In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Mareya Ibrahim: Fit Foodie Chef
You are back In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt! I’m introducing you to someone that I’ve already interviewed once, maybe even twice. I love her so much I just keep asking her to come back on. She is a celebrity, TV chef, holistic nutritional coach, co-inventor of Eat Cleaner products and an award-winning entrepreneur. She’s been on Recipe Rehab and the Food Network. Author of the new book, Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive, and host of, Recipes for Your Best Life podcast. A signature chef to The New York Times best-seller The Daniel Plan, 40 Days to a Healthier Life. Her column, The Fit Foodie, appears in Edible Orange County magazine. I’m going to turn the show over to her now. Mareya Ibrahim, everybody, you know her, you love her, you’ve seen her. How are you? It’s been a while.
Mareya Ibrahim: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be with you and I appreciate that because right back at you, sister, you’ve helped a lot.
Clarissa: I think the last time we saw each other might have been four years ago. You had the line of Eat Cleaner products, which is an eco solution for produce, food safety, and shelf extension life. You had a cookbook and I think you were on TV. So much has happened since then, why don’t you bring us up to speed?
Mareya Ibrahim: It’s interesting. This journey of mine has been one where I keep, no pun intended, peeling back the onion on what people want. Over the years, I found health is something that everybody is after. We all want to age gracefully, fight disease, and be in the best possible shape that we can be so that we can thrive and do good things. That has all stayed consistent. It’s how people want to receive the information that has changed. I serve it up to them by listening to the people that I interact with regularly. The thing that always comes up, is people are confused. They want good solutions, but they’re confused and for a good reason. When I got to be on Recipe Rehab, it was great because it was the first made-for-television program that was about teaching people to eat healthier in an entertaining way. It gave me that insight and people had these beautiful family recipes that had been passed down for generations, but they were nutritionally void and in many cases over the top. Such as 150g of sugar in a serving, almost 100g of fat, things you didn’t have to use to still enjoy it. That was a big step in the direction that I have landed in. Eat Cleaner products have always been the vehicle to get people to eat better. That’s really why I called it “Eat Cleaner” in the first place; If you take care of your produce, which needs to be the cornerstone of everybody’s eating plan, then take care of your health.
Clarissa: Those are the products that clean off the waxes, chemicals, pesticides and whatever else we found on our produce.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yep. It comes in a spray and we have a concentrated refill. It comes in the form of a wipe and we now have a powder product, which we’re excited about because a little bit goes a long way. We make that product for the home chef, but it’s also available for commercial use. People that are doing fresh juice, juice bars, salad bars, things like that. It’s of the utmost importance that produce is clean because it can be harmful to you if they’re not. The product that causes the most food-borne illness is leafy greens. We’ve got to make sure that people are taking care of that. When there’s no “kill” step in actually cooking the product, it becomes that much more important.
Clarissa: I do remember a couple of cases that I had heard of people getting Hep. C from lettuce.
Mareya Ibrahim: Oh, it goes on. Consumer Reports just did a study and they found even the pre-washed produce had salmonella in it. The truth is, we don’t wash anything with water alone, so why wouldn’t we do the same thing to the food going around, touched by so many hands?
Clarissa: And going in our bodies. I know that you have another cool product out called, AvoFresh. Why don’t you tell us about that?
Mareya Ibrahim: AvoFresh is a response to the love of avocados these days. They became part of our “food love” language and recipes. But, they’re expensive and they brown super quick. We came up with a certified organic way to help extend the shelf life of your cut avocado and help keep it from turning brown up to seven days, which is huge.
Clarissa: That is the coolest darn thing on the planet. The idea is, with the cost of avocados these days, you’d better want them to be lasting as long as they possibly can and not be rushed to finish eating them before they brown. How did that idea come about?
Mareya Ibrahim: We make other products for the industry to help prevent browning on cut produce like apples and pears. Not only do I have my involvement in food but I have a huge passion for the environment. When I found out food waste is the leading contributor of methane gas emissions in landfills, it felt wrong on so many levels. It was championing both of those efforts. Like you, I love avocado. There’s a lot of recipes in my book. I could eat avocado toast every day, but I don’t want to necessarily make a batch of avocado every single day, so this is a way that you can do it in mass. Maybe you’re making guacamole or mashed avocado for baby food, this is an easy way to be able to prep it and have it good for the week. You add the powder into your mash, mix it up, put it in a sealed container and you’re good to go for up to seven days. It also preserves the flavor. When something starts to oxidize and turn brown, the flavor becomes metal tasting because of the iron in it. Cool thing is, if you’re making a mash, you don’t even need to add other seasonings if you don’t want to, because it mimics the taste of citrus and a little bit of salt without any in there.
Clarissa: You came up with this other neat idea that I wanted you to talk about. Bananas, carrots, apples, potatoes, kiwi, all those sorts of things usually thrown away. You’re saying, “Wait, hold on. Do this instead.”
Mareya Ibrahim: We created a campaign called “Save the Peels”. What we’re encouraging people to do is use the entire fruit. For example, people do use the skin of potatoes, but maybe you didn’t realize that the skin of the banana has more nutrients than the fruit itself. There’s a big movement in the food industry of using nose to tail and seed to stem. That’s a simple idea you can incorporate into simple recipes. For example, in our Save the Peels campaign, there is a downloadable recipe booklet that we have on our website at EatCleaner.com, showing you how to use all of those things in ways you may be really surprised with. You can throw a whole banana peel into banana bread and it will make it the fluffiest, most moist banana bread you’ve ever had. You can do that with smoothies or even use citrus peels. We give you some great recipes to add to your everyday meals. What you end up finding is there’s more flavor, not to mention nutrition, in the peel than there is in the fruit itself.
Clarissa: The other thing I had never heard about is putting the banana peel on your skin.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes, the inside of the banana peel can help even out your skin complexion and help lighten dark spots.
Clarissa: It’s a shame we’re throwing so much away. What do we do then? I thought I’m supposed to compost if I’m not using them or throw them out.
Mareya Ibrahim: Composting is great. If you have a compost pile, you are contributing to conservation. The truth is, less than .5% of people compost. If you don’t have access to a compost pile or you don’t garden, then these other usage ideas become that much more important. I always come back to nutrition at the end of the day. Is that food feeding you? Is it going to good use? We don’t have to throw those things away. The peel is where you find most of the nutrients and fiber so let’s not throw it away. Let’s clean them properly. Going back to Eat Cleaner, when you clean the outside, you’re getting rid of over 99% of pesticide residues and other junk that can make you sick if consumed. It’s going to benefit your body instead of ending up in a dump somewhere.
Clarissa: How about some Show & Tell?
Mareya Ibrahim: We’ve been talking about Eat Cleaner products and I wanted to show you our hallmark product, our hero, and that’s our spray. The only triple action fruit and veggie wash out there that’s lab proven and patented. When looking at ways to clean, full transparency is king and we’ve got all of the ingredients on the back. So safe you can drink it. If you don’t want to waste money on produce getting thrown in the garbage, you might find good use out of it. We also have a newer product I was telling you about, which is the powdered form. One pack can treat up to 30 pounds of produce. If you’re juicing or doing your meal prep, wash it once at the beginning of the week and have it last all week long. Then we have the AvoFresh, your green gold right here. Plus my book! I’m incredibly proud of this book, it’s 27 years of the food industry in the making. It’s called “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish On Eating To Thrive”. It’s not paleo, it’s not vegan, it’s not whole 30, it’s omnivore eating. It’s about lowering inflammation, boosting your metabolism, and building muscle mass. The eight essential amino acids that we need every single day to thrive are the core anchor of this. When you tell me your food label classification, it doesn’t tell me if you’re eating right. You can check that out on our website. I can show you the inside.
Clarissa: Wow, that’s beautiful.
Mareya Ibrahim: Look at these beautiful photos, easy to make recipes. I merge the culinary point of view with nutrition and help you dial it in. I turned 50 this year and to me, it’s all about taking care of yourself for the long haul. This is the predecessor of the book, “The Clean Eating Handbook with 31 Core Essential Rules”. The bottom line is when people say, “I don’t know if I can eat this way.” I just tell them, “Look, it’s a lifestyle and it’s not about sacrifice.” Even in the newest book, one of the fundamental strategies is eating whatever you want 10% of the time. It’s the 90:10 rule. You lived in Europe, I lived in Europe and I’m Middle Eastern. If you told me to give up pasta or pizza I’d say “Va fancullo, I’m not going to do it so!”
Clarissa: I wasn’t expecting that, baronessa.
Mareya Ibrahim: All I’m saying is we’re grown adults. We should be celebrating life. It’s about balance.
Clarissa: I saw a video that you did. It hit home when you said, “If you think about all the “free” food: free of dairy, free of salt, free of sugar, you sort of ask yourself, what the heck is left?” Fruit? You got sugars there. Go to vegetables? You can only do those for so long. I’m personally not a meat-eater, so I’m meat-free and I have to eat gluten-free. That’s why I wrote, The Italian Gluten Free Gastronomy Cookbook. I pulled together a bunch of recipes that were gluten-free because I can’t have gluten which, in itself, is difficult.
Mareya Ibrahim: I’ll tell you, this book is gluten-free and it’s, for the most, cow-milk free, it has some meat recipes but one of the strategies that I talk about is the importance of an intermittent fasting a couple of times a week and eating vegan those two days. It’s really about exercising your metabolism, just like you would go to the gym and workout to build your muscle mass. You have to do the same thing with your metabolism where you’re eating a little bit more some days and a little less the other days and focusing on the nutrients at the bottom. It’s focusing on the nutrients that you need to thrive. Yes, there can be a little bit of a transition period but the truth is, it’s a lot easier than you think because there are so many good quality alternatives out there.
Clarissa: I’m sure you said something about retraining your tastebuds or something along those lines. What did you mean by that?
Mareya Ibrahim: That’s the first concept in the book. Most people’s taste buds are set by the time they’re three or four years old. There is a condition called neophobia where when introduced to new foods at a certain age, it’s a fear thing. If you can help assimilate your kids’ taste buds to a variety of different foods by the time they’re three or four, you’re ahead of the game. If not, it’s OK, you can retrain them and part of that is just being open to developing your bitter, sour and umami taste buds. Those are the key foods that lead to better health. I walk you through an eight-day reset and then another eight-day meal plan to help you incorporate those flavors.
Clarissa: My metabolism is shot. I’ve got to do something and fast because I keep gaining weight. Well, I’m a sugarholic, I admit it, it’s probably the worst thing I could do.
Mareya Ibrahim: My latest podcast is for you then because this latest episode is called “Retrain Your Tastebuds, Reset Your Life” and the whole idea is when you get the sugar cravings to go away, it completely frees your mind and frees your body. The brain fog lifts, the crashes lift and your ability to embrace a whole new set of taste buds and flavors become that much stronger.
Clarissa: Let everyone know your social handles and websites.
Mareya Ibrahim: I would love for people to come to www.EatCleaner.com, there you can sign up for 20% off on our website as a first time user, you’ll also get five of my recipes from the book free. On Social, I mostly hang out on Instagram and Facebook @EatCleaner. You can also find me on Pinterest and Twitter.
Clarissa: Or at the office or in the kitchen.
Mareya Ibrahim: I was going to say. I mostly like meeting up with people in my kitchen and I do that on Facebook and Instagram.
Clarissa: How do you do it all? I mean, we hadn’t mentioned that you’re also the mother of two.
Mareya Ibrahim: I’m probably not good at anything, probably more of a dabbler. Perfection is one of those things that is a myth so you do what you love, you prioritize and you build a team of people around you that just kick ass and make you look good. I stick to what I know how to do best and I let everybody else do the rest.
Clarissa: I loved seeing you again. It’s been a real pleasure. I hope to see you soon one of these days so I give you a nice big hug and thank you for being on the show.
Mareya Ibrahim: I would love that, Thank you. Ciao.✧