People often ask me why I’m on a diet or why I choose to eat the way I do. So I thought I would devote a post to describing my lifestyle and some basic rules for clean, healthy eating.
First, I am not on a diet. I choose to eat a certain way all the time, not just short term to reach a weight goal. Unlike diets, I never feel restricted or that I am missing out on certain foods. There are certain things that I don’t even consider eating or drinking. I have found that after a while these eating habits stuck. Here are a few foods and drinks that I completely avoid: soda, potato chips, french fries, pizza, refined carbs such as white rice. I also like to avoid things like donuts and sugary sports drinks.
When I eat any of these foods, my body reacts negatively. For example, if I drink soda I feel bloated and uncomfortably full. So I have learned to avoid it. The key is to listen to your body. A lot of people refer to certain foods as “comfort foods”, but usually these foods tend to make you actually feel uncomfortable after eating them. Greasy foods like pizza or french fries tend to upset my stomach, and I know I am not alone with this feeling. For me, the after-effects of eating these foods outweigh the taste.
The foods listed above are all very low in nutritional value. When I am thinking about my next meal, I think about how to pack the most nutritional benefit into it as possible. Having a donut for breakfast does nothing for your body. As many nutritionists would say it is like eating “empty calories” because the calories in a donut are not benefiting your body in any way.
So here are my 4 tips for clean eating:
1. Choose whole, natural foods
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, meat, nuts, and seeds all fall into this category of whole foods. Fruits and vegetables give you the most benefit in their natural form. Think about reaching for an apple as opposed to a sugary juice. For meat, look for lean cuts such as a chicken breast or lean ground turkey meat. These foods should be consumed as close to their natural form as possible to reap the most nutritional benefits. For example, fish sticks aren’t an acceptable source of protein. Instead, a salmon or tilapia fillet sautéed or grilled with a little oil is a great source of clean protein.
Whilst not ideal, if you don’t have much time throughout the day, it might be worth buying some whey protein protein. It’s not exactly natural but it still gives you plenty of nutrients.
2. Make as many meals at home as possible.
Restaurants can be a healthy eaters worst nightmare for a few reasons. First, the portion sizes are often much larger than what your body needs. Also, even if something appears healthy like a chicken dish with vegetables and rice there could be a lot wrong with it. The meat is most likely doused in salt and cooked in butter or oil. The vegetables are likely prepared similarly. The rice is probably a refined carbohydrate with a good amount of butter added. Even a salad could derail your health efforts with heavy dressings and large portions. To know exactly what is going into your meals, prepare them at home as much as possible. If you know you’re going out to eat, try and take a look at the menu ahead of time. The nutritional information is likely to be posted somewhere on the website.
3. Plan ahead
To reduce the possibility of reaching for a bag of chips or a slice of pizza, plan your meals in advance. This doesn’t have to involve hours of meal prep. A simple list of your meals for the next day can be enough. Here’s an example of what I would plan:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with a banana and peanut butter with coffee
- Mid morning snack: Chobani 100 vanilla Greek yogurt with slivered almonds
- Lunch: salad with dark greens, tuna, mixed veggies, sunflower seeds, and an oil and vinegar dressing
- Afternoon snack: carrots and hummus
- Dinner: Chicken breast with sautéed kale, quinoa, and a side salad
I recommend writing down what you plan on eating for the next day the night before and getting all of your ingredients together. For me, this usually consists of putting everything I am going to have in the same spot in the fridge and throwing the pantry ingredients in a brown bag. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but a simple list will help you stay on track.
4. Don’t resist cravings
Resisting a craving will likely have you overindulging at some point. I typically try to create a healthy version of what I’m craving and it usually does the trick. If you are really craving pizza try making cauliflower pizza. If you have a craving for ice cream, try making banana ice cream. If your sweet tooth is going crazy, there are tons of healthy options for you. Check out Chocolate Covered Katie for healthy dessert ideas and recipes. Remember, having the real thing every once in a while is not going to derail your health efforts. So, have a scoop or two of ice cream when you really want it. It’s what you do a majority of the time that truly matters.
Clean eating is a lifestyle that is sustainable versus a diet that makes you want to eat everything in sight. Eating well has so many positive benefits for your health and you will feel the difference. You will find that you have more energy and are generally in a better mood. Your hair, skin, and nails will also benefit from clean, whole foods. Additionally, if you are trying to slim down this method is the best because you will lose the weight and keep it off with ease.