A new eating philosophy has taken hold amid the industrialisation of food production, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
“Eat clean” is the new buzzword for the health-conscious.
To have clean foods is to say that some foods are “dirty”, in this case, mass-produced factory meals that are loaded with flavourings, chemical preservatives and unnatural colours. Eating clean requires a deliberate and informed decision to eat only wholesome, untainted food. Sometimes, it requires new ways of preparing meals or using new and different ingredients.
Some find this too hard. Perhaps the temptation is too great or there are logistical problems. Hence, cheat days. This is when eat clean-ers placate the glutton within and eat what the rest of the population eats. But steering and helping out the Eat Clean movement are companies like Granola Geeks, which offers deliveries of fresh handmade granola mixes with no additives or refined sugar.
Raisin’ the Roof café in Bukit Damansara caters to the daytime crowd; runners and light lunch eaters among them. Its menu includes quinoa salad, sweet potato and eggplant rendang, chickpea crepe and nut milk.
Meanwhile, The Naked Lunchbox delivers freshly-made meals with five promises; 1) No added artificial preservatives 2) No added sugars or artificial sweeteners 3) No added MSG 4) No dairy and 5) No gluten.
I spoke to the founders of these companies about the Eat Clean philosophy.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF “EAT CLEAN” AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Goh Hua Yein and Melissa Toh of Granola Geeks: For us, eating clean is about eating whole foods. Fruit, plants, meat and anything that is minimally processed.
Serina S. Bajaj, Raisin’ the Roof founder:It’s about eating foods that are unprocessed. Foods that are natural and also eating as much local produce as possible. I don’t count calories, I believe in counting nutrition. If you eat clean you feel better, look better, and have more energy.
Cheryl Ho of The Naked Lunchbox: Avoiding all things unnatural as often as you can. That means consuming mostly natural foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, meats or grains instead of sausages, pastries, cheese, soft drinks or items with artificial flavourings.
The benefits would be that your body will absorb the rich vitamins and nutrients needed from natural foods as opposed to the empty calories and artificial additives. This is fundamental to keep you healthy and for the prevention of sickness or disease.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PROCESSED FOOD?
Goh and Toh: Processed food is everywhere. Most things on supermarket shelves are processed. Even your daily cereals or snacks. If you care to check the ingredients, you wouldn’t even know what some of the ingredients are. However, to avoid them completely is silly as some processed foods can still be that guilty treat.
Serina: It’s something that I’m against. A once-in-a-while indulgence is okay, but I have an 11-month-old daughter and I teach her (to avoid processed food). If I look at a product and I don’t know how to pronounce it, I don’t eat it because it’s probably some chemical that I don’t know of. The shelf life of our juices is only two days because there are no preservatives.
Ho: Nothing good, of course! It’s convenient for sure, but again, it doesn’t give you the nutrition you need. If that happens too often, your body will break down. But processed food is hard to avoid entirely. Consuming in moderation and avoiding as often as you can is best.
DO YOU AGREE WITH CHEAT DAYS?
Goh and Toh: We do not agree with cheat days but we do agree with cheat meals. We think people tend to go overboard with cheat days. Cheat meals are much safer if you are looking to cut some kilos off.
Serina: I do. Five days a week I’m really good but on weekends when we go out and there’s something that I want to eat, I eat. So if I go see a movie and I want popcorn, then I will. But I’ve been eating clean for a while and I don’t really like greasy food. Over the years I stopped having sweet cravings so much so milk chocolate is too sweet for me now.
Ho: Yes, of course! Staying healthy is about wellness. That includes not just the body but the soul and spirit as well. Keeping your emotions healthy is important too. Do what makes you happy.
SOME ARE AVERSE TO CHANGING THEIR UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS. HOW DO YOU CONVINCE THEM?
Goh and Toh: We actually know quite a few people like that. It’s hard when they’ve grown accustomed to that certain taste for unhealthy food so just the very thought of eating something healthy puts them off. The only way to try to convince them is to make healthy food as delicious as possible, and not tell them about the health benefits. After they’ve eaten it and said that it was delicious, then you can tell them!
Serina: It’s really hard to convince people and I know because I went through it. I was overweight as a teenager and was told off countless times by my parents. You can only say so much but the realisation has to come from within. So one day I woke up and I realised that I was done with that. I started exercising, but (your weight and physical wellbeing) is 80 per cent food and 20 per cent exercise. You can exercise all you want but if you eat rubbish, you’re not going to feel or look better.
Malaysians like food, so the biggest obstacle is to be convinced that eating healthy is an investment. Sometimes with healthy food, because we use premium ingredients, the prices are a bit expensive. But it’s an investment for your body and health. It’s better than paying hospital bills.
Ho: This is very understandable! But it’s important to focus on wellness which is the prevention of diseases. This is what you need to do, to ensure that you do what you can to live a long and healthy life. If you continue to maintain unhealthy eating habits, you must be ready to bear the consequence, which is that it would be easier to succumb to illnesses and diseases. It’s pretty simple.
FROM ALL THE FOOD ITEMS THAT YOU OFFER, WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR?
Goh and Toh: Our original, the Oat to Joy, is still the most popular. It’s made of rolled oats, rye flakes, nuts and seeds with dried cranberries and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s something you wouldn’t mind consuming daily.
Serina: The pistachio falafel wrap with raw vegan chilli sauce. We started corporate events catering and it’s been really popular. I eat it three times a week. The big brunch plate is also a big seller. People want sausage and ours is made from chickpea and tofu. It’s value for money as well.
Ho: Our salads such as Lady Tremaine with lettuce, spinach, roasted pumpkin and tofu have been many of our clients’ favourite.