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Clean Eating: How to make sure it never tastes bland

Chicken legs with tomatoes, oranges and herbs

Transitioning from a processed diet to a “clean” whole-foods diet can be hard on our minds, but hardest of all, on our taste buds. However, we persevere knowing it will make us feel good and give us that enviable beach bod, and eventually, we realise that “clean” food can actually taste pretty good. “Clean-Eating” is not about miserably munching on celery. It’s about nourishing your body and mind with fresh, healthy food. In fact, “clean” foods can actually taste positively decadent when you dress them up in the right way. Stealing both the oldest and the newest techniques for flavouring food we have created a list so that you never have to be faced with the prospect of a meal which you aren’t excited about eating.

But first, what exactly is Clean-Eating?

Raw salmon fillets on a chopping board with salt

“Clean-Eating”, it’s the phrase made famous by #Fitspo Instagram pages and the new “healthy living generation”, and is in fact one of the 2016 Words of the Year. “Clean-Eating” cannot be easily defined, as everyone has different interpretations of what they believe constitutes a “clean” diet. However, most people would agree that it is more than just a short-term diet; it’s a lifestyle which you adopt in order to get healthier and shed unwanted weight. You gradually introduce “clean” diet habits into your life, so that eventually, your diet consists of whole foods which have been put through as little processing as possible. This means avoiding foods that have an ingredients list, and especially if that list includes ingredients which you have never heard of or cannot pronounce. Instead, it’s about eating whole, unprocessed foods, particularly those which are organic, seasonal and sustainable.

You may initially wonder, “why should I eat healthier?” The truth is that eating a healthy and “clean” diet doesn’t just affect you externally through a toned body and shiny hair. It can also make you more productive and even make you feel happier, as 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and make you less stressed since certain foods have the ability to moderate our body's production of cortisol (a hormone which is released to excess when we are stressed, and leads to weight gain, particularly in the stomach area).

Spicing up your meals

An array of Indian spices. By Joe mon bkk

A “clean” diet can be infinitely improved through the inclusion of spices and herbs which can really bring out, enhance or even dilute the flavour of foods. Not only can they make your food more appealing with a pleasant aroma, but can also add a myriad of health benefits to your meals! Below we have curated a list of our favourite spices and herbs, their health benefits, and what you can use them for.

Cinnamon: This spice has a sweet, woody fragrance synonymous with autumn. It really brings out the natural sweetness in foods such as pumpkin, apples, bananas sweet potato (try roasting them sprinkled with cinnamon, it’s a game changer), and works extremely well in desserts (and no, unfortunately we’re not talking about cinnamon rolls). It’s also a delicious addition to many “clean” savoury dishes, such as roasted chicken. Try making this Cinnamon-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Sauce recipe. If you’re looking for something a little simpler, try just microwaving some bananas and apples sprinkled with cinnamon. It tastes like a dessert, minus the processed sugar. Cinnamon could help to regulate blood sugar, promote better brain function, and protect our bodies against diabetes. All that for making your food taste awesome.

Turmeric:Turmeric is used in dishes for its uniquely bright, yellow colour (which is likely to stain everything in your kitchen if you aren’t careful), pungent, bitter flavour, and myriad of crazy health benefits, especially its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric adds the necessary bitterness and works best in homemade curries and stews, in salad dressings, with roasted vegetables such as cauliflower or cooked with fish or chicken. You could even try adding it to smoothies or milks, like this Turmeric Milk Recipe.

Cumin: This herb can take you away to an exotic country like India or Mexico. It smells delicious, and will make your food taste even better! It has a nutty, spicy taste with bitter undertones of lemon and pepper. Many people describe it as “earthy” or “woody.” It can be used in a vast array of different dishes, such as a healthy stew, as a “rub” for meats, in sauces or vinaigrette’s, in homemade breads, or to enhance the flavour of your vegetables. As an added bonus, cumin is great for digestion, boosting the immune system, helping to remove toxins from the body, and even preventing anaemia, as the spice is very rich in iron! To explore the clean-eating-enhancing abilities of cumin, try making this Spice-Crusted Salmon with Citrus Sauce.

Other Bland-Busting Clean-Eating Strategies

Healthy oat crepes with fruit and yoghurt

You can also make Clean-Eating exciting and tasty using various nut butters, frozen fruits, supplements, and natural sweeteners, all of which come with unique health benefits. These additions can enhance the flavour of your meal, and help you to create delicious healthy recipes which will keep you firmly on the processed-food-free-bandwagon.

Citrus fruits (oranges, limes and lemons): Adding citrus fruits to your meals can give you your sweet-fix, add a generous dose of vitamin C and help you to digest your meal seamlessly. All of these fruits are great additions to any salad used in place of a fatty or sugary dressing, and can also be used in soups, stews, or to add an exotic flavour to a roasted salmon or chicken recipe. Try making this Bahamian Conch Salad, which tastes delicious due to the mixture of lime, lemon and orange juice. If you do not have conch available to you, you could instead use chicken, or tofu or artichoke hearts if you’re vegetarian.

Pure Maple Syrup: You don’t have to eliminate all forms of sugar from your diet. The beneficial nutrients, protective antioxidants and phytochemicals found in maple syrup make it well worth your time. Unlike plain white sugar, maple syrup contains important minerals like zinc and manganese. It also has a low score on the glycaemic index, and can help your body to fight inflammatory diseases. For your healthy sweet fix, try making these Raw Raspberry & Cashew Cookies to snack on, or try making a dressing like this Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette to top off your salads. You could also add a tablespoon of the syrup to your salmon or chicken before you bake it and voilà, Clean-Eating is suddenly not so boring.

A slice of raw chocolate hemp seed pie

Nut and Seed Butters: Almond, hazelnut, pistachio, cashew, pumpkin, Brazil nut… There is a whole array of different types of nut butters which you can add to your recipes to take them to the next level of deliciousness. With the addition of your favourite nut butter, smoothies become creamy and milkshake-like, your go-to healthy dressing recipe becomes even tastier, porridge becomes even more satisfying, and the world of healthy desserts officially opens up to you. Interested? Try making this Creamy Nut Butter Sauce to add to your next meal.

Frozen Fruit: When a fruit is frozen it becomes sweeter, and the world of fruity culinary pursuits expands just a little wider. Try making your own clean, decadent ice cream using frozen fruits such as bananas, mango, pineapple, grapes and berries. You can then add spices (like cinnamon), herbs (such as mint), cacao nibs, nut butters, extracts (like vanilla or peppermint) and superfoods into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a party. Try making this Salted Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Caramel Sauce.

Nutritional Yeast: This supplement is “deactivated yeast”, and has a dry, flaky texture. Doesn’t sound too appealing does it? That’s until you try it in a variety of dishes and realise it lends a very cheesy, nutty taste to them. In addition, it contains B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein. It’s also gluten free and high in fibre. Try making this Nutritional Yeast “Cheese” Sauce or “Cheesy” Roasted Cauliflower. You can also sprinkle it on your salads to jazz them up.

It is so easy to find all of these ingredients at the touch of a finger on the ‘Shoptimix App’, rather than trawling through a supermarket. Download Shoptimix if you want to make Clean-Eating planning manageable and within easy reach on your phone. You can also check out Shoptimix’s Clean-Eating recommendation list by health and fitness blogger The Blond Berry.

Thinking about following a Clean Eating diet? Find the products you need to get started in the Clean Eating Shopping List by blogger Hannela Matthews

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