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Clean Eating 101: Kicking The Junk Food Habit in 30 Days

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Introduction

Processed food and junk food isn’t good for us. But boy does it taste good. And the food industry knows what they are doing. These processed foods are engineered to hit all the right taste buds. That’s why “once you pop you can’t stop” that container of Pringles.

As a result we’ve gotten fatter and unhealthier to a level that’s epidemic. And we can’t seem to stop. We rely on processed foods and crave junk food. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s much more convenient than hunting down real food that’s actually good for us 2619 .

diaryIt’s time to change things and take back control of what we eat and where that food comes from. It’s time to change our eating habits and give our taste buds a chance to recover to the point where they can experience the subtle flavour of a plain potato that isn’t deep fried and covered in a salt and spice mix. We need to get back to enjoying food that’s nutrient dense and gives us what we need to stay healthy and happy 1582.

That’s what this post is all about. Give it 30 days… 30 days of nothing but real food that’s good for you. Think of it as a way to reboot your system and finally kick the junk food habit to the curb 2493.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Start by setting yourself up for success. What you want to eat over the next 30 days is real food. Fruits, vegetables, some whole grains if you like, a little milk, real butter, yogurt and cheese along with meat, fish and eggs and 1816.

What you don’t want is most of what’s in your pantry right now. You don’t want the premade pasta, cereal, canned soups, potato chips and candy. Its’ time to skip the soda and get rid of anything filled with white sugar. Cupcakes and candy bars aren’t on the menu for the next 30 days. And neither are those freezer meals at 2496.

To make sure this will work well and you won’t be tempted by those Little Debbie Cupcakes hiding in the pantry, grab a big trash bag and get rid of all the processed food. If it has more than one ingredient and needs a label, chances are you don’t want to keep it around for the next 30 days.

Hopefully you’ll never go back to a lot of these unhealthy foods, but for now let’s focus on the next 30 days and see how it goes. You can toss the food or donate anything still in its unopened original container to a local food bank.

Once you’ve gone through and have gotten rid of everything you won’t be eating any longer, it’s time to head to the grocery store.

Be Prepared – Stock Up On The Good Stuff

basket of fruitsLet’s fill that pantry and fridge back up with food that’s good for us. Keep it simple in the beginning and branch out as you get tired of eating the same things over and over again. We’ll talk about specific meals in the next section in a little more detail. For now, let’s keep it simple.

You want to eat three meals and a couple of snacks, or six meals spread out through your day. And for that to happen you want plenty of easy to fix and easy to eat food in the house.

Here’s what most of your diet will consist of.

  • Fruits and Veggies
  • Eggs and Dairy
  • Lean Meat and Fish
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Healthy Fat
  • Grains and Legumes

Drink mostly water with some coffee or tea thrown in. When it comes to grocery shopping, most of what you buy will be at the perimeter of the store.

Aim for fresh produce when you can. Frozen is another good option. Canned fruits and veggies should be a last resort.

Come Up With Some Go-To Meals For Busy Days

Next you want to come up with a few easy go-to meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. We’ll talk about healthy snacks in the next section, so let’s focus on breakfast, lunch and dinner first.

Keep it simple. Most of us don’t mind eating the same few things for breakfast. Some good options would be a bowl of oatmeal, or some eggs and cheese. Add a little sliced avocado for an even more filling meal. Or if you need something quick and easy grab some fresh fruit. Bananas and apples make great portable breakfast choices that will keep you going until it’s time for your first snack.

mediterranean tuna saladSalads and homemade soups make great lunch choices. Boil some eggs or top your bowl of lettuce with some leftover grilled chicken and you have an easy portable lunch. Speaking of leftovers, cooking extra so you have lunch to take to work the next day is always a good option.

For dinner, keep it simple. Roast, grill or bake some chicken, cook up some lean beef strips or bake fish. Add a side of steamed veggies and some brown rice and dinner is done. Now is not the time to get inventive with foods you’ve never tried. Keep it simple until you get used to this way of eating. Find a few meat and fish dishes you like. Add some rice, whole wheat pasta or potatoes and some veggies or a side salad. And don’t forget about eggs. Omelettes are a great dinner that you can whip up in minutes.

Find a few things you and your family like and then mix and match to keep it interesting.

Many families find it helpful to have a meal plan for the first few weeks of eating clean. It helps make sure you have everything you need from the store and you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy each night figuring out what you can cook.

Anything new and different is hard at first. At the end of the 30 days, cooking and eating clean will be a lot easier but right now you are probably spending a lot of time and energy figuring out what you can and can’t have. That’s where the meal plan comes in handy. Come up with a few go-to meals and put them on rotation in your meal plan. Build your shopping list around that plan and go from there.

Stock Up On Healthy Snacks

dry fruitsNext, let’s talk about snacks. We are constantly surrounded by tempting food be it from the office vending machine or the fast food joint around the corner. A hot pizza or a bag of Chinese takeout is never more than a phone call away.

The best way to keep those temptations under control is by having plenty of healthy snacks around.

Here are some ideas. Some snacks will work well kept at room temperature, while others require refrigeration. Stock your fridge at home and work with those and consider keeping a small cooker around with some yummy snacks to tie you over until you make it home for your next meal.

The key is to never be unprepared. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re ready to give in and hit a drive-thru because you’re stuck in the office past dinner time.

Here are some ideas for healthy snacks worth keeping around:

  • Fresh and dried fruit
  • Raw veggies and dip
  • Hummus and crackers
  • Tortilla chips and salsa
  • Bowl of oatmeal
  • Homemade Trail mix
  • Cheese sticks
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter

Stock up and have some snacks ready anywhere you go. Keep some bottled water and a pack of dried fruit and nuts in your purse or briefcase. This way, no matter what happens, even if you are stuck in traffic, you’ll be able to stick to your clean way of eating.

Switch It Up And Keep It Interesting

Once you have a few days of clean eating under your belt, you may start to get tired of grilled chicken, Brussels sprouts and brown rice. When you get to that point, it’s time to switch it up and keep things interesting by introducing new foods. Now is a great time to try a new fruit or vegetable. How about a different type of grain for a side dish?

When you start to get bored with the food you fixed for the first week or two, it’s time to hit the web for some fresh new recipes. There are plenty of websites, cookbooks and Pinterest boards out there with all sorts of fun dishes to try. Look for clean food, clean recipes, and clean eating ideas.

breaded chicken pieces served with sauceWhole 30 recipes are another great source of inspiration. In fact, the Whole 30 book is a great resource to help you through this process of eating clean foods for 30 days.

Another great strategy to switch things up is to eat what’s local and in season. We are all guilty of finding a few dishes we really like and sticking to them. Branch out and take a look at what your area has to offer. Visit a local farmers market or find an organic farm in your area that sells directly to consumers. Subscribing to CSA boxes is another great way to taste a variety of different foods.

Talk to your parents or grandparents about the foods of their childhood. Or find a few old cookbooks. They are a great source of tried and true recipes made from whole foods. This is how everyone ate before the advent of supermarkets and convenience foods.

Another way to switch it up is to stop thinking of meals as breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts for dinner. And there’s no reason you can’t eat leftover steak and roasted broccoli for breakfast. Fold it up in an omelette if that makes it seem like more of a breakfast food.

And on busy days when you’re too tired to cook, just fix yourself a plate with a few of your favourite healthy snacks and call it dinner. Do whatever it takes to make this work for you and your family.

Be Careful About Recreating Your Favorite Junk Foods

melted pizza on the panThere is one thing I want to caution you about and that’s recreating your favourite junk foods. When you start to look for clean food recipes you’ll come across ideas to make “healthy” versions of your favourite candy bar or fast food dish. It’s tempting to give it a try, after all, it’s made from completely health and compliant food, right?

But there’s an issue that goes beyond the list of ingredients a recipe is made from. Having something that looks and tastes very much like your favourite dessert, candy bar or other type of junk food can trigger a craving for the real thing.

While your black bean brownies won’t have the refined sugar and white flour in them that the real ones have, tasting those gooey, chocolate treats may have you craving the real thing. While it’s fine to indulge in these types of treats every once in a while down the road, during these first 30 days you’ll be better off sticking to real food and avoiding anything that looks remotely like junk food. And this is particularly true if you’re recreating something that’s always been a favorite.

Don’t put yourself in a situation where you could cave in. You’ll come across plenty of those without trying.

Conclusion

Ready to get started and eat clean for 30 days? You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel and how much more energy you have once you get all that processed food, refined flour and white sugar out of your system.

Be warned, even with all the preparation it is not going to be easy. You’ll be tempted by the smell of pizza, or the box of doughnuts sitting in the break room. And you may cave and eat a slice of birthday cake or grab a handful of chips without thinking. We’re only human and we’re going to mess up. What’s important is to remember why you’re doing this and getting right back on track.

I promise it will get easier and the rewards are well worth the effort.

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