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I’ve fallen victim to an eating habit that lots of busy moms can relate to – convenience eating. My go-to breakfast is an energy bar. My afternoon snack may be some crackers with the kids. I will nibble an extra chicken nugget from the kids’ plates. My diet consists largely of packaged and processed foods.
I wanted to see how I’d feel if I made a conscious effort to ditch these processed and packaged foods for a week. So for seven days, this was my nutrition challenge. My goal was to eat a variety of whole foods — meaning food as close to its natural state as possible. If it came in a box, bag, can, or bottle I avoided it.
Eating whole foods or “clean eating,” as it can be referred to, has its benefits. According to Tosca Reno, author of “The Eat Clean Diet”, “your ticket to a lean, healthy body is ‘eating clean.’” By foregoing processed and packaged foods, automatically this cut out added sugar from my diet as well calorie-dense and nutrient-deficient food.
My diet for the week consisted of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Instead of an occasional diet soda, I drank black coffee or green tea and lots of water.
Here is an example of a typical day during my seven day challenge:
Breakfast: Natural rolled oats with blueberries and walnuts or two omega-3 eggs with spinach and mushrooms cooked in the microwave to save time.
Lunch: I made a spinach salad with grilled chicken and vegetables. My salad dressing was extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Snacks: A banana, apple or baby carrots.
Dinner: A lean protein, usually chicken or fish, rice or baked sweet potato and vegetables. Dessert was fruit.
>> Read more: 17 Dinners Under 7 WWP+
The result? I certainly had more energy and felt lighter due to the high quality, nutrient-dense food I consumed. As a busy mom, eating clean takes some forethought, but with a little planning, I found it was just as easy to grab real, whole food as something out of a box or a bag. Cooking several chicken breasts at a time and cutting vegetables in advance made lunch prep a snap.
>> Read more: 17 Insanely Good Stuffed Vegetables
Depending on your calorie needs, eating whole foods could help you to lose weight. For example, if your go-to snack is a 250 calorie portion of crackers, simply switching to a whole food snack such as a pear or banana could save you some calories. You’d have to eat three-and-a-half cups of baby carrots to equal the 250 calories in those crackers!
Eating healthy food serves as a great role model for my kids. When they saw me eating an apple as a snack, they wanted one too. It made me feel good inside and out that I was putting the highest quality food into my body to give me energy to fuel my day.
I still love my energy bars, but now I view them as a special treat. My next challenge will be to try the seven-day processed food challenge on my family. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!
>> Read more: 6 Simple and Succulent Homemade Energy Bars
In the meantime, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Whether it is starting a new exercise program or eating healthier, these challenges help us grow as a person. We may have to step a bit out of our comfort zone, but that is what allows us to learn new things, get healthier and stronger. Good luck! You can do it!