September 14, 2016

Clean Eating and How to Start

A few years ago, I first heard the term and had to google. What were these people talking about and why was it such a big deal? I Googled the term, read about it, and learned how much junk and artificial ingredients are in most packaged foods. I was appalled and fascinated together. Appalled that companies include some terrible ingredients when unnecessary. Fascinated that I never stopped to educate myself on what I was consuming before this time.
So, I started doing just what it's called - cleaned up my diet. I decided that it was high time and my responsibility to make conscious decisions about the food my family consumed. There was something very freeing about shifting my focus on food from calories to ingredients.
Chart Credit: Prevention Magazine

A clean diet includes whole foods - vegetables, fruits, and grains, as well healthy proteins and fats. There should be very little to no processed food; no ingredients that you can’t pronounce; and refined sugar is definitely a no-no. Some packaged foods pass the clean test, but typically the main stream, big name brands fall flat when it comes to clean ingredients.

For me, I think about it as the natural way of eating. Like we are going back to our roots and eating real food from a garden. I’m not saying you have to grow a garden, but whole food was grown on a farm whether it be a local farmer’s or a commercial agricultural crop. Unfortunately, convenience and low price is king in our culture today. There are cheaper, quicker meal options lining the shelves on more than half of the grocery store. Most people are even so accustomed to these cheaper, quicker options that it seems the opposite of natural to prioritize the time to prepare real food and be motivated to eat it. I think these are all reasons that people think it is too complicated and not worth it. Yes, there is a learning curve, but goodness gracious it is worth it for long-term health.

Now that you know what it means, how do you start to eat clean?
Everyone has their own style when beginning something new. Based on my experience, three critical areas will help you transition to a clean diet.

STUDY
  • Find a few credible food bloggers known for clean recipes and whose personality attracts you. Begin to follow these experts. Seek out clean eating focused Facebook pages with a large presence. These pages usually share informative blog posts and food articles from credible sources. Understand the benefits of different vegetables and fruits (not all are created equal). Learn about whole food alternatives (honey instead of sugar). Ask questions of these sources and anyone else you know. Educate yourself on the food you eat and stop assuming its ok if the FDA approves it.
  • When I first learned how eat clean and began exploring alternative ingredients (such as almond flour), I read every label, read food blogs, bought cookbooks that were like food encyclopedias, studied recipes, read the comments about recipes to learn from others’ trial and error, and started following a Facebook page called “Just Eat Real Food”. I also have a couple friends that were ahead of me in learning. I asked them so many questions. I was fascinated at how powerful food can be - for us or against us. I also felt like such a ding-dong for trusting mega brands to look out for the quality of food I put in my mouth that goes on to digest into my fibers. Knowledge is power - even with food.
  • Check out Clean Eating Magazine for much more detail on clean eating and recipes. Also, Danielle Walker's Against All Grain is a great site to learn more about alternative health food ingredients.
EXPERIMENT
  • Try foods that are new to you. Introduce a new recipe to your family once a week. I find it best not to overwhelm the entire family with an entire week’s worth of meals with all new ingredients or recipes. They will turn on you faster than you can blink. And don’t give up on a new recipe just because it didn’t turn out great the first time. Step back to make sure you followed the instructions correctly and even get creative by putting your own flavor into it.
  • So, here’s how far I have come. Five years ago, your SOULFIT mama here (me) didn’t know what any squash was except a yellow one. I didn’t even know at that time it was referred to as Summer Squash. My husband and I were fascinated by the Butternut squash texture and how savory it is. Then, we fell in love with the Acorn squash. Now a-days, if I see a unique squash at a market, it’s going home with me. We didn’t even know these vegetables existed and now they are staples for my menus.
  • To experiment, checkout some of my Pinterest boards for recipes!
STICK TO IT
  • Don’t quit after a few days or weeks. Commit to it. It will take at least 30 days to get the all junky toxins out of your body. You will begin to feel more comfortable with new recipes and ingredients the more you prepare them. If it seems like cooking takes up too much time, you will get more efficient in the kitchen and/or find less complicated recipes. Give your body time to reap the benefits of whole foods.
  • My husband and I did a 30 day jump start. We purchased a book with a menu and grocery list included. This approach is daunting to some. Know that many people have withdrawals from sugar if you are eating a lot of processed food - I’m not even talking sweets. Sugar is in almost all processed food. This seems to hit the dudes harder than the mamas. My husband felt like he was getting the flu on day 3. It was actually his body craving Capt’n Crunch cereal and sodas that he previously consumed each morning before his first sales call. (I know right…). Within a few weeks, it was like my body started thanking me for changing what I ate. I felt better all over, bloating was gone, and I wasn’t having mood swings from glycemic crashes.
Hopefully, this helps explains what it means to eat clean and supports your efforts in cleaning up your diet.
If you are interested in learning how to create balanced, clean meal plans, send me a message at soulfitmama@outlook.com or comment here.

Fit from Within,
SFM

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