Boost your energy, get better skin, and control your appetite with these 5 easy rules for clean eating.
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Do you feel like your diet needs a fresh start? When life happens and schedules get even busier you might abandon your healthy eating in favor of whatever is nearby or comes out of a packet or pouch. Soon you can start to feel sluggish, experience skin breakouts, or even gain some weight. It's time to break the bad habits and opt for a clean eating reset. That's why we're bringing you SHAPE's 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge. While a clean eating diet plan may seem challenging, it's essentially just avoiding processed foods. (Although, to be fair, not all processed foods are bad.) Eating clean generally refers to upping your intake of fresh produce and ditching anything that comes out of a can or wrapper, including seemingly healthy things like protein bars and almond milk. By filling your body strictly with fresh fruits and vegetables, organic meats, and whole grains, you're giving your system a break from irritating (and bloating!) chemicals and additives
Plus, this meal plan is manageable and the payoffs at absolutely worth it. You can expect skyrocketing energy, weight loss, better control over your appetite, and even better-looking skin. Bottom line: You'll just feel better—period.
5 Simple Rules for a Clean Eating Diet
Just like with a new workout, you have to learn your way around this new routine before you can jump into it. Check out our guidelines and essential clean eating rules around what you should be trying to eliminate, as well as a few tricks to make sticking to a clean eating diet easier.
#1: Eat only whole foods.
To put it simply, that means eating oats and blueberries rather than a blueberry muffin. This doesn't mean you can only eat raw foods. Rather, you'll want to eat things that can be grown on a farm, instead of manufactured in a warehouse. When you eat packaged foods, only buy brands that contain “real food” ingredients—ingredients you can easily recognize and 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.
#2: Keep meals simple.
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 to maintain a balanced diet. For example, veggies and shrimp stir-fried in sesame oil (see: not the store-bought high-sodium sauce in a bottle) over a bed of brown rice seems restaurant-quality but can be whipped up faster than getting takeout.
#3: Eat slower.
Put your fork or spoon down between every bite, and focus on the flavors and textures of your food. Cleaning up your diet also means cleaning up your eating habits. This is a perfect time to practice mindful eating.
#4: Eat on a regular schedule.
Try not to let more than about 4 hours go by between meals or snacks. Steady meal timing helps regulate your digestive system, blood sugar and insulin levels, and appetite.
#5: Listen to your body.
Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, meaning satisfied, not stuffed. The clean eating recipes and meal ideas below 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.
The Clean Eating Meal Plan
Each day eat three clean eating meals and one snack. For help getting started, check out the 7-day sample diet below.
Cook old fashioned quick cooking oats using organic skim or soy milk. Top with a sliced apple and garnish with chopped walnuts. (Make clean eating even simpler with these time-saving oatmeal hacks that will completely change your morning.)
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 OK) and sliced avocado. (Discover more clean eating recipes for lunch)
Drizzle a little honey into a container of nonfat Greek yogurt, fold in a few slices of banana and garnish with sliced almonds.
Saute onion, halved grape tomatoes, and chopped green bell pepper in extra virgin olive oil until slightly tender. Add chicken breast or organic tofu to cook or heat through. Serve over whole wheat penne. Make enough for leftovers and bring your healthy pasta dish for lunch the next day. (Discover more clean eating recipes for dinner.)
Lentils and Quinoa with Mint and Lemon
Saute 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 OK) to heat through. Serve over a small scoop of cooked quinoa and garnish with fresh mint and juice from a lemon wedge. (If you're tired of quinoa, try one of these ancient grains to mix up your recipes.)
Tuna Lettuce Wraps with Basil Pesto and Couscous
Fill large romaine lettuce leaves with a mixture of drained, canned chunk light tuna tossed with basil pesto, minced sun-dried tomatoes, and whole-wheat couscous.
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 OK). Keep homemade salads low-cal by skipping the bottle and making your own green goddess dressing.
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.
Spaghetti Squash with Garlic, Mushrooms, Tomato and Feta,
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. While squash is cooking, saute chopped onions, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, and a small, diced plum tomato in extra virgin olive oil. Rake out strands, toss with sautéed veggies, and garnish with crumbled feta cheese. (Go classic with this spaghetti squash and meatballs dish. It's part of our 30-Day Shape Up Your Plate Challenge—check it out for more healthy, clean eating inspiration)
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.