Not that I know anything about such struggles (wink, wink). Knowing WHAT to eat isn’t terribly difficult. It’s the HOW-TO-ACTUALLY-DO-IT that typically stumps us and causes us to veer from the path of righteousness.
A couple posts ago, I shared some of my principles of clean eating that included being a label detective, eating whole foods and avoiding potentially harmful additives such as herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones, and antibiotics. Last week I shared the growing awareness that it’s totally possible to eat real and clean foods DURING endurance training.
That’s the WHAT. And this week is the HOW. Following are 9 tips for actually putting your clean eating knowledge into practice—in other words, putting it into your body! I’ll be straight with you. It’s NOT easy at first, and even after you get the hang of it, it’s easy to relapse into old patterns. You have to stay focused and set aside the time it takes. Eating “clean”, eating real, eating healthy—however you choose to think about it—hinges on being PROACTIVE about your eating instead of REACTIVE. It has to be important to you. I hear people (myself included) say “I know I SHOULD do this, or I SHOULD do that.” SHOULD is a dirty word! It only exists to refer to something that we are not yet doing…and to create a sense of guilt or bad judgment about ourselves for not doing it. Instead of saying “I SHOULD”, just wait until you are ready to say “I WANT”. Then you’ve already fought half the battle! Use the following 9 strategies to clean up and eat real!
Plan, plan, plan for the week ahead.
Failing to do this often leads to reactive eating and settling for less than our best. Plain and simple.
· Look at your appointments, commitments, workout schedule, etc. What days will require packing lunches and snacks? What evenings will you be eating at home? Make sure you have breakfast options covered. Write down what you will have for lunch and dinner each day of the week. Browse for one or two new, simple, healthy & quick recipes to try (They do exist—here’s a couldn’t-be-easier-or-yummier Slow-Cooker Chicken Curry and a tasty, simple Sauteed Chard with Garlic and Onions.)
· List all the ingredients you will need to have on-hand when you prepare your food. Designate the time that you will do your biggest food shopping and get as much as you can before the craziness of your week starts.
· Go food shopping. Get all of the seasonings and all of the foods that will keep in your pantry or for a good while in your fridge during your big shop. Some items may require a second, quick food shop—ie, you’re having fresh fish later in the week—that’s something you want to buy closer to cooking. When you have the tools at your fingertips, you are much more likely to cook at home than stop for questionable take-out or call-in for delivery. You are much more likely to be energized and able to control the quality of food that you feed yourself and other loved ones.
Cook once but eat two or three times!
So Sunday afternoon, I took out roughly 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs to defrost in the fridge. Monday morning, I used one pound to make Slow-Cooker Chicken Curry, and the other to make Baked Mustard Lime Chicken in the oven. That way, we can eat several meals this week that took me less than 30 minutes total to prepare! (Slow cookers ROCK by the way. Throw the stuff in, press a button, and walk away to get on with your day!) You can also do the same with quinoa—my favorite “pseudo-cereal”. (Did you know that quinoa [“keen-wah”] is technically not a grain but rather belongs to the same plant family as spinach, beets, and Swiss chard?). Make a big pot o’ quinoa in the rice cooker then serve as a side dish to your proteins and greens at dinner. You can use leftovers to make hot quinoa breakfast “cereal” topped with blueberries, a bit of coconut oil, a taste of raw honey, and a few raw cashew halves. You can throw leftover quinoa into your salad for a well-rounded lunch at work. The point is to think about how you can cook a food once but put different twists on it so you have several meals completed with minimal effort. Several meals that taste great, won’t bore you, and will sustain you with nutrients!
Stock your pantry
Stock it with go-to, long-lasting staples for food prep and cooking: oils (EVOO, coconut), dried herbs and spices (go crazy building your “armamentarium”! These last for a long time and add so much variety, interest, and health to what would otherwise be humdrum dishes), condiments (vinegars, etc. Stay away from most bottled salad dressings, ketchups, etc—they tend to be loaded with fake stuff and sugar), Celtic sea salt, ginger, garlic, onions, natural nut butters, seeds. You get the idea.
Keep emergency back-ups on hand.
Hey, even the best-prepped chef has a bad day or just doesn’t feel up to it every now and then. For example, always have some frozen veggies on hand (pre-mixed stir-fry veggies are great—make sure the only ingredients are the veggies—watch out for added sugar, salt, preservatives); canned black beans or chickpeas (FYI, Eden Organics brand lines their BPA-free cans to prevent metallic taste); organic chicken sausage; eggs. You can quickly use items such as these to create a much cleaner, nutritious meal than what you would typically get from most take-out services. The same goes for your pre / post workout eating. If something comes up unexpectedly and you don’t get a chance to make those Sticky Bites for your 4-hour paddle, make sure you have a clean alternative handy!
Build an assembly line ahead of time.
Pre-cut lots of salad veggies early on, store them in containers in the fridge, and then create salads throughout the week with various combinations of veggies, proteins, and fats for a complete meal for work, school, or home! Or pre-cut broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc, so you can just throw them in the oven to roast as a dang tasty side dish!
Pre-make your own salad dressings.
Salad can become a bit mundane when we stick to the same old same old. Making your own dressing is super easy and a great way to reinvigorate your taste buds. Most homemade dressings can be stored in a jar in the fridge for a week. Here are a few recipes for inspiration and motivation: Sesame Tamari Vinaigrette, French Dressing, and Creamy Avocado Dressing.
Have food containers and coolers on hand for on-the-go healthy eating.
This one is self-explanatory so I’m moving on.
Here’s the easiest one (or maybe not….)
CHEW your food mindfully.
I know. You’re like “DUUHH!” But have you ever stopped whatever else you are doing while eating and just focused on your food—the flavors, the texture? Did you know that chewing is the body’s first step in digestion? Enzymes secreted in the mouth help digest carbohydrates, and the teeth mechanically break down food to make it more digestible—and easier to swallow, of course. But seriously, chewing helps your body more efficiently use the nutrients you’ve now worked so diligently to prepare. Don’t waste them! Did you know it’s recommended to chew each bite at least 20 to 25 times? How many of us actually do that in all our hurry? So sit your butt down and savor all that tasty healthy goodness you made!