Eating Cleaner in the New Year
I often get questions and comments about the way I eat. Some people think I judge them if they drink a soda pop or eat sugar. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I honestly think that every person or family is in different life situations, and you have to do what works best for your family. But for me, I LOVE eating clean and I LOVE the way it makes me feel. So I eat as healthy as I can on the budget we have.
When people want to know more about it I am happy to share. That’s what this post is for… learning how to successfully eat “cleaner” this year.
This post is meant to help anyone who would like to transition into a cleaner eating lifestyle.
If you are anything like me, you have made New Years Resolutions in the past and they were a fail by week 2. I think this is why I stopped making resolutions all together. In general I try to make small changes as life goes on to get me closer to my goals. One of these goals I have in life is to be healthy.
Sometimes I get questions about certain foods and if they are healthy. Well, “healthy” is all relative. It depends on where you are on your health journey. 5 years ago I would have told you organic processed food was healthier… because, well it was healthier than what I had been eating the year before. However, organic doesn’t necessarily mean the food itself is healthy but that it doesn’t have the pesticides (and GMO-Genetically Modified Organisms) that conventional foods may contain. But processed is still processed. Organic ice cream is just as sugar laden as “regular” ice cream, it just may just have less hormones, GMOs, and other ingredients that aren’t very favorable. So to me, 5 years later in my healthy journey, processed organic food isn’t “healthy” compared to what I eat now.
If you asked me if organic rapidura sugar is healthy… yes, it’s healthier than processed white sugar but you most likely wont find me eating it today since I have nixed my sugar habit a couple years back. Are dates healthy? yes, they are MUCH healthier than any other processed sugar you could choose but I wouldn’t eat them daily. However, if you choose a healthy step of getting rid of processed sugar, then eating raw honey or chopped dates in your oatmeal each morning would be a HUGE step in the right direction. Using them to make delicious desserts would also be a BIG change. I use dates occasionally but I limit fruit to 1-2 servings a day while eating lots more veggies. It all depends on who you are, what you are looking to get out of food, and what steps you want to take at this moment in your life towards a healthier eating lifestyle.
If you are making transitions you must understand that you WILL get off track and that’s A-Okay! No one is perfect… what is perfect really? If you can stay positive and see that you are making steps in the right direction that’s great! Don’t beat yourself up if you give into the amazing dessert at the party because it’s just too hard to say no as your host looks at you with longing “accept my dessert or I will forever be offended” eyes. And don’t feel bad if you can’t afford to pick the organic fruit over the conventional because it’s 3 times more expensive and doesn’t fit into your budget this week. Picking any fruit (over chips, candy or pop) is great.
A lot of people like to follow an 80/20 rule (eating clean 80 percent of the time, and not worrying about it the other 20). I am closer to 90% or more since the only time I may go off clean eating is if I eat out or at someone’s house. Even then, I still like to make good choices if it’s an option. It took me a long time to get to where I am today though. And if it becomes an obsession, or a stress in your life then that isn’t really healthy either. I believe it’s about finding balance.
Some Transitional Tips:
1. Keep the junk out of the house: If it’s not there you can’t eat it… or at least you will have to go out of your way to go get it. I don’t eat Oreos because they are not in my house… not because I have super human will power. I LOVE Oreos, but I haven’t had them in years because I don’t buy them.
2. Start reading labels: Even if you don’t know what is junk and what isn’t, just reading the ingredients will give you a better idea of what you are putting into your body. If you are going to buy something in a box or a can, read the label to see what it is you are about to eat. Even this awareness of what it is can help you to make better decisions. Do you recognize what’s on the label? If not this could be trouble (unless it’s some hard to pronounce probiotic). Look up the word if you don’t know what it is. What the heck is carrageenan? I didn’t know until I started seeing it in my “healthier lunch meats” only to find out that it’s not an ingredient I want myself or my family to be eating. So I stopped buying them (especially since my daughter has tummy issues and I didn’t want to risk making them worse).
3. Try and get your whole family in on eating better. If you can, try to get your whole family involved. Make healthy smoothies for the kids, dehydrate some fruit, or make homemade gummies to show them that eating healthy still tastes good. Make small steps with kids like having them eat the healthy meal you made for everyone at dinner. Don’t worry about lunch and breakfast (you can transition to healthier options later if you like). If you are married or dating, try and get your spouse or significant other involved. Don’t force it… it took my husband some time, but he now appreciates the meals I make because he feels better than when he eats junk. Here are some healthy dinners I love that don’t taste like crap. The more you can mix it up the less bored you will get and the less likely you will go back to old habits. I started by replacing one meal a week with something healthier. If my family liked it we kept it in the rotation. If not, I tried something different the next week.
4. Don’t want to quit junk food cold turkey? Make some baby steps: Try cutting out something small. Limit how much pop you drink a week (for example: my husband drinks one Mountain Dew a week. That is cut down drastically from how much he used to drink.) You could cut out pop all together or limit dessert to once a week. Banish chips if that’s your weakness. Here are some healthier snack options if you are out of ideas.
5. Replace one “bad habit” with a “good one”: I cut out processed chips and now I make sweet potato chips on taco salad night. Cutting out soda pop? Replace it with tea, or lemon water. Replace your processed dessert with a homemade one with no processed sugars. You can make treats of your own or buy more “convenient” snacks that aren’t processed.
6. Think about what you CAN have rather than what you can’t: Quality healthy food really does taste good. Fresh veggies and peppers, grass fed and pasture raised meats and eggs, fresh fruits, homemade desserts, oh and spices are your friend! You really aren’t depriving yourself when you eat clean, you are opening yourself up to a world of real food. As soon as you can get out of the mindset of “this is a diet” to “this is a healthy lifestyle’ the better. A diet is something you go on and eventually fall off of. A lifestyle is something you live by. If you choose to eat quality foods more often than not then it’s your lifestyle, and you wont beat yourself up when you give into that Sunday night ice cream or grab some pizza with a friend.
7. Plan ahead: I like to have an idea of what I will be eating the week before I eat. At the very least I plan the dinner meals for the week and have plenty of high protein options for snacks throughout the week. When I’m being super meticulous I have all my snacks and meals planned. If I know what I’m going to eat and when I am less likely to say “eh, why not have a giant bagel with cream cheese for breakfast”.
8. If you are going to make small changes to go organic start with meat, dairy, and the dirty dozen. Let’s be honest, not everyone can afford to eat organic everything. I know I can’t, and this is one of my high priorities on where our family spends money. But if you are going to make some changes to organic here are some areas to start. If you have already made these changes have you tried fermented foods? That would be another great step in the right direction. Click on each item if you would like to see an informative post as to why it’s important to eat these quality foods.
- Grass Fed Pasture Raised Meat
- Organic Dairy (I don’t drink milk but when I eat dairy products I stick with organic and even try to get it from the farmer’s market when possible… again, it’s all about your lifestyle and budget)
- Organic “Dirty Dozen” Produce
- Fermented Foods
So there you have it, some tips to eating “cleaner” and healthier in the new year. If you put your mind to it and make small lifestyle changes rather than jumping on the latest diet fad, you are more likely to succeed, and enjoy life while doing so.
Do you have any other tips, or favorite healthy clean recipes? If so, feel free to share in the comments below.