Can you recall what propelled you to embrace clean eating and organically grown foods? Did it coincide with pregnancy, weaning your baby onto solid foods or was it a gradual adoption over time?

I’ve always been mindful of eating healthy but a chronic health issue in my early twenties really opened my eyes to food additives and the importance of clean eating for my own health.

At the time I was working as an environmental engineer at a large mine in North West Queensland. I worked a 14/7 roster; 2 weeks of 12 hour shifts in a row followed by 7 days off “R&R”.

It was hard work in hot and humid conditions. I was tired.

By about day nine through the roster I would really start to struggle. I’ve never been a coffee drinker so while other colleagues could get through the fatigue by downing regular cups of coffee, I needed something else to give me a kick.

I was also trying to lose some weight (long hours behind a computer and all-you-can-eat buffet dinners at the mine mess were taking a toll on my figure) so it was no surprise that I chose Diet Coke as my heart starter. 
It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t make it to 6:30am without a Diet Coke and I also needed a top up at lunchtime to get through the long afternoon.

I’m not sure if it was working very long hours, my growing Diet Coke consumption, the hot and humid weather or a combination of all three but my migraines, which I’d suffered on and off since my late teens, suddenly became more frequent and stronger. I’m not referring to a mild headache, take a Panadol and keep on pushing through migraine. I’m talking about vision auras, throbbing headache, nausea and violent vomiting, take-strong-medication-and-write-off-a-few-days-in-a-dark-cool-room sort of thing.

Initially they only occurred on my days off, so I could manage them by just staying in bed for a few days and no-one needed to know. But after a while, they started occurring at work AND on my days off ALL. THE. TIME. By then, I knew something had to change, fast.

It was obvious that unless I found another job, my hours wouldn’t change. So instead, I looked at things that I could easily control, and my diet was an obvious choice.

I kept a food and drink diary of everything that passed my lips and started educating myself in food additives. I ate a very basic, clean diet and even became vegetarian. I was determined to do anything I could to stop the migraines and improve my quality of life.

Although it had become my vice to get through a long day, it was apparent that Diet Coke had to go. And not just for the sake of my head! The enamel was also wearing away from my two front teeth and my dentist advised it was due to my high consumption of Diet Coke. He recommended I drink it with a straw to keep acidity away from my teeth, but I knew that wasn’t tackling the issue. I needed to give it up.

I went cold turkey for one week, experienced shakes and terrible, terrible headaches but after that week I felt so much better. Liberated even.

I’ve now been Diet Coke, and indeed soft drink, free for 14 years and I will never, ever go back.

While I am aware of non-food triggers for my migraines, the lesson in breaking up with Diet Coke was a very important one for me and certainly cemented the organic, clean eating path that I adopted at that time, and have maintained since.

There are hundreds of artificial food additives approved for use in Australia. Many of these prolong the shelf life of the food, enhance the flavour, or sweeten the food or beverage without adding calories.

It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but I really encourage you to read the ingredients in food you purchase, understand what the numbers mean and wherever possible, eat REAL food and drink water!

These days I am a bit of a food additive Nazi. My drive is not only for my own health, but the health and “healthy eating message” I pass onto my two young sons.

I invested in a Thermomix last year so I can make even more of our family foods from scratch. Despite the almost $2000 price tag I call it an investment because it has made cooking from scratch so much easier, less time consuming and cheaper. Homemade breads and yoghurts in particular are now a staple in our home, rather than being an occasional cooking project.

While I feel ashamed of the high Diet Coke consumption period in my early twenties and the major impact on my quality of life at the time, I am thankful for the experience and subsequent learnings. It really propelled me along the organic and clean eating path that I enjoy today.

Avoiding artificial food additives takes time, discipline, planning and indeed, some knowledge but the benefits are so, so worth it! I wish you the very best as you discover the complex world of food additives and set about reducing them in your diet.

Was there a particular event that kick-started your organic and clean eating journey? I’d LOVE for you to share below.