Kymberly Kelly opens up her refrigerator doors and chats about being a former “junk-food junkie” gone clean-eating enthusiast.
You have a very stocked refrigerator for a New Yorker. Is it hard to keep the shelves full?
It is. I got into a habit of keeping the refrigerator stocked this summer because I wanted to make my diet as clean as possible, which is much easier when you’re cooking for yourself.
What was your motivation for eating clean? Do you have any allergies?
I have some things that don’t make me feel as good as others, and I wanted to take the time to learn what foods are optimal for my body. Using an elimination diet I cut out gluten, dairy, sugars, nuts, caffeine, soy, other grains and nightshades. The idea is to then re-introduce them one at a time and see how you feel.
How was the change? What was the hardest to give up?
I have a serious sweet tooth, so coming off of all sugar, not including natural sugars in fruit, left me fighting some serious cravings. They did fade after a few weeks and I began to feel significantly better. I’m always recommending to my patients to cut the junk out but then to do it fully, 100% the right way and see the effects. It really showed me how we can change our bodies’ functioning with our eating. It improved my sleep, my digestion and moods.
Are there any foods you would never eat?
I’m not “anti-“ any food. I think food is highly subjective and personal, so I think people really need to experiment and decide for themselves how they feel when they eat certain foods. If you’re suspicious that some food is causing problems for you, an elimination diet is a great way to determine that. My patients are often pleasantly surprised to find out that conditions they thought were chronic and they would be struggling with for life can often be managed or eliminated completely with some dietary changes.
Will you stay with this diet?
I will but I’ll make some modifications. Originally I wasn’t eating eggs or nuts to see if I was reacting to them, but I have since reintroduced them and I seem to be fine with them. I still keep most of the crap out, but if I want a cup of coffee or a cookie, I’ll have it once a week as a treat. If I want a treat of any kind I’ll try to keep it to once a week. People can also be too extreme with the clean eating and it can be hard to socialize. I think there is room for moderation.
What are the important “must haves”?
I prefer small meals, and I like them often, so having clean snacks around is important. Foods that are fibrous, fatty and will fill me up like avocados, turkey slices and almonds are daily, “must-have” snacks.
I can see you eat the Applegate’s cold cuts.
This brand is organic and hormone free. I think it’s important to understand what we put in our bodies and also to be conscious of the treatment of the animals.
What’s that in the corner? It looks like bread.
That’s a paleo bread. It’s a grain free bread, usually baked with a nut flour or coconut flour as its base instead of wheat flour. They often still have eggs so people with that allergy should be cautious. And it tastes…okay. It can be nice with a nut butter for a hearty taste. Or sometimes I’ll put some turkey slices, an egg and avocado on it for a light meal.
You’re a great example of how it doesn’t have to be a huge meal to be “a meal,” it’s okay to eat in bits and pieces. I see you’re an almond milk drinker.
I like coconut and almond milk, but it’s important to check the ingredients because some have more fillers than others. I’m lucky that the health food store near me has almond milk brought to them that is really just almonds with no fillers or preservatives, but it is pricey.
It can definitely be expensive to eat healthy. Any advice?
You need to figure out where you can cut some of the costs and what you want to be totally organic; For me, that’s animal products. The fruit or veggies are hit or miss. If it has a thick skin it can be okay not to get organic, but if you’re eating the skin then you want to make sure it doesn’t have pesticides on it.
Being knowledgeable about what we put in our bodies is crucial to taking control and ownership of our health.
Definitely. I have a funny story about the Poland Spring Bubbly water. I actually called the company to figure out, what are these flavors? And they were like, “It’s just lime.” And where does the raspberry flavor come from? “It just comes from raspberries.” So after talking to the company it seems to be a really clean product. When people are coming off sodas it’s great because they want the bubbles and some flavor.
Thank you, Ms. Clean-Eating detective! Any last comments about your relationship with food?
Well, it’s been changing. Honestly years ago I was the biggest junk food junkie. Now I’m trying to keep the ingredients simple and it’s been a huge revelation for me. When you start feeling better you are inspired to cook, whereas before I couldn’t be bothered. Now I know I can make delicious food and cook cleanly. So yeah, former junk food junkie goes clean, and it works!