Sometimes you read a book on fitness and/or nutrition and it inspires you. That happened to me, when I read Tosca Reno's The Eat-Clean Diet. It resonated with me. I knew that it was at least part of a path to where I wanted to go. However, getting started felt like preparing an army of 10,000 to launch an invasion on a small country. I spent a fortune at the grocery store purchasing obscure ingredients. I tossed trigger foods I had in my house. I planned menus meticulously, measured foods maniacally and re-learned how to cook. I am thrilled with my new eating habits but I feel like it can be simplified. Now that eating clean and healthy has become a habit, I know how simple it can be!
If you are thinking of starting out on a plan like this, try incorporating these tips:
1.) See what clean foods you already have in your house. If your current habits were anything like mine were, it may not be a lot, but it could be the basis for a few meals.
2.) Figure out a simplified menu for the first week. This is especially important if you are on a budget. It can help you spread out the expense of getting started a little bit. Base the menu on the ingredients that you already have, and add some heart-healthy nuts and beans, some fruits and vegetables, and some ingredients to round out the meals you plan to make.
3.) Change the way you look at shopping - you are shopping for ingredients, not meals. Break down your list like this: protein sources, complex carbs, simple carbs, and healthy fats. Make certain you have enough food to get you through a few days. Lack of planning can send you straight to the drive-thru.
4.) Plan ahead for days that will be challenging. For our family, Thursdays are always crazy. There are after school activities and gymnastics lessons, with just a short amount of time for dinner squeezed in. We have planned leftovers or something that cooks in the crock pot on Thursdays. Most of the time, you know in advance which days of the week will be crazy. Not only will it help you stick to your eating plan, but preparation can really reduce your stress on those days.
5.) Always bring one more snack than you expect to need. Having a Kashi bar and some almonds in my purse has saved me from demise the mall food court many times. Life likes to throw you curve balls just to make sure you are awake. Surprise life by being ready for them.
6.) Make planned leftovers. This way you always have food that is ready to eat. I never make just two chicken breasts. I make six. I make a big pot of brown rice, not just the amount we need for dinner. I freeze things in single serving Tupperware for lunches and family sized servings for quick dinners.
7.) Try to make cleaned up versions of old favorites. It's far easier to bring the family on board when you don't try to feed them tofu and lemongrass, but instead continue to make them burgers and chicken strips. (Only you have to know how healthy the new versions are!)
I know this post is getting kind of long. However, I'm going to make it longer. Let me give you an example of a week at our house. We nearly always have the same breakfast: toast w/ natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit or some oatmeal. Lunches are nearly always leftovers. Snacks are nearly always fruit and yogurt or fruit and nuts. Dinners change, so that is the list I'm making here.
We're going to also pretend we are just starting out, so in my theoretical pantry and fridge I have a can of black beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, some chicken breasts, some whole wheat pasta, and a frozen broccoli cauliflower mix.
Based on the above ingredients, here is a menu. The items that I "already had" are in bold, and leftovers are italicized:
Monday: Spaghetti sauce (made from crushed tomatoes and herbs) with ground turkey and spinach, whole wheat pasta
Tuesday: Brown rice, grilled chicken breasts, and steamed broccoli cauliflower mix
Wednesday: Brown rice, stir fry with chicken breasts and broccoli/ cauliflower mix
Thursday: Crock pot chili (remember? Thursday is crazy day!) made with crushed tomatoes, ground turkey (this could also be made from leftover spaghetti sauce!) and black beans.
Friday: Nachos: Chili over organic blue corn tortilla chips, topped with some low fat cheese.
Now, what did I get at the grocery store?
Bag of brown rice
Lean ground turkey
Fresh baby spinach
low fat cheese
organic blue corn tortilla chips
fresh fruits and veggies of choice
Nuts for snacking
This also assumes you have an array of spices to cook with. The meals are fairly safe and familiar for those family members you are trying to bring over to the "Clean Side". You aren't breaking the bank. You aren't spending 77.8 hours in the kitchen.
See? Getting started can be easy with just a little planning!