How Important is Clean Eating?
Have you ever heard people talk about losing weight and say that it is 80% what you eat and only 20% exercise? It’s so true! I can tell you from experience that even if I am working out every day, if my food choices are not great then I start gaining weight, feeling bloated, and the most important thing of all, lacking energy. Clean eating is key!
I feel super sluggish and tired when I am eating poorly. No matter what type of eating plan you are trying to follow for your lifestyle, there should still be a heavy emphasis on clean healthy eating. If you are doing Keto then yes, you can probably have ranch, bacon, and cheese. However, if you instead choose avocados, almonds, and an olive oil-based vinaigrette, then you will be putting foods into your body that will be much more beneficial.
Maybe you are counting macros. You can choose cereal or chocolate milk, or you could have oatmeal or baby carrots. Choose foods that will still benefit you without as many processed options that include chemicals and sugar. At the bottom of this post, you will find free access to a list of my pantry staples that help me keep on track with clean eating.
Everything in Moderation
Now do not misunderstand me. I absolutely love bacon, cheese, and could eat a box of cereal by myself in one sitting. But, have those things as a treat instead of part of your daily eating habits. Cleaner whole foods will help fuel your body longer. And, there is something to be said for the larger quantities of food you can have when you choose healthy options. I am pretty much at my core, a quantity-oriented person. I love to eat! I would much rather have a huge plate of healthy foods, then a super tiny portion of something delicious but that will still leave me feeling hungry.
So the big question though. How do you keep eating clean and make healthy decisions? There will always be commercials for pizza every five minutes on TV, your kids may leave half of their peanut butter and jelly sandwich on their plate and you hate throwing food away. How do you stay on track, avoid temptation and hit your goals?
Here are some super simple ideas to help you eat clean. They will be small habit changes to your lifestyle instead of consuming your life and time. The point in any eating plan is to change your habits and lifestyle. Diets Do. Not. Work. You have to change the way you live on a daily basis or you will not be able to sustain it. Find ways to enjoy a healthier lifestyle so that you are cherishing your health and your body instead of feeling like it is a punishment all the time. So let’s dig in and see how we can help ourselves make better decisions.
1. Know What Tempts You and Remove It
This was the hardest one for me! Most things in my house I justify as being “for the kids.” I buy the snacks and foods that they like because let’s be honest, I can only take so much whining about food. I once listened to a podcast by Rachel Hollis where she interviewed Kelly Leveque about her new book Body Love. Side note, this book is on my list of books to read in the super near future! Anyways, she explained that if you have not always been someone with a super crazy awesome talent at self-control (not most of us,) then it is probably not changing.
If you have your favorite foods on hand, and especially the ones that make you want to throw in the towel for the rest of the day, you will probably eventually give in.
Remove the temptation and just stop buying them. Guys…Pop Tarts and White Cheddar Cheeze-its. I will literally ruin my entire day of eating if one of those snacks are at my house. Do my kids love them too, absolutely? Do they ask for them in the grocery store? Also, yes. But, they now are used to passing them in the grocery store. And as picky as my five-year-old is, if she gets hungry enough, she will eventually eat the apple if I don’t have all of the junk food snacks around.
Find Some Common Ground for Clean Eating
I still have snacks for them that they love, even some that I can have as a treat occasionally that don’t make me drop into an immediate binge. String Cheese, Hummus, Strawberry Greek Yogurt. There are a lot of healthy snacks my kids like, that don’t tempt me as much. Set yourself up for success and stop bringing all the junk into your house and justifying it as being for the kids or your spouse. You will probably eat them too.
When I stop and think for a minute, I also don’t want my daughters to grow up with the same relationship I always had with food. There are a lot of negative feelings toward food lately. I would rather my girls grow up thinking about all the amazing foods they can eat and how good it is for their bodies. Knowing that they can enjoy a treat sometimes but not spend hours of guilt and shame agonizing over “falling off the wagon”. Eat well most of the time and enjoy eating delicious foods occasionally.
And guys, that wagon is a jerk! I don’t want to spend my life standing on top of a wagon. Sounds dangerous and not very fun. Kick that wagon out of your life. Find balance walking on the ground and stop accepting guilt into your life all of the time because of some perceived failure.
2. Plan Meals Ahead So You Don’t Get Hungry
Guess what guys? Eventually, it will be lunch time, dinner time will probably come later as well. It is not a surprise! Stop acting shocked at every meal time and then justifying being “starving” as a reason to binge on anything and everything you can find.
Plan ahead! Now I am not a big meal prepper. I honestly hate the super long process of prepping. If I don’t have time to prep then that will be my excuse to eat junk all week long. Also, ever since having my second baby I really can’t eat leftover meat. Seriously even one day later and chicken tastes spoiled to me. I am not a picky eater usually, I don’t even mind eating the same thing for dinner all week. However, my kids won’t eat the same thing every night, and I can’t eat 4-day old meat.
Fit Clean Eating to Your Daily Lifestyle
Find something that works for you. I prefer to write down in my planner a simple dinner idea for each night when I do my Sunday planning. That way my decision is made when I am not hungry or stressed from a long day, but when I am planning my week and mindful of my intentions. Find some time savers…put your meat in the fridge the day before to defrost. I use my Instant Pot a few times a week. I can seriously put frozen chicken breasts in there with ½ a cup of water and once it pressurizes it only takes 12 minutes to cook. I don’t have to babysit the stove or do anything.
I am also big on budgeting, so having a few meal ideas written down ahead of time means I will stick to my grocery list and when I go to make a meal I already have a great idea of what dishes I have ingredients for. On a more simple level, if it’s 10 a.m. you have a good idea that lunchtime is coming up. Plan to make a salad or maybe you brought your lunch from work. The point is you knew a meal time was coming. If you plan ahead before you get hungry you will be more likely to make a healthy choice.
3. Drink Water, Tea, or Coffee When You Get Bored or Hungry
Raise your hand if you like to snack while cooking a meal! This girl right here for sure! When everything is accessible while you are cooking it is far too easy to snack. Do yourself a favor. Drink a glass of water, make a hot cup of tea or coffee. Find something to sip on so that you are still actively doing something instead of snacking your way through the pantry.
Anytime I catch myself hunting through my pantry or fridge and it isn’t a designated meal time, I make myself drink some water or have tea/coffee first. It often helps me realize I was bored instead of actually hungry. Also, it really helps me to hit my daily water intake goals. You can always drink more water!
If you are still hungry after having something to drink, then, by all means, have a snack. But, grab an apple, some carrots & hummus, some almonds, a rice cake (did you know these come in white cheddar?) When you stop grazing the fridge and have a drink, it gives you the chance to make a better choice for a snack if you are hungry. If you truly are hungry then a snack is great! Here are some super great ideas that Rachel Hollis Shared of some healthy, easy, and quick snacks she keeps in her Fridge. It will stop you from a binge or overeating during meal time. Just choose wisely.
4. Ask Yourself if it’s Worth It
Guys, it is simple. When there is food in front of you, you need to pause for two seconds and decide if it is actually worth you eating it. For real! My girls found this special unicorn shaped Macaroni and Cheese that they loved. Has anyone ever tried the macaroni and cheese that is in shapes instead or regular noodles? It seriously tastes like cardboard! I know this, and yet I find myself after giving the girls their lunch, eating spoonfuls right out of the pan while I am picking up the kitchen. I know it’s not super healthy, most importantly I know I don’t really enjoy the taste of it. So why in the world am I still sitting there eating it when it’s gross?
There are so many things that I probably don’t enjoy eating but I do it anyways! Why??? Oh, Why do we do this? I don’t honestly have a good reason. Maybe it is because you aren’t “supposed to eat it,” so it feels forbidden and yummy just because you shouldn’t eat it. I really don’t know.
Your Stomach is NOT a Garbage Can
I also catch myself finishing my kids’ leftovers. Why? How many people say that they hate throwing food away?? Yay, I am with you! I hate wasting food, it is money in the garbage. Do you know what that doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean that it will be beneficial to my body. Is it costing me more to throw it away then it is for me to eat it when I am not hungry? Nope. At this point, I have already bought the groceries and whether it goes in the garbage or my stomach it will not actually change how much money you spent.
Save it if you can’t throw it away. Eat it later when you actually are hungry. Or, pick up the mantle every parent in history has carried, and make your kids finish it later when they are “starving” and need a snack. My kids know if you don’t finish the food I made you, then you don’t get snacks until what I made you is gone. If you are a picky eater today, then I refuse to be unkind to my body because it will “be a waste to throw it away.”
I am not a super strict mom, please don’t think I’m mean. Or do, honestly I’ll do me and you do you. But, I purposely don’t give my kids foods I know they won’t eat. No one wants to argue at every meal. So I love broccoli and my daughter hates any cooked vegetables so she gets baby carrots. I can compromise and not cause a ton of extra work cooking. So when I say I expect them to eat the food I have given them, it was probably their favorite food yesterday and now they changed their mind. Unacceptable.
5. Make Clean Eating Yummy Instead of Boring
Simple is awesome! People get too overwhelmed when food gets too complicated. You don’t have the time or ingredients. It becomes a great excuse for why you can’t eat healthily. I am all about simple dishes that can be healthy, and not cause you more stress. However, if you start getting bored the answer is not to start ordering pizza every week. Spend five minutes looking for a healthy recipe on Pinterest. Pick one or two meals a week that you can put a tiny bit of extra effort into without ruining your clean eating plans. Add some flavors and colors so it seems better!
We are pretty basic half of the week with chicken, rice and a vegetable. Again, budget conscious and healthy. Instead of having them plain sometimes I chop the chicken, toss it with some olive oil fresh broccoli and put it on top of rice with teriyaki sauce. Sometimes I even use riced cauliflower instead of real rice and the kids never notice! The point is that it took almost no extra time and the only additional ingredient was teriyaki sauce.
Try shredding your chicken in the kitchen aid (takes seconds) and add some cheese and hot sauce. Bam buffalo chicken salad! Delicious, not much extra effort. Find things that work for you. When things get boring don’t quit! Get creative!
6. Write Down Your Goals First Thing in the Morning
Start your day the right way! Take five minutes to write down your goals in the morning! Your day will go so much more smoothly if you start it out making intentional choices that will drive your week the direction you want it to go. Take control of your day. Maybe you want to go for a walk today. Today my goal is not to snack after dinner time! If you write down your goals early in the morning it will follow you through the day. When you are mentally struggling with a choice, you can rely on that commitment you made a few hours ago (in writing or you won’t pay attention to it) to make the better choice.
Commit to what you want early and give yourself a boost in self-control you didn’t even realize you needed because you are being purposeful throughout your day by setting goals. If you need some help setting and understanding goals check out my top reasons for setting goals and keep moving forward.
Kind of like a Jimmy John’s Unwich, Clean Eating Habits Wrapped Up
In case you got lost in those long explanations or maybe are short on time, here are those tips!
1. Know what Tempts You and Remove it
2. Plan Meals Ahead so You Don’t Get Hungry
3. Drink Water/Tea/Coffee when you are Hungry or Bored
4. Ask Yourself if it’s Worth it
5. Make Clean Eating Yummy not Boring
6. Write Down Your Goals in the Morning
So these are super simple tips. Are there probably hundreds of more ideas to help you eat clean? Yes. But, don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed. Focus on forming healthy habits and making lifestyle changes. When you make small changes, it becomes easier to find what works for you and what doesn’t. If you make too many changes at once you will just stress yourself out, and possibly your family, on a daily basis.
Small steps and changes. Decisions and choices that are most importantly under your control and ultimately your responsibility. If you need some help getting started, fill out the form below and check out my FREE list of go-to pantry staples that always can be turned into something delicious and healthy to keep you on track.