- I feel healthier and am more energized: Eating clean definitely helped curb the sugar I was craving every day during the holidays. By cutting out added salt, sugar, and preservatives, I noticed feeling healthier, both physically and mentally.
- I tasted the full flavors of food: Only cooking with fresh, all-natural ingredients made a difference in the taste. Since I only used produce that was in season, the flavors came alive in the dishes. Seasonal vegetables became the main focus of dinners and lunches.
- I found a lot of satisfaction in preparing wholesome meals: Though I have always made homemade dinners every night before clean eating, I enjoyed the extra challenge of finding dishes that fully qualified as "clean" and were tasty. I discovered several recipes that I would not have made had it not been clean eating week(s)... and several of these are definitely keepers!
- I am more aware of what I am eating: Clean eating clued me into reading ingredient labels and understanding what food I am putting in my body. A lot of staples at our house, like salsa, hummus, and cereal have added preservatives and sodium. I'm now aware of the difference between buying products and making them yourself.
- More time consuming: This is an obvious one. Making everything from scratch takes a lot of time. That being said, I really enjoyed spending part of my Sunday afternoons baking up a new recipe that would last us the week. Though I probably won't be making several things every Sunday, I would like to bake at least one thing every week, such as granola, muffins, healthy cookies etc.
- More expensive: I didn't anticipate clean eating being too much more expensive (thanks to inexpensive Trader Joe's!) but all of the fresh fruit, veggies, spices did add up. For instance, instead of buying canned diced tomatoes, I would buy several more tomatoes than I usually would. Also, fresh spices are expensive but really make the flavors of fresh vegetables pop. Going forward, I'll just chose one spice a week to use. (Hopefully I can have an herb garden one day!) To make all of the baked goods, I needed more flour, oatmeal, and flaxseed. All of this combined added up, but now I have the staples like whole wheat flour that I can keep using.
- Requires more planning: Although I always plan out our meals for the week before my weekly grocery trip, it took a lot more time to search for recipes that qualified as "clean." Now, however, I have ones I can use in the future, which will save time.
- I missed chocolate and wine: Pretty much says it all. Although I'd eat a Dove dark chocolate after dinner, sometimes you just gotta have a brownie. And although we don't have wine every night, it's nice to have the option to enjoy a glass every once in a while!
I really enjoyed clean eating for restarting healthy eating after the holidays. I see myself doing this again next year (or whenever a "restart" button is needed). I loved finding recipes that used seasonal vegetables for the main part of the dish, and I want to continue this practice. However, since it does take longer to plan and prepare 100% clean meals, from now on, we'll be going 80% clean, 20% not clean (not "dirty," just not as clean).
An example of the 80/20 clean rule is a movie and dinner date night John and I just had. The soup (Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup- recipe below), salad, and salad dressing were all clean (except I did not make my own chicken stock), but I made the corn muffins from a box mix and we had a glass of wine.
Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup: Recipe from Cooking Light
Overview: Some of the ingredients are obscure, so I note what changes I made, and the soup still tasted great! The recipe makes 4 servings, but we finished the pot (aka John ate 3 servings), so you might want to double the recipe if this is your main course.
Wine Pairing: This issue of Cooking Light also suggests pairing a soft, fruity, but crisp wine with this soup to complement the coconut milk flavor. We had O'Reilly's Pinot Gris, which went very nicely with it!
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (3-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise: I used the zest and juice from one small lemon instead
2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste): Any type of hot sauce or paste works great
3 cups chicken stock or fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce: I omitted this
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces): I seasoned the chicken with paprika and pepper and cooked in a grill pan
1/2 cup green onion strips
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and the next 4 ingredients (through lemongrass); cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chile paste; cook 1 minute. Add Chicken Stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard lemongrass. Top with onions, cilantro, and juice.