My Relationship with Food and Our Journey toward Clean Eating

by Erika Torres

One of our personal goals last year was to eat better–so our journey to clean eating began.

To us, clean eating is all about eating whole foods, eating organic as much as possible, and cutting out a bunch of processed junk.

That doesn’t mean we eat “low fat.”

In fact, we eat bacon pretty regularly and butter too!

And we’ve both still been able to lose weight–just by sticking to eating whole foods, mostly clean.

I started out 2013 by adopting a mostly Paleo lifestyle and lost about seven pounds pretty easily within the first month. Eric finally jumped on the bandwagon a few weeks after me, and he lost close to 20 pounds in a month–effortlessly, just by following Paleo.

While some may claim Paleo as a lifestyle, we found it pretty difficult to maintain. No pasta ever? No pancakes? No cake? WHAT?!

Instead, Eric and I used the Paleo diet to launch us into the world of clean eating. The more we started to learn about what type of food we put in our bodies, the better we felt about the decisions we were making.

On any give day, here’s what you’d find in our fridge:

  • Veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, spinach, mushrooms 
  • Fruits, like bananas, organic apples, frozen mango, frozen peaches
  • Protein, like organic eggs, organic ground beef, ground turkey, chicken meatballs, organic chicken breasts, real bacon (not that Farmer John crap), frozen wild caught fish
  • Healthy carbs, like brown rice pasta and Ezekiel bread


We limit our dairy, drink almond milk, and try and avoid corn or soy-based products.

Clean eating is different for every person and the more we learn about the food we eat, the more we try and make better decisions.

Food for us is much more fluid than it used to be and this journey toward clean eating has really helped improve my overall relationship with food.

I no longer consider any foods off-limits. I plan ahead and eat well most of the time. But if I’m craving something, for example, pizza, I will let myself have a slice and I won’t punish myself for it.

When I eat well 90% of the time, I am okay with indulging my cravings the other 10% of the time. (Around the holidays, I will readily admit it was more like 70/30).

I no longer consider anything a “cheat” but rather a “treat.”

This new mindset has really helped reduce and almost completely eliminate my need to “binge” on bad food.

I don’t know about you, but there were plenty of times where I would fall off the wagon and just go overboard on junk. I would eat just to eat, sometimes stuffing myself to the point where I would make myself physically sick.

I don’t do that anymore and haven’t done it in several months. This is a huge win for me.

Nowadays, I’ll indulge when I feel like it, but the desire to eat bad foods is barely there.

Getting to where we are now has been a long process.

These are some tips that helped us on our journey toward clean eating:

Start Small. My very first goal was to stop buying foods from the Dirty Dozen list. Once I learned that apples have the highest amount of pesticides, I chose to only buy organic from that point on. I mastered the Dirty Dozen list and slowly started to incorporate other items on an as-we-can-afford-it basis.

Do What You Can Afford. To us, eating this way is a priority, so we will happily forgo buying other things in favor of eating whole foods. When we first started, all we could afford to do was buy organic apples. And that’s okay. But slowly and surely, we made clean eating more of a priority and slowly started incorporating other items–like organic chicken, grass fed meat–and even though I swore I would never buy organic eggs, those are definitely a staple in our house now.

Educate Yourself. What’s important to us, may not be as important to you. The more I learn, the better decisions I can make about what’s in our food. Some of my favorite blogs in regards to learning about food include Mommypotamus, 100 Days of Real Food, and Food Babe.

Read labels. My shopping experience takes me some time because I am always reading labels and trying to avoid words I can’t pronounce, GMO corn, maltodextrin, carrageenan and added sugar, among others. The amount of sugar that is in food is ridiculous. We get enough natural sugar from fruits and veggies that you really don’t need added sugar anywhere else. Still–that doesn’t mean I won’t have a chocolate chip cookie every now and then.

I am so proud of ourselves for making so much headway in our clean eating journey in 2013 and hope to continue the trend in 2014!

What type of food do you eat? Have you considered clean eating? 




How I Got Whole Foods to Cook Dinner for Us | Newlyweds on a Budget July 7, 2014 - 7:29 am

[…] knows that Eric and I are huge Whole Foods fans, ever since we started diligently trying to eat clean and healthier a few years ago. So when I saw on Twitter about a month ago, that Whole Foods was […]

linda January 31, 2014 - 3:19 pm

Love your blog! I eat paleo about 99% of the time. I do eat a bit too much dark chocolate to make it 100% but otherwise, I am very strict. I lost about 30 pounds in the first 2 months. I started because I could not walk due to osteoarthritis and reumatoid arthritis. Also the lupus was flairing way too much. Doing my own research, I stumble upon paleo. Did a Whole 30 challenge and was about to give up on the 20th day. But on the 21st day I actually walked without the help of a walker or canes! In the almost 3 years I have been eating this way, I have had no flairs of Lupus and I have not had to use a cane to walk. I am a believer in clean eating! Good for you for sharing your story of eating well.

Erin @ Gen Y Finances January 12, 2014 - 9:29 am

Confession time: I tend to eat like a poor college student/5 year old. And it’s not like I don’t like fruits and veggies. I LOVE THEM. I just also love rice, pasta, bread, chips, pizza, and Chipotle.

I tend to get a little lazy when it comes to food prep, especially as my list of things I can cook is so short and boring. I need to get better about this. Like, A LOT better.

Being Grateful: Twelfth Edition | Journey to Saving January 10, 2014 - 3:16 pm

[…] your home (chair/couch). Ever since Erika from Newlyweds On A Budget posted about how she’s been eating paleo, I’ve been on a kick to find as many recipes as possible. I have to give a shout out to […]

Emily @ evolvingPF January 9, 2014 - 10:23 am

Thanks for sharing your journey! I eat clean (similar to Paleo) the vast majority of the time, except we don’t often buy organic/grass-fed. My husband eats the SAD, though, and I wish we were on the same page about food. We don’t have as much conflict about it as we used to, but we’re still miles apart.

Jolene January 9, 2014 - 8:01 am

I LOVE this friend!! This is such a huge switch, isn’t it? Not feeling like things are off-limits, and not feeling like a ‘cheat’ but choosing and planning for the things you want, and not just going hog wild. I cannot remember the last time I ate until my stomach hurt – I used to do that all the time before and it was so gross. So happy for you guys!

Teacher Girl January 8, 2014 - 7:13 pm

Since I moved home, eating better has gotten so much easier. I used to eat out all the time. Now with my mom cooking dinner most nights, I am eating better than I have in years. I think the hard part will be when I am on my own again, but for now I am loving it. My mom has a very similar stance to you and most of our food is healthy. A lot of it is organic. I drink rice milk now (I am allergic to soy, almond, peanuts, etc.) and have made many other healthy changes. I like the way it makes me feel!

Army Amy January 8, 2014 - 1:33 pm

I make an effort to eat mostly healthy most of the time. A key for me is keeping junk out of the house. Don’t get me wrong, we have some junk, but there are some foods that I just cannot control myself around (sour cream and cheddar potato chips, I’m looking at you!). For other things, like dessert, I find that I’m better off it I buy something pre-portioned. That means we buy ice cream bars instead of a gallon of ice cream.

I haven’t used it much, but I have an app called “Fooducate.” You use it to scan the barcode of items at the grocery store, and it rates them and gives you tons of info. It’s also helpful if you are trying to verify if something is gluten free or vegan or whatever. (I just scanned the pretzels I’m eating right now, and they got a C- for being salty and not whole grain. Whoops!) Then you can see alternative products (apparently Snyder’s pretzels are the top in their category. Good to know.), save items, browse items, track items. Makes label reading a little bit more streamlined!

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 2:21 pm

ooo i love the sound of that app! downloading it now!

p.s. have you tried using greek yogurt in place of sour cream? you can use the lowfat version, it tastes almost exactly the same! we mostly use sour cream to top off our chili, or on tacos, and since we’ve switched to greke yogurt you honestly can barely even tell the difference. I actually PREFER the yogurt bc it’s thicker.

eemusings January 8, 2014 - 12:37 pm

Eating cleaner is definitiely something we’ve been doing since we got back (and want to continue!) Eating a Mediterranean diet is the best thing my body has ever experienced and I’m trying to incorporate a lot more of that into our daily eating now. I’m not perfect – got home ravenous last night and ate a whole bag of Grain Waves (at least they weren’t potato chips). A big thing for us is not snacking as much – we stopped doing that while travelling and also American junk food kind of took away our sweet tooths to a large extent. A tub of ice cream used to last half a week, now it can last us two … which is huge progress for us.

CeCe @Pink Sunshine January 8, 2014 - 10:06 am

Great job on 7 lbs in a month! And it sucks to here that Apples contain the most pesticides. They are my fav and I eat them on the regular but I don’t buy anything organic. I’ve always been a calorie counter but this year I’m focusing more on the content of those calories not just hitting the target. I agree that it’s all about balance. The fads that severely limit or cut out certain things entirely generally are just too hard to maintain.

Tanner January 8, 2014 - 8:57 am

Great post. Though I don’t do organics and so on, I do try to make as much as possible from scratch. That’s the way we did things back home, and you can control what goes into it. Last year I made a great stride by limiting most sugars and carbs, and it worked out well–short term, because I sort of got bored and tired (and plenty busy), so eating became less of a priority. I need to go back to paying attention to what I am eating again.

Raquel@Practical Cents January 8, 2014 - 8:55 am

I know what you mean about the sugar. Last year I tried the Belly Fat Cure diet and it basically reduces you to eating very little sugar. It was then that I realized that almost everything you eat has sugar!

E.M. January 8, 2014 - 7:59 am

I would love for this year to look like the year you just had. I was reading up on the paleo diet last year, but I’ve been a picky eater for so long that it’s hard to break the habit. I’ve not had the best relationship with food as I’ve had acid reflux for over a decade. I need to start finding recipes to try at least.

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 8:35 am

you should check out paleomg.com for recipes if you’re thinking about trying it. I started by trying to do the Whole30–although found it really restrictive and only made it about 15 days before just switching to Paleo. We still don’t eat a ton of dairy but do have parmesan cheese occasionally, coffee creamer, etc. We also never switched back to regular pasta–so if we do have pasta now, we buy brown rice pasta–they sell it pretty cheap at Trader Joe’s. You can’t even tell the difference from regular pasta, or maybe we’re just used to it by now.

E.M. January 8, 2014 - 9:20 am

Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely check paleomg out, I’ve heard of it before. I’ve mostly been reading Mark’s Daily Apple. I know in the end, eliminating all the bad stuff will improve my acid reflux/stomach issues by leaps and bounds. I like your 90/10 approach, too.

Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 8, 2014 - 7:01 am

I do try to eat this way as much as possible. The only thing I don’t pay too much attention to is organic fruits and veggies. I do try to purchase meat with more of a conscious, if that makes sense? I think the small changes approach is the best. Just dip your toe in the pool and continue to improve from there.

Mrs. Snarkfinance January 8, 2014 - 6:41 am

I agree it’s important to start small. There’s a lot of great recipies on the web that use healthy substitutes. Some of my favorites are spighetti squash recipies to replace using pasta and black bean burgers.

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 8:26 am

yes! I also like making “zoodles” ( zucchini noodles), and it’s on my wish list for my birthday to get one of those zoodle contraptions.

Army Amy January 8, 2014 - 1:35 pm

I love my spiralizer! Highly recommend!

Kathy January 8, 2014 - 6:36 am

When I lost 60 pounds a couple of years ago I basically cut in half everything I ate. I switched from pizza once a week to once a month. I allowed myself one meal a week that was anything I wanted. I ate so much turkey and chicken that I thought I’d grow feathers. I don’t deny myself anything because I found that if I eliminated treats from my diet, I began to crave it and would binge. The trick is not having it readily available. (Keep it in the freezer in the basement.) However, your goal seems to be more philosophical rather than weight loss oriented so the things I did probably won’t work for you.

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 8:26 am

I definitely don’t keep treats in our house. So whenever I visit my parents, and raid their pantry for Oreos, they laugh. Oreos are definitely one of my weaknesses, but I only have them rarely.
We also used to eat pizza pretty much every Friday night when we were first married–it was like a tradition. Then we switched to storebought pizza, and finally this past year, I think we only ordered pizza like two or three times.

Holly@ClubThrifty January 8, 2014 - 4:54 am

I have been a vegetarian for a while but just went vegan on December 30th. (It was my New Year’s resolution that I decided to start a few days early) Anyway, I have already lost 6 pounds while eating whatever I want. Sounds crazy!

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 8:23 am

Wow! That’s awesome! Never say never, but I would find that really difficult to do–as you can see, we like our bacon! 🙂

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 8, 2014 - 3:38 am

We’re working on following Michael Pollan’s recommendations, “Eat Food. Not To Much. Mostly Plants.” And his 7 rules on what constitutes “food” instead of “food like substances”.

Like you guys, we started small fixing the few things we knew we could and continuing to replace things we used to eat. I’ll be happy when we get to about 90% compliance. I’d say we’re somewhere around 60% now – was probably higher around the holidays with all the homemade goodies I made, but we probably don’t need to eat as much of that all the time as we did in December. =)

newlywedsonabudget January 8, 2014 - 8:22 am

That’s wonderful! It was definitely slow and steady for us. I remember buying organic apples for like six months before I could move on to anything else. At one point, I highly doubted that we would ever be able to afford organic chicken or meat, and yet that’s pretty much all we buy nowadays. Slow and steady!


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