Home Cook It Yourself Presenting: The 7 Day Clean Eating Challenge

Presenting: The 7 Day Clean Eating Challenge

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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 “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?

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BeautifulNaturalMe April 18, 2010 - 4:09 PM

I have been reading your site for about 2 months now and this is my first time commenting. I am so excited about this clean eating challenge! I usually eat pretty clean, but I moved about 2 weeks ago and not having money or a fridge really limited what I was able to eat (dont worry, I have a fridge now–no more top ramen and canned veggies for me!).

Anyways, I am settling into my new apartment and I am ready to get back to my normal routine. I am definitely joining this challenge!

Erika April 18, 2010 - 4:31 PM

Well, welcome! I’m glad you commented!

No fridge? Aw, I can only imagine the struggle! I’m glad you’re better situated, though.

Do you have any questions or foreseeable issues as far as what I’ve outlined thus far? I want to make sure all bases are covered before we begin next week.

Tramisa December 18, 2012 - 10:30 PM

What are the dates for the challenge? The top of the post says April-May but you mentioned something about next week? Thanks for the all the info. I love the blog!

Erika Nicole Kendall December 19, 2012 - 10:10 AM

This is old. The new “Clean Eating Boot Camp for 2013” will be starting shortly.

Renethia Cureton April 4, 2014 - 2:38 AM

I am interested in doing this 7day challegne

Kristina April 18, 2010 - 4:50 PM

Way to go. I did 30 days of clean eating, no sugar, so gluten, so animal products, no alcohol and no caffeine. Felt great. Having a community to do it with made a big difference. So seven days should be a piece of cake…I mean a piece of fruit 🙂

Jubilance April 18, 2010 - 6:58 PM

Ericka, I’m in!

I’ve actually been doing this for the past couple of weeks & so far it has been great. I haven’t wanted any fast food or even anything out of a box since I started. And the best part is that the scale has been moving downward, yay!

Denise April 18, 2010 - 7:16 PM

I would like to participate in this challenge. I have been interested in cleaner eating and recently read Tosca Reno’s book but I have put it into practice as yet. Hopefully this will help me get the ball rolling on actually doing it.

Tam April 18, 2010 - 7:53 PM

I’m in!! I start a work-out boot camp this week so this challenge will go perfectly with my boot-camp.

PhluffyPrincess April 18, 2010 - 8:51 PM

Girl I am SO in this. I have been relying on processed food way too much and for much too long. This will also help me to cut back on my sodium consumption. Excellent challenge, thank you.

Shemika April 18, 2010 - 10:47 PM

I am excited about the challenge. I look forward to reading more this week. The next best thing is that I hope to have my best friend join me. We are both on a mission to eat healthy and stay that way. We already to, but to get more tips is awesome.

circa1908 April 19, 2010 - 9:48 AM

I’m so excited you did this, I have been trying to do this since March without much success. having a community of folk in it with you should be helpful. Thanks and I am looking forward to it. (First time commenter, following for months)

Evelyn April 19, 2010 - 9:51 AM

Ok, it’s official- this is the plan I’m following! I read about the clean food lifestyle for the first time yesterday, and started looking at the books and website… seeing this on your site (which I am so inspired by- thank you) is confirmation that this is a solid plan for better health!

I am at the beginning of my journey, my body is fighting me at every step… but I have to do this so that I can live. I will take whatever steps are necessary to lose my weight and develop a healthy heart.

Nia April 19, 2010 - 12:22 PM

Count me in!! I’m so excited about this! Once upon a time I was a very healthy eater and happy with my weight. Then the last 6mos happened and between all the stress and meetings, not only have I have stopped working out but I’ve also been eating way to much processed food. Stuff that used to taste nasty and greasy and salty and too sweet now tastes just fine. I can’t wait to have my waistline and taste buds back!

Tina Fite April 19, 2010 - 1:10 PM

So ready for this challenge! Although I have been living this way for the past seven weeks, I want to find better ways to do it and possibly even simpler ways of preparing others in my family for it. This will definitely help me to stay motivated to continue living this way, while inviting others to join this way of life as well. Thanks for the challenge and definitely count me in!

Ashley (DazzlingRayn) April 19, 2010 - 3:12 PM

Hey girl! I like this idea and I’m in! I know I might get my knuckles rapped, but I just have to ask…is meat allowed? Or canned beans/peas? I love love love my black beans, and I always rinse!

Erika April 19, 2010 - 3:38 PM

Funny enough, I have a recipe on how to cook dried black beans… because the cans are a little worse for the environment and black beans dried in the bag are so much cheaper, it’s best that they come bagged. As far as canned peas go? Opt for frozen. 🙂

Meat is allowed!

Stephanie April 19, 2010 - 3:16 PM

Count me in…I am on a journey to lose the last 40lbs (lost a total of 37lbs since July ’09). So excited to be a part of this…

Sharon April 19, 2010 - 4:15 PM

Its been almost a year since I used JC to help me lose weight. I lost about 20lbs and between 10-15inches overall. I have kept it off add or take 3-5lbs depending on the week. However, I lived and stll live on boxed, wrapped, processed food. The only good thing is that I also drink plenty of water and eat lots of veggies. I’m ready to take my lifestyle to the next level but going to need a lot of support.

Ashley (DazzlingRayn) April 19, 2010 - 6:02 PM

Alright, maybe this will be the impetus I need to try cooking my bag’o’beans. Maybe even chickpeas next? Thanks Miss Erika!

Tosha April 19, 2010 - 6:28 PM

Im in i need to work this off!!!

Natasha April 19, 2010 - 7:47 PM

This is something I’m willing to try. Will you have tips for those of us who are extremely busy (as if any of us aren’t!)? Eating clean is great, but as you said in your blog, a big part of why we rely so much on processed foods is the amount of time it saves us in the kitchen. I want my food to taste great and be easy/quick to prepare, as well as portable for those days when I’m all over the place and don’t have time to sit and eat my meal in peace.

Najah April 19, 2010 - 9:18 PM

this is cool! i am going to try this. i lost like 20 lbs. last year and i’ve been trying to lose 10-15 more, but i keep on falling short. i have come to the conclusion that my diet is the biggest issue. i love to run and exercise, but i find it hard to make my dietary changes a true lifestyle change. i hope i can make it thru a week of clean eating.

Brie April 19, 2010 - 10:31 PM

i’m totally in! i am trying to lose about 70 pounds and like natasha above i am extremely busy. i am in sales and am always on the go. and work till 8pm a couple nights and most saturday mornings. so needless to say i want to eat clean and healthy but packaged foods and fast foods are easy and accessible. i need to figure out how to balance healthy loving with my crazy job and i will be dropping pounds in no time! please help lol!

winnie April 20, 2010 - 8:08 AM

I started eating this way in earnest about 4 months ago. Before I would eat healthy meals, but indulge in processed snack foods. Once I cut that out, I finally saw the results I wanted. I’ll join in with the challenge just to reinforce good eating as well as to share healthy recipes with everyone else. For those of you who are looking for guidance, Eating Well is a magazine devoted to clean, sustainable eating. They have an excellent website that will allow you to get recipes for free.

Nia April 20, 2010 - 9:09 AM

Winnie, thanks for the website tip! All the recipes on there look great and there are so many! Now I’m even more pumped about this!

keni April 20, 2010 - 10:48 AM

Ok I want to try this because reading this really made me think about how empty my fridge is when I return from grocery shopping. My problem…….I can’t cook! So will u be suggesting some menu ideas and directions 4 us challenged folk?

Erika April 20, 2010 - 11:19 AM

Absolutely! Check out the post titled What’s In My Clean Eating Healthy Kitchen? and stay posted – the rest of the week will include more tips, followed up with a Q&A for the final round of questions before we get started!

Vanessa (Nessa) April 21, 2010 - 9:47 AM

Do you find that black people are not very receptive to weight loss help? I joined your site from a referral and your Facebook fan page and thought there would be much more participation than this with all of your fans. Let a white girl do the same thing, and it would make the news! Why is that? That frustrates me.

Erika April 21, 2010 - 10:00 AM

I think it’s partly because a lot of us didn’t grow up with this kind of lifestyle evident in our homes, so it’s hard to relate or embrace. We like what’s comfortable… and it takes an extreme amount of effort to go outside of the norm to get what you want. Everyone likes easy… but going beyond “easy” to “right” is a challenge many people – black or white – find difficult to embrace.

bellz April 21, 2010 - 8:30 PM

im in!! looking fwd to trying this. i need to go shopping lol

lilmizsunshyne April 22, 2010 - 12:29 AM

I’m totally stoked about starting this 7 day Clean Eating challenge– it should be a good way to really see what bad things I’ve been eating this semester that I thought were good for me and cut them out for good…
Thanks so much for this post!

Erica April 22, 2010 - 7:12 PM

wow! i’m so glad i found this site and this challenge! i got 3 days to prepare but i’m all in!

lakeisha stringfellow April 23, 2010 - 1:57 PM

im in! i cant wait

N.I.A. naturally April 23, 2010 - 2:31 PM

I’m in!! Looking forward to it. Even though I’m a vegetarian, I think this might be harder than it seems. But, I’m ready for the challenge.

Erika April 23, 2010 - 2:38 PM

I think it is harder for vegetarians, in a way, because so many of us tend to lean on processed foods or processed versions of products to bulk up the options. I’m particularly interested in how the vegetarians out there who try the challenge get by! Keep me posted!

SchwayThin April 24, 2010 - 9:14 AM

I’m excited for the challenge!

But I have to ask…

Do you really keep sodium bicarbonate out of your kitchen? How come?

Erika April 24, 2010 - 11:31 AM

As an ingredient and listed as “sodium bicarbonate”, by default it gets put out – I can bake my own items, therefore controlling just how much is in there. I find that manufacturers put way too much of everything in their products… I keep tabs of what goes in my body and bake it myself. Since I rarely bake like that anyhow, it stays out. 🙂

Vee Woo April 24, 2010 - 9:21 PM

Um, you do realize that sodium bicarbonate is just the formal name for baking soda right? So if you’ve got Arm & Hammer in your fridge…

Editor’s Note: Um, you do realize that I addressed this already, right? Alas, since you’re the second person to get hung up on this, I changed it in the post. I’d hate for anyone else to miss the forest for focusing on the trees. 🙂

Shauna April 24, 2010 - 9:39 PM

I’m excited about this challenge. I go back and forth with clean eating, and ready to give it a try again and stick with it this time.

Tam April 25, 2010 - 10:11 AM

I came across another blog http://www.thewholegang.org/ that is hosting a “30 day food revolution” inspired by the TV show. It starts on Monday and I thought you’d find it interesting because it is in-line with what you’re doing on your blog.

Nichola August 6, 2010 - 5:32 AM

I have a healthy eating food blog online, I am 38 years old and I weight 125lbs, I eat extremely healthy and run for an 1hr 4 times a week, I also have a detox healthy soup range, I don’t do diets I only do healthy eating life style, so I have my 5 fruits a day, vegetables and my lean protien, I am also alergic to wheat and gluten and can’t drink milk, so all of my carbs are free from wheat and gluten, I drink 3 glasses of soy milk daily. And what I have noticed about people of color and of carribbean decent, keeps forgetting this isn’t a diet its a life style change and has soo as they loose the weigh they fall back into the back eating routine, I love sweet potato mash, I drink 2 litres of water daily I drink mint teas in the morning before I eat my fruit for breakfast. I am happy there is another person of color trying to help our generation in treating there body with respect and love.

Nina August 31, 2011 - 7:30 AM

I’m so in! I bought the book clean eating a few months back and started and then fell off–the challenge of some of the items on her menu were discouraging I stopped, but since I stumbled upon your FB and website–I’m psyched! Looking forward to the weightloss and healthy eating tips and motivation I already feel coming from your site and words…I have so much to say, so forgive me, if I’m rambling or don’t make any sense I’m just EXCITED!!! Cannot wait to receive my menu planner 😉

Steffie December 28, 2011 - 12:41 AM

yeah im soo down for this ! i just started working a whole foods about a month ago. and what i have learned about processed foods and other ingredients i have been looking at what i have been eating a lot more. plus the fact that my manager is vegan, hes trying to shy me into not eating meat.lol

Roxie February 1, 2012 - 12:40 AM

I would like to try this challenge. I have been putting off eating right and exercising. I would find excuse after excuse but I am ready to start living a heather lifestyle. I am going to try and get my boyfriend and friends to join this challenge also.

Melanese February 1, 2012 - 11:46 PM

I am SO in on this challenge!

I have frequented your site since I found it about a year and a half ago and I have never commented nor given my thoughts or opinions on anything you have written. I can see the time and effort that go into your posts but I am kinda shy. I think this is a FABULOUS way to pay it forward. I guess I need to catch up on the last couple of your posts.

Thank you for organising this….I look forward to participating and seeing my own progress as well as others. Off to place these dates in myplanner….Green smoothie recipes here I come…

Erika Nicole Kendall February 2, 2012 - 6:30 AM

Awww, don’t be shy mama! Thank you for reading for so long! *big hug*

kendra February 22, 2012 - 1:28 PM

im in,,,,sadly i didnt know where to start… i have been looking for something like this to walk me the steps of clean eatting!!!! thank so much for doing these,,,i needed this:}

Erika April 21, 2012 - 1:26 PM

I love it!!! I’m in!!

Briana @ The Health Life Balance April 22, 2012 - 2:10 AM

I’m in! This past week I have given in to all my fast food and processed food cravings. And I always feel horrible afterwards. I know my diet is what’s keeping my back from achieving my weight loss and general health goals. So I’m going for it. Glad to know I won’t be alone. Looking forward to the challenge!

Angie September 3, 2012 - 12:15 PM

When will this challenge begin?

AshBash December 19, 2012 - 8:28 AM

Hi Erika! i just recently started reading ur site and i love it! im really excited about this challenge! bt i was wondering, when you bake do you bake vegan or non-vegan? i am a recent culinary school graduate and i love baking but i have to confess that im kinda scared about which direction to go, as far as baking is concerned.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 19, 2012 - 10:09 AM

For the sake of your culinary knowledge, I’d think you should explore both. Besides, I think this is a weird approach to it. Vegan baking isn’t just for vegan bakers, I promise – there’s some delicious flours and some really creative techniques in vegan baking.

Also: baking vegan isn’t the only way to bake “clean,” either.

Jendayi February 28, 2013 - 4:47 PM

I’m in! NOt sure when this started. But i’ve lost about 100pds, with 20 to 30lbs to lose, but been stuck in the same lane for a while now. I workout ferociously, most a vegetarian but have too many sweet tooth indulgences, and that is what’s keeping me from that last weight loss. Clean eating isn’t difficult for me, i did it for one whole year but fell off last year. So i’m starting a challenge in my fb health page for Mar 1st, & excited to join my sistas here as well. Support always helps. All the best everyone.

Brandy August 14, 2013 - 7:12 PM

Erika, will you be doing another challenge again? I am certainly I interested. Would love to get in board with clean eating, sharing ideas and recipes and have awesome people to help keep me honest!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 15, 2013 - 9:52 AM

Yep. Check here.

sexybrowneye32 January 26, 2014 - 5:26 PM

My boyfriend and I are going to John your challenge. We have been eating healthy for quite a while now. No while brad only whole grain. No sodas, some all natural grape juice but mostly water. I’m excited about clean eating!!

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