Getting to the Fun Part
Choosing high quality foods the majority of the time is the basic concept of clean eating. It does involve some restrictive measures. Processed foods and alcohol are discouraged, but not necessarily eliminated. Quality foods to consider include fruits, vegetables, lean meats (white meat poultry, 85-90% lean beef, fish), legumes, and whole grains (brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa). Minimally processed items with few ingredients such as yogurt or certain breads are also included. If coffee and tea are dietary staples, one need not give them up. However, consider swapping out brown and white sugar for low glycemic sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar. Cream or whole milk can be replaced by skim, almond, coconut or soy milk. Craving a mocha latte? Try making one with chocolate almond milk.
Creativity is another component of clean eating. It has to be, otherwise no one would stick with it. This is where social media sites such as Pinterest or Instagram can again be helpful. Every day thousands of people proudly post photos from their kitchens. Many include links to their blogs. These people are passionate about food, and their recipes often rival the best celebrity chefs in taste and simplicity. For example, ice cream lovers are blending frozen bananas with cacao powder, coffee or other fruits and topping them with dark chocolate chips or nuts for a sweet treat. Cheesecake connoisseurs have figured out how to combine cashews and coconut butter for a creamy confection. How about protein pancakes, overnight oats with raspberries, baked omelet muffins or a strawberry smoothie bowl topped with chia seeds for breakfast? One of my favorite new discoveries is a pasta salad using avocado in place of mayonnaise. When you find recipes you truly enjoy, make those part of your main rotation.
Don't complicate it. A recipe that includes twenty ingredients can often be adapted to whatever you have in your pantry. Simplify by searching out chutneys, pestos, vegetable based spreads and sauces. These versatile products can be used with almost anything. If you have a plan and ingredients on hand, it isn't necessary to set aside an entire day for meal prep. Having staple foods available in sufficient quanitites will allow for small batch cooking. For example, if you know you're going to bake chicken one night, plan to make enough for several future meals. Since the oven is already on, bake sweet potatoes for quick healthy snacks or breakfast sides. The same can be done with brown rice, shrimp, mixed vegetables or any other basic ingredient you choose.
Snack wisely. This is where many people struggle the most. We use snacks to satisfy cravings, reduce boredom or find comfort. Craving sweets? Try yogurt topped with berries, nuts or dark chocolate chips. Salty and sweet? Try prosciutto wrapped dates. Savory? Heat a bowl of broth, any protein/vegetable combo you like and top with parmesan cheese. Bottomless pit? Try a mini meal such as a nut butter & jelly sandwich on whole grain bread with a side of fruit, or quinoa pasta tossed with peas and pesto.
Make breakfast your blueprint for the day. When you start the day well, you tend to want to keep the momentum going. It also gives you some breathing room to weave a couple of treats into your daily meal pattern without creating feelings of guilt. Eating clean doesn't have to be a painful experience. Approach it with the intention of having fun, and it will be.