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

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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Recipe: Clean Eating Banana Zucchini Bread

I've had to take a bit of a hiatus in posting due to some health issues, but I'm going to try to get back into regular posts, especially considering SO many people have asked me about eating clean lately!

So here's a recipe to start! Made two loaves and 24 muffins today out of a double batch. They. Are. AWESOME! Enjoy!

3 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Sea Salt
4 eggs (or 2 eggs and 3 egg whites if you prefer)
2 Cups Evaporated Cane Juice (i.e. "Clean" Sugar)
1 Cup Canola Oil
1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla
3 Ripe Bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Cups Zucchini, unpeeled and shredded

* In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and sea salt. Set aside.

* Beat eggs/whites. Blend in Evaporated Cane Juice, oil, and vanilla. Add bananas and mix well. Stir into flour mixture until well-mixed. Gently fold in zucchini.

* Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely. Yields: 2 loaves. (For muffins, pour into 24 greased muffin cups and bake approximately 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

9 Facts About Soda You May (or May Not) Want to Know!

It's called "pop" in the northeast, "soda" in the south and west, and everything's a "coke" in Texas! But regardless of what you call it, they all have one very important thing in common. They. Are. BAD.

I was hoping my next post would be about sugar (see my previous post on the Five Changes to Make Right Now if you haven't read it yet!) but this one is just too important to wait. Besides, it kind of encompasses the reality of sugar in our diet so it's kind of a good pre "the-truth-about-sugar" post. Yeah, let's go with that.

Sometimes all it takes to break an addiction to something is a little knowledge. Suddenly, you realize what used to be your most loyal "friend" is really your health's biggest enemy and it's not so tempting anymore. Sometimes, it takes more than a little knowledge, especially if the addiction is chemical just as much as it is psychological (like drugs or carbs or sugar or....soda pop!) Hopefully, the 9 facts below will help put soda consumption into perspective for you.

Luckily, I didn't have a bad soda habit that needed breaking when I started to eat cleaner. But I can name countless friends and family members who just can't give it up. Well, I just came across this article that may be the bendy straw in your pop that breaks your soda camel's back. Here's hoping this post will be the kick in the butt you (and they) need to have a paradigm shift on this subject.

My sister recently (and almost completely) gave up soda. (SO proud of her!) She has replaced it with, what I think is, a BRILLIANT option as you try to break your soda habit! Whether you like soda for the taste or for the fizz, the next time you're craving a soda, reach for a Pellegrino instead! Add a little lemon or lime, and maybe even a touch of CLEAN sugar (i.e. evaporated cane juice or Sucunat), and see if it helps you to say good-bye to the enemy that is your pop, soda, or "coke."

Click the link at the end to read about each of the below, but here's a brief list of the intriguing and eye-opening facts inside (and some of them, you will notice, are not just about your health or your body. Have you ever thought about how your soda habit is affecting the environment? Neither had I. Yikes.) *Disclaimer - My comments are in ( ). These are not an official part of the article's list.

1. Weird Fat in Weird Places (I just can't help but sing Garth Brooks to this one.)
2. Diet-Soda Belly
3. Caramel Cancer-Causers
4. Accelerated Aging
5. Water Pollution
6. "Mountain Dew Mind" (after "Mountain Dew Mouth")
7. Whacked-Out Hormones (aren't we whacky enough already?!?)
8. Dead Birds (Nope. Not a typo.)
9. The side effects of GMOs (Don't get me started.)

Intrigued? Click here for the full Rodale article by Emily Main.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The First Five Changes to Make RIGHT NOW!

People always ask me what it means to eat clean and how should they start their eat-clean journey. It's so hard to explain clean-eating in a few simple sentences! Because there are many components to eating clean, most people make changes slowly rather than cold turkey. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of clean-eaters who have jumped in with both feet and begun their clean-eating journey with an obliteration of their pantry, fridge, and freezer of anything unclean in one day. That's just not me. 

I'm a work in progress. I eat mostly clean foods each and every day. Sometimes I treat; sometimes I cheat (and usually pay for it later on with a tummy ache or adventurous visit to the bathroom.) When I first started eating clean, I thought I would just jump in and make the switch with no looking back. But I soon realized I would likely achieve more success if I took it day by day and made slow consistent changes. Kind of like "grandfathering in." I grandfathered in clean foods and grandfathered out unclean foods.

Whether you are just starting your eat-clean journey or have just been thinking about it and are still on the fence, what I am about to share is a GREAT way to get started! Even if this is the ONLY thing you do on your eat-clean journey ever, removing these five items from your diet will catapult you into a healthier cleaner lifestyle. 

The following are the top five items to remove from your diet completely. But be warned! Once they're out, it's hard (and oftentimes painful-literally) to let them back in. See my cautionary statement at the end of this post.

I am confident that swapping these five items out for their healthier counterparts accounts for at least half my weight loss thus far! How do I know? Because even over the holidays and all the times since that I have cheated or treated, I have remained at the same weight (not my desired weight yet, but at the 15 pound mark thus far.) This tells me I have created a new baseline weight for me simply by changing these five things!

My plan is to go into more details of each of these items in subsequent blog posts in the coming weeks, so for now I'm just going to list them out for you with some brief insights. And you'll probably see a theme after #2.

  1. White Sugar - Get rid of it ASAP! If the ingredient label of any product states "Sugar," don't buy it/use it/eat it! Opt for Turbinado or Sucunat instead. On the ingredient list, the clean alternative to sugar will be "Evaporated Cane Juice." It's not juice; it's a crystal just like regular sugar and varies in color from semi-white to brown. Crystals range in size from fine to large like you might see atop a large muffin. The size is generally simply determined by the brand and is not labeled as such. You just need to look at it through the bag window, try them, and find your preference. 
  2. White Flour - Never eat anything made with white flour again! Opt for Whole Wheat/Whole Wheat pastry flour instead. Other alternatives include Spelt flour and almond flour. Once you start eating clean and baking some yummy things with these clean alternatives, you'll forget what white flour tasted like. To get you started, I'm going to post my Whole Wheat Clean Eating Banana Bread Recipe this week for you to try!
  3. White Pasta - I know, I know. You've heard all the hullabaloo and tried whole wheat pasta before and it was grainy and nutty and chewy. Yuck. I get it. But the white stuff is not good for you! Try to start with thin whole wheat pasta and not regular spaghetti or other forms (penne, rigatoni, rotini, etc.) Start small and work your way up! 
  4. White Rice - (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) Opt for brown and whole grain rices. Plain and simple. Not from a box with a bunch of other things added to it! (Sorry Uncle Ben). Buy them plain and find ways to spice them up yourself. (P.S. Fried rice from your favorite Chinese Restaurant, while brownish in color, is still white rice! Bummer.)
  5. White Salt - Iodized table salt is also a no-no. The easy substitution is Sea Salt! 
Did you catch on to the theme? White=BAD! If you completely change your consumption of these five items and opt for their healthier counterpart, I guarantee you will start seeing weight fall off, no exercise DVD required (though you should exercise every day anyway.)

* A word of caution! Once you make these changes, after awhile your body will be less able to process them if you go back to eating them (even just once.) Our bodies are not designed to metabolize the above 5 no-nos in the first place, let alone after you have taken them out of your diet for a while! (Ask me how I know this!) So I just want to caution you - if you are going to start removing these things from your regular diet, be ready for a tummy ache or adventurous visit to the bathroom if you fall back to the original refined versions. This should not discourage you! It should show you just how much our bodies need these changes!