Say the words clean eating and you may get eye rolls. Walk into a grocery store, though, and you’ll notice it’s more than a passing trend. Instead, shelves are packed with extensive, and often expensive offerings. The funny thing about clean eating, though, is that there are ways to do it very inexpensively and it’s always been a choice. In fact, depending on your age, your grandparents and great-grandparents were clean eaters because they didn’t have any other options. They didn’t eat anything out of a box with a bunch of extra sugar, additives, and preservatives added to it. And, if they lived a long life, their clean eating lifestyle likely played a part in their longevity.
Why I Started Eating Clean
Growing up, I had my share of fast food, “pop” as midwesterners call it, and other junk food. All kids did. Heck, when we watched Saturday morning cartoons, almost every commercial promoted a sugary cereal. My parents canned and cooked some food from scratch, but they also bought their fair share of boxed things, too. I continued eating this nonchalant way through college and somewhat into my twenties. When the girls were little, I tried my best but didn’t sweat it if they ate fish-shaped cheddar crackers or applesauce with sugar in it.
Once I got into fitness, I started changing my eating habits, but it wasn’t clean eating by any means yet. Instead, I went for all the nonfat stuff, diet pop, and fake sugar. Remember Olestra? Sadly, I was a fan. That stuff’s not on the shelves anymore, and frankly, I don’t want to know why.
My switch to true clean eating has really only been in effect for the past few years, and it hasn’t been easy. I made the switch for a few reasons, though.
- I am not the “spring chicken” I used to be. Even though I’m an active person, my metabolism has slowed down with age. Darn it!
- Training for half marathons and triathlons woke me up to how important it was to steer clear of junk to fuel my body for distance running, biking, and swimming.
- Once I started reading food labels, it became apparent that preservatives were everywhere, even in “healthy” foods, and I didn’t like it.
What People Eat Today
Fast forward to today and packaged foods in a million varieties are everywhere. Most of it isn’t really food at all. Let’s just say, if you are what you eat, many people are very interesting on the inside! The food industry has truly exploded over the past five years alone. Grocery stores have expanded into megastores and that person in aisle 3 blocking you won’t be moving for the next 10 minutes. They’ll need that time to figure out which cereal to buy out of the 100 offerings! Obesity is a huge problem for adults and kids now. So are heart disease and diabetes. That’s a reflection of today’s lifestyle of inactivity and unhealthy food choices. It’s easier and faster to just throw something in the microwave or run through a Drive-Thru. Been there, done that myself plenty of times before my clean eating journey.
Why Clean Eating Works For Me
Clean eating is the ultimate simple living accompaniment. It means picking food in its purest form. Snacks are apples and bananas instead of chips. Popcorn is good old-fashioned popcorn made on a stove, with no microwave fake butter involved. Cheese is real cheese, not the blocks of orange goo. Butter is real butter. Eggs have shells and aren’t packaged in a little pour spout box. Crisco and canola oil are gone. Sugar is avoided as much as possible.
Going back to the basics with food feels good, and it’s one of the only ways to truly know what you’re putting into your body. It’s also so much cheaper than buying ready-made options. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I love gardening so much. I have total control over what I grow and it can’t get any fresher than directly off the vine. If clean eating doesn’t sound like fun to you, but you’d like to give it a try, I can assure you that you don’t have to shift to clean eating by going cold turkey. Like most things, you can have big wins by taking baby steps to get there. It takes discipline but the reward is worth it.
How To Start Clean Eating
Imagine going into your local grocery store and going through the produce section. Eating clean means you’re loading up on all those fruits and vegetables to slice and dice. You can hit up the frozen veggie aisle to cut corners, but you need to choose plain veggies only. No fake cheese or butter sauces. If you’re in doubt, check the ingredients. In the cereal aisle, it’s plain oatmeal, and not the boxed, flavored kind. Your yogurt is unflavored and unsweetened so you can flavor it with real fruit, like fresh or frozen blueberries or strawberries, and no extra sugar. Those crescent rolls in tubes? Nope. Essentially, you’re saying yes to what’s pure or minimally processed. It will take some getting used to if you’re used to buying a lot of boxed foods and snacks.
Obstacles To Clean Eating
Honestly, the biggest obstacle to clean eating for most people is the willpower to do it in the first place. Just like budgeting money! Passing up junk food is tough, but the benefits of added energy and good health are worth it. Once you can get into the mindset, it will become your preferred way to eat, and then it’s not hard at all. You just have to keep working at it. Small wins will build up your confidence and your willpower to turn down the junk that tries to lure you back in.
A lot of people think true clean eating is expensive but it’s actually really inexpensive. It’s only when you buy into all the fancy “clean” choices out there that it gets pricey. You may have to spend a bit more money on organic fruits, vegetables, and meats, but you can save on all the boxed and packaged items you no longer buy. Simple containers like these rolled oats are inexpensive compared to prepackaged, sugar-laden, and fake flavored varieties.
From a time standpoint, it takes only a few more minutes to make something like biscuit dough from scratch than it does to pop a tube of chemical-laden stuff. Planning out your meals in advance also helps. I’ve found that saying you’re too busy is often a lame excuse. People waste more time than they think. You can pre-chop vegetables in the same amount of time you likely spend scrolling through social media feeds for the tenth time or watching that tv show re-run.
How To Keep Up Your Clean Eating Habit
I aim for ninety percent clean eating but don’t sweat it if we decide to eat out or meet up with friends. I also don’t force clean eating on Matt or my kids or friends. It makes it harder for me, but clean eating is a personal choice and it takes commitment. However, I have found that, although I may occasionally sneak a potato chip, it doesn’t really taste good to me anymore. A funny side effect about eating clean food is you start noticing chemical tastes that never registered before on your tastebuds. Hmm. ?
Clean eating has given me so much more energy to tackle things here at Sunny Side Up. My health has never been better. But more importantly, I simply don’t crave junk food and have no problem passing up doughnuts at the office. Most of all, I have confidence in what I’m eating. Let’s just say if you are what you eat, I am no longer the Cheeto I was at age sixteen, and that feels good.
Have you ever done a food detox? What are some of the food swaps you’ve made? I’d love to hear about your wins and failures in the comments. Happy clean eating!