Monday, 23 June 2014

Clean Eating Challenge

A couple of weeks ago Zoe and I decided to undertake a week of 'clean eating'. It seems to be quite a craze in the foodie/blog world, popping up frequently alongside gluten-free, no-sugar and superfood-rich dishes. Although there seems to be no clear definition, we took clean eating to mean unprocessed foods, so tried to eat dishes with lots of fresh ingredients prepared relatively simply, cooked as healthily as possible and without unnecessary processed additions such as sugar-heavy condiments. We read somewhere that clean-eating should not involve foods which come in any packaging, but given that in British supermarkets today absolutely everything is packaged, we found that fairly hard to avoid. After doing some research, we found that many of the recipes we came across sounded absolutely delicious but were packed with expensive and hard-to-find ingredients, so we set ourselves the challenge of seeing if a week of clean eating was doable on a student budget. We are pleased to report that it absolutely is - we managed to buy most of our food for the week for about £45 - so just over £20 each which isn't bad at all considering that covered everything from breakfast to lunch, supper, pudding and also snacks. We are also pleased to report that it had physical as well as financial benefits. Although cutting out sugar was undeniably difficult for the first couple of days, especially when the four o'clock cravings kicked in, there was a marked difference when we went back to sugar the following week, with both of us suffering from extreme sugar lows and tiredness that we hadn't experienced at all throughout the clean week. It was an interesting experiment, and although we both agree it would be hard/boring to completely cut out all processed foods for good, there are definitely elements of clean eating that we shall try and continue with. Carry on reading to discover a few of our favourite dishes from the week... 


For breakfast we both kept things simple and stuck to jumbo porridge oats jazzed up with some berries or bananas and maple syrup. Very simple but so quick and convenient, and easily kept us going until lunchtime. 


For lunch we stuck to soup - namely Mum's Chunky Scotch Broth which we posted on here a few months ago. The beans and peas make it more filling than a standard smooth soup, meaning any processed bread accompaniment is completely unnecessary - they are also a great source of protein. 
Chunky Scotch Broth 

Clean-snacking was probably the hardest aspect of our experiment. Training ourselves to reach for a piece of fruit or handful of nuts instead of a chocolate bar was hard to start with, (especially as we were revising and spending long, dull days in the library) but a couple of days in and we were in our stride. The star snack of the week would have to be Zoe's Apple Rings - so easy to make but so sweet and tasty - you could almost fool yourself that they weren't 100% clean. 

Apple Rings

Simply take one or two apples - skins on - and core them without slicing in half, thus keeping the apple whole. Then finely slice them width ways and place on a large baking tray. Sprinkle with some spices of your choice - we used cinnamon and cardamom, and then bake at 100C for minimum one hour - or long enough for them to crisp up and become dry - it will vary according to apple variety. Enjoy as healthy on-the-go snack! 

Catie's savoury snack of choice was homemade guacamole - a fresh and zingy dip which was delicious accompanied by some chopped carrots, cucumber, celery and even hard boiled eggs. Here is her very quick and easy guac recipe...


Snacking on Guac
To Serve 1-2 People You Will Need...

1 ripe avocado
1 tomato
1 spring onion
A squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, pepper and tabasco to season

You Will Need To...

- Blanch the tomato in boiling water for a few minutes then remove the skin.
- Mash up the avocado with a fork - make it as chunky or smooth as you prefer.
- Remove the seeds from the skinned tomato and chop up the flesh - add to the mashed avocado.
- Add the sliced a spring onion and enough lime juice, tabasco, salt and pepper to taste - the zingier the better!


At the end of a long day, a few leaves thrown together wasn't going to satisfy our appetite, so we found a few clean recipes that were satisfying and didn't compromise on flavour at all. Our favourite was undoubtedly a Butternut Squash, Kale and Chickpea Salad, which was packed with fresh vegetables, and sweetened up with some pomegranate seeds to garnish. We also enjoyed our Quinoa Superfood Salad and Chorizo & Paprika Pearl Barley Risotto, although to make it strictly 'clean' you should probably replace the chorizo with some lean chicken breast meat! (To access these recipes simply click on the links provided) 

Butternut Squash, Kale and Chickpea Salad

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts 

Another favourite main course of the week was our chicken breasts stuffed with feta, olives, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and red onions. We also wrapped them in bacon to stop the filling bursting out and to keep the chicken breast juicy, although looking back a rasher of bacon is probably off limits to real clean eaters! Nevertheless, this was a really filling and tasty meal, served with herby sweet potato wedges and some simple steamed broccoli. To make this dish simply sauté together some chopped red onion with some diced cherry tomatoes and red peppers. Take off the heat and stir in your diced feta and sliced olives. Stuff into chicken breasts, wrap in bacon and secure with a sprig of thyme. If not using bacon, a cocktail stick can be used to hold everything together. Bake at 180C for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  


These puddings helped to curb our sugar cravings at the end of the day. Although containing all-natural unrefined sugars, these still seemed like a sweet treat as well as being nutritious. Our most regular dessert was very simple and easy - natural yoghurt topped with blueberries, flaked almonds and maple syrup, although it would work just as well with a variety of other seasonal fruit. A slightly more accomplished pudding that also doubled up as a snack was this Banana and Date Bread, with dates providing sweetness instead of refined sugar. You can see a couple of the photos below however the recipe is to follow shortly.  
Natural Yoghurt with Blueberries, Almonds and Maple Syrup
Banana and Date Bread - Recipe To Follow!

We hope you give the Clean Eating Challenge a try - leave a comment below to let us know how you got on!

C & Z x

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