We’ve all read all about how purging your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards of anything that doesn’t fit your new nutrition plan is a great way to ensure that you won’t stray from your list of approved foods. However, sometimes this just isn’t possible. As a wife and mom of 3 children, I can’t exactly throw out all of the foods my family enjoys because I have decided to eat clean. In a perfect world, we would all make the transition to clean eating together, we would talk about our days over spiralized beets and watch a movie while enjoying fresh avocados in lieu of chips and dip. But this is real life. And unless my husband WANTS to transition to clean eating, I’m not forcing him. And I’m not going to deprive my kids of the deliciousness that fresh bread with butter provides while I am trying to mute my own cravings for “bad foods.” While I hope to gradually introduce more and more clean options that my whole family can enjoy and eliminate some of the ‘junk,’ I’m not about to purge the pantry of their beloved goldfish crackers, Bear Paw snacks, fruit snacks and whatever other highly processed ‘treat foods’ we have stocked up on in large volumes at Costco.
So, for the folks out there who are eager to commit to clean eating but may be the only one in the household doing it, here are some tips that I have found extremely helpful.
- Recognize your weaknesses and plan ahead.
Be honest with yourself. Are you really going to be able to stay strong and committed to your nutrition plan if your family is binging on takeout pizza or chips and dip on the couch during family movie night?
I am a sucker for chips and dip. It’s my favourite snack for TV/movie nights. However, the salty, deep-fried, crispy potato chips and deliciously fatty Helluvagood French onion dip that I adore don’t exactly fit in my clean eating meal plan. My kids are still going to request it as their movie night snack. (I am the reason they are hooked on it after all!) So, I needed to find an alternative snack that would (hopefully) be just as satisfying. Enter: homemade, baked sweet potato chips and spicy guacamole. This snack has filled my chips and dip ‘void’ nicely. Not only is it incredibly delicious, it is healthy too…and CLEAN! Win! Win! Win!
On nights when my family is ordering takeout pizza, I plan an extra delicious meal for myself so that I won’t be tempted to dig in for just that one slice. I have topped a salad with buffalo pulled chicken, made buffalo cauliflower bites… I guess the ‘Buffalo’ theme is my way of getting in on the pub food action…without touching the greasy, cheesy pizza.
By being aware of upcoming moments of weaknesses and planning ahead, you will be able to muscle through those pizza nights without cheating on your nutrition plan. And, as a result you will feel empowered by your strength. Woot!
- Find a new home for your snacks.
In our home, our pantry is home to all of our snack foods. It is where we keep the kids’ school snacks (fruit snacks, Bear Paws, granola bars, etc.) as well as our crackers, chips, spicy mixed nuts and any other treats we might have on hand. I realized pretty quickly that even though I had been diligent in shopping for ‘clean’ snacks such as brown rice rice cakes, dried dates, unsalted mixed nuts, dehydrated veggies, etc. that if they were sitting on the pantry shelf right next to my beloved Wavy Lay’s potato chips, that I was making things harder for myself. My ‘clean’ snacks are now stored in a separate cupboard, away from the junk and temptations. Having them physically separate from the other stuff helps me to separate my nutrition from that of my family’s. They can have their snacks and I can have mine. Plus, since it’s just my snacks in my little cupboard, things are always right where I left them; no one has rummaged through or left a container wide open so the insides spoil. Siiigh… it’s quite therapeutic actually. Just this morning I was actually thinking of printing some motivational memes and quotes to tape inside my cupboard too… or maybe inside the pantry door for if I do find myself cruising for ‘trouble.’
- Carry clean snacks with you at all times.
There are going to be times when you are out and you get hungry. Being hungry out in the world where quick and easy clean options are harder to find than an assortment of burgers, fries and 5000 calorie coffees means that if you aren’t prepared, you just might fail. Whether it is a banana, a clementine, some carrot sticks or a hard-boiled egg that you throw in the car as you leave the house, these little snacks can save you from finding yourself in a drive-thru that you will regret later. It is also helpful for when your family is stopping for the free cookie sample at the grocery store or being offered a donut at the baseball field. It’s easier to politely decline the foods on the ‘naughty list’ when you aren’t hungry and snackless.
- Mimic your family’s meals.
It’s much easier to commit to clean eating if you and your family aren’t ‘worlds apart’ at the dinner table. If you’re munching on a chickpea salad while they are downing cheesy chicken enchiladas or a hot and gooey lasagna, you’re going to feel a little deprived… especially if you love cheese as much as I do! Try to make your meals match your family’s as much as you can. For example, hamburgers for my family = a bunless burger topped with sautéed onions, avocado and hot sauce for me. My clean version might actually be more enjoyable than the traditional burger-in-bun. Pasta night = quinoa pasta for me. Hold the cheese! Taco night = ground turkey for all or at least 50/50 with the beef (Shhh! Don’t tell them!) and Romaine lettuce ‘shells’ instead of tortilla taco shells for me. The options are endless. And if you aren’t munching on a kale leaf while your family devours pizza and wings, it will be easier to stay committed. Speaking of wings, Buffalo cauliflower bites are the ultimate clean fill-in for this craving.
- Dress up your water.
Aside from 100% fruit juices, non-dairy milks and teas, water is going to be your best friend throughout your clean eating challenge. Virtually any other beverage is going to be full of sugar, carbs, highly processed or just not clean. Jazz up your water by chilling it in the fridge with an assortment of fruit and vegetables. Cucumbers, lemons, mint leaves, blueberries, oranges, strawberries are all incredibly delicious additions to a glass of water. Make it fancy. Pour it into a cocktail glass over ice. Garnish it. Drink it in an oversized wine glass. Do whatever you need to do to make your water enticing… especially if you are in the company of friends drinking soda or ‘adult beverages.’ Fancying up your water will help to keep it enjoyable and leave you feeling less left out. Especially if it’s already all dressed up inside a water bottle when your family stops for a hot dog and pop at the Costco snack bar.
Committing to eating clean when your family isn’t eating clean certainly isn’t an easy task. It can be tough to stay focused on your nutrition plan while respecting the nutrition choices of your family. But it is possible. I think the most difficult/hardest part of my last 6 week clean eating challenge for my husband was that I basically stopped buying bread and milk. It wasn’t intentional but because I had committed so fully to the nutrition plan and wasn’t missing either of these things, they weren’t on my radar at all when buying groceries. Oops!
Also, you may or may not be surprised to see your family start to show some interest in what you are eating over what they are eating. The first time that my kids put down their little bowls of chips and dip and started digging in to my sweet potato chips and guac was awesome…and awful because I really didn’t want to share it! HA! Double batches from now on!
If you have tips for committing to clean eating while your family or circle of friends isn’t, I would love to hear them!
Thanks for reading! xo