Sunday, April 10, 2011

Clean Eating Stripped Down

Clean eating or Eat Clean Diet, what do these words mean, why you want to start and how to get started without putting your family and your budget into shock. Clean eating is not some new fancy fad diet. It is a lifestyle. It is very healthy, very 'green' and very beneficial to your fat loss/muscle building plan.

Basically the foods that our bodies need are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Proteins are broken down into amino acids that are used for muscle development, growth and repair. Carbohydrates and fats are the fuels the body needs to perform (PERIOD). All functions in the body (physical, neurological, hormonal, etc) need fuel from carbohydrates in order to happen. Carbs have gotten a bad reputation because we think of pasta, bread, baked goods, and candy as carbs. They are indeed HIGH in carbs. But they are not the carb fuel your body was designed to process. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains are carbs. You need these in your diet. The word 'whole grains' trips people up because manufactures put those words on EVERYTHING these days.

So, how do you know it a food is a 'clean' food source? Here is a simple way to remember it . . . If it swims, flies, runs, walks, grows on a plant, requires food, sunlight and oxygen to exist, it is a clean food. Good health and a radiant life come from living things. We will break that down in a minute. Basically when you look at an ingredient list, if you read it out loud to your four year old you should be able to tell them what each of those items it and why it is in the food. Your natural peanut butter should say Peanuts (period). You cereal should say, oats, flaxseed, water, pumpkin seed, honey, etc They should be the words that say what food is. Not preservatives, artificial sweeteners, stabilizers, etc.

You really do only need to shop the perimeter of a store and maybe go down two isles in the grocery store. I promise. It is not that hard to do. Our ancestors did that in the not to distant past. Grandma didn't depend on Betty Crocker and she knew how to grow a potato. The more convenient our food supply has come, the more disconnected we have become with making healthy choices.

Let's shop the perimeter. In the produce section, buy fruit that is in season to keep from breaking your budget. When you need strawberries in the winter and they don't fit in the budge, buy frozen unsweetened strawberries. In the winter I also buy canned tomatoes. Veggies are usually more reasonably priced year around. Sweet potatoes are an amazing super food and are very economical. Some items that go into my cart every week are fresh broccoli (frozen is gross tasting once you have had the good stuff), fresh spinach (ditto the before statement), onions, peppers, kale, sweet potatoes, zucchini squash, celery, Fuji apples, blueberries, strawberries, mushrooms, cilantro and an avocado or two.

In the deli section they do have one brand of turkey breast and chicken breast I will get that has low sodium, no fillers or preservatives. Bread isle I skip . . . if it can sit on a shelf for a week without turning green it has been way to processed to be in my body. I do get Ezekiel bread (it is in the freezer section and must be kept in the fridge or freezer because it has living wheat sprouts, whole germ foods in it). I go down the cereal isle to pick up a granola that is low in fat, high in protein and low in carbs (Bear Naked High Peak Protein). I also pick up Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, Rough Cut Oats, and Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal Mix. In the canned foods section I get albacore tuna, black beans, tomatoes, green chilis and any other bean I need for the week. I get the low sodium kind and still rinse and soak them very well. Frozen foods I get frozen mango, strawberry, blueberry, Ezekiel bread and a couple veggie mixes to keep on hand for those rush nights. Dairy section, this is my weakness! Eggs (lots of them), plain non-fat yogurt, greek yogurt 0% plain, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and almond milk. Oh, I almost forgot the nuts and seeds!!! I love pecans, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and brazil nuts. You want to get the raw nuts, not roasted. Roasted nuts are coated in oil and then roasted. Nuts already have a natural oil and fat content, we don't need the added fats. Dry roasted do not have oil added, but check the label and see what they did add. You just want the nuts or seeds. Believe me, once you cleanse your palate of all the over processed sugary things you have grown accustomed to eating, you will love raw nuts.

The spice isle is also a very fun isle for me, but I don't have to go down it often because I own one of everything that is on that isle. I love having oatmeal in the morning with half of a Fuji apple chopped up in it, a few walnuts chopped, and a little apple pie spice and a splash of vanilla added to my almond milk. I cook the oatmeal, then add the apple,walnuts, spices and almond milk, then I pop it back in the microwave for one minute so it tastes like warm apple pie.

Even though the ingredients are simple, eating clean does not have to be boring. I don't keep pasta around, even the whole wheat healthier stuff, because portion control on pasta is difficult for me. But, for a family whole wheat pasta for dinner is an awesome option. Try this. Make a whole wheat pasta (read your label, make sure you can pronounce all the ingredients and you know what they are), Steam some fresh broccoli until tender, chop it up and toss it into your pasta. Chop up some grilled chicken breast and toss it into the pasta. mix plain 0% greek yogurt with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and your favorite blend of spices (I like Italian herbs). Use this as a cheese sauce on the pasta. If you family doesn't like broccoli, don't try to win them over to clean eating and broccoli at the same time. I love this dish made with zucchini, bell peppers, onion and mushrooms. . . mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Delicious!

When you buy yogurt, get the plain stuff and add what you want to it. Fresh fruit, granola, and cinnamon or honey, etc. If you buy it already flavored, they have to put sugars and stabilizers in there to preserve the fruit. Get plain.

To keep clean eating economical, keep a well stocked pantry of your staples, whole grains (farro, brown rice, oats, quinoa, cous cous), canned tomatoes, beans, granola. Buy your yogurts plain and low fat. Buy proteins in bulk, cook them up all at once and freeze part of it. It will save you time and money. Construct you menu plans for the week to utilize the fruits and veggies that are in season or that take advantage of a super saver deal.

Don't through your family into shock by announcing that you are changing the way they eat. Just try some of your family favorites in a cleaner healthier style. If they make a comment, let them know you are looking at healthier ways for them to enjoy their favorites and stay healthy and strong. It is a treat to take care your body and invest in your health.

Back to the clean vs. unclean on the meat/protein item. Although there is a place for all meat sources, you want to use wisdom here. Red meat is higher in saturated fats, so you want to limit your consumption to twice a week. Pork loin is a lean cut, stay away from sausages (what all is in that?) . Salmon is an excellent source of protein and healthy fat, again limit your portion size and how often you have it. Preferred sources of protein are chicken breast, turkey, white fish, tuna.

There ya go, I think I hit all the perimeter of the grocery store and hope I have demystified some of the questions you may have had about clean eating. I have gotten some questions about how to make the switch for families with a husband or kids that may be picky. I hope some of this helps. My husband eats what I do for the most part. He still prefers white rice and he makes a rice cooker full of it for the week and keeps it in the fridge. He also loves Triscuit crackers and Cheez its. He keeps those on hand. I keep a cabinet with my clean, healthy go to snacks. So, I just keep in mind that those are HIS choices, I don't want them. For children, I would say, you are the adult. Make the healthiest choices for your families health you can. I would not under any circumstances buy my children yogurts that are blue or red and filled with things that I KNOW are unhealthy and tell them to enjoy it. I can't. I wouldn't. I couldn't. I would buy plain yogurt and teach them how to dress it up special just for them. Fresh strawberries, a little granola. Or since children do like sweetness a little honey, some raisins and some seeds. Make it fun, make it special, they deserve the good stuff and so do you!

One of my favorite snacks! Berries and nuts!


  1. After eating a clean diet since the beginning of January, all your food sounds much more yummy than a bag of chips and processed dips! I'll take what you're having please! :)


  2. Great post! I look at "clean eating" as eating the way our grandparents ate just fourty years ago. The processed food was pretty non-existant and expensive, unlike now :)