April 16, 2014

How to Eat Clean in Unpredictable Situations: Guest Post by Katherine Kartis

I often find myself in situations that pose several challenges to eating clean. Recent examples that come to mind include my twenty-five hour plane ride to Bali, a day trip to Disneyland and the occasional family gathering where processed food is front and center. Instead of seeing a problem, I see a solution. Planning ahead and being resourceful can make this little challenge into a fun game, which is important since you will probably encounter dozens of healthy eating obstacles for the rest of your life. These are my tips and tricks for preparing for the unpredictable:

If it’s your birthday, then happy birthday! You are in control of the healthy cake you choose to bake or selecting venue with all-natural food options. However, if you’re attending your friend’s party at TGI Friday’s, I’m sorry. I make sure to research menus ahead of time so I can narrow down a couple of healthy options. Worse case scenario if everything on the menu is junk, I eat ahead of time. Some people think it’s rude or strange, but what’s even stranger in my opinion is consuming food that has been microwaved, deep-fried and injected with countless additives, artificial colorings and bovine growth hormones. If your friend is a real friend, he or she will understand and respect that you put your health first! Putting your health first and opting to skip the processed food doesn’t make you a party pooper; you’re still the same person and will have a great time (hopefully). You’ll just be healthier and feel better than the rest of your friends!

Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you need to help yourself to fifth and sixth helpings in order to partake in the festivities. Be thankful for the food, but not so thankful that food is backed up in your body so deep that it’s just sitting at the opening of your esophagus. Similarly, just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean you have to eat candy. Start a new tradition and make creative treats using all-natural food coloring, coconut sugar, almond flour and other healthier substitutes for mainstream baked goods. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to try out a raw cacao and coconut milk “hot chocolate” instead of buying your sweetheart sugary, artificial chocolate hearts from the drugstore. Holidays are about appreciating time with your loved ones, so it’s especially important to feel and look your best.

Find an economically and sustainable routine and be disciplined about sticking to it. On Saturdays I food shop for the following week and on Sundays I cook my meals and organize them in mason jars. It may take a few times to know how much food you need, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t perfect the formula right away. The important thing is to always have staples readily accessible and make sure they’re organized in a way that makes sense to you. Some people find that it’s easier to cook their work lunch the day before, however I like to prepare all my meals and snacks for the week in one day. If you have a fridge at work, store healthy snacks and meals in it so you never have to resort to wasting money and calories on processed food. My food staples include dark leafy greens, fresh produce in season, eggs, almonds, avocado, coconut oil, grapefruit, apples and oranges. For proteins I always have raw nut butters, eggs, beans, and occasionally free-range, grass-fed meat, and wild, fresh seafood. I prepare everything in coconut oil or olive oil. I never use a microwave because it’s unnatural as it kills the nutrients and changes the chemistry of food. I also do not add sweetener to anything, even if it’s organic. I rely on my Klean Kanteen to stay hydrated with water throughout the day.

Family Gatherings
Some family members will be more accepting of your healthy lifestyle and commitment to eating non processed food. Unfortunately, that’s life. Ultimately, you are in charge of what goes in your body. If it means telling white lies such as you’re allergic to certain ingredients and therefore need to avoid them so you don’t have to have the annoying conversation about your food requests, then I say go for it. I don’t condone lying whatsoever, but sometimes a white lie to avoid eating terrible junk food is the only solution. If your family is receptive and accommodating, then of course you can tell the truth in a non-judgmental way. As another last resort, you can bring your own food ahead of time. If your family is especially accommodating, hopefully you can arrange to have some edible options at the gathering.

Amusement Parks
Last month I took a day trip to Disneyland. I already knew I wouldn’t be able to eat literally anything in the entire park, despite my love for all things Disney. All the food is highly processed. Even the “healthy” options are incredibly unhealthy and filled with preservatives, GMOs, and have high sugar content. Almonds and low-maintenance fruit like apples and oranges are easy to store in a bag and can keep you full for hours.

Movie Theaters
I honestly cannot remember the last time I ate movie theater food. I don’t understand why people do either— it’s ridiculously expensive and filled with empty calories. Movie theater popcorn “butter” sauce smells like feet, in my opinion. Before heading to the movies I carry a small mason jar with a protein and fiber combo. Blueberries and cacao nibs is a favorite. An avocado, arugula, cashew salad is a close second. These snacks are easy to put together in two minutes— it takes longer to wait in line for that $8 popcorn.

Plane Rides
I always pack my own food. Mason jars are my savior. Airport security regulations and the 3.5 liquid ounce policy can make the idea of carrying your own food less enticing, but I recently got away with an entire carry-on sized bag filled with two jars of bee pollen, almond butter, and nori sticks on my flight from Bali to New York, which included a layover in Shanghai. Do a little research before hand and spend the extra half-hour preparing your snacks in advance. The alternative is consuming the delicious defrosted, high-sodium mystery meat. Yum (Not!)

Traveling abroad can be really tricky. The biggest food challenge I ever faced was during my 10-day trip to Russia. My only options were mayonnaise and vodka, neither which I consume. I literally lived off of organic granola, the best and only option, for a couple of days. The rest of the time I ordered porridge with real fruit and tried to fill up on salads and lean protein whenever possible.

While in Bali, I chose to spend a little more at the cool raw vegan restaurants like Alchemy and Clear Café. Everyone I spoke to who ate the local food got “Bali Belly,” a.k.a. the worst parasitic stomach virus you can imagine, at one point or another.  I decided that eating MSG laden street food, fried rice, and meat at the local Warungs for $1 was not worth the risk of potentially regurgitating it back up for the next 48 hours. Besides, I always feel bloated, greasy, tired and depressed after eating fried rice and fried food.

When presented with a healthier option, I believe it always makes sense to take it, regardless of the monetary cost.
Katherine resided in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Missouri and Florida before returning to her native New York City roots to attend NYU in 2008. She was accepted into the Stella Adler Studio of Acting at Tisch School of the Arts, however decided to major in French after her first semester. Her studies abroad in France as well as her solo trip to Bali top her list of most memorable experiences. Katherine's professional background includes a marketing internship at Zagat and Google, various front of house positions at New York City's top restaurants, and an analyst role at a hospitality management advisory firm. Upon returning from Bali, her true calling to work in some capacity with natural food was confirmed. Since childhood, Katherine has always been fascinated by the direct correlation between what we eat and how we look and feel. Her innate interest in all things natural, from food to products, has shaped the holistic approach she takes in her daily life. Katherine doesn’t believe in diets or quick fixes, but rather sustainable lifestyle choices focused on clean foods that provide optimal nutrition.


  1. This is a great post! I love how solution-oriented you are in these situations. I agree that things heated in the microwave taste worse, but how do you heat up food at your office? We only have a microwave in my office kitchen, no stove or oven. Or do you only eat raw food?

    1. Hi Omoriala,

      Truthfully, when the only heating device in your office is a microwave, I would avoid it all together. It's not a healthy sustainable option. Learn to love eating foods that you don't have to heat up. This can mean sticking to raw foods, but it can also mean you cook your meals ahead of time and then eat them cold. For example, I don't mind eating pasta or chicken cold on occasion. There's so many meals that taste great cold, and in the long run are so much better for your health than microwaveable meals. Quinoa salads with kale, avocado and veggies is my favorite go to lunch. For more inspiration follow my instagram @katherinekartis.

      Good luck! I can't wait to hear about your healthy work lunches :)


    2. Hi Omoriala,

      I have the same problem. I solve it by trying to bring salads and food that doesn't need to be heated up or eat some pasta dishes cold. If I do have soup or something, I am kind of forced to put it in the microwave as I have no other choice at my office :( I really don't like it, and try to avoid it as much as possible.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. So inspiring and impressive! Such great tips.

  3. Such great tips!!! Thanks for sharing! Will def. put some of these to good use.

    1. Hi, thank you so much for your comment!

  4. Great article...so right about Disney too - it is really sad that there are not many (if any) healthy options there for the kids that visit (and the adults - judging by what I saw last time I was there there were lots of adults in need of healthy eating habits)....

    1. I know, Disney could definitely adopt some green practices when it comes to food. They have such a huge market and could really make a positive impact by sourcing their food better and having healthier, more nutritionally rich food.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

    2. Completely agreed, it's such a shame that Disney is making it nearly impossible to be healthy for visiting families. Children (and adults!) should not be running on sugar, soda, and fried food. Hopefully Disney will change their ways soon!

  5. Yup most people are unfortunately completely addicted to sugar,salt and fat...all the large food manufacturers use a 'Bliss Point' to make their junk food and meals taste the most appealing to the majority of consumers..it's a sick and scary science..big money and no morals!!
    If you are paying attention it's very easy to wean your self away from this cr*p and eat smaller, easy to prepare and carry snacks where ever you go! Everything you eat doesn't have to be a comfort treat!
    I eat until I'm not hungry , not until I'm full...way more energy..higher metabolism and you'll feel sexier! ...it's ok to just graze on healthy snacks and concentrate on what you are actually seeing and doing ...there will be a lot more time in the days for the fun stuff.

    Loving this blog!

    1. Absolutely! We all need healthy fats, lean proteins, and unrefined carbohydrates. What we don't ever need are the preservatives, chemicals and sugar that come along with them.

  6. All of the gang enjoying their time in the magical Flinders Ranges and Broken Hill. Broken Hill is a mecca for great movie sets and fascinating people.
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  8. I'm curious to know: what brand of nutrition bars you recommend? I always look for minimal ingredients, but so many nutrition bars are packed with sugars and bad ingredients.

    1. I don't buy nutrition bars because they all come in non-recyclable packaging. I make my own - you can find my recipe here: http://www.trashisfortossers.com/2013/09/no-bake-energy-bars.html . I usually make those and just add some extra ingredients that I like. They are really, really good and filling!

    2. Hi Emily! Lauren is absolutely right. It's a shame that more nutrition bars do not have recyclable packaging, so it would be ideal to make your own. However, word is edible wrappers will be the sustainable packaging of the future.


  9. I see that this blogpost is old, but I will write anyway. First of all: it sounds very empowering to achive this kind of dicipline of your entire way of life. I'm guessing it is kind of a addiction as well, you feel more and more in control and that makes you want to be even more in control.
    Don't get me wrong, it's a good kind of addiction.

    What I want to know is how us regular folk should achive this. Your life is about this way of life, its almost like your religion(from my persperctive). But what about us, that think: "Wow thats cool" but we don't have the same motivation?

    One of the reasons why I don't know if I could sustain this kind of lifestyle is because: I love forregin food. I love going to a new country and eating what they eat. I was travelling for 7 months and I went to several countries one of them India. Even though I got the "Dehli-belly", I still ate everything that the locals ate, because they also had the same problems, and I felt like that was a part of the experience of being in India: eating like them, feeling like them, sleeping like them and so on.
    So I don't think I could go to a country like Russia, and not try the food, cause I really belive that is a part of experiencing the culture. So in my head you are really missing out on some crusual stuff while traveling.

    The other thing I find myself questioning: What about us that really like the cinema food? I mean, I don't go to the cinema much, cause I am a poor student living in the very expensive Norway, but when I first go I like to eat the popcorn with the horrible greasy butter....
    I also like to eat at Burger King a couple of times a year. And I have tried all of those ways of eating, and they just bore me to much in the end, and I don't have the diciplin to continue finding new ways of making food. I think this is the problem a lot of people experience, and for you it sounds like it came very natural: You didn't like greasy popcorn, so you just don't eat it. I wouldn't eat it either if I didn't like it, but I do like it a lot.... Get my drift?

    Maybe you have written about all of my questions somewhere else, I just found this blogpost today. And I am guessing the answer to all of them are: If you want it enough you will do it. I really want to get better at it, maybe not up to your level, but definetly be better in my everyday life, like having my own food at work, eating healthy dinners and not end up spending money on shit food. But I know in my heart that I am not willing to give up the holiday food and eating local food while traveling.

    This is mostly just me writing my thoughts on this blogpost now, but the whole topic fascinates me.

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  11. I think this is a wonderful story! I honestly cannot remember the last time I ate movie theater food. I don’t understand why people do either— it’s ridiculously expensive and filled with empty calories. Movie theater popcorn “butter” sauce smells like feet, in my opinion.Article About Sports

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  14. thanks for these tips! I follow some of them already, and it's nice to know my values already synchronize w yours. Also, I found out that veganism is really minimalistic: meat and dairy are one of the most unnecessary processed foods on the earth! The next step-going vegan!

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