Seven years ago, I discovered the clean eating lifestyle through Tosca Reno and the Oxygen magazines. Back then, I was eating a SAD (Standard American Diet – which ironically is pretty “sad”) filled with convenient, packaged foods and calorie dense but not very nutritious foods, drinking 1-2 sodas a day and wondering why I felt like crap during Spinning class. :)
The Tosca Reno clean eating rules seemed easy enough to do so I was excited to jump right in. I bought my cooler, cooked a big batch of quinoa and got my gallon of water. You know that conviction and fervor you have with a new “program” to follow and you’re thinking, “I found it! The secret!” Yea, I had that feeling – I just knew that in a few weeks, I’d have Jamie Eason‘s body.
Well, I’m no Jamie, but that simple decision would spark the next 7 years of trial and error, self-discovery through many small achievements and many setbacks.
Even though I didn’t instantly change my life in the months following, I value that experience because it taught me that living healthier doesn’t need to be an “all or nothing” decision. To be quite honest, I didn’t enjoy my first experience with clean eating – I had terrible headaches (detox symptom), had to plan ahead (huge lifestyle shift), and felt like I was cheating when I ate foods that weren’t “clean.” (<-Which I don’t think is a healthy mindset)
Instead of scrapping it altogether, I found that when I focused on making just one small change each week, I was motivated to keep going. When I thought of all these “rules” that I had to do, I got overwhelmed and felt like I would never get it right. These days, when I help people along on their journey to great health, I help them make small changes one after the other so they’re not jumping in feet first.
While everyone comes from a different starting point, these are generally the suggestions I make:
Week One: Reduce intake of processed foods
If you habitually snack on packaged foods (yes, even those 100 calorie bags of snack foods) during the day, replace them with these snack ideas:
– 1 apple and 10-15 raw almonds
– 1 cup raw veggies and 2 tbsp hummus
– homemade protein bar
– 1/2 cup rolled oats, sweetened with 1 tsp honey and 1/4 cup fruit
Week Two: Cut out sodas, sugar laden coffee drinks and juices
Instead of drinking empty calories, drink a lot of water infused with lemon or cucumber for taste. Aim for at least half your bodyweight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, drink at least 70 oz of water; more if you’re exercising.
Week Three: Eat more vegetables
Start by adding 1-2 cups of vegetables a day. Some of my favorite veggies to eat raw are cucumber, bell pepper, broccoli, sugar snap peas, green beans and zucchini squash. You can also roast a big batch of butternut squash and brussel sprouts to add to your meals throughout the day. Strive for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every single day.
Week Four: Break up your meals into smaller meals, spaced throughout the day.
Many people skip breakfast and then eat a large lunch and dinner. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can help your blood sugar stay level throughout the day. Try this sample meal plan and see how your energy levels are affected. You may not need that extra caffeine boost in the afternoon!
Breakfast: 1 cup rolled oats with berries, 2 eggs and 1 cup hot tea
Snack: 1 apple and 10 almonds
Lunch: Palm-sized portion of chicken, 1 cup of veggies and fist sized portion of complex carb (wild rice, sweet potato, or quinoa)
Snack: 1 cup greek yogurt topped with 1/4 cup homemade granola
Dinner: Palm-sized portion of chicken, 1 cup of veggies and fist sized portion of complex carb
**Side note: I’m a big fan of having dinner with your family and still getting healthy. I also know that oftentimes spouses are not always going to be on board with clean eating. If having a separate meal from your family is going to cause more stress for you, I suggest making some healthy changes in your family meal so that you don’t have to cook two separate meals.
Snack: 1/2 edamame and caffeine free tea (this last meal isn’t crucial but if you’re hungry, it’s better than reaching for the Oreos. :) )
You did it! – four weeks to a new you!
If you’re ready to make a change but don’t want to throw out your entire pantry in order to do so, try making gradual changes over four weeks. And be sure to let me know how it works out for you! :)