Why did I start clean eating? Over the years I’ve watched people close to me, as my grandma like to put it, begin digging their graves with a spoon. I’ve watched close friends and family members battle obesity and the mental health issues that come along with it. It is scary and deeply upsetting. I love these people very much. I believe that most of us try to find joy in worldly outlets that can never truly satisfy. We won’t find happiness in things like food, body image, work, etc. because they were not designed by our Creator to become areas of ultimate satisfaction and purpose . I don’t find my life’s meaning through healthy eating and exercise, but it didn’t take long for me to make it a priority in my life. My body is God’s temple and I decided early on that I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle full of exercise and smart, nutritious choices. Easier said than done!
My passion for sports and exercise started from a very young age and has development into a love of running, weightlifting, circuit training, kickboxing, etc. I began making healthier food choices in high school/early college but was under the false impression that “low fat” and “sugar free” was the way to go. I was still buying many processed foods and frozen meals because they had words like “healthy” or “all natural” on the label. It wasn’t until later in college that I realized I needed to make more changes. My daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich (as delicious as it was) was just not cutting it. It was during my first year of teaching that I read the book, Body Confidence by Mark MacDonald. I learned the importance of balancing protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. I also learned the benefits of eating 5 small meals a day and how it can improve metabolism and stabilize blood sugar levels. I started incorporating these ideas into my diet the best I could while trying to balance getting my Master’s degree and my first year of marriage. I started trying new recipes, incorporating more whole foods, and expanding my horizons to foods I had not given a fair chance. Over the last few years, I have done a lot of research on healthy eating habits and clean eating. I watched various documentaries and did more reading. Why? I found it so interesting and fun! The last year and half has brought about the biggest amount of change. I have really focused on making my diet more plant based. The research on the plant based diet is so moving and motivating. I have focused on healthy carbs like sprouted grains, quinoa, and brown rice. I have tried tons on new recipes thanks to Pinterest and my favorite Clean Eating blog, The Gracious Pantry. I have also never felt better in my life. I am happy about my energy level and the way my body looks and feels. However, I am far from perfect. I still struggle with eating out of boredom or because it “sounds good”. I still find eating comforting when I am stressed or tired. I still struggle with body image issues and find myself comparing myself with other women. It is something I am praying about and will probably always struggle with at some level. However, through it all, it is incredibly rewarding to watch friends and family take a bite of a healthy recipe and truly love it. Clean eating does not have to taste like cardboard. I believe I can show those around me that healthy food can not only be good for you, but be easy to make and delicious.
A Few Clean Eating Tips!
- Start small! Clean eating is a lifestyle change that progresses with time. Try swapping out a couple items a week for healthier options! For example, instead of packing crackers for lunch, try some some raw veggies with hummus! Instead of using white rice for dinner, try brown rice! If you love a good burger, try checking out your local farmer’s market for local beef and then stop by a bakery’s stand and grab some whole wheat buns to go with it! Make your goal to try 2 new healthy recipes a week and then eat the leftovers for lunch!
- Aim for 5 small meals a day. This will keep your blood sugar up and provide a constant resource for energy. Aim for 250 calories a meal with at least 10 g of protein if not more! Eating smaller meals multiple times a day keeps you from overeating later! If you are going to eat a big meal, do it for breakfast!
- Emergency snacks: It always happens…3 pm rolls around and you are hungry for a snack. Be prepared!! If you are not prepared, you are likely to grab whatever is around to fill your stomach. More than likely this will be a bag of chips or a candy bar. Instead, pack 1/4 cup of almonds and a banana. Just make sure it is not over 250 calories and it has some protein and healthy fats! Balance is key!
- Sneak in the veggies! Try adding shredded carrots into your favorite salsa or spaghetti sauce. Add some spinach or green peppers to your scrambled eggs. Cut up a zucchini and some mushrooms and mix it into your meatloaf or burger meat! Adding cut up veggies into regular dishes will not only add nutrients but it will leave you feeling full and satisfied!
- Try a new plant based protein source instead of meat! Complete proteins can be found in foods other than meat! Try a brown rice and black bean stuffed pepper, quinoa vegetable salad, or even tofu on your pizza! Don’t knock it ’till you try it! There are a surprising amount of plant based proteins! I have newly discovered hemp seeds and love mixing these protein packed wonders into dips!
- See if there is a substitute! Instead of butter, try unsweetened applesauce or a mashed banana when baking. Instead of brown sugar, try coconut sugar or some maple syrup and honey. I love to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour. Instead of bread crumbs, try rolled oats! There are so many ways you can make your meals just that much healthier.
Other Healthy Living Tips!!
- You are probably thirsty! Find yourself snacking often? Trying packing a water bottle to fill up during the day. You think you are hungry but you might actually just be thirsty. I take my water bottle everywhere! Also, don’t drink away all your calories! Apple juice might be yummy but you are getting extra calories and sugar along with missing the fiber from eating the actual fruit!
- Download MyFitnessPal! The best way to know if you are balancing your meals well (getting the right amount of calories, protein, carbs, and fats) is to enter the food information into MyFitnessPal. It breaks everything down right there at your fingertips (for me it’s my iPhone). You can take it to work or out to eat and always know if you are on track for your food goals.
- Don’t eat standing up! If you are eating standing up you are likely not thinking about portion size. I am bad about this! I get home from work and crave some dried fruit and find myself standing at the pantry eating it right out of the bag. Moments later, I have eaten 2-3 servings and didn’t even think twice! Instead, figure out what you want, get the serving size amount, and go sit down at the table with the serving so you can put the package or container away and not eat more than you meant to!
- Find exercise you are passionate about! Find something you enjoy that will keep you coming back for more! Find a buddy that will keep you accountable. My husband started running to spend time with me and has grown to love it. I started tying more and more group fitness classes at the gym and found lots of great people, workouts, and fun!