Clean eating just makes sense to me, almost too much sense for it to have a name! Much of what I’ve learned about clean eating has come from two great blogs- 100daysofrealfood and thegraciouspantry. I have also read two books by Tosca Reno that I loved! If you’re just getting into it, check out The Eat Clean Diet Recharged and/or The Eat Clean Diet: Family & Kids. Just google Tosca Reno and you’ll find lots of info and resources!
There are many more resources out there, and each one I’ve found brings something different to the table. You’ll also find a wide range of stringency or strictness, and some different guidelines. The basic premise is usually the same, some people just have a different slant on things.
I am not an authority on eating clean, and there are many things I’d like to change in my own kitchen, but there are also lots of things I’ve started to do differently as a result of all my obsessing…
- Pancakes. This is one of our oldest switches, dating back before children and long before I had ever heard of eating clean. My husband and I used to make our own pancake mix, inspired by Alton Brown. This is something we still do, and while it’s not really clean (we use white flour and white sugar) it is so much better than the boxed mixes that I feel like it sorta counts. Our kids love them and I feel like they’re getting some nutritional value from these delicious treats. That said, I do have an alternate pancake I make for myself when I’m being very good- greek yogurt pancakes. I love them; they taste a little more eggy than regular pancakes, almost like a french toast taste, but they have a lot more protein, I use whole wheat flour, and no sugar…though I do top them with maple syrup. I wish I had always made these, because I feel like my kids would like them if they weren’t used to our other pancakes. My 2-year old likes them!
- Maple Syrup. Pancakes lead us to…maple syrup. We only use maple syrup. All-natural. From trees. Nothing added. 100% maple syrup. I never liked maple syrup, but my husband gradually won me over, helped along by all the bad news about high fructose corn syrup. Just look at those labels on Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth- eek! So we haven’t bought any of those in a long time. I’ll also use maple syrup as a natural sweetener in things like my refrigerator oatmeal. My biggest complaint? It’s expensive!! Our kids are not allowed to pour their own syrup:)
- Cream-of-anything soup. I used to like to have these soups, especially cream-of-chicken, in the house for easy dinners. But they were one of the first things to go as I stumbled across more and more posts and pins and articles about clean eating. I’ve found recipes to make your own substitutions, but haven’t tried any yet. I will soon, though, since I do miss some of my old easy dinners!
- Sauce Packets & Seasoning Mixes. I miss these, too. One of my favorite “oh no, it’s 5:30 and I have no idea what to make” dinners was pasta with broccoli in a creamy pesto sauce (courtesy of a nice green packet and some liquid). It was great because I usually had all the ingredients in the house- the pasta, frozen vegetables, a handy packet, milk and olive oil. Nothing had to be taken out ahead of time, nothing (except the milk) went bad anytime soon. Very convenient. Can’t do it anymore though. Too many crazy ingredients. As for the seasoning mixes, these I don’t miss as much. They are very easy and quick to make on your own, and really taste just as good or better. I usually make double batches and keep them in small tupperwares to use for the next dinner, too. There are a ton of recipes online for clean eating fajita mix, or taco, or adobo.
- Shredded Cheese. I stopped buying those convenient bags of already shredded cheese a while ago, too. There are added ingredients in them that you can avoid by shredding cheese yourself. This one is a bit of a pain, but something I can live with. It probably curtails the amount of cheese I eat, too, which is probably a good thing!
- American Cheese. No more pasteurized cheese product slices for us. I now buy sliced american cheese from the deli counter. It is more expensive and doesn’t last as long. But other than that this was a pretty easy change for us.
- Yogurt. I did used to love my flavored greek yogurt, but I’ve given it up. When I have yogurt now I use plain and add my own fruit and homemade granola for sweetness. When I don’t have granola I use maple syrup, or a little bit of powdered Stevia.
- Flavored Coffee Creamer. This was a bad one, and I knew it for a long time, but I loved it. My step-down was making my own creamer, using milk and sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract- which now makes me cringe almost as much as the store-bought kinds! Now I just use half and half, and drink flavored coffee which I have always loved. This could be a tough one for a lot of people (my brother-in-law says International Delights French Vanilla creamer is the reason he wakes up in the morning, lol) but is so worth it. This past weekend I was visiting family, and they had no half and half or cream, just 2% milk or flavored creamer. I went with the creamer and found it hard to drink- it is so sweet!!
- Whole Wheat Flour. I still use white flour, but I use a lot more whole wheat flour. I use a white whole wheat flour, and I use it in everything that calls for flour (except pancakes which I hope to change) including chocolate chip cookies- the kids still love them! I’ll often do half and half, depending on the recipe. But this is a pretty easy change to make, too. You can do it gradually, replacing just some of the white flour with whole wheat.
- Popcorn. I will never buy another box of microwave popcorn again. I read some article about the chemical(s) they use in the lining of the bags and it scarred me forever. We use an air-popper, and when I want to make a small quick batch I just put 1/4 cup kernels in a brown paper bag and pop it in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. A little more work (especially when we want buttery, movie-theater-style popcorn), but so good I don’t mind.
- Baking. I bake a lot more than I used to, and when I do I rarely use boxed or bagged mixes. When my oldest daughter turned three, I brought cupcakes to her little mommy & me class for her birthday. One of the moms asked me about my recipe. I said, “Oh, it’s Betty Crocker.” She said she thought they were homemade…I didn’t know you could make cupcakes homemade! Wasn’t using a box and making them yourself homemade? I guess I must have known, if I had given it any thought, that not all cupcakes came from a box. What about bakeries? And surely I had heard somewhere about people making their own brownies or cupcakes or something. But really I had never made anything but cookies from scratch. Now, I make most things from scratch- brownies, birthday cakes, banana or pumpkin bread, cookies, muffins. I also try to use whole wheat flour, and I’ve played around with sugars that are less refined- turbinado and coconut sugar mostly. The only time I’ve made an exception recently was when I had to make cupcakes for school- 27 cupcakes, an annoying amount really, just three over the 24 a standard recipe would make! I also had to make a kind I had never made before, which meant I either had to make a practice batch or risk making crappy cupcakes for my daughter’s class. So I caved and bought two boxes of the good old mix, partially hydrogenated oil and all!
There are a lot of other small changes I’ve made, especially when it comes to buying things with labels. I try to stick to the 5-ingredient rule from Lisa Leake at 100daysofrealfood whenever possible. My kids eat a lot of Triscuits- only 3 ingredients and all familiar! And a lot less Wheat Thins- a longer ingredient list. When I buy ice cream I go with a brand with fewer ingredients; Breyer’s is often a good choice. When I do buy things that have more than 5 ingredients I at least try to avoid things like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. I’m also more aware of foods that have chemicals like BHT added to them. There are so many good blogs out there that have more detailed information about these things…
I’m just trying to inch my way along and do what I can. Eating clean can be a lot of work! And more expensive…it’s daunting sometimes and there are many days I just want to say, “#@$! it!” and buy chicken nuggets for my kids. But overall we’re making progress. I hope to continue to make changes and better choices for my family.