This week I celebrated seven months since embarking on my cleaner eating journey, and I wanted to give an update on how it’s been going and what I’ve learned so far.
That hype you read/hear about it getting easier as you go? Absolutely TRUE. Cleaner eating has become a way of living as opposed to a fad I’ll be giving up anytime soon. It’s no secret I don’t believe in the trends involving restriction or diets as they are defined by the media today. Minus that candy purge I was making such a fuss about in my abovementioned post. Which, if you knew how much I was capable of consuming, you’d understand why it was such a huge deal for me.
A big part of my clean eating was paying closer attention and really reading the nutrition labels. It’s now the first thing I look at before I buy something, unlike before when I would either glance at it or just shrug off the not-so-healthy label, justifying my purchase with a “I run enough, so it’s no big deal if I have this.” Now I will drop an undesirable item just as quickly as I found it, as if it were a contaminant. In my mind, it is. When I have no idea what an ingredient is, let alone how to pronounce it, it’s time to move on without a second thought.
Speaking of which, let’s talk serving sizes. I used to look at a nutrition label and think “Oh, that’s not that bad” when I would see the calorie, fat, sugar, or sodium content. I was paying no real mind to the fact that their idea of a serving size was much different than mine. I decided to measure out a single serving size in my cereals. Insert bubble burst here! Whoah! I was packing more like 2.5 servings in my bowl all these years. Did I cut back? Yes, but more like a serving and a half/three quarters. I did try single servings a few times, but that whole “only cover the bottom of my bowl” just doesn’t work for me. Besides, I have moved beyond my Captain Crunch and Cinnamon Toast Crunch days, so I compensate accordingly. ;-) Some of my favorites are Rice Chex (sprinkle on some cinnamon to spice it up) and MultiGrain Cheerios.
Sugar. I am still in search for the healthiest alternative, and with all of the conflicting research out there, I’m still up in the air on this one. My sister swears by stevia and xylitol, but I just can’t bring myself to cross over to a chemical sweetener despite how healthy they say it is. For now, I’ve been using pure honey and alternating between light brown and white sugar. I figure they are all natural, and I don’t use it enough to worry too much about it. I only use it sparingly for my tea and for most of my baking. Besides, reading all of the information out there makes me want to take a nap.
Speaking of information, after switching to brown rice, I discovered this research about arsenic levels found in rice, especially the brown variety.
Rice absorbs arsenic from soil or water much more effectively than most plants. That’s in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which allow arsenic to be more easily taken up by its roots and stored in the grains. While there are no short-term health concerns, long-term implications are unknown.
Comforting, huh? Their suggestion is to mix up your grains and follow their recommended daily consumption guidelines.
Grocery store plan of attack. I tried the ” stick to the outer sections of the grocery store” rule (i.e., produce, meat, dairy), but there are some things that warrant a visit to the inner aisles. That’s where I find my coffee, tea, beans, quinoa, couscous, soup broths, unbleached flour, cereal, etc. You get the picture. I limit the canned goods to vegetables, beans, and tomato sauce, and try to buy frozen when possible. You lose less nutrients and have few preservatives when eating frozen fruits/vegetables.
Goodbye convenience, hello homemade. My husband and I have been at odds over this idea, and while I usually pick my battles and try not impose my beliefs on him, there are some things I won’t give up on. This is one of them. I know it is so much easier to buy those pre-made tortilla/burrito shells or packaged baked goods. But have you seen what’s in them? Whoah…and no thank you. While it’s a lot more work and preparation, I consider it time invested in better health, and that is priceless in my book. It means I have to make him homemade muffins and granola bars so he won’t buy Hostess, but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Speaking of more work, if you buy dry beans and prepare them yourself, you save yourself a whole lot of sodium, sugar, and other added ingredients. The same goes for nut butter. I am still amazed by the ease and transformation of nuts in a food processor. Almonds, a dash of cinnamon, and tablespoon of coconut oil.
More on trans fats. As I mentioned in my original clean eating post, if it says no trans fat, but the words fully or partially hydrogenated oil are listed in the ingredients, there are still trans fats lurking in there at levels under one gram as allowed by the FDA. As shown on the incredible Dr. Oz show, even one gram is too much, and that’s if you are eating a single serving. How many people actually eat a single serving? By the way, have you heard this wonderful news?
The Food and Drug Administration took a first step toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from the food supply, saying it has made a preliminary determination that a major source of trans fats — partially hydrogenated oils — is no longer “generally recognized as safe.” Full article here. I’m hoping maybe one day I can buy Bisquick again.
While I won’t rule it out in the future, I haven’t fallen into extreme measures just yet. I applaud anyone who can convert strictly to a vegan, plant-based lifestyle, but try as I may, I just can’t get excited about bean-based cookies or tofu nuggets, let alone vegetable pulp fritters. I haven’t gone as far as to give up meat or chicken, and I definitely haven’t parted with my dairy products despite claims that it’s best to eliminate those things. Some things you just don’t mess with, and I love my cheese, cow’s milk (minus rBST hormone), and yogurt. I did switch to Chobani greek yogurt after finding my Yoplait yogurt has modified corn starch in it, not to mention 26 grams of sugar. It took several tries before I finally developed a taste for greek yogurt, even going as far as throwing it out because it tasted like it had gone sour. Then I realized it was a whole different taste and texture, and I love it now. Strawberry and Blood Orange are my favorite, plain or in overnight oats. I’ve also tried unsweetened almond milk, which has a nutty but good taste, and if you have it with Cheerios, the flavors blend just like with cow’s milk.
So what has all of this clean eating done for me? For starters, I have increased energy. As if my already hyperactive self needed it, but I sure got it. I can wake up from seven hours of sleep feeling more rested than ever, which is a must in my line of work. I really started to notice this a few weeks after I was eating cleaner consistently. A self-proclaimed pansy when it comes to running in the heat, I was finishing up an eight-mile trail run in 90-degree weather when I realized I could keep going…and going and going and going. More importantly, I didn’t want to stop, like I usually do.
While I wasn’t trying, and certainly didn’t need to, I lost weight. Not a shocking amount, but enough to make most of my clothes baggy on me, and for the more observant people to notice. This came as a surprise, as my weight has not changed at all since I started running many years ago. I may be one of only a few out there, and I’m certainly not complaining (well, maybe a little about my clothes not fitting right), but weight loss was not my goal. It was simply a side effect.
Less cravings. I used to get excited about cheesecake and lemony desserts, and I felt I “needed” soda alongside my pizza. Now, seeing those pictures of dessert on a menu or even passing by the bakery section does nothing for me. Unless I’m at a restaurant, I’m lucky to finish a 12 oz. can of soda. I prefer plain water, tea with honey or minimal to no sugar, and milk. I won’t say I’ve completely lost my taste for sweets, but I certainly don’t feel a “need” for them anymore. Anything I do have, I bake myself so I know what goes into it, and gone are the days of putting the “called for” amount of sugar in my recipes. Pancakes/french toast will always make me happy.
My husband said to me a few days ago, “You haven’t been craving your Chewy LemonHeads and Friends for a long time. Do you want to go get some?” Five months ago, I would have been torn between giving him a dirty, unappreciative look and jumping at the chance to take him up on the offer. Since those cravings no longer control me, I calmly and politely reminded him I hadn’t had my former favorites since June, and that I had zero interest in them. Then came that “light bulb” look.
I would rather eat “real food,” or as I always say “something that requires a fork.”Pizza and sandwiches are good, too. ;-)
All in all, I’m pleased with how things have gone, and I won’t ever go back to my old eating habits. I know this because I love my body too much to fill it with toxins, but most of all, because I’ve never felt better.
How is your clean eating going?
Any thoughts/suggestions on the healthiest sugar? Rice?