Some thoughts on healthy living, pt. 2: healthy eating challenges

Eating Clean- what does that mean???

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research into clean eating. The headlines surrounding plastics, food additives, hormones and toxins have been rather alarming lately and it’s becoming increasingly impossible to ignore that Big Agra doesn’t wish us well. But “real” clean eating seems so daunting. No preservatives, period means you can’t even have rolled oats with storebought raisins because the oats aren’t in their rawest form, and the raisins have a preservative to keep them fresh. Clearly fast food is out, but did you know that you also have to replace your entire spice cabinet because even your precious Mrs. Dash has some artificial colors & flavors??? -_- Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for eating less processed foods. But the fact of the matter is, I’m not now (and may not ever be) the person who goes hard on All Homemade Everything. I’d rather buy a jar of spaghetti sauce or pesto than make it myself- so sue me. Organic meat I can definitely get behind, but not until I get a job because, $6 per pound for chicken breasts on an internship stipend? NAWL.

The Challenge

Of course, you can eat clean on a budget. You can find a fairly good selection of natural and organic foods at Walmart, Kroger, and even some Targets now. And even if you can’t afford organic, buying fresh ingredients to cook at home with will help you control calorie counts and guarantee your taco meat is 100% ground beef, and your chicken tenders are made of actual chicken parts and not pink slime. However, if you have any type of food allergies some of the commonly suggested swaps for junk food may be a problem. Nuts are a great source of protein with a saltiness and crunch that can replace your potato chip craving but guess what? I’m allergic. So no peanut butter, no almonds, no coconut milk because even though these didn’t show up on my allergy test, they make my throat itch in a dangerous way. Most granola bars are out too, because they are processed in facilities that produce nut products. Greek yogurt? Not so fast; lactose intolerance is a mother which also rules out cheese and most protein powders (whey is a milk byproduct).

In trying to work around my dietary limitations I would like to share some of my discoveries for eating healthily, and cheaply, with food allergies. I cobbled together this list of substitutes from bits and pieces of articles from all over the web. If it doesn’t apply to you, feel free to share with a friend and P.S.: I’m not a nutritionist so if you have questions or concerns, ask a professional!

Dairy/Dairy Substitutes

  • Lactaid milk– Lactose free milk. Good stuff, but it costs more than regular so I recommend buying the store brand. Still, I’m so lactose sensitive that even the small amount in this can upset my stomach if I eat it on an everyday basis without taking a probiotic.
  • Goat, feta & gorgonzola cheese– these cheeses have low levels of lactose and can often be digested in small amounts by people with lactose intolerance. It just depends on how bad you have it. Since these are so flavorful you don’t have to use a huge amount of them. However, if I ever make a goat cheese pizza I would definitely pop a lactase enzyme tablet just in case. Better safe than sorry.
  • Goat milk yogurt– See above. The plain flavor is a good substitute for sour cream, or Greek yogurt in smoothies and other recipes.
  • Siggi’s skyr yogurt– Pricier than regular yogurt, this Icelandic product is super concentrated to provide 22g protein and only 6g of sugar, so the lactose content is much lower than your typical Yoplait. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve read that many lactose intolerants do well eating this.
  • Soymilk– This saved my morning bowl of cereal and milk for me! I usually eat Multigrain Cheerios, Quaker Oatmeal Squares or Frosted Shredded What and the vanilla flavor complements those cereals well. I don’t think it would go as well with something like Apple Jacks though. Plain soymilk was just way too bland in taste for me on top of the watery texture, but you may be all right with that so give it a try.
  • Kroger CARBmaster milk– Absolutely love this stuff. It’s cheaper than Lactaid, and I can put it in everything. because it contains lactase enzyme (the stuff you need to ingest lactose). The plain kind has the same taste & texture as regular milk, but with only 3g of carbs.
  • Flaxmilk– If you’re worried about the estrogen in soy products, vanilla flaxmilk goes pretty well with cereal as well. You can also use it smoothies; I didn’t much like the taste of the plain kind in mine but vanilla might be better. It is kind of thin though, so you probably need to use frozen fruit or add in a banana to get a thicker texture.

Protein Sources

  • Brown rice protein powder– Perfect Fit (sold online only)  and Rainbow Light brand (check your local Whole Foods or health food store) are vegan certified, meaning it’s completely soy and lactose free. It’s also manufactured in a tree nut free facility so no worries about cross-contamination! Rainbow Light’s vanilla flavor is…an acquired taste, but I can work with it. I would recommend using 1/2 scoop, instead of the full 1 scoop serving at first to get your taste buds acquainted. It’s still a little chalky, but not nearly as much so as whey protein in my experience.
  • Sunflower seed butter– Not the same as peanut butter but pretty darn close. You can get it smooth or chunky.
  • Pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds are a great nut substitute for snacking, as an oatmeal topping, or for making your own trail mix.
  • I’ve heard great things about quinoa (a protein rich rice substitute) but have yet to try it because it looks funny :-/ If you’ve had it, shoot me a recipe!
  • Chia seeds are another good source of protein and fiber. When combined with water, they produce a kind of gel that is said to help cling to and flush out stuff in your gut. You can also boil the seeds to make your own hair gel!

Healthier Fast Food Options

  • Chick-fil-A offers delicious salads, grilled chicken sandwiches and nuggets, and also offers fruit as a combo side option instead of fries.
  • Panera Bread has a ton of great salad offerings. Most of the sandwiches are rather rich, but if you get the combo with a half sandwich and a half salad or cup of soup, you can keep the calories down and still be satisfied. Best of all, they have a free rewards card where you can get coupons and free treats. Plus they rotate their menu seasonally so there’s always something new to try.
  • At Chipotle, order the salad and hold the guac, cheese & sour cream and you’ve got a great 400 calorie meal. If you need a little more food, do the same thing with the burrito bowl which comes with rice and beans.
  • At Jersey Mike’s you can get a sub in a tub, which is all your fave sandwich toppings in a bowl without the bread. If you’re not ready to go that far, just get your regular sandwich and take off the bottom half of the sub roll since they put all the condiments on the top. You’re welcome!

Helpful Links

23 Ways to Eat Cleaner:

Calorie Shifting:

7 Fast Food Meals under 350 Calories:

Healthy Fast Food and Takeout:

Wellness Mama Blog- Wellness 101:


Note: I purposely left out tofu because it looks and tastes gross. It’s also technically a processed food, FYI.

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