Sunday, December 8, 2013

Back to Basics

I don't know if it's because it's that time of year when we all seem to just watch our waistlines expand at the wonderful treats laid out before us or what but I have been asked about clean eating more lately.  That's okay, because I am happy to share!

This post is really just about the basics.  What is clean eating?  I think there are probably a few definitions of it, but for me (and for MR), it's about eating things as close to their natural state as possible.  No white sugar and no white flour are two key essentials.  Beyond that, we try to make everything from scratch.  Over the last couple of years we have found a replacement recipe for just about every processed food we ever put in our bodies.  And they taste better and, most importantly, we feel better!

This is pizza.  It's clean!  Can you imagine?!

The hardest part, as Cher used to say (remember the Vic Tanney commercials?  Remember Vic Tanney?  Okay, then you are also officially old), the hardest part is getting started.  For some people it's baby steps.  Not me! I am an all in kind of person!  Both feet, hold your breath, here we go!  But if you are a baby stepper, that's perfectly fine.  Make small adjustments each week.  Soon you will notice a difference in how you feel and, quite possibly, in how your clothes fit.  (And that's a good thing!)  (Did I tell you I dropped two full sizes doing this?)

Here are the basics:
First, every time you eat, every meal, every snack, be sure to pair a complex carbohydrate with a lean protein.
Next, eat three  meals and two or three snacks every day so that you are eating about every 3 hours.  Personally, I don't usually do the third snack.  But you might want to start out that way.  If you really follow this you will feel like you are eating all the time.  But if you are eating the right things, it will be okay!
Third, what are the right things?  Again, think of it as food as close to its natural state as possible.  Eggs, fresh fruit, plain Greek yogurt, lean meats, vegetables.  Most importantly, read labels!  If you don't know what it is, or can't pronounce it, you likely shouldn't be eating it.  If it has more than a few ingredients, you probably shouldn't be eating it.

Okay, but what do I eat?!  If you are stumped for what to eat, check out my other blog posts.  I try to post my weekly menu for two reasons.  First, because if I don't post it I lose track of the recipes and then I have the ingredients but can't remember what to make!  Second, so that you can get ideas on what to make.  I work full time and have a 75 minute commute (each way, each weekday), so most of my entrees are not complicated.  Occasionally one of us works from home so we throw in a slow cooker meal in the middle of the week.  Sometimes on the weekends we have a meal that takes a little longer to prepare.  But for the most part, you will find simple, but tasty meals.  From time to time, okay a lot of times, you will also find yummy treats to make.  One of the reasons I couldn't stick with any "diet" in the past is because I would start feeling deprived.  On this lifestyle change, and I emphasize that it is a lifestyle and not a diet, you shouldn't have that problem.

A quick sample menu:
Breakfast:  Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to have breakfast in a hurry and still get lots of good nutrition.  Seriously think about what goes in it, though.  Your base should be either skim milk or almond milk (my personal favorite) or plain Greek yogurt.  Than add fruits and/or vegetables to your taste.  I don't post a lot of smoothie recipes in my blog because there are tons of websites out there.  I don't use protein powder usually because I don't really understand the ingredients, so that means they probably aren't clean.  Get your protein from Greek yogurt!

Snack:  1 TBSP (clean) peanut butter and an apple
Read the labels.  Some peanut butters marked "natural" have added sugar.

Lunch:  Leftovers from last night
LOL  Obviously this would be a little harder to do the first day, but that's typically what I have for lunch... whatever we had for supper the night before.  If you don't have any leftovers or don't want to eat that, throw together a yummy salad the night before.  Remember to include a protein.  I like this recipe.  It's really fast and easy to make.

Snack:  Cheese stick and a clementine
Get a good quality cheese stick made only from milk.  Trader Joe's has some great ones!

Dinner:  Rosemary Pot Roast and a vegetable
This is one of my favorite recipes for two reasons.  1) You make it in the slow cooker and 2) It tastes incredible with just a few ingredients.  The really good news?  You should have some leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Snack:  Small handful of almonds mixed with a few raisins

Do you have a sweet tooth?  Or like cream and sugar in your coffee or tea?  There's an app for that... okay, not an app, but there's a substitute!  First replace the sugary prepared creamers with half and half or milk.  There are also some recipes online for making flavored creamers that are not full of sugar and junk.  Just search "clean eating coffee creamer" and you will be amazed at the many choices.  Next replace the sugar with either honey or coconut sugar.  Coconut sugar is available at more stores now.  If you can't find it, try Whole Foods.  For other sweets, coconut sugar, black strap molasses, honey, and Medjool dates are my go to replacement sweeteners.  The main thing is to stay away from processed stuff.  White sugar is not permitted at all on clean eating.  Brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses so don't be fooled.

Okay, this post just hits the most basic idea of clean eating.  If you have questions or are looking for a particular kind of recipe, post a comment and I will see what I can do to help.  It may seem intimidating, but I found that it was not that difficult.  Is it expensive?  Well, maybe at first because you need to buy all new flour and sweetener.  But maybe that's where the baby steps come in.  The next time you need flour, buy whole wheat.  The next time you need sugar, buy honey and/or coconut sugar.  When you start buying fresh produce, buy only as much as you need for a few days so it doesn't go bad.  Although when I find that I have fruits or vegetables going bad, I just puree it and pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it for smoothies or soups!

I am a firm believer in, when it comes to food, all things in moderation.  Many people believe that if you eat clean you should do it about 80% of the time and then have cheat meals the other 20%.  I don't cheat much because I find that I can't really control it.  That's it!  That's who I am!  If I have a few peanut M&Ms, I will want more.  So I find it's better if I just don't eat them, or do so only very rarely.  But there are some things that I indulge in occasionally...  A glass (or two) of a really good wine or soup and salad from Panera are probably my most frequent cheats and even that is not so often.  Yes, Panera soup and salad is a cheat.  Read their ingredients sometime.  I was really disappointed, but at least I recognized that it's a cheat.  Anyway, the point is, you can occasionally have  a cheat meal.  Just don't make THAT your lifestyle!

Whatever you do, keep it clean!


  1. Thanks for posting this! Perfect timing!

    1. Glad I could help! As always, shoot me a note if you have any questions. This is a tough time of year but we can make it easier!