Once you get into the idea of clean eating, a whole new world opens up. And while that can be amazing, it can also be a lot to take in at once!
Suddenly, you have to give more thought to your meals. No more just opening the fridge or cupboard and grabbing something. Unless, of course, you did the work of clearing everything out and restocking.
And sometimes you find that the least little thing can throw you off.
For instance, today I made a roasted pork loin for dinner, glazed with a sauce made out of honey, garlic, and dijon mustard. I steamed some butternut squash and made a salad to go with it.
Great, right? Sounds healthy and clean.
I tripped up on the salad. Well, the dressing, actually.
My husband loves ranch, and usually I make my own from dried herbs.
But Costco had a big jar of the dried mix; you just add milk and mayo. So I’ve been using that.
It turns out that Hidden Valley Ranch mix has sugar and maltodextrin in it and the mayo I use – Hellman’s – also has sugar and calcium disodium in it. Neither are considered clean.
Overall, though, considering it was such a small part of the meal, I think I did very well.
And I think that you should take the same attitude in the beginning; a small slip-up is to be expected and forgiven.
How to Do Better
I think the easiest way to put some consistency into eating clean is to choose one daily meal and concentrate just on that.
Breakfast is a good place to begin. It’s usually a simple meal and it isn’t hard to come up with clean options.
Or you might want to try snacks. That’s another easy starting point, and it’s just as important as a meal.
Many of us eat more than one snack a day (or is that just my husband?) and so, taken together, those little bites can add up to a meal. And even if you only have one snack a day, you still want it to be clean.
The things that you drink might be worth consideration. If you’re a big coffee drinker (or tea, like me), the good news is that you won’t have to give it up. They actually have health benefits, within reason.
The bad news is that you probably shouldn’t add anything to it.
Although, if you add something that’s clean – milk, almond milk, honey – you should be fine. It’s just those flavored “creamers” that will get you. That, and artificial sweeteners and sugar.
Water, including carbonated, milks (without added ingredients), and real juice – no colors or sugar added – are all considered clean drinks.
Let’s Talk Breakfast
Breakfast is an easy meal with lots of clean eating options. Here are some ideas in no particular order:
- Eggs cooked in butter or boiled. And that’s real butter, nothing else. Unless you have butter blended with olive oil and no other ingredients.
- Toast, bagels, or English muffins. Your best options will not have added sugar, vegetable oil, or refined flour. Whole wheat, oat, sprouted grains, and sourdough are all good options. Add some butter or an avocado!
- Pancakes are a great choice if you use whole grain flour, real butter, and real maple syrup. Or you could just buy Birch Benders pancake mix. It comes in lots of flavors, is clean, and you just add water. There are other options, I’m sure. That’s just one I’m familiar with.
- Cereal, oatmeal, or granola. Again, check the ingredients to make sure, and remember, simple is best. And no instant oatmeal.
- Most yogurt is not clean because it has added sugar. If you buy plain and add your own fruit, you’re good. You could also try adding a spoonful or two of those jellies that are made with just fruit.
- Smoothies can be a good choice, depending on what you put into them. If you use real ingredients, no added sugar or artificial colors, you should be fine.
Are you a drive-through kind of breakfast person?
If so, your best options are a breakfast sandwich minus the cheese (unless it’s something other than American) or oatmeal. Probably not 100% clean, but it’s a good enough choice for now.
Sometimes good enough is good enough.
Care for Some Lunch?
Lunch is a lot easier if you make and bring your own, plus you have a lot more choices.
If you made a clean dinner the night before, then leftovers are always an option.
Salads are a great choice; just don’t make the mistake that I did with the salad dressing.
There are endless varieties of vinaigrettes, they’re easy to make, and usually healthier for you than creamy dressings. Add a little mustard to help the acid and oil blend.
If you’re adding meat to your salad, like ham or turkey, make sure it’s nitrite-free. And of course, any cheese should be real cheese.
The same goes for making a sandwich; whole grain bread (see above), clean meats, and real cheese. And be careful with your condiments!
Or you could do nut butter and a fruit spread.
Another awesome option is a frozen meal that you can just heat up – for lunch or dinner. And yes, clean ones exist!
Well, at least one brand does – that I’m aware of – Eating Well. My husband and son have both tried them and like them a lot. Since there are next to no gluten-free meals, I have not tried them.
How About a Snack?
Any kind of fresh vegetable or fruit, including dried fruits, is a good, clean snack. Most nuts are as well.
One of my favorite snacks is a cut up apple with peanut butter.
Whole milk cottage cheese is good, and there are all kinds of protein, nut, and fruit bars with minimal ingredients available.
Cheese sticks are another choice, and as far as I can tell, Blue Diamond nut crackers are a healthy addition. They do have safflower oil in them, but no saturated fat.
Popcorn can be a clean snack; choose air-popped or pop it in olive oil.
A hardboiled egg, humuus, guacamole with tortilla chips. You can find clean tortilla chips (Tostitos) or make your own in the oven. And you could have salsa instead of (or with) guac.
Homemade applesauce (or sugar-free, no sweeteners), rice cakes with nut butter or tuna, tomatoes with mozzarella and fresh basil (if you’re lucky).
Just Pick One
Remember, just choose one kind of meal to concentrate on for the first couple of weeks. Once you get the hang of that, it will make your next meal “conversion” easier.
Do the best you can on your other meals, of course, but don’t sweat it.
And remember – any steps you take towards cleaner eating are better than none at all.
Keep your attitude positive!0