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clean eating

The Ultimate Clean Eating Meal Plan Solution

Sorry, this awesome bundle of products is unfortunately not available at this time… I’m sure an updated Healthy Meal Planning Bundle will come back again soon! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be sure not to miss it! And grab your freebie while you’re at it…

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How is your clean eating meal planning working out for you lately? For me, it goes something like that:

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

I don’t know about you, but this is one of my daily nemesis. Because I know my husband (or my girls, they do chime in like that) will, at some point in the evening, come and ask me *just* this:

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

At this point, I’ll have to start sifting through the fridge, the fresh produce basket, and the pantry frantically for a few minutes. Then I’ll have to come up with something that is:

  • Clean eating, because we have to in our family, takeaways aren’t an option around here
  • To everybody’s taste (now that’s an interesting concept!)
  • Not too similar to something I’ve done, say, in the last couple of weeks
  • Using ingredients I do have at hand (because, by now, the shops are closed anyway)


“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Alan Lakein


Healthy meals don’t just happen. We have to make them happen.

Eating clean, healthy meals means avoiding processed food, using fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch. So takeaways and convenience food are pretty much out of the window.

We have to plan our meals in advance, draw a shopping list, shop for the best ingredients, and finally prepare them. Seems like a lot of hard work when I put it like that, doesn’t it?

Notice how it all starts with Meal Planning though?

For me, I will admit, this is my downfall. I mean, I can find a lot of lovely recipes out there (thank-you Pinterest!), but finding the one I have all the ingredients for, the time to prepare and that will tick everybody’s taste buds? In a few minutes? Every night? Really?

And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person out there facing this on a regular basis, am I right?

Luckily for us all, I have stumbled upon another great bundle from Ultimate Bundles (of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle fame).

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019

This bundle is an absolute goldmine for busy people like me trying to eat as clean as possible. Not only does it offer loads and loads of healthy recipes (over 1000!) and meal plans (all 30 of them), it now also comes with a very handy index.

Which means that you and I can easily come back to those new favorite recipes instead of trawling Pinterest, desperately trying to remember which one we used last.

The clickable index allows me to weed out the recipes that are not to my liking or dietary preferences, so I can truly create my very own recipe book in a flash.

So basically, the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019, it’s:
  • A carefully curated library of nutritious, simple, whole food recipes, all 1072 of them beautifully formatted in 12 digital cookbooks
  • An easy-to-use index for every single recipe, to help you sort by
    eating style, food allergy, quick meals, cooking method, etc.
  • 38 unique made-for-you meals plans, complete with shopping lists and prep reminders (4-week dinner plans, school & work lunch plans, breakfast rotations, party plans, and much more!)
  • Plus healthy eating resources on clean eating, a flavor crash course (so your food tastes simply a-ma-zing!), strategies for picky kids, allergies or oral Sensory Processing Disorder, and more!

All this, for only $49.97! I do like a good bargain like this, especially when it comes to my rescue every. single. night.

No more deep diving…

Clean Eating Meal Planning every night
A mom’s dream…

I will admit, I do like diving in Pinterest to find a new recipe… but time is against me! When I have only a few minutes to find *the* quick, easy, healthy and tasty recipe that I will put on the table tonight, going through pins and pins, looking up the posts and the comments is a luxury I don’t really have…

And I have already mentioned the next dreaded question:
Can you please do that yummy recipe you did (last week/month/year)?

The truth is, it is tricky for me to find easy and quick recipes without gluten or dairy, without all of them tasting a bit samey. So when I do find one that works, that is easy to make, tasty, and that everybody at the table can digest properly, I should save it, right?

Only, usually I’m pushed for time on the spot, and I need to wait until a bit later to check whether everybody’s tummy is OK with it… and so I forget… And the new-and-wonderful recipe gets lost in Pinterest oblivion…

With the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, I have hundreds of recipes available in one place, so I can find the one I need quickly, without further distraction.

Oh, and more importantly, I can find it again super easily the next time I need it!

RealPlans = Real Deals?

This new edition of the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle can be integrated into RealPlans, a meal planning app that allows me to create weekly meal plans based on our family size, eating schedule and (this is the part I’m excited about) dietary requirements!

I’ve never used a meal planner before for just that reason: it was too much hard work having to go through every recipe and sift out all the ones containing gluten, dairy, pork, soy and what not.

Clean Eating Meal Plan like a boss

But, when I bought the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, I got 1 month free subscription to RealPlans, with all the recipes automatically loaded.

So, on paper, this promises to be a very useful tool for us. I am definitely giving it a try, so stay tuned, I’ll give you some feedback on it shortly.

The 38 meal plans are also complete with grocery lists and prep plans. Combined with RealPlans ability to streamline my online shopping with Instacart, methinks my life may just have become a lot easier!

So where’s the catch?

Well, that’s the beauty of the Ultimate Bundles deals… There isn’t one!

For just $49.97, we get 1072 recipes, 38 meal plans, meal planners and printables, plus eBooks and eCourses on topics like clean eating, cooking on a budget, learning how to cook, or even teaching kids how to help in the kitchen. It’s really a no-brainer of a deal.

30 Day Guarantee
Happiness Guarantee

Now, what happens if you buy the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, but it just doesn’t work for you?

No problem. Ultimate Bundles offers a 100% happiness guarantee refund policy as standard. If you don’t love it, just email customerservice@ultimatebundles.com and ask for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

If you’re ready to stick to your clean eating resolutions, whip up healthy meals every day, and quit wasting food and time, I recommend you check out the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle.

Make your Clean Eating Meal Planning a doddle…

With the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, for only $49.97, we get:

  • Over 1000 healthy recipes grouped in 12 recipe books, such as Breakfast, Dinners, Salad and side, Snacks…
  • A clickable index of all the recipes, allowing us to curate the list and design our very own recipe book
  • 38 designed-for-you meal plans, including Gluten-free, Budget, Kid-friendly, Lunchbox, Vegetarian, Paleo, Whole30, Short on time and many, many more
  • Over 12 ebooks and printables on Clean Eating, Meal planning, Picky eaters or Freezer meals
  • 1 month free subscription to the RealPlans app, with all recipes and meal plans, preloaded
  • A 30-day full refund happiness guarantee

This bundle is truly a great resource and I am so pleased with it so far! I hope you will be too.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that, if you purchase this product using one of those links, I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you.

How to eat more whole grains in 5 steps

Despite popular “low grain” trends over the last few years (read gluten-free, low-carb and Paleo diets), whole grains are seeing an increase in popularity. So much so that more and more products are now labeled as containing “whole grains”. But in all this marketing hype, we’re left to figure out how to eat more whole grains.

This is the second part of my series on whole grains, the first part (why eat whole grains) covered the meaning of whole grains, as well as their benefits. In this section, we’re going to see how to eat more whole grains in 5 easy steps.

1. Understanding whole grains

To recap quickly, a whole grain will contain the whole kernel, i.e.:whole-wheat

  • The bran – the outer layer.
  • The endosperm – the main part of the grain, which can be ground to make flour.
  • The germ – the component which will germinate if planted.

Refined grains will consist mainly of the endosperm, which is made by and far of carbohydrates, a few vitamins and minerals, and very little fiber. With the industrial revolution and the motorization of mills, came the realization that refined flours were easier to cook with, had an improved texture and taste, and had a longer shelf life.

However, in the process, almost all the fiber and a large portion of the vitamins and minerals are lost. And a few good decades later, a whole lot of studies are confirming that those are actually the ones conferring grains their health properties.

2. Know your portion size

The recommended daily amount of whole grain, according to the USDA, ranges between 6 and 7 “ounce equivalents” respectively for adult women and men. They define one “ounce equivalent” as containing 16g of whole grains. In layman terms, this translates as:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereals (puffed or flaked)
  • ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereals
  • 1 biscuit, mini bagel, small muffin, pancake, small flour tortilla, full-size corn tortilla

They also recommend that 50% of our daily intake should be made of whole grains. Unfortunately, there are several pitfalls out there:

Whole grain label starts at 51% whole grain

According to the FDA, to be labeled “whole grain”, a food must contain at least 51% of whole grains by weight. This does, however, mean that 49% can be junk (see Learn to decipher labels below). A whole wheat cookie is still a cookie…

Recomposed whole grains rather than a whole kernels

In most processed products (all bakery products, for example), the final “whole grain” is actually a combination of bran, endosperm, and germ that were initially separated, then mixed back together. Those processed whole grains have a lower content of fiber and nutrients than their original intact kernels.

“Whole grain” doesn’t always mean “rich in fiber”Burger with whole wheat bun

A whole grain product is not a guarantee that you will get optimum fiber intake. So if increasing your intake of fiber is one of your prime concern, be aware that eating processed whole grain products will not be enough. You’ll need to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Processed whole grains will still trigger blood sugar spikes

Even though these will be less than for refined grains, they will still send you reaching for your next sugar/starch fix sooner than whole kernels (think porridge oats vs. steel-cut oats).

Watch out for the Whole Grain Stamp

The basic Whole Grain Stamp, although confirming that the product contains at least 8g of whole grains per serving, doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain a whole lot of sugar, solid fat, salt, and other additives. Look out rather for the 100% Whole Grain Stamp, which will contain a minimum of 16g per serving, i.e. 1 of your 6 or 7 whole grain daily recommended servings.

We don’t need to eat more grain products

Americans, by and far, eat too many grain-based products on a daily basis, so the idea here is not to add whole grains to your diet, but to cleverly substitute some of your refined grain products for healthier whole grain ones.

3. How to spot the right whole grains

Step 1. Think.

No matter how many claims of “high-fiber content” and “whole grains” a highly-processed, nutrient-poor product can make, it remains a highly-processed, nutrient-poor product. Breakfast sugary cereals for kids are a prime example. A lot of them have jumped on the “whole grain” bandwagon, yet their first ingredient is sugar and they’re loaded with additives and colorings. Same for biscuits and other snacks. If this isn’t a product that would qualify as unprocessed, clean and nutrient-rich otherwise, being labeled “whole grain” will not change that.

Step 2. Learn to decipher labels

Now that we’ve eliminated the wolf-disguised-as-lamb gang, let’s focus on those products like bread or pasta. Those are processed food, but they will naturally find themselves in your pantry. When shopping for them, make sure that the whole grains are top of that list, or second, just after water.

whole wheat bread ingredients

Step 3. Aim for the whole kernel.

The ultimate whole grains are, well, grains that still look whole. If you compare porridge oats (which are steamed and rolled) and steel-cut oats, you can clearly see that the latter still look like a whole kernel, cut in pieces. Same for rice. If you can still see the bran on the grains, you’re on the right track. Millet, buckwheat, and quinoa, for example, are prepared whole. This makes popcorn (minus added butter) is the ultimate whole grain snack!

4. An easier approach: the magic carb-to-fiber ratio

The theory

Ok, by now you can see that adding whole grains to your diet might not be as easy as it first seemed. Luckily, Harvard researchers studied over 500 grain-based products in two major grocery stores and came up with an easier solution. They found out that the healthier products had a minimum fiber to carbohydrates ratio of 1:10.

In practice

What does this mean? It means that if you check any whole grain product label, you can just focus on the grams of carbohydrates given for 100g, then check the fiber amount.

Example 1: Ancient grains whole bread

Ancient-Grain-Nutrition-PanelIn this example, the carbohydrates total 38g per 100g of product, and the fiber, 7g. Divide the carbohydrates by 10. We obtain 3.8. So there must be *at least* 3.8g of fiber in this product.

At 7g, this product easily passes the test. This is incidentally a whole grain gluten-free bread. Being gluten-free, it contains quite a few added ingredients, some of it being refined starches.

Ingredients – Water, whole grain brown rice flour, tapioca starch, corn starch, whole grain millet flour, whole grain sorghum flour, whole grain teff flour, egg whites, corn dextrin, cane sugar, canola oil, potato flour, honey, rice bran extract, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole grain quinoa, whole grain teff, ground flax seed, flax seeds, whole grain millet, whole grain amaranth flour, hemp seeds, baking powder, yeast, xanthan gum, salt vinegar, enzymes (calcium sulfate & enzymes)

 

Example 2 – Whole grains English muffins

Whole-Wheat-Bread-LabelHere, the carbohydrates per serving are 29g. Based on this, the amount of fiber should be 2.9g. Instead, the fiber content is only 2g. It’s not a large difference, but enough to flag potential no-nos here.

When checking the ingredients list, the whole grains only appear after the enriched wheat flour (refined flour enriched in vitamins and minerals) and the water. The muffins also contain some preservatives and other additives.

Ingredients – Enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid], water, whole wheat flour, farina, sugar, salt, yeast, calcium propionate and sorbic acid (to preserve freshness), wheat gluten, soybean oil, grain vinegar, monoglycerides, soy lecithin, soy, whey (milk).

 

NB – I have actually really battled to find any bread that was labeled “whole grain” and did not meet the above guideline, which is fabulous by my standards. I didn’t check any cereals, snacks or biscuits though!

5. How to add whole grain to your diet

Based on the fact that the average American diet already contains enough grain-based products, the main idea to increase your whole grain intake is to replace some (half, ideally) of your refined grain products by 100% whole grain ones. Or three-quarters of your refined grain products by 50% whole grain ones.

This doesn’t have to be done overnight, but here are some pointers to steer you in the right direction.

  • Swap your white bread for whole wheat bread. If you don’t care much for the taste of whole wheat bread, look out for a 50/50 bread with maximum fiber content.
  • Swap your normal pasta for whole wheat pasta. It is a bit of an acquired taste, but I find that, in most recipes with sauce, the difference in flavor disappears.
  • Swap your white rice for brown rice. It does take a little longer to cook though, so bear this in mind.
  • Swap porridge oats for steel-cut oats. Again, they take longer to cook so give yourself a little bit more time.
  • Start experimenting with seed-like grains, such as quinoa and millet, instead of rice, couscous, and porridge.

Replace refined flour in your recipes with whole grain ones. Be careful though, unrefined flours are heavier than refined ones and will change the texture of your cakes and biscuits. Start with replacing a quarter of your refined flour and increase the quantity from there on. Or simply look out for new recipes using whole grain flours.
Those will also bring a different, stronger (more nutty) flavor to your baking. Recipes who will do well with the change include cakes where the amount of flour is minimal (typically less than 150g of flour per cake), which contain nuts or which use spices for added flavors.

Have you figured out how to eat more whole grains yet?

I hope so, but if I have missed any tip or advice on how to eat more whole grains for your fellow clean-eaters out there, please send them in the comments below so we can all benefit.

Remember one thing though. These are vitally important changes to make for your health. Yet, they are easy (whole grain products are everywhere and are on the rise) and cheap (they actually don’t cost that much more than your refined products). And because whole grains fill you up more than refined grains, you might end up eating less, recouping the little extra cost. Win-win.

And if you’ve missed the first part of my Whole grains series, Why eat whole grains, be sure to catch it there!

Why eat whole grains? Understanding their health benefits

Grains in seem to be having a hard time lately, with gluten being blamed by some for major health problems and new grain-free diets springing up every year. So one can easily wonder why eat whole grains at all, as recommended by health authorities everywhere.

However, according to Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and author of two long-running studies, eating 70g of whole grains per day could reduce your risk of dying by 5%. With each additional 28g serving, the risk of dying of heart disease is reduced by 9%. The study also found that replacing refined grains and red meats by whole grains in equal amounts could potentially increase your lifespan by 8% to 20%.

There is so much to explain about whole grains that I have split this subject in two. Part 1 covers Why eat whole grains, and Part 2 deals with ways to eat more whole grains.

What are whole grains?

Mixed whole grainsGrains, also called cereals, are the seeds of some grasses, which are cultivated for food. The following are all grains you’re likely to come across in the shops, although not all in the form of whole seeds (alternative names in brackets):

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat (or kasha)
  • Corn (hominy, popcorn, maize)
  • Millet
  • Oats (oatmeal)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Wheat (triticale, semolina, seitan, farro, kamut)
  • Wild Rice


Whole grains vs. refined grains

A whole grain will contain the whole kernel, i.e.:

  • The bran – the outer layer, which contains vitamins, minerals, and fibers.
  • The endosperm – the main part of the grain, which can be ground to make flour. Initially destined to feed the embryo, the germ, when it develops into a new plant. Contains carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
  •  The germ – the smallest component of the kernel, which is supposed to germinate if planted. Contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fat.

100% whole grains will contain all 3 parts of the kernel (the bran, the endosperm, and the germ). To obtain refined grains, whole grains are milled to remove the bran and the germ. The end result is of finer texture and keeps for longer. The process removes, however, a lot of the nutrients, in particular, fiber.

Wheat fieldWhole grains can still be milled, rolled, crushed or cracked. As long as the whole of the kernel is present in the end product, they are still “whole grains”.

Note – when we eat refined grains, our bodies actually use nutrients to digest these nutrient-poor foods, which leaves us poorer in nutrients than before eating them!

Note 2 – This is why you might come across the terms “enriched grains” and “fortified grains”. “Enriched grains” means some of the nutrients lost during the milling stage are replaced, such as vitamins. “Fortified grains” means that some nutrients that were not initially in the kernel have been added.

Whole grains and fibers

As you can see from the Nutritional info above, one of the main nutrient to be removed during the refining process is fiber. It’s the part of a plant food that the body cannot digest. As it moves through our digestive system, it absorbs water and helps the body eliminate food waste quicker.

A higher consumption is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, as it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and stabilizes blood sugar. It also fills you up and is an essential tool for weight loss and weight management.

whole-wheatThere are 2 varieties of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Good sources of insoluble fiber in grains are whole wheat and popcorn (minus any added butter or sugar), but also teff, spelt and millet. Barley and oatmeal, as well as amaranth, contain soluble fiber. The body needs both in equal measures for optimal health.

The current recommended intake of fiber ranges from 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 grams for men. However, the vast majority of us only get to about half of that amount per day, mostly thanks to our highly processed diet of refined grains and our low intake of high-fiber food such as fruits and vegetables.

Check my next post on How to eat more whole grains to figure out how to increase your fiber intake the easy way.

So why eat whole grains?

The higher fiber content of whole grains is linked with lowering your general risk of mortality, but that’s not the only reason why eating whole grains is beneficial to our bodies. The bran and germ of grains also contain a whole range of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, as well as proteins, all playing a beneficial role. Let’s list a few of the main benefits here:

1. They slow down digestion,

…stabilizing your blood sugar and insulin levels. When ingested, refined grains break down immediately into glucose, much the same way as pure sugar. This sends your blood sugar rocketing, then plummeting, later on, causing sugar crash and cravings.
Whole grains are broken down more slowly, keeping you full for longer.

2. They have been found to help with weight management

…by not sending you reaching for the next sugar or starchy fix, three servings per day being associated with less abdominal fat.

3. Whole grains, therefore, help with preventing type 2 diabetes

…through healthy weight control and stabilization of your blood sugar levels. Those benefits kick in from only two servings per day (read my post on How to eat more whole grains to figure out what a serving is). This could be due to their high-fiber and high-magnesium content, both linked with better carbohydrate metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

4. Whole grains can help lower blood cholesterol,

Whole grain breads are best…oats being a real champion in this category. Their higher soluble fiber content helps with eliminating cholesterol, by binding the cholesterol and its precursors together in the digestive tract and eliminating it quickly. The antioxidants found in oats also play a role.

5. They can help decrease your blood pressure,

…in particular, whole grains with a high soluble fiber content, such as barley and oats. Their antioxidants help improve cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation.

6. Numerous studies on more than 20 types of cancer

…have found a link between eating three servings of whole grains per day and a reduced risk of cancer. This is in particular valid for gastrointestinal cancers and cancers of the oral cavity, such as pharynx, esophagus, and larynx.
Whole grains offer protective nutrients, such as fiber, antioxidants (vitamin E and selenium in particular) and phytochemicals which can help suppress the growth of cancer cells, block DNA damage and prevent the formation of carcinogens.

And if the benefits of whole grains start at just two servings per day, research has shown that the health improvements increase with each extra serving, to reach the 3-4 servings of whole grains recommended daily by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The take-home message: load up on whole grains for optimal health

How to do this? There are a lot of easy ways to identify whole grains in your food and increase your intake. Read up on those in my next article on How to eat more whole grains.

Eating clean for beginners – 6 steps to wholesomeness

Eating a healthy diet should be a no-brainer, since it is linked with important health improvements, such as a lesser risk of premature death, heart disease, cancer, and chronic diseases, just to name a few.

A clean, healthy diet should be focussed on eating food as close as possible to their original state and reduce the intake of industrially processed food to a minimum.

Ultimately, eating clean means avoiding anything packaged.

Sounds extreme? In those days of supermarkets, long shelf life and convenience food, that’s how it looks.
Sounds impossible? Not really. This is a guide to start eating clean for beginners in 6 easy steps. Follow them, and you’ll be well on your way to new clean eating habits.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Alan Lakein

As you’ll see, the best way to start eating clean is to prepare for it. This doesn’t need to take long, but this Eating Clean for Beginners post will equip you with the right tools to change your habits in the long run and make the most of your new diet.

Step 1 – Decide Why

Before you embark on your clean eating journey, ask yourself why you want to do this.

This is a vital step. Deciding on why you want change to happen will keep you motivated when your willpower is being challenged.

  • How to plan for clean eatingHave you got health problems that need you to change your lifestyle?
  • Did you sign up for a sports challenge and could do with adjusting your diet?
  • Have you decided to take charge of your health in the long run, to age gracefully?
  • Is someone close to you embarking on the same journey and you feel compelled to join them?
  • Do you want to teach your children how to eat healthier?
  • Do you want to lessen your environmental footprint?

Whatever the reason why you want to start eating clean, pinpoint it. Better still, write it down somewhere. So you can revert to it when you’re feeling in doubt.

Step 2 – Decide How

As I have covered in this post on Starting clean eating, there is more than one way one can kick-start their healthy eating journey. But not all of them will fit you and your lifestyle. Read about them, think about them, and decide on the best method to clean up your diet.

This is particularly important if you are starting from a highly refined, industrial diet. Your body will need time to adjust to your new meals and cleanse itself inside out. Give it time, allow for it to be de-gunked gradually, one step at a time.

Also, if you decide to start with just a clean breakfast, for example, it will also allow you not to feel guilty about your evening meal being still highly processed. Instead, you will feel proud of your achievement so far and this will spur you on.

Step 3 – Give yourself SMART goals

SMART goals for successOh, you’ve heard about those before, the corporate world loves them. But there is some definite truth behind them, and reasons why they work so well. Let’s go through them, applied to your new clean eating resolutions. Try and make your goals:

Specific

Once you’ve picked a method to start eating clean, decide on which meal or food to change first. Or which shop you will do your shopping in from now on. Or which industrial food you’re going to replace by a cleaner one.

Measurable

This one is a bit more difficult here as we’re not dealing with numbers or hard facts. But you can still set yourself targets and check against them. It could be sport-related since a healthy diet will improve your endurance and your energy. Or if you buddy-up (see Step 4), you can decide on the next common “challenge” to tackle. Or decide on the weight you’re aiming to get to.

Achievable

Be realistic. Yes, some people have managed successfully to use the Great Purge method, radically changing their lifestyle. But I don’t know any who didn’t battle with it, and I’m pretty sure this “All or nothing” approach is the reason behind quite a few failures.

It takes time to make effective long-lasting changes. For a start, your body will detox, which can lead to a few uncomfortable days or weeks. The more gradual the changes, the shorter these will be.

You might also end up giving up on some of your favorite food. And they are so because their composition makes them so addictive. Think sugar-salt-fat, add a bit of MSG for the umami flavor, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a food you just won’t be able to stop eating.

Clean eating will help you get rid of those cravings. But if you remove these highly processed foodstuffs all at once, you’re setting yourself up for junk food withdrawal symptoms. And for failure, if those become too strong.

Relevant

If you decide to eat clean, focus on this. Eating clean and going vegan at the same might be just too much at once. Or eating clean and gluten-free.

The idea is to give your body (and the environment) a rest from added processes and additives. If you introduce too many changes at once, it might be more difficult to stick to your new habits. Give yourself a chance and make one change at a time.

Read my post about starting clean eating for ideas on how to introduce those changes.

Timebound

Be realistic about how quickly you will manage to implement those changes. Once you’ve decided how you will transition to clean eating, think about how long each change, big or small, will take. Based on your life, your family, your work, etc.

But once you’ve set those timeframes, try and stick with them. Write them down somewhere. You’re more likely to stick to resolutions if they’re written down in your agenda.

Step 4 – Buddy up

Cooking clubWe all know that it’s easier to stick with changes when you are part of a team. Why? Because the goals are set together, everybody works toward the same targets and this holds you accountable. It is particularly important when introducing major changes in your life.

There are bound to be times when you will feel tempted to fall off the wagon. And in those times, remembering that you are part of a team and that you’ll have to somehow “report” to them will make a difference.

Your clean eating team can be real and close to you, like family members or friends. This makes it easier to go shopping together, team up to trawl farmers’ markets and sample each other’s’ recipes.

But in this era of all things virtual, it can also be a Facebook group, an online challenge group or an app like MyFitnessPal (see below). The main point is to be inspired by others, to be reminded of your goals, and to have to “report” regularly, through weigh-in or another progress report.

It’s also important to get regular reminders and feedback from others going in the same direction, facing the same difficulties and asking the same questions.

Step 5 – Get the Right Tools

Starting to eat clean by yourself can be daunting, especially if this is a new concept for you. So here are a few free apps to help you along (please note that, being an Android user, the links are for the Google Play store, but all these free apps are also available on iTunes for Apple users):

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal…is a great one to get started. It’s user-friendly and allows you to log in a meal in a couple of clicks. Plus, its food database, with over five million entries, is sure to contain just the one ingredient you’re eating or want to eat.

Although it’s more of a calorie-counter and diet-tracker, it’s easy, free, comprehensive and a great tool to check your nutrients. You can also easily link up with fellow buddies, exchange tips and follow each other’s progress.

Yummly

Yummly…allows you to get healthy recipes based on dietary and taste preferences, and even shop online for them with Instacart.

You can select what’s currently in your fridge/pantry and get ideas of meals to do with it, based on your cooking skills, your personal taste preferences, and your dietary requirements.

DietsSuckdietssuck

…is a simple app that encourages you to introduce little healthy changes every day. It’s fun and easy, and it sends you reminders to drink more water or eat fruit throughout the day. You can also use it to give you easy meal plans.

The Thrive Market

The Thrive MarketThis app allows you to order healthy foods online at wholesale price. What’s not to love? If your local supermarket isn’t particularly well stocked up in healthy food, this could be your next best option.

Fooducate

Fooducate…helps you decipher labels and tells you how good or bad a specific food is. It reads a barcode to access the info for that particular product, so it’s great for any packaged item you still need to buy. Or if you’re just starting and ponder how “clean” your standard shopping basket really is.

Dirty Dozen appThe Dirty Dozen app

…lets you know exactly which fresh produce you should buy organic, and which ones are pretty much devoid of pesticides, even if grown traditionally. Not sure what I’m talking about? Read this post to find out more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.

The RealPlans app

RealPlans app…takes the hassle out of meal planning. You can even upload your own recipes, remove the ones that you don’t like, select specific diet preferences. It gives you the shopping you need, and with Instacart built-in, even gets your ingredients delivered to your door!

RealPlans is a monthly subscription, but if you buy the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, you get 1 month free. Long enough to try this app and see if it works for you, methinks.

Step 6 – Learn about clean eating food, shopping, cooking etc.

Educate yourself.

The prospect of switching from a highly processed diet to a cleaner one can be daunting. But if you take baby steps and understand the logic behind it all, it actually makes a lot of sense.

So stick around. Read up a lot about the ins and out of clean eating. SimplyGoClean is here to help you with just that.

Follow your Why.

This is an important step (see Step 1 above). You might want to lose weight, improve your general health, teach your kids how to eat cleaner food, save money on food or lower your environmental footprint. These are all valid goals.

Depending on your target, you might not approach clean eating in the same way. Lowering your footprint might involve eating more local and organic food and reducing packaging to its bare minimum as a priority. Whereas teaching your children to eat healthier will have you focus on finding tasty and easy recipes to satisfy their taste buds.

Figure out How.

Figure out what will work for you in your current situation. Then research this. Chances are, somebody else will have been in the same situation and will have found the answer. This is how Simply Go Clean was created, to pass on all the answers I came across. So keep on sharing, using the Comments section below.

If meal planning is an issue, this meal planning tool might just be the solution.

Savor it.

Clean eating is not about eating plain food day in day out. It’s about discovering new ways to cook and taste whole natural ingredients.

There are loads of delicious clean recipes out there, should you want to stick to your old favorites, or try out new flavors and textures. Follow me on Pinterest, I try my best to select clean recipes for you.

Treat yourself.

You’ve thought about your SMART goals (see Step 3), and you’ve worked hard toward reaching them, whatever these might be. When you get there, be proud of it. Shout it out on your clean eating network (real or virtual). Take a minute to reflect on how hard or easy it was getting this far. On what you had to change. And how you changed it. This will help you plan your next move and reach your next target.

Got another tip? Share it here.

Create your teamEverybody’s clean eating journey is different because we’re all different. Feel free to share your journey or give us more tips on eating clean for beginners in the Comments below. They’re bound to be useful to someone else out there.

And if you liked this post, please share it on Facebook or Pinterest to inspire others.

Clean eating for beginners

How to start clean eating

Eating clean is simply eating more natural, healthy, wholesome food, and less processed, nutrient-depleting, industrial food. Put like that, it sounds easy, doesn’t it? But how to start clean eating, for the majority of us out there, can be daunting. Processed food (anything with a packaging, really) is the norm, it’s what we grew up on and it’s the only food that’s (seemingly) available in the shops.

So do you start eating clean? Do you go T-total, or try a more gradual approach? It will depend on you and your circumstances, and I believe there are ways to go clean to suit everybody. I have listed few tried and tested methods below, from the most radical to more moderate approaches.

Option 1 – The Great Purge

This is the most radical approach to quickly purge your kitchen, pantry, fridge, and freezer and start from scratch. Not really suited to families though.

Market stall full of fruits and vegetablesSome folks out there go for a radical, uncompromising approach: they throw away all their foodstuff that isn’t considered clean and start with a clean slate. The idea is to purge your pantry and your fridge of all food that would detract you from eating clean, so you are not tempted to eat something processed or refined from there on.

The pros – it allows you to start from scratch and stick with your new clean diet quickly, simply by removing the temptation at home. This might work well for people that need to radically and suddenly change their diet, for serious health reasons, for example.

The cons – while the temptation might not be at home unless you know exactly what to eat and how to eat it, you will likely fall back on old habits the next time you shop or go out. So a fair amount of research must go in hand with the purge.

You might also get the dreaded detox flu as your body has to get rid of vast amounts of toxins in a short period of time.

The risk is also to end up removing a lot of junk food, but without knowing what clean food to add back into your diet, and not eating enough. Eating clean is not a restricting, short-term diet, it’s a lifestyle. Deprivation and calorie-counting do not belong in a clean eating diet.

It takes a good few weeks (some say 3, but evidence shows that even 21 days is not enough for massive changes like this) to set up habits, and unless you have a major reason to do this, this method is more likely to fail as you battle through your new way of eating.

Good for – the Adventurers, the Radicals and the Highly Motivated

Option 2 – The Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner approach

“Clean” one meal at a time, breakfast, then lunch, then dinner is a gentler approach. This is the one I personally followed, without realizing it.

Breakfast
How I did it

I started with the breakfast, which was giving me a lot of grief. Being French, I grew up on “tartines”, French bread smothered with butter and jam, or sugar-laden breakfast cereals, with a cup of hot chocolate as a child, then coffee or chicory as an adult.

And at 10 am, I would crash. I would get brain-fog and cranky at school. In my teens, the sugar crash would actually cause me to feel faint if I didn’t eat anything by 12. I actually passed out a couple time during my student years, because I had forgotten or hadn’t had the time to eat anything by lunch. Did I learn from my mistakes? Nope, I just carried on glucose tablets in my bag all the time!

Eggs on toast with saladI later alleviated the problem somewhat by switching to good old porridge oats in the morning, but I would still need a snack at 10. I only switched to a protein-based breakfast after the birth of my second daughter, when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and had to forgo oats. The relief was immediate and immense. I could just have 2 eggs and a tomato and carry on with the same level of energy until 12. I stopped feeling faint, I didn’t need to permanently carry glucose tablets or snacks with me. and I lost the sugar-induced brain fog. My hunger signs became, well, normal “empty stomach” hunger signs, rather than crankiness and faintness.

Apologies for the long personal digression, but this was truly my turning point. And given that most people’s breakfast is sugar-laden, I’m guessing it might be the same for a lot of people out there.

Why start with changing your breakfast?

Breakfast is also an easy meal to turn clean first, because it usually happens at home, is quickly prepared and is by far a personal affair. So, you don’t have to find recipes to please a whole family. It’s just you, your taste buds and your appetite.

But being the first meal of the day, if you find the clean breakfast that works for you, it will make a huge difference in how comfortable and productive your mornings are. Basically, that’s half of your day sorted. There and then.

Lunch

…will naturally be next, again because it mainly involves you. It typically requires a little more prep at home, if you’re bringing your own lunch, or being savvier with your choice of bought-out lunch. But you only have to cater for yourself, and you, therefore, have a lot more options.

If you haven’t done so naturally by then, snacks should probably be your next target, to make sure you don’t ruin your clean day by snacking on the wrong kind of food after work or when in need of a pick-me-up.

Dinner

…will probably be the most challenging meal to swap to clean food. Not through lack of delicious options, but simply because it usually involves other people, their taste buds, and their culinary expectations. Serving a whole plateful of healthy, natural greens to your kids every evening is not likely to earn you any brownie points.

Chicken kebabs with vegetablesBut by then, you are likely to have a good idea of what foods are allowed in a clean eating kitchen and how to prep them. My honest advice here is to involve the rest of your household. There are plenty of recipes that allow you to replace the family favorites with cleaner versions. Your children are also more likely to try your new meals if they have chosen the recipe and some of the ingredients. Or, even better, if they have helped prepare it.

How long should it take you to change every single meal? As long as you need. Everybody is different. This is not a short-term fad diet, but a new way of eating. Set yourself realistic targets and stick to them. Remember the 80/20 rule. It might be that clean eating works for you during the working week, but that you need to relax it a bit at the weekend. Or all the time, apart from lunches with clients. My kids know that they’re allowed a “naughty” in their lunchboxes on Fridays.

Good for – the Inadvertent Clean Eaters, the Morning Slumpers

Option 3 – One food category at a time

Or how to swap one food category for a cleaner version at a time, starting with the worst offenders.

This is another stepped approach that can work well to change from a drastically processed diet. It consists of identifying the industrial food that needs to be removed from your diet. Then the clean food that needs to make its way into your diet. Then decide to make one change per week or per month.

Fresh clean water is bestFor example, the first change could be gradually cutting out sugary drinks and drinking more water. The second one, replacing refined starches with whole grain ones. The third one, adding an extra portion of vegetables per meal. Then replacing biscuits, cakes and sugary treats with fruits or clean snacks. Switching to cleaner protein sources. Cutting down/out shop-bought prepared meals and takeaways. Etc.

The key here is to seriously take stock of what you are currently eating, and making a plan to stick to, with realistic timeframes for you and your family.

Good for – the Organised, the Reluctant Families

Option 4 – The Meal by Meal approach

Change one meal at a time: take each of your meals and try and go cleaner every time. In small baby steps.

This is a very gradual option: you consider each meal and replace it with its cleaner equivalent.

Breakfast bowl with granola and fruitsFor example, replacing your breakfast cereals with organic granola, or your morning toasts and jam by rye bread and plain peanut butter.

For lunch, you can just switch to wholegrain bread for your sandwiches, and choose chicken over salami. Or pick a quinoa salad, rather than your usual pasta salad. You could replace your usual chips with vegetable chips or plain corn or potato chips.

And instead of cheese macaroni at dinner time, try whole wheat pasta Bolognese for a healthier option. Soft drinks can be replaced by 100% fruit juices, then diluted juices, then water.

The idea is to constantly try and go cleaner and more natural. Until you reach a point where the vast majority of your food is untampered with and free of added sugar or additives. Hint – to get to that stage, you will have to buy whole products and prepare them from scratch.

The good thing about this technique is that the changes will be very gradual. You keep your favorite meals, just tweaking the recipe a bit. Sor it’s great if the rest of the family is initially not so keen on changing their eating habits. But it will take you much longer to arrive at a stage where you only feed your body whole natural ingredients.

Good for – the Hesitants, the Reluctant Families

Option 5 – The Cleaner Shopping option

Basically, you replace the content of fridge and pantry with cleaner ingredients as you go along.

This probably goes along the previous method. Every time you run out of something in the pantry or in the fridge, replace it with a cleaner version. Again, the changes are gradual and will allow you to eat the same food, to a certain extent, just cleaner.

On the plus side, there’s no wastage, as you get a chance to finish what you have at home before buying new cleaner groceries.

Grocery basketThis approach will still get you to look at cleaner options out there and checking out ingredients list, which is a good start.

But the risk is to only clean up your diet so far, as shop-bought options can only be that clean. Ultimately, you want to get rid of all processing, and this involves buying raw, unadulterated ingredients and cooking from scratch.

To avoid this, this approach is best combined with Option 6 below.

Good for – the No-Wasters, the Careful Shoppers

Option 6 – Change your Favorite Shop

Swap you main shopping haunt for another one offering more natural, whole products.

Make a point of buying food in shops or places that offer cleaner products. You’ll automatically end up discovering new ways of eating and trying more wholesome food.

Cleaner supermarkets

Whole Foods Market seems an obvious choice. Trader’s Joe comes up time and time again in clean eating food blogs. But there are other supermarkets out there that are just better stocked with fruits and vegetables, offer lesser processed foodstuff and more geared towards natural and organic products. Look out for them and try them.

Don’t forget to shop online too. Thrive Market allows you to buy clean, organic products at a fraction of their retail price.

Farmers’ markets

Fresh marketIf you are lucky to live near a farmer’s market, this could become your favorite place to stock up on fresh local food. We belong to those lucky ones. Since we have to cook everything from scratch, it makes sense for us to source the best and cheapest fresh products out there.

Farm-to-door boxes

Farm-to-door services are also a great solution to make you get fresh organic fruits and vegetables delivered regularly. Some cover an extensive area in the US, but I would favor local ones, simply to reduce the transport and storage.

Good for – the Undecisives, the Marketing Junkies

Whichever the option you decide to go for…

…education is key

Unless you know who the Bad Guys are and who the Good Guys are out there, there’s a high risk you will just end up piling up on junk food labeled “natural” or “healthy”, because their packaging (and their clever Marketing Managers) says so.

You can educate yourself about clean eating before starting, or as you go along, there isn’t any right or wrong method here. But read, read, read. Know what constitutes processing. How it affects the food and your environment. Know what your motivation for eating clean is. Learn how to read labels. Become addicted to shopping lists. Master your way around the different aisles of your supermarket.

Oh, and keep reading Simply Go Clean.

I have tried to cover various methods to embark on a clean eating journey, but please feel free to tell us how you have started and how it worked for you in the comments below.

And if you believe these tidbits could be useful to others, don’t forget to share! Oh, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips and hacks!

How to start clean eating
How to start clean eating
How to start clean eating

Clean Eating Food List – What’s on your Grocery List?

Eating clean means eating real food, as close to their natural form as possible, either unprocessed or with minimal processing. So what does that leave you with? Let’s go through a typical clean eating food list, to help you get started with your next shopping trip.

The list below is by all means not exhaustive but should be getting you well on your way. If you’re unsure about what kind of food are clean, and why, you check my grocery tips here. The foodstuffs are classed per category, like starches, proteins, drinks, etc. and explain what to look out for.

Need a shortcut? Scroll down for your free downloadable/printable Clean Eating Grocery List to stick on your fridge or take shopping!

Vegetables

Vegetable skewersAim for seasonal fruits and vegetables, preferably organic (especially the ones included in the Dirty Dozen list, like spinach). If you aim for the recommended intake of 5-a-day, this is 400g per person per day. 10-a-day would be 800g per person per day. So count how many meals you need vegetables for, and buy as many servings, allowing for a bit of shrinkage during cooking.

Smart tip – You don’t have to buy different vegetables for each meal (although a bit of variety is nice). Actually, vegetables are so versatile that it’s quite easy to cook them differently without meals getting boring. Think of carrots, for example, which can be eaten:

  • in soups, with other vegetables
  • as a salad, simply grated with chopped walnuts and mayonnaise
  • as a mash, by itself or teamed up with swede, with a dollop of butter
  • stewed or braised
  • baked in home-made carrot cake or other carrot muffins
  • juiced or blended to make delicious vegetable juices or smoothies
  • … just to mention a few recipes.

Another smart tip – buy in bulk, when in season. This saves on processing, as the out-of-season produce doesn’t need to be imported and stored. And it’s usually much cheaper. More tips on how to make the most of your fruits and vegetables here.

Ideally, your basic vegetable grocery list should include a mix of fresh produce that keeps well (like carrots, onions, potatoes, and squash), some vegetables that can be eaten raw, like salad stuff, and seasonal vegetable. So it could look like this:

  • Leafy greens, like kale, cabbage, spinach, preferably organic
  • Lettuces
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
  • Squashes and/or pumpkin
  • Avocado, when in season
  • Tomatoes (plum, beef, grape, any kind)
  • Any other seasonal vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Fresh herbs – cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano etc.

Whole grains and pulses

Clean grains, such as brown rice and quinoaThese will probably find their way into most of your cooked meals. So choose the ones that suit your household best: do you need quick-cooking grains? Grains and pulses that can be used in salads for easy lunches? Beans that can be cooked in bulk at the weekend for use in various recipes?

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Black beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas

Proteins

Salmon dishCount how many portions you need before going shopping. As these can be expensive, especially if looking for grass-fed or organic, bulk-buying is a great option here. I’m of the view that less is more here. I tend to only allow for 100g of meat or fish per person. I will balance this out by buying good quality meat, organic or grass-fed, and full-fat so the flavors get imparted to the vegetables served with it. It saves money on our weekly shop and we’re doing our bit to reduce water consumption, as the water footprint of protein food is the highest.

  • Eggs, organic or pasture-raised preferably
  • Meat, organic, free-range whenever possible
  • Fish, if wild, aim for the Marine Stewardship Council label (MSC) label or another sustainable label,  if farmed, aim for organic, responsibly farmed, certified sustainable or other similar labels.
  • Tempeh
  • Cheese, organic
  • Plain, full-fat cottage cheese or yogurt

Nuts and seeds

Bowl of mixed nutsAll nuts and seeds, preferably raw (you can always roast them and flavor them at home).

  • Almonds
  • Pecan nuts
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed

Oils and butter

I have left almond butter here, although it can fairly easily be made at home, as it’s possible to find some plain ones in the shops, with nothing added.

  • Butter, plain
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Unrefined safflower oil
  • Unrefined walnut oil
  • Unrefined Canola or rapeseed oil
  • Almond butter
  • Tahini
  • Peanut butter, no sugar added (a bit of salt is OK)

Condiments and spices

  • Spices jars on a shelfSalt, preferably a raw, unadulterated source, like raw sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • Black pepper
  • Herbs and spices, non-irradiated
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper or another non-irradiated chili
  • Maple syrup
  • Raw honey
  • Stevia
  • Dijon mustard
  • Olives
  • Apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
Fruits are high in sugar, so you should try and stick to one or two servings per day.
  • Lemons
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Any other fruits, in season
  • Pure fruit juices, without preservatives
 Beverages
  • Water
  • Coconut water, no added sugar
  • Tea, herbal teas
  • Coffee
  • Raw milk, or organic, full-fat milk
  • Almond, brown rice, soy or hemp milk, unsweetened and GMO-free (for the soy milk)
  • Coconut milk or cream, the canned variety, as long as it’s BPA-free and doesn’t contain preservatives, emulsifiers, and other additives

Processed food

Healthy wholegrain breadSome processed foodstuffs will inevitably find their way into your trolley, so just read the ingredients list carefully and avoid anything that contains added sugar or additives. How to spot additives? They are basically the kind of ingredients that you would not have at home and would not cook with.

Each store will have different “clean” products, so once you’ve identified the cleanest bread in your go-to store, take a picture of the label or write the name down for future reference.

  • Bread – this is an example of the ingredients from a clean bread: Sprouted Organic Whole Wheat Berries, Filtered Water, Organic Wheat Gluten, Organic Oat Fiber, Organic Dates, Organic Raisins, Yeast, Organic Cultured Wheat Flour, Organic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Organic Barley Malt, Organic Sunflower Oil.
    This one is also all organic, which is a big bonus.
  • Crackers and chips – try and find plain nacho chips or other plain snacks, preferably organic. Their ingredients list should look something like this: Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Sunflower and/or Canola), Salt.
  • Steel-cut oats or plain rolled oats
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Canned food – these are processed by definition and should be kept to a minimum (I will confess to buying chopped tomatoes, for their sheer time-saving benefits). Also, make sure that they are BPA-free and don’t contain any added sugar and additives. After opening, they need to be decanted in a suitable container for storage.
  • Ketchup and other sauces. Clean versions are exceedingly hard to find, and I tend to just make my own.
  • Flours. Although processed items, you will need them for your clean baking. Aim for wholewheat flour, brown rice flour, or grain-free flours like almond flour or coconut flour. Gluten-free flours, however, are usually made with highly refined flours and are therefore not that clean.

That’s still a long clean eating food list…

If you were worried about not having anything left to eat when embarking on a clean diet, this should ease your mind a bit.

And to make your life even easier, I’ve created a nifty Clean Eating Grocery List, free for you to download!

To get it, simply fill in the form below and access your printable Clean Food Shopping list in PDF format.

In the meantime, feel free to add in the comments below which clean foodstuffs are essentials in your pantry and your fridge, and where you actually shop for them!

If you’re unsure about how to identify those clean foodstuffs in the supermarket, this post on clean shopping will send you in the right direction.

Or share more tips in the Comments below with your fellow clean eaters (sharing is caring)…

And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more Clean Eating Hacks!

Clean eating dinner ideas

For most households, dinner is the time when everybody stops running around and slows down. It’s expected to be a safe and satisfying moment, for the stomach as well as the soul. The last thing we want is kids complaining they don’t like vegetables. Or adults moaning that the food is not rich enough. Or the family cook exhausted from having slaved over hot stove all evening.

So I’ve come up with some easy-peasy clean eating dinner ideas to satisfy everybody’s taste buds and give the cook a breather. Eating clean just means eating whole food, with the least amount of processing. So let’s keep it whole, with the least amount of processing in the kitchen too.

How to prepare a clean dinner at home

Make it family-friendly

Family cooking togetherFirst of all, don’t reinvent the wheel. Take stock of your family’s favorites. Stick with what you usually eat and just tweak it to make it cleaner. Fancy recipes and new flavors can wait. If your children (or your other half) don’t entertain vegetables, don’t start loading their plates with the green stuff.

Most kids don’t like green vegetables, especially the leafy ones, but will tolerate sweeter ones, like carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Or “funky” ones, like peas, cherry tomatoes, or vegetables cut in chips, sticks or spaghetti. Roll with it. Pick their favorite (or least disliked) ones, and cook them.

Roasted vegetables are always a hit at home. Our current chill-beater is sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions cut into chunks. Sprinkled with Italian herbs and baked for around 1 hour with a little olive oil. And if you want a super easy meal, cover this with lamb chops, chicken pieces (preferably with the skin on, to avoid drying) or a piece of beef to roast. If preferring fish, you’ll need to add it 30 minutes in, so it doesn’t dry out too much.

If the texture is an issue, try mash or soups. My mum used to make funky mashes of various colors:

  • yellow (potatoes with a hint of mustard),
  • orange (carrots and nutmeg),
  • green (broccoli and cheese)
  • and even pink (cauliflower with tomato and paprika).

It’s a bit more processing, but still better than turning every dinner into a fight.

Easy-to-prepare works best

Salads are always easy, and they don’t have to be just “rabbit food” (my husband’s term). You can sneak in some raw food (perfect clean food, no processing involved, full nutrients guaranteed). Then load them up with more wholesome garnish. Some examples:

Full salad with potatoesStart with a starchy base: potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains. Then add on:

  • You can add spring greens, hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise for a classic potato salad.
  • Tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tomato slices, pepper strips and olives for a French-style salad.
  • Or even cooked chicken breast, carrots, petit pois, gherkins, and mayonnaise for a Russian twist.
  • I recently found a Portuguese recipe involving roasted sweet potatoes and onions. Loaded, still warm, onto a plate of baby spinach, peppers, fresh cheese, and almonds, drizzled with orange juice. It is delish.
  • Quinoa tabbouleh (with tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, and olive oil) is the ‘in’ thing for a hearty vegetarian salad. Just add chicken for meat eaters.

OK, enough with the salads (did I tell you I love salads?). If you need a warm cooked meal, pick a whole grain starch or a tuber, a source of protein and some vegetables to suit the family. Cook it all together or separately, but prefer products that are quick to prepare and to cook. If you need ideas or recipes, look out for Paleo or primal recipes out there, and add some whole grains.

When shopping for vegetables, whole grains, and protein, try and choose, by and far, the ones that need the least amount of preparation. If buying food that will take a little while to prepare, make sure that this is part of your weekend menu.

How to eat out, but still eat clean

You know, deep down, that preparing your food from scratch is the best way to know what you put inside your body. But there will be days where it will just feel like too much. Or nights where the fridge is looking too bare to bear. Or other celebratory nights. It’s fine, it’s part of life.

So here are a few pointers to eat as clean as possible when out and about or to pick the cleanest takeaway.

In restaurants

Grilled salmon in a plateFocus on food that will be as unprocessed as can be. Forgo breaded or fried chicken, but opt for roast chicken or chicken breast. Fish fingers are out, but grilled (not fried) or steamed fish is in. A burger might not be on the cards, but a steak is.

Ask for vegetables instead of the usual starchy side. Even better, ask for a salad, so you know exactly what’s on your plate.

Most puddings will be loaded with sugar and refined starches. If you do have the willpower to resist the rest of the dessert menu, check it out. Aim for sorbets, smoothies (no added ice cream and sauces) or other fruit-based option. And if there’s nothing of the sort on that menu and you absolutely need something sweet to round up the meal, go for a cappuccino or flavored coffee.

Takeaways and other fast food

This is where it gets tricky, as most takeaways are full of refined, highly processed starch, fat, and sugar. In all cases, swap your fries for a salad on the side. Then, aim for real food, the one that looks as close to its natural state as possible. Let’s go through a few popular choices:

Burgers

Look out for lettuce-wrapped options, like the one offered by In-N-Out. If no such option is available, have your burger without the bun. And check that the patties are 100% beef. Skip the bacon and the creamy sauce too.

Pizzas

Healthy pizzaThis is a tough one as the base *is* made of refined wheat flour. Look out for Paleo options, which will use flaxseed and other lesser-processed ingredients. Otherwise, opt for the thinnest base possible, for a bit of damage limitation.

The toppings should be as unprocessed as possible. Meat pieces, rather than salami or bacon, loads of fresh vegetables and as little cheese and sauce as possible.

Mexican

Again, the wraps, burritos, and fajitas will be highly processed, although the rest of the ingredients might not be. Beans, meat and fresh vegetables are all good to go. Forget about anything fried and/or crunchy and opt for a soft tortilla instead. And don’t go near any dip that isn’t salsa.

Chicken

Anything fried, crumbed or otherwise reformed is off limits. But there might be a roast chicken or whole chicken pieces on the menu, so look out for those, with a salad on the side.

Sandwiches

At the deli, start by choosing whole grain slices of bread. Then select food as unrefined as possible: salad vegetables, of course, chicken or beef slices, eggs, and other natural-looking ingredients. Avoid cold meat, which is loaded with added salt and preservatives, and stay away from creamy sauces, preferring olive oil and vinegar.

Entertaining with clean food

Between kiddies’ parties and friends get-togethers, it might be hard to stay away from convenience food when you have to cater for a larger crowd with probably not-so-healthy expectations. Although this might not be an evening thing, it still involves pleasing the crowds and can be a challenge. My personal strategy is to divide to conquer. I split the whole meal into several manageable and clean dishes.

Starting with… salads and raw vegetable finger food

Make-your-own-salad, easy and fun

Whether these end up as my starters, on the party buffet table, or as a make-your-own side salad option, they’re here. Think cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber or baby marrows in sticks, baby corns, mange-tout, pepper strips, and even grapes and apple slices.

Team them with yummy clean dips, either home-made or shop-bought (if available). If chips *have* to be somewhere in the picture, aim for plain corn or potato chips.

Or go for a large Cobb salad in the middle of the table. Go easy on the bacon, though, and prefer clean jerky.

For kids parties, I usually offer one hearty, filling option, in case the critters haven’t been fed before coming to my house. I make one large batch of grain-free savory muffins or mini-quiches. Or enroll my kids in making mini- kebabs with cheese/pickled onions/tomato/chicken/grapes/etc.

All-in-one dish…

For more grown-up or sit-down parties, one single dish with your vegetables and your protein is a good option. It can be prepared a couple of hours ahead of time and doesn’t need any further work. Depending on the number of guests (or your oven size), the starch component of your meal might have to be cooked and served separately.

Paella dishSome ideas:

  • a pot roast (in a crock or in the oven),
  • chili con carne,
  • jambalaya (with brown rice),
  • or even lasagna, replacing the pasta with strips of zucchini.
… or separates?

If you feel ready for a little bit more preparation (or, like me, you are limited by the size of your oven), you can separate your protein, vegetables, and starches. This takes usually a little longer, but it gives your guests more flexibility. They can then happily skip the vegetables without being rude, for example. Or avoid the meat or fish if they’re vegetarian.

It also gives you more leeway, as you can create a whole meal based on what you have at hand, instead of following a set recipe. To create some sense of unity, use similar flavors and spices. For example,

  • lemon chicken in the oven,
  • served with steamed veggies with a drizzle of olive oil and Italian herbs,
  • and brown rice cooked with chopped tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf on the side.

Clean puddings to round it all up

I’m not much of a baker but over the years, I have gathered a few clean recipes that are easy to make, involve simple ingredients. Oh, and are always a big hit (meaning: I don’t have to find new recipes all the time). Such as coconut brownies, Portuguese almond cake or Italian orange cake. Or the old favorite, chocolate mousse.

Fruits saladsBut I’ve also found that after a rich meal, sometimes the simplest and the most welcome dessert is a colorful fruit salad, drenched in fresh juice.

And you? What’s your favorite clean dinner? Please give us your family’s go-to healthy meals in the Comments below.

Check out my clean breakfast, lunch and snacks recipes for more ideas. And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for the widest choice of Clean Eating recipes!

Clean eating dinner ideas
Clean eating dinner ideas

Blender vs Juicer – The best way to get your juice in

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According to recent data from 2017 published by the CDC, over 90% of American adults do not eat enough vegetables, while 87% don’t eat enough fruits. Fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies are a great way to quickly and easily add whole fresh goodness to our bodies. They should definitely be part of your new clean eating diet.

But here comes the dilemma: which one is best: clean juices or creamy smoothies? Blender vs juicer? To help you choose which equipment would suit you and your family best, we’ve compared blender vs juicer and highlighted the pros and cons for each.

Difference between blenders and juicers

Basically, a juicer will separate the fibers, while the blender keeps everything.

The preparation is the same, although some vegetables and fruits lend themselves more to one type of juice than the other. But in both cases, you have to wash your produce and chop it into smaller pieces that will fit nicely into your equipment. Preferably right at the last minute, to preserve the freshness.

The benefits of juicing
Fresh fruit juices
  • You’ll end up with just the water, flavor and nutrients. Without the fibers, and provided you have your juice on an empty stomach, those will be quickly absorbed for a quick health fix.
    You can pack more fruits and vegetables in your glass. So if you just need to cram your 5-a-day quickly, this is an easy option. I find I can more easily “hide” some vegetables in my kids’ juices than in a smoothie.
  • As fibers accelerate gastrointestinal transit, too much of it can cause diarrhea. Which means your body won’t have the time to absorb your precious nutrients. By removing the fibers, the vitamins and minerals stand a chance to be fully absorbed.
    For that reason, I, for one, would not be able to have my basic juice recipe in one sitting if I was blending the ingredients. I would have to spread my intake of raw food over the course of the day.
  • You don’t have to peel every fruit and vegetable you put in, as it will break the cells and extract the nutrients for you. Great for making the most of the vitamins and minerals contained in your fresh produce and saving time in prepping.
  • You can basically juice any hard fruit or vegetable, even leafy ones. Cheaper blenders might battle to give you a smooth texture with hard vegetables or leafy ones.
The benefits of blending
  • Rich berry smoothie
    Fibers play a positive role in your digestive system. By feeding the good bacteria in your gut and keeping you full longer (soluble fibers). And by bulking up, flushing toxins and keeping you regular (insoluble fibers).
  • Even though too many fibers can accelerate your transit, the right amount of it will slow it just enough to ensure the nutrients are absorbed. It helps in particular with the absorption of minerals, like calcium.
  • They have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.
    You end up with less wasted products at the end, as most of your fruits and vegetables are being used.
  • They keep you full, so if you combine fruits and vegetables with some healthy source of protein or fat, you can turn your juice or smoothie into a full meal.
  • They are easier to clean than juicers, which will require you to dismantle and rinse various parts every time. With blenders, you usually only need to rinse the jug.
  • They take less space. Juicers tend to be bulkier and will take more space on your countertop.
    They are cheaper. You can find some affordable juicers, but a good reliable juicer will set you back $100. Whereas a decent blender costs half that price.

Which juicer to choose?

There are a lot of juicers out there, with prices ranging from $35 to $800. Why such a big difference? While all juicers remove the bulk of the pulp, some do a better job at it than others, meaning that you’ll get more juice for your produce.

Some juicers also do a better job of preserving the nutrients than others. The centrifugal ones will heat the produce up slightly as it works, destroying a fair amount of nutrients in the process, for example.
The higher end juicers are more quiet, more powerful, last longer and are more versatile. You can, for example, use them to make nut milk or nut butter.

Centrifugal Juicers
Centrifugal juicer, the level-entry contestant for juicing
Ideal if you’re just starting with juicing or have a limited budget.

The juice is extracted through centrifugal force. These are among the cheapest on the market, but as the internal blade spins to separate the juice from the fibers, it destroys some of the nutrients.

They’re good level-entry juicers but might not be ideal if you’re aiming at juicing for optimum health benefits.

Masticating Juicers
Slow juicer to make your clean, nutrient-loaded juices
This is my current type of juicer. Compact, powerful and easy to clean.

Also called slow juicers or cold press juicers. The fruit or vegetable is slowly squeezed to release the juice and separate the pulp, so there’s less loss of nutrients. You end up with almost pure juice, and each glass is guaranteed to be loaded with whatever vitamins and minerals.

They’re the ones to aim for if you need to juice for maximum health benefits. This is the one I have. I bought an Hurom HE series a few years back and have never had any issues with it. It’s a bit of an investment, but I wouldn’t (nor would my kids) be able to stomach the same amount of raw fibers in one go. You can read my review here.

You can also find twin-gear juicers, which are the Rolls Royce of the family. They extract far more produce and release more nutrients that the single gear version.

At the other end of the scale, you have hand crank juicers. They are like a bike. They’re cheap, and they will only take you so far: they’re usually specialized in one type of fruit, like citrus, or vegetable, like wheatgrass. But they can have their place in your kitchen. If you only want to juice that specific fresh produce, or if you need something portable and energy-saving.

Which blender to choose?

The blender’s job is basically to liquidize everything you put in the bowl. If you don’t want to taste some of the peels, like peaches or carrots, you might want to peel them off first.

The price tag for blenders is not as high as for juicers. The most expensive ones will give you a much smoother consistency, last longer, tackle most food and have some nifty features.

Jug Blenders
Jug blender to make quick and easy smoothies
Whether it be for smoothies, soups, or purees, every kitchen needs a blender.

These are your standard blenders. They’re affordable and a bit of a must in most families, for blending soups and pureeing. An entry model might not be able to tackle harder fruits and vegetables, like carrots, dried fruits or even nuts. They will accommodate soft fruits, yogurt, nut butter without issues.

A sturdier model will allow you to blend virtually anything, including seeds and nuts. The larger jug makes it the perfect blender for a family or blending in larger quantities at a time.

Single-serving Blenders
Nutribullet blender for portable smoothies
The NutriBullet, aka the Superfood Nutrients Extractor

These have appeared in recent years and offer a quick and portable solution.  The Nutribullet is the market leader. The bowl is smaller and will usually only blend one serving at a time. A nifty system of tight lids means you can just blend, add the lids and go. Perfect for a takeaway smoothie.

These are great to turn your smoothies into a whole meal, adding proteins or fats to make them more filling. Some are even battery-operated, so you can blend your smoothie at the last minute at work.

So…?

Which one would win this contest in your house: blender vs juicer? Which contains the most nutrients, a cold-pressed juice or a smoothie? Which option is best, with the fibers, or without? This could go on forever but is not particularly useful.

Forget the debates about blender vs juicer, just load up on juices and smoothies

It is far more useful to remember this:

  • If drinking juices or smoothies allow you to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, in their raw state, just do it. We don’t consume enough of the stuff anyway, and when we do, it’s mostly in processed form, at least for most vegetables. Get some great vegetable juice recipes here.
  • If you do mind creating more waste, and your digestive system can stomach it, blend it. We have to go for juicing and find clever ways to use the leftover pulp. I make mini-quiches with it when juicing vegetables, and the fruit pulp goes straight to our worm farm.
  • If the price is an issue, go for a blender, as expensive as you can afford. They are a useful tool in the kitchen for a variety of other dishes, so you won’t feel like it’s wasted money if you don’t do smoothies for a while.
  • Fruits and vegetables are the only foodstuffs that can be consumed with no or minimal processing. They’re the perfect clean food and allow you to save energy along the way. They also have the lowest water footprint, so any way to increase your intake is good.

Almost forgot, my easy peasy juice recipe is super easy and takes care of most of my 5-a-day of raw fruits and vegetables.

I don’t need to peel anything, just to wash them and chop them to fit. To get this awesome, super simple but super tasty recipe, just sign up below to access my Resource Library.

I even added the nutritional table for the juice, so you’ll know exactly how much goodness you’re getting in, isn’t that nifty?

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If this recipe doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, feel free to check my other vegetable juice recipes.

What’s your favorite juice/smoothie recipe? Please share in the comments below!

And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more delicious juice and smoothie recipes, selected just for you.

Clean Eating Lunch Ideas at work, school & home

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Eating clean on the go can be tricky at the beginning. Especially for lunch, which is an important meal of the day and needs to be filling enough to carry you until the evening. For most of us, lunching doesn’t happen at home, so your meal needs to be portable, easy to prepare and easy to eat. A tall order? Not so much with those few clean eating lunch ideas.

Eating clean at work

Salads

Healthy quinoa salad as clean eating lunch ideasLet’s start with this, as it’s easy to pack, doesn’t need reheating, full of nutrients and easy to prepare. I used to cook a bowl of brown rice, millet or buckwheat at the beginning of the week, and just add leftovers and raw salad veggies on the day. With a little mayonnaise or salad dressing in a small container, bob’s your uncle, lunch is served.

The beauty of them is that you can add really what you want. Back then I was using whole grains as my base, but these days I’m loading them with proteins and healthy fats. Are you a sweet tooth? Add some grapes, apples or any seasonal fruit for a sweet and sour taste.

Salads in a jar

Salads in jars as clean eating lunch ideasYou can even prepare them ahead in canning jars for the whole week. There’s a knack to it to make sure the leaves don’t get soggy, so make sure you layer your ingredients up in the right order:

  • Always start with the dressing at the bottom.
  • Then add your less absorbent ingredients, like onions, carrots, peppers, sweetcorn.
  • In goes the more absorbent stuff, like whole grains and proteins, in layers.
  • And finish with your leafy greens.

When it’s time to eat, empty the jar in a bowl, and toss. Ta-da! I also find them particularly appetizing in the jar, especially if you’re going for a good mix of colors in your vegetables.

Another bonus is that the most perishable vegetables will happily keep a few days longer when stored like this in your fridge. No more brown, soggy lettuce!

There are plenty of awesome suggestions out there, in particular on Pinterest, so get some canning jars and start layering.

Left-overs

Meatball with saladMy old favorite. I always try to over-cater the night before, so I don’t have to worry about lunch the next day. It’s all cooked and ready to go. I try to stay away from having to warm my lunches, so I’ll quite happily turn my leftovers into a wholesome salad. I simply add a few leaves of lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar of choice.

If you prefer warm food, just make sure you pack your leftovers in a microwaveable container. Saves you having to transfer it to a glass or ceramic bowl at work.

Takeaways

Convenience food manufacturers have long sussed out that there was a massive market out there at lunch. Luckily, some of them now start to cater for the healthiest folks as well. So it’s possible to find clean sandwiches and wraps. Mind though, not everything labeled “healthy” is clean.

Aim for brown, whole wheat, rye bread or similar. Check the filling and go for a minimal list of recognizable ingredients. These should be perishable foodstuff, so if not kept in the fridge section and to be eaten within 24 hours, it is sure to be loaded with additives.

Sushi is another fairly clean option. It contains a limited list of ingredients, all identifiable, and it’s fresh. Most of the additives will be in the soy sauce though. It’s probably not the best clean food out there (unless you make it yourself, of course), but once in a while, I personally think it’s OK.

Home-made sandwiches…

Home-made sandwich as clean eating lunch ideas…are fine of course, and let you be in control of what you put between your slices of bread or in your wrap or pita bread. Start with the whole grain variety for you “outer”, and enjoy whatever clean filler you fancy.

Home-made sushi and other summer rolls are also a good option. Although they take a bit longer to prepare, they can be a welcome change from your traditional sandwich. And are still portable and easy finger-food.

What to put in a clean eating lunch box?

Kids need to eat enough at lunch to keep them sharp all afternoon. Regardless of how healthy and clean that lunch box looked when you prepared it, if it doesn’t get eaten, it’s no good. Here are a few clean eating lunch ideas to get your kids to have a clean lunch box *and* actually eat it.

Involve them

Lunchbox filled with clean healthy food as clean eating lunch ideasI can’t say it enough. If they’ve chosen their food and prepared their lunch pack, they’re far more likely to eat it. My girls prepare their lunch boxes the night before, with my help. Looks like something like this most days.

I found that a good variety of bite-size food works best for my primary-school kids. And investing in decent, leak-proof and fun Bento boxes was a must. I use silicone cupcake molds too keep the food separate and add a bit of fun.

Go along with their tastes.

Colorful tomatoes in a trayIf the only fresh vegetable your child will eat is cherry tomatoes, stick with it. Change the varieties, you can get yellow, green or even purple ones these days. Vary the dressing, give them humus, cocktail sauce, garlic mayonnaise etc. (all home-made or carefully selected, of course).

Make sure to add one source of protein, this will keep them going for longer. Whether it’s loose in the box (a matchbox piece of cheese, a hard-boiled egg or a few pieces of jerky), or layered in their sandwich (brown bread or best-of-both, if possible).

Made-ahead options

Crust-less quichesI like to prepare batches of savory muffins or crust-less quiches during the weekend and pop one of those in my kids’ lunchboxes. That’s their “main course”. And it saves times compared to preparing fresh sandwiches every day.

Tickle their taste buds

Most children like a bit of crunchiness, so let them have a little crunchy something. Popcorn is a safe option, easily made at home with a little salt or sugar/cinnamon. I sometimes find very plain and basic corn chips, tortilla-style, and this also works for us. You can make your own chips, but I’ll admit I don’t quite have enough hours in the day to make fresh ones during the week.

However, I do make sure there is a little healthy “treat”. It can be cocoa-coated hazelnuts, salted almonds, roasted corn kernels or a home-made cookie. Just something a little bit more indulgent and “snack-like”. (Notice how all of them can be made in batches ahead of time)

How to master clean eating family meals?

Not all lunches are on the go, and you might find yourself having to entertain friends or family at the weekend. While still wanting to stick to your clean eating food. And while not necessarily wanting to sound like a complete health-freak either. Sounds familiar? I think we’ve all been there. But from experience, as daunting as it may sound, it’s actually not that hard. Here are some clean eating lunch ideas that you can adapt to the whole family, the season of the year or the occasion.

Appetizers

Tomatoes and dipsThink crudités and dips, maybe with a small bowl of plain tortilla chips for the ones needing some crunch. For the veggies, baby zucchini, carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, mange-tout, and baby corn are my go-to snacks and look great together. For the dips, try a garlic mayonnaise, hummus or a yogurt-based dip like tzatziki.

Starters

Mixed salad with cheese as a clean eating lunch ideasGo for a lovely, colorful, hearty salad. The kind of salad with lovely greens at the bottom. Topped up with various chopped veggies like beetroot, sweetcorn, peppers or any other. Covered with some more “meaty” ingredients, whether it be cheese, chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, or avocados.

Feel free to add some seasonal fruits for a zing. I like grapes and apples, for their sweetness and their crunchiness, respectively. But when I get the chance, mangoes and papayas also find their way in. Or pomegranate, for the color.

Main course

Roast meat with vegetablesKeep it simple. Forget about pastries and fancy fare. A piece of meat, fish or another source of protein, some vegetables, and a starch. Can be all cooked together if your oven is big enough: think cottage or shepherd’s pie, sheet pan, stuffed eggplants, chili con carne etc.

Or cooked separately. A roast is a good option as the side dishes are versatile and let you be as clean as you want. For the starch, forgo bread and offer roast potatoes, rice or any other whole grain. I tend to roast sweet potatoes with onions, quartered, and carrots. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. It hits the spot with the kids, who like the sweetness of it, and with the grown-ups, who like the traditional feel of roasted vegetables.

Desserts

Clean eating doesn’t mean ditching all the sweet treats. It does mean making sure that only healthy, clean ingredients find their way into your dessert plate. There are loads of lovely clean recipes out there. Cakes are an option, but once the heavily-refined cake flour is out, they tend to use less processed flours like almond or coconut. These lend themselves to more dense and moist cakes. Think brownies rather than sponge cake.

Fruit saladYou’ll find more choice in terms of puddings. A lot of them, like chocolate mousse, only need to be refrigerated and can be prepared ahead of time.

Otherwise, make a large, colorful fresh fruit salad, and add a little bit of orange juice. Or bake some cored apples with cinnamon and raisins for a winter warmer.

 

What are your go-to clean eating lunch ideas?

The above might have given you pointers as to what to have for lunch, but feel free to share your own menus with us, please! Let’s make sure that lack of inspiration is *not* an excuse for having some industrial additive-laden food at lunch.

If you’re feeling stuck for breakfast ideas, check my post here. And if at snack time, you feel most inclined to buy processed food, get some ideas here. Need inspiration for clean eating dinners? I’ve got you covered!

12 Clean Eating Breakfast Ideas on the go

Breakfast is by definition the first meal of the day. A healthy and sustaining breakfast is essential to a good start of the day and comfortable morning. Yet, somehow, this is the meal that we spend the least time thinking about or preparing. So I’ve rounded up 12 clean eating breakfast ideas to make sure you can still run out the door while giving your body the goodness it deserves.

I used to hoover up sugary cereals or jam on toasts in lieu of breakfast. For years, I had to put up with the 10am-slump, where nothing but more food would get my foggy brain back into gear. Entered clean real food and a better understanding of the expression “You are what you eat”, and my breakfast will now happily fill me up until 12. And the first sign that my body needs to refuel is a natural hunger pang in the stomach.

A clean breakfast can be anything really, sweet or savory, liquid or solid, and as substantial as you need or want it to be. Be creative. Work with your taste buds. But as the majority of us have busy lifestyles, I’ve aimed at 12 suggestions that you can whip up in 5 minutes or less.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

Grab-and-go clean eating breakfast ideas

No-frills, no-prep breakfasts can still just do the job. For the workaholics or the supermoms out there. Or for “those” mornings.

1. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits

Dried fruit mixNuts and seeds are always great clean food to fall back on. They contain vitamins and minerals, fibers and enough good fat to keep you going all morning. To enjoy plain, roasted (with only a hint of salt added), creamed (if shop-bought, make sure nothing was added).

Dried fruits are also a good option, but team them up with yogurt, nuts or seeds. Why? Simply because they contain a lot of sugar and will be quickly converted into glucose and absorbed by your body. To avoid the mid-morning slump, slow the glucose conversion down with healthy fat and/or proteins. Think of yogurt sprinkled with them, a trail mix or a snack bar (preferably home-made, so you know exactly what is inside).

2. Shop-bought clean breakfasts

The food industry is slowly but surely starting to cater for people that need clean, healthy convenience food. It is not impossible to find those options in the shops these days. Be very vigilant with any added ingredients, especially sugar and preservatives:Granola cup to take-away

  • Plain yogurt with healthy muesli or granola
  • Clean cereal bars
  • Clean shakes
  • Clean smoothies (to team up with nuts or seeds)

 

Not a fan of eating much first thing in the morning? Check out some Clean Eating Snacks ideas to curb those mid-morning pangs without reaching for the biscuits or the chips!

Made-before-the-time options

Another option for a grab-and-go clean breakfast is to prepare it ahead of time.

3. Energy bars

Muesli energy bars… and other energy balls are all the rage and are dead easy to make. They contain few ingredients, using either the fat content of nuts or a “sticky” seed like flax or chia to bind it all together. Some require a little bit of baking, some none. There are so many recipes out there, it’s just a case of taking your pick.

They’re filling, highly portable and will keep well. So, it’s worth preparing a batch once a week to have them at hand, for an on-the-go breakfast, a snack or a lunchbox filler.

4. Muffins

Home-made pumpkin muffinsI’m not talking about industrial, sticky-sweet blueberry muffins here. But the lovely home-made ones which you can fill with healthy, real ingredients. Here again, there are lots of recipes out there. Just make sure they use whole grain flours, or almond flour, or something like sweet potatoes as the main ingredient. And are sweetened with honey or fruits, rather than sugar.

We’re a bit restricted in what I can bake at home, for health reasons, so I use a basic mix like this. I’m no baker, but I can still whip up a batch of savory or cinnamon muffins in no time and with minimal effort. And the kids can pack those in their lunchboxes. Lunch sorted.

5. Paleo muffins

Also known as egg muffins, or crust-less quiches in my book. But whatever they’re called, they tick all the boxes of clean food. And they’re versatile and easy to make:

  1. Paleo muffins with cheese and tomatoGrease a muffin tray,
  2. Add some ingredients of your choice (we like chopped peppers and onions, with paprika and a bit of cheese on top),
  3. Whisk some eggs with a bit of milk and pour the mixture into your muffin tray,
  4. Cook in the oven until the egg is set.

Voilà!

They’re great for using leftovers too and will keep a few days in the fridge. I’ve frozen batches before without hassles. You’ll find loads of ideas on the web for different fillings. Just make sure to avoid processed meat and other industrial food though.

Clean breakfasts ready in 5 minutes

These are for when you have a bit more time in the morning, but not that much time either. Or if you want something fresh. Or warm.

6. Eggs

They’re my go-to breakfast these days, I must admit. Usually fried in coconut oil with some tomatoes on the side. The kids like theirs scrambled or into an “egg pancake”. [2 eggs, beaten with a dash of milk and cooked in a pan, then used as a base for any filling they want, and rolled up like a pancake].

Frittatas or omelets are also a good idea. You can use your leftovers or fresh vegetables to add different flavors.

7. Smoothies

Creamy breakfast smoothieWith endless recipes on the net, and the possibility to add just whatever you want, smoothies are quick to make, versatile, and highly portable. You can make them as rich and filling or light as your appetite dictates first thing in the morning. The only thing you need is a blender of sorts.

What takes the longest, at least for me, is to pick the recipe!

8. Fresh juice

Fresh fruit juicesI’m referring to the ones made using a slow juicer, also called masticating juicer (this is the one I use at home). They retain all the vitamins and enzymes but remove the fibers. Although not as filling as smoothies, those juices are full of goodness. They can just hit the spot when you’re not feeling up for anything more substantial.

They need to be drunk quickly to make the most of the enzymes and the vitamins, so portability is limited. But as they only take a few seconds to drink, that isn’t really an issue.

9. Porridge and oatmeal

Muesli porridge with fruitsThis is an old favorite, for reason. Admittedly, it uses grains, which can be heavily refined. Stick with whole grain to enjoy all the goodness of a cereal that won’t have been heavily processed, complete with fibers, proteins, vitamins and all.

Don’t limit yourself to oats, try a few other grains if you feel like it. Millet and quinoa come unprocessed and are a good source of protein, for example.

Their only downside: the cooking time. The “instant” varieties are chopped or ground, refined and pre-cooked, usually with added sugar and flavorings. Stay clear of those.

Most whole grains can be cooked the night before and quickly warmed up in the morning though. Before being diagnosed with gluten intolerance, we used to have rolled oats most mornings, prepared the night before. I would just warm them up in the morning, and add whatever flavors we fancied (salt, black pepper, and cheese for me, please!).

10. Grain-free porridges

Another healthy option, brought into the limelight by the gluten-free-paleo-primal trend out there. Although still confidential in the shops, they are easy to whip up at home.

My favorite is ground flaxseed, shredded coconut, and almond butter, with a lot of cinnamon. I just add warm water or milk and mix well. Delicious.

But there are loads of other recipes using almond flour, for example, for a rich and creamy porridge. Use flax and chia seeds as binding agents. Then add pretty much whatever you fancy and end up with a thick delicious porridge.

11. Yogurt with toppings

Muesli with yogurt on-the-goOr any other plain dairy product, like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Just make sure it’s plain. And full fat (meaning “unprocessed”). If this is scaring you, let’s put this in perspective:

  • A fat-free 225g yogurt will save you less than 8g of fat from the cream.
  • The low-fat version will sit somewhere around 4g of fat removed (that’s less than a teaspoon…).

Unfortunately, the cream is what makes the yogurt, well, creamy and moreish. Thus, the likelihood of starches and sugar being added to low-fat or fat-free yogurt is very high.

To turn your dairy product of choice into a breakfast, add fruits – fresh, dried, or cooked – nuts and seeds, and whatever other flavors you fancy. Pour into a container to take-away. I have a thing for Greek yogurt with fresh mango, pistachio nuts, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cardamom…

12. Quick pancakes

Home-made pancakes topped up with fruitsThere are oodles of quick and healthy pancake recipes out there. Using 2 or 3 ingredients, simply mixed and cooked in a pan, usually for less than 10 minutes. OK, this is a bit more than the 5 minutes I was aiming for initially, but it’s still feasible, even on a rushed morning.

Admittedly too, these are not super portable. They might be better suited for the weekend or a brunch. But I still feel they deserved to make an appearance here, if anything because they are easy to make and can accommodate all diet restrictions. Maybe also because they feel that little bit more decadent than the other breakfasts suggested.

What is your clean breakfast of choice?

I didn’t give full recipes here, as there are simply thousands of them out there. But feel free to share your favorites in the comments or suggest other clean eating breakfast ideas I have missed.

The point is, even pushed for time, there’s no excuse not to have a healthy, clean breakfast.

And if you’re running out of ideas for clean eats to go through your day, read on:

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for a whole lot of selected Clean Eating Breakfast recipes!

 
 
Clean eating dinner breakfast