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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