In this edition of Hello Honey, we chat with Michelle about how she achieved her own healthy lifestyle and how a supportive BFF will take you a long way.
With lots of unhealthy temptations just a phone app order away, it’s easy to make a ton of excuses for why we can’t seem to get it together. Well, turns out, there should be no excuse. While still living the 9-to-5 life, Michelle Santoso started experimenting with clean eating recipes after realizing that she didn’t have a lot of healthy options when it came to dining out in Jakarta. After having her first child and getting a little nudge of encouragement from her best friend, Michelle finally started Forking Clean, a healthy catering service and one of the pioneers of the clean eating revolution in Jakarta.
Hi Michelle, thanks for doing this with us! What is your personal ‘Live Better’ philosophy?
It’s simple: Exercise regularly, eat clean, drink lots of water, and cut out sugar!
You started Forking Clean when clean eating in general was a relatively new concept in Jakarta. What inspired you to get the ball rolling?
I had this idea in my head for the longest time, but I wasn’t sure how to begin. I was also pregnant at the time (which made things pretty much stagnant) but speaking to my best friend, Kat, about it really helped to get things started. A big reason why Forking Clean grew was because of her and it just wouldn’t be what it is without her. Even though we’re separated in different countries, until this day, we split the work. I’m in the kitchen, making new menus and taking the pictures, while she does the marketing, logistics and the customer service.
How did your own clean eating journey begin?
At the time I was still working in an office and didn’t have a lot of options, so I decided to just make my own food. I had also just started working out a lot, and that’s how it really happened. As soon as I started exercising, I felt like I didn’t want to waste dying an hour in the gym, and then eating something bad, and then having to go through the whole process again, so I thought I’d give clean eating a try. I didn’t want to immediately jump ship and start doing vegan right away because that’s really hard, so I just started with cutting out processed food, sugars, and eating a lot more whole grains.
What are the top challenges and benefits of a clean eating diet? Can you share how clean eating has affected your life?
The first few days you really crave the things that you can’t eat, but you get the hang of it. Sugar is my number one vice, so that was the hardest challenge, as I really needed something sweet after every meal. I just switched it out with fruits, which does its job! In terms of benefits, the number one thing is that clean eating definitely made me feel more energized, and while I was working out my muscle tone was a lot leaner. My skin also got so much better!
Forking Clean switches up the menu every week. How do you get inspired to create new recipes, and do you have a favourite dish on the Forking Clean line-up?
I get bored easily and I’m always in the kitchen, that’s why I change the menu all the time. My favourite that I’ve come up with so far is the vegan ramen, which I always get a lot of compliments on. I spend about three hours making the broth so that’s why everyone likes it. That, and recently a salad which is inspired by a dish in one of my favourite cafés Peloton in Bali. I went there, had the salad, and thought, I really have to have this salad again, so I tried to recreate it at home.
Any particular health foods you just can’t live without?
Probably chickpeas because I always use it, and black beans.
What is the most ridiculous diet fad you’ve ever heard of?
They all tend to be ridiculous! A lot of diet fads are really crazy… My number one pet peeve is people claiming that they’re gluten-free when they’re just saying that because they think that gluten-free is the healthier option. Actually, gluten-free isn’t the healthier option because it doesn’t have the added nutritional benefits of say, a whole grain complex carb. And if you cut out gluten for a long time, you will develop an intolerance, and that’s how you become sensitive to gluten.
What would be your main tips for someone who wants to start eating clean but says that they are too busy or can’t afford to do so?
Nutrition is relatively simple. Carbs and fats are not bad for you as long as you have the good kind. Just go to the basics, like switching out white rice for whole grains because they’re better for you, instead of eating a lot of meat and sauced foods, switch it up with a bunch of vegetables and eggs which are still a protein and much better for you, instead of say, gorengan on the street!
What’s your go-to meal to make in a pinch?
If I have vegetables at home, I’ll make a quick and easy salad, otherwise a sandwich.
What’s next for Forking Clean?
Maybe do a pop-up one day, that would be fun. Expanding to other cities would be terrifying, but great!
Michelle’s Healthy Hit List:
Favourite workout: Kayla Itsine’s Bikini Body Guide
Favourite vegetarian restaurant: Alchemy and Peloton in Bali
Favourite place to unwind and de-stress: Home
Favourite market: Grand Lucky and Honest Grocer