Eat Your Way to Better Health: The Meal Plan Map Interview
Ivy Larson has cooked up a revolutionary new approach to clean eating. In The Clean Cuisine Cookbook, she demystifies what it truly means to eat clean while offering a roadmap to lifelong health.
Since Meal Plan Map is all about mapping out a healthier and easier way to eat, we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into this new release – and to provide you the back story courtesy our exclusive interview with the author.
My relationship with Ivy goes back years so it was a fun, insightful meet-up that led to the following revelations about clean food and eating clean.
Congrats on the new book, Clean Cuisine Cookbook: 130+ Anti-Inflammatory Recipes to Heal Your Gut, Treat Autoimmune Conditions, and Optimize Your Health. So, tell me, what exactly qualifies as “clean food?”
Thank you! Well, there are a lot of definitions of “clean eating” these days but we define Clean Cuisine as a plant-rich diet based on a wide variety of anti-inflammatory whole foods packaged in their most natural and nutrient-rich form. That means if push came to shove, “whole” olives would be a healthier and more nutrient-dense choice than olive oil. That doesn’t mean we don’t eat extra virgin olive oil though! It just means we recognize which foods are the most nutrient-dense and we make an effort (within reason) to eat more of those foods and less of the nutrient-poor foods. Our Anti-Inflammatory Clean Cuisine Food Pyramid gives you a good snapshot of which foods are the most nutrient-dense.
The obvious follow-up then is why should we make an effort to eat clean?
Every time you eat you have a choice to eat a food that is nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory (ALL anti-inflammatory foods are nutrient-dense, by the way) or to choose a food that is the exact opposite. The more nutrient-dense/anti-inflammatory foods you eat the less whole body inflammation you will have, which means less physical pain, reduced symptoms of any inflammatory condition (such as multiple sclerosis, asthma, allergies, arthritis, etc.), a healthier cardiovascular system, better brain function and even a healthier metabolism. So, the reason to eat clean is to simply feel and look your best, both physically AND mentally.
Tell us what inspired you to turn to this way of eating – and what benefits have you realized by doing so?
In 1998 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 22. The idea of an anti-inflammatory diet making a difference for a disease like MS was not exactly mainstream in 1998. But my neurologist suggested I start an anti-inflammatory diet as a way to slow the progression of the disease and I decided I had nothing to lose by giving the diet a go. That decision is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life because I know now that even if I didn’t have MS, I would have one day had to change my diet if I expected to age gracefully. I’m glad I got started earlier in life because it’s definitely harder to make major life changes the older you get (it’s not impossible, but definitely more of a challenge.). I believe that the diet really has slowed the progression of my disease though. It has been two decades since my diagnosis and (knock on wood!) I have not needed to take the disease-modifying medications used to treat MS. Over the years I have modified the diet to be more plant-based, but I would say one of the biggest things I have learned as it relates to food in the last two decades is that the less hard and fast rules you make the better. It’s not about eating perfectly; it’s about making better choices bit by bit, day by day. It all adds up. And the more you focus on all the foods you SHOULD eat, the more you stop obsessing about all of the foods you shouldn’t eat. Also, the anti-inflammatory/nutrient-dense foods curb food cravings, so the more good stuff you eat the less room and the fewer cravings you have for the bad stuff.
What are your absolutely favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert?
Oh my gosh! That’s a super hard question because my food preferences can change on a daily basis. I really do think I am pretty dialed in to what my body needs and sometimes I just KNOW I need to eat fish and other nights I feel like a baked potato and Caesar salad will do the trick. So, I supposed you could say my favorite recipes change with my mood and even my appetite. Today I worked out in the morning and on exercise days I am always hungrier than I might otherwise be. I’m a big believer in intermittent fasting so I always wait to eat in the morning until I get hungry. The only thing I eat the same of each day is my Hormone Smoothie recipe (this is great for guys too by the way!) and then for lunch I almost always keep it plant-based. One of my favorite things for lunch is a vegetable soup of some sort. I always keep a large pot of vegetable soup ready-made in the fridge because I find it to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to make sure I eat more vegetables. I usually add a baked potato or a bean dish (I try to eat a serving of beans every day) to my soup with lunch and then for dinner I keep it pretty wide open. I don’t have a favorite recipe exactly, but tonight we are having this clean remake of Julia Child’s Coq au Vin along with salad and I’m sure I’ll have some of the homemade clean chocolate bark I have leftover in the refrigerator too 😉
Where are the best places you’ve found to buy clean foods?
If I want to walk in and physically pick out the food I still have the best luck with Whole Foods Market overall. However, Costco has A LOT of great new clean food options these days. As for online, I love Thrive Market. And when all else fails, there’s always Amazon.
Can I eat clean without spending a lot of money or spending a lot of time in the kitchen?
Absolutely! So many of the clean foods on our Clean Cuisine food pyramid are plant-based and very economical. I mean beans are one of the cheapest and most nutrient-dense foods you can eat on the planet! I know fresh produce can get pricey, but frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh (sometimes even more so!) and very economical. You also don’t need to turn everything into a recipe. What I mean by that is that you can still eat a clean breakfast just by making yourself an avocado, egg and tomato open-faced sandwich. All you have to do to make that is toast a slice of sprouted whole grain bread, fry an egg, slice some avocado and tomato and pile each ingredient on top of the other. The whole thing shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. The point is that it doesn’t need to be anything fancy; it can just be real food. And it can be delicious!
If I came to your house right now what foods would I find in your fridge, pantry and cupboards?
Great question! You would mostly find “ingredients” – we have very few prepared items. What I mean by that is that the popcorn is raw not pre-popped and mixed in oil. You’ll find TONS of different unrefined flours (almond flour, cassava flour, coconut flour, gluten-free oat flour, etc), but you won’t find packaged foods made with flour in our cupboard. You’ll also find LOTS of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, canned and dried beans, nuts and seeds of every type, lots of spices, vinegars and fresh and dried herbs. I also have a special section of the cupboard for superfoods such as camu powder, maca, ashwaghanda, etc. You’ll definitely find a full fridge and a full cupboard though! There is always plenty of food!!
ABOU THE AUTHOR: Ivy Larson is a nutrition, fitness and wellness expert and the creator of Clean Cuisine. She is the founder of CleanCuisine.com and author of four nutrition books including the bestselling Gold Coast Cure and Clean Cuisine: An 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program that Will Change the Way You Age, Look & Feel. She is also an American College of Sports Medicine certified Health Fitness Specialist and creator of Full Fitness Fusion: The 30 Minute Solution workout DVD. Ivy holds additional professional certifications as a fitness instructor and fitness testing specialist through the Fitness Institute International.