I will be the first to admit that I have always had such a yo-yo relationship with food. I love food, but I know what I am supposed to eat and should not eat. I have been working out, recording my intake, studying nutrition and health and feel educated. It is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of will power. When I indulge I tend to overindulge, feel unhealthy, gain weight, and then diet. I restrict myself for a while, lose weight, and then the cycle just keeps continuing. I decided I wanted to do something different. I want to have a positive relationship with food. I want to have increased health. I want to lose weight, yes, but I also want to fuel my body rather than just eating garbage. I decided to go clean. Am I 100% clean? No, but the changes I have incorporated have been a huge difference.
What clean eating means
So if you were to google a clean eating diet you would see that you are supposed to eat six small meals a day. I don't follow this necessarily. I eat when I am hungry but it is usually the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a snack between each meals. I also have dessert which is NOT part of the clean eating but I try to eat healthier dessert options. The point of eating clean is incorporating whole foods and nutrition and take out the refined sugar and processed foods. You want to eat protein and complex carbs at every meal, have 2-3 servings of healthy fats everyday, and get fiber, vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
I like that I can still eat foods I enjoy. I love bread and pasta. I still eat pasta but I eat better options. I read the ingredients list in the items I buy. If something is refined, has white flour, or added sugars I try to stay away.
How I feel since going clean
The results of my clean eating has been amazing. I have noticed weight loss although I am sure I would notice more if I kept out my desserts and some of the "unclean" items I choose. My family is not clean eating like I am so sometimes their Doritos or cheese balls are too hard to resist. My digestive system has been thankful. Prior to going clean I would have very uncomfortable IBS symptoms, horrible bloat and heartburn almost every night. Since going clean my heartburn has been rare, my bloat is there at times but not as uncomfortable. I still get a little bloat with my pasta, but it is not painful. Before going clean, my bloat was often accompanied with heartburn. My heartburn has been extremely rare. I have limited IBS symptoms and feel "regular". This alone has been worth it.
My energy levels and overall motivation has also improved. Even being a sleepless mom at times, I still have energy to power through the day. It may also be fueled with my 3-4 cups of coffee, but prior to going clean my 3-4 cups of coffee didn't feel like much of a difference. I have motivation to complete my tasks and motivation to complete more if time allowed or if a baby allowed. I feel as if my body has been given the nutrients it needs to function properly.
What do I eat?
Carbohydrates: I primarily eat whole food options. Whole wheat, rye, or ezekiel breads are my primary choice. I often eat that in the morning with avocado and eggs. I choose whole wheat tortilla wraps and whole wheat buns as well. The grains of choice is brown rice, quinoa, and couscous. You can find tons of delicious, healthy, clean recipes featuring these grains on Pinterest but I usually add a bunch of veggies, some chicken and maybe add a lemon juice/olive oil blend as a dressing or a balsamic.
Protein: I am not a beef nor eat pig products. I was a vegetarian for several years prior to getting pregnant with my oldest daughter, and since then I have kept eating chicken and turkey. I add grilled chicken in to salads and meals. I try to avoid breaded or fried products although occasionally I do love some chicken tenders or fish sticks. I will make my own if possible and limit the unhealthy ingredients and bake them or air fry them over regular frying. I eat fish and seafood as well. I have been adding in alot of beans to my meals which is a great source of fiber and protein. I usually eat eggs everyday, usually in the mornings. When needed a bit of a detox or protein increase I will make a protein shake with protein powder. I try to add collagen powder in when I can or even just add it to my water. It is a great source of protein and helps make your skin, hair, and nails healthy and strong.
Produce: The basis of most of my meals are nutritious fruits and vegetables. I eat alot more vegetables than fruits mostly because I like more of the vegetables than I do fruits. I eat alot of bananas and berries. I eat lots of green veggies and put spinach in my lunches and dinners. Tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, onions, peppers are all pretty versatile veggies that I put in my salads or bowls or even just on the side. Carrots are another big one because it is the vegetable my daughter prefers the most and one I can also get my husband to eat. Whatever produce you prefer, eat it. I try to keep a rainbow of options in the house and in my meals when possible. One meal at least on a daily basis has a rainbow of colors.
Dairy: I don't really drink much milk accept for creamer in my coffee. When I do have milk for myself or in a recipe, I use a vegan version like almond milk, coconut milk or oat milk. I actually plan on starting to make my own oat milk. I found a recipe from Minimalist Baker HERE. I use plain greek yogurt in recipes like overnight oats or in smoothies. I still use cheese regularly. My main sources are feta cheese in salads and bowls, Parmesan cheese in pasta but have used much less, and shredded cheddar at times.
Snacks: This is the area I struggle with the most. Typically when I snack I grab the quickest option and it is usually the most unhealthy. If you are like me I suggest getting healthy protein bars to keep in the house. Look at the ingredients and nutrition facts. I don't look at calories as much as I look at the sugars and protein (hint: more protein and less sugar options). Quest bars are usually very delicious and limited sugar. I have also found and tried these bars on Amazon. They taste amazing and have no junk added. Kind bars also have some great options. I will eat crackers and have found ones made of cauliflower or kale or prefer rye crisps. Have you tried rye crisps with ricotta cheese and blueberries on top? If not, you must try! How about chocolate hummus and strawberries? OMG one of my favorite and healthier(er) desserts. These graham crackers are a recent finds and they are full of whole foods and protein and taste just delicious! Peanut or almond butter with some fruit and granola is another delicious snack I enjoy or some almonds and grapes. The key is to add some protein in with the sugar and carbs to help your body process the carbs better and also to get you fuller for longer and quicker than just loading up on something sweet or unsatisfying.
Hydration: With anything else, remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Whatever you have to do to make yourself drink the suggested 64 oz/day of water is best. Some people use an alarm Some people record their food and drinks to hold themselves accountable. I use a certain cup and know to fill it up a certain amount of times to get my required amount in. I notice my overall health is improved when I drink enough water. My skin and hair are less dry. My mouth is less dry. I feel less bloated and hungry. No matter what kind of diet or lifestyle you choose, your water intake is the most important factor in it all.
Not all diets or eating choices are for everyone. This is what has been working for me. Just remember that if you want to eat clean then get in the habit of reading nutrition and ingredients labels and look for words like "whole", "whole wheat", "brown rice". Stay away from high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, white flour. High protein foods and low sugar is best.