So you want to eat clean? With all the conflicting diet advice out there it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you need to do. Let’s not worry about being perfect right from the beginning. Start with things you can easily handle and build from there.
The number one best way to control your diet is to cook all of your own food. That means avoiding restaurants and staying out of the food court! On a side note, this will save you money too! Use that money to buy yourself some nice tupperware to pack your meals in and a funky cooler bag to bring them with you wherever you go. You can get cooler bags in practically any shape, size and color you could want. Whether you need food for an entire day, or just a couple of meals to take with you while you run errands, there is a cooler bag to meet your needs.
Even if it takes you a while to fine tune the food you pack to take with you, it’s a safe bet that whatever you make at home is still going to be much better for you than anything you could get at a restaurant. Learning to cook and finding combinations of foods that are delicious and clean will take some time, so for now let’s get you in the habit of making all your food and taking it with you.
I’m not going to get into how many calories you should be eating or even macronutrient ratios. It’s easy to make adjustments to your diet later to make it better line up with your goals.
In addition to your tupperware and cooler bag, you will want a few items for your kitchen to help make food prep easier. A small kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons, a good sharp knife for chopping veggies, tupperware containers for storing precut veggies in the fridge, ziploc bags of various sizes, a couple of good pots and pans and some counter space where the magic will happen!
Before we can start chopping and prepping we need to go grocery shopping! Think of a few simple meals you would like to try to make a grocery list. Nothing complicated at this point. You want to cover all the food groups on your list. Lean protein, low-fat dairy, unrefined carbs, healthy fats, fruits and veggies. Your list might look something like this.
Lean protein – Chicken breasts, ground turkey, eggs, canned tuna
Low fat dairy – Skim milk, cottage cheese
Unrefined carbs – Whole wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, slow cooking oats
Healthy fats – Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, raw almonds, all natural peanut butter
Fruits – Apples, bananas, grapes
Veggies – Broccoli, cucumber, baby carrots, frozen spinach, no sugar tomato sauce
Optional add ons to jazz up your meals a bit – Hot sauce, low sodium soy sauce, lemon and lime juice, garlic, mustard, salsa, cinnamon, sugar and salt free spices
There are many other foods in each category that could make your list, I just wanted to give you examples. Take your list with you when you go shopping and stick to it! Don’t be tempted by flashy advertising and healthy claims on products. Read ingredients and look for added sugars and other ingredients that you don’t want to be consuming, like preservatives and anything you don’t recognize!
Now that you have all that great food home, it’s time to prep! I’m going to take you through how I would prep using our hypothetical grocery list:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. If using frozen chicken breasts put them in a microwave and oven safe dish and thaw in the microwave.
3. Put a pot of water on the stove to boil.
4. While waiting for oven to preheat and water to boil prep your veggies. Wash everything and chop and peel anything that needs it!
5. Once water boils add brown rice or whole wheat pasta, whichever you want. Or boil two pots and make both!
6. Once chicken is mostly thawed sprinkle with salt free seasoning of choice (Mrs. Dash makes some good ones) and pop in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
7. Poke holes in a sweet potato with a fork and cook in the microwave for 10-15 minutes. Check after 5 minutes and adjust time based on the amount of sweet potato.
8. Cook ground turkey or extra lean ground beef in a non stick pan on the stove top.
Now that everything is cooked and washed and chopped you have the makings for several easy, simple meals. Lay out your tupperware containers and start your assembly line! There are two ways to do this; prepping individual meals right away or storing pre-cooked meats and rice in larger containers in the fridge and assembling in the morning. Either way the process is now about combining your food into meals. This is an example of what it might look like:
Meal 1 – Oatmeal with all natural peanut butter and banana and scrambled eggs
Meal 2 – Brown rice, chicken, broccoli and avocado
Meal 3 – Whole wheat pasta, extra lean ground beef, no sugar tomato sauce, coconut oil
Meal 4 – Apple, cottage cheese and almonds
Meal 5 – Sweet potato, ground turkey cooked in olive oil, spinach
Meal 6 – Skim milk, grapes and almonds (Optional nighttime snack if you need it)
Keep in mind that this is for illustrative purposes only, to show you how you might want to put your meals together. For simplicity I will often eat the same thing for two or three meals in a day, and my menu doesn’t change much day-to-day. It takes time to perfect though, so be patient. Keep track of food combinations that you like and eventually you will work out a system that fits your goals and lifestyle!
This article was researched and written by Follow @DaraCoxPT
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