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Jennifer Van Dahm
Taking the ordinary out, of everyday living.

Clean Eating Resources

Clean Eating Guide

You're probably wondering what "Clean Eating" is. In a nutshell, it is every day food eaten in its natural  form, without harmful preservatives, additives or alterations. This is not a diet by any means, but a true lifestyle change. Back in 2008, we changed the way we eat, eliminating a lot of pre-packaged food items. At the time, my husband had high cholesterol and would eventually have to go on medication to control it, if it did not lower. I also had unexplainable stomach pains, each time I ate. We decided to change the foods we consumed on a daily basis. Not only did his cholesterol drop back to normal over a four month period, my pains were completely gone as well, and we both lost some weight! I did much research, which included reading two wonderful books called "What the Bible Says About Healthy Living", by Rex Russell, and "Health and Nutrition: God's Word for the Biblically Inept", by Kathleen O'Brannon Baldinger. Be sure to check out my "Resources for Clean Eating" link, over on the left side of this page. I was blown away by the contrast of today's food, verses food in the Biblical times. In Rex's book, he takes time to explain the biblical and scientific reasons why we should eat healthier, and the direct links associated to present and possible future illness, disease, diabetes and obesity. Many of the foods we now eat for convenience are literally making us sick because they are devoid of the fiber and the nutrients that are essential to our health. My passion for cooking expanded once I discovered healthier ways to eat every day foods we like. My recipes in "What's Cookin'?" offer alternative ingredients (turkey bacon vs. pork bacon, whole wheat flour vs. refined white flour, Sucanat sugar vs. brown sugar, sea salt vs. table salt...). However, you will find some recipes listed that use less than healthy ingredients and just wouldn't taste the same if altered...consider those your 10% rule (I'll talk about that later). You will not find recipes using pork/ham products! Why? Here is a quote taken from Rex Russell's book, explaining the risk of eating pork/ham products:

"The digestive system of a pig is completely different from that of a cow. It is similar to ours, in that the stomach is very acidic. Pigs are gluttonous, never know when to stop eating. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food, allowing all kinds of vermin to pass through this protective barrier. Parasite, bacteria, viruses, and toxins can pass into the pig's flesh because of overeating. These toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to humans when they eat a pig's flesh."  
So, even though you cook your pork, heated unevenly allows bacteria and parasites to survive in the meat. Just handling swine has an element of risk. Being that it is an unhealthy meat, you can't count on cooking it to protect you! Here's a fun fact for you...FDA requirement forbids hot dogs from including more than 20% animal hair. This is why I go with 100% all beef, uncured, organic hot dogs verses the cheap pork hot dogs! It is worth the extra dollar spent!
Below is a brief guideline, to substitute unhealthy food for healthy. It has done wonders for our family, and those around me who have changed their eating habits as well. We strive to follow these eating guidelines 90% of the time, within our own home-- allowing 10% for special occasions (holiday seasons, parties, eating at people's homes, potlucks, occasional eating out...). Will you catch me at a fast food restaurant or buying a candy bar at checkout? Yes, occasionally...and by that I mean, once in a while (10% rule). This way of living takes discipline and devotion, but the results are very rewarding! The hardest part is getting started and discovering what is really in your food. Your first grocery trip to revamp your pantry will be a long one, as you will need to take time to read labels. I can promise you that as time goes on, you will automatically know what you can pick up and what you should avoid.

I don't claim to be a dietician, nor a specialist by any means. I do however, speak from personal experience and countless hours of research. It doesn't take an expert to figure out that most food in today's culture is bad for you! I hate that I have to even state this, but this is for the 'sue happy' people out there..."consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet that may affect your medical status". In other words, don't stop your cholesterol medication, just because healthy eating did wonders for my husband, my own father, and many around me. I do hope you will take the time to explore a healthier style of living! Who doesn't want to feel and look great?

Now on to the deep stuff...Chemicals are purposely added to food to change its color, preserve it, prevent rancidity, keeps fats emulsified, and foods stable. Most are synthetic compounds, some with known negative health effects. If you find the below words listed in your food item ingredient list, put it back on the shelf! You are going to find that most pre-packaged and canned items will have one or more of the below listed words. Just because something reads "All Natural" doesn't mean it is your ingredients! Most organic pre-packaged products are clean, but still read the label, and find a brand you can trust and stick with. Just because refined white sugar is organic, it does not make it healthy!


  • The fewer the ingredients, the better. 
  • If there are words you can't pronouce, they are probably not healthy.
  • Fresh is always best, then frozen, then canned. (Most canned foods are very high in sodium. Besides, if it has a shelf life of two years, it probably has ingredients you don't want in your body.) If you have to buy canned, go for salt-free.
  • Good fat can be found in nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
  • High fructose corn syrup is a main contributor in "belly fat", as your body cannot break it down properly. I've seen the commercial that claims it is alright if 'consumed in moderation'-- hard to do, when it is in everything we eat! I think the corn farmers are getting scared because consumers are becoming educated.
  • Ingredient lists on labels are listed by ordered of quantity; first item listed has the highest concentration of that product, and the last item listed has the smallest amount in the product.

Words to Avoid on Ingredient Labels:
  •  hydrogenated oils
  • enriched (flour stripped of the good stuff and then manually added back in)
  • bleached (white sugar and flour)
  • refined (white sugar and flour)
  • calcium or potassium benzoate
  • benzoic acid
  • calcium or sodium sulphite
  • sulphur dioxide 
  • nitrate/nitrite 
  • carrageenan (from Red Seaweed, although "natural" it has petroleum-based qualities)
  • high fructose sugars and syrups
  • color dyes
  • BHT/BHA hormones 
  • animal rennet (fat)
  • trans fats
  • anti-caking agents
  • aspartame
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • paraben
  • saccharin  
  • sugars: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, dextrin, maltose, monosaccharides, disaccharides, unbleached evaporated cane juice, syrup

Quick Glance at Main Offenders in Specific Foods:
*This does not include all the above listed preservatives and additives, just common unhealthy items I see typically listed in the first 3 ingredients of the label.
  • Peanut Butter - added oils (Palm oil), sugars
  • Cereal - enriched or bleached flour, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, benzoic acid, calcium benzoate 
  • Pasta Sauce - high fructose corn syrup
  • Ketchup  - high fructose corn syrup
  • Pickles/Relish - benzoate, dyes 
  • Chips/Crackers/Cookies - enriched or bleached flour, refined sugars, trans fats, hydrogenated oils
  • Broth/Soup - monosodium glutamate (MSG), perservatives
  • Eggs - hormones, steroids
  • Yogurt - high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan
  • Bread - enriched or bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup
  • Pasta - enriched or bleached flour, semolina blend 
  • Juice - high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, dyes
  • Dressings - high fructose corn syrup, MSG
  • Meat - sodium nitrate, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, benzoic acid
  • Dried Fruits/Vegetables - sulfur dioxide
  • Dairy - hormones, anti-caking agents in pre-shredded cheeses
  • Syrup - high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners
  • Frozen Treats - high fructose corn syrup, dyes, artificial sweeteners
  • Flour - bleached, enriched, refined, white   
  • Sugars - bleached, refined, white
  • Butter - trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high sodium 
Good Additives:
Below is a list of additives that have a funny name, but not to worry!
  • pectin/niacin = Stabilizers
  • lecithin = Emulsifier made from soybeans
  • tocopherols, vitamin c = Antioxidants
  • carotene, vitamin A, B2 = Colors   


Healthy Food Substitutes:

  • White flour (producing white flour can take up to 20 steps!) = 100% whole wheat, spelt, or oat flour 
  • Semolina Pasta = 100% whole wheat pasta
  • White rice = brown rice
  • White bread = 100% whole grain, whole wheat (not enriched flour)
  • Vegetable/Canola oil = extra virgin olive oil
  • Table salt = sea salt (includes important minerals and has not been processed or heat treated)
  • White/brown sugar = honey, pure maple syrup, Sucanat, Honey Granules
  • Pre-packaged lunch meat = Deli fresh sliced turkey, chicken, or roast beef, with no nitrates added, like "Boar's Head All Natural" brand
  • Pork bacon = uncured turkey bacon
  • Pork hot dogs = all beef, no nitrates added
  • Farm or pond-raised fish = wild caught, frozen or fresh
  • Baking powder = aluminum free baking powder 
There are many reasons why refined sugars are harmful for you. It tends to promote the growth of disease-causing bacteria and is void of nutritional value. It actually robs your body of valuable nutrients to even metabolize it. Below is a list of healthier sugar substitutes!

Sucanat Sugar
is a granule sweetener made from the juice of the sugar cane. The juice is extracted then the moisture is evaporated off. It has a rich molasses flavor, making it a great substitute for refined brown sugars. Substitute one for one in any recipe!

Honey Granules
is a much milder version of Sucanat. In the processing, a mild honey is added to the juice of the sugar cane before the moisture is evaporated off. It has a sweet flavor, making it a great substitute for refined white sugars. There is no alteration in flavor! Substitute one for one in any recipe!

Pure Honey 
is a sugar, but is natural and unrefined. It contains a lot of nutrients and enzymes that have many beneficial attributes.  It can be substituted one for one in recipes such as bread dough, where you are using only a small amount of sugar in proportion to flour. In recipes where large amounts of sugar are called for in proportion to flour, such as cakes, cookies, and brownies, you can substitute 1/4-1/2 the honey for the sugar called for. Use Tupelo, Sage, or Clover honey for a mild flavor in your breads, pies, cakes and icings. The darker the honey, the stronger the flavor.

Why do I mill my own Whole Wheat Flour?
As soon as a wheat kernel is broken open, as in milling, the nutrients immediately begin to oxidize. Within 72 hours 90% of over 30 nutrients are virtually gone. In the 1920's new technology allowed millers to seperate the wheat components. By removing the germ, germ oil, and the bran, the remaining white flour could be stored indefinitely. This milling process strips the B vitamins as well as about 24 other nutrients from the wheat kernels. Governement requires that millers "enrich" the white flour by replacing 4 vitamins for the 25-30 that are removed. White flour is bleached (chemically-treated) to make it look purer. Unbleached flour is one step better than bleached, enriched flour. You should try to use unbleached, chemical free, whole-grain flour, if store bought. Buying whole-grain bread at the grocery store is not the same as milling your own flour and making it fresh. Most store bought bread is missing the important wheat germ. A rule of thumb is, if the bread is not refrigerated or frozen, then it is missing the wheat germ. Flour that has the germ layer
remaining would turn rancid if not refrigerated, such as fresh milled wheat. 

I buy my alternative sugars and my wheat grains through an online company called Bread Beckers  You can order directly through them or join a local co-op for free, which will save on shipping of heavier items, such as the grains. You can also find it at your local natural whole foods stores.

Commonly Eaten "Unclean" Meat/Seafood:

  • Pig (hog, bacon, ham, lard, pork, most sausage and pepperoni)

  • Rabbit
  • Squirrel
  • Catfish
  • Shark
  • Squid
  • Caviar
  • Swordfish
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Lobster
  • Mussel
  • Oyster
  • Prawn
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
  • Octopus
Most of the seafood listed is considered unclean because they are "filters of the sea". Translation: Their 'job' is to clean up the bad stuff from the ocean and in return you're eating them! I laugh when I see the price of lobster, a so-called delicacy.

Okay, so now that I have completely overwhelmed you, let me answer your question. YES, there are still items you can enjoy and eat! Essentially, you can take any recipe and swap it for healthier ingredients. The key here is to avoid foods that offer more harm than health to your body. Unfortunately, food companies today don't care what they are feeding you, just the fact that you are buying it. Yes, you may pay a little more for a box of cookies, or resort to making your own, but you can rest assured that it has ingredients your body can actually handle and break down properly. Let's break the addiction to commercialized foods, and get back to eating the way God intended us to! If you have any questions or need further guidance regarding clean eating, feel free to contact me As I continue to discover and research clean eating, I will update the site! Want to get updates and chat via Facebook? Visit me at!

What's Cookin'? Recipes
Clean Eating Guide
Frugal Living
Homeschool Resources
Events & Discounts in VA
When Pigs Fly
About Me
Taking the ordinary out, of everyday living.