The plight of a food blogger and CLEAN eating

Lately I’ve noticed there’s a tug of war continually going on inside me. It’s really only been in the past few months, but it has taken me completely by surprise! Over the years, my husband and many of my friends have admired my willpower when it comes to cutting out sugar or junk….that when I’m focused and determined to eat a certain way, I have no problem turning down sweets or doing without. That’s why this is starting to become an issue for me. Let me explain….

I function best when following MY “clean eating” regimen, but I’ve come to realize that “FOOD” blogging is a lifestyle that focuses on FOOD. I love focusing on food as much as the next person…I’m a self-declared foodie… always on the lookout to discover new foods. I love learning new things and flavor combinations, and reading about food, cultures, travel and food stories. And food really isn’t the issue…I still eat good food, probably BETTER food when I’m eating CLEAN.

But I’ve recently become aware that EVERY time I turn around, there are delectable desserts being dangled in front of my face…blogs being fed to me through many online sources…stumble upon, facebook, twitter, blog subscriptions, etc. These sweets, desserts and chocolate usually wouldn’t lure me in, but if it’s a dessert I’ve never attempted to make, then I start getting the inward chant to create. The food blogger in me wants to rise to the challenge!

Some of these recipes are touted as being difficult…like the elusive French Macaron, and I am inspired to replicate them! In fact, that one is on my ever growing list. But here is where my willpower wavers. I have no issues with store bought goodies or processed foods, but if I’m making sweets then I want to sample them…not once, but over and over again. Because seriously…we all know they’re good…nothing compares to homemade desserts!

I am in AWE of all the bakers and bloggers who focus on sweets…they make/bake/create a zillion desserts it seems, and appear to have an enormous amount of self-control. I am in great AWE of you!! If I could master that, my family would be forever grateful…though possibly quite addicted to sugar.

When I’m trying to focus on my CLEAN eating, there are certain things I don’t make. Maybe after a couple months I can add something periodically, but in the beginning I must abstain….other than a bit of dark chocolate here or there. Antioxidants, you know (wink, wink)!!  So just throw the clean eating out the window you say? If you love to make sweets and eat them…go for it! Well, in the ideal world I could eat like that on a regular basis without my clothes getting tight or my energy level faltering, but we all live in the REAL world. Sugar is just not our friend.

Let me share with you my definition of clean eating, and the benefits I experience when I’m focused on eating clean. I know that everyone has a different definition of CLEAN eating, and that’s okay…we’re all different.

When I eat clean, I follow these top 10 guidelines and they work for me:

1) No white flour.

2) No sugar (I don’t believe in sugar substitutes like aspartame, but do use pure maple syrup and honey sparingly).

3) Limit my carbs (which are all whole grain, no refined) to 1x a day, if that.

4) No refined carbs (which basically means no white flour/sugar)

5) Drink my green smoothies daily.

6) Up my water intake.

7) Eat more salads.

8) Concentrate on being aware of my hunger cues….when I feel satisfied, stop eating.

9) Wait for the stomach to growl…or when I am really hungry to eat. Lately people are taught to “graze” all day which means we are scared of “feeling” hungry. But nothing is wrong with the feeling of hunger. In fact, have you ever noticed that food tastes better when you’re hungry, and starts to lose that flavor punch as you fill up? We’re actually designed so that we won’t overeat!

10) Fit exercise back into my regular schedule. I feel better when I am exercising…getting fresh air and those endorphins flowing. I actually get more done when I am active. Don’t you?

The BENEFITS I receive when I follow my top 10 guidelines are:

1) I have much more energy!! I mean A LOT more!!! Which is really important when you aren’t a 20-something anymore. As a mom of 3 active girls…I NEED a lot of energy. Who doesn’t?

2) My mind is clearer. I can think straight…I seem to process things better…which means I’m calmer and more patient.

3) I feel lighter because my body is not weighed down with all the stuff it doesn’t need. Since I’m adding good fuel, it burns CLEAN. My body knows what to do with it, and is much more efficient.

4) I feel happy! There’s no doubt in my mind that I am a happier person when I am following my guidelines. I’m a positive person anyway, but my outlook is even brighter and I feel deeply satisfied. It really is soul pleasing to eat this way.

5) I get more done around my house, with my children and have an overall sense of accomplishment. I feel like I can tackle anything.

6) EASY weight loss is a benefit if that is my goal, and maintaining weight is effortless.

So what’s a food blogger to do? I don’t have the answer yet. Baby steps I guess. I’ve been back on my CLEAN eating regimen for a few weeks now, and I have lost about 5 pounds. Pretty good considering I haven’t been able to been motivated enough yet to add the exercise back in…though I sure do NEED it…it more ways than one. I like that weight loss is effortless when I follow my guidelines.

No counting calories or points. It doesn’t feel restrictive because the secret is…when you are off white flour (refined carbs like white rice, white pasta, white bread etc)…you don’t crave sugar. See where the dilemma is…I’m not craving sugar, I’m drawn to the challenge of making “said” food, but then I know when I make it I won’t have the self restraint. Make sense?

You also may like:
     Can a former vegetarian embrace a low carb lifestyle?
     Zesty greek salad & a low carb update
     Cream cheese pancakes ~ a sweet low carb alternative!
     Peach pecan pancake & a healthy living challenge!

QUESTION for other food bloggers ~ How do you handle this? Any tips or advice for me?
QUESTION for everyone ~ Do you have certain eating guidelines in place that you like to follow?

***And speaking of food bloggers, I’m deeply honored to have been nominated for Babble’s Top 100 Food Mom Blog. I would appreciate your vote!!
To vote click here and scroll down to Creative Kitchen. It only takes a moment, and would mean SO much to me! Thanks for all your support!!***

This recipe has been linked up with Monday Mania, Hearth and Soul Hop, REAL Food Wednesday & Works for me WednesdayPennywise Platter Thursdays, Simple Lives Thursday & Fresh, Clean & Pure Fridays.

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41 Responses to The plight of a food blogger and CLEAN eating

  1. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    I agree with you here. The web is awash with very pretty pictures of tempting desserts in particular – it's much more difficult to take a food-porn pic of beans and lentils (I know because I tried last week!). There are quite a few bloggers who focus on making their everyday meals healthier (my friend Anja for instance I think your list is a good one – not too extreme but really sensible – life's too short for strict diets but we all want the health and energy to enjoy the one we have. I have avoided the mac challenges for the very reasons you outline. A slippery slope!

  2. MamaMary says:

    Denise, I have become addicted to your blog. Thank you for walking out what clean living looks like in your life. I am in the process of moving to a clean lifestyle and it helps to see others modeling it.

    I have begun seeing a holistic M.D. In the past two years I've begun to have horrific, systemic joint pain. They are pretty sure it's fibro and so he has changed my diet.

    I feel better when I:

    Drink approximately one gallon of water a day. (I use Dasani)

    Drink my protein shake with a Tablespoon of my omega oil.

    Greatly reduce my carbs

    Keep my carbs whole grain that I do have.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Well, being diabetic presents a challenge in the foodblogging world! But I've discovered that there is a vast array of things you can make that are sweet, delicious and low carb. I generally don't use artificial sweeteners either…my go-to sweeteners are stevia (all natural) and erythritol. Despite it's very chemical sounding name, erythritol is a naturally occuring sugar alcohol found in fruits and fermented foods.
    I use white flour and white sugar so rarely now, I have to go out and buy it specifically for recipes I've decided to make for my kids as treats!

  4. Michelle @the domestic mama and the village cook says:

    I agree with many of your beliefs- as you know my 14+ years in the health food industry. And, before that my mother was a yoga teacher while I was growing up, the 1st time I had white bread was in the cafeteria when I was 10! (LOL)
    I completely understand your plight with being a blogger and also eating clean. Before I started my blog, I seldom used white flour…
    And, sadly- the most popular posts and photos are the dessert ones. However, when I make a decadent dessert- it is eaten in moderation after a healthy meal, or it is given away to friends, church,etc. I try to keep my blog balanced with a little bit of everything.
    As for you, and your blog…
    You are so passionate about clean eating, I bet you could encourage others also. You can explain how you do it; a typical meal(s) snack(s) etc. People WANT to eat better… a lot of them just don't know where/how to begin.
    You can help them find their way.
    Don't go against your will for your blog- you will end up resenting it.(the blog) But, if you want to make …say…French macarons go for it it will only enhance your skills as a baker and cook. They don't have flour anyway…:) almond meal, egg white and powdered sugar. I know the sugar is an issue there, you may possible be able to substitute… however.. I would rather eat something that is made with sugar than artificial..IMHO, 🙂

  5. Wendy (The Local Cook) says:

    I just recently decided to try clean eating. It's definitely hard . . . especially since I'm a food blogger + my other blog reviews local beer, wine, and restaurants. I am taking 2 weeks to dedicate myself to being clean, then I'm going to just see how to minimize the un-clean.

  6. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. says:

    I've worked a great deal for Clean Eating magazine, and it's tough to eat and cook clean. Great post!

  7. Peg4Jesus7 says:

    Great post, Denise ~ I'm right there with you! (Besides the pizza delivery Doug got tonight … ugh, but yum! lol)

    I keep telling myself I have to act like I'm allergic to sugar & refined carbs. And, in a way, I am, when I add up the costs to my body after I've eaten them.

    Three things I want to experiment with: almond flour, coconut flour and coconut (palm) sugar. Have you tried them?

    I haven't used the sugar yet, but ordered some. It's supposed to be low glycemic. I did make some coconut flour bread, and it was a little dry, but the flavor was good enough that I want to experiment with it some more. Haven't tried almond flour yet. I have some "crispy almonds" (soaked/dehydrated ala' "Nourishing Traditions") that I want to grind into almond flour. I'll let you know how my experiments go! 😀

  8. Maureen says:

    I've always had the philosophy of eating everything in moderation – denying nothing. It's served me well over the years.

    Very interesting post and I think I'll need to read it again and see if I change my ways. 🙂

  9. kathleen says:

    Hello there im just roaming arround the internet trying to find good quality articles
    and i notice your blog and read some interresting topis you have i really appreciate
    your work Thank you very much


  10. Amy says:

    Just voted for you, my dear. Best of luck! You have some great tips on clean eating! Thank you so much for sharing.

    BTW, I'm hosting a tea sampler GIVEAWAY on my blog. Please hop over to enter if you're interested. Have a wonderful day.


  11. FOODalogue says:

    So much of this resonated with me when I first read it so I held it 'unread' to come back to and give a thoughtful comment. I don't have a sweet tooth or bake, I eat healthy and moderately (lots of veggies + whole grains), balanced meals and yet I recently put on some weight. I've been avoiding carbs the past couple of weeks doing an Atkins and it has worked pound-wise, but it's not something I want to continue long term. I guess I have to step up exercise because blogging is such a sedentary sport!

    Looking forward to meeting you at FBF Friday.

  12. April @ The 21st Century Housewife says:

    This is a really interesting post, and I think we all struggle with the issue of eating healthily. For me, it is moderation in all things – trying to eat well eighty percent of the time, and letting myself have treats the other twenty percent. Because honestly, food is supposed to be nourishing and joyful, not something to stress over. And I do find that if I let myself have a treat when I'm craving it, I enjoy it and that is it. If I deny myself, then it becomes a great big deal and I end up over-eating. For me, moderation is definitely the key.

  13. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    I feel you……..sister. I feel you. Do the best you can, treat yourself in small doses and make decisions one step at a time. I have tried my best to cook less for my blog…..and it has helped. Still a way to go but…getting there

  14. Shu Han says:

    Hi! I just read your rules and find them so similar to mine! I don't find eating healthy an obstacle to you being afood blogger! there are tons of relal food bloggers out there too (: I love the challenge it gives me actually (: i hope you find this a fun adventure too (:

  15. Anne says:

    Thanks for the list. My clean eating looks very similar to yours (but for the green smoothies–maybe I'll try that!). I focus on the rules, and don't focus on the benefits–thanks for the list!

  16. Barb @ A Life in Balance says:

    I hear what you're saying! Fortunately, I've found some Real Food bloggers who don't focus on the sweets – Nourishing Days, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, the Nourishing Gourmet and Kitchen Stewardship. Reading them daily keeps me inspired and on track with clean eating.

    I've noticed that since I've almost cut out all the sugar in my diet, that I don't have the sugar cravings that I used to have. My monthly cycles are much calmer too. 🙂

  17. DonnaB says:

    I agree with all and I try to "eat clean" too. You might like my blog at as I try to post these kinds of recipes also. I am also trying to do more exercise 🙂
    It is all important…exercise and the food!

  18. a moderate life says:

    Denise, I really got a lot out of your post and I want to share it with all my readers on my hearth and soul hop highlights this friday. I think it is so important for us all to reach out to each other in the food blogging community when we are having an issue because NO ONE understands the food blogger like other food bloggers. I have NO problem what so ever with sweets in recipes. I read them, I think they are great, I move on, but give me pasta and cheese and I have to try it.

    I think that it is ok for you to BE a food blogger and not blog sweets, or to be a food blogger and only blog sweets. There is room enough for everyone in this great big cookbook of a blog world! Some foodies are vegan! Some are RAW, some are paleo and very few folks do everything.

    My sister is paleo low carb but she LOVES to bake and she can make sweets and bread and then simply give it away. I couldnt do that, but she can. I think it is important to know your own limits and then work within them to the point where you are feeling GOOD about what you are doing.

    I tend to eat like mark bittman does. He is vegan before 6pm and then eats whatever he wants at dinner. I am vegetarian before 6pm and I eat very lightly during the day and then have one well prepared balanced meal at night. I drink green smoothies, raw milk, eat veggies, a bit of cheese, butter, eggs and fruit during the day when hungry and then have the meal. This works perfectly for me and I do not feel deprived or gourge either because I know the next day I can have whatever I want at dinner. That said, I rarely eat sweets because I just dont really like them and also if I do eat carbs or sweets early in the day I am FAMISHED all day. I know my body and I stick to the plan because it makes me feel good and happy.

    Find your balance. If you want to decide on making one treat a week say on saturday and then sharing it with others you can look forward to that and stick to your plan the rest of the week. Or, there is nothing wrong with saying–i cant do this now–later maybe but for now, because I love myself–i am going to stick to what works for me and food blog the heck out of this clean stuff! Cause you CAN do that and its awesome! Big hugs and thanks for sharing with us on the hearth and soul hop and opening up with awesome dialog! Alex

  19. ~*Connie*~ says:

    Well if it helps, I can tell you as someone new to clean eating and real food, I'm on the look out for more recipes that AREN'T sweets. Yea, they may be more popular, but I can't make them for lunch 🙂

    I did run into a cookie recipe with no refined sugar, it had a banana instead. Maybe if you looked for inspiration in alternatives.. they are out there.

  20. Laurie says:

    lol – the temptations of "food porn". My girlfriends and I were just talking about this. We're all trying to eat better, and then a post catches someone's eye and makes you think, "I've got the try that!" I appreciate your efforts to keep things "clean" but still make them inviting. 🙂

  21. Alea Milham says:

    I am also working very hard to eat clean. I take inspiration from the flavor combinations and make things like Pumpkin Pie Spiced Sweet Potato Fries. 🙂 I do like to bake, and since I have teens, I often have a house full of willing taste testers. I usually make desserts on Friday mornings, take one taste and then allow my family and friends to finish off the dessert. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking article with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

  22. Martha (MM) says:

    It sounds like we live by the exact same views, I mean to a T! Thankfully the desserts haven't tempted me to try to make them other than for special occasions. Don't do it if you know you won't be able to restrain yourself, it's not worth it!

  23. Delishhh says:

    AWESOME post, love it. I try to do clean eating but it is not easy. First i by nothing processed, i try to eat hormone free and organic food only. Then i try to drink more water, eat less carbs and less sugar. I try but not always easy. I do however, try to workout more when i eat more carbs and sugar hoping it will balance out. I also try to do fiber rich, sugar free muffins and i often experiment with recipes to make them more healthy. Keep up the good work.

  24. Roz from 'la bella vita' says:

    Thanks again for sharing this wonderful post last week on Fresh Clean and Pure Friday. I was so happy to have it as one of the Featured Posts today and am glad that you're sharing another great post!

  25. I Sicilian says:

    I am completely in accord with you. Unfortunately there is no middle ground. Eating clean is having to do without many ingredients. I also find that it is hard to blog about food and keep a clean diet. But when I’m on a clean diet I blog about ingredients and post recipes that are healthier. I, in fact have an Ingredient wiki that helps me stay clean while at the same time, give my reader a bit of knowledge on ingredients that they may not be so familiar with.
    My blog is about Sicilian food so carbohydrates are a staple, the redeeming thing is that I follow a mediterranean diet that is pretty healthy. Posting recipes as individual dishes as opposed to a meal makes it easier for me, so I don’t have to tell my reader that I ate my post of eggplant over quinoa, which is not at all a Sicilian Ingredient. So the post is heathy for me, informative to my reader and I let the reader use discernment as to how they’d like to serve it.
    I Sicilian recently posted..Potato Timbale

  26. lauren johnson says:

    Just found your blog and really like it. My husband and I have started jogging and are trying to eat healthier and I have researching clean eatting as I want to do it for my family. I was curious what do you do for snacks or when you get a sweet tooth? Is yogart with fruit and honey ok? What are some of your favorite options? Thanks!

  27. Pingback: Can a Former Vegetarian Embrace a Low Carb Lifestyle? | Creative Kitchen

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  29. Cheri Sicard says:

    I can so relate to this post. This has been my struggle with running a food website ( in the past and writing cookbooks and running a new blog now ( I eat the way I am supposed to in between projects and eat whatever I need to be cooking for work otherwise. Likewise my weight is always more than it should be. But I am one of the fit fat people. Even though weight is high, I can out workout most people (even reasonably fit ones) in their 20s (I’m in my 50s). Exercise is key to my feeling good and feeling positive. If I am going through an unmotivated period workout wise, it effects everything else. I used to live in the mountains where I hiked. A lot. It took me a while to get into a new routine of going to the gym once I moved back to the city. But now that I have, everything feels more balanced, regardless of how I’m eating. But to eating, even when I am eating bad, it is all real food made from real ingredients from scratch. I don’t do mixes, convenience foods or processed crap ever.
    Cheri Sicard recently posted..Freezer Friendly Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

  30. Angela FRS says:

    I have been fairly discouraged by this in terms of the reality that desserts get far more hits and general attention–when I post a salad it tends to get a giant yawn. I have a vegetable focus to my blog and I have had to come to terms with the fact that it will never get as much attention as the dessert-a-day blogs do, and I simply cannot crank out that many sweets. I am not sweet motivated and taking them to my students just passes the sugar on to them! It is a dilemma.
    Angela FRS recently posted..Our First Durian

  31. Aggie says:

    great post…I’m struggling right now! not just because I’m a food blogger but just because I’m me! LOL

    I love good clean food…clean eating makes me happy. this was a great post to motivate me a little more and know I’m not alone. Alot of it is about discipline for me. And staying out of food ruts.
    Aggie recently posted..Surprise! Welcoming a new Pea to the Pod…

  32. Abby says:

    As a travel blogger, I’ve long marveled at how in-shape all the food bloggers look on their sites. You guys do it all! Great post. Really enjoyed reading how you balance it all.
    Abby recently posted..Committing to Beating My Fear of Commitment

  33. Yep, this is definitely an issue, whether I’m blogging or not. Thinking about food all day often leads to cravings. I have to continually remind myself how much I love the taste of fruits and veggies, which I truly do. I find that when I eliminate sugar for several days, I lose the craving. But I won’t lie – it’s hard and I have a long way to go to get it right
    Cookin’ Canuck recently posted..Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde Recipe

    • Denise says:

      Yes Dara…..I find that to be true also. If I kick sugar to the curb for even a day or two…the cravings lose hold. What’s even worse if it I ever let white flour creep in (say around the holidays)…white flour and sugar combined leads to the worst cravings!!!

  34. Natalie says:

    I’m glad you sent this around on Stumble again! I didn’t realize how long ago it was posted until I looked at the dates on the comments.

    I have an eating regimen similar to yours, but my thoughts were going in a different direction as I was reading this. Yes, I do crave more sweets as I see other bloggers post desserts and crazy carb indulgences (those fall into the same category for me) and it makes me want to post more. Why? Because those are the posts that get a lot of attention, comments, retweets, FB sharing, etc. I wonder how many people post things like that to get the shock effect and more traffic to their blogs?

    Because I try to focus on clean eating on my blog, I hesitate posting too many of those because then I lose my “culinary focus” so to say. Then I think of bloggers like Heidi Swanson and think what a great examples they are… that you can have a successful blog without succumbing to post after post some kind of rearrangement of chocolate, caramel, pretzels, peanut butter, oreos, cookie dough, etc.

    I say spread the word of clean eating! The cleaner my diet is, the less appealing ridiculous desserts become, and I’m attracted more to quality and originality in desserts than just putting a glob of sugar in my mouth.

    • Denise says:


      So glad to have your input!! It makes me feel not so alone in striving to cook and share REAL food with fresh, quality ingredients! It was only recently that I realized that those posts (sweets, desserts etc) were wildly popular as far as traffic goes btwn other food bloggers sharing & when my “Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie” post went VIRAL on stumble upon…and still going strong. CRAZY!! I really had no idea.

      I kind of feel like the opposite types of posts would be the popular ones…you know clean eating, healthy foods, fresh local ingredients etc because most people (though we love our sweets) really don’t want the day in and day out temptation.

      I certainly struggled with posting that recipe because of the powdered sugar ingredient. But I loved the fact that they are flourless and gluten free. And technically we can buy a healthier version of powdered sugar if we want to (though there is no sugar that is “healthy” kind of an oxymoron!). All in all…I feel okay posting the occasional indulgence. If it’s the exception, not the norm….if it’s a favorite recipe of mine….and it’s still healthier since I’m making it at home vs processed.

      Maybe if we stick together the healthier foods (and posts) will prevail!! Of course we’ll probably get the most traffic come January when the whole world likes to jump on the clean eating bandwagon 🙂 LOL!!

  35. Cara says:

    I certainly feel the same way as you, at times, but I also get so much pleasure out of all the healthy foods I like, so I don’t feel deprived. I think it also helps to remind myself that everyone’s body is different, and everyone chooses to splurge a little differently. Personally I’ve come a long way with control, and yet still, I don’t bake indulgent treats very often. There’s just no need, in my tiny household of two. Even though I can control my intake to a reasonable portion here and there, most recipes make enough goodies that it’s just too much for my husband and I to finish before they go bad. And, I don’t like my coworkers enough to be making so much effort all the time to bring them treats 😉 And finally, I remind myself that I choose to splurge on other things (like eating out on the weekends) and I don’t really care to blog about baked goods anyway – I like the feel of sticking to the healthy, clean eating category on my blog. That’s my strong point, and the reason people read my blog.
    Cara recently posted..Butternut Squash Noodles with Curry-Peanut Sauce

  36. I know exactly what you mean. We follow a whole foods diet closely, careful to not eat refined grains, sugar, or oils, but occasionally I’ll post about a cake I made for a birthday or cupcakes for a bridal shower and the number of “hits” escalates. Even when cruising on Stumble the ratio of sweets to real food is far more slanted to the sweets. People love sugar, but like you said, it is terrible for our bodies.

    I think part of this is finding our voice, allowing the thing we are most passionate to hold our focus rather than compromising it for popularity. It is hard. There is a wildly popular blogger who I am happy for her success, however delicious the food may be, it is terrible nutritionally (refined flour, sugar, hydrogenated oils-shortening, and heavy on the carbs). I love comfort food as much as anyone, but it’s just not comforting to feel crummy or compromise my heath, so we minimize it. Unfortunately, whole foods don’t illicit the same oohs and ahhs, but I’m okay with that. I’d rather encourage folks toward health than focus on “hits”.

    Great post. Glad I found your blog, I’ll be following from now on 🙂

  37. Violet Foreman says:

    I find that when I eliminate sugar for several days, I lose the craving. Yes, I do crave more sweets as I see other bloggers post desserts and crazy carb indulgences (those fall into the same category for me) and it makes me want to post more. Then i try to drink more water, eat less carbs and less sugar.
    Violet Foreman recently posted..Acne Tips

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