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My Whole Food Journey: Clean Eating – What is it?

I’ve been doing a little research into what my family can do to help us lose weight – healthily.  I don’t mean popping pills, drinking tonics, or jumping on board with some fad diet.  I do mean doing it the old fashion way – making a life change, exercising, and eating a wholesome, well-rounded diet.

I feel like we do a pretty good job already.  But, I took a closer look at what we were REALLY eating and I’ve found a couple of ugly culprits that we could cut out.  I also know that we all need to increase our exercise and if you saw my New Year’s post you know that we’re holding one another accountable and helping each other get that extra/much needed exercise.

I’ve been looking at Clean Eating (maybe you’ve seen the magazine?) and I’ve been reading up on what it means to “Eat Clean.”  It isn’t far from how my family eats now:

:: Fruits and vegetables (local, organic and/or fresh is best, second comes frozen, and finally canned – just make sure you aren’t buying anything with added sugar).  Whole is best – in other words choose an apple over apple juice – you’ll get the bonus of fiber and not just sugar.  You’ll feel fuller longer.

:: Eat grass fed or organic meats (lean cuts are best).  Grill, roast, and broil meats instead of frying.

:: Incorporate Whole Grains – There are all sorts of grains you can eat – just cut out the white/refined ones.  That means no white rice, pasta, and no white flour or white bread.  Read your labels.  Make sure your “whole wheat bread” is whole wheat (sometimes the second ingredients in “whole wheat bread” is white flour).

:: Trade Bad Fats for Good Ones – Cut out processed oils such as vegetable oil, vegetable shortening, peanut oil, etc. Instead get good fats from fatty fish (salmon), avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.  Avoid fast food!

:: Avoid sodas and high calorie, sugary drinks. Follow the tenant of clean eating that aims to remove added sugars from the diet. Drink water and unsweetened tea.  Use wholesome sweeteners such as honey, agave, brown rice syrup, and stevia.

Clean Eating – My Way

I agree with all the above.  I didn’t say it would be easy… but I know it is, in theory, the best choices we could make.  We already eat a good assortment of veggies and fruit, whole grains, organic and grass fed meats and poultry, and we have traded in the bad fats for good ones.

We are trying to fill our plates with mostly (50% or more) COLORFUL veggies and will always make sure there is a green vegetable offered (White is not a color!).  We’re cooking our proteins using healthier methods and we try to vary it each night between chicken, fish, meatless (beans or eggs), and some red meat.  We eat pork and other seafood (besides fish) very rarely.    We are limiting our carbohydrates to one small serving at dinner – if at all (that means potatoes, rice, and pasta).

What are our stumbling blocks?

My husband’s stumbling block is soda.  He has to have them and even though I don’t buy them he manages to get his fill by stopping at the convenience store pretty often.  My stumbling block is sweet tea – what did you expect?  I’m southern!  What do these have in common?  Sugar.

Sugar is our biggest vice.  I know it is unrealistic to think we will totally cut out sugar.  So, I’ve devised a compromise to allow one soda or glass of tea at dinner ONLY and to drink water at all other times.  We will also be allowed to drink a cup of coffee in the morning if we so choose, but we’ll be experimenting with agave as the sweetener (I’ve already tried it in hot tea and it was delish!).

Our other stumbling block is refined flours and grains.  This one is a little sneakier.  I buy whole wheat bread – and yes, I read the labels.  I am a die hard fan or Rudi’s organic breads and one of the reasons I love them is because the ingredient list is short and easy to read (I mean besides the fact that they are delicious!).  The refined flours are sneaking in when I make waffles and other baked goods.  I have been buying King Arthur’s unbrommated – unbleached flour but I am just not as good about baking with whole wheat flour.  It is also sneaking in in the form of crackers, white rice, and pasta.  I’ve tried whole wheat pasta and I. DON’T. LIKE. IT.  and the same goes for brown rice.  I am learning to like brown rice a couple of ways but I still enjoy white rice.  My solution?  It is unrealistic to think I will totally kick my refined grains habit so I’ve compromised by limiting the frequency we have rice and pasta.  I am also trying to convince my hubs to eat his peanut butter with fruit rather than crackers.  And, I’m going to try harder to incorporate some wheat flour in my recipes – you know mixing it in with my regular unbleached all purpose flour.

Some proponents say you should cut alcohol because it is pure sugar (easy enough in my household – I don’t like it!).  If you enjoy it you should limit it to one small glass (there are studies that show red wine has health benefits when you drink it in moderation – as in a small glass each night or every other night).

And, some say you should allow yourself a treat so as to not feel deprived.  Be careful here!  Determine ahead of time what a “treat” will be and how often you will allow it.  I’ve decided to allow myself one treat per week and that treat will be ONE serving of something.  I don’t think you should allow yourself a whole day of falling off the wagon, or binge eating – that isn’t a treat!

What do you think?  Could you (or do you) eat clean?  What are your stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

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  1. Like you I did not like whole wheat pasta. I have learned that if I cook it in the sauce it tastes a lot better and I actually enjoy eating it now. For example, if I am making spaghetti I boil the whole wheat pasta according to package directions, drain it, and add it to my sauce. I then let it simmer in my sauce for a while (20-30 minutes.) Usually I wind up using more sauce than usual, but it really help with the whole wheat pasta.

  2. Pat Clark says:

    My husband and I are really trying to eat healthier foods. We have tried some news vegetables over the last couple of weeks such as kale, swiss chard, and fennel and have discovered we really like them. We have been eating a 10 whole grain cereal in the mornings with honey, walnuts, and blueberries. Yumm!! It’s satisfying too. I feel fuller longer.

    Thanks for your posts with all the helpful hints. As I’ve told you before, you’re amazing!!

  3. Have you tried the Bionaturae Whole Wheat Spaghetti? It is organic and I found it at Whole Foods. We had tried whole wheat pasta in the past and hated it. Then I saw on America’s Test Kitchen that the Bionaturae was their pick for whole wheat pasta because it tasted more like white pasta. I bought some and tried it with my family without telling them it was different. No one said a word about it at dinner. Everyone ate the spaghetti as usual. So I buy it now instead of white pasta.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Excellent post! I wanted to know if you have eaten Quinoa (keenwah)? At my health food store they sell quinoa pasta. It is a whole grain but it has additional protein. They also make flour with it, and do not forget you can use almond or rice flour, even chickpea flour instead of wheat for your baking. Good Luck on your journey!

  5. I have never liked sauce on my pasta, so when I tried whole wheat (and even more so multi-grain) pasta, I *loved* the added depth of flavor. Frequently I cook up pasta put a little EVOO and steamed veggies and that’s dinner.
    However, I have found that my stomach is NOT a fan of the whole wheat pasta. I haven’t tested the multi-grain yet to be sure (scared, honestly). The whole wheat gave me such awful stomach pains that I was contemplating going to the hospital. Until I realized this happened every time I’d eaten it. I was so bummed to have discovered this new, yummy thing that’s healthy (heart healthy even!) and I can’t eat it.
    My next step is trying quinoa, as Stephanie mentioned. It’s a common substitute for people with gluten allergies, so I’m hopeful it might treat my tummy a little better.

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