One of the big concerns when people consider eating clean – or eating healthy in general is cost. Grocery prices have gone up so much in the past few years; it’s hard to find an extra $100 in the budget to spend on healthy food.
Find your local farmers market and scout out farm stores in the area. They are a great source of local produce, diary, and eggs and if you’re lucky, even meat. Since these items don’t need to be trucked in from across the country (or overseas), you’re getting fresh, high quality food at a decent price.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes are another great source of local boxes. You buy a share of a farmer’s produce for the year and end up with a box of assorted fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. Go to http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to learn more and find farms in your area that participate.
Eat In Season
Eat the food that’s in season any given month. Again, it will be cheaper, both in the grocery store and at the farmer’s market, but also be fresher. Plus there are additional benefits to eating in season. The food tastes better since it is picked in its prime season and it’s better for the environment when food doesn’t have to be picked early and shipped across the country.
Make It From Scratch
We’ve lost the art of making things from scratch in the past few decades. We spend our hard earned money on sodium free, organic chicken broth instead of boiling up the bones from the chicken we had for dinner last night and making our own.
Learn to cook things from scratch. Cook your own beans, make soups and stews from scratch and make it a goal to learn to make one new homemade thing each week. Try your hand at baking bread or make some homemade barbecue sauce. Not only will you save money, you also get full control over the ingredients.
Grow Your Own
Turn part of your yard into your own personal grocery store. It is very easy to grow your own lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Give it a try. You can even do this in containers on your patio if you don’t have much of a yard.
Growing your own produce is even possible in an apartment. Grow some herbs, have some sprouts sprouting and make a growing salad bowl. You can grow spring greens in a pot or bowl in the kitchen window and enjoy a nice bowl of fresh salad every few days.
As an added bonus you get outside and learn a lot more about where you food comes from and what it takes to grow healthy fruits and vegetables that are good for our bodies.
Buy In Bulk
Last but not least, let’s talk about buying in bulk. You can purchase staple foods like rice, whole grain flour and even dried beans and peas in bulk. See what your local grocery store has to offer, or see if you can get even better prices online.
Buying these items in bulk will save you quite a few dollars on your food budget and it makes weekly grocery trips easier since those things are already crossed off the list.
Please don’t let budget constraints keep you from eating healthier. Not only is it very doable on a limited budget, you’ll be saving even more down the road in avoided health care costs.
Switching to a clean diet that consists of real food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains will put you on the right track to a healthy weight. But there are a few things you can do to speed things up. This is particularly important if you have a lot of weight to lose or are pre-diabetic.
Watch The Sweeteners
Clean eating cuts out all white sugar and artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners like honey, agave syrup and maple syrup are usually allowed though. While they are fine to use in moderation, be careful about not going overboard. Replacing your sugary treats with “clean” versions that contain just as many natural sugars won’t help you lose the weight and isn’t good for your blood sugar.
Careful With Carbs
One of the best ways to lose excess weight is to curb carbohydrate consumption. Fill your plate with low carb, non-starchy vegetables, add a few berries and go easy on the potatoes.
Tracking carbohydrate consumption for a few days can help you get a feel for what clean foods are high in carbs and how lowering your carbohydrate intake makes you feel.
Plenty of Protein And Healthy Fat To Stay Full
With sugars and carbs out of the way, what should you eat? After all a big salad will only satisfy you for so long. Make it up with plenty of lean protein and healthy fats. Both take a longer time to digest and will help you stay full.
Include things like chicken, low fat cottage cheese, Greek Yogurt, ground turkey etc. with each meal or snack. Nuts are another great option full of healthy fats. Be careful of portion sizes though. The same holds true for healthy fats like cold-pressed olive oil or avocados.
Don’t Forget The Water
Often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water first. Not only will it fill you up with zero calories, staying well hydrated also makes it easier for your body to process body fat into energy your body can use. In other words, drink your water and melt that fat right of your body.
Move Around More
Eating the right type of food in appropriate portions will make a huge difference when it comes to your weight. But so will moving around. We’re not talking about heading to the gym each day or gong for a 5 mile run. While those are great options, even moving around just a little more can have a positive impact.
Go for a short walk after dinner, park a little further away at the mall or dance around the kitchen to your favorite music. Not only will this burn extra calories, it also puts you in a better mood and kicks your metabolism into high gear.
Eating clean at home is relatively easy. You cook what you want to eat and provided you have the right ingredients in your fridge and pantry you shouldn’t be too tempted by takeout and fast food. Things get a little more complicated when you’re away from home.
When You’re Traveling
Do your homework before you head out. What options will you have on the road and once you arrive at your destination? See if there are grocery stores close by and if you will have access to a mini-fridge (if you’re staying in a hotel).
Pack some emergency snacks in case you can’t find anything you can eat. Stock up on nuts, fruits, seeds and raw vegetables. If you can, pack a little cooler with other ready to eat food. Having water and herbal teas on hand will also help when you’re traveling.
When You’re Invited To Dinner
Depending on your relationship with the hostess, you may or may not want to mention your dietary restrictions. In either case it’s a good idea to have a substantial snack before you head out the door. You don’t want to arrive hungry and be tempted by all the “off-limit” food options.
Make the best choices you can. After that it’s a personal decision if you want to avoid most food or have some foods you wouldn’t normally eat in order to avoid offending the hostess. At the end of the day, a few bites of processed foods won’t kill you. Just avoid any known trigger foods and if you can, stay away from wheat and sugar.
When You’re Going Out To Eat
Research the place ahead of time, or if you have input in where you should go, pick a restaurant that you know has choices that fit into your eating plan.
Most restaurants offer their menus online. Start there and see what you can find that’s at least close to being acceptable. Then give them a call and see what they can do to accommodate you. You may be able to make some small tweaks in the menu to cut out foods you’re trying to avoid. Stating you’re on dietary restrictions or can’t handle certain ingredients will help. Of course it always helps to be nice to the person on the other end of the phone line and your server once you get to the restaurant.
One more quick tip. Anytime you head out, even if it’s just for a few short hours, carry a healthy snack with you. Keep some non-perishables like nuts and dried fruit in your purse along with some bottled water. No matter what happens, you’ll have your snack and can make it until you get back home to cook a clean meal.
Here’s the secret to sticking to a clean diet – make sure you always have something in the house that makes it easy to fix meals and snacks. It’s easy to get tempted by fast food, takeout or even the convenience food section at the grocery store when you’re hungry with no easy to prepare food in the house. Here are some staples you should keep on hand for quick and easy clean meals.
Pantry Items or Dry Goods
Having things like rice, oats and corn meal or grits on hand helps whip up quick and filling side dishes and breakfasts. Keep your pantry stocked with potatoes, onions and garlic and you can whip up some quick dishes with just a few things from the fridge.
We like to keep corn tortillas, tortilla chips and popcorn on hand for quick snacks that aren’t bad for us. And speaking of snacks…nuts, seeds and dried fruit are perfect for snacking and make great additions to oatmeal in the morning. Wrap it up with some seed or nut butters and you’re good to go.
If you’re including whole grain products, keep whole grain flour and pastas on hand in the pantry. You can bake up some quick breads; make homemade bread and other baked goods with the flour. And of course pasta, sauce and some vegetables always make for a quick weeknight dinner.
Eggs and Dairy
Always keep plenty of eggs in the fridge. Go ahead and boil a dozen or so and keep them on hand for easy snacking. Eggs are such a versatile ingredient and they can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Depending on how much dairy you are including in your clean food diet, stock the fridge with butter, raw or whole milk and some Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. We also like to keep a few hard cheeses for quick and easy snacking.
Fruits and Vegetables
Let’s get down to the stuff that makes up the bulk of our diet – fruits and vegetables. Aside from things like carrots and potatoes, there aren’t a lot of shelf stable vegetables out there. Stock up on plenty of frozen and canned vegetables to use whenever you run out of the fresh stuff.
Another great thing to keep on the counter is a growing salad bowl. Lose leaf lettuce is pretty quick and easy to grow. Give it a try for fresh, organic produce from you window sill.
When it comes to fruit, apples are your best bet for shelf stable food. We also like to keep a variety of frozen berries in the freezer for quick smoothies.
Meat and Fish
Let’s wrap this up with a few things from the meat and fish department. Canned tuna is a good option to have on occasion. You can make tuna salad, or add it to pasta sauces or even as a pizza topping. We don’t have it often but it’s a good ingredient to have on hand.
When it comes to meat, you won’t find my freezer without some grass-fed ground beef, ground turkey and a few bags of chicken breast. They are all versatile options when I’m out of fresh meat or can’t find anything decent at the grocery store.
Clean eating is a diet that focuses on natural, mostly unprocessed foods. When we talk about diet, we’re not talking about the latest and greatest weight loss program. In this case, we’re talking about a way of eating. The focus with a clean diet is on fruits, vegetables, meats, and gains in their most natural, unprocessed form.
Instead of eating pizza, pasta, bread and fried chicken, a clean diet consists of meals like steamed broccoli and grilled chicken, omelets, homemade chili or steak, baked potato and a side salad. In essence, it’s going back to how we used to eat before there was a fast food restaurant at every corner and grocery stores packed with processed foods and meals ready to heat and serve.
The idea behind clean eating is to get back to consuming fresh, mainly unprocessed foods that contain their full nutritional value. As an added bonus they aren’t stuffed full of preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers. The main reason for choosing to stick to a clean diet is to eat healthier.
How “clean” you make your diet is up to you. Some proponents of this way of eating insist that you should only consume completely unprocessed foods. Others are comfortable enjoying things like butter, cheese, cured meats and cultivated vegetables like Sauerkraut. How far you take it is up to you. Even cleaning up your diet just a little by cutting out fast food burgers and creating freezer meals will help.
Fill up your plate with plenty of raw or cooked vegetables. Cook up some rice or bake a potato and round it all up with a little fruit and cheese for dessert. Find a couple of go-to meals you like and build your weekly meals around those dishes.
It’s hard to find healthy snacks that fit your clean diet while you’re out and about. Keep some fresh and dried fruit along with some seeds and nuts handy for emergency snacking. When it comes to drinks, water and herbal teas are your best friend. Black coffee is another good choice. Just be careful about adding sweeteners and creamers.
It may take you a little while to get used to the “real” taste of food after eating foods that are laden with sugar, salt and flavor enhancers. Once your taste buds adjust, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how delicious real food is. And your body will thank you for the change to clean eating as well.
Andrea Stewart Roa, M.S.
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