FS: Why did you feel it was important to launch Clean Cravings and when did you launch?
SM: As I mentioned earlier, shortly after giving birth to my daughter, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (and later tested mildly positive for Celiac Disease) which were causing severe joint pain and fatigue. As a new Mom, a working professional and an athlete, the thought of progressive disability was terrifying. After researching both Eastern and Western therapy options, I opted to try the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Within a week, not only did my joint pain and fatigue virtually disappear, but the swelling in my knuckles was reduced enough that I was finally able to my wedding ring back on.
While the results were remarkable, I found the diet very difficult to follow. I was a new, first-time mom so I didn’t have a lot of excess time for meal planning and cooking. And I was unable to find convenient, delicious, and clean food to eat. I had thought I would just be able to swing by Whole Foods and pick up some ready-to-eat dishes. However, when shopping for prepared items, the gluten-free products would be loaded with processed alternative flours, corn, yeast, sugar or a laundry list of artificial preservatives. Organic foods were more readily available, but often included wheat, dairy or soy.
This prompted me to do some market research, including talking with many alternative health professionals and just felt compelled to fill this gap in the market for convenient, clean, gluten-free, whole grain options.
FS: When people refer to "clean eating", there seems to be varying definitions. What does it mean to you?
SM: This indeed has become quite the trendy term these days for everything relating to healthy eating. Google “eating clean” or “clean diet” and you can probably find 100 different definitions, but here’s how I break it down in its simplest terms: be most concerned with the QUALITY of the food you eat. This is a paradigm shift from the calorie and fat gram counting methodologies we’re commonly inundated with, but adopting this focus pays much bigger, long-term dividends to your waistline and overall wellness.
To be more specific, I define it as enjoying foods that are
1) without common allergens (e.g. gluten/wheat, dairy, corn, soy, yeast, peanuts, refined sugar), or at least without ones you know you have intolerances to. Most people don’t even realize they have sensitivities to such foods because symptoms can be so elusive. But regularly consuming foods that your body reacts to, even slightly, can put you in a constant state of inflammation. And inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions.
2) without artificial preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This subject deserves an entire article (or 10) to itself, but the net of it is that regularly ingesting such various toxins causes free-radical damage (read: premature aging of cells), hampers the immune system, can be carcinogenic, and prevents weight loss.
3) nutrient dense. think organic bright-colored fruits and veggies, whole grains and unsaturated oils that provide critical vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and inflammation-fighting essential fatty acids.
Optimally all foods would be local and and completely unprocessed, but like most of you, I’m a girl on the go and can only do what I can do. So, if there’s a great, respectable company out there whose already done the work for me, I’m gonna take advantage.
FS: A lot of people seem to be gluten intolerant nowadays, but I never even heard the term growing up. Why do you believe there have been so many people with this food allergy/sensitivity in recent years?
SM: I believe this is due to multiple factors including an increased awareness, our over processed food supply and general overconsumption and exposure of toxins from our environment that lead to the underlying causes that contribute to gluten intolerance.
In general the protein in wheat (gluten) is a very large and hard to digest for many people. It is believed that as many as 1 in 300 people have Celiac Disease with even more have some type of gluten intolerance or sensitivity. And most will go undiagnosed because the symptoms can be so elusive.
The increased utilization of eastern and alternative health care providers whom take a more holistic approach to wellness I think have a lot to do with the awareness, in addition to the attention of the role it plays in treatment for Autism and ADHD. And you can’t ignore the power food manufacturer’s have on public awareness, whether their intentions are authentic or they are just trying to grab their piece of the ever expanding gluten-free market.
FS: When I was growing up, it was whole wheat this and whole wheat that. Now, it seems that many try to avoid wheat. Is all wheat bad per se?
SM: Well, I don’t know if I would go as far to say that all wheat is bad. However, the wheat we consume today is far removed from the wheat that was historically available due to the over processing. The current refining process includes removing the bran and germ from the wheat kernel, so it’s no longer a “whole grain”. It is then bleached to provide a better appearance to the consumer and back in Riboflavin, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Iron and sometimes Calcium. Ironically, this is what the term “enriched” refers to.
If you do eat wheat, I would recommend eating sprouted wheat (like in the Ezekiel bread). But at a minimum, make sure the first ingredient in the ingredient list states “whole grain”.
FS: What's the deal with dairy and why should we eliminate or reduce our consumption of it?
SM: Dairy, like wheat, contains a large, hard to digest protein. This is why people commonly have intolerances to it. In dairy products, this protein is casein. It should be noted that this is a completely separate issue than lactose intolerance, in which people lack an enzyme preventing them from digesting the carbohydrate in dairy (lactase). In addition, when you consume non-organic dairy products, you are consuming the same growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids those animals were fed to increase the yield. This adds additional toxins to your body and can lead to weight gain. As a point of reference, cow’s milk, by design, can grow a 90lb calf into a 2,000 lb cow over the course of 2 years. Just something to mull over if you’re trying to lose weight.
FS: What's your favorite kitchen tool?
SM: The Magic Bullet. My husband just purchased this recently, and I of course made fun of him for being so vulnerable to infomercials. However, that thing really is amazing. It does so many different functions, is quick and easy to clean. We use it to make green shakes almost every morning.
FS: What's one of your favorite snacks?
SM: That’s easy - my Rosemary Just Crust Minis with hummus. If I don’t have the Minis available, I use brown rice tortillas. I just break them into fours and pop them in a toaster.
FS: What tip would you give to someone who may be considering to eat more 'clean' foods but doesn't know where to start?
SM: First, I recommend getting educated. I really like the following books – The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollen and Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin for providing well referenced insight into the reality of our food supply. For gluten intolerance specifically, I like Dangerous Grains by James Braly and Ron Hoggan. And I am a huge fan of Dr. Mark Hyman who has a great blog and is the author of many books on functional medicine and diet. I still haven’t found a great book that specifically and concisely brings together all the concepts of clean eating by my definition, so I am thinking of writing one myself. Stay tuned.
Once you’re educated, I would stock up on versatile staples that can substitute your favorite not so clean foods so you don’t feel deprived. Some great examples include; brown rice tortillas, almond milk, sorghum flour (for baking), olive oil, hummus, organic fruits and veggies, and various nutrition bars.
And don’t be afraid to contact me. I do nutrition consulting on a limited basis and I also have a blog that provides a lot of helpful hints on adopting the clean eating lifestyle: http://www.cleancravings.com/blog/ . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org