Cleaner Eating

I never thought I’d say the words, but I have officially entered into the world of clean eating.

In my quest to get healthier this past summer, I started to research the evils of sugar and was shocked at what I found.  There is so much research out there that it’s quite overwhelming, but the bottom line is…sugar wreaks havoc on your body, is highly addictive, and can cause a multitude of ailments in the long haul.

For those of you wondering what “clean eating” means, it means I’m making every effort to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.  It means avoiding processed foods, and for me, cutting back significantly on added sugar.  Given my sweet tooth, this has been a huge adjustment.

I consider my steps “easing” into the clean eating lifestyle.  First, I decided to eliminate candy altogether, and while I normally don’t ever completely restrict anything from my diet, I decided candy would be no loss considering it has ZERO nutritional value.  So I bid a wistful goodbye to my favorite lovelies,

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and an even sadder parting of ways with these recent jackpot finds.

IMG_2941Oh my, was this difficult for the first several weeks!  I know some of you understand how candy will often call out to you from the snack cupboard or shelf.  Well, that’s exactly what my Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, and Chewy LemonHeads & Friends did.  They begged and pleaded for me to come and get them.  Enter a whole lot of willpower!

After about three weeks, I made it to a point where something in my body changed.  I no longer craved candy and sweets.  I tested myself by opening up a bag of my husband’s PB M&Ms and examining them closely.  I no longer saw “yum,” but instead I saw them for what they were:  junk.  Success!  I’m proud to say I was candy clean for four months until recently, I decided to try out the new White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms.  They were okay, but another reminder of what I’m really not missing.  My sister thought she would tease me with photos of the new extra long Twizzlers, and you know what?  The thought of eating them made my stomach a little queasy.

In addition to my sugar purge, I have begun carefully reading all food labels before purchasing anything.  The main things I watch out for are:

Trans fats. The FDA allows products to be labeled with “zero trans fats” if they contain one gram or less – any is too much in my opinion.  To be safe, always check the ingredients – if it says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, there are trans fats in there.  I bid farewell to my favorite CoffeeMate creamer and JIF peanut butter for this reason.

Sugar. It is in EVERYTHING!  Besides obvious sources such as juices and syrup, there is sugar in milk, cereal, ketchup, and even tomato sauces.  Sometimes it hides under aliases such as high fructose corn syrup and cane juice.  It’s added to lower fat versions of foods, as in the lower the fat, the more sugar added.

Diet versions of anything.  Chemical sweeteners such as aspartame have had a bad reputation for a long time, which is only one reason I have never been a fan of the stuff.  The other reason is I think it tastes disgusting and there is an after taste to everything it resides in.  This was no loss for me, but my husband did listen to my findings and parted ways with his diet sodas.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  AKA someone’s science experiment. Need I say more?  I see this in a lot of yogurt brands.

Whaaa??? If you can’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, that’s not a good sign.

Bottom line, the fewer ingredients, and the less that is added to our food, the healthier it is going to be.

I’ve been eating lots of fresh fruits photoand vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean proteins, and dairy products.  This is in great part due to my garden, but when I need something I didn’t plant, I try to buy local and/or organic whenever possible.

I have also been making a lot of my own “stuff,” forcing me to experiment with those kitchen gadgets that have been waiting for years to be used.  After mastering my food processor (well, acquainting myself is probably more accurate) I have developed an obsession with homemade nut butters, specifically cashew butter.  Ridiculously delicious with ZERO sugar.  My bread maker is getting some action, too, both in making healthy whole grains and pizza dough to go with my homemade pizza sauce from the garden of ‘yours truly.’

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While they may not be beautiful, these pizzas were D E L I C I O U S.

This is just a brief summary of what I’ve done so far.  I haven’t given up everything that isn’t good for me, and I’m sure candy will make an occasional comeback (especially since it’s the only fuel I can stand during marathon training), but it will never again be a staple.  I still have a 7UP or Ginger Ale once or twice a week, and when my salty snacker moments come, I’ll eat Lays potato chips or Fritos, both of which have only three ingredients.  Salt, oil, and potatoes/corn.  Since I won’t give up sugar completely, I bake cleaner using all “as natural as possible” ingredients.  I found the best peanut butter oatmeal cookie recipe ever.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/peanut-butter-oatmeal-cookies-4.

Super easy, quick, and only five ingredients.  It actually makes about a dozen, so I’m not sure why it says two.  Anyway, my new motto is, if I’m going to eat sugar, it’s going to be what I choose to eat it in and it will definitely be worthwhile.

How have you cleaned up your eating habits?  

Any tips or advice for newbies on making cleaner eating simple, convenient, and cost-effective for those creatures of habit?

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6 Responses to Cleaner Eating

  1. Debi Klempa says:

    I agree with you!!!! It is amazing when you really think about how processed and how many additives in the foods we eat everyday. No wonder why our kids are always sick. Joe and I started to eat “Paleo” about 80% of the time. We did it 100% for about 3 months. It takes time and planning but we both feel much better.

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    • livedreamrun says:

      It is sooo scary reading all of the junk they put in our food, and now that I’m more aware, there are some things that are no longer welcome in my pantry/fridge. And yes! I have a lot more energy (like I needed it) and just feel better overall.

      Craig was telling me about your paleo, but I’ve had a hard time getting him on board with even the smallest changes. I’ve had to bake more often to keep him from buying those horrible packaged muffins. I’m not giving up though! 😉 And the planning is time consuming, but totally worth it. It’s our bodies we’re talking about, and they have to last us as long as possible.

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  2. Your homemade pizza looks amazing!! I gave up diet soft drinks and then they would slowly make their way back in until eventually I just had to give them the flick altogether just knowing how bad they are for me. Some things were easier than others like for the most part I now don’t chew gum.

    Things I’ve found to make it easier have been to find something to replace certain foods or snacks with so that I have an alternative. I still have sugar though and am all about everything in balance but compared to what I ate when I was much younger I eat A LOT better now.

    Good luck sounds like you are making some great changes,

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    • livedreamrun says:

      Thank you! It was one of the freshest pizzas I’ve had, with a slight kick because we added jalepeno to the sauce.

      Some habits die hard, and I feel there are a lot of “once in awhile” things that are worth the splurge. The longer I’m without those items, the less I enjoy them when I do have them though.

      It sounds like you are doing well with your choices, too. And don’t we all eat terribly when we’re young because we think we’re invincible? 😉

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  3. Jennifer Sisinni says:

    I think the pizzas look AMAZING! I have tried to curb my bad eating habits lately, too. I cut out all of my precious Diet Coke, and while the first few weeks were rough, I’m off of it now! I’m amazed how much better I feel just not having that daily caffeine punch, as well as what a surprisingly refreshing choice plain old water really is!
    Peanut butter would be my downfall, but I have at least switched to the “Jif Natural” variety. It only has peanuts, sugar (I know :(…..) and Palm oil. So I’m at least attempting to fool myself that it’s healthier. But, I will say, on my 1,200 a day caloric limitation, peanut butter is a rare treat.
    I’ve always thought of you as such an inspiration …. Maybe some day I can completely kick the sugar part, too. Maybe! Lol.

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    • livedreamrun says:

      They were so good! While meal preparation takes extra work, it’s so worth it knowing that I’m putting better things in my body. I’ll spend several hours on Sundays getting stuff ready for the week and it saves so much time on weeknights.

      OMGoodness…I haven’t completely cut sugar out, just cut back on it significantly. I just can’t bring myself to use the chemical sweeteners, so I still use sugar and honey, just a lot less. I use JIF Naturals, too, which really is healthier and has no hidden trans fats in there. Nut butters are actually healthy fats, and I have to say when I tried the store bought peanut butter without sugar, I didn’t like it. I’ve been making my own almond and cashew butter in my food processor and they don’t need any sweetener. It’s so good I eat it by itself. 😉 My tastes have changed a lot, too. I can’t stand to have things too sweet anymore, and I fill up faster than before. I crave real food now.

      Thank you for your kind words…I am so proud of your running accomplishments, and can’t wait to see you complete your first race. It only gets better, I promise. 🙂

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