Let me start by saying that I am not a food & nutrition expert. In fact, I am quite the rookie in this health, wellness and fitness game. It is for this reason that I am writing this post… because I’m an ordinary, gym/diet quitter who has been a member of every gym in town but then let each membership lapse. While I love fruit and vegetables, I am also weak and find myself falling victim to bad habits such as late night eating and unhealthy food choices. I tend to lie to myself and make up excuses such as “I’m too tired, I will start next, week, etc.” but not anymore. I am committed more than ever before to stop making excuses and to invest in myself… MY health, MY wellness. I am writing this post for others who, like me, are not health & fitness experts but would like to start getting on the right track… and stay on that track!
I am about to head in to my second 6 week health and fitness challenge. This means that these are my last few days of eating white, crusty bread, sipping on adult beverages, and finishing up the last of the holiday indulgences (cheese, chocolate, chips: I’m looking at you!) Transitioning from eating whatever you want, whenever you want to counting calories, reading labels and making every calorie count can be overwhelming. Preparation truly is key. I am mentally preparing for this challenge by setting new goals for myself, carving out time to get my workouts in and of course, becoming my own prep cook in order to adhere to the extremely important nutrition component of this challenge. I lost 16.4 lbs in 6 weeks during the last challenge and can’t wait to see what victories are in store for this one!
While it is quite time consuming to prepare your meals for the week ahead of time, it is also quite therapeutic to just be chopping veggies, filling mason jars and measuring ingredients (or at least I think so!) I like to think that I do my best thinking while chopping vegetable after vegetable. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to get the kids involved. My kids LOVE grabbing veggies from the fridge, washing them in the sink and guess what? My 5 year old, Miss M is now a master at peeling carrots, potatoes and garlic! Score!! It’s never too early to get them invested in their own nutrition. A lot of healthy nibbling happens as we prepare our veggies. Also, I have discovered that my kids are far more enthusiastic about eating healthy meals when they have had a hand in creating them. They are excited to dig in to the fruits of their labour. My 4 year old, Mr. C can be a bit picky and turn his nose up to many dishes placed in front of him. But most times, if it is a meal that he has helped to make, he proudly devours it. Awesome!
I decided that it would be fun to share some tips and tricks for prepping for a transition to clean eating. Here we go!
1. Map out your meals.
Every successful meal prep begins with a plan. There are SO many incredible clean eating recipes out there. Don’t for a second think that you have to survive on steamed broccoli and plain chicken breast. Get adventurous! Try new things! This is your chance to see what foods work best for you. It’s not just about taste. It’s about how they make you feel. Do they fill you up? Do they crush a craving? Do they fill a snacking void? (Hello freshly baked sweet potato chips and guac! The snack I now PREFER to my weakness, Helluvagood dip and chips!) Head on over to pinterest or grab some clean eating recipe books and start deciding what you would like to eat this week. Map out what you are going to eat and when so that you aren’t overworking yourself. With a solid plan, you will spend less time in the kitchen and more time living your life. For example, yesterday’s leftover grilled chicken will make a great protein for today’s salad lunch. I like to jot my meals down on a calendar so I know what I am eating and when. This is particularly helpful for planning what my family will be eating for dinner since there are some clean eating recipes that I love that they just aren’t going to embrace with open arms. By having a mapped out meal plan, I can make sure that I’m serving pasta and meatballs to my family on the day that I’m devouring spicy, spiralized beets and zucchini because they aren’t going to dig in to that with much enthusiasm. It also helps me to avoid cheating. By planning to make myself an extra delicious dinner on family pizza night, I’m less likely to pick up that uneaten pizza crust or slice! Map out those meals!
3. Become an Extreme Couponer/Deal Hunter Extraordinaire.
Since you are going to be prepping a lot of food at once, now is the time to read those flyers and follow the deals for the foods you will be buying in the biggest quantities. Eating clean can be expensive if you don’t follow the deals. I use the Flipp app or Flipp.com to search for foods on my grocery list. It’s a great way to quickly find out which store is going to offer you the best bang for your buck. My fingers basically type “chicken” without me even thinking as soon as I open that app! Show me the chicken sales! You can save a lot of money (and time) by stocking up on items you are going to be eating a lot of while they are on sale. Today, I just bought a bunch of bags of frozen fruit while it was on sale for $2.99/bag at Food Basics. I also bought so many bananas at $0.57/lb that I’m pretty sure the cashier thought I must be raising wild monkeys…which I am! Ha!
3. Freeze those deals.
Speaking of bananas… since I’m going to be making a LOT of smoothies over the next 6 weeks, I bought 3 bunches of bananas JUST for smoothies. When I got home, I peeled them, chopped them into small pieces and laid them on a cookie sheet covered in waxed paper. I put the whole tray in the freezer for approximately 4-5 hours until the sliced bananas were completely frozen. Then, I peeled them off of the waxed paper, stuck them in a Ziploc freezer bag and put them back in the freezer. They are ready to be added to my morning smoothies and since they are frozen, I can use them in place of ice cubes to keep it super cold. I will be enjoying those $0.57/lb bananas for a long time!
4. Stock up on food storage containers!
If you are going to be doing all this prepping and advanced meal cooking, you are going to need containers to portion and store them in; whether it be in the fridge or freezer. I highly recommend purchasing a case or two of mason jars in various sizes. I prefer to store food in glass over plastic. Mason jars can hold up well to being transported, can store foods in the pantry or the fridge and you can even heat your food right in the jar if needed. Plus, it’s nice to be able to see what’s inside! When you can get a case of 12 1 litre jars for around $10, you really can’t go wrong! I usually find the best prices at Canadian Tire in the kitchenware/canning section.
5. Experiment and start sampling new foods and flavours!
Since you are changing up the way you prepare foods and the types of foods you eat, make the most of this opportunity by trying an assortment of different clean-eating foods! This will help you commit to your diet/lifestyle change as it will prevent food boredom. It will also give you the chance to find out what foods you like/don’t like. Perhaps, the biggest reason I didn’t stick to clean eating in the past is because I thought clean-eating meant dull, boring and flavourless. There are MANY ways to make delicious foods while keeping them clean. Head over to your favourite bulk store and pick up a variety of sample sized spices, mixed nuts, oats, quinoa, vegetable based pastas, nut butters, etc. This will give you the chance to find out what you like and don’t like… you don’t want to buy a giant, Costco-sized bag of quinoa fusilli only to find out that you don’t like it! (By the way, this won’t happen… that stuff is delicious!) Bulk Barn sells a variety of different clean-eating pastas such as quinoa, lentil, brown rice as well as different plant-based proteins such as pea protein. Grab a small sample of each so you can discover new favourites. Eating clean does NOT mean chewing on raw kale while the family enjoys a yummy pasta night.
6. Keep it Simple.
While there are so many reasons to be excited and enthusiastic about your change to clean eating, recognize that while you will be feeling better and have more energy, life will still happen. While it is great to decide that you will be baking fresh salmon, grilling fresh chicken with the freshest and most delicious sides all made from scratch, be prepared for the days that you get stuck in traffic, the kids won’t get in the car, or that you just don’t feel like cooking. These situations are the ones that will make you feel that cheating is your only option. Because, ordering that pizza or hitting that drive-thru are way easier than dicing veggies for the stir-fry you were planning to make before life interfered. Prepare yourself with simple options. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. Keep cans of tuna in the pantry. Have fresh hummus and guacamole on hand. In my last challenge, there were days that I was ricing cauliflower for a chicken and veggie stir fry or stuffing zucchini boasts with Buffalo pulled chicken and quinoa… and then there were days that peanut butter spread on rice cakes, raw veggies dipped in hummus and a hard-boiled egg sustained me just fine… and had no dishes! Keep it simple and realistic.
Whenever you decide to start your own clean-eating challenge, be prepared for it to be extremely difficult at first but the rewards come quickly. Within a week of my last challenge, I felt less sluggish, more alert, had more energy, was less bloated, slept better, ate less, felt fuller for longer and felt healthier overall. Fueling your body with the right foods is so important. Cheers to a clean and healthy 2018!
If you have any clean eating tips, I would LOVE to hear them!
Thanks for reading. xo