30-Days of Clean Eating — W1:The Plan

30-Days of Clean Eating Challenge. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

This is not a diet. And this is absolutely not a paleo diet. It's not the 30-day clean eating plan that you already know about. This is about easing into, and trying out, a lifestyle change. At the heart of it is cutting out overly processed food. These overly processed foods are convenience foods. I'm talking packaged cookies, crackers, cereals, and pre-made meals. I'm also talking about canned soups, pasta sauces and those little cups of fruits.

The challenge—if you are willing to accept it—is for the next 30 days to say goodbye to your Stovetop Stuffing, your Triscuits, your Cinnamon Chex cereal and your diet soda. Shove your canned fancy fruit, chicken noodle soup, your frozen Lean Cuisine, and your boston cream pie light yogurt in the back of the cabinet and refrigerator.  Give up your Starbucks latte and your Panera bagel for one whole month. Trust me, if I can survive a month without a Starbucks latte, anyone can.

So what is "clean eating"? There really isn't a formal definition that I like. It implies eating and cooking foods in their natural form. So making brown rice from scratch instead of buying a package that has the rice, dehydrated chicken stock, spices and more sodium than you need in one day in it. Or grilling a piece of sustainably caught fish and veggies instead of "making" a bag of frozen chicken alfredo pasta for dinner. It means eating an apple with almond butter for a snack instead of eating a container of apple sauce and a roll of Ritz crackers with sugary peanut butter on them.

The key is to read all the labels when you are at the grocery store. Give yourself some extra time too, because if you aren't already a label-reader this is going to blow your mind. I would encourage you to start by signing up for a food tracking site like www.myfitnesspal.com. Get to know the amount of calories, fat, sodium, fiber, sugar, etc. that you SHOULD be eating on any given day. Tracking your food is time consuming. At least try it for a few days to give yourself a benchmark for reading labels at the grocery store.  It's not about eating a low fat or low calorie diet, but instead it is a way to help you eat a well balanced and nutritious diet.

A few of the things I am asking you to give up for the month are:

  • Overly processed foods
  • Refined sugar (see my previous blog post on this)
  • Alcohol

Now I know what you are wondering...is she going to ask me to give up meat and dairy? Well, I am vegan and a little veganism never hurt anyone. However, that is your personal choice. I would instead ask you to make more conscientious choices when it comes to eating meat, dairy and eggs. For the next month, try to buy local meat or sustainably caught fish. Try to buy local eggs, cheese and butter. These products are more nutrient rich than what you will buy in the grocery store and are hopefully more humanely raised or killed. And they are much more expensive. Which should mean you will eat less of them. Which is healthier. See how that works? Now, if you really want to see a difference in your health, your body—including your weight, I would encourage you to give up animal products for the month.

So let's be honest. Will you fail? Undoubtedly. Will I fail? You bet. The key is not to beat yourself up, but to pick back up the next day to finish the challenge. To help with this, I am proposing a one cheat meal a week plan. We are all going to have an event that is going to make it so that it's just not feasible to eat clean. Charity events, client dinners, family gatherings—you get a hall pass for these. And if you have two events in one of the weeks, give yourself two cheat meals that week. This 30-day plan isn't about rules and restrictions. It's about changing the way you look at foods, labels and what you put into your mouth. As with anything, if you make it too restrictive you will give up. Cut yourself some slack.

30-Days of Clean Eating Challenge. Brought to you by www.fernsandpeonies.com

I will be breaking this series into 4 weekly blogs. This breaks the month into bite-sized pieces. Make it through one week and we will talk about what you need to make it through the next. I will show you how to make some of your staple foods and give you tips on how to make it to the end.

Hope you join me! Xoxo