Tosca Says...

"It is the food that we eat which is responsible for shaping such a vast array of body types. Yes, the food!" - Tosca Reno, Author of The Eat Clean Diet

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Clean Eating For the Food Lover Basics Workshop!

It's here! My Clean Eating For the Food Lover Basics Workshop is all set for May 4th! Space is limited so register today! Here's the 411:

Eating Clean doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor! Join me for an afternoon of deliciousness as we talk about the basics of Clean Eating. Topics of discussion will include: - What it means to eat clean and why I do it. - The first five things to change now (and you might just lose 10 pounds for it!) - The problem with plants (of the warehouse kind.) - Treating versus cheating. - Why clean-eating is not a diet. - Recipes for the Food Lover - Much More! 

When:     Saturday, May 4th 11am-2pm
Where:   Faithful Hearts 
                600 Gathering Park Circle, Suite 103
                Cary, NC 27519
Cost:       $35/per person

A clean lunch and clean snacks are provided! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Recipe: Clean Eating Meatloaf

Before I started eating clean, I could make a killer meatloaf. I probably made it weekly when my son was a toddler. (It was, by far, his favorite dish!) No recipe. Just the BGABG method (that's "by guess and by gosh"- in case you're wondering - and my grandmother's favorite way to cook.)

Even before I knew what clean eating was I had vowed to stay away from ground beef, thanks to watching this clip from Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution." (Warning: This video will probably turn your stomach. It did mine, at least. You may want to watch it before consuming a large meal.)

The alternative to buying your ground beef pre-ground, and the only way to guarantee your beef is "slime"-free, is to have it ground by a butcher right in front of you. You pick the cut, ask them to grind it and they will, free of charge. But even the leanest of cuts aren't has good for you as my preferred alternative: bison.

If you've never had bison, I implore you to try it. Soon. Order a bison burger next time you're at a restaurant that offers it. (Generally, a restaurant that has bison on the menu will do a really great job preparing it, so I'm pretty sure you won't be sorry!) Let me know how that taste test turns out for you.

I tell you all of this as a basis for the recipe below; because, since I don't use ground beef anymore, the recipe calls for - you guessed it - ground bison! I find it at my local Harris Teeter, BJs or Whole Foods. It's definitely more expensive, but I'd rather spend more on quality and nutritious than pennies on slime. As with most things, you get what you pay for. Just sayin'.

I'd love to hear how you like this recipe! If you make it, drop me a note to tell me how it was!

Recipe: Clean Eating Meatloaf
Serves: 6-8
Nutritional Info (Per Serving, based on 8 servings)
Calories: 315
Carbs: 13
Fat: 19
Protein: 25

2 pounds Ground Bison
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Large Eggs, beaten
3 oz. Greek Yogurt, Plain
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1 Cup Brown Rice, Cooked
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Ground Pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried ground garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a standard loaf pan with olive oil. Put all ingredients into mixing bowl except bison. Mix well. Add bison and mix together until incorporated. (When working with raw ground meat, I wear disposable plastic kitchen gloves. Just FYI.) Put mixture into loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until center measures at least 165 degrees. (I actually cook mine to around 175 degrees.) Let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: I end up with quite a bit of juice on the bottom half of the loaf pan. You can either drizzle this on top once you have plated your serving(s) or, do like my kids, and top with ketchup. While not necessarily clean, I make sure to have an Organic Ketchup available without any HFCS (high fructose corn syrup.)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Treating or Cheating? And My Post-Holiday Hips.

Well, it's January and, as usual, my jeans are a leeeeeetle tighter than they were in November. This was my second holiday season as a Clean Eater and, well, let me just say that I still fall off the clean-eating wagon!  I mean, how can I turn down my grandma's strawberry rhubarb pie (a classic favorite I look forward to ALL year long) or those Christmas cookies my daughter so beautifully decorated just for me? I can't disappoint them and make all that hard work for naught, right!

Throughout the majority of my clean-eating journey I have done very well staying away from refined sugars, processed foods, white pastas, white flours etc etc and my tummy has thanked me! But this holiday season, little sporadic treats turned into bigger more regular cheats and, well, the snowball effect got the better of me.

Despite my venture off the wagon, however, I will say that I did not gain back nearly as many pounds as I thought I would! (This, proven by the fact that my daughter still claims my hips still don't "jiggle" anymore.) So while I may have internally paid for my relatively minor indulgences, the scale still shows a marked weight loss from when I started eating clean over a year ago. And the people cheered "Hooray!!"

I attribute this success to two things:
  1. Besides the actual holiday eating binges we all find ourselves succumbing to on Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the yummy leftovers, therein) I did spend the majority of the holiday stuck to the main principles of not eating processed foods or the five evil whites (white sugar, white flour, white pasta, white rice, iodized salt. (See previous post here.)
  2. Despite my tendency to overeat at holiday meals, I did a fairly good job at sticking to my clean-eating portion sizes (palm of your hand for proteins and less than the size of your fist for everything else. And we will just overlook the fact that there were about three times as many side items on my plate as there usually is. Hey, I stuck to the portion size!)
It's January 15th and I am still trying to wean myself off of all those naughty no-nos and back into a healthy mode of clean eating. It's not easy, but my tummy continues to remind me of why I started eating clean in the first place. But you're not here to hear about those fun details. So here are my thoughts on the difference between treating and cheating.

Treating - Eating clean does not necessarily mean everything you eat is low fat or good for you. There are plenty of foods that can be considered "clean" that aren't nutritious by any means. But some goodies are clean as far as ingredients go, and those I consider "treats." Case in Point - One of my favorite treats are these: 

Justin's Organic Peanut Butter Cups. I get these at Whole Foods and you can find details here. Ingredients are all, technically speaking, clean (and organic, fair trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certified to boot!) But that doesn't mean they are any more nutritious than a greasy processed potato chip. One package (two cups) of these dark chocolate beauties will set you back 200 calories and 16 grams of fat! Yowzers! At the end of the day, though, I feel much better about eating these than I do a regular Reese's PB Cup so I count that as a WIN!

Cheating - Everything else. Quite possibly, everything you used to eat. It's really as simple as that. All the processed junk you consumed before eating clean (or maybe still do from time to time) counts as a cheat. If you're eating clean to lose or maintain a certain weight, it's cheating that will slow or regress your weight loss progress the fastest. And I disagree with the phrase "anything in moderation." Portion sizes don't matter when what you're eating is toxic, and even the smallest of cheats can set your tummy on an anti-clean roller coaster that can last for days. Avoid cheating as much as possible. Your tummy (and your hips) will thank you!

What percentage of your clean-eating lifestyle is treating? What percentage is cheating?  What are your favorite treats?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kale Chips - The simplest snack you'll ever not fry.

For months, I kept hearing various people raving about kale chips. Apparently, it was a fad of sorts that I, as usual, was the last to know about. Like planking. Or being Vegan. Or shopping on Black Friday. I admit it. I'm slow to catch onto these things.

Luckily around the time I got a hankering to try making my own batch, a friend shared what she had heard about making them. So I found some courage and picked up some kale on my next rip to the grocery and gave it a shot.

WARNING: This method is so simple, you might think you've misread the instructions. You haven't.

SECOND WARNING: While these chips will stay fresh for several days in an airtight container, you'll be lucky to have leftovers to put in one.

DISCLAIMER: This is more a method than a recipe. I use all ingredients to my own taste and experiences. I encourage you to do the same, and think you'll figure out your own personal "recipe" after a time or two. 


Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Kale - As much as you care to bake. For a crisper chip, I recommend leaves with tightly bunched edges, like these: (A flatter leaf will yield a chewier leaf)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 1: Wash and pat to dry. When dry, tear leaves from the stalk and into moderately-sized pieces and toss into large bowl.

Step 2: Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. I just toss with my hand until all pieces are completely coated. 

Step 3: Spread onto non-stick baking sheet or sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Step 4: Bake for about 10 minutes, give or take, until crispy. Watch them closely and remove from the oven as soon as the edges begin to brown. Once they become crisp, they will scorch quickly so keep watch.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2012

If It Doesn't Rot...

I'm sure by now you've heard about all the (mind you, unofficial) "tests" that claim to show how a fast food burger (and sometimes it's accompanying fries) never rots. Recently, this picture came across one of my social media feeds:

Um, blech.

In the interest of providing an informed and non-biased approach to the non-rotting hamburger conversation, might I recommend you read this fantastic scientific experiment by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He is a self-proclaimed "part mad scientist, part chef" who looks at the science behind our everyday foods, and did this experiment in response to other similar (but obviously biased and completely non-scientific) ones. 

If you don't have time to read through it all, I'll give you the nutshell version. Basically, his (incredibly thorough and scientific-in-method) experiment showed that it wasn't just the fast food hamburger that failed to decompose. The hand-ground burger didn't either. Anti-fast food and health food fanatics shuddered at these results, I'm sure, and were probably sent scrambling to disprove his experiment but, as far as I can tell, none have been successful. 

Rest assured, I don't think Kenji did this experiment to prove that eating a fast-food burger is a truly healthy choice. His experiment really only touches on a few of the facets of what contributes to the decomposition (or lack thereof) in the subjects he used. It did not take into account (as far as I can tell) any chemical make-up (artificial or otherwise) that might have contributed to the burgers' preservation (such as any added hormones or what the cow that ultimately became these burgers was fed.)

Recently, a friend of mine tweeted this statement upon leaving the drive-through: "Every time I eat at [a fast-food restaurant] all I can think is, 'that should not have happened that quickly.' "

I concur. Have you ever pondered what makes something "fast food?"

There's a saying that has been discussed in books and on blogs at length lately (meaning, in the past few years) that basically states this: Eat what your grandmother (or great-grandmother, depending on your age) ate, and nothing that she didn't.

I tend to both agree and disagree with this sentiment. I'll save my thoughts on the former for another post. For now, I want to focus on the latter: What grandma NEVER ate.

There are a lot of things grandma never ate and a lot of reasons for it. Either it wasn't feasible or accessible (financially or otherwise), or it didn't exist

Think about what didn't exist at the time your grandmother (or great-grandmother) was growing up. I don't know about you, but my grandma didn't have things like potato chips or mac-n-cheese in a box. She didn't have frozen "TV" dinners and she most certainly didn't have a microwave!  

So what do potato chips, TV dinners, and boxed macaroni and cheese have in common? They all came about with the invention of artificial chemical preservatives. At the time, with no real scientific evidence to prove any harmful effects, this invention was brilliant. Food could be enjoyed long after it was "produced" without worry of harmful bacteria, spoilage, or illness. The food industry suddenly had the potential to greatly increase their marketability to potential consumers who lived a far greater distance than their product's life could naturally withstand. Stay-at-home mom's meal preparations were instantly simplified. Astronauts would have food to eat in space.  A snowball effect ensued. More available and longer-lasting products meant the need for a bigger marketplace (leading to the SUPERmarkets we know today) which led to more consumers which led to the need for more (preserved) products. And on and on and on....

And now what do we (as in, the United States) have?  Health problems that didn't exist before artificial preservation and the highest obesity rate in the world (see report here.) Not only do we have the highest rate, we beat out the #2 spot by a bigger margin than any other concurring countries.

Coincidence? I don't think so. 

This leads me to challenge you to ponder this thought:
If it doesn't rot, 
can it be considered real food?

And if it's not real food,
do I really want it in my body?
(No matter how good it tastes.)

80% of what you see in the mirror is a direct result of what you are putting INTO your body. This means only a small amount of what is being reflected back at you on any given day can be contributed to genetics and/or one's exercise routine (or lack thereof.)

Credit: Google Images;

Credit: Google Images;
So what's a person (or country) to do? How do we fight back? 

The answer might seem as complex as the chemicals that make up your favorite snack-in-a-bag. But it really is simple. 

We change our purchasing and eating habits (and that of our families) first. We focus on learning as much as we can about the benefits of eating real food (and the detriments of everything else, if you dare.) We work to replace our favorite chemically-laden foods with real alternatives. Then we let the ensuing transformations speak for themselves. Others will start asking questions. And we'll share with them what we know and how we are doing it. And they will eventually and inevitably follow. And on and on and on...

In essence, we start our own snowball effect. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Recipe: Clean Eating Rhubarb Lime Ice Pops

I. LOVE. Ice Pops. (I could say I love "Popsicles" but, technically, that's a name brand, so I'm going to stay generic and go with ice pops.) 

They really are a weakness for me (and not just in the summer.) So when I started eating clean, I had a hard time figuring how I was going to get through my impending withdrawal. Needless to say, it's been a rough 13 months. (And, yes, I cheated. Several times. A month. Don't judge.)

Recently, (because my kids take after their mom and eat ice pops just about every day of the year) I bought these: 

My goal was to be able to make healthy clean versions of our favorites. Usually, I fill them with the leftovers from my morning smoothie or with organic juices (with water added). I got them from Amazon (click here to get your own set) and I love them! I highly recommend them (and I highly recommend two boxes at least!)

Well, a few days ago, as I was sauntering through Whole Foods, I came across this glorious sight:

I tried not to get too excited. I've learned that just because I am standing in a Whole Foods doesn't automatically translate to "everything you see here is clean." 

I start reading the flavors, my eye immediately going to two of my favorite things in the world: rhubarb and limes. I opened the freezer door (mouth watering, mind you) and braced myself for the impending disappointment.

All Natural. No artificial ingredients. And, to quote them, "NO JUNK." 

Now, again, I've learned that the phrases "All Natural," and "No artificial ingredients," can be deceiving. So, I read the ingredients. They were all good! Score!

To make things even better, they are made in Wilmington, NC, which I consider "local" since I live two hours away. So, score again!

I brought them home (the Rhubarb Lime ones, of course), even at the outrageous price of $5.99 for 4 pops. It took some serious will power to not eat one in the car on the ride home. 

When I finally got home to indulge, they were, as expected, heavenly. Totally worth the wait. Just one big problem: what was I going to cut out of my regular grocery budget so I could buy a box of these every week. Cuz I was totally addicted after one pop. I think I need a support group.

Two days after falling in love with my Luna Pop, I was craving more rhubarb lime ice pops. But the thought of a 20-minute drive to pay $6.00 for four of them made my head hurt. So I got to wondering. Could I make them myself? 

I did. And, I gotta admit. They. Are. Awesome. So here's he recipe. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Lime Ice Pops

1.5 C. Rhubarb*, chopped
4 Limes (zest, juice, and pulp)
1/2 C. Agave Nectar
1/4 C. Evaporated Cane Juice (Add a smidgen more if you like a sweeter pop.)
2 C. Water

* I used Stahlbush Island Farms 10 ounce pkg, frozen.

Chill a metal bowl in the freezer. Heat all ingredients over medium heat until rhubarb is soft and sugar is dissolved. Pour through a fine strainer into the chilled bowl, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Chill in refrigerator 30 minutes, or until cool. (I stirred it a few times to expedite the cooling. I wanted my pops!)

At this point, you can sneak a taste to check sweetness. If too tart for your liking, add a tablespoon or two more sugar or agave. 

Pour chilled mixture into molds using a funnel. I put them in a tall metal container and they freeze perfectly (although you can lay the Norpro molds on their side. The tops are amazing and hold quite well as long as you don't overfill the mold.)

Overnight freezing is recommended, but if you're like me and can't wait for tomorrow, 3-4 hours should do the trick.

I got 7 pops with this recipe. I would have had 8, but I used the extra to make me and my son a nice refreshing summer beverage. (I just couldn't wait for the frozen version!) 


If you've made these, tell me about it! I'd love to hear how you liked them (or, even if you didn't like them).

Recipe, content, and images, Copyright 2012, Clean Eating for the Food Lover.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chick-Fil-A and (gasp!) Their Hidden MSG

What? MSG in Chick-fil-A? No way, You say? Way.
Let's begin with a show of hands if you have ever avoided a Chinese Restaurant because of the rumors that have spun for the past several decades that they use MSG in their foods and you wanted nothing to do with MSG?!? Maybe you didn't know what it was, but the rumors had you panicked? Or, maybe you got an upset stomach every time you ate it so you stopped?
Ok, moving on. (You can put your hand down, btw.) Do you eat at Chick-fil-A? Burger King? KFC? If so, then you are SO consuming that MSG you've tried so hard to avoid!
For the purpose of this post, I am focusing on Chick-fil-A. The main reason is that I know a lot of people (including myself) who, considered...CFA the healthiest alternative to popular fast-food. Plus, their people are just so doggone polite. Who doesn't love CFA??
So what is MSG anyway, you ask? And is it really THAT bad for you? Uummm...yes! Ever had to run to the bathroom 15 minutes after consuming food from a food establishment? It's probably MSG.
MSG is a flavor enhancer that tricks your tongue into thinking that a certain food is high in protein and therefore nutritious. It stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin when there may not even be carbohydrates in the food you are eating for that insulin to act upon. The body also changes excess glutamate to GABA, which may be addictive. MSG can be produced using several methods, one of which is to create it chemically. As far as I have found, the FDA currently does not require food suppliers to disclose which of these methods was used for the MSG they use in their foods, nor is it likely that many food establishments know for themselves.
MSG is also a nervous system stimulant that is directly linked to obesity and diabetes and yet still has approval from the FDA. It has also been proven to negatively affect children and adults with asthma, allergies, food intolerances, digestive issues, migraines, hypertension, and depression. In fact, glutamate blockers are now being used to treat a host of diseases from Alzheimer's to Multiple Sclerosis. 
I first found out about CFA using MSG through one of my favorite clean-eating websites, You can find the original post about it here. I. Was. Mortified! No...more like crushed! CFA was the ONE fast-food establishment I allowed myself an occasional cheat meal from. I mean, their chicken IS "100% Natural" after all, right?
While I don't doubt their claim about using 100% natural chicken, it's what they conveniently leave out that should get your attention.
The seasoning used in all of Chick-fil-A's fried chicken is the second ingredient. Of the five ingredients in the seasoning, MSG is listed second (after salt). This means there is more MSG in the seasoning than there is sugar, spices, and paprika.
On Chick-fil-A's website, they claim the "secret" to why their food tastes so good is "fresh ingredients." While this may be true for their fruits and vegetables and tea (which uses real tea leaves, not a mix, thank the heavens), it is definitely NOT true for that which is the essence of Chick-fil-A: the chicken! Bummer.
While MSG is widely used in restaurants across the world (and not just the Chinese ones-who are actually following the trend of taking it OUT of their food now), it is not widely KNOWN to their consumers. And while there are two bigger offenders of using MSG in front of Chick-Fil-A (KFC and Burger King), this petition is focused on Chick-fil-A for one simple reason. Not many people associate these other establishments as being healthier fast-food options. However, many people who do not eat at regular fast food restaurants DO eat at Chick-fil-A because of their "100% Natural" whole breast meat chicken. Drats. Duped again.
So in the interest of public awareness (and the teeniest hope that maybe CFA will take notice and make a change for the better) I started a petition on  You can sign the petition here. The goal of this petition is not only to request Chick-fil-A to make changes to their seasoning, but to bring about awareness to those of us who have frequented and fell in love with this "healthier" alternative to typical fast food. 
Won't you let your voice be heard? Sign the petition.