“Clean eating” is a buzzword that has garnered over 29 million Instagram hashtags, but what does it actually mean? Several claim that it’s just another fad diet or nebulous term, but Melanie Waxman, nutritionist and specialist in natural therapies of SHA Wellness Clinic, explains otherwise. “It’s a dietary lifestyle that is based on whole, living, plant-based ingredients,” explains Waxman, who has studied natural health for the past 36 years.
Clean eating does, in fact, have a transparent definition, and is not an elitist form of proselytizing. It’s about being aware of what ingredients are on your dish and going into your body. These include foods that are nutrient-rich, chemical-free, and organically or locally sourced from farms (rather than processed or refined in a factory). To ensure total freshness, Waxman adds: “Meals should be home-cooked from scratch using a variety of cooking styles, fresh ingredients, and different seasonings and condiments.”
If you don’t have time to whip up a fresh, home-cooked meal from scratch, Waxman insists that there are still plenty of other tweaks you can make to your diet. “Simple steps, such as switching to sea salt, or opting for coconut oil when cooking, don’t require a ton of effort or stealth kitchen skills,” she says. Other instant ways to clean up your diet include eating less animal protein and finding your nutrients via healthier sources, such as fish and beans, replacing refined carbs with complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain couscous), and incorporating fermented foods, such as miso, pickles, sauerkraut, and natural soy sauce into your meal plans.
“There is a massive difference between foods that are eaten on a daily basis compared to those that are eaten occasionally,” says Waxman. “Daily food has the greatest [impact] on our health and needs to be life-sustaining, energizing, and nutrient rich.” She goes on to list processed food, junk food, artificial sweetener, soda, and red meat as those to permanently keep off of your grocery list.
Middle Eastern cuisine is one of the healthiest, since it incorporates lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and grains into almost every dish. Rich spices, seeds, and herbs (notably za’atar and cumin) sets it apart from European cuisines. Here, five delicious Middle Eastern dishes for a clean, healthy lifestyle.
Loaded with protein and fiber (almost double that of quinoa), freekeh is an ancient grain native to the Middle East. It’s a healthy supergrain that serves as a great alternative to wheat. It’s also rich in iron, calcium, and zinc. Since the supergrain is a high-fiber food, it eases digestion and allows you to stay full for a longer period of time. Freekeh is a great side dish for almost any meal, and can also be served oatmeal-style for breakfast.
Tabbouleh is a vitamin-rich Middle Eastern salad that consists of finely-chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. For an extra boost of protein and fiber, replace the bulgur with quinoa or couscous, a wheat indigenous to North Africa.
Lentil soup is a famous Middle Eastern dish that is not only delicious, but rich in nutrients, too. The beans are readily available in an assortment of flavors and are relatively simple to prepare. Rich in antioxidants and B vitamins, lentils boost the immune system and increase heart health.
Dolma (Vine leaves)
A popular Middle Eastern dish, dolma is made with fresh vine leaves used as a wrapper for brown rice or meat. Besides being extremely low in calories, vine leaves are very nutrient-rich, boasting potent doses of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as calcium, iron and fiber.
A famous Middle Eastern street food, falafel is a deep-fried ball of chickpeas that is often served with pita bread and salad. Falafel is high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, in addition to nutrients including calcium, iron and vitamin B. Opt to fry with coconut oil or to bake, reducing the high fat content associated with frying.
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