#7: How to Eat Clean! with the Clean Eating Queen, Terry Walters

terry walters


Terry was one of the first, seriously, to take eating clean food seriously. Her first book, Clean Food, came out way back in 2007 before the word “clean” related to food in any way other than sanitary!

But eating clean food was never intended to be trendy; it was just meant to spread good health! And it’s done exactly that, so yeah, Terry rocks.

Sometimes, though, “clean eating” can be misinterpreted or misconstrued like in a game of telephone….

For Terry, “clean eating” is never about judgement (of food or of yourself) it’s not about rigidity, it’s not about deprivation…

terry walters

clean eating is simply about: BRINGING IN THE FOODS WE ALL NEED MORE OF, no matter what else is on your plate.

in Terry-terms: “clean eating” = nourishing ourselves with minimally processed (aka packaged) foods, getting the most out of our foods, and knowing how to make the choices that serve ourselves the best. << 

(Or said in Party in My Plants language: JUST EAT MORE PLANTS, YO! – a lot more about this in episode 1: What’s a Plant-Based Diet?)

“We try diets like we try hairstyles and the possibilities are infinite. But are we served by adhering to one defined and perhaps limited approach to dieting? Lasting changes and health improvements are not found in fad diets.” 

But Terry explains: there’s a difference between being rigid with your healthy diet and having a tight grip on it. Having a tight grip on a healthy fad diet at first CAN help us stay the course long enough to figure out what aspects of THAT diet’s approach are beneficial for our bodies and what isn’t.

Because like our hairstyles can look great for a while and then cause us to later look back on them like holy macaroni what in pete’s sake was I thinking?!?!…we have to always be flexible for change.

Oh and here’s something cool: Terry’s a big fan of us allowing ourselves to be human.

If you ARE eating packaged foods, you want to be able to understand how that food was made for the package: because if you can translate it in your mind, you can translate it in your system.

Because the goal, really, is to eat food closer to the “source” (ie. its most natural state). And if that means you wilt some kale in your Campbell’s soup or you drizzle hot sauce on your kale, all the power to ya, because you just moved that soup closer to the source!

Eating clean’s never been about “these are the foods you have to eat” but rather “let’s bring nutrition in and mix it with everything else.”

“If you’re saying to yourself that you’ve gotta get back on track because you’ve fallen off…once is fine but if it happens over and over, I think it’s the track that’s broken, not you.”


In the beginning of a health food journey, here are clean foods to start eating more of:

  • not animal source of protein
  • dark leafy greens
  • more variety of veggies!
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
  • healthy sources of fat (avocado and coconut, baby)

Hey, here’s a thing: ALL THINGS CAN BE “CLEAN.” Even pizza!!! IF you make your pizza with minimally processed ingredients 😉 THAT’S the name of the game.

As I always say, it’s about our MOST of the time. Our bodies are wired to be able to handle a little sad-day Ben & Jerry’s as long as our MOST of the time is clean food/plants!

And as Terry said, “our most of the time informs the rest of the time.” What we eat the most of the time sets our tastebuds and brings us into balance so after a while when we do splurge on the sad-day Ben & Jerry’s, we actually don’t love it because we’ve lost the taste for it and our bodies prefer feeling balanced!

“Every time you take something to eat, you’re making a choice. And the more consciousness you can bring to those choices, the better choices you’ll make and the better you’ll feel in the long run.”

According to Terry, if you were to peek into her fridge at any given moment, you’d find something fermented. Not like a spoiled jar of applesauce, but something like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled plants or kombucha …. Terry’s obsessed with fermented because our bodies don’t make all those good probiotics on their own. We have to bring them in via food!

But why EAT probiotics instead of TAKE probiotic supplements?

A.) Because when you EAT probiotics, you get a gazillion DIFFERENT strains of good-for-you bacteria vs. when you TAKE a supplement, you just get like a gazillion of one strain like acidophilus. The more variety of strains, the better.

B.) It’s cheaper!! Terry can make sauerkraut herself for like 35 CENTS or we can all go buy a bottle of probiotics for like 35 DOLLARS!

Skeptical about making your own like I am? In her book Eat Clean, Live Well there are not one, but THREE different approaches to fermenting stuff!

I love Terry’s definition of fermentation: rotting food to make it healthier and more delicious.

She says that two specifically are insanely easy. One is to make sauerkraut where you actually just massage salt into cut up cabbage, put it in a jar until all the liquids that release push up over the cabbage and then you let it sit on the counter.

You could use the same method to make your own pickled stuff! Just use carrots, or jalapeños or watermelon radishes, or onions – stick them in a jar with some peppercorns, herbs, whatever and cover the whole thing with salted water. Just 1 tbsp or salt and 1.5 cups of water. And just cover them and let them sit for a week on your counter. Then just seal them up, put it in your fridge and start eating them.

So how does Terry eat her sauerkraut? Well, right out of the jar with a spoon for starters. But also with peanut butter and hot sauce?!? (I know. I don’t know.) But a little more “normally,” she also loves it with on top of some sautéed greens!

(BTW – the fermented foods guru she mentioned is Sandor Katz.)

What are other things you’ll find in Terry’s fridge/pantry?

A BOAT LOAD OF VEGGIES! (Obviously. Especially dark leafy greens, onions and garlic.) And some other staples she makes at the beginning of every week. Like quinoa, for example.

She’ll make big batch of quinoa repurposes it throughout the week. (Sounds a lot like how my other chef podcast guest Lauren Kretzer, rolls, too!)

  • So for dinner one night she’ll make a yummy quinoa dish with greens, chopped avocado, pumpkin seeds and currents. (And maybe with a little hot sauce!)
  • Then, her daughter will take it to school for lunch the next day layered in a trendy ball jar with quinoa on the bottom plus avocado, cucumber, shredded carrot, olive oil and ume plum vinegar! She’ll shake, rattle and roll (and eat).
  • When the quinoa’s starting to go, she’ll heat it up for breakfast with a little coconut milk and nutmeg and dive right in!

Let’s talk about UMEBOSHI PLUM* VINEGAR for a sec: if you want a secret sauce (literally) that’ll make any green veggie-hater love your green veggies, umeboshi plum vinegar is that sauce. Just a drizzle of olive oil + a few drops of ume plum vinegar give you that “when Harry Met Sally moment with food!”

*a fermented Asian plum! Great for flavor and great as a digestive aide.

Ok, now onto sourdough bread. Another one of Terry’s awesome health secrets (though she does teach not-secret classes on how to make it). With sourdough bread, the grains are soaked and fermented before baking which makes it much easier for us to digest!!! Love that! (But make sure you ask if there’s “commercial yeast” in any sourdough bread you’re thinking of buying/eating, because if there is commercial yeast in it, it’s not a true fermented sourdough, yo.) For a true sourdough, the ingredients should simply be: starter, water, flour and salt. That’s it.

BTW – did you like that story about Quaker Oats? I thought that was wild! That the bottle of Quaker Oats used to instruct people to soak them for an hour?! Because back in the day, most of the grains we ate were fermented or at least germinated (both which bring out the full nutritional benefits of grains!).

All of Terry’s 3 books are organized by seasons! Which is SENSATIONAL because I love being able to jump right into the summer section when I want a hot-weather soup like gazpacho, rather than go to a whole soup section and filter through chilis and stews! But other than to please me, Terry organizes her books by season because eating seasonal is where it’s AT!

As Terry put it, “the foods that grow around us have the nutrition we need to stay in balance with our environment.”

Whaaaat?! Thanks, mother nature!

So that’s why it’s not super great to be eating tomatoes from across the world that have more stamps on them than your passport!

Eating seasonally is actually a really natural, obvious, intuitive way to be eating. When you go to the grocery store, the seasonal foods are the ones on big rotating display/sale right in front of us. (Oh and these are usually cheap, local and fresh.)

Terry says there are “foods” and there are “supplements.” Because some foods are more supplements than foods. Example of that being an avocado. That’s a supplement/superfood in Terry’s mind. Other superfoods in Terry’s opinion are garlic and turmeric – not just the $30 fancy packages of “superfoods” in the specialty aisle of the store.

Ok, so Terry’s answer to my big question: Local vs. Organic??? Which should we buy?? Was… no answer. Or rather, it depends. Or rather rather, KNOW YOUR FOOD.

There are assume farms who are organic but can’t afford the “organic” label. Then there are “organic” labeled products who use one of the 120ish ingredients that are not organic but are allowed to be in packaged foods that are labeled organic.

Overall, “the more you know about the food, the less you need to rely on the label.”

Ok, so where do you start with Terry and her 3 incredible books? All of which are gluten-free, vegan and organized by season?…

She says to start with Eat Clean, Live Well. Her most recent book that reflects how she’s cooking right now. (And this one has the 3 sauerkraut tutorials, too!) It also talks about lifestyle to complete the full “living well” picture.

Clean Start is her second book which was a James Beard finalist with easy and quick no-brainer recipes.

Clean Food, her first self-published book (and my personal favorite!!!) is pretty much Terry’s bible: a cumulation of her journey and stories, plus a clear explanation of each “weird” ingredient so you can either use them or substitute them for something less “weird.”

Her favorite plant-party restaurants: G-Zen in Branford, CT and Candle 79 in NYC!

Her most frequently used piece of kitchen equipment: her chef’s knife. Hands down. (Just like Chef Lauren in episode 3!)

2 books that have positively impacted her in some awesome way: Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David and The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist




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  1. I’ve been wanting to make my own sauerkraut but I was too scared! Thanks for this podcast, I think I have the confidence now. Although I’m staying away from the sauerkraut and PB for now…..

    1. That’s fantastic!!! As you heard, I too have had nervousness about making my own kraut and after this convo I also have the guts to try! Let me know how it goes for you! 🙂