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A Fall Clean Eating Challenge for the Whole Family

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After a summer of indulgence, your body may be craving some TLC. S’mores and ice cream, barbecue, chips and dips, rich pasta and potato salads, soda, alcohol, fried foods and all manner of overly salted snacks grace summer plates. Autumn brings a time of change, and the body is ready.

Family in Kitchen Unpacking Groceries for Fall Clean Eating Challenge

Cleaning out the system allows it to reboot and re-energize, physically and mentally. Resetting the body with wholesome foods lets you release excess weight and detoxify your system. It’s the best time to clear out before the holidays and build up the immunity needed for the colder months.

Incorporating seasonal eating brings the most bang for your buck. When produce is out of season, it contains less nutrition because it has to be harvested early to travel long distances to reach you. Since it’s harvest season, plenty of tasty nutritional choices are ripe and ready to eat.

6-Week Clean Eating Challenge

How to eat clean

A well-balanced diet supplies your body with all the energy you and your family need to remain healthy and productive. Prepackaged, processed and fast foods tend to have less nutritional value and are filled with artificial ingredients, preservatives, added sugars, sodium and trans fats that make you sick over time.

To eat clean, reach for fresh whole foods in their natural form or as close to it as possible.

Foods to focus on

  • Fresh (or frozen with zero additives) vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil.
  • Low glycemic natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, stevia and monk fruit.
  • Plenty of fresh and dried herbs, spices and sauces to cut down on salt.

Add in fall favorites

Fall seasonal sweet and savory foods make for filling, delicious snacks and meals. Everything from breakfast to dessert.

Reach for apples, cranberries, pears, dates and figs, pumpkin, butternut squash, persimmons, pineapples and pomegranates. Incredible as is, or add them to oatmeal, baked goods, pancakes, homemade jams or syrups.

Mushrooms, celery, leeks, kale, bok choy, parsnips, swiss chard, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, beetroot, fennel, sweet potatoes, acorn squash and spaghetti squash pair well with soups, stews, one pot meals, roasts and bakes. Make and freeze leftovers for multiple meals.

Don’t forget seasonal whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats and buckwheat and legumes like black beans, kidney beans, lentils, adzuki and soybeans (tofu and tempeh).

Warming autumn spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, cumin and fennel are the perfect accompaniment to meals and drinks. They naturally help keep you warmer, making them excellent additions as the weather changes.

Fresh fall foods might vary depending on your location. Visit the Seasonal Food Guide for a list of seasonal produce for your area.

Starting your clean eating challenge

If you’re concerned about how to get the whole family on board. To make healthy eating enjoyable:

  • Choose colorful food. Eat the rainbow! Vibrant foods have more nutrients and are more visually appealing to the eye.
  • Give your kids more say in what they eat. Allow them to be a part of the planning and even the prep process of meals.
  • Take them to the market and show them the fresh produce. Let kids pick a new fruit and veggie to try each week.
  • Alternate letting each family member pick a meal. Get them involved in the making of it. Cooking together brings you closer. They’ll learn a new skill and become invested in the process and the yummy outcomes.
  • Have healthy snacks readily available. Prep in advance and store them in easy-to-access containers. Keep the most nourishing foods at eye level in the fridge, on the counter and front and center in the cabinet.
  • Keep a cooler of healthy treats with you when you go out stocked with clean “fast” foods. Yogurt, granola, fruit, sliced veggies, healthy bean dips and homemade snack bars are great options.
  • For picky eaters, consider adding nutrition to your meals on the sly. Slip blended or finely diced veggies and other nutritious ingredients into dishes they already like.

Clean eating challenge guidelines

  • Aim to eat every 3 – 4 hours. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with two light snacks.
  • Create your plate. For meals, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. One-fourth with wholesome whole grain and one-fourth with lean protein sources.
  • Commit to eating primarily organic during the challenge. If you can’t access organics, use the Dirty Dozenand Clean 15 lists to find out which foods contain the most pesticides.
  • Meal planning – You’ll find recipes and instructions on Vitacost.com. Start a week in advance planning out your menu. Planning meals in advance gives you the best chance of staying on your program. Pair meals that use the same ingredients throughout the week to reduce spending.
  • Meal prep – Make meals in advance whenever possible, or pre-cook time-consuming meal components. That way, you can quickly throw meals together when short on time.

Cook extra and refrigerate and freeze leftovers to use later on.

  • Eat plant foods as much as possible. A primarily plant-based diet has been found to help reduce the risk of inflammation and heart disease.
  • Don’t eat family style. More calories get consumed when serving dishes stay on the table. Serve food on plates in advance. It’ll be more work to get up and grab seconds.
  • Skip the late-night snacks. Make 8 p.m. the food cut-off time. Your body needs time to rest.
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