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,
and an even sadder parting of ways with these recent jackpot finds.
Oh 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 and 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.’
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.
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?