Make a "Clean" Break
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Do you feel like your diet needs a fresh start? You're not alone. After the holiday season or just any time life happens and you abandon healthy food in favor of whatever is nearby or comes out of a packet or pouch, it's time for a "clean" break. That's why we're bringing you SHAPE's 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge. It's easy and the payoffs include skyrocketing energy, weight loss, better control over your appetite, and even better looking skin.
You don't have to stick to a strict meal plan—we know that's not realistic for everyone. Instead, we've outlined five simple rules to follow, as well as a sample daily menu and delicious clean-eating dinner ideas for the entire week. You're free to pick and choose your favorite recipes or create your own (as long as you stick to the rules). Check it out and get ready to reboot your body and kick off the New Year right!
Rule 1: Eat Only Whole Foods
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That means eating oats and blueberries rather than a blueberry muffin. When you eat packaged foods, only buy brands that contain "real food" ingredients—ingredients you easily recognize, can pronounce, and would use to make a "from scratch" version in your own kitchen. If a food contains even one ingredient that makes you think "huh?" skip it, at least during the clean eating challenge.
Rule 2: Keep Meals Simple
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Delicious, healthy food doesn't have to contain a lot of ingredients. Keep your meal ingredients to a minimum—just be sure to include a source of whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat at each meal. For example, veggies and shrimp stir fried in sesame oil over a bed of brown rice seems restaurant quality but can be whipped up faster than takeout.
Rule 3: Eat Slower
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Put your fork or spoon down between every bite, and focus on the flavors and textures of your food.
Rule 4: Eat on a Regular Schedule
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Try not to let more than about four hours go by between meals or snacks. Steady meal timing helps regulate your digestive system, blood sugar and insulin levels, and appetite.
Rule 5: Listen to Your Body
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Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, meaning satisfied, not stuffed. The recipes here intentionally don't provide amounts. That's so you get used to relying on your hunger and fullness cues to tell you when to stop and start eating.
Day 1 Sample Diet: 3 Clean-Eating Meals and 1 Snack
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Each day eat three clean eating meals and one snack. Here I've outlined a breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner option for day one of your clean eating. In the slides that follow I give you six more dinner ideas to keep you on track.
Breakfast: Cook old fashioned quick cooking oats using organic skim or soy milk. Top with a sliced apple and garnish with chopped walnuts.
Lunch: Toss baby spinach with balsamic vinegar and salt-free dried Italian herbs. Top with a scoop of chilled red quinoa and cannellini beans (canned, drained, and rinsed beans are fine) and sliced avocado.
Snack: Drizzle a little honey into a container of nonfat Greek yogurt, fold in a sliced mini banana and garnish with sliced almonds.
Dinner: Sauté onion, halved grape tomatoes and chopped green bell pepper in extra virgin olive oil until slightly tender. Add chicken breast or organic tofu to heat through. Serve over whole wheat penne.
Day 2: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Lentils and Quinoa with Mint and Lemon: Sauté chopped red onion, minced garlic, celery, and red bell pepper in extra virgin olive oil until tender. Add lentils (vacuum sealed or canned, rinsed, and drained are both fine) to heat through. Serve over a small scoop of cooked quinoa and garnish with fresh mint and juice from a fresh lemon wedge.
Day 3: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Tuna Lettuce Wraps with Basil Pesto and Couscous: Fill large outer romaine lettuce leaves with a mixture of drained chunk light tuna canned in water tossed with basil pesto, minced sun-dried tomatoes and whole wheat couscous.
Day 4: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Mexican Salad with Corn, Avocado, Beans, and Lime: Mix mashed avocado with minced onion, tomato, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. Toss with torn romaine to coat leaves. Top with a small scoop each of frozen, thawed corn and black beans (canned, drained, and rinsed are fine).
Day 5: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Seared Shrimp in Coconut Oil: On the stovetop, sear fresh shrimp in coconut oil and season with fresh grated ginger and scallions. Serve over a bed of mixed field greens and top with fresh pear slices.
Day 6: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Spaghetti Squash with Garlic, Mushrooms, Tomato and, Feta: Sauté chopped onions, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, and a small, diced plum tomato in extra virgin olive oil. Reduce to low heat to keep warm. Slice a small spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds, place face down in a glass dish with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with wax paper and microwave on high for 7 to 8 minutes. Rake out strands, toss with sautéed veggies, and garnish with crumbled feta cheese.
Day 7: Clean-Eating Dinner Idea
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Pineapple Chicken with a Twist: Stir fry sliced red and green bell peppers and a dash of crushed red pepper in sesame oil. Add diced, cooked chicken breast and pineapple chunks to heat through. Serve over a scoop of cooked wild rice.