Archive for Naked Eating Basics
My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to eating. He was born and raised in South Africa – he’s only been in the US about 15 years and did not grow up eating much besides meat and potatoes. I grew up in Michigan and practically ate 24/7 out of the garden my Grandfather grew. When I talked about Naked Eating (or sometimes called Cleaning Eating) with him and about changing our lifestyle to reflect it, this was the response I got – “I’ll do it but I’m not eating yucky food and I’m not gonna start munching on broccoli.” Ok then!
He’s quite the sport though. He watched as I cleaned our whole house and got rid of any food that wasn’t natural and wholesome and didn’t make a peep. He tried every meal I put out for dinner – granted he doesn’t ask what’s in it – and he never said a word about going back to our old eating ways. He’s lost more than 20 pounds, has gone from borderline diabetic to normal readings and feels better about himself than he ever has.
He normally works from home but on the days he is at a client site he takes his cooler bag with him that contains all his meals. I actually write out a menu on a small sheet of paper so he knows when to have what. Here is a sample of the types of things he eats during the day…
My husband is a creature of habit. He loves starting his day with cookies. Yes, cookies! These breakfast cookies contain cinnamon (great for lowering blood sugar levels), raisins and cranberries (full of antioxidants) and chopped walnuts (a healthy nut!). He’ll usually have a fruit smoothie or glass of fresh orange juice with his cookies. On chilly mornings he’ll start the day with a bowl of oatmeal, whole grain toast with peanut butter or pancakes. He also has a large glass of ‘green juice’ every morning (it’s a mixture of spinach, kale, apple, pear, banana and a sea vegetable powder).
Did I mention my husband was a creature of habit? He seriously eats the same stuff everyday. It’s boring but it works for him! For lunch he usually has a hamburger and some potato chips. On colder days he likes to have cheesy taco bake or lentil shepard’s pie. I keep a supply of his meals in the freezer so all he has to do each day it pull one out and warm it up.
Grapes are probably one of his favorite snacks. He’s also a fan of pineapple, bananas and apples. If he’s not reaching for a piece of fruit he usually goes for some nuts. I always have some trail mix on hand and in a pinch he’ll gladly grab a handful of almonds. He’s also a fan of Kristy’s peanut butter protein bars. They are perfect for those afternoons when he’s lacking energy and needs a pick me up! Surprisingly, my veggie hating husband loves edamame. He’ll often have some for a snack if he hasn’t already had some for his lunch.
Some of my husbands favorite dinner meals are corn fritters, enchiladas, quinoa loaf, spaghetti and of course our favorite tacos. We usually have pizza once a week and even though he has burgers for lunch almost everyday, we still usually have burgers once every week or so. Most of the time our dinner meals are whatever recipes we are working on at the time. Since every recipe we feature on this site is taste tested it usually ends up being our dinner for the week.
Every night we walk about 3 miles outside. Weekends we tend to walk more, about 5-6 miles a day. We also like to bike with our children around the trails by our house. Our nightly walks are some of the most enjoyable time of our day. No phones, no emails – just fresh air and nature. Our goal is never to finish in a certain time or reach a specific heart rate level. We try to keep exercising from becoming something that is a chore – something you HAVE to do. Because we keep the time so enjoyable we rarely miss a night (when we do it’s because of rain or bad weather – not because we didn’t want to go).
I never thought I would see the day when my husband went from drinking 8-10 cans of diet soda to drinking water. But cold turkey he stopped! I like to add lemon to mine but he’s not a lemon kind of guy. He actually enjoys plain water now. We both drink more than the recommended amount of water per day and it’s one of the areas of our diet that we notice the change in the most.
While my husband does get a healthy dose of raw vegetables everyday, he isn’t one to load his plate with anything green. Because of this he takes a raw food vitamin daily. It ends up bringing his total vegetable intake up to the recommended amount. Although we don’t count calories he usually takes in about 1800-2200 calories a day. He eats about 4 times per day, but if he’s hungry he listens to his body and will grab another snack if needed. We also take a b-12 vitamin daily since we eat a strict plant based diet.
One of the questions my husband gets asked the most is how he gets enough protein eating only a plant based diet. My husband needs about 70 grams of protein per day. He easily hits that number each day. Each of his meals usually contains one or more of the following: sprouted grains, quinoa, tofu, lentils or other legumes. There is no lack of protein in our diet!
At The Naked Kitchen our goal has always been in creating whole food based, sustainable, nutrient-rich recipes and meals that everyone will love and enjoy. Counting calories, tracking fat and carbs and measuring sodium levels has never been our focus. Instead we want to encourage people to make their food choices count rather than count their food.
After being asked repeatedly to post nutritional facts on our recipes we finally gave in and started posting the data. Recently we stopped posting such information and many readers are left wondering why. In general, we are not fans of nutrition facts on recipes or packaged products. Neither label tells you anything about the health and nutritional properties of the actual food. Take a Lean Cuisine meal – Butternut Squash Ravioli. It has 260 calories, 7 grams of fat and 40 grams of carbs. How can you go wrong with 260 calories? Well, let me show you… what’s actually contained in those 260 calories? If you take a look at the ingredients list for this meal you’ll find that most of what you are putting in your body is modified chemicals and byproducts – yum! There is very little real nutrition in this meal and because you aren’t feeding your body real food it will most likely be hungry again in a very short time. I’m pretty sure a serving size of our Butternut Squash Lasagna has more than 260 calories, 7 grams of fat and 40 grams of carbs but with one serving you are providing your body with nutrient rich butternut squash, spinach, tomatoes and macadamia nuts.
Our views on calories and their effects on our body have been skewed and misdirected for so long now that we’ve forgotten how to eat healthy. If you have a 100 calorie apple in one hand and a 100 calorie pack of cookies in the other and you view this as the same – you can see where our erroneous judgement in calorie counting begins. All calories are not created equal!
When calories are burned in a laboratory they are indeed created equal and the same amount of energy is released. In a lab environment, there is no difference between 250 calories of apples and 250 calories of apple pie. If only our bodies worked the same way. Apples and apple pie are absorbed by our bodies at completely different rates and have different amounts of nutrients, fiber, fats, protein, carbs, vitamins – all these things affect health, weight, hunger and metabolic rate at the cellular level. When you eat more nutrients per calorie you’ll be better protected against disease, you’ll weigh less and be less hungry.
Remember, your body will continue to crave food/calories until you supply it with the nutrients it needs. The more nutrients you provide your body, the less hungry you will be. Calories are not created equal which is why at The Naked Kitchen we’ll continue to provide you with recipes and meals that will nourish your body. We hope you understand our decision to focus on real, nutrient rich food and less on nutrition facts and labels.
~Sarah and Kristy
The major biologic function of Vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It is used, alone or in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures. Recently, research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.
So how do we get Vitamin D in our diets? Well, Vitamin D comes from two places – we take it into our bodies in foods and supplements, and our bodies produce it after sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods like fatty fish (for example, cod liver oil) and egg yolks. Because there are so few natural dietary sources, vitamin D is added to foods such as fortified soymilk, fortified juice, fortified breakfast cereals, cow’s milk, and margarine. (Vegan spreads like Earth Balance do not have vitamin D added.) Typically, soymilk is fortified with vitamin D2, the vegan form of vitamin D, while cereals, juice, and margarine are fortified with vitamin D3 derived from sheep’s wool.
Besides vitamin D from food and supplements, our bodies are able to make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B rays from sunlight under certain conditions. It doesn’t take much sun to stimulate vitamin D production, just 5 to 30 minutes on arms and legs twice a week. However, this sunlight exposure only works at certain times of day and in certain seasons above certain latitudes (or below certain latitudes if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). Vitamin D production is highest when the sun’s rays are most intense – between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the summer months. In locations above 42 degrees north latitude (Chicago, Boston, and Portland, Oregon, for instance), vitamin D production does not occur from late October through early March. Even as far south as Atlanta (about 35 degrees north latitude), vitamin D production doesn’t occur from November to February.
Factors like sunscreen use, darker skin pigmentation, clothing, pollution, and aging can reduce the amount of vitamin D we produce. Because of this and because of concerns about sun exposure leading to skin cancer, many people feel safer relying primarily on foods or supplements for vitamin D.
The current recommendation for vitamin D is 200 IU per day for children and adults up to 50 years old, 400 IU for 51-70 year olds, and 600 IU for those age 71 years and older. These recommendations are more than 10 years old. Because of more recent research on the role of vitamin D, experts are suggesting intakes of 800 IU or more per day for the average adult and 400 IU for children, with higher intakes recommended to treat deficiency.
If you have concerns about sunlight exposure or live in an area with limited amounts of sunlight each day then a daily supplement might be right for you. Our recommendation is DEVA Vegan Vitamin D 800 IU Tablets.
A revered home remedy since Hippocrates’ day, apple cider vinegar is credited with everything from increasing metabolism and balancing the body’s pH to detox and joint health. One recent study showed that apple cider vinegar consumption lowered LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels, increased HDL cholesterol levels, and could help manage diabetes complications. Whenever possible, look for organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with a rich brown color and the dusty “mother” included. Always shake well before using.
For health benefits, proponents suggest drinking 2 teaspoons raw apple cider vinegar, dissolved in water and if desired, sweetened with coconut nectar or raw honey, twice daily. A splash of apple cider vinegar also livens up cooked beans, rice, brothy soups, coleslaw and creamy dips.
Making a simple salad dressing is a great way of adding apple cider vinegar to your daily meals. Combine equal parts apple cider vinegar and olive oil and season with chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, parsley, chives or rosemary. Drizzle over mixed greens and top with toasted nuts for a delicious and healthy meal.
Some other tasty ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar:
Everyone has heard about magnesium but do you really know what it’s good for? Eating plenty of nuts, beans and dark green, leafy vegetables appears to prevent stroke. Each of these foods is rich in magnesium and according to a new study involving nearly a quarter of a million people, indications are that magnesium intake is linked to a lower risk of ischemic stroke, the most common kind of stroke. For every extra 100 milligrams (mg) of magnesium a person eats per day, the risk of ischemic stroke (usually caused by a blood clot) dropped by 9 percent. It’s recommended that men ingest 420 mg of magnesium per day, while women need 320 mg. An ounce of almonds provides 80 mg and a half cup of brown rice contains 40 mg. Some other yummy options:
Raw Spinach, 1 cup loosely packed, 24 mg of magnesium
Dry Roasted Mixed Nuts, 1 ounce, 64 mg
Cooked Barley, 1/2 cup, 40 mg
Peanut Butter, 2 tbsp, 49 mg
Baked Potato with Skin, 57 mg
Pinto Beans, 1/2 cup, 43 mg
Banana, 34 mg
Frozen Peas, 1/2 cup, 23 mg
Here’s a delicious way to start your morning off right with a big dose of magnesium. Over half the ingredients in our Toasted Banana Breakfast Roll contain at least 30 mg of magnesium each. Reducing your risk of stroke has never tasted so good!
Source: ”Dietary Magnesium Intake and Risk of Stroke” by S.C. Larsson et al., Am J Clin Nutr, 2/12
If you’ve ever made homemade bread, crackers, muffins, etc then you know that you pretty much have a ‘shelf life’ of about 1 day before you have to move them to the fridge or freezer before they spoil. So what about those products on the shelf at the store? How does that loaf of bread, prepared salad, can of soup or deli meat stay fresh after weeks and months just sitting there? The answer – food additives, preservatives and chemicals. Unbelievably there are over 300 chemicals used in processed foods today and statistics show that the average American household spends about 90 percent of their food budget on such foods! These manmade chemicals are seen as foreign to our bodies, which often results in a number of implications to our health and well being. Allergies are a common side effect and MSG is known to cause overeating and weight gain. The best way to avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals is to understand the most common and dangerous additives and which foods they are most often found in. Here is our list of the top 10 food additives to avoid.
1. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, (E951) more popularly known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Aspartame is not your friend. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, the components of this toxic sweetener may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumor, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression, anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. Acesulfame-K, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baking goods, gum and gelatin, has not been thoroughly tested and has been linked to kidney tumors.
Found in: diet or sugar free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly-refined sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in America. It is found in almost all processed foods. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.
Found in: most processed foods, breads, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, cereals
3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG effects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengages the “I’m full” function which explains the effects of weight gain.
Found in: Chinese food (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners, lunch meats
4. Trans Fat
Trans fat is used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation. Numerous studies show that trans fat increases LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes and other health problems. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent, a move that effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils.
Found in: margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, fast foods
5. Common Food Dyes
Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked other food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these ones:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Banned in Norway, Finland and France. May cause chromosomal damage
Found in: candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission
Found in: fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more!
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in: American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!
6. Sodium Sulfite (E221)
Preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods. According to the FDA, approximately one in 100 people is sensitive to sulfites in food. The majority of these individuals are asthmatic, suggesting a link between asthma and sulfites. Individuals who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by closing down the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.
Found in: Wine and dried fruit
7. Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. There, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs: the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970′s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use it? Simple: this chemical just happens to turn meats bright red. It’s actually a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.
8. BHA and BHT (E320)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Effects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has potential to cause cancer. BHA and BHT are oxidants which form cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
Found in: Potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy, jello
9. Sulfur Dioxide (E220)
Sulfur additives are toxic and in the United States of America, the Federal Drugs Administration have prohibited their use on raw fruit and vegetables. Adverse reactions include: bronchial problems particularly in those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Not recommended for consumption by children. The International Labour Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.
Found in: beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, and potato products
10. Potassium Bromate
Yup, we finally did it. We joined Pinterest. I know we are a little late jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon but better late than never, right?! We still have lots more stuff that we will be ‘pinning’ but in the meantime we’d love to share with you what we have so far. You can find us here - http://pinterest.com/TheNakedKitchen/
Now, we’ve only just begun but we’re sure there are some ‘pinning’ experts out there that can give us a few tips and tricks. We’ve heard it can be addicting… How bad can it be? We’ll be fine, right?
I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. EVERYTHING. As hard as it is sometimes for me to accept the bad things in life, I always remind myself that while I can’t understand why it’s happening right now, it’s meant to be and later on, if I’m lucky, I’ll see why it’s happening.
In 2006, shortly after having my daughter I had a lump removed from my left breast. Prior to this I had had 2 benign lumps removed and was told that I simply had breasts that produced benign lumps.
A few years after I had the lump removed, I got sick and tired of having no energy and basically feeling ‘yuck’ all day. I did some research on different diets and came across Clean Eating. Everything I read about it made sense to me. Eliminate the artificial crap from your diet and help your body grow stronger. I loved it! My family and I went cold turkey into the lifestyle. We threw out everything processed and pre-made and went grocery shopping the same day. We’ve never looked back.
In April of this year I went to see my doctor because there seemed to be a lump right under the scar from the 2006 surgery. She sent me to have an ultrasound done and I was told there was a lump there but it looked perfectly normal and to keep an eye on it. In August, after sensing something wasn’t right, I made an appointment to go see the doctor. We had just moved to California and while I wasn’t thrilled with going to a new doctor I knew I needed to be seen. After seeing the lump my new doctor ordered a mammogram and ultrasound STAT. Literally, I had to go straight from my appointment with her to get it done. The next day I had an appointment with a general surgeon and he said that while the lump doesn’t look cancerous, that it was large enough that it needed to be removed right away. A week later I had surgery. A few days later I was told that I had a Phyllodes tumor. Little is known about Phyllodes tumors. Only 3% of the population experiences these types of tumors and they tend to be very fast growing and can quickly turn cancerous. Unlike breast cancer they do not respond to chemo or radiation and most doctors have little to no experience with them. I was also told that the outer edges of the tumor showed precancerous cell division and that having a mastectomy on my left breast was the recommended course of treatment.
I can only imagine what might have happened if I hadn’t changed my eating habits when I did. As it turns out, that 2006 lump I had was a Phyllodes tumor. What if I hadn’t started eating clean? Would the tumor have come back quicker and turned cancerous? I truly believe that eating clean caused the tumor to be slow growing and kept it from turning cancerous.
In a few weeks I’ll be having a mastectomy on my left breast and my doctors have told me that this will eliminate any chance of the tumor coming back. The events over the last few weeks prompted me to research whether there were any diets that helped to ‘cure’ tumors. I did a LOT of reading and research. I also learned so much more about nutrition and the role it plays in our lives. Most of the research I was finding kept leading me to plant-based diets. I talked to my husband about this and we both thought it would be good to do a 3 day trial eating only a plant-based diet. That meant no dairy or meats. This was no small feat. My husband only eats 5 vegetables – corn, mushrooms, edamame, potato and onions. That’s it folks, nothing else. He’s also a BIG meat eater. He’s also the most supportive man I’ve ever met and if I was going to go to a plant based diet then he was coming along for the ride.
On our first day eating only plant based food, while I was googling for recipes to try I came across a blog that talked about the movie Forks over Knives. It said it was available on Netflix so I suggested to my husband that we should watch it that night. We watched. We were shocked.
After the movie ended my husband turned to me and said he would never be able to eat meat or dairy again. I think this probably shocked me the most. My husband is the last person I thought I would hear those words from. Not that I blame him. I also came to the same conclusion.
That night we talked for a long time and decided that the health of our family was more important than the taste of meat and dairy. When we started eating clean we were overwhelmed. What would we eat? What could we eat? What about all the stuff we would never eat again?!!! A few months into the clean eating lifestyle and we had more food choices than we knew what to do with. We figured that eventually the same would happen with a plant based lifestyle. Right now it’s a little scary. You don’t realize just how much meat and dairy play into your life until you eliminate it from your diet! But it’s just the beginning and I’m confident that in a few months we’ll look back and wonder what we were so worried about.
This last week has been one of the toughest when it comes to food that I’ve ever experienced. Finding things for my kids to eat that they actually like. Finding things for my meat eating, non plant loving husband to eat has been even harder. But each day, while I cook, prepare and research recipes, I can’t help but think what this decision means for my future and my family’s future. Will this spare one of us from getting cancer? Will any heart disease we have begin to go away?
Everything happens for a reason….
For anyone interested in the plant based lifestyle, please take the time to watch Forks Over Knives. We are now a week into eating a strictly plant based diet and we’re loving it. Oddly enough, my kids are loving it! Of course I’ll be sharing all the recipes I discover with you and I’ll also be blogging about the ups and downs of this journey. You can follow my adventures here.
Let me end by saying that this was truly a personal decision that my family and I made because it’s what was best for us. What’s best for my family may not be what is best for yours. This is why I never judge or criticize those with a different lifestyle. The Naked Kitchen will continue to be a place that provides support, recipes and information for those that follow a clean eating lifestyle. Whether you are a carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian or raw food lover – it doesn’t matter to us. We welcome everyone along for the journey!
When I started my messy breakup with cheap chicken, one of the immediate complications I found was, well, how do you define “cheap chicken”? (And, by extension, what is “good” or “sustainable” chicken?) By cheap chicken, I meant some kind of admittedly vague combination of chicken that is treated poorly while it’s alive; that’s of questionable healthfulness, for both bird and man; that’s slaughtered cruelly; that’s produced in a way that damages the environment — all of which are endemic to an industry that prioritizes low price above all. But with buzzwords like “sustainability” and even “organic” thrown about all willy-nilly, it’s hard to know what we even mean by them. And it’s especially hard since marketers realized that more and more people are willing to pay more money for products with those words on them.
So, when you’re shopping for chicken, what do labels like “free range” or “pastured” really mean? Which chickens fall in line with everything you want, and which ones do you know you might make some kind of compromise for? I called two experts, Tom Schneller, who teaches meat identification and butchery at the Culinary Institute of America (and the man who taught me how to break down chicken), and Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group for family farms and a fierce “organic” production watchdog.
The first thing Mr. Kastel said to me was kind of dispiriting: “Well, some of those labels just mean whatever the marketer happens to want them to mean.” Some terms, like “organic,” have legal definitions and actual enforcement. Others have definitions but not much enforcement infrastructure, and some, still, are utterly unmoored to the law. Here’s a breakdown.
Many consumers have a vague sense of the incredibly crowded factory-like conditions of industrial chicken production, if not outright horror at them, and so “free range” became a hot term to sell to those people, designed to calm their fears about the crowdedness of “grow-out houses” (and subsequent disease density, and, if you’re into this sort of thing, the unhappiness of the birds).
“Free range” does have an official definition: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”
The definition of “outside,” though, is shaky; does that mean there’s a window chickens could theoretically squeeze through? Do the birds actually go through it? And outside could be a gorgeous rolling hill or it could be … a parking lot. Some producers include a fenced-in section of open concrete in their grow-out houses, with enough room for maybe 5 percent of the thousands of chickens in that house, and this may technically satisfy the term. (Although Mr. Kastel is seeing indications that the Obama administration may crack down on this.)
Chef Schneller noted, though, that not all operations are cynical. “The chickens might have more space, access to sunshine. They won’t be foraging, though, so it’s not a taste or nutrition issue. It might be more humane.”
What some producers and farmers call “pastured” chicken is much more in line what with many people think they’re getting with free range. This means that the birds are actually kept in coops at night, but are left to forage on grass, seeds, worms, etc., during the day. They might be fed grain as well, but they have access to a greater variety of food in their diet, and the result is much more richly flavored meat and eggs — and a much more humane life for the birds. It’s also much more expensive to raise chickens this way, because of the amount of space required and how that limits how many chickens you might be able to raise at a time. What’s more, chickens can quickly turn a field into a moonscape with their pecking, so true pastured chickens will often be moved around a very large pasture as areas they’ve torn up need time to regrow.
Unfortunately, “pastured” isn’t a legal term yet, so consumers have to do their own research on the brands that use this label.
This is one of the most classically misleading marketing terms in all of food. While it’s not entirely true that anything can be called “natural,” the term has nothing to do with how a chicken is raised. It simply means that nothing has been added to the bird after slaughter — no flavoring, no brines, no coloring, etc. In an effort to curb some of the confusion around this label, the USDA requires marketers to say specifically what they mean when they use the term, such as “no artificial flavors” or some such.
According to Chef Schneller, this is a term that gets into a gray area. The chicken might be pumped up with a broth made from the bones of that animal. But it could also mean that sugar is added, or “natural flavoring,” whatever that might mean.
No hormones; No antibiotics
Actually, by law, hormones are not allowed at all in chicken production, so labels saying “no hormones” are just pure marketing. Antibiotics are a little more tricky, since they are allowed in conventional chicken production (not organic), but theoretically so long before the birds are turned into food that there should be no antibiotic residue in the finished product.
This is a still-rare but increasingly popular technique. The vast majority of chicken is “water-processed,” meaning the meat is chilled in cold pools. But with that much meat going through these pools, the water has to be chlorinated to kill bacteria, so you might not really want that. (Realistically, you’ll get way more chlorine in you if you accidentally gulp down a little swimming pool water, but still.) Air chilling is a more time-consuming and more expensive process, but the chicken skips the chlorine dip. And many chefs report that air-chilled birds have better flavor and skin that gets crispier. Chef Schneller called it “a definite positive.”
What about slaughter?
Conventional chickens are slaughtered in a way that involves electrified water, which is there theoretically for the chickens’, er, “comfort.” (The idea is that an upside-down dip into the pool will shock and stun them immediately, before they go through the mechanized kill line.) But many report that it doesn’t always work that way; you can imagine the horror stories. Animal welfare superhero Temple Grandin is working with several companies to convert to a process that lulls the chickens to sleep before slaughter, and if that’s something you’re interested in, the brands are Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens.
But don’t expect labeling on this any time soon. One of the biggest problems with clarity on how your chicken was slaughtered is the fact that, well, no one wants to be reminded that the chicken he’s buying had to be killed. “Slaughtered without terrorizing or torturing the bird!” doesn’t quite have the marketing oomph that, say, “All natural” or “Clean as angel’s breath” has.
These terms only refer to Muslim and Jewish religious criteria, respectively, mostly governing the slaughter of the birds. The labels have to be granted by religious authorities, not the government.
That said, some people insist on the higher quality and more humane treatment of birds with these labels. Both Chef Schneller and Mr. Kastel said that these claims can be true. Schneller noted that the simple fact of adding another layer of supervision, and especially, a more time-consuming slaughter that is done by hand (as opposed to the machines big producers use), may slow down the process enough that producers may be able to notice more that’s going wrong. And Kastel noted that one of the principles of kosher meat production is being very careful that the animal isn’t sick. So having someone specifically look for lesions and signs of disease in the birds is very helpful. Even though he lives near the site of the biggest kosher chicken scandal in history — a packer who was charged with abusing animals, exploiting workers, and a host of other crimes — he’s confident that the label is still mostly worthy of trust.
Finally, Schneller also adds that kosher birds are typically washed with salt, so they in a sense come pre-seasoned, and can taste better that way.
Organic: The best label of them all?
Mr. Kastel is a firm believer that, at this point, “organic” is the best and most powerful label in chicken production (but not necessarily the signifier of the absolute best quality and most humane treatment; for that, he suggests you get to know a chicken farmer).
It’s a term with legal weight and the USDA enforces it. What it means for a chicken is that 100 percent of its feed (except maybe mineral supplements) must be certified organic, which means in itself that it has been grown in a field that has not seen chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms for at least three years.
In addition to the feed, certain husbandry techniques are prohibited in organic production. Since antibiotics are not allowed at all, chickens can’t be contained in the literal wing-to-wing density that conventional producers use; with that cramming, it would be impossible to keep disease at bay without drugs.
By law, organic chicken also has to be “free range,” and while that term has its problems, the greater resources to inspect and certify organic producers means that this characteristic will at least be scrutinized to some degree in an organic bird.
“In general, you can trust the organic label, especially if you do the extra homework to look into the producer. It’s the only label that has legal bite,” Kastel says. That said, the really best way to know about the chicken you buy, he says, is to meet a farmer at a market and ask him or her to let you visit his or her chickens. “They are usually very enthusiastic about it. Good farmers are proud of what they do. They’re going to welcome visitors. And if they don’t, find a different farmer.”
Article written by Francis Lam. Francis Lam is a Senior Writer at Salon. Original article can be found here.
So you’ve read some books, maybe browsed a few magazines and googled a few topics and you’re ready to make a lifestyle change. But now WHAT?! How do you start? Where do you begin? Hopefully this will help you out!
One Step At A Time Approach
Not quite ready to jump in with both feet? Not to worry, taking it nice and slow is a great way to gently transition into your new lifestyle. (If you are looking for a more direct approach check it out here.)
Let’s start with what is often the hardest part of healthy diet – beverages. “Hi, my name is Sarah and I am addicted to Diet Coke” That was me before I changed my eating habits. Most of my daily meals consisted of just diet coke! I was pretty much excited about every part of eating healthy, except parting ways with my beloved beverage. For myself, I had to go cold turkey – I knew with even one sip I wouldn’t be able to resist drinking the whole can and the others in the fridge that were calling my name. But if going cold turkey from your favorite beverage won’t work for you then start by eliminating HALF of what you currently drink and replacing it with water (feel free to flavor your water with lemon, lime, orange or cucumbers). Each week you should be eliminating more and more of the beverage until you have completely switched to water. This process tends to go faster than you would believe. Even diet soda starts to taste sickly sweet once you’ve awakened your taste buds to healthy wholesome food. If you can give up your vice sooner rather then later then you are doing great!
Dinner - One of the first things I tell people that are just starting out is to look through some magazines, books and online blogs to find dinner recipes that look yummy and inspire you. Grab a couple of your favorites and try working 1 or 2 into your nightly routine. Not too hard huh? Now add a couple more. Keep adding until each of your nightly meals are healthy, naked eating meal. Some of our favorite dinners are Quinoa Pizza Bake, Mexi-Cali Pasta, Crispy Taco Salad, Cheesy Pizza Donuts, Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers and Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce.
Breakfast - Start with the basics – cereal (or oatmeal, like Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats) with fruit and non dairy milk (for a list of healthy cereals check out Building a Healthy Pantry). A fruit smoothie, a slice of whole wheat toast with a nut butter spread or even some Banana Pancakes are a tasty way to start the day. For an on the go breakfast try our NO BAKE Blueberry Granola Bars. Keep it simple and quick in the beginning so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Lunch - If you’re a veggie lover then stock up on your favorites! A fresh veggie salad is an excellent lunch choice. Sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or try our favorite Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing for the perfect salad topping. If you’re not big on salads then try some of our other lunchtime favorites - Spicy Peanut Pasta, Cheesy Pizza Donuts, Creamy Potato Onion Soup, Crunchy Burger Patties or Gluten and Grain Free Pizza. Something as simple as peanut (or almond) butter and jelly on whole wheat bread works great too. I’ll often make a large batch of Pasta Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing and separate it into single serve containers that I can grab each day for lunch. Leftovers from dinner also make great lunches!
Snacks - Again, stick to the basics at first and then branch out. Grab some of your favorite nuts and seeds - almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Measure out a single serving of each and toss them in some snack bags for easy grab and go servings. Pair your nuts and seeds with some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or celery – our California Dip is perfect for dunking your veggies in. Apples, bananas and grapes are easy fruits to have for snacks or try some Crispy Sesame Green Bean Fries, Pizza Baked Chickpeas or Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips.
Extras - Often times when people start out on a healthy lifestyle change they stock up on protein powders, supplements and other ‘healthy’ essentials. While protein powder and supplements are perfectly fine it’s best to ease your way into them before shelling out a lot of money for items you might not like or need.
If you’re worry about getting enough vitamins and minerals each day taking a multivitamin can help put your mind at ease. Although it’s best to get your daily requirement through healthy foods (and entirely possible as well), we know that not everyone can eat a varied diet and sometimes a vitamin is necessary. We recommend checking out Deva Multivitamin One A Day. This vitamin is ideal for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet. For those that are on a vegan diet please make sure you are getting adequate amounts of B12 and vitamin D. The daily multivitamin mentioned above will fulfill your daily requirement or you can take separate supplements to get the recommended amount.
For all the other ‘extras’ that you might need check out Building A Healthy Pantry. There you can find recommendations for flour, canned goods, oils, etc that are good to have on hand when preparing healthy meals.
And don’t forget the WATER! When you’re starting out, drinking water will really help to flush your system and keep you hydrated. Herbal teas or sparkling mineral water are also excellent beverage choices. Organic coffee sweetened with a healthy sweetener or Homemade Coffee Creamer is perfectly fine on a limited basis.
Now that you’ve stocked up on good, wholesome healthy food it’s time to figure out how it all works together to help you. Your goal should be 3-4 sensible sized meals daily. Each meal should be based around non starchy vegetables such as lettuce, greens, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, etc. Include a serving of whole grains or starchy vegetables, a serving of fruit and a serving of legumes, nuts or seeds. You should feel satisfied after each meal, not stuffed. By the time your next meal comes around you should be hungry. If not, decrease your portion size next time.
Naked eating is a lifestyle change and it takes time to get used to this new way of life. The more you eat naked, the easier it becomes. This is why for the first week or so I recommend writing down your daily meals so that you can easily pull out the necessary items at the appropriate times. Take a few minutes the night before and jot down what you will be having for breakfast and lunch. If you are away from the house during these times you will want to pack your meals so that you’ll have everything with you.
If you currently have an exercise program that you follow then you are already a step ahead! Keep up the good work!
If you haven’t yet added in an exercise routine, now is a great time to start. For most people walking is a great way to start incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes and head outside (or inside if you have access to a treadmill). Start with walking half a mile and gradually increase your pace and distance as you gain muscle and energy. Once you’ve gotten a steady exercise routine worked into your daily lifestyle you can branch out by adding weights, cardio classes and sports activities!
Some people will do a cheat meal once a week or once a month. This is completely up to you. For me personally if I’m craving something that isn’t healthy I try to find a way to make a tasty, healthy version.
YOU CAN DO IT:
Remember that naked eating isn’t a diet – don’t worry if you miss a meal, eat a candy bar or slip up. Put the past behind you and start again – RIGHT AWAY, no need to wait for tomorrow. As you become more comfortable reading labels and making meals you’ll notice how quick meal preparation becomes. You do have to put some time and enegry into getting started, but soon you’ll be so accustomed to your new lifestyle that you’ll wonder how you lived any other way!
As ALWAYS check with your doctor before starting any exercise or nutrition program!
Are there any tips or tricks that you learned along that way that helped you when starting out? Please share them with us and help out others that are just starting on this awesome adventure and lifestyle!