In a recent post, I defined clean eating as:
“Clean eating: eating the healthiest options in the food groups, like fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains and lean proteins, and avoiding processed junk food and fast food.”
I’m a big believer that real, whole foods are the best for our bodies. Especially when we cook them at home. Pretty much anything we make at home is going to be ten times better than anything we could order from a restaurant. At least the restaurants around here. Texas is chock full of chain restaurants– there’s a Chili’s, On The Border, or Olive Garden on every corner. Not to mention fast food everywhere you can see!
Fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden, with mozzarella and balsamic drizzle. Now that’s clean eating!
I work with heart failure patients every day at work, and they always *love* it when I start talking about restaurants. Our patients need to severely restrict their sodium intake (to 1500mg per day, a healthy adult needs less than 2000mg per day) and they are always in shock when I tell them how much sodium is in a plate of Olive Garden’s famous salad (760mg per serving)!
I recently looked up the ingredient’s to a Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich for a patient. Not only does it have 800mg of sodium, but it has over 80 ingredients. EIGHTY. I didn’t know it took that many ingredients to make a simple chicken sandwich. Pretty sure all you need is a bun, a fresh chicken breast, some seasonings, tomato and lettuce. Do we really need chicken fat, xanthan gum, and “flavor” added to our chicken? *end mini rant*
Anyway, eating clean and eating at home doesn’t have to be as hard or expensive as we initially think. Here are some simple steps you can take to start eating clean, without spending a fortune (in time and money).
1. Meal Plan. I cannot stress enough how helpful this can be! What do you do when it’s 5:00 and you’re tired from work, and you know your fridge is empty? Roll through the drive through. But what if you had a plan! What if you had the ingredients to a tasty, clean, quick dinner waiting in the fridge at home? This will not only save you time, but money as well. Check out my meal planning page for more tips and download some free printables.
2. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Here you’ll find fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, fresh meats, and fresh dairy. Go into the center for nuts, low-sodium canned beans and tomatoes, spices, nuts and seeds. Processed food tends to cost more anyway. A packet of sodium-laden taco seasoning costs somewhere around $1.50, when you could buy large quantities of cumin, garlic, onion, and cayenne pepper that would last you forever.
3. Think of your meals like a puzzle. You need a grain, a veggie, and a protein. Try couscous (which cooks in 5 minutes!), baked chicken and sauteed broccoli.
4. Start small. If you currently use many pre-prepared foods, start with just one night a week cooking a clean meal. Once you’re used to that, add another night. This makes it less likely that you’re stuck with a fridge full of veggies that go bad before you can eat them.
5. Use some convenience ingredients. Not all pre-prepared products are bad. I use pre-minced garlic all the time because I don’t want my fingers smelling like garlic for days. Pre-washed lettuce can be a life saver (but more expensive). I also like pre-washed, frozen berries to throw in smoothies. Also, don’t ban frozen veggies. They have just as many vitamins and minerals as their fresh counterparts. Plus, you don’t risk the chance of them spoiling before you can eat them. Just make sure you buy the ones without added sauces.
What is your favorite easy weeknight recipe? Leave the link in the comments!
Hi! I’m Emily, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and self-taught intuitive chef. I firmly believe that cooking is the simplest and most important step we can take to improve our minds and bodies and build healthier communities. Join me and let’s bring food back to the kitchen!
Marisa @ Uproot from Oregon says
Awesome tips!! I definitely use all those convenience foods – including the little packets of guacamole/hummus, sometimes I buy hard boiled eggs, etc, just to speed up making lunches!
I am about to go check out your meal planning page since I have a Pinterest board for that, can’t wait to see what’s over there!
Zen & Spice says
I buy premade hummus too! Saves me so much time, we eat a lot of hummus lol. Thanks for stopping by!
It really is this simple! I started meal planning this spring (I’m a teacher) and now that I am not teaching because of summer break my husband wondered what happened to our meal prep and the goodies I made up on Sundays! It has made a huge change to how we eat during the week. I also shop the perimeters! My favorite weeknight meal is anything Mexican-rice bowl, burrito, quesadilla. Basically toss in a bunch of veggies and beans, add some type of starch, add some chiptole and cumin and viola, easy, filling and healthy dinner!
Zen & Spice says
I’m so glad you started meal planning! It makes all the difference! Mexican food is seriously one of the easiest things to throw together. Once you have all the parts, you can combine it in so many ways! Thanks for stopping by! :)
Found this via SITS and I love it! I do meal planning on and off and I’m really bad at it ): I love seeing what other people make and how long it takes them since it gives me hope that I can totally do it myself haha. thanks for sharing! :)