A Guide To Clean Eating – How To Get Started

You’ve probably heard of clean eating, but, if you’re like me, you may be reluctant to begin the process because you have no idea how to go about “cleaning up” your diet. Eating clean is a good way to drop some pounds, while also providing your body with healthy, nutritious options from each of the food groups. Basically, that means eating more foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats. It also means cutting back on refined sugars, added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats.

Because eating clean doesn’t require you to count calories or give up whole food groups, it is easy to follow. In a grocery store, you should be doing most of your “clean” shopping around the perimeter. You should shop the aisles sparingly. A good rule of thumb is, if the food can sit on a shelf or in a cupboard for weeks or months, IT. IS. NOT. CLEAN.

Before we get started, you should understand that I in no way, shape or form consider myself an expert on this subject. I have been maintaining a clean diet for the past three weeks, with the exception of our camping trip this past weekend (UGH!!!!!), so I’ve done lots of reading, research and Googling. This post is intended to help you kick start your clean eating lifestyle.

 

With that said, let’s get started.

Don’t wait, do these EIGHT!

1. EAT LOTS OF VEGGIES

There are many benefits to eating more fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are full of vitamins, with many boasting vitamin A (Essential for healthy vision and immune function) and vitamin K (aids in keeping your bones healthy). Vegetables are also high in heart-healthy fiber, which helps you feel full. Additionally, vegetables are low in calories, so you can eat lots of them without damaging your waistline. (Can I get a HOLLA?) Fresh vegetables are as clean as they come since they are unprocessed and come straight from the garden vine, garden plant or farm. If you are concerned about pesticides and junk, you can do your own research about that. All I can suggest is to wash all vegetables (and fruit!) before consuming. Most of your clean eating plan should come from this section of the store (and blog post). Remember that most veggies (aside from starchy ones) can be eaten in abundance. A general rule for vegetables (and some fruit) is the darker / richer the color, the more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients it contains.

[Pay no attention to the Rolo and Twix you see in this picture. They have no business sticking their nose where it doesn't belong.]

VEGETABLE SUGGESTIONS

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers in any color
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Squash of any variety
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Okra
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions of any variety
  • Any other fresh veggie you enjoy

 

2. EAT MORE FRUIT

Most fruit is “clean”, however it does contain natural sugar. This can be confusing to the body. Fruit is a great snack or dessert option but should not be consumed in excess. And just like vegetables, fresh fruits are whole, unprocessed foods. Frozen, canned and dried fruit is minimally processed and can be a great clean-eating choice also. You will need to check the ingredient list to be sure that there is no sugar added. It is also best to look for fruit canned in its own juice. To make sure you get the added heart-health and weight-loss benefits of fiber, choose whole fruits over fruit juice.

FRUIT SUGGESTIONS

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Pears
  • Raisins
  • Plums
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Banana
  • Avocados
  • Berries of all kinds
  • Cherries
  • Kiwi
  • Star fruit
  • Any other fresh fruit you enjoy

 3. DAIRY CAN BE CONTRARY

Dairy can be contrary and confusing when trying to eat clean. Dairy products provide several health benefits – especially improved bone health. Foods in the Dairy Group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. Full fat dairy products are best because when the fat is removed, it is often replaced with sugar and chemicals. Fat is good for you, chemicals are not. Again, when you read dairy labels, the list should be very short. (For example Daisy brand sour cream has ONE ingredient.) Stick with dairy with as few ingredients as possible.

Greek yogurt – look for few ingredients- artificial sweeteners should not be one of them.

Milk – This is a personal preference. I have been drinking almond milk, but use cow’s milk for scrambling eggs. Generally, low-fat milk typically means the more processed it is.

Cottage cheese (If you eat it, I DON’T!) – Full fat is best, but you can also use low fat. (NOT fat free.)

Yogurt – (I’m not a fan of yogurt either, but I’ve been eating it because BENEFITS!) Always opt for Greek yogurt when you can. Plain yogurt (regular or Greek) is the only way to go. (For added flavor, you can mix in fruits, along with a dab of honey or maple syrup.)

Cheese – Most cheeses should be eaten in moderation due to their high fat content. Block cheese is best. Pre-shredded cheeses should be avoided because they have additives and preservatives. If you have a hankerin’ for cheese, buy a block and get to shredding. Real grated Parmesan cheese is acceptable in moderation.

Unsweetened rice, coconut or soy milk – I can’t give any advice here, I’ve not tried any of it.

DAIRY SUGGESTIONS

  • Greek yogurt
  • Block cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Almond milk

4. CUT DOWN ON SATURATED FAT

You don’t have to cut out fats when you’re eating clean; instead you’ll need to focus on healthy fats. It sounds difficult, but really, it’s as simple as trading saturated fats (those found in butter, cheese and meat) for healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil and the fat found in nuts and fatty fish. The benefit is that these fats are good for your heart and can help raise your good cholesterol. The saturated fats (found in butter, cheese and meat) are associated with increased risk of heart disease and need to be limited, or else HEART ATTACK. Some simple good-fat, bad-fat substitutions are: topping a salad with nuts in place of cheese, eating avocado on a sandwich instead of mayo. (I don’t eat avocado, but as I understand it, it is good for you), and using natural peanut butter in place of cream cheese.

FATS AND OILS

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. For that reason, they are an important part of the clean eating diet.

FATS AND OILS SUGGESTIONS

  • Raw almonds
  • Raw sunflower seeds
  • Raw nuts (not salted, oil dipped or covered in chocolate)
  • All natural peanut butter or almond butter
  • Coconut oil (I haven’t tried this but hear it is quite good.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flax seed
  • Chia seeds

5. WHOLE GRAINS ARE GOOD, REFINED GRAINS ARE BAD

Bread and pasta aren’t clean by true definition but the standard American diet needs it. So, your best bet is to pick the highest whole grain quality ingredients and eat it in moderation.

Whole grains include more nutrients than refined grains because the bran and germ are not removed. Look for the word “whole” with the first ingredient in breads and pastas—for example, make sure it says “whole wheat,” not just “wheat.” Outside of whole wheat, choose whole grains like quinoa, oats and brown rice.

Cutting out white flour and refined grains is an easy way to eat cleaner. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Refined grains are typically found in unhealthy packaged foods, like baked goods and junky snack foods that may also deliver added sugars, saturated fats and extra sodium. Instead of buying [packaged refined carbs] cookies, crackers and cakes, white rice, white bread and white pasta, you should be buying brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta.

GRAIN SUGGESTIONS

  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa (a rare complete protein!! Oh, and also pronounced kin-wa)
  • Whole wheat or whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Black rice
  • Wild rice
  • Ezekiel bread
  • 100% whole grain bread / pasta products (in moderation)

6. EAT LESS MEAT

Eating clean doesn’t mean giving up on meat entirely, but eating less meat can help eliminate extra saturated fat from your diet. A serving of meat is just three ounces (think deck of cards)—but portions served at restaurants and even at home tend to be larger than that. It’s best to get protein from beans and tofu (I haven’t tried this!) some nights and then smaller portions of meat (in soups and stir-frys) on the other nights.

Eggs – Eggs are important, especially egg whites. Since most of the nutrition is in the yolk, you shouldn’t leave them out often.

Chicken & Turkey – Boneless, skinless poultry breasts are great if you eat meat.

Beef can be part of a clean eating diet – but should be grass fed and humanely raised beef. If you’re like me, you’ll have no idea how to know this, so you might ask a butcher or meat cutter to help you select these. If you are wanting to forgo beef, try venison, bison or buffalo. Both are very similar in flavor.

Pork – While not everyone believes pork to be a clean food, it’s actually clean if you get the good quality pork. Processed pork is BAD. So, ham are Canadian bacon are definitely NOT part of a clean eating meal plan.

Venison – This is a very lean meat and can be used in place of beef in most recipes.

Fish – Most fish is considered clean, just be careful of the mercury content found in most fish you’ll find in your grocery store.

MEAT AND PROTEIN SUGGESTIONS

  • Chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Tilapia (white fish in general)
  • Tuna
  • Lean turkey, pork or beef
  • Tofu
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans

7. LIMIT YOUR SUGAR INTAKE (This is the hardest one for me!)

Most people eat too many added sugars. To clean up your diet, cut down on added sugars in your diet by limiting sweets like soda, candy and baked goods. Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it’s listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food.

8. HALT THE SALT

Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure. The average American eats more than the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day (that’s about one teaspoon of salt). Cutting back on processed foods will help you reduce your salt intake, as most packaged foods contain more sodium than homemade versions. To help minimize salt while you cook, flavor your food with herbs and spices, citrus and vinegar.

CONIDIMENTS, SPICES and NATURAL SWEETNERS

Ketchup – It’s virtually impossible to find a clean ketchup. I bought organic ketchup and called it a day.

Mustard – Mustard is tough too. I’d suggest Dijon.

Honey

Pure Maple Syrup – The real stuff, not the kind found in restaurants.

Spices – Any herbs you buy should come in bulk or a bottle. Most seasoning packets are not clean. Garlic and onion powder are good options, so long as they don’t include. Several of the Mrs. Dash spice blends are good, but again, you’ll need to read the ingredients.

CONDIMENT / SPICE SUGGESTIONS

  • Salsa
  • Siracha
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Hummus
  • RAW honey
  • Stevia (in moderation)
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Apple cidar vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • (Ranch dressing can be made with a ranch seasoning packet and Greek yogurt)

OTHER FOOD SUGGESTIONS

Tea – particularly green tea

Oatmeal – Just the plain kind. Nothing flavored. Opt for steel cut oats or traditional rolled oats. (Though if I’m being honest, the steel cut oats made me gag.) Add fruit, raisins, maple syrup, honey or a dollop of peanut butter to make it more appealing.

Canned items with no added sugar – Due to the BPA’s in cans, there is much debate as to whether or not canned items, even without added sugar and salt, are clean. If you do decide to purchase things like beans or tomato sauce in a can, read the ingredients! There should be no added sugar in the list. (Words to avoid on the list of ingredients are sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and fructose.) Canned foods typically also contain lots of sodium, so be careful. It adds up quick.

Dry beans and legumes – like lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc.

Whole wheat flour (pastry flour, white whole wheat flour, coconut and almond flour are all good.)

Legumes Edamane, beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and lentils

I hope this information helps get you on your way to eating clean. Or at least eating CLEANER.

I  plan to post some of my favorite clean recipes here in the days to come.

If you decide to give clean eating a try, I’d love for you to let me know how it goes.

 

Picture This

McDaddy bought me a recumbent bike for Christmas. It was always my favorite piece of equipment at the gym, mostly because I could sit and play Words With Friends or stalk my Facebook friends while getting my miles in. And also because, unlike the treadmill,I didn’t have to worry about falling and busting my face.

Surprisingly, I’ve been consistently using it 4-5 days each week. I try to ride during the hour that The Young and The Restless is on. I feel great when I hit the 15-mile mark in under an hour.

After another snow storm hit last Monday into Tuesday, I was thrilled when itwas warm enough to walk our mile-long street several days last week.

I sent this

to my friend, Missy on Friday as I was walking up this

big, hilly curve on our street. (You know, because a walk is more fun when you can text pictures to your BFF!)

Walking down the road (hill) is no big deal. But walking up is serious business and I have to stop two or three times to catch my breath.

I’ve also been tracking my calories on the My Fitness Pal APP. It is so simple and helpful in this weight loss endeavor. As you put foods into your daily diary, it will calculate the percentage of carbs, proteins and fats in your diet that day. I especially love that I can scan a food item bar code and the nutritional information is right at my fingertips.

Naturally, I am always way over in CARBS. (They are of the devil!)

In an effort to balance the nutritional scales, I ate this for lunch on Thursday.

Which is a small miracle, because I HATE YOGURT! I think it tastes nasty and smells nasty, and I especially hate when I pull that top off of the yogurt and it splashes out on my clothes.

ICK!

But, I held my nose and ate it like a big girl. And apparently, my bravery paid off, because those three super foods pulled my proteins and fats up and my diet was pretty well-balanced that day.

On Saturday, the SUN came out and it was a beautiful day! The boys and I spent the afternoon outside. I walked and they rode their bikes.

And then, THIS!

Yes, it’s that time again.

That time where our schedule is crazy busy and looks like this.

Both boys had their first baseball practice of the season. Steviewas drafted by the same coach he has had for four seasons. Alex was drafted by a new coach, and I’d be lying if I said I was okay with it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the new coach – he’s a great guy (and quite honestly,it really wouldn’t matter who the new coach was!). It’s just that, in my head, I had planned onanother seasonin the stands with the same group of mommies cheering on pretty much the same team (except those who moved up to the next age division)that went undefeated last season because they were so comfortable playing together. I keep telling myself, “Self, this is not about you!” and I know that it really isn’t.In my defense though,I have spent four seasons with the majority of parents on Stevie’s team. We are like a family (which is how Missy and I became so close!) and I absolutely love that we are close-knit and we all get along so well. That is why I love baseball season so much! I really wanted that same experience with Alex and his teammates because as you can see from that calendar, we spend a LOT of time together at the baseball field (and that’s just a practice schedule!) So, I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been spoiled having Stevie on the same team with at six other boys for severalseasons.

At any rate, the next three months will be busy, busy, busy.

Bring on the chaos, the warm evenings at the ball field,the flip-flops, the baseball t-shirts and of course, this,

as I am once again, the bookkeeper/team momfor Stevie’s team.

Have a great week, y’all!

Top 10 Posts of 2013

When I first started this blog back in November, 2008, I kept a pretty close eye on the analytics. Now, I just take spells (I’m starting to sound like my granny!) where I’ll check on them every now and again. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from WordPress called “Your 2013 Year In Blogging.” I thought it would be fun to share the results of who’s showing up here, what they are looking for, and where they are coming from.

So, this is what my year in blogging- here at From Inmates To Playdates – looks like.

Top 10 highly trafficked posts for 2013

  1. Bus Trip Games (April, 2010) – If you know me, you know I love to organize games and prizes. The ladies group at my church takes frequent bus trips, mostlyto conferences. I am ALWAYS in charge of planning games and prizes for our trips. My favorite bus-trip game is “Pass the Gift” which is actually a poem I wrote where a door prize (in a gift bag or wrapped) is passed up and back, side to side on the bus several times before it finally lands and is given to a person on the bus.This post is so popular, I often receive e-mails asking if I have more games that I haven’t shared on the blog. The answer? Yes!
  2. Crescent Roll Chicken Casserole (March, 2012) – Y’all, I am no culinary genius, but every once in a blue moon, I find a recipe worth sharing. This one? Definitely worth sharing. It is yummy and EASY! And I guess it never hurts to pin a recipe post on Pinterest, either.
  3. Teacher Survival Kit (August, 2012) – I always say, you can NEVER be too nice to your child’s teacher. (Apparently, there are all kinds of people who feel the same way.) At the beginning of each year, I make a teacher survival kit that includes all kinds of goodies. A few of them include- Orange slices: orange you glad for Fridays? – Stick of gum: to remind your students to STICK TO IT when things get tough- and hand soap: to remind you that I’m here if you need a hand.
  4. Teacher Appreciation Week (May, 2011) – As President of the PTA, it was my job to organize teacher appreciation week at the boy’s school. Did you hear me when I said, “You can NEVER be too nice to your child’s teacher?” Well, I meant it.
  5. What I Learned At The Funeral Home (June, 2009) – Ok. So if you’ve spent any amount of time around here, you know that I am different weird. When I mentioned to a funeral director friend that I have always wanted to watch an embalming, he told me he would call me sometime. I was shocked when he actually DID IT. Watching an embalming was, um,definitely a learning experience. (And according to my site stats there are lots of people out there who are just as crazy as I am!)
  6. The McFamily Christmas Letter(November, 2009) – I have searched for Family Christmas letters on more than one occasion because I am one of those people who write an annual family Christmas letter, but I try really hard to make them fun. The last thing I want to be is a Braggy McBraggerson.
  7. Really Cute Homemade Valentines (February, 2012) – I found a really cute Valentine idea online years ago. It looked complicated so I decided it would be too much work. The next year, I was determined to make them. They turned out really cute! If I can make them, YOU CAN TOO!
  8. Over My Dead Body (November, 2011) – One of my favorite posts of all time! In my quest to be organized to the very end, I have outlined plans for my funeral. Crazy? Yep! But since this post came in at number eight, that tells me that there are lots of people out there researching funeral planning. (Which also explains the casket in the post picture.)
  9. Bag Lady (February, 2011) – One of my best tips ever posted on the blawg. A great, compactway to store dozens of plastic grocery bags. I keep one under my kitchen sink. One under my seat in the car. And one in our camper. (What are you waiting for? Get over there and check it out!)
  10. McFamily Christmas Letter (December, 2011) – Oh look! It’s another Christmas letter post. And apparently a hot topic! Just in case you’re interested in family Christmas letter ideas, you can see most ofthem, here and this year’s letter, here.

Most Commented Post of 2013

So, there you have it. My 2013 From Inmates To Playdates year in review.

Here’s to another year of excitement here at From Inmates To Playdates!

Mission SLIMpossible Update

Y’all.

It dawned on me this evening that I have been so wrapped up in the goings-on of this household that I left y’all hanging on our Mission SLIMpossible contest.

In case you just tuned in to this show, Mission SLIMpossibleis an eight-week weight loss challenge I joined back in January, along with 108 others. Each of us paid $20.00 to join the contest. On the first day, we wereweighed and measured (chest, hips and waist). We were given a packet of papers with the rules, weight-loss tips, and a weekly point calculation sheet that looked like this.

I carried that thing around in my purse for weeks to make tracking my daily points easier.

There were many-a-day that my desire to fill in the box with points trumped any excuse I had for not completing my daily workout, so for me, the point sheets were a huge help, even though the points weren’t a requirement for the competition.

I am so pleased to announce that in the span of eight short weeks, I lost

  • 1 inch in my chest
  • 2 inches in my waist
  • AND A BIG WHOPPIN’ 6.5 inches in my hips

And I say PRAISE YE THE LORD!

I lost a total of 8.2 pounds in eight weeks.

We were asked to bring the equivalent of our weight loss in canned food for a local food pantry.

This was my contribution:

Doesn’t look like a whole lot, but try carrying that mess from the kitchen to the bathroom scale and you’ll change your tune. That’s quite a load.

I was proud of my 8.2 pound loss, but I didn’t stand a chance of winning the $600. grand prize, because the biggest loser lost FORTY FRIGGIN POUNDS.

In eight weeks.

Best I can figure, that’s almost ONE POUND A DAY.

PHEW.

I enjoy Mexican food (and Chilis and chocolate and bread) way too much to lose a pound a day.

Still, I had a great time and met some great people.

The very best news is that I didn’t stop losing at the end of the competition.

It has now been 12 weeks since we first started Mission SLIMpossible. I am so pleased to report that I am down a total of 25.6 pounds. That’s more than three times the amount of canned food you see up there. The even better news is that we are starting a second phase of Mission SLIMpossible this weekend.

I plan to continue this journey and hope to lose at least 10 more pounds in the next eight weeks.

I’ll try to do a better job of keeping y’all posted.

This was our finale.

And this was my friend Tracy announcing the winners.

Tracy, if by chance you stop by FITP, Inc., I’d like to say thanks (and my pants do, too!) for all of your hard work and dedication in organizing this thing. I had a great time!

Totally Random Nonsense

It is with regret that I announce that I shot my wad on the SLIMpossible diet today.

While at the hospital for most of the day, I found myself with about six minutes to scarf down some “lunch”. I made a quick trip to the hospital snack bar and settled on a bag of Doritos and a chocolate pudding parfait, which I could not pass up because,HAVE YOU EVER HAD ONE? And, in a moment of weakness, I swallowed fourthin mints, almost whole.

On an unrelated note, who named those suckers THIN mints anyway? I realize they are THIN, but that’s the last thing anyone who eats them is going to be. (Especially when you eat an entire sleeve. * Not that I’ve ever done that! *

In my defense though, I did come home and spend an hour with Leslie Sansone in an attempt to work that parfait and the Doritos and those four measly 160 calorie THIN mints off.

For weeks (or maybe it’s been months at this point) my kitchen counter has looked like this because the screen on that pretty pink laptop decided to quit working.

Only,I did move the monitor and keyboard over toward the wall to clear up half the counter.

But alas, I am pleased to report that tonight I am no longer sitting on that HARD bar stool. Instead, I am blogging from the comfort of my big, blue, bloggycouch with a brand spankin’ new laptop with a screen that works.

Hallelujah.

And Amen.

My tailbone thanks you, McDaddy.

And I do, too!

I heard bad news today.

I mean REALLY bad news.

I haven’t been able to think about much else since I heard the news.

Can you believe that my beloved MaksimChremkovskiy will not be on this season of Dancing With The Stars?

That makes me nine kinds of unhappy.

But seeing these at the hospital today sure made me smile.

Yes, those are tennis shoes.

The nurse wearing them explained that they are specially designed tennis shoes (called Z-Coils) for people with a bad back. I think they are super cool and really, I MEAN REALLY wanted to ask her if I could try them on. But instead, I just snapped a picture all secret-squirrel right in the middle of the E-R.

She bought them on a Canadian website and theywere $240. And before you ask, for once I wasn’t the one asking nosy questions.My dad happened to be in the E-R with me and his nose is way bigger than mine! (Hi Dad!)He was asking her all kinds of questions.

[On an unrelated note: Since receivinga tablet for Christmas,my daddy has joined the ranks withLBF’s all over the nation. Andyoucan bet the farm it is killing him not knowing what the heck anLBF is.

I do not suffer from back, joint or foot pain (but remember I still have butt pain from sitting on that hard bar stool!), still,I reallywant a pair of those shoes. They are cool and from what I understand verycomfortable. Not to mentionI amfinding, at the ripe age of 39, that comfort trumpscute every. single. time.

Oh, and on the off-chance that the fine folks from Z-Coil end up here at From Inmates To Playdates, Inc., you should know that I would LOVE an opportunity to work with you on a review/giveaway promotion. Just have your people call my people and we’ll set something up!

And just like THAT, I realize the time on my laptop is an hour off.

Danggit.

Crazy random posts work for me!