Last week I wrote about how to start “eating clean.” I don’t know about you but when I first started hearing about clean eating the word “impossible” came to mind. I just couldn’t figure out how in the 21st Century lifestyle, after growing up with boxed and processed foods my entire life and being in a rush 24/7 I would live without so much of what I ate daily or weekly (e.g. pasta, egg noodles, rice, Shake ‘n Bake, Manwich, cereal, Mac ‘n Cheese, granola bars, pretzels).
But here’s the beauty of it! It’s not a race, people…. At least it isn’t as far as I’m concerned. With every new awareness you can increase the amount of not just clean eating and drinking but clean living (making your own cleaning products) but it doesn’t have to happen all at one time!
I know that some people need a very specific program to follow. I’m not that kind of girl – I don’t read directions ever, not when taking tests or playing a new board game or trying to install some kind of software on my computer. The detail overwhelms me, if I miss one single thing the entire thing is messed up, I have no patience for all of it, and sometimes I just need to go at my own pace. I don’t want to declare that I’m now eating 100% clean so that when I inevitably don’t I figure I’ve failed and need to give up the whole idea.
However! If you’re one of those people who is overwhelmed by the LACK of exact guidelines and doesn’t know where to start unless you have the plan laid out for you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, two snacks, and all the drinks for a 21 or 30 day program, I’d highly encourage you to start here! It’s called the Whole 30 and it’s extremely strict. I don’t think you can go wrong if you follow this!
For those of us who aren’t the cold turkey types, this was the process for me:
I remember first just starting to make less pasta, Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese, tuna noodle casseroles, fajitas and tacos, and substituting quinoa for rice. Little by little I filled in with clean recipes from scratch and eventually came up with a totally different kind of meal rotation through the magic of the internet, specifically websites like allrecipes.com and Pinterest. At first I found clean recipes that mimicked what I used to make, for example homemade sloppy joe or barbecue sauce, tacos and fajitas in lettuce wraps, fried cauliflower rice, or zucchini lasagna. I never was a Hamburger Helper kind of fan but I did find and adapt a recipe with ground beef and tomatoes over shredded cabbage that I think is a very close but clean parallel. Over time, though, I’m finding a zen from making mostly very simple and straightforward meals: A protein marinated or rubbed with some delicious spices then broiled or baked in the oven, grilled on the barbecue, cooked on the George Forman Grill, or sautéed in some garlic and olive oil. With heaping servings of veggies that are sometimes steamed and sometimes baked or broiled crispy. I usually toss them with olive oil, fresh pressed garlic, various spices, Himalayan pink salt, and pepper. Sometimes we have big salads with meat, poultry, or fish on them. Soup or crockpot casseroles using fresh ingredients are wonderful during cold weather months.
It’s all delicious and it’s plenty now. But it wouldn’t have been the week after I had eaten cereal a few times a day, cheesy rice for lunch, and something with pasta, tortillas, bread, couscous for dinner.
Typically the only canned, jarred, or boxed items we have anymore are tomato & spaghetti sauces (which I make maybe once a month?), soups (used once every few months?), condiments, salad dressings, oils, vinegars, and spices. The condiments and salad dressings will probably be the next phase of homemade. Eventually. I hear mayo is really easy to make. I also made oven cleaner once and it was amazingly so easy I plan to do it again. I’ll probably make other cleaners eventually too. The money savings just makes me giddy.
*NOTE #1: I have teenagers and young adult kids who were not raised eating clean and I do buy some foods for them that I don’t eat myself, such as cereal, Cliff bars, and chips. They eat our clean dinners very well, though, and like them!
*NOTE #2: We live in the real world. We eat real pizza every Friday night. Eventually we hope to make cauliflower crust. We’ll see. We also enjoy any food available to us at parties, weddings, and restaurants that other people choose that might be full of nothing but pasta or breaded fare. It is not the end of the world. The point is that if the other 95% of life is spent in eating clean, the results are still dramatic!
So I recommended taking baby steps. Lots and lots of them. Last week I gave five suggestions for looking at your intake and becoming aware of how much of it is processed and has unnatural additives, then starting to make some changed.
This week I’d like you to take the next step by doing one or two of the following:
1. Cut out one of your most commonly consumed DRINKS that is processed and not natural. Maybe that’s powdered tea mix or a Crystal Lite type drink? Carton of liquid, pre-made Chai tea with all kinds of stuff added? Soda? Flavored creamers (sorry I’m going to war against those again!)? Mixers in or pre-mixed alcoholic beverages (yes, sorry I am going there!)?
I’m not saying to deprive yourself, just SUBSTITUTE the natural version! Make fresh brewed iced or hot tea, it’s not hard! Put some milk and honey in it even. Just skip the 49275 grams of chemicals and sugar. Drink some sparkling water and squeeze lemons and lime in it.
2. Cut out one of your most commonly consumed FOODS that is processed and not natural. Do not eat it this week. Maybe that’s cereal. Or a granola bar. Try a clean breakfast of fruit and protein. Maybe you eat a lot of chips, donuts, scones, crackers…. Snack foods are tough to break! I found it easier to start with whole meal recipes and then when feeling fuller longer, it’s easier to cut back on snacks. Are you like I was with the weekly pasta, rice, noodles, and tortillas? Just choose ONE this week and use an alternative or find an entirely different recipe to try. You might end up loving it, seriously!
3. Choose one meal a day to eat completely clean every day. I personally think that lunch is the easiest one, partially because you’re likely not trying to feed yourself the same thing as your whole family or the other people you might live with. It’s also less drastic than the very common boxed foods most of us depend on for breakfast. So if you’re shooting for lunch, you can go for a great bowl of chicken, tuna, or egg salad without any bread. If you’re at home, put nuts, celery, onions, and fruit in it. Make it really substantial and filling. If you go out, order your favorite burger or hoagie on lettuce or cabbage or just naked. Have soup or salad with a generous serving of protein that helps keep you full. Accompany your lunch with some fruit or nuts to fill you up more.
That’s it! Keep raising your awareness of how often you’re ordering or eating imitation, processed foods. Keep cutting them out. Keep trying to replace meals and recipes. I think you’ll feel great and so glad you’re doing it!
Please let me know how it’s going and what questions you have.