That’s right. Beginning April 25th and ending May 2nd, we will begin the 7 Day Clean Eating Challenge. But before I dive into the details, let’s talk a little bit about what clean eating is and how it benefits us.

What is Clean Eating?

Clean eating is eating as close to the source as possible. What is the source, you ask? The source is Mother Earth, of course. Sure, it sounds like hippie stuff, but think about it – look in your pantry or cabinets, then look in your refridgerator. If the vast majority of the foods you own reside outside of your refridgerator, and you consider yourself overweight? Chances are, that pantry or those cabinets are why.

Basically, living a life of clean eating is living a life of simplicity. You’re probably not going to overindulge on the breads – or eat much bread at all -while eating clean. No refined white rice. No deep fried goods. No processed foods. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I can acknowledge and appreciate the fact that our little friends in the box or plastic wrapper have allowed us to do a lot in a short amount of time (I can get scalloped potatoes with only a little milk and a microwave? I’m in there like swimwear!), but it is certainly not clean eating. If you’re going to embrace the challenge then the boxed goods, canned goods and plastic shrink wrapped packages… have got to go.

Clean eating, with all the “Mother Earth” talk, might sound like hippie speak (I am a self-proclaimed hippie and all), but it isn’t. It’s making sure that we use and respect the Earth for what it is supposed to give to us while, in turn, giving it what it needs. I don’t have to tell anyone that after we’ve enjoyed our boxed and plastic-wrapped goods, that that trash has to go somewhere…and it’s usually buried in a forest…er…landfill somewhere. Clean eating, because you’re using items that rarely come with wrappers, are less harmful to the environment.

Okay, no more hippie moments. For now.

What are the basic tenets of clean eating?

Avoid processed foods. Outside of my usual spiel about why you should avoid foods laden with chemicals we don’t understand, there is actually a multi-layer reason for why this is important.

For starters, processed foods usually come with an excessive amount of sugar. I mean, let’s face it – sugar tastes good. The companies who make our favorite foods know that sugar makes their food so irresistible, so they’re good for putting it in, well, everything. Avoiding unnecessary and unnatural sugars is a key part of clean eating, and you can’t do that in a lifestyle that includes processed foods.

Should you insist on indulging in foods that come wrapped in a package, check the ingredient label – if it contains an ingredient that you wouldn’t keep in your own kitchen (monosodium glutamate? what? – (changed for clarity)) then try to find something a little more chemical-free, or pass on the item altogether.

If you avoid processed foods, you’ll also be avoiding unnatural fats (like trans fats) and unnecessary carbs. All carbs aren’t bad, but the processed foods that tend to contain the highest amount of carbs and fats usually have the least nutritional value… and that gets in your way when it comes to achieving the next target of clean eating.

Get the most out of your food choices. Usually, this means going for the fruits and veggies over the chips and dip. And remember, we’re eating as close to the source as possible… so get the regular peach and skip the fruit cups.

When you choose to eat something, aside from “make sure it tastes great” and “make sure there’s no [insert food allergy] in it,” add “make sure that it’s chock full of vitamins and minerals”

—and we love vitamins and minerals
and “make sure this is the most nutrient-filled choice I can make” to your list. So no, the white bread isn’t going to give you as much as the whole grain bread might. And if you don’t know whether or not your favorite sub spot offers whole grain bread? Call ahead of time and ask.

Practice portion control. I’ve written on this before, but this is one part nutrition, one part eco-friendly. There’s no reason to take more than you need. Your body will only suffer through trying to churn through all this extra food, and it’s excess and unnecessary calories to burn. And you all know I love counting a calorie or two…hundred.

Drink at least 8 cups of water per day. That’s right.. I said 8. That should keep you sooo busy, that you can’t drink your pepsis or your coca colas or your hawaiian punches or your capri suns. Outside of the fact that water has the ability to help you feel full (more on that later this week) and flush your body of impurities, it has zero calories.

Say it with me. Zero. Calories.

Those are the basics, but we’ll be counting down to the start of the challenge by digging deeper into the principles of clean eating. This week will have one post each day about clean eating – everything from drinking (and enjoying) water to eco-friendly organic living to shopping lists to preparation for a healthy lifestyle (check out “Fitting Clean Eating Into A Busy Lifestyle“)… and topping it all off with a Q&A Wednesday centered all around the challenge (posted here).

You now have… 6 days. Tomorrow comes the sample shopping list (said sample shopping list is now posted here). Get your questions in this week, so you’re prepared for the next. Tell your Mama, tell your friends, tell everybody… build your support system and we all can connect and do this together!

Who’s with me?