What lasting takeaways can be gained by following the Clean Eating Challenge for 21 days? You may be surprised by the healthful eating habits that stick after such a short period of time. For instance, shaking up your diet can cause a mindset shift and the formation of some lasting changes in your diet. Whether you want to lose weight, prevent disease, or just get healthier, this is an excellent way to get a jump start on better health.
After the third week on the Clean Eating plan, my husband declared it a success! I was happy to hear that. All of his life, he has enjoyed a typical American diet, so using the new plan involved some pretty big changes for him. I’m glad to report that he has made some healthy changes in his diet that he is happy to keep. Sometimes small changes can have a huge effect on our health.
Even though he didn’t follow the plan perfectly, I would say that at least 80 percent of the time he ate whole, healthful, unprocessed foods. That is a huge improvement for him.
To look more closely at what eating healthfully 80 percent of the time looks like, we can break it down by days or meals. If you stick with the plan five and a half out of seven days, that’s 80%. If you eat 17 out 21 healthy meals, that is 80%, too. Either way, for some of us, that is a huge improvement.
Since our bodies are composed of 60% to 70% water, it is easy to see why we need to drink more water. On the clean eating plan, water is the recommended beverage. The goal is to get four or five 12-ounce glasses of water per day.
If you aren’t accustomed to drinking water, this can be a challenge. In an effort to drink water during the day, my husband got an insulated cup, like this Yeti thermos. We bought some three-liter bottles of water to keep in the refrigerator. In the mornings, he fills up his cup and squeezes some fresh lemons in the water. The lemon adds another layer of health benefits.
The benefits of drinking water are numerous. Water keeps us hydrated, helps improve our mood, aids in weight loss, helps with digestion and constipation, relieves fatigue, energizes us, keeps our kidneys functioning properly, and energizes us. Science has proven that drinking water is beneficial to our bodies. Also, once you get in the habit, nothing else will quench your thirst like water.
We all know fruit is good for us, but finding a way to incorporate more fruit into the diet is sometimes a challenge. As my husband and I thought about this idea, we decided that he could start his day with fruit. He began eating a banana as part of his breakfast and then eating an apple or other fruit as a snack later in the day. This was a huge improvement from the Mountain Dew and Nutty Buddy bar that he used to have for breakfast.
Fruits provide our bodies with antioxidants, fiber, and healthy nutrients, and best of all, they make us feel full. In addition, adding more fruit to our diets has been associated with lower weight and disease prevention.
For many of us, a serving of meat is essential to a good meal. My husband was no different. The idea of eating a meal without meat was incomprehensible to him. In spite of this idea, he gave it a try, and he learned that meals could be enjoyed without meat. Even when we ate out, he learned to order and enjoy meatless meals.
This may have been the great takeaway from the plant-based experiment. Learning to eat plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, and seeds was one of the greatest takeaways.
Making positive changes in our diets takes time and effort, but the good news is that it can be done! Just making small tweaks in our diet can have enormous health benefits.
Although the clean eating challenge is no miracle cure, it is a way to jumpstart some healthy eating habits. Just give it a try. You will be amazed by the habits that stick. Once you see how much better you feel and start to see the scales moving in a downward direction, you will not want to go back to your old ways of eating.
Question: Have you tried eating a plant-based diet? If so, what were your takeaways?