Confessions of a Clean Eating Convert

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When I was a child, I was the pickiest eater around. You couldn't pay me to put a fruit or vegetable to my lips. On Saturday nights when my parents would go out and we would have a babysitter, my dinner consisted of tacos from Taco Bell. I loved nachos, fries, chicken nuggets … well, you get the picture.

When I think back to putting back four tacos in one sitting, it makes me grimace. I was never big or overweight. In fact, I was quite the opposite—I was always the shortest and smallest in my class. Every year, I would cry at my yearly physical about being so small, and my pediatrician would give me the same pep talk. I was always told, "Good things come in small packages."


Costume sums up my eating preferences as a kid.

When I went to college, I ate my fair share of late-night Papa John's and drank plenty of beer. I don't know if I put on the "freshman 15," but my body wasn't a picture of health.

After college, I began cleaning up my eating habits. Fruits and vegetables were a part of my diet, and I ate like a typical adult. However, I was concerned more about fat grams and calories than the actual ingredients. I really didn't know any better. I'd often bring Lean Cuisines to work for lunch, because it was easy and I thought they were good for you. It was probably over two years ago when I started reading and learning more about "clean eating."

Tomatoes
Image: Tomatoes via Shutterstock

Clean eating, in a nutshell, focuses on eating food in as close to its natural, unaltered state as possible—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat—versus pre-packaged, processed food.

The best part of clean eating is that anyone can do it. It doesn't involve a point system, pills, or powders. It's a lifestyle choice. It's about putting only the healthiest foods into your body. This means processed foods are completely avoided. Basically, when looking at a food label if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

I also maintain an 80/20 lifestyle. This means that 80 percent of the time, I stick to eating clean, and I also allow myself to cheat and indulge. No one can really be on 100 percent of the time. My guilty pleasures include a red wine, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and homemade baked goods!

In the last year or so, I've noticed how much better I feel when I eat clean. I have more energy, my workouts are better, and my body feels better. It's not so hard to eat clean. Basically, I try to meal plan, and I use Sunday as a day for meal prep. I make a big batch of soup for the week for lunches, or bake granola from scratch to add to my yogurt. I have found so many great recipes on Pinterest that eating clean has almost become mindless to me.

So, how do you get started?

I've included some great links from The Gracious Pantry that will get you started on the right food:

Do you eat clean? What works for you? Have you noticed a difference?

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