Hey everybody! Sorry for the hiatus in posting. 2015 was just a rough year overall. Lots of personal and professional upheaval has made getting anything off the ground a major hassle. Add to that the fact that my oven went kaput right around thanksgiving, well you can’t really do much baking with an oven that doesn’t work! My landlord has been really great and got a brand new range installed, so these past few weeks I’ve been testing it out and seeing how it bakes. (just FYI, it’s awesome!) Other than that, I’ve been focusing on connecting with friends and family, and just being an all around bamf at my job (so humble, I know).
But now the new year is well under way, and I need to make some changes. Basically, I feel like crap all. the. time. And I know it’s because I eat junk. I mean really. In my line of work, it’s so much easier (and cheaper) to just grab food from work. Unfortunately that means a lot of empty calories, tons of sugar and loads of greasy goodness. But! My manager put out a sign-up sheet for a 30 day clean eating challenge, and I thought, “Hey! That’s just what I need!” I’m tired of being achy and sore and exhausted all the time, and this way, I’m not doing it alone! Sometimes I just need that little incentive to get going. I did a similar, two-week challenge on my own over the summer and I was blown away by how much better I felt physically and mentally. So I’ve decided to do the challenge and blog about my experience!
Now, what exactly is clean eating? The short answer is eating foods that are minimally processed and don’t have additives. The more complete answer is that it’s a way of eating that eliminates processed and refined foods like flour, sugar, processed cheeses, and basically anything that has preservatives and stabilizers in them. If you can’t pronounce it, you should skip it for this kind of eating. Some guides tell you to cut dairy all together, and some say it’s OK in moderation. Personally I’ll use a little bit of strongly flavored cheese, like feta, as an accent to certain foods. I also have a hard time going without half and half in my coffee, which for this, needs to be unsweetened. (Artificial sweeteners are as big a no-no as white sugar in this case) And you really want to skip “diet” foods in a big way. They contain so many more additives just so that they taste decent. A big part of clean eating is simply reading labels. It seems like a burden but it becomes habit super quick. A handy trick I’ve found is to shop around the edges of the store. That’s where you’ll find all the fresh foods like produce, dairy, and meats. Then I’ll venture into the middle aisles for things like canned veggies and dried beans and grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley. Canned or frozen veggies are great because they keep a really long time and are packed at peak freshness, but you have to read the labels.
Another important aspect of clean eating is that you do all your own cooking. This way you have control over everything that’s going into your meal. You eat five or six times a day, three meals and two to three snacks. You should shoot for eating every three hours or so, which helps keep you from getting super hungry and feeling deprived. And from what I’ve experienced, the portions are very generous. Remember, this isn’t so much about eating less, as it is about eating better. You still want to be mindful of your portion sizes, but you definitely won’t feel like you’re starving. The meals tend to be vegetable heavy, plus a complex carbohydrate like squash, sweet potato, or other root veg, and some kind of protein. I see lots of chicken and eggs, but also some lean beef too. And really all the recipes could be easily made meatless with the addition of beans, tofu, tempeh or some other protein source. Really, anyone can do this. Don’t think of it as a diet, think of it as a way to change bad habits, because part of the point is to make a long-term, sustainable change in the way you feed yourself.
As for what I’m personally doing? I’m using recipes from Buzzfeed. Yes, Buzzfeed. They have a great food section, and I love the buzzfeedfood newsletter. They’ve done several one to two-week clean eating challenges over the past few years, so there are tons of recipes. And they come with daily or weekly meal plans, shopping lists and guides to teach you how to cook the food and when to get everything ready. And its all free. Plus, they don’t shy away from seasoning. A lot of recipes will cater to the bland, white taste palette, but these are full of fresh herbs, spices, aromatics etc. I’ve included a link to their recipes at the end of this post. There are links for daily menus for each challenge, and at the top of each post is the link to the full challenge page with all the big picture info. And a little googling never hurts! I’ve also included a link to a handy list of things that are acceptable.
Let me know if you decide to try this with me! Happy Eating!