10 Real Life Struggles of Clean Eating

I have to admit that today I didn’t do well finding time for myself.  It happens.  I was busy taking one of our puppies to the vet for an unexpected visit.  She cut her leg yesterday so we had it checked out.  Thankfully a little surgical glue, a bandage, and an e-collar later and she is going to be just fine.  Between that and getting ready for a Girl Scout meeting I didn’t have much time to do anything for me.  But, I plan to make time tomorrow.  Since I didn’t make time for me today and many people are looking for healthy eating options this time of year, I thought I might switch gears and talk a little bit about my clean eating endeavors I mentioned in this post about the Daniel Plan.  I love the concept and ideas of clean eating but it doesn’t come without struggles, at least for me.

What is Clean Eating?

For those of you that might be reading this and have never heard of clean eating or only vaguely understand what it is, let me enlighten you on it.  It is a lifestyle of eating only whole, unprocessed foods.  You want to eat only foods that have 4 or 5 ingredients or less on the nutrition label and it better be items that you know what they are.  No 1,2 dimethyl-2,3-whoknowswhattheheckitis, only foods you understand like sweet cream and salt.  No guessing there.  And that is all that is in salted butter if you have ever looked at the ingredient list.  White flour and white sugar shouldn’t be eaten either.  So things like honey become the sweetners you use.  100% wheat flours and whole grains are a staple, instead of the yummy white breads most people consume.  In a nutshell, clean eating is just cutting out the processing and going back to more home cooked, natural foods.

The struggles of Clean Eating

I love the idea of eating clean.  I really do.  Looking at a food label and knowing what is in it gives me some satisfaction.  Knowing my family is being fed well as opposed to wondering what the effects of the so-called foods may be.  As a mom and wife that was fulfilling.  But, (there’s always a but, right?) it was difficult to follow when life got busy.  When we first started the plan I made several things homemade.  I found 9 grain english muffins, multi grain bread, soups, meals, and many other things that fell into the “clean” eating category.  Amazingly they were all things my family enjoyed too so it felt less like a diet and more like a sustainable plan. Despite the things that I loved about clean eating (and still do love), there were some challenges that came along with it.

1. Convenience

This one may be rather obvious, but clean eating is not near as convenient as putting together a quick meal from a box or throwing a frozen pizza in the oven.  If you are looking for the quick, easy way to get meals on the table, this style (at least from my experience) will be difficult to sustain.

2. Longer cook times

When cooking homemade meals, it generally takes a lot more time to prepare whole, unprocessed ones.  It can be difficult to find breads that are clean on the grocery store shelf so what’s a person to do.  Well make homemade of course.  But, let me ask, have you made bread lately?  It generally takes a few hours at the very least.  Now it can be fun and rewarding but don’t plan to come home after a busy day to start baking bread unless you want to be up half the night.  And this is just one example.

3. More dishes

With homemade meals comes the inevitable pile of dishes.  Who has time for that unless you are lucky enough to have a maid to do them?  If you don’t believe me let’s just think about a minimally processed, clean eating spaghetti.  Normal spaghetti these days would probably consist of a box of enriched white flour pasta, a couple jars of sauce, and maybe some browned hamburger.  So generally you have the pan for the meat and sauce and a pot to boil the noodles. In essence, 2 big pans and a couple utensils.  Now take my favorite spaghetti sauce I made when we were clean eating found here from Bless this Mess.  I loved this sauce but you grated carrots, cut a couple other vegetables, browned hamburger (I used hamburger instead of steak) and simmered it covered.  So you went from just a couple pans to a grater, pans, cutting board and knives.  This may not seem like much but it adds up when time is of the essence.

4. Flavors

You might think, “All home cooked natural foods!  That would taste amazing!”  Well sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t.  We were used to the typical American diet of salty, sugary foods.  When you go from that to dishes that get their flavors from other sources (which is a good thing I might add)  it takes an adjustment.  Things taste different and sometimes that is difficult to get used to.  At least it was for us.

5. Planning time

You guessed it.  It takes a lot more time to plan to clean eat.  You have to be intentional about everything you cook and eat, even snacks.  It’s easy to just grab whatever sounds good or is handy, but it’s not so easy if you are being mindful of everything it’s made of.  At least not at first.

6. Finding ingredients that were “clean”

Sometimes you would read about ingredients that were clean or at least cleaner than their fully refined counterparts, but they are nowhere to be found.  I read about some people who found sugar in almost its raw form and used it.  Could I find it at our local Walmart? Nope.  Do I have time as a busy mom to drive all over town just looking for a bag of sugar? Nope.  So it made it difficult at times to find things to use without having to just cut a food completely out of my diet.  

7. Modifying favorite recipes

This is a big one!  At least for me.  Most everyone has their favorite recipes.  Those like mom used to make.  But mom’s weren’t always healthy or “clean” either.  And finding alternatives could prove difficult.  An example of this is my homemade sloppy joes.  I always loved my mom’s savory version of sloppy joes (she had a sweet version too called bbq’s).  However, her sloppy joes called for canned soup.  Yes, a can of Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo Soup.  I have not found an alternative to this.  I mean, how do you replace the flavor of a can of condensed soup even though it may not be the healthiest thing for you.  So it can be hard to modify the recipes which means you give them up or don’t eat clean.

8. Kid approved

This can be the hardest one.  As a mom, we take an unspoken oath to care for our kids.  But, let’s face it, they can be our worst critic.  Now that’s not saying kids are horrible and hard to deal with.  Truthfully though,  they will tell it like it is.  And who wants to starve their kid in the name of eating healthy.  For me, I find great satisfaction in knowing my family likes the foods I prepare so hearing them say they just don’t like something makes me feel like a failure in some ways.  And switching kids taste buds can be more difficult than raising the Titanic.

9. Variety

This could all be in my mind but I sometimes find it difficult to clean eat and not feel like I’m constantly eating the same things. Variety is huge for me and my family.  Sometimes it seems you are in the same cycle day after day, week after week eating the same things.

10. Expense

Money.  The world revolves around money.  And those of us on a budget can find it difficult to eat whole, unprocessed foods without breaking the bank.  Ya you can find some things reasonably priced and some canned goods may even be better than their fresh counterparts, but on the whole, fresh foods cost more.  Take Salmon for example.  A can of Salmon can cost around $3.  Fresh salmon is $7-12 per lb.  Or how about fruit?  You can spend $3-5 for  6-8 apples but a bag of chips is $2.50.  Natural lunch meats can run $4-5 while their nitrite laiden counterparts can run as little as $1 on sale.  You get the idea.

In Conclusion

So now you have the reasons why we struggled to maintain our “clean eating” journey.  Time is the main factor when you look through that.  It takes time.  That’s not a bad thing but when life got crazy busy we just couldn’t sustain it.  Do I like the idea of clean eating? YES!  If i could get it all done and still have the convenience (to an extent) of processed foods I would in a heartbeat.  There were definitely things I loved about clean eating when we were doing it.  So you can decide for yourself.

Eating clean is just a part of being healthy.  You also need to take care of you by allowing yourself time whether it’s to read a book, play a game, or just sit in quiet.  So, I challenge you to find time for you today and share what you did or if you have tried clean eating and what you think of it. Pros and cons.




2 thoughts on “10 Real Life Struggles of Clean Eating

  1. Congrats on your new journey! While my eating habits are not totally clean, I would say they are ‘cleaner’. I’m currently trying a plant based diet and agree with you that it takes planning and time. My first few days were the hardest, but I find it gets easier after that. It’s also been fun researching and experimenting with new foods. Good luck!

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