We’ve all done it. We look at a not-so clean food item and think, “What the heck! I eat clean most of the time, this one little thing won’t hurt me.“. Does this hurt us? Is it really a big deal?
I’m not talking about having a “treat” meal once a day and calling that “okay”. I’m talking about the little things we have to do to make clean eating fit our lifestyle.
(For the purpose of making my point, I’m going to switch the term “eating plan” with “food supply”. I think my point will be made much clearer this way.)
I’m here to scream from the roof tops that this does not, in fact, hurt us. The truth is, we all make exceptions with our food supply. Maybe you eat clean, but also include protein powder in your eating plan <no, it’s not clean. gasp!!>. Or maybe you’ve converted everything in your kitchen to clean eating, except that coffee creamer you can’t seem to give up (although you really should try to work on that one. Have you read the ingredient list? Ick!).
Are these deal breakers? Should we toss the baby out with the bathwater just because we used a different soap?
There are so many ways to make exceptions in your food supply, and the fact is, that clean eating truly is a very customizable way of life. It’s really very basic when you realize that all you are doing is eating real food. That’s it. That’s the basis for clean eating. That’s all you have to do to call yourself a clean eater. The number of times you eat per day is a personal choice. The amount of food you eat is a personal choice. The food combinations you follow is a personal choice. Managing macros, carb cycling, calorie cycling, working out, brushing your teeth, getting dressing in the morning…. yup, you guessed it… all a personal choice. But to be a clean eater, you just have to go back to basics.
Eat real food.
All the time.
But maybe you’re like me and you can’t have dairy, so you use the store bought, unsweetened almond milk. Maybe you’re vegan and packaged, vegan breakfast patties are the only way you’ll get breakfast on a busy morning. Maybe, maybe, maybe. It all comes down to you and your lifestyle. It also comes down to how strict you feel comfortable being with your own food supply.
I know many clean eaters that won’t touch anything that isn’t organic. That’s great, but I also know a lot of clean eaters who just cannot afford organic food because they have a large family to feed or are on a very tight budget.
Is it wrong to make these decisions?
The truth is, any choice that gets you closer to eating 100% clean is the right choice. But there are exceptions that will arise, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you eat 100% clean, 80-90% of the time, guess what? You’re still a clean eater! If you eat 100% clean, 100% of the time, but you don’t have time to make your own almond milk so you buy the stuff at the store, guess what? You’re still a clean eater! If you purchase lean, ground turkey that isn’t organic, guess what? You’re still a clean eater!!
Yes, I agree this can make things a little more complicated for those trying to learn what clean eating is all about. But I personally don’t view clean eating as a diet. This is where I differ considerably from clean eating plans and “diets” on the market today. In my opinion, however you approach this is fine. The idea is just to clear the garbage out of your food supply. To eat REAL food, as close to 100% of the time as possible.
So if you’re new to this, you may want guidelines to help you learn how to get started. And there is nothing wrong with that. We all need a little help getting started. But once you get the hang of it, yes, even you will make exceptions. Why? Because we are all individuals with individual needs. None of us can or will eat the same way. That’s why I don’t subscribe to the idea of a “diet”. I live by the broader concept of clean eating.
JUST. EAT. REAL. FOOD.