Eating Clean :: Taking the Chemical Ick Out of Your Food


“No, we don’t eat Pop Tarts in this house. Sorry, no Lucky Charms here either!”

“Oh, you’ll take some potato chips? Yeah … well, we have kale chips or homemade pita chips.”

Eating clean entails using real ingredients to make your meals. Photo by Jessica Spengler

You see, here in my home, we’ve turned into clean eating fanatics! Well, maybe not hubby so much, although he’s forced to eat most of everything since I’m the meal planner, grocery connoisseur and head chef. But the clean eating lifestyle has become my personal endeavor, and I love sharing it with my kids and husband.

Eating clean is not a diet but, as many call it, a “lifestyle.” Choosing to eat this way means staying away from packaged, processed foods and eating only “whole” foods. This means lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains.

In addition, clean eating means checking the ingredient list on items you buy from the grocery store. Jelly, cereals, spaghetti sauce — you should be able to look at each ingredient and ask yourself, “Could I find that item on a grocery store shelf?” In other words, you know you can’t find Polysorbate 60, Potassium Sorbate, or Sodium Propionate (yes, those are actual ingredients!) on the grocery store aisles, so that item is not clean to eat.

And trust me, I know how this all sounds. I’m now the nut who makes her own peanut butter, stays away from ingredients I can’t even pronounce, and jabbers about chemicals, additives and pesticides. I’m the last person I would have ever expected to take on this kind of significant change and actually stick with it. But the clean eating lifestyle has become something I’m passionate about, because I’ve been able to see amazing results in my life due to this lifestyle change. I have even started my own Facebook group, where I chat about eating clean and getting fit.

It all started last November, when I hit my heaviest weight (aside from being pregnant) of 184 pounds. I’d never been someone who struggled with weight, but after having 3 kids in 6 years, my body had changed significantly. I had just purchased my first size 16 pants and I decided I needed a change. So like most would do, I joined a gym.

An IDEA of food. But what really went into making these? Photo by terren in Virginia

I started working out 3 days a week, and while I saw energy and strength improvements, I did not lose a pound.

By March of this year, I’d had enough. I was about to quit working out when a friend invited me to a clean eating challenge. I figured I had nothing to lose (but yet so much to lose!), so I gave it a shot. In the first week I lost 5 pounds! I couldn’t believe it! All this time I had been working out to no avail, but in one week of eating whole, unprocessed foods, I was finally able to lose some weight. I was hooked.

In the beginning of my journey, it was simply all about losing weight. Once I began researching and learning as much as I could about food and just what exactly a clean-eating lifestyle looked like, I was horrified to learn about the additives and chemicals in many foods and what they are doing to our bodies.

Here’s where you sigh and roll your eyes and decide to find another article to read. But let me tell you this before you go … I’ve lost 24 pounds so far, so hear me out!

We hear, from the experts, about how eating “bad” can lead to heart problems, diabetes, and numerous other health-related issues. But seldom do we realize that headaches, mood swings, fatigue or IBS may actually clear up on their own, just by simply changing what we eat.

Additives such as aspartame, an artificial sweetener, have been linked to cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. Studies have also shown that aspartame has been linked to seizures, headaches, mood disturbances and mental performance problems. Sodium benzoate, a preservative found in many foods, has been linked to hyperactivity in children, and when it reacts with Vitamin C it can form the carcinogen benzene.

syrup (2)
QUIZ! Click on the picture to see a bigger version. Look at the ingredients in each bottle of syrup. Which one do you think is clean? Tell us your answer in the comments!

Obviously these aren’t the only additives or chemicals found in foods. There are so many more. What’s especially frightening is the effects these ingredients may have on your children. That old saying “you are what you eat” … well, it’s true. If a grown adult can pack on weight from ingesting these toxins, imagine how much it can add to your children! My fellow contributor Sarah Bradford recently wrote about artificial colors found in many foods, and the effects she noticed after she removed them from her children’s diet. This is real, folks!

Just look at the ingredients on the back of a frozen dinner, your favorite granola bar or a box of mashed potatoes. No really, get up and grab any random item from your pantry or freezer. Take your time … there’s no rush.

Can you pronounce some of the ingredients listed on whatever package you’re holding? If you can’t, you’re not eating food, you’re eating an idea of food that was created in a laboratory.

One of my favorite people of all time was Dr. Maya Angelou, and I love her quote, “Once you know better, you do better.” It’s really that simple with choosing to eat clean. Once you know there’s a better way to eat, how can you choose not to?

Want to learn more about eating clean? Check out this guide from The Gracious Pantry, get tips from clean eating guru Tosca Reno, or follow another woman’s eating transformation at Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. And look for a future post where I explain more about the clean eating lifestyle and how you can get started on this journey.

Have you tried eating clean with your family? Tell us about your experience.

Slideshow images, top to bottom: MalayalaM / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); orphanjones / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
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Stephanie never pictured herself as a mother to multiple kids, but now that she’s “that mom” she couldn’t feel more blessed! Her stay-at-home mom days aren’t always easy, but she believes parenting gives us the opportunity to heal, change, and grow more spiritually aware. She loves reading, writing, and discussing topics related to soul searching and how to get past our own personal struggles, as well as the History channel….you know, the fast life! Stephanie is the mother to three active children, ages 6, 4 and 1, and has been married to her husband Travis for 6 years. She enjoys all the city has to offer for mommy’s and children, including group play dates, playgrounds, and lately the gym, where she can get fit and the kids have an opportunity to play (a win-win!). Having lived in Columbia for the past 19 years, she considers herself a native at this point.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your article, I love your personality and I’m glad your family is doing the clean eating. I’m trying to get the girls on it but no luck lol

    • Thanks lady! 🙂 It’s been slow coming with the kids but I’ve been able to find things like “clean” fruit gummies that they love!

  2. Although we are not always eating as clean as we should be, you help inspire me to take better care of my family and choose healthier foods for us to eat. Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration and for writing this post!


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