How to Get Started with Clean Eating (Even When You’re Crazy Busy)
How to Get Started with Eating Clean Even When You’re Really Busy
With work, school, kids, some spark of a social life, and, oh, that thing that’s good for us, called “exercise,” thinking about eating clean and planning healthy meals can easily be put off until a few moments before mealtime. You’re not alone. But I know that it can be done with a little know-how, a little planning and a lot of deliciousness. And I’m here to do some hand holding. I’m a mom of two little darlings, a wife, a registered dietitian nutritionist of 15 years, a Cordon Bleu-certified chef and clean eating cookbook author.
To start eating clean you don’t need to know the nitty gritty details of why it’s so good. At the end of the day, you just need to know that clean eating is about choosing whole foods in their least processed states. And you can still eat from all of the food groups. With clean eating, you’ll still feel satisfied and enjoy your food. And when you’re eating clean, you’ll also feel more energized, and your skin and overall appearance will likely improve. Depending on your starting point, there is a very good chance that you will lose weight in the process. Sound good? Here is how you can get started today.
First, gut the contents of your kitchen in one go.
This may sound extreme, but take a hard look at your past healthy eating efforts. You’re reading this for a reason—because small changes aren’t getting you to where you want to be. Here’s the process I recommend.
Remove everything from your fridge, placing the items on the counter. You may as well clean it while you’re at it. Pick up each item one by one and examine its appearance, the label and smell. Toss anything that is old, whether by date, appearance or smell. Like more than a year for condiments—except vinegar which lasts indefinitely–is a definite “toss”. Read the ingredients of those remaining. If it contains artificial coloring, high fructose corn syrup: toss. If the first or second ingredient is sugar in some shape or form, trash. And any food that you bought and realize you don’t love, well, it’s not going to improve over time, so say your goodbyes to make room for food you love and will love you back.
Put the “clean” items back in. If you don’t already have a system in place to keep your fridge somewhat organized, I recommend keeping low-use, less-healthy items on the shelf you can’t easily see, which for a side-by-side fridge, is the top shelf. The two middle shelves should be high frequency, healthy foods, and produce that needs to be used ASAP before it expires. The bottom shelf is good for storing milk, stacking yogurt cups, and low-sugar healthy beverages. (Winos—put that stuff on the door or bottom drawer—that’s what I do.) The top, shallow drawer is good for cheese and nuts (yes, keep walnuts and pecans in the fridge to preserve freshness and nutrients).
Now how does it feel to see those newly pristine shelves, just dying to store healthy, nourishing food for you? And you can more easily find the stuff you already have, right? #timesaver
Onward to the freezer. Repeat the exercise. Dump the high-in-saturated fat (like, 8+ grams), high-processed frozen meals and treats that you know you shouldn’t be eating. If you must, have a junk food party that night and get it over with in one sweep, starting with a clean slate the next day.
Open the cupboards and quickly decide what to kick to the curb or keep. Junky chips and candy can go into the trash, or box them up for office treats on Monday. Get hard with the unopened packages you’ve had awhile. Any canned or jarred goods that have just been staring at you for a year, give them a better home, because “some day” didn’t come and it probably won’t. Spices: if they no longer smell like what they should, toss. Discard rancid-smelling oils. Half-eaten bags of whatever from awhile ago: toss. Toss. Toss. And you are never going to use all of those condiment packets you’ve been saving.
Putting things away: If you have any healthy indulgence treats (like dark chocolate), put them in a higher-up cabinet that you don’t see when you’re searching for a snack. Then, put all of the healthier snacks together on a high real estate shelf. If you have no food left, don’t freak out. You won’t starve. You will go to the grocery store. Group the grains and pastas together, cans and jarred goods together, cereals and breakfast grains on another shelf, and the bottles of oils and vinegars on another. If you bake infrequently, shelf those high up, so as not to take up precious space in your clean eating shrine.
Ahhhhh!! That’s the sound of angels singing. How does your kitchen look and how do you feel? I bet amazing. Now time to get shopping.
You will need some recipes. I have oodles on my blog, as well as my 5-ingredient recipes on Foodnetwork.com, and you can check out my clean eating grocery shopping hauls for more specifics on the foods.
And before you go, I would so appreciate it if you could answer this 1-question survey about your biggest challenges when it comes to clean eating and meal planning. It will greatly help me as I develop a new helpful product for you.
Thank you, my friend!
Michelle Dudash, RDN is a registered dietitian, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, and columnist of DishwithDudash.com.