Clean Eating Challenge Kick-off: Let the Cravings Begin!

Well, it’s here. The first day of the Clean Eating Challenge.

As I mentioned Friday, I inadvertently got myself into this, but I’m glad I did.


While my eating habits are generally pretty healthy, they could definitely use some spring cleaning. Let me give you an idea of my typical day.


  • One cup coffee with So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer
  • Plain yogurt with Homemade Granola and strawberries
  • Any bites of leftover wholegrain frozen waffles left on my kids’ plates, eaten as the plates are carried to the sink
  • Another cup of coffee


  • Banana
  • Latte with skim milk
  • Oooh, whatever that delicious pastry is in the case by the coffee counter


  • Kitchen sink salad with frozen veggie burger
  • Bites of leftover grilled cheese from Rory’s plate


  • More coffee
  • Some of the kids’ peanut butter graham crackers
  • One clementine
  • One or more of any sweet thing I can find in the house: cookie, granola bar, Hershey Kiss, ancient bag of chocolate chips dug out of the freezer


  • Something reasonably healthy: pasta, soup, stir-fry, etc., often featuring a meat-substitute (Morningstar Farms “ground beef,” Quorn “chicken nuggets,” Dominex “meatballs”) and some sort of white rice or pasta

The Kids Are Finally Asleep Celebration Treat

  • One beer (snow day: make it two)
  • One two five handfuls of pretzel sticks
  • One pack Dole Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas

So, yeah. There’s room for improvement. It’s a good time for a Clean Eating Challenge.

(Full disclosure: I wasn’t completely clear if today was the day we were supposed to start the challenge, or the day we were supposed to prepare ourselves for the challenge.  I went for the latter. I will use today to plan my menus, do some grocery shopping, and eat that cinnamon roll I picked up at Nosh this morning. Don’t judge.)

“Clean eating” is sort of a nebulous term. I’m not planning on doing anything as drastic as that detox I attempted last year (no meat, wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol).

Because while a detox has its benefits, I’m more interested in making a few reasonable adjustments to my existing diet. So I’ll be fine-tuning recipes I normally make. And obviously, I’ll be cutting quite a few things out.

My focus for the week:

1) Refined grains and sugars. Goodbye sugar, white rice and pasta, etc. I will allow myself whole wheat pasta, brown rice and sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup in moderation.

2) Processed foods. Out goes anything with more than five ingredients on the label, or ingredients that I can’t pronounce or don’t have in my own kitchen.

For example, all those meat substitutes. Yes, they make my life simpler. But this week, I’m going to try to find “whole food” substitutes for my substitutes. Tofu, tempeh, seitan etc. are still allowed.

3) Alcohol and excessive coffee.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of these in moderation, but for the sake of the Clean Eating Challenge, I’m going to cut back.

There’s no question that the sugar is going to be the hardest thing for me to cut. I love, love, love baked goods, ice cream, and anything chocolate. I turn to them to make me feel better when I’m stressed, or to treat myself with when I have something to celebrate (e.g., two hours to myself).

Without sugar, I am probably going to get a little cranky. Okay, a lot cranky. But I can do anything for a week, right? (Well, maybe not give up social media. But anything else.)

I expect to get many of my recipes from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cook Book, which I’ve referenced  here before. I will also go back to some of the recipes I learned from Michelle Pfennighaus at Find Your Balance. Finally, I’m going crazy on my new friend Pinterest. I’ve started a Clean Eating Challenge board, so feel free to check out what I’ve found and share any of your favorite “clean” recipes with me.

The good news is that I’m not doing it alone: my “Partners in Clean,” as Allie dubbed us, also include Allison and Holly. We each have slightly different goals. And we’ll be cross-posting updates on our challenge this week, so you can read about their adventures, too (and not just have to read five straight days of me crying out for a hot fudge sundae.) If you’re Twittery, we’ll also be sharing updates there with #cleaneatingchallenge.

Please send me your good “clean” vibes (“dirty” vibes are fine, too, as long as they don’t contain any refined sugars) and any tips or recipe ideas. Or maybe even consider joining us in the challenge for the week. If I can do it, anyone can.