By now you’ve probably heard the phrase “clean eating”, but do you know what it actually is or how to go about using it as a way of eating?
Eating clean isn’t really a new way of eating. In fact, it’s eating in a way that our ancestors did by eating all natural whole foods. Eating clean is about eating the best and healthiest options in all the food groups while eliminating processed, sugary and fatty fried foods. The clean eating way of eating means embracing fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as healthy proteins and fats.
Eating clean isn’t necessarily a diet. It’s more a way of eating. But, by eating this way, you do lose weight and become healthier.
Eating clean is more than eating fruits, vegetables and salads. It’s about eating food that is whole and in its most natural state.
The average American diet has been filled with processed foods, sugary sweets and fried fatty foods for many years. It’s led to a nation of people that are overweight, diabetic and have heart disease.
According to Fitness.gov (Source: http://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/), the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat.
Healthy eating can reduce the risk of chronic illness and disease including the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
And the World Health Organization states that at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, and up to 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if people ate better, engaged in more physical activity and quit using tobacco.
That’s where clean eating comes in. Eating foods that are natural, unprocessed and whole provides the nutrients you need, without adding extra sugar, sodium or unhealthy fats. In this guide you will learn what clean eating is and its benefits and you. There are tips for easing into a clean eating lifestyle as well as recipes for getting you started.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating started gaining popularity back in the mid-1990’s. Consumers were starting to pay attention to how foods were processed and grown. Health food stores were becoming more mainstream. Today, clean eating or eating clean is a way of life for many people of all walks of life.
Clean eating means everything from eating more fruits and vegetables to eliminating all processed foods. Basically, it means to eat whole foods. So instead of eating a banana nut muffin, eat a banana and nuts instead. It means using foods that have only all natural ingredients.
One way to replace those processed foods is to make homemade versions. Everything from energy bars to salad dressings can be created with whole natural ingredients at home. Clean eating recipes can be found for just about everything, from five-ingredient ice cream to homemade baby food and pickled veggies.
Whole natural foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for the body to function at its best. Nutrients are the foundation for the structure and function of our body’s cells. The health and the way these cells function is determined directly by what you eat.
Eating clean gives you clearer skin, more energy, shinier hair and better sleep and moods as well as less aches and pains and clearer thinking.
Here are the basics of clean eating:
Clean eating isn’t a fad diet. It’s a common-sense approach to eating for a healthy lifestyle. It’s something everyone can do by choosing a variety of whole, unrefined foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
Benefits of Clean Eating
Now that you know what clean eating is, you might be wondering what the benefits of eating clean are. Well, there are many. Let’s take a look.
Are you ready to feel the benefits of eating clean? Not sure how to fit it into your lifestyle? Read on for ways to incorporate it into a busy lifestyle.
Incorporating into a Busy Lifestyle
We all know that our lifestyles are busy. Who has time to make everything you eat from scratch every day? I mean, with work and family obligations, your time is already filled. So how can you incorporate clean eating into it? Here are some tips to help you out.
Begin by making the commitment. Make a menu plan.
Then to make it easier every day, you need to plan out your meals for the week. This is where a weekly or monthly meal plan comes in handy. A meal plan needs to include all meals as well as any snacks you plan to have during a day.
Take one day a week to create a month’s worth of meals. Get out your cookbooks and online recipes to put together your favorite meals. Once you’ve done this for a month or two, it’ll get easier. You can simply interchange the menus you’ve already created with a few different meals.
Include some protein, healthy carbohydrate and fat at every meal. Protein is an important muscle builder that helps curb your appetite.
Next you’ll need to stock your pantry and fridge. This is where you need a master shopping list.
This means adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats such as chicken breasts and fish to your fridge.
Keep frozen fruits and vegetables that are all natural, meaning they haven’t been packed in added sugar or salt on hand. It’s a good idea to have clean eating foods on hand in your freezer for those extra busy times when you don’t have time to run to the store for fresh foods.
Take advantage of a local butcher. A local butcher has fresh meats on display so you know exactly what you’re getting. An even better idea is to get to know your local farmers through the farmer’s market. They’re never reluctant to share with you how they grow and feed their animals.
Here’s a basic grocery list to get you started:
When you’re just starting out with clean eating, you may be intimidated on where to start. A good rule is to shop the perimeter of the store. This is a simple list for beginners. Adjust it for what’s available in your area.
Look for brands that have whole grains and are clean. Trader Joes brand of whole grain breads and Ezekial brand breads are a couple of suggestions.
Tortillas (make your own)
Dairy & Non-Dairy:
Stock up here. The produce section will be where you load up. One point of caution: don’t buy more than you can use in a week unless you plan on preparing and freezing some of it. You don’t want it to go to waste.
Any fresh fruit you enjoy. Fruits include:
All fresh veggie you enjoy. Veggies include:
When you bring home your foods from your shopping trip, it’s a good time to prepare it. Chop veggies and put into containers so they are ready to grab when need them. Marinate your chicken breasts in individual zip bags a few days before you are going to cook them.
Divide meat into the size of portions you need for each meal. Label everything well.
Consider making items ahead, like whole wheat pie crusts for fixing a quick quiche at the last minute or have clean eating pizza dough made ahead of time for a fast pizza.
Make your own junk food. Really, you can have potato chips if you make your own using clean ingredients.
Cook wild rice and brown rice up in a big pot and divide into individual servings in bags and freeze them. That way you have a microwavable rice bag ready to go.
Prep on the weekend for seamless weeknight meals. Precook proteins and grains like quinoa for quick additions to salads. Make a large container of salad dressing to be used all week.
Make freezer meals ahead of time. Take one weekend and make up a week’s or a month’s worth of meals you can freeze. Then simply take out the night before, thaw in the refrigerator and heat up the next day. Another option is to create crock pot meals. Assemble as much of the ingredients as possible and freeze in bags. Add to the crockpot for a wonderfully easy dinner ready when you get home. Search out recipes and tips online for ideas to use all those healthy ingredients.
Fitting a clean eating habit into a busy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to make drastic changes in your life. It simply means taking a little extra time once a week or so to prepare your foods so they are ready when you need them.
Tips for Clean Eating
Maybe you’re ready to jump in to clean eating full steam. That’s great. But you might want to give yourself a little time to adjust. It can be a huge change for some people. Keep in mind that most recipes can be adapted to a clean eating plan.
For instance, you can have your pizza, cookies, ice cream and even cake or doughnuts as long as they are made with clean eating ingredients. Here are a few more tips to go clean.
Eating clean doesn’t have to be difficult or feel like a science experiment. Common sense is a lot of it. Doing away with anything processed or with added ingredients is the main thing to remember.
How to Make Any Recipe Clean
Let’s say you have a favorite family recipe for mac and cheese. Is it off limits now? No. I believe most recipes can be converted to a clean eating plan. It may take some experimentation and some time. Want to try it? Here are some basic guidelines for making clean substitutions.
Substitute the white stuff. Sugar can be substituted as long as you have a kitchen scale. Weigh the amount of sugar called for and then use the same weight in natural liquid sweetener like honey.
Brown sugar isn’t a clean option. It’s simply white sugar with molasses.
To substitute unhealthy oil for cooking, use a small amount of olive oil, say 1 Tablespoon, and replace the rest with chicken broth.
Replace oil in baking with no sugar added applesauce and fruit puree like pumpkin. Add extra spices and extracts to taste.
White flour can be replaced in both baking and thickening sauces. Use whole wheat pastry flour in baking or use whole grain flours.
For pasta dishes, use whole grain pastas instead of those made with white flour.
As with any recipe, exchanges and substitutions may change the texture and flavor. Have fun and experiment until you get one that you love.
7 Clean Eating Dinner Recipes
Not sure where to start in preparing a clean eating meal? Here are 7 clean eating dinner recipes to get you started.
Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Dates and Orange
This salad combines dates and oranges, pecans and quinoa, a high-protein grain from South America along with simple chicken breast chunks for a savory week night dinner.
Serves 8 Total time: 45 Minutes
In a large non-stick skillet, cook chicken breast chunks in 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Turn to brown evenly. Cook about 15 minutes or until done. Remove from skillet to cool.
In same skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium high heat. Cook onion in oil about 2 minutes. Add quinoa to pan and sauté another 5 minutes. Add in the 2 cups of water, 1/ 2 teaspoon of salt, bringing to a boil. Cover, reducing heat, and simmer about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Put quinoa mixture into bowl. Add cooked chicken, oranges, pecans, red onion, dates, asparagus and jalapeño pepper. Toss to combine.
Prepare dressing by combining the juice and extra virgin olive oil, sal1, black pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Mix together with a whisk. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss together. Top with chopped mint. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
Serve at room temperature.
Mustard Chicken with Brussels Sprouts
Your family is sure to love this dinner. The refreshing mustard sauce covers the chicken breasts and the simple sautéed Brussels sprouts.
Yield: Serves 4 Total time: 40 Minutes
Turn oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit to preheat.
On high heat, heat a large skillet that’s ovenproof. Add in 1 T oil. Toss chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Place in pan. Cook until brown – about 3 minutes. Turn chick breast over and place pan in preheated oven. Bake for 9 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove pan from oven. Place chicken on plate and keep warm. Place the skillet over medium high heat. Add 1/2 C chicken broth and cider, bringing to a boil while using a spoon to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer for 4 minutes or until thick. Add mustard, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley and whisk to mix.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 T oil and 1 T butter over medium-high heat. Toss in Brussels sprouts and cook until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Put remaining 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 C broth in pan and cover. Cook 4 minutes.
Serve sprouts alongside the chicken and sauce.
Spaghetti Spinach Genovese
This clean recipe for Spaghetti Genovese adds spinach as a nutritional boost while using whole-wheat pasta in place of traditional pasta.
Serves: 5 Total Time: 30 minutes
Boil water in a pot over medium high heat. Cook spinach in in water for 45 seconds until wilted. Remove spinach with a fine sieve and put in a blender. DO NOT DRAIN WATER. Return the spinach water to a boil. Add potatoes and spaghetti noodles. Cook about 6 or 7 minutes, until almost tender. Stir once or twice to keep from sticking. Add the green beans. Continue cooking until tender about 3 minutes longer.
Dip out 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot just before spaghetti and vegetables are done. Pour 1/ 2 cup of that liquid into the blender. Add pesto, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth. You may need stop and scrape the sides.
Drain liquid from the pot of spaghetti and vegetables, leaving ingredients in the pot. Mix in the pesto mix. Return to medium heat, cooking and stirring gently, until thickened and hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Sweet Plantain Black Bean Veggie Burgers with Avocado
Veggie burgers can be tasteless. These use natural ingredients to make them delicious with a hint of sweetness from the plantains and a kick from chipotle powder.
Yield: 4 burgers Total time: 25 mins
Fix the plantains. Heat teaspoon of oil in skillet over high heat. Add the plantains and cook 1 minute on each side. If the pan gets too dry, add a little water. Take plantains from the pan. Add 1 cup of the plantains to a large mixing bowl. The rest of the plantains can be served as a side to the burger.
Toss the black beans, chipotle powder, salt, hemp seeds, onion, tahini, cilantro, lime, and oat flour into the mixing bowl along with the plantains. Mash the ingredients with a potato masher or fork until the beans are split.
Heat a skillet with 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat.
Pat into patties and cook on a hot, oiled skillet. Cook for 1 to 3 minutes on each side until brown. Finish completely cooking in the skillet or transfer to a 350 Fahrenheit degree oven for ten minutes after browning.
Serve with bun and assorted toppings.
Adapted from Kathy Patalsky of http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2015/05/black-bean-plantain-veggie-burgers-with.html
Browned Cod with Lemony-Wilted Spinach Sauce
The citrus and spinach sauce adds a zesty dash of flavor to a delicate fish like cod. Use Meyer lemons if possible since they have a sweeter juice.
Makes: 4 servings Total Time: 25 minutes
Put spinach and water in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Put a few holes in the plastic wrap. Microwave on high about 2 minutes until spinach is wilted.
In a blender, pulverize the wilted spinach and any remaining water with the parsley, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and crushed red pepper until smooth. Set aside.
Dash the cod with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Cook the cod in oil that’s been heated over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Turn cod once, cook until brown and cooked through about 5 to 7 minutes. Place on a plate and cover with a tent of foil to keep it warm.
Add the reserved spinach sauce to the pan. Heat, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Pour sauce onto a plate, top with fish and sprinkle with almonds.
Easy Two Ingredient Salsa Shredded Chicken
This is a quick to make dish that combines the spicy flavors of salsa with a slow cooked chicken. It can be used for Mexican style dishes like tacos or quesadillas, chili, soups, sandwiches or on pizzas.
Makes: 2 servings Total Time: 4-8 hours depending on slow cooker settings
Put the whole chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Cover with salsa. Toss to coat chicken with salsa.
Put cover on slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. It’s done when chicken is easily shredded with a fork. Shred chicken. Put back in the slow cooker and toss with remaining salsa and juices left in the slow cooker.
Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Savory Red Onion Marmalade over Tenderloin Steaks
The savory red onion marmalade adds a sweet and tangy flavor to tender and juicy tenderloin steaks.
Makes: 4 servings Total Time: 20 minutes
Turn on and preheat broiler.
Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in onions, cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove lid and add to the pan the vinegar, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered, for 8 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir occasionally.
Sprinkle the beef with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and pepper. Broil beef on broiler pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Broil about 4 minutes per side or to desired doneness.
Serve onion mixture with tenderloins.
Next Steps in Clean Eating
Clean eating isn’t just a diet fad. It’s a way of life. Like any type of change, though, it can be tough to do at first. The trick is to give yourself time to adjust. Go slow and don’t beat yourself up when you fall back on processed stuff. Just make an effort to do better.
Keep things in balance. Slowly add new natural foods to your diet to find your favorites.
Make menus to help you keep on track. Adjust your favorite recipes to ones that use natural ingredients.
In the end, switching to a clean eating lifestyle can be a fun and healthy way to try new foods and enjoy cooking new recipes.
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