The Clean Eating Challenge is fast approaching! For those of you who missed my last post, the Clean Eating Challenge is the challenge for the month of February. It, again, is one that is open ended, so you can set your own goals and make it realistic for where you are right now in life and what your goals are. I know some people are doing a Whole30 (no legumes, grains, dairy, alcohol, or sugar for 30 days), some are shooting for 50% clean eating, some are trying for 80%, some are ending the stress eating, and for me, I’m cutting out sugar. No matter what your goal, clean eating can be very powerful in your life! I have a client who had a dramatic transformation of weight loss, significantly less chronic pain, better sleep, and a huge mental health boost from just one month of completely clean eating. If you aren’t sure about eating clean or just don’t think it’s for you, I really encourage you to commit to it and give it a shot!
With that said, I’ve been sharing a few recipes and clean eating ideas on social media. I know some of you aren’t on social media or don’t frequently check it, so I wanted to reach out and share a few ideas and recipes that may help you prep for the challenge! I’ll continue posting a few recipes in my nutrition posts this coming month to help you learn more about food and start incorporating some simple, clean meals into your diet.
Preparation: I also want to include a brief note on meal planning. Prepping is a huge part of eating clean. Plan for the coming week on the weekend, get all of your groceries, and you are set. No guessing throughout the week what you’re going to to eat that night, no fast food runs, and no last minute stops at the grocery store. It may seem hard at first, but once it’s a part of the routine, you’ll love it! It helped me lower my stress levels throughout the week and save time. I have a list of about 20 healthy, quick recipes that we cycle through every couple of weeks that I choose from every time I prep. Then, I try out a new recipe here and there to mix it up. I printed off the recipes in our rotation as well and put them into a cookbook, so I just have to page through that to make my grocery list. Prepping does take a little time to do, but overall, it saves time coming up with last minute things throughout the week and lowers your stress as well!
Healthy Eating as a Lifestyle: When you start to incorporate clean eating into your diet, don’t let it overwhelm you! You are breaking eating habits that you have had your whole life. It will take time to change your habits and to change your palate. Gradually trying 1-2 meals a week may be a good start for you. For others, making the change all at once can work too. After completely cutting out sugar for a month, some fruits almost taste too sweet to me… your body will definitely change and adjust! Also, remember that you are creating an entire lifestyle change… you want to find foods and recipes you can enjoy for years to come!
Just keep in mind that a change can be hard, so be prepared for a little extra work as you incorporate the change. But, once you have a few recipes and snacks down, it will come to you as naturally as your old recipes and habits did. For instance, while I was doing my first Whole30, it was stressful because every single meal I was cooking was new with a new recipe and new ingredients to find at the store. On top of that, some recipes were not to my (or my husband’s) liking. It would feel like a night wasted when it turned out to be a bad recipe. However, when we make a new meal we don’t like, we decide if it’s a total scrap or if we just have to tweak a few ingredients here and there. But, my second Whole30 felt like a breeze comparatively because I knew what foods to get at the grocery store, had recipes that I still made on a regular basis that weren’t tough to prep, and found it refreshing to get back into it. Overall, it takes time to create a recipe rotation and find those meals that are healthy, convenient, and delicious. But, it is so worth it!
All of the recipes below are in my own rotation. I really hope you find a few that can help you get started in your own life! Each one is simple, clean, and very manageable. Trust me, if I can make it, so can you!
Chia Seed Pudding:
- 1 cup almond milk
- 3-4 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Add almond milk (or cashew/coconut/even water or healthy liquid of choice) to a mason jar. Stir in chia seeds and cinnamon. Make sure seeds are distributed evenly.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes and re-stir. Allow to sit another 15 minutes before consuming. Will keep in fridge for up to 4 days
- Top with fruit, nut or coconut butter, and coconut. My favorite is raspberries with almond butter.
Apple/ Date Bowl:
- 2 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 medium apple, cored and cut into large chunks
- 2 Tbsp cashews
- 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut shreds or flakes
- 1/4/-½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp almond butter and 1 Tbsp water
- In a mini food processor, combine all ingredients except almond butter and water; pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
- Place almond butter in a small dish and cover with 1 tablespoon water. Microwave for 25-30 seconds. Stir until smooth and drizzle over the apple mixture. Serve immediately.
Chocolate Steel Cut Oats:
- 2 cups steel cut oats
- 5 cups water
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
Mix together and prepare ahead of time in Instant Pot on “Manual” for 4 minutes or prepare as the package states. Eat fresh or warm up. This recipe makes enough to enjoy all week long with toppings. My favorite:
- 1 serving baker’s chocolate or 100% unsweetened (warm up with oats in microwave for 60 seconds to melt)
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ cup raspberries
- ½-1 cup plain yogurt
Stir and enjoy!
** You can try all kinds of combinations with yogurt, fruit, nuts, and coconut!
I really don’t have a whole lot of lunch-specific recipes. I always double our dinner recipes and have leftovers. I highly recommend it! It is a huge time saver and guarantees that you’ll have a healthy meal ready to go! If you don’t enjoy eating the same meal twice and are on the go or just want to grab something, try prepping…
Mason Jar Salads:
- dressing (try homemade or guac, salsa, cottage cheese, lemon juice- healthier options)
- fat (nuts, coconut, avocado)
- protein (grill/cook at the beginning of the week in bulk)
- veggies (carrots, peppers, broccoli, etc)
- greens (kale, spinach, etc)
When I was teaching, this was a great way to prep healthy lunches ahead of time. I’d do 3-4 mason jars at a time. You put the dressing on the bottom, then fat, next add your protein, veggies, and finally your greens. Since the dressing is on the bottom, you don’t have to worry about soggy greens and when you pour it into your bowl or plate, it mixes up naturally. You can also add brown rice or quinoa for a satiating complex carb with fiber (add close to the top to make sure it doesn’t become too saturated).
If you are at home during the day or want another idea that could be used for breakfast as well…
Black Bean Burgers w/ an Egg Over Easy:
I found some frozen black bean burgers at Costco that only take 2 minutes to microwave. Add guac, hot sauce, salsa, avocado, tomato, or whatever veggies sound like a good combo for you.
** You can do the same combo with turkey burgers or hamburgers as well. Shoot for 85% lean or higher for the burger.
Faux Chipotle Bowl:
Complex Carbs (optional)
- Brown rice or quinoa mixed with lime juice and cilantro
- Grilled Chicken, Turkey Burgers, or Beef season with:
- Chipotle powder
- Chile powder
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Black Beans
Additional Optional Toppings:
- Chipotle Tabasco
- Plain Greek Yogurt
- Lettuce Mix
*** Make double meat and beans and have the leftovers on plantain chips for an awesome Nachos recipe or use them for a Mexican salad. One recipe, 3 meal variations… if you like Mexican, it’s simple, clean, and delicious!
Pork Chops and Winter Veggies:
- 2 sweet potatoes 1 inch cubed
- 8 baby or 3-4 large turnips halved for baby or 1 inch cubed for large
- A bag of shredded red cabbage or half a head chopped into shreds
- 4 pork chops
- 1-2 TBSP rosemary
- 1 TBSP thyme
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 4 TBSP Olive oil
- 3 tsp salt (separated 1.5/1.5)
- 1 tsp pepper
Mix all sauce ingredients in small bowl or blender with half the salt. Combine 2/3 sauce with veggies in large bowl leaving 1/3 for pork chops. Put veggies on a sheet pan and cook for 35-45 minutes at 425℉. Add remaining salt to sauce then apply to pork chops using brush. Cook with veggies or on separate sheet until internal temp reaches 145℉ (about 15-20 minutes depending on oven and thickness).
Sausage and Cabbage Skillet (Eggs optional):
- 1 pound Jennie-O sweet or hot Italian sausages (or sugar-free sausage of choice)- can be in whole sausage or ground sausage form
- 1-2 egg(s) if desired
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 1 bag of slaw with kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli slaw (such as Cruciferous Crunch from Trader Joe’s or Sweet Kale Salad from Costco/Kroger OR slice your own mix) about 10 ounces or 6 cups
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or oil of choice)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- In a high-sided pan or wok over medium high heat, brown the sausage until cooked through. Remove from pan.
- Reduce heat to medium and add oil to the pan. Add the onions and cook for 5-10 minutes, until softened and golden.
- Add spices and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the cabbage/kale mix to the pan. Stir carefully at first, as pan will be full, mix will wilt as it cooks. Continue to stir, until everything is combined and slaw is wilted, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the sausage and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two to combine tastes. Add salt and pepper if needed.
- If desired, top each serving with an egg over easy or keep in pan and combine with egg and scramble.
Orange Cashew Chicken:
For the Sauce
- 6 Tbsp coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
- ¾ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- ½ tsp fresh minced ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch or 1-2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
- ½ cup orange juice, plus more as needed to thin out sauce
- Zest from one orange
- 1 pound chicken thighs or breasts
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 head of broccoli cut into florets
- 1 red bell pepper cut into large squares
- 1 package sliced mushrooms
- Brown rice or quinoa (optional)
- ⅔ cup roasted unsalted cashews
- 1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
For the sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, all sauce ingredients until combined. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.
For the chicken and vegetables
- Preheat oven to 424°F and line a large sheet pan and small round or square cake pan with tin foil.
- Season chicken with salt and black pepper, place in cake pan and place in oven for 18 minutes or until it reaches an internal temp of 165℉
- Chop broccoli and peppers and place on sheet pan with rinsed mushrooms and cashews. Drizzle oil over veggies and add freshly ground pepper. Cook in oven at the same temps as chicken for 8-10 minutes until slightly cooked, but still crunchy.
- Chop chicken into cubes or forkful size while veggies are cooking and combine with veggies and sauce in large bowl after veggies are cooked.
Serve over rice or quinoa
If you need a snack, always try to incorporate fats and proteins first and carbs if you are able to as well. Proteins fill you up, fat gives you sustained energy and is filling as well, and carbs give you energy and restore the energy you’ve burned as well.
If you’d like and you are short on time, you can just buy some from the store as well- just make sure to check ingredients because the ones with peanuts and chocolate are not as good for you as those strictly using nuts, dried fruit, and coconut!
- 2 cups pitted dates
- 3/4 cup shredded coconut unsweetened
- 2/3 cup unsalted cashews
Dried Apple Chips
Dried fruit is a great thing to have on the go! Just be conscious of the calorie count. I eat these as a dessert or as a quick snack with a handful of nuts.
Cashews (or almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts- healthiest choices, go for unsalted!)
Water, water, water
Fills you up, keeps you hydrated, helps you lose weight, gives you better breath, helps you function at a higher level, makes you more alert and awake, makes your skin softer and more supple, improves your complexion, helps with digestion, helps you stay healthy… need I go on? 64 oz/day at minimum!
Try subbing almond or cashew milk for your regular milk. Better for your system, still has calcium, lower calorie, and good nutrients!
La Criox or other seltzer water
No or low calorie without sugar additives!
Drink it black or with almond/cashew milk… try to stay away from creamer
this is actually a fermented tea drink and even contains a small amount of a naturally occurring alcohol from the process, but it is filled with probiotics and antioxidants. It aids in weight loss, digestion, immune system function, energy levels, and can even help prevent cancer and arthritis… superfood!