5 Things I Learned From 5 Days of Clean Eating

5 days of eating healthy requires a lot of veggies!

My friend Shallon Brasley is a Beach Body Coach and my personal healthy lifestyle guru.  She is always upbeat, super supportive, and generally awesome to have around in life. As a gift to friends and family, she recently designed and ran a Five Day Clean Eating Challenge via Facebook.  About 25 of us from around the country joined the challenge.  We spent the week posting pictures of our meals, collaborating on recipe ideas, sharing hot tips for satisfying junk food cravings, and generally supporting each other.

This is Shallon - She is clearly awesome
This is Shallon – She is clearly awesome

It was one of the most beneficial things I have done in a long time!! I cut my daily calorie intake by about 500 calories, but felt less hungry all day and had more energy.  My skin was clearer and glowing.  Digestive issues that had plagued me for 6 months cleared up almost immediately.

I had always considered myself a generally healthy eater, but this challenge revealed some serious gaps in my daily diet that were holding me back.  Here are the five things I learned in 5 days of clean eating:

1. I was only getting about 50% of the vegetables I was supposed to.  

The challenge recommended 1 to 2 cups of fruits or vegetables with each meal AND 1-2 cups twice a day for mid-morning and mid- afternoon snacks.  Between the two snacks and lunch, the volume of food I was bringing to work each day DOUBLED.  Fiber is really important for your body to function properly, but most Americans only get about half of the recommended daily dose of 30 grams of dietary (from food) fiber.  Insufficient fiber was a part of the reason my body was having trouble processing food.  Even at my new level of intake (5-7 cups of fruits/veggies daily), I struggle to hit the 25 gram mark, so I was definitely way to low before.  Crazy!!

photo credit: Happy Thanksgiving via photopin (license)
photo credit: Happy Thanksgiving via photopin (license)

2. Preplanned healthy snacks make a huge difference.  

Before taking this challenge, I would force myself to resist the urge to snack between meals, using coffee (+ cream & sugar) to keep hunger at bay.  Sometimes I could hold out, but often I would cave to the hunger and binge on a bag of pretzels or chips.  With snacks regularly scheduled throughout the day, I no longer craved junk.  And, the snacks were some of my favorites!  A whole apple with an ounce of cheddar cheese, or a cup of carrot sticks with two tablespoons of hummus. Yum!

3. I was eating too many carbs and too much meat.  

Since I run and walk a lot, I never really worried about carb intake at all.  And since the Atkins craze, I don’t take meat intake that seriously.  As it turns out, excessive consumption of meat and grain was failing to keep me satisfied while simultaneously making me feel bloated and lethargic.  When my carb intake was reduced to 1/3 cup twice daily and meat was reduced to 3 oz per meal, I felt so much better!!  And with all of the fruit I was allowed to eat, I still had plenty of energy for my daily exercise routine.

photo credit: Garbagnati (Bakery) via photopin (license)
photo credit: Garbagnati (Bakery) via photopin (license)

4. The artificial ingredients in prepackaged foods are hard on our bodies.

Until this year, I always had a strong digestive track; so I was skeptical that packaged goods were really as bad as all the “health nuts” claimed.  Six moths of sensitive digestion later, I became desperate for a solution but was unwilling to add more chemicals to my diet via drugstore solutions.

After just 5 days clean eating, I was feeling great.  Everything had cleared as if by some miracle!  Then, after a particularly rigorous two hours spent playing tennis, I woke up in the middle of the night starving and chowed down a packaged Nature Valley Protein bar.  Mind you, I used to eat two of these every morning for breakfast.  Within 15 minutes, the old symptoms had returned and stayed with me through the following morning.  I was floored that my body reverted so quickly.  I checked the ingredient label of the bar the next morning for clues.  I don’t know what Soy Protein Isolate, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Rice Maltodestrin, Soy Lecithin, or Dextrose are, but  I’ve certainly never seen them for sale in the baking aisle.  So many ingredients are hiding in our pre-packaged products, even products that we consider “natural” and “healthy.”  I’m not saying these ingredients are necessarily harmful, but my body is having a conversation with me about how I consume food these days, and I can’t ignore it any more.

In case you are curious, here’s the nutrition facts for a “Nature” Valley Protein Bar:

NV_Protein_Bar_Peanut_Almond_Dark_Chocolate

5. Clean Eating is Affordable.

A common myth exists today that healthy eating is expensive.  Perhaps this is because healthy eateries charge more than McDonalds or because trendy, prepackaged “natural” food is more expensive than its hyper-preserved counterpart in the grocery aisle.  However, living through this clean eating challenge, I actually found fresh eating to be less expensive.  Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are far less expensive by weight and volume than more common snack items, like potato chips or pretzels.  Fresh produce is also less expensive than meat, especially the ethically raised sort!  When I started eating clean, my meat consumption dropped by 2/3 and my grocery bill dropped 20%.  In fact, I haven’t eaten through everything I bought at the start of the healthy eating challenge!

Certainly, a healthy items like nuts and dried fruit can be pricey, but that’s where proper portioning becomes the second way healthy eating saves money.  A healthy snack of dried fruit and nuts is just 6 almonds and 3 tablespoons of dried fruit.  It takes a long time to blow through a bag of almonds if you are only eating 6 at a time!

photo credit: Vintage Grow Your Money via photopin (license)
photo credit: Vintage Grow Your Money via photopin (license)

Interested in giving this life changing challenge a try?  Click Here to download Shallon’s Five Day Clean Eating Challenge. Interested in a full blown coach to help you on your way to a healthy lifestyle?  Email Shallon Brasley at CoachShallon@gmail.com.  You’ll get a super awesome coach and access to great nuggets like this one:

Drink More Water

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