The clean eating movement is a growing one, with a promise of more energy and health. Magazines are dedicated to the practice, and more and more grocery stores are creating larger organic sections.
"Clean eating" mean getting rid of processed foods, replacing saturated fats with healthier ones, and, ultimately, eating food that is closer to its natural state.
But facilitating clean eating in your home will take effort. It's more expensive, and meals take longer to prepare. Plus, entire food groups that have become staples of the American diet are eliminated.
We talked to three local mothers who are facilitating clean eating in their homes. They share how they started, their failures and successes of eating clean, and how they pass this lifestyle along to their children.
Bluffton resident Lisa Lovette is just a few months into the clean eating campaign at her home. Her advice: Start slow and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
Lovette was raised in an Italian household. Her mother's lasagna is her favorite food, and she is proud of her rich, homemade Bolognese sauce.
A clean eating diet is not a natural fit for Lovette and her family. But seeing those around her become sick made Lovette want to change.
"I wanted to do as much as I can for me and my family to protect us from what's out there," she said.
The changes are incremental with the goal of moderation rather than complete elimination.
"I don't want to think of taking away the things I like permanently," Lovette said. "I can't think of it in the long-term, because I'll get overwhelmed and quit."
The first change Lovette made was having more fruits and vegetables and having the fruit bowl in her kitchen constantly filled.
She's helping her 13-year-old son make changes to his diet, having organic frozen waffles and VitaTops instead of Pop-Tarts for breakfast.
"I'm making him aware of the choices he has and letting him choose on his own," Lovette said. "I want him to be excited about it. I see other moms pushing too hard, too fast, and their kids sneak to my house to eat."
Lovette says clean eating takes a commitment. Financially, it is a burden. She said she cringes paying $5 for organic, cage-free eggs and was appalled at the $8 bag of pretzels in the organic food aisle.
Recipes are also harder to come by. Lovette Googled, "What to do with spinach?" and only came up with sauteeing it in olive oil and garlic.
"But it's a trade-off," she said. "I can tell I feel better. I feel healthier. There is a sense of lightness that comes with clean eating."
'DON'T BE CRAZY'
In February, Tisha Chafer of Bluffton came across a 30-day green smoothie challenge online. The challenge was to drink one green smoothie, made with fruits and vegatables, every day.
"I lost weight. I found I felt good," she said. "I just didn't have that dull feeling anymore and I just felt more alive, like my brain was working again."
Shortly after the green smoothie challenge, Chafer began incorporating clean eating in her house.
"They are slowly embracing it," Chafer said of her children and husband. "... If you can start (kids) off when they're little, and they grow up eating clean and eating healthy, it becomes a lifestyle to them at a young age."
Chafer started a business, The Green Smoothie Gal, aimed at teaching moms how to facilitate clean eating in their homes. Chafer sends out a newsletter every week, which includes recipes, grocery lists and tips on clean eating.
Many staples in her kids' diets -- Lucky Charms, Chips Ahoy cookies -- didn't fit into clean eating. Chafer lives within walking distance of a grocery store, and her 12-year-old son snuck Pop-Tarts back into the house.
"When moms and families go this route, the best advice I have for them is to keep planting the seeds," Chafer said. "Let them see what you're doing. Be an example. Teach your kids what these ingredients are. Tell them what high fructose corn syrup is and how it affects your body."
Chafer was out to lunch with her son and he chose to drink water. She explained to him that if he would have chosen a Coke, 20 ounces contains 16 packets of sugar. So would you sit there and eat 16 pacekts of sugar? No, he responded, that sounded gross.
"If you can teach them in visual ways so they can relate to the choices they're making, it starts to sink in," Chafer said. "It's taken a while, but if you keep planting the seeds and educating them. Take them to the grocery store with you, have them read the backs of the labels. They'll start to get it.
"Tell them slowly and don't be crazy about it, which I was a little bit," she said. "I let them have a choice, but they're starting to make better choices for themselves."
'IT'S A LIFESTYLE'
There's no denying that organic foods are more expensive than their processed counterparts and that clean eating is a challenge, but Holly Matteo of Bluffton has become sort of a pro at it.
She began more than 12 years ago when she was in chiropractic school in St. Louis. Her three children -- Anthony, Nicholas and Anna Marie -- were raised on foods free of preservatives. She even made their baby food and packs her kids' lunches for school every day. Only Anthony has ever had fast food -- a McDonald's cheeseburger while on a class field trip.
Matteo encourages moms to look at the big picture, saying that a healthier diet will lead to healthier lives, which in turn could mean fewer visits to the doctor's office and fewer medical bills.
She does the majority of her grocery shopping at Kroger and Publix in Bluffton, staying on the perimeter of the stores, as well as the farmers' market in Old Town. She also recommends looking for sale items, and stocking up on frozen vegetables when they are on sale.
"Yes, it costs more money on the backend," Matteo said. "But it's worth it to have a healthier life and to feel so much better."
Many area farmers markets accept food stamps, and farmers are producing organic food without the label. It costs producers money to have the "organic" label on their products, so some local farmers advertise their food as "grown without pesticides or chemicals," which is organic without the official seal.
Matteo prepares almost all of her family's meals, including lunches for school, after-school snacks and even chicken nuggets.
"When they're exposed to better food, they don't crave the junk," Matteo said. "When you haven't been there, they don't know any different."
Matteo said eating clean has gotten easier as more grocery stores are expanding their organic and natural food sections.
"Moms should be totally into what their kids are eating," she said. "Because there is so much junk food out there, and there always will be, it's so important to start them choosing wisely because when they're adults, they'll be more likely to make those same wise choices."
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
THINGS TO LOOK FOR ON LABELS
SUBSTITUTIONS THAT WORK FOR THESE MOMS
GREEN SMOOTHIS RECIPE
1 cup pineapple
1 cup mango
1/2 inch fresh ginger root
Combine ingredients, blend until smooth. If using fresh fruit, add 1/2 cup ice cubes.