For the past few years I (Amanda) have kicked off the new year with a round of the Whole30 in January. It’s such a great way to reset your body and mind after the months of food overload that surrounds the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays (and all the weeks of sweets in between). I always feel so incredible after doing it, but this year our schedules are so ridiculous that we couldn’t find a 30 day period to commit to where we wouldn’t be missing out on something great – we already signed up for 2 cooking classes and have 3 parties in January that we refuse to miss out on eating the delicious food at! So we’re trying something slightly different; rather than doing a 30 day challenge, we are going to commit to following a MOSTLY clean eating lifestyle. And not just for 30 days, but as something that we are going to follow long term. We will of course allow some indulgences and ‘cheat’ meals because we have to be realistic – we love to go out, try new foods and drinks, have fun with friends, and we’re not willing to cut that out of our lives, because where’s the fun in that?!
If you read our posts, you know that we really do live a pretty healthy lifestyle so this is nothing too extreme for us; we workout almost everyday, love healthy foods and creating recipes that are good for you and get our daily dose of vitamins, minerals, etc. However, like most people we have our downfalls – we love sweets and wine and our husbands love their snacks and beer – there is always room for improvement! As cliche as it sounds, there’s no better time to challenge yourself than the start of a new year right when you’re starting to feel guilty about all your bad holiday eating habits. We really like the premise behind the Whole30 and we believe that we should all strive to eat whole/clean foods, but it’s not sustainable long term and there is no reason to cut out dairy and whole grains from your diet – they are good for you in moderation! So that is why we take a lot of what we learned from the Whole30 and use it in our clean eating planning…
Clean eating is all about eating real, whole foods like veggies, fruits, healthy proteins and fats, whole grains, and small amounts of dairy – and really limiting things like refined grains, additives, preservatives, pesticides, sugars, and salts. It is also about being good to the environment and reducing waste and our carbon footprint – everything we eat takes resources to get from the starting point to our plates and we should make any effort we can to reduce that. The biggest difference between clean eating and paleo/Whole30 is that a paleo diet is more restrictive because it eliminates any foods that were not consumed during the Paleolithic era; things like grains, legumes, and dairy and it is significantly heavier on meats and nuts. A paleo diet is much harder to stick to and you could be missing out on some vital nutrients when you eliminate those things which is why it’s not something that we can, or should, stick to long term.
Now that we’ve got all the “why’s” out of the way, let’s get specific on our guidelines that we’re going to follow and the foods we’re going to eat, here are our 5 big rules:
- VEGGIES ARE YOUR BESTIES: when buying fruits and veggies, fresh and organic is key. Most people do not get nearly enough fruits and veggies on a daily basis – I won’t go into all the reasons why they are so good for us, because we all know that they are – so just eat more of them! We should also avoid pesticides whenever possible; not only are they bad for us, but they’re bad for the environment. As far as our environmental impact goes, did you know that a vegetarian diet requires 3 times less water and 2.5 times less energy to produce than a meat-heavy diet? And broccoli has a carbon footprint that’s 13 times lower than that of the same amount of conventionally raised beef? This is a reason to always buy organic and even local to cut down on that footprint!
- SAY NO TO MEAT (SOMETIMES): Meat is good for you and a great source of protein and nutrients – we’re definitely not going vegetarian – but there is a TON of research out there that points to the health benefits – for both you and the planet – of consuming LESS meat. Benefits like reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and even weight management for us and ozone protection for our planet. The big points to know here are; don’t worry about not getting enough protein if you eat less meat (most Americans already get more than the recommended amount daily AND it’s very easy to get protein from plant sources), when you do eat meat make sure it’s grass-feed, wild-caught, CLEAN, and avoid the more processed forms (I see you bacon).
- STAY AWAY FROM PROCESSED FOODS: “We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons” -Alfred E. Newman. This quote has stuck with me because it’s funny, but also kind of true… which is really really sad. Processed foods can be defined differently depending on the type of lifestyle you’re following; if you’re going to be super strict, the term processed foods could include things like smoothies (where you take a bunch of whole foods and ‘process’ them together to become something else), but we’re not going that far. Generally speaking, processed foods are packaged goods that have a longer shelf life. The food gets to this state by the addition of artificial ingredients like preservatives, hydrogenated oil, fillers, and artificial sweeteners. When avoiding processed foods you want to look for anything with added sugar, long and unpronounceable ingredient lists, and anything with partially hydrogenated oils. Don’t let this scare you though, there are PLENTY of clean ‘processed’ foods out there that you can and should eat (yogurt, some cheese, hummus, whole wheat pastas, pasta sauce, etc).
- ADDED SUGAR IS NO GOOD: Did you know the AHA recommends less than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men? And did you know that an average American has about 28 teaspoons per day?! We have a HUGE sugar problem… the biggest thing the Whole30 opened my eyes to was the amount of sugar that is in almost everything we eat; companies add it to almost every packaged food you buy at the grocery store – it took me trips to 3 different stores to find a pasta sauce without added sugar, now that’s just ridiculous!! If only do one thing this year, we CHALLENGE YOU to go sugar free for 1 week just to open your eyes to what you’re putting in your body and all the sugar that’s in it. The easiest way to limit sugar intake it to obviously cut down on all the sweet things like baked goods, candy, soft drinks. But you also need to pay attention to the sugars in other unsuspecting packaged foods – make sure there is no sugar on the ingredient list, or if it’s there it better be near the bottom! Naturally occuring sugar in fruit and dairy is not as worrisome.
- WHOLE GRAINS ARE ALLOWED: Grains are an important part of a healthy diets and they are sources of many nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). The grains that we eat should be in their raw forms – think quinoa, oats and wild rice. Pasta and bread are also okay on occasion when they’re whole grain and made with simple ingredients; whole grains should ALWAYS be the first ingredient on the list and the list should be short with hardly any added sugar or weird ingredients.
BASICALLY, EAT THIS:
Fresh Fruits & Veggies
Nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil, etc)
Unrefined Whole Grains
Unprocessed Meats (grass-fed, wild-caught)
Hormone-Free Dairy (small amounts)
Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, palm oil)
Unrefined Sweeteners (honey, maple syrup)
Got it?! We know it’s a lot to follow and for some it can be a major lifestyle overhaul, but if you’re willing to try it out, we can almost guarantee you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and look; More energy, better sleep, healthier skin, better attitudes and weight loss are just some of the benefits of eating clean! We’ll be posting some of our favorite ‘clean’ recipes over the next few weeks and hope that you’ll take the journey with us!