transitioned to clean eating, and hopefully you too!, it’s time to get into the little tricky bits of the pantry.
Herbs and spices.
Powders and other essentials for baking.
Trying to find healthy clean alternatives for these can be quite tricky. You may think there isn’t much else but herbs or spices in your pantry, but if you look closely, there can be hidden sugars, thickeners, additives and preservatives that could cause issues with your health and digestion.
How to Choose Healthy Oils to Use
There are a few factors to consider when choosing healthy oils to cook with,
Tolerance to high heat – One of the main reasons you need to look at the oils you choose for cooking, is because a lot can oxidise at high heat and create free radicals which are toxic for your body.
The most important factor in determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and rancidification, both at high and low heat, is the relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in it.
Saturated fats have only single bonds in the fatty acid molecules, monounsaturated fats have one double bond and polyunsaturated fats have two or more.
It is these double bonds that are chemically reactive and sensitive to heat (Ref)
How It Is Stored – You also need to watch the way the oil is stored – oils like olive oil need to be bought in smaller and darker bottles as they will become rancid if stored for a long time, or left out in the light.
The Quality of the Oil – Most oils are better if they are high quality oils like Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. This ensures that you are getting the best benefits from each oil, including antioxidant levels, vitamins and minerals, and they are less refined. You can also buy cold pressed oils which ensure this factor as well, as the chemical compounds have not been changed during processing.
Preference in taste – Some oil choices will definitely depend on your own taste preference. For example, coconut oil can be purchased as unrefined and refined, where refined coconut oil has the coconut smell but not the taste, where as unrefined has the coconut taste as well which can affect the taste of what you cook it with.
For cold alternatives, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Walnut Oil, and Safflower Oil as well as Avocado Oil. (Ref)
How to Choose Healthy Herbs and Spices to Use
Here are a few tips when considering using herbs and spices in your meals.
Buy them singular – The best way to ensure that you are getting the healthiest herbs and spices available is to buy them in singular form. Luckily, they are so damn cheap, and you can make your very own blends that way too without the addition of thickeners, sugars etc. that many rubs and other blends come with.
Look at the ingredients – No matter the product you use, always check the ingredients! When it comes to herbs and spices in singular form, that’s exactly what should be on the label – just the herb or spice itself. If you are interested in buying blends, search for natural alternatives that don’t include any preservatives, additives or sugars.
How It Is Stored – Unlike oils, herbs and spices don’t need darker bottles, as they won’t perish very easily with light (they are dried to get them to that state!). However, it is always best to ensure that your herbs and spices are in containers which are completely sealed, and don’t use them in humid situations as once moisture gets into the containers, it won’t take long before they become solid and definitely not easy-to-use powder form. I’m talking to you onion and garlic powder!
Why choose dried over fresh herbs and spices? Not only are the cheaper and easier to store, you use less for the same amount of flavour! Usually a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, is equivalent to just 1 tsp of dried herbs, but look for the conversion rates for specific herbs and spices as their strength and flavour are very different!
You can also create healthier alternatives to sauces by just throwing in herbs and spices for flavour – even better is creating some of your own infused blends of oils with herbs and spices!
How to Choose Healthy Powders and Other Essentials
We are talking baking powder, cream of tartar, corn starch,
Baking powder – Choose an aluminium-free (free from sodium aluminium sulfate, sodium aluminium phosphate) powder which also doesn’t contain any starch (to reduce clumping).
Fast acting, low temperature baking powders contain just monocalcium phosphate, cream of tartar, potassium bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and starch. This is typically the choice of health conscious cooks trying to avoid aluminum in all its forms. (Ref)
You can make your own baking powder, using the recipe by The Healthy Home Economist.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch isn’t really classed as a clean cooking powder, because it made with corn, usually a GMO. Here are some alternatives to corn starch that are clean and healthy for you – arrowroot powder, tapioca flour, potato flour (organic), rice starch (organic), and ofcourse a non-GMO variety of cornstarch. (Ref)
Cream of Tartar – You won’t find cream of tartar with any more ingredients than just potassium acid tartrate, potassium hydrogen tartrate, and potassium bitartrate. It is a by product of making wine, left in the bottom of the barrels, and actually has a lot of health benefits, just a FYI – regulates blood pressure, eases constipation, eases arthritis pain, and helps you to quit smoking (Ref), but overuse can have negative effects – laxative, dehydration (Ref). The things we find out..
Bicarb Soda – also known as sodium bicarbonate. When using bicarb for cooking, it is something to be concerned with as to process the bicarb, carbon dioxide has been added, along with a ton of heat.
Much of the available sodium bicarbonate is a man-made product, not Natural and certainly not Organic. Commercial brands of sodium bicarbonate are synthetic, manufactured using a chemical process through which carbon dioxide and ammonia are passed into a concentrated solution of chloride. Crude sodium bicarbonate precipitates out and is heated to form soda ash, which is then further treated and refined to form sodium bicarbonate. Although this method of producing baking soda ash is widely used, it is also problematic because the chemicals used in the process are pollutants. (Ref)
It may take a little bit of searching, but for cooking and natural DIY beauty options, it is best to look for bicarb soda that hasn’t had added chemicals during it’s processing. Want to know just what bicarb can do for the body? Check out this article by Dr.Axe.
Flavoured Essences and Extracts – Something a lot of people don’t know is that most essences and extracts used in cooking (like the common fave, vanilla) are actually made of alcohol if they are of good quality. A lot of essences that are cheap have vanillin within them, usually in a synthetic form along with a combination of sugars, glycerin, dextrose and corn syrup and definitely not what you would like to use for your cooking (Ref). You can either make your own vanilla essence/extract with some vanilla beans and alcohol (I have done this myself and it is seriously worth it!), or choose an organic essence or extract without all the nasty stuff in it, so you can get the best benefits when cooking.
Don’t worry about the alcohol content within the essence you are using, as the small amount within it is evaporated during cooking. If you are not using heat to cook with it, the alcohol content is also very minimal in the amount that you would typically use in a recipe.
Next week calls for Week 4 of the No Takeaway April Challenge – we are almost there! And alongside looking at the products in your pantry that you may need to change to healthier alternatives, we are also focusing on upping our fruit and vegetable intake!
Only 5.1% of Australian adults had an adequate usual daily intake of fruit and vegetables! (Ref)
The easiest (and tastiest) way to up your intake of fruit and vegetables is to include a smoothie or juice into your meal plan EVERY DAY, and this is what I’m aiming to accomplish each day next week, and I’d love for you to try too! Yesterday, I wrote an article on Why You Should Have Smoothies and Juices Each Day which will help you on your way to grabbing a smoothie for your day! I definitely recommend you read it! This puts less pressure on you to incorporate veg into all your meals – I definitely find it a struggle, and with only 5% getting the right intake, we definitely aren’t alone!
As always, I like to throw in a few extra recipes so that by the end of this month, you will have a really good healthy eating tool kit. You can find some great smoothies and juices in the Healthy and Golden Smoothie and Juice Recipes Pinterest Board.
I’ve also added more snacks in this meal plan, including strawberry cheesecake bliss balls (they seriously look amazing!), Spinach Pumpkin Feta Muffins and Avocado Brownies too! Talk about chocolately healthiness!
Just like last week, the meal plan is nutritionally adequate for women aged 19-50 years old (serving suggestions per day as to the Australian Dietary Guidelines). To adjust the nutritional requirements for men aged 19-50 years, you will need to either include or reduce the serving sizes by –
Men (aged 19-50 years) –
|Servings/day||Carbs – 0||Fruits – 0||Vegies – +1||Protein -.5||Dairy – 0|
If you’d like to also look at the servings per food group recommended for other age groups, please reference the Australian Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines also give you recommendations for serving sizes which will help you when preparing your meals.
As we are now into Week 4, and have substituted sugars, carbs, dairy and this week pantry essentials, all options in the Week 4 meal plan are clean alternatives! Woop! GO US!
So let’s get to it, and grab your Week 4 Meal Plan by clicking on the banner below!
I hope you enjoy the recipes from this week’s meal plan! Be sure to keep track of how my No Takeaway April is going on my Instagram and join in on the conversation by jumping over to the Healthy and Golden Health Friends Facebook Group! I’d love to see you there!
I know that this post was a super dooper long one but I hope that you learnt some key ways to change your pantry essentials for healthier living! We never really know what is in the foods we are consuming, until we do our research – unfortunately, that is something we now have to do because almost all foods have some form of harmful ingredient within them! 😦
Let me know what you thought, and if you have had any aha moments! I sure know I did writing this up – I thought the bicarb soda I was using was safe, but definitely not!! And if your following along with the challenge, let me know what you thought of the recipes too!
Before changing any health and lifestyle habits, please consult your practitioner. This is not health advice, but merely a reference of healthy foods and what they can do for the body, but each body and it’s nutritional requirements are different.