The other day I received an email from a woman who had been following my Gwyenthmademedoit Instagram feed, asking for details on how I was able to fully transition to clean eating over the last few weeks. She was ready to take the plunge, but was scared and overwhelmed, and was looking for advice from someone who had completely moved to clean eating and cooking successfully. I scratched my head because I had never meant to give the impression that I had completely and/or successfully transitioned over.
I stumble and fall, on accident and on purpose, many times throughout the day and week, and I still consume dairy, alcohol, and shhh, even french fries on occasion. But if pressed to give any sort of advice on how I’ve made the switch to clean eating at home, my biggest piece of advice is to only partially commit to the transition at first, and allow for some flexibility in your food diet. Others may call your idea of flexibility an indulgence, a slip-up, or a “cheat day,” but what it really is, is a realistic approach to a drastic switch in eating. I wholeheartedly feel that if you try to make any drastic changes to your dietary routine, you will eventually grow tired, overwhelmed, and frustrated with the switch, and instead of it becoming a regular part of your life, it will end up feeling like a prison sentence.
Some practical pieces of advice to approach clean eating in a flexible way
– Commit to cooking and eating clean at home, but allow for flexibility when eating out, when your food choices may be restricted. With a 3 children and a busy schedule, we eat out at least 2-3 meals throughout the week, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. When eating out, I allow for some dairy to slip into my diet, or some processed and/or fried food, by way of a piece of pizza or my favorite indulgence of all, french fries. I have been cooking nothing but clean meals at home for almost 2 months, and so occasionally going off course when dining out is not going to undo all the time and energy I have put into clean eating at home. Plus, it allows me to feel like I’m not giving up everything I love.
– Allow for off-limit restrictive items. At the risk of sounding like a lush, alcohol is an off-limits item that I won’t commit to eliminating from my diet. Pictured above is a whole fruit margarita I made last night with my Vitamix. Coffee is another off-limit item. And so is coffee creamer for that matter, until I at least find a suitable dairy-free alternative, which I have yet to do. So if you happen to have a fantastic lead on a good coffee creamer, help a sister out and send it my way please?
– Give yourself plenty of choices. Stock the heck up on clean eating items. Here’s a great list I compiled of 20 items I have on hand at all times. I find that when I have plenty of good food available to feed my body and snack on, the less I even realize I’m going without the things I used to love so much, like chunks of brie or cheddar cheese and sliced salami on top of crackers, a typical daily snack for me just a short time ago.
– Put extra love into making extraordinary side dishes of grains and vegetables so you won’t miss your old way of eating. For all of my life, I always felt that there must be three items on my dinner plate; a protein, a starch, and a fruit or vegetable. It’s how I grew up eating, and how I ate for all 37 years of my life until just a few weeks ago. But since I’ve eliminated a lot of starches from my diet, including all those scrumptious pre-packaged side dishes I used to love so much, like buttered cheesy noodles and fried rice, I’ve had to challenge myself to cook a vegetable or grain side dish that would be tasty enough to take the place of that “3rd item.” Sides like roasted cauliflower with a mustard seed vinaigrette, NY street vendor salad, or a lentil and grain salad are both filling and wonderfully tasty so I don’t feel cheated. I put the time I would have spent on making 2 side dishes into making 1 beautifully fresh, clean, and wholesome side that keeps me on track.
So these are just some of the ways I’ve been able to eliminate dairy, gluten, red-meat, and processed foods out of my diet — most of the time. Sometimes, making a switch is all about the mindset you approach it with. For me, as long as I don’t feel like my hands are completely tied, I can commit to making big changes, and know that if I fall, I can always bounce right back, with no self-inflicted penalties. Because at the end of the day, the only one we really need to be held accountable by, is ourselves.
I came across this quote today, and it fits with the theme – and the approach to changing my eating habits – just perfectly:
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates
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