Since I’m a fitness professional, that means I have always eaten extremely healthy, right? WRONG! It’s taken me years of trial, error, and education to truly understand and perfect how to eat clean. I was the girl who ate bagel thins with “light” cream cheese for breakfast, a turkey sandwich with veggies and cheese for lunch, and whole wheat pasta with pesto, chicken, and again cheese for dinner thinking that was extremely healthy. I was also NOT snacking throughout the day because I thought it was BAD to snack. Does this sound familiar? To most people, these meals, and not snacking, would be considered “eating clean” or “eating healthy”, but the reality is that if you want to truly eat clean and get results, cheese, refined carbs, and avoiding healthy snacks will NOT get you the results you are seeking.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I enjoy a glass of red wine with pizza, however, that is an occasional occurrence, and I have mastered the balance between being social and properly taking care of myself. I want you to master this as well, which is why I am writing this blog post. Below are my tips for how to get started truly eating clean, and how to turn it into a lifestyle, not a diet, quick fix, or fad.
1. Meal plan and make a shopping list- At the beginning of each week, sit down and scroll through Pinterest, your favorite cookbooks, etc. to get ideas for meals to cook throughout the week, and pick three-four meals to cook. This should provide you with enough meals to get you through the work week. Then make a grocery list of all the ingredients you need, in addition to healthy snacks. ONLY buy what is on your shopping list! This will prevent you from straying to the cookie aisle. Making lists and only buying what you have written down ensures you don’t buy junk.
2. Always eat a healthy breakfast- With so many delicious and healthy breakfast options available, there is simply no excuse to have this be an unhealthy meal. One of my favorite healthy breakfast meals is whole grain oatmeal with peanut butter and fresh berries. Now that it’s summer, overnight oats are a great option as well. The old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” isn’t a myth. If you start your day off with a combination of complex carbs, protein, and fruit (fiber source), you will feel full for longer and have more energy.
3. Cut out the cheese!- I love and crave cheese, but I also know cheese has a large amount of saturated fat and that it should be a regulated food in anyone's diet. Saturated fat leads to cellulite, and no one wants that! For most people it may not be realistic to cut cheese out entirely, but cutting back to eating cheese no more than once a day, and then eventually no more than 2-3 days a week, will lead to dramatic results in fat loss.
4. Limit your refined carb and sugar intake- Refined carbs are forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. They do come from natural whole foods, but they have been altered in some way by processing to”refine” them. Refined carbs are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing risky spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can make you feel jittery and then want to crash. Foods to avoid that are high in refined carbs and added sugars include cakes, cookies, ice cream, muffins, pancakes, candy, breaded or battered foods, bagels, most breads, pizza, most granola bars (unless labeled low sugar or sugar free), sweetened yogurts and other dairy products, and more. Pretty much anything you think you is processed and loaded with sugar, avoid at all costs! This includes sodas and fruit juices as well.
5. Snack throughout the day- Contrary to popular belief, eating 5-6 times a day can aid in weight loss, higher energy levels, and can boost your metabolism. Of course the snacks have to be healthy in order for this to happen, and you have to burn more calories than you are consuming in order to lose weight. Based off personal experience and through training clients, if someone is regularly exercising, eating every 2-3 hours has lead to higher energy levels and faster results.
6. Read nutrition labels- I’m sure this is something you have heard a million times, but it was too important to not mention on this list. Always look at nutrition labels before you buy anything! An item might seem healthy, such as granola bars or yogurt, but after reading the nutrition label you may find it’s loaded with sugar, chemicals, and saturated fat. The top offenders I look for on a nutrition label include saturated and trans fats, sugar, sodium, and ingredients that I cannot pronounce.
7. Measure your food- You can eat healthy food all day, but too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing. It is important to measure or portion out your food when planning meals and snacks. For example, peanut butter with apples is a great snack, but only 2 tablespoons of peanut butter would be considered a proper serving size. Don’t go crazy counting calories and becoming obsessed with the numbers. However, you should be aware of the amount of food you are consuming to ensure you are not unknowingly overeating.
8. Don't drink during the week- Yes, I have again stated the obvious, but this is extremely important! We all like to indulge in a cold beer on a hot summer day, or a glass of wine after a long day at work, but the sad fact is that alcohol is filled with empty calories, sugars, and carbs. You do not have to cut the drinks out completely, but try to limit your alcohol intake during the week. If you regularly have a few drinks after work, cut back to only one, and then start cutting back the amount of days you drink each week.
9. Eat out less and cook more- One of the best ways to eat healthier, while saving money, is to eat out less and to cook more. Yes, you could always opt for a salad at lunch at your favorite restaurant, but who REALLY knows what ingredients went into making the dish. When you cook for yourself, you control which ingredients are used, making it much easier to eat clean and keep track of what you are eating. Since the fast pace of today’s world makes it nearly impossible to cut dining out completely, order wisely when at restaurants. Opt for the grilled chicken sandwich without mayo instead of a burger, or if you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side.
10. Eat lean protein- Eating foods with high levels of lean protein will help you stay full for longer, and will help refuel your muscles after a hard workout. Ideally you should have lean protein at every meal if you're working out on a regular basis. Some examples of lean proteins include beans, eggs, tofu, tempeh, chicken, turkey, and fish.
If you want some more help learning how to turn clean eating into a habit you enjoy, instead of a chore, I invite you to join me in my 31 Day Mind-Body Transformation Challenge on October 15th.
You're provided with a step-by-step weekly meal plan, including a complete guide to eating out at restaurants including Panera Bread, Chipotle, Sushi, and more.
One of the main goals in this program is to discover how to eat clean and tasty foods EVERY meal of the day without spending hours in the kitchen. Every recipe takes 30 minutes or less to make so you can spend your time doing things you really love instead of slaving over a stove in the kitchen.
The challenge starts Sunday, October 15th and will run until November 14th, right before Thanksgiving!
The time is now to take control of your eating habits, your body, your happiness, and your life.
Start the holiday season off loving the way you look and feel, and confidently strut into your family gatherings, work events, and parties knowing that you took a stand for your body and your life.