Clean Eating for Beginners, 5 Easy Tips to Get Started

In my previous post, I covered the basics of what clean eating is. Now you know what it means and the types of foods you should be eating and avoiding, but how can you actually get started?

I don’t know about you, but completely overhauling my diet all at once is a recipe for disaster in my world. I love change, but the idea of taking everything I’m used to and totally throwing it out the window makes me totally uncomfortable – and want to throw in the towel because it’s too overwhelming.

So, rather than making a million changes all at once, I suggest focusing on one or two changes at a time. It might not feel like anything is changing at first, but small changes every day add up big time over the course of a month, 6 months or longer!

When I started my clean eating habits, I took baby steps.  I made one or two small changes each week, and just focused on those things. Each week, I would try to add in one more thing and by the time a couple months had gone by, those little changes added up to quite a difference in how I was eating.

 

Here are 5 of the steps I took:

1.    Replace one soda per day with a glass of water.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but there was a time when I was drinking 4-5 sodas per day – and little to no water. I eliminated one soda each day for a week, until I wasn’t drinking it at all. It took about a month to completely wean myself, but doing it gradually kept me from craving it and ending up back at square one.

2.    Replace regular coffee creamers with natural brands, or other ingredients. I never really realized how many unusual ingredients were in a regular bottle of coffee creamer until I actually read the label. I started using Coffee Mate Natural creamer right away – it has a small list of ingredients including milk, cream, sugar and natural flavor, and my taste buds got used to it right away. (I wrote a post about a few other alternatives to coffee creamer here.)

3.    Replace processed snacks, such as chips, cookies, or sugary granola bars with a cleaner option. For me, this meant eating things like Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, apples and natural peanut butter, Triscuit crackers, cheese and nuts instead.

4.    Add in vegetables to meals wherever you can. This can be as simple as mixing in tomatoes, spinach or peppers in with your eggs in the morning, or tossing a bag of frozen veggies into a casserole.  My biggest tip for this is to start with vegetables that you like. Don’t force yourself to eat vegetables that you can’t stomach, because that won’t be satisfying to you at all – and you definitely won’t look forward to your meals that way. Choose vegetables that you like!

5.    Make your own salad dressings -  Many salad dressings are full of salt and preservatives. I was amazed at how flavorful and easy homemade dressings were to make! Most of them are a simple mix of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and spices. Pinterest is a great place to search if you are looking for recipes for homemade dressings.

This is just a start to all of the simple changes that you can make to clean up your diet. As time goes on, start to add in different habits gradually, and you will be amazed at how much of a change you’ve made! 

In my next post in this series, you will learn about why our nutrition matters - physically and mentally. I'll also give you some easy ingredient swaps and meal prepping tips.  

Looking for more tips and food recommendations? Fill out the form below to subscribe and receive my free Clean Eating Basics checklist pdf! 

Clean Eating for beginners, 5 tips to start
5 Easy ways to start eating clean

Health Benefits of Exercise and Nutrition (beyond just looking good)

Health benefits of exercise and nutrition

I've spent a lot of time focusing on eating well and exercising to be healthy, happy and strong...but up until now, I never thought about what I really meant when I said it. It just meant "being healthy."

The meaning became crystal clear last week, when I found a small breast lump during a self-exam. It's really easy to freak out in your mind and think the worst is about to happen. My heart started pounding, and I said to myself "please, no. I can't deal with this. Please don't do this to me right now."

I made an appointment to visit the doctor, and up until my appointment, I told myself over and over every day "if there's ever a time that my healthy habits are going to help me, please make that time be now."

I was able to clear my head and have faith that the lifestyle choices I have been making - eating well and exercising - were going to work in my favor. And thankfully, the lump ended up being nothing serious...but it hit me hard that I could so easily have walked out of that doctor's office with a very different situation in front of me. 

I'm not a health professional, but I know there are some factors, such as genetics, that are out of our control. But, I also know there are so many factors that we can control - such as the food we put into our bodies and the lifestyle choices we make every day. 

So, what did I do? I researched which foods have protective properties against cancer and other diseases. It turns out many of the foods we eat every day - especially leafy green vegetables, berries and brightly-colored produce, are very beneficial. I also learned that many diseases thrive on sugar, refined and processed foods. 

I did more research on Shakeology, the superfood shake I drink every day, and learned that most of the ingredients fight inflammation in the body, which is at the root of many diseases. So, now I know that every time I drink that shake, I am filling my body with disease-fighting nutrients. I now also know that committing to a regular exercise routine and maintaining a healthy weight helps with disease prevention. 

This isn't about perfection - but rather about the purpose behind the lifestyle choices we are making. Now I have a much deeper purpose behind why I make the choices that I do. It's not just to look good in a bikini or tank top in the summer, or to feel happier and less stressed. All of those things are great, but now I am being more proactive about my health and disease-prevention as much as I can. I really hope these choices help me in the long run. 

Thanks for reading!

Pam

If you are looking for more information on how to get started eating clean, please fill out the form below to subscribe and receive my free Clean Eating Basics Checklist!  

Clean Eating – 7 Easy, On the Go Snacks

In my previous posts, you’ve learned about the basics of Clean Eating, the types of foods to look for, and how to get started with a couple changes at a time.

But…the question I always asked myself when I was getting started was “what do I do when I am away from home?” It’s easy to make healthy choices when you have a kitchen stocked with good food right in front of you.  But when you’re away from home for most of the day? Not as easy.

Here’s the secret…and it’s something I’ve been doing religiously for a couple years now.

Always have your bag stocked with at least 2 healthy snacks.

It’s not really that profound, but it’s something I never used to do, and then I was always left starving and searching for anything I could get my hands on when I was out and about.  My husband actually chuckles at me, because I am always pulling random pieces of fruit out of my bag when we’re out.

Once I started keeping at least 2 on the go snacks in my bag all the time, it was so much easier to avoid the temptation of vending machines or a drive thru with less than ideal choices, because I could pull an apple out of my bag and eat it wherever I was.

 

Here are my top 7 easy snack ideas for when you are on the go:

1.    Piece of fruit and natural peanut butter – I love to pack an apple and small cup of natural peanut butter. You can even pre-slice the apple if you won’t have a knife to cut it with.  Other great options are a banana and peanut butter, orange or small cup of any type of fruit you like.

2.    Trail mix – I make my own trail mix with pistachios, dried cranberries, dark chocolate chips and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. You can really use whatever nuts, dried fruit, or seeds you like. I would just suggest being aware of the sugar content in the dried fruit – but in small amounts, I don’t worry about it too much. ;)

3.    Energy Balls – The options are endless with these also. I like to use peanut butter, oats, dark chocolate chips, seeds and dried cranberries in these as well. They are great stored in the freezer or fridge, and then I just pull out 2 and store them in a small Tupperware dish in my bag.

4.    2 Hard-boiled eggs

5.    Yogurt parfait in a jar – I love to layer plain Greek yogurt, fresh berries, pure maple syrup or honey and granola in a jar. This is a great option if you have a fridge nearby to store it in - then you can just pull it out and eat it right out of the jar!

6.    Fresh veggies and hummus – my favorites are sugar snap peas or small colored bell peppers with hummus.

7.    Protein Bar – there are endless options here, but some of my favorites are Rx Bars, Lara Bars, Square Organics bars, and Kind bars.

Other great options are pre-baking muffins, egg cups, or homemade granola bars and taking 1 or 2 each day for a snack.

I hope you found these ideas helpful.

If you are looking for more information, I would love to have you fill out the form below to subscribe and receive my free Clean Eating Basics Checklist.

 

Thanks for reading!

Pam

Clean eating, 7 easy on the go snacks

4 Reasons Why Nutrition Matters to Our Health

In my previous posts, you learned the basics of Clean Eating – the general idea of what it is, what types of foods to eat, and how to make small changes to get started on a path to cleaner eating.

In this post, I’d like to talk more about why all of this even matters. Why should we pay that much attention to our nutrition? What impact does it have on our overall health and well-being?

There are a few obvious reasons, and then a few not-so-obvious reasons why our nutrition matters to our health.

 

1.     Increased Energy – it’s true when you hear the phrase “food is fuel.” Food truly is fuel to our bodies – it’s our primary energy source, so eating an appropriate mix of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats provide our bodies with the energy to get through a workout, fight fatigue, and maintain concentration throughout the day.

I also believe the phrase “if I eat like crap, I feel like crap” is true. I can always tell if I’ve eaten foods that are full of sugar, unhealthy fats, or processed ingredients because I feel tired, lethargic and generally low-energy. 

 

2.     A Strong Immune System – The nutrients – vitamins and minerals – naturally found in fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats help boost your immune system against things like the common cold, flu, allergies and other seasonal illnesses. Specifically - protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E all have very high protective properties.    

 

3.     Weight Control – I think we all can generally agree that it’s harder to maintain a healthy weight by eating greasy, fatty foods all the time. But, one thing I didn’t realize early on in my fitness journey is that our nutrition accounts for at least 80% of our results, with exercise accounting for the other 20%.

Think about that for a second … You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. Honestly, for many years, I thought I could. I can’t tell you how many times I would say to myself “I went running this morning, so I deserve this big bowl of ice cream” or “I worked out today, so I can eat this big bag of candy because they just cancel each other out.”  That isn’t really true. ;)

I should also say that I am a huge advocate of balance in your diet – meaning, not only is it ok to treat yourself occasionally, I think it’s necessary to staying on track most of the time. Deprivation is a recipe for disaster.

 

4.     Boosts Mood – Large fluctuations in blood sugar can affect your mood. High blood sugar can lead to irritability, and low blood sugar can affect anxiety and lethargy. Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can also cause mood swings and fatigue. Many of these can be regulated by eating nutrient-rich foods.

From a more subjective point of view, I’ve found I feel happier and better about myself when I am eating foods that are good for my body. It’s totally a subjective reason – and everyone has their own opinion on this – this is just what I’ve found to be true for myself.

I hope you’ve learned some new things and found this Clean Eating series to be helpful.

If you’re interested in more information- please fill out the form below to subscribe and receive a pdf of my Clean Eating Basics checklist!

Thanks for reading!

Pam

 

Clean Eating, Why Nutrition Matters

Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families

How I Meal Plan and Prep for the Week

Meal prepping was a Greek term to me before having kids. I honestly didn’t even know what it was, really. As goofy as it sounds, I didn’t start doing it until after I decided to stay home with our kids.

Seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it? You’d think I would have more time for that stuff now that I was home. 

What I can say for sure is that we would have saved ourselves tons of time if I would have started meal prepping while I was still working. You can spend as little as 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon getting everything ready, and save tons of time during the week.

There are a few different ways to do this, depending on your lifestyle and schedule. I am home during the week with our kids, so I have my own system for getting things ready for the week that works for us.

 

The most important step: Plan out all of your meals for the week!

We used to aimlessly wander through the grocery store, buying food with no idea what we were going to make with it. Can you imagine how much time – and food - we wasted because we didn’t have a plan? Yikes!

Now, we write out our meals for the week, grocery shop, and then either the same day or the next, prep the major ingredients so we can make the meals more quickly throughout the week. One thing that has made this easier is planning a few meals with overlapping ingredients. This means:

-       Cook large batches of quinoa, rice and/or oatmeal. These things can easily be stored in the fridge for a few days and used in different ways.

-       Cook or grill meat in large batches. Again, these can be easily stored in the fridge for a few days to use in meals.

-       Make ahead soups and/or casseroles for the week.

-       Hard-boil eggs

-       Make muffins for breakfast

(Note – I don’t cut veggies or fruit ahead of time because they lose nutrients when they are cut. But, if you are really short on time, I would do it so that they don’t go to waste.)

I suggest experimenting with a few different ways of prepping and find what works best for your life and schedule. Good luck! 

Interested in learning more about clean eating? Fill out the form below to subscribe and receive my free Clean Eating Basics checklist! 

Meal Planning and Meal Prepping Tips for Busy Families
Meal prep tips for busy families