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When you first get started eating clean, you have two options. You can go cold turkey and give up all the junk food, sugar, processed food etc. all at once, or you can opt for a more gradual change. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Pick the one you think will work best for you and give it a try.
If giving everything up cold turkey doesn’t work for you, you can always switch to a more gradual approach and vice versa. Please don’t beat yourself up if you make gradual changes or slip up here and there, particularly in the beginning. The important thing is that you are doing something to eat things that are better for your health and your body.
Decide what your clean eating goal is.
The first thing you have to decide is what exactly clean eating means for you and your family. Some of the basics include no processed food, organic produce, chicken and grass-feed beef whenever possible. Buy the best quality eggs you can. Decide what you want to completely cut from your diet. White flour and sugar are easy. But it’s up to you if you want to include whole wheat flour or cut out wheat completely. What about other grains? What are you and what aren’t you ok with?
Next, you can do one of two things.
1. You can go through the whole house and toss everything that is no longer on your approved food list. For some of us going cold turkey works best. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling crappy and fighting a headache for a few days. It’s your body adjusting to the cleaner food and detoxing from all the junk you’ve been eating up until this point.
2. If throwing away all this food is more than you can bear, consider donating what you can to a food pantry. Or eat what you have but not let any more processed and junk food enter the house. Next, cut out all white flour and sugar. Gradually make more and more changes to your diet until you reach a level of clean eating you’re comfortable with.
Don’t forget about drinks. When you’re thirsty, stick to water. Sodas and energy drinks are a big no-no. Everything in-between is up to you. Does coffee fit into your clean eating plan? If it does, make sure you give up the sugary creamer and stick to plain, organic coffee. Herbal teas are a great alternative as is lemon water.
Involve the family.
Eating clean is tough when you are the only one sticking with this particular diet. You’re not the only one who could benefit from this healthy way of eating. It will be much easier to stick to healthy, unprocessed foods when there is no junk food in the house to tempt you. But how do you go about getting the whole family on board?
Have a family meeting.
Start by calling a family meeting and laying the cards on the table. Tell everyone why eating clean, healthy, unprocessed food is so important and that this is a change you want everyone to make as a family. Tell them it’s something that’s near and dear to your heart and you need their support. If your kids are really young, you probably only have to have a meeting with your spouse and see if you get get him or her on board with you. It might be a bit tougher if you are the man who wants to make the changes and your wife does the cooking, but perhaps you can convince your spouse to make small steps with you, especially if you are helping with the extra workload.
Make it a gradual change
If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your family, consider making small changes when it comes to family food. For example, grill up some chicken and fix a big salad. Then fix a side of Mac and Cheese for the kids. Keep the garlic toast for those that want it when you have spaghetti, but add some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes as a healthy side. Fix the pasta for your kids, but make you and your husband some zoodles (zucchini noodles) to go with your meat and sauce.
Encourage your kids to take at least a bite of each new healthy dish. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. Encourage the kids to eat at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal or snack. Even small amounts of healthy food will add up and replace some of the processed junk. And hide those vegetables in surprising ways- peppers, carrots, and onions can be pureed and added to meatloaf, spinach and avocado can be added to a smoothie.
Find New Family Favorites.
As you try new recipes, give everyone a chance to vote on what they like and didn’t like. It won’t take you long to find a list of new family favorites. Feature those regularly on the menu and make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks everyone likes around.
Use The 80/20 Rule
It’s important to realize that every step towards clean food is a step in the right direction. Not all of your family meals have to be 100% clean. Aim for 80% healthy foods and 20% foods that aren’t quite as good for you. And it’s okay if the kids indulge in some junk food here and there. Don’t freak out if they have some cake or pizza at a birthday party. The goal is to make an overall improvement in your family’s life and to work towards good habits in your children’s lives.
In our house I have not bought my kids soda at all (20 years and counting), because it is not a part of clean eating. I do allow my kids 1 glass or 1 can of soda at parties that we go to. Since we may only go to 5-10 of these kinds of parties in a year they are not getting that much soda, but it is enough to help them feel like they are not deprived.
Give yourself some grace in the changes as well. Unless you are extremely sick and this is a matter of life and death a small cheat here or there is okay. If you find that it completely derails you from your goals, then you will have to be more strict with yourself. This is something to watch and adjust as you continue on the journey to better health.
No matter how you get there, you will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel once you switch to eating real food that’s good for your body. Don’t be surprised to find that you have more energy and a mental clarity you didn’t realize you were missing.