Clean Eating 101

First of all…

Last day of winter 2014

C/o my co-worker. It’s been a loooong winter here in Massachusetts.

In honor of the first day of spring tomorrow, I thought we could think about spring-cleaning our diets! March is also National Nutrition Month, so it seems an appropriate time to revisit our current eating habits, and perhaps tweak them a bit for the changing seasons. I’ve noticed I’m craving fewer warm comfort foods and looking to lighter, cooler foods.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Clean Eating.” It’s become a bit of a buzzword lately, but it’s not a new concept in the least. So what does it mean? Clean eating involves eating foods as close to their original state as possible (minimally processed), and ideally free of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. This is how I try to eat most of the time and incorporating it into your diet isn’t as difficult as it may sound…just take baby steps and little by little all these baby steps will add up to big change!

Here are some main points to clean eating:

-Think outside the box (or bag, package, etc.): Instead of making a box of macaroni and cheese, why not make your own? All you need is some pasta, milk, butter and cheese! Better yet, make that whole grain pasta, and organic milk, butter, and cheese! Be sure to go light on the butter and cheese to avoid a hefty dose of fat. Can’t afford organic? Try doing at least the whole grain pasta and maybe just organic milk. Better yet, throw in some vegetables and have those be the focus of the dish instead of the pasta and dairy!

Some may think I’m weird for doing this, but I like to throw in lentils with my mac & cheese, as well as spinach (not pictured), plus I have some veggies on the side.

Mac and cheese with lentils

-Let produce be the star of the meal: Make sure your meal is at least 50% vegetable and/or fruit, then add in your corresponding protein and grain of choice. Be sure to include enough protein and fiber, as well as a healthy amount of fats, to keep you feeling full longer.

Salad with egg, beans, and nuts

-Watch out for additional fat, salt, and sugar: This will be easier once you’ve cut out more processed food, but many people add these back in to create the same taste as processed food. Enjoy tasting your food the way it should taste, instead of just tasting sugar or salt.

When you do use these, aim for the healthiest, least processed versions of each. For fats, try natural sources such as  such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado.  For salt, aim for sea salt or kosher instead of table salt. The larger granules mean you’ll use less! Finally, in terms of sugar, avoid high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and other processed sugars, and aim for sugars from nature, such as maple syrup or honey. Just don’t add too much!

Maple syrup from Quebec

Maple syrup from family in Quebec

-Be choosy about your beverages: Drink water, tea, and coffee (black or only a small amount of milk/milk substitute and/or sweetener) instead of soda or energy drinks. Limit your alcohol, which is not only a source of additional calories, but promotes fat storage due to the release of estrogen into the bloodstream when you drink it (and when you have excess estrogen, you’re more prone to hold onto weight).

French press coffee with Game of Thrones Targaryen sigil mug

-Portion and timing: Be sure to stick to reasonable portion sizes and to eat about every three to four hours in order to curb hunger before it overtakes you and you overindulge. Need help with what the correct portion size is? Check out this link for more information.

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this information? Here are some easy examples to get you started:

  • Choose fresh, whole fruit instead of fruit cocktail, dried fruit, or fruit leather. Organic is best, but as it can be very expensive, we tend to stick to buying the dirty dozen organic and not worrying about the clean fifteen.
Fruit displayed on DIY industrial shelves

Keep fruit on display and you’re more likely to snack on it.

  • Pick cuts of fresh meat instead of processed chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or bologna. Even better is grass-fed beef, and even better than that is organic meats.
Bison meat on sale

Bison meat on sale = stocked up!

  • Eat whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice instead of white bread, sugared cereals, and potato chips. Again, organic if you can afford it.

Gluten free oatmeal with almonds and maple syrup

Questions: Are you over this winter? Do you consider yourself a “clean” eater most of the time? Do you have any clean eating tips and tricks?

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15 thoughts on “Clean Eating 101

  1. We try to eat as clean as possible. Lots of organic fruits, vegetables, turkey, bison (yum) and plant based proteins. I meal prep everything on sunday to make sure we stay on track! PS: I am so over winter…I live in Columbus (my first winter here as a Florida girl) and I have had to fight the SAD!

    • Hi Ashley! Thanks for stopping by! It sounds like you not only have an incredibly healthy diet, but setting yourself up for success throughout the week with Sunday meal prep. I’ve been trying to do that more, but there’s room for improvement!

      So sorry to heal you’ve had to deal with SAD. I’ve had that occasionally over the years. I find December and January the hardest, but once I notice the difference in the days being longer in early February, I feel it lift a bit. Were you able to use exercise to combat it a bit?

      • Exercise was key for me during the coldest part of winter! It was such a terrible winter and the endorphins definitely helped!

      • That’s good to hear! I also try to go out on the sunny days for a little bit, even if it’s cold, just to get some vitamin D. I always feel a little dose of sun really lifts the spirits. 🙂 Thankfully, you’re on the other end of it and things should be better soon, if not already!

      • We took of advantage of any sunny day we had here! 61 today! Temps are looking up!

  2. Hi Stephanie, great reminder for clean eating. I try to eat clean… how well I do depends on the day and my level of stress. Just got back from a few days of travel in a foreign country… very hard to eat clean in that situation. Looking forward to getting back on track !
    Its been summer like here in Europe. Hope your weather warms up soon.

    • Hi Karen! It is much harder to eat clean when traveling. You don’t know what foods will be available, are often running from place to place, and also want to try the local cuisine while you’re there. Can’t wait to hear about your trip (Turkey?). It always feels good to get back on track.
      Oh, it sounds glorious! We’re supposed to reach 50 degrees today and everyone is quite excited. I have a feeling we’re going to have one of those non-existent springs and go right from cold weather to hot weather as has happened in the past.

  3. I’m definitely a clean eater, at least as much as I can manage (which I’m satisfied with).
    I agree and live by all your points, except for the fact that I don’t eat meat.
    Going simple (simple ingredients, simple recipes, simple cooking methods) is the base of clean eating, in my opinion.

    • Yes, it’s all about balance! I think I’d go crazy if I ate 100% clean all the time. Plus, I feel it’s important to join in celebrations and have a small piece of cake (or ice cream in my case). Those things are more important.
      What are some of your favorite go-to sources of vegetarian protein? I always loved tempeh when I was a vegetarian.

      • I agree with you about not going 100%. Sure it would be awesome to take such good care of my body, but I’d feel I’d be missing out on other very important things. Like it or not food plays a big role on our (my?) family / social life.
        My main protein sources are eggs, a bit of soy, some dairy, and whole grains (some of them have a respectable amount of protein).

  4. As the WHH, all I want is for you to keep testing your good food concoctions on me more often.

  5. Hi Stephanie,
    Yes, Very sick of wearing so much clothing all the time. And the static, I didn’t think static was seasonal? Seems like more this winter.
    Clean eating? Who couldn’t improve, I know many people in the fitness industry that could…….lets just say try harder. I don’t think I would want to be around a person that eats impeccably for their body type, and metabolism.
    Really, I can’t say I have ever heard of anyone that eats 100% clean, doctors don’t, or even nutritionist. To eat 100% clean, wow that would take a certain type of person, Much Dorker (sp?) than I’m willing to consider.
    Pure Maple syrup, is soooo healthy for you, after you displayed that container I looked into it, Wow I never new it was that healthy, Wow Kudos to you Stephanie.

    On the sugar subject, USDA reommends ” No more than 10 spoonfuls, ( Assuming teaspoon ) of added sugar per day “. Of added sugar, Does that mean 10 spoonfuls? Or, along with your normal regimented intake?
    An expert talk on Obesity I heard the other day, Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D. says that !00 calories of sucrose, 6 teaspoons a day, for women, about 26 grams. And 150 calories of sucrose for men. Thats 9 teaspoons, roughly 39 grams total for the day. Was his recommrnded amount.
    He’s very convincing, Sugar: The Bitter Truth Check it out.

    Tune-up Stay Strong,
    U Steve,

  6. […] want to point out that this isn’t the “cleanest” product out there. There are some added vitamins and other, shall we say, stuff. I would be […]

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