She didn’t have time to shower, fresh from the gym and tucking into an egg white omelet crowded with veggies in the dining room of the Hollander Hotel in St. Petersburg. But still, Mareya Ibrahim, known as "the Fit Foodie," was a vivacious dynamo, giving the Tampa Bay Times a quick rundown of food and health trends to watch for in 2018 before spending the day promoting her line of natural and organic products at HSN. A nationally recognized food safety and clean-eating expert, she is the founder of Grow Green Industries, author of The Clean Eating Handbook and featured chef on the Emmy-nominated cooking show Recipe Rehab.
What made you start the EatCleaner line?
Thirteen years ago my father, an environmental scientist, got bladder and prostate cancer. He had always been my rock. He had radical surgery, but we thought there had never been a better time to start a line of products that help offer cleaner, safer and longer-lasting produce. Less than 10 percent of produce is organic and most produce goes through 30 sets of hands before you eat it. Ninety-nine percent of pesticides are on the surface of produce and water is not an effective cleaner.
How should people change how they cook at home?
Meal prep is the most important thing for people to do strategically to maintain their weight, health and sanity. Having a plan allows you to be more economical. Make things once, double the batch and freeze half. If you shop at club stores, this is a way to get through produce and not waste it.
What are the big health trends you’re anticipating for 2018?
It’s about getting beyond basics — boosted basics. Almond milk boosted with flax and chia and superfood add-ons. Even protein powder with enzymes and spirulina. If you’re not boosted, you’re basic. We want food to be as multifunctional as a Swiss Army knife. Foods need to have multiple benefits. You’ll see ghee and alternative fats that come in flavors like white truffle or Tahitian vanilla. Ancient grains will continue to be a staple. They help to fill your amino acid profile, and because they can be made ahead, they are a huge part of meal prep, and you can take them from breakfast to dinner.
So fat isn’t bad?
We’re barking up the wrong tree with all the carbs. Fat digests differently. But we’ll see animal proteins more as a condiment versus the focus. People will realize we need to rotate the plate a little. We’ll focus more on plant-based fats, with meat taking up a quarter of the plate. That’s the future. Vegetables contain protein, and can be combined to make complete proteins.
What should people avoid?
Frying is horrible. It acidifies food and creates free radicals. Sugary beverages are a huge problem. This doughnut trend is not good. But you can go by the 90/10 rule: If 90 percent of what you eat is on point, you can cheat with the 10 percent. In this Instagram and Pinterest world, of course you want to dive in.
Juicing is complicated. Green juices are good, but I’m a big proponent of eating fruit, not drinking it, because of the benefits of fiber. ...
What are five things we eat that we think are healthy but are not?
Prepared smoothies, granola and yogurt are huge sugar bombs, deli meats with additives and nitrates, and energy bars. You should make your own energy bars. And with alternative milks, they are often nutrient voids and you’re paying a lot of money for water and fillers.
How can people be better consumers?
Read labels and make sure you understand what a serving size is. The most concentrated ingredients are listed first. There are 14,000 approved food additives — stay away from anything hydrogenated and from sodium benzoate. In general, avoid prepared foods with more than 10 ingredients.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.